Saturday 5 January 2013

Unboxing : Academy 1/35 M1A1 Abrams

My fingers were itching to do SOMEthing and airbrushing wasn't it, so I decided it was time to start prepping the next kit : Academy's 1/35 M1A1 Abrams "Iraq 2003".

It's roughly twice the size of my previous tank (the M60), which is currently in the painting phase, but that doesn't mean it will be easier. It simply has more parts, more details, more things that can go wrong.

6 sprues contain a little more than 300 pieces, plus the lower and upper hull, 2 vinyl tracks and 22 poly caps. These poly caps will enable the wheels to rotate. If I can manage not to overdo the glue, we should end up with a tank with actual working tracks. If not ... oh well, it's not as if I'd let anyone play with it.

The older version of this kit had a main gun barrel that was way oversized. Luckily, I have the newer version, where the J-sprue contains a better scale version, as well as a lot of improved details.

Purists point out that the turret dimensions are for the old M1 and so are the tracks. The turret should be a little shorter and the tracks need to be replaced by the proper T158 "Big foot". If you're into historically accurate models, you can find the proper tracks as aftermarket parts, but I consider myself a more casual builder, not willing to spend $20-$30 on replacement parts for a kit that only cost $30 by itself.

Painting options are simple : desert yellow all over. I still have to determine which Vallejo Air color that will be, but a close match will be good enough for me. Details like water cans, various boxes, ... can be painted yellow as well, or olive drab.
There's 2 decalling options, for either US Army or Marine Corps. 2 replacement stickers are provided, but I do not understand why and since they are yellow, it will be difficult to match the base colour with them, so I'll just stick with the regular decals.

For the turret basket, a piece of plastic mesh is provided, which you need to cut in the exact shape to fit in the basket. For the windows, one piece of clear acetate is provided, also to be cut in the desired dimensions. Is this a way to reduce the cost of the kit?

The instructions sheet consists of 9 steps. Each step seems very "busy", not sure why they didn't just make more steps, but a little simpler. We'll have to study these carefully. Some optional parts also depend on which build option you choose (Army or Marine), so pay close attention.

Like all instructions sheets for tanks, the first thing you have to do is attach the wheels, which is a big no-no if you want any means of painting it afterwards. Seems almost like these modelling companies only do construction without painting.

As usual, I start with soaking all the pieces in warm, soapy water so all residue (oil, mould release agent, ...) is removed, which could hinder paint-adhesion. The big pieces get extra attention with a sponge. Then everything is put in a warm place to dry.

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