|1/35 M4 High Speed Tractor (155mm/8in/240mm)|
|Kit Number: 82408|
|In-Box Review by John Ratzenberger, IPMS# 40196|
This will be an in-box review, but I will build the kit as part of my review of the Eduard aftermarket sets for it.
I don't know why we didn't review this when it came out at the end of 2007/early 2008; it certainly was welcome amongst the towed artillery modelers, because we finally had a styrene plastic prime mover for the AFV Club 155mm 'Long Tom' gun and the 8-in howitzer. Until this we had only expensive resin kits -- the PSP Models M-4 HST or the ADV/Azimut Mack NO -- assuming you didn't fall for AFV Club's self-serving offering of their M-35 kit.
While I usually do British, the US 155 & 8in are two favorites and I have a stash full of them, various aftermarket upgrades, and of course a few each of the resin prime movers. Now I have a few more M4 HST, this time in stryene, compliments of Hobby Boss.
The kit comes in a sturdy, good-sized box. Most the parts are bagged separately or otherwise protected by a tray. I found no damage, no scratches, and only two parts had come loose from their sprue but they were safe in the bag holding the sprue. All parts, except those on Sprue F are identical to the 90mm version of the kit and even have that kits part number 82407 on them -- no matter, that's the way the real thing was also.
The kit portrays a late-model HST, appropriate to the latter days of WW2 and to Korea or after -- see the Paint & Markings comments below.
Cab & Hull
The hull is fully detailed underneath, in case you want to display it upside down. There are lots (I counted 14) of ejector pin marks on top the sponsons - I don't know how many will be covered by other parts but expect to do some repair work here. The general hull detail is quite nice.
The cab also looks good, and unlike the PSP kit, the tools aren't molded on - they come separately. The down side is that there are locator holes all over the cab and they will be visible on the inside of the roof unless you fill them or keep the doors closed.
Sprue A (X2)
Suspension parts, seats, tools, etc. The doors are too thick, but otherwise have a rumpled canvas effect - it's subtle enough to work. Lots of fine detail -- look especially at the two steering levers
These are mostly engine parts. They look nice, except the fan belts are way too thick.
Suspension, interior, and more engine compartment parts. One fan blade is bent but fixable. Check out the nifty folded-up 50-cal tripod. Again, belts are too thick - really too thick. The tools are nice but the various clasps and mounts are molded on and spoil the effect. There are ejector pin marks on the inside of the front cab panel -- there is also detail there making cleanup more difficult.
Rollers, sprockets, and the ammo box. There are some ejector pins inside the ammo box that may need cleaning depending on how you build it. The sprockets are really detailed, inside and out.
The track is one-piece black vinyl T-48 rubber chevron style. It looks nice, even has a slight gap between tracks -- but it is too thin in profile. Many pix show T-49 cleats in use for the traction -- check your references for your vehicle.
There is a small photo-etch fret -- grills, headlight and floodlight guards, etc. The headlight and floodlight guards appear to be real bears to do well -- mine will probably look as if they'd done their job protecting the lights.
You also get rope to simulate the winch cable and chain for the ammo hoist, but nothing for the ammo door that drops down to form a shelf.
Sprue D has glass for the windows and the doors, although it is way too thick for the latter which would be plastic (think thick shower curtain), lights, etc. Masks are included to make painting easier, a nice touch.
There is a typical cover page, sprue layouts, and 15 steps with a lot going on in each. I haven't gone through them part-by-part but they look logical -- build the hull, add the engine compartment, then the cab, and finally the ammo box. Still they are very busy -- I'll be drawing demarcation lines, etc, to be sure I'm in the right lane as well as peeking at adjacent steps to be sure something hasn't overflowed.
Step 13 is where you must think ahead to what type weapon you are towing -- the 155 or 8in -- as there are options for the ammo racks and plates (F1/F2 for the 8in, F25/F25 for the 155). I do not know (yet) if one can build this such that the unused racks/plates store neatly on the floor such that you can change your configuration -- probably a minor consideration since you'd have to change markings also, but an interesting thought none-the-less.
Paint & Markings
OK, it is painted in (wait for the drum roll...) OD. There is one decal option track A-7, 987 FA, 1st Army, USA# 923456. My usual reference, Marquages et Organisation US Army ETO 1944-45, shows the 987th to be an SP 155 (M12) unit in WW2. I also dug around, finding the 987th was an SP 8in unit in the Korean War. I do not know if the M4 HST was authorized in an SP unit to pull something like an M23 ammo trailer. I don't know where the disconnect is, unless Hobby Boss used some museum-piece or gate-guard as an example.
The HST isn't well photographed (or else it's always the 90mm version) and even then markings are probably obscured -- you'll have to do some research. Be very careful (or just ignore the problem, it's your model) -- the kit builds a later-production HST with louvers on the ammo box, a tow-pintle mount up front, and different grill arrangements on front and rear. Many photos, including the ones of the 420th FA Group in the Pacific that I want to use, have the early-production HST in them.
There are some color call-outs throughout the instructions, so you're not totally on your own for detail painting. The biggies are to paint the engine compartment and the inside of the ammo box white.
I hate saying much until I actually try to build the kit, but this sure looks nice. There are, according to the box, 286 plastic parts plus the others I've mentioned. Overall detail and completeness is good, and each part is finely detailed. The full-blown engine compartment is a plus as it is visible whether the engine doors are open or closed -- extra work here to add wiring and lines will pay off handsomely. I'm looking forward to it.
I'd like to thank Hobby Boss for producing this long overdue kit. I'd also like to thank my credit card, Great Models, and the UPS driver who showed up when SWMBO wasn't home to see, for adding several of these to my stash.
OK, manufacturers, listen up -- where's the styrene Mack NO ???