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Panda-Hobby 1/35 M-ATV Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2011 Manufacturer Panda-Hobby
Subject M-ATV Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35001 Primary Media Styrene and Photo-etch
Pros First injection-molded kit in any scale Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $45.95

First Look


The M-ATV is a US military utility vehicle that was born out of necessity. Its name is an acronym of acronyms: M-ATV = MRAP- All-Terrain Vehicle and of course MRAP = Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. The M-ATV traces its roots back to the Willys MB General Purpose (GP is pronounced Jeep) four-wheel-drive vehicle which served the US military and its allies in all theaters during World War II and through the Korean War. During the 1950s the Jeep was replaced by the M38 which still looked like the old Jeep, but had improved performance. By Vietnam, the M38 was phased out with the M151 Mutt which also bore a resemblance to the Jeep but offered still more capabilities than its predecessors.

By the 1980s, a new utility vehicle changed the image of the tactical utility vehicle forever. This new vehicle was the M998 High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV pronounced Humvee). The Humvee and its improved variants would serve through the first and second Iraq wars, but this four-wheel-drive utility vehicle which could be sling-loaded under helicopters and negotiate through some of the toughest terrain finally ran into a new type of threat - the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). After the fall of Suddam Hussein, a growing insurgency planted bombs which devastated the Humvee and its crews with alarming frequency. Despite efforts from industry and improvised solutions in-theater to improve the armor protection of the Humvee, the insurgency would simply use bigger bombs. Another requirement was developed - the MRAP.

In a push that hadn't been seen since World War II, the US Department of Defense sought off-the-shelf solutions to provide much-needed protection for the warfighters in-theater, but these solutions needed to be delivered in a VERY ambitious timeline. Contracts were issued to multiple US and international companies for adapted armored cars and riot vehicles, with the better solutions fitted with mission equipment and shipped overseas.

If you lived near Charleston AFB, you saw not only C-17 Globemaster IIIs but also An-124 Ruslans that were hired to help airlift MRAPs into theater. With the MRAPs in Iraq, US military crews finally had adequate protection from IEDs. Even though many of these MRAPs were still destroyed by these IEDs, the crews usually escaped with minimal injuries against threats that were usually fatal in the Humvee. While the MRAPs are usable in the relatively flat terrain of Iraq, these top-heavy vehicles are not suited for the landscape of Afghanistan. The MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle requirement was born.

Unlike the MRAP contracts, the M-ATV was intended to be produced by a single company so that logistics (parts and maintenance) would be common across the fleet. Oshkosh Trucks won the contract and began a rather fast-paced production schedule. Despite being the size of a large truck, the M-ATV is a blend of four-wheel-drive mobility and armored protection. Like the Humvee, the M-ATV hood and other components are fiberglass composites. The armored cab can seat 4-5 crew in special shock-absorbing seats similar to the crash-resistant seats used in helicopters. These seats help absorb the severe blast shock that the vehicles experience next to a powerful IED explosion.

The underside of the vehicle is protected by an armored boat hull which deflects the blast wave out from under the vehicle instead of up through the cab. The armored cab and mission equipment make up the bulk of the weight which necessitates a 7.2 liter Caterpillar C7 diesel engine to move the vehicle around. The vehicle's independent suspension and four-wheel drive allow the M-ATV to get into the rough country of Afghanistand that can't be accessed by the MRAP. The M-ATV is in service will US forces alonside the MRAP and Humvee, but now crews have the protection and mobility they need to get the mission accomplished safely.

Panda-Hobby is a new model company based out China (not to be confused by Panda Models that produced the 1/48 X-35 JSF and 1/35 UH-1N kits). If this first kit is any indication of what will be coming from this company, watch out! This is the very first M-ATV kit to be produced in plastic in any scale to date.

The kit is molded tan styrene and presented on 12 parts trees plus separate cab and hood, two trees of clear parts, three frets of photo-etched details, and five rubber tires. According to the specs, this kit is comprised of 392 plastic, 84 photo-etch, and five rubber parts.

Note that is kit is a test shot preview and there may be some differences between what you see here and the final product that is currently on the way here from China. For example the clear parts in this test shot are not very clear (normal in test shots) but will be in the production parts. We've shown examples of one of the test builds in the last several weeks and now we get a turn at it!

Construction begins with the chassis and the mounts for the engine, transmission and transfer case. Note that the engine and transmission are only represented by the bottom view on the chassis frame. The front and rear drivelines are more detailed than most 1/25 car or truck kits with the coil and shock suspension, drive axles, steering arms, etc. Yes, this beast has four-wheel steering.

The cab goes together next and features a nice dash board and an all-photo-etch rack that mounts the mission equipment between the driver and commander's seats. Speaking of seats, this version of the M-ATV seats four and the crew seats replicate the shock suspension system that is a major feature inside the cab.

With the interior assembled, the next step is to build up the multi-part front and rear fenders. This is followed by the unique structure frame behind the cab that serves as mounting points for the various antennas including SINCGARS, UHF SATCOM, Blue Force Tracker, etc. This frame mounts to the rear chassis and also receives the spare tire mount.

The armored cab comes together next and it features four positionable doors and an armored turret with M2 .50 caliber machine gun. The completed cab mounts over the interior onto the chassis. The armored boat hull mounts under the cab and also mounts the steps for the crew to ingress and egress the vehicle safely. The kit provides a Rhino antenna, mast and mount for the front of the vehicle.

So what's not in the kit?

  • Engine and transmission - you won't see anything if you pose the hood open
  • Mission equipment - the kit does an excellent job with antennas and the mission gear mounted outside the cab, but there are no radios, computer, jammer box, ammo stowage or gun racks for personal weapons stowage on the inside

While the lack of an engine isn't critical, it is a shame that the nice interior lacks for mission equipment. The good news is that most of the mission equipment found in the Bronco and Academy Humvees can be used in here. There are some resin aftermarket sets for the FBCB2 computer and various radio configurations also available.

This test shot didn't include decals or instructions (though we did receive the instructions via email for our build).

This is a nice-looking kit that has lots of details that modern armor modelers will appreciate. With the numerous configurations that have been applied to the M-ATV, this kit will make for a good basis for some modifications/updates. The absence of details inside the cab isn’t that critical given that you won't notice them should you pose the vehicle with the doors closed. With these armored vehicles, the clear plastic windows are finally scale thickness!

This kit will be imported into the US via Pacific Coast Models and it has a very nice price.

My sincere thanks to Panda-Hobby for the review sample.