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M1 Abrams MBT Kit

Panda-Hobby 1/35 M1 Abrams MBT Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2017 Manufacturer Panda-Hobby
Subject M1 Abrams MBT Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35030 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice details Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $49.95

First Look

M1 Abrams MBT
M1 Abrams MBT
M1 Abrams MBT
M1 Abrams MBT

During the 1960s, the US and German armies collaborated on the design for the replacement of the M60 main battle tank. The resulting design was designated MBT-70, but the tank was too complex, too heavy, and too expensive. After an aborted attempt to fix some of the design's flaws, a new tank was developed that would become the M1 Abrams, named after US Army general Creighton Abrams. The new tank featured Chobham armor, turbine power, and was armed with the Royal Ordnance 105mm L7 gun (same as the M60). Produced by Chrysler Defense, the M1 Abrams entered service in 1980. Over 3000 M1s were produced, including a brief run of M1IP variants before production shifted to the M1A1. During M1 production, Chrysler Defense was acquired by General Dynamics Land Systems. While the M1 served in the defense of NATO, none saw combat - it would be the M1A1 that wound receive the baptism of fire in Operation Desert Storm.

Here is a bit of a surprise from Panda Hobby - the original M1 Abrams main battle tank (MBT). Those of us old enough to remember will recall that Tamiya, and AMT/ESCI/ERTL were the only options for the initial M1 in 1/35 scale before the tooling was modified to render the M1A1. The Tamiya tooling had errors in the kit including the track, return rollers, and a few missing details. As I recall, this tooling also had the usual holes in the bottom of the hull for motorization as well. Since that time, we've had more kits offered of the M1A1 and M1A2 including the incremental improvements, but nobody (until now) had circled back to capture the original Abrams.

Molded in tan styrene, this kit is presented on six parts trees (duplicate trees not shown) plus upper and lower hull, one tree of clear parts, and one fret of photo-etched details. What is especially refreshing is that the kit has a very simple layout. Aside from the individual track links, this kit doesn't suffer from numerous tiny parts.

Among the kit's features and options:

  • Wheel hubs are molded separately from the rubber tires
  • Drive sprocket features the original track retainer ring
  • T156 tracks interconnect with guide teeth and end caps
  • Photo-etched screens for rear vents/turbine exhaust
  • Photo-etched screens for engine deck
  • Clear periscopes
  • Positionable crew hatches
  • Choice of original or updated rear side skirt section
  • Optional loads for smoke grenade launchers
  • Positionable gunner sight doors
  • Machine guns on commander and loader hatches

One of the criticisms of the T156 track in the early M1 and M1A1 kits is the erroneous placement of the guide horns in the middle of the track links instead of between them. This kit has essentially four-piece track links - one track link, two end connectors and one center guide tooth connector. The connectors link up to the next track link and you can snap together a track run and tack everything together (carefully) with liquid cement once you've mounted the track to the road wheels/sprockets/rollers. I look forward to trying this technique out.

Decals are provided for four examples though no identifications are provided in the color profiles. Three of the examples are overall FS34102 Dark Green while the fourth is wearing the MERDC four-color camouflage.

The kit does have a few minor glitches that the AMS modeler will want to address:

  • I don't know if it is a mold release problem or what happened, but the .50 caliber gun barrel doesn't look right and should be replaced. There are many aftermarket options available.
  • The fuel filler cap on the left rear is rotated 90 degrees. This will require a bit of modification to reshape the cap and add lift tabs. Check your references.
  • The main gun barrel isn't round when test-fitted and looks a little short. Since this is the first early Abrams that has been on the market in well over a decade, there are no aftermarket options yet, but you can do some scratchbuilding using the details on the kit barrel added to an aftermarket M60A3 barrel to get there (again, check your references)
  • The track links are T156 on the outside and T158 on the inside surfaces. You can find T156 track in the aftermarket.

To date, nobody has produced the perfect kit, and this kit is no exception, but the bugs are minor and can be addressed by the experienced modeler.

This kit will make a great addition to the variety of later version Abrams kits to round out this famous tank's family tree.

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