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I happen to be working on a model of the Pay Off right now, and have researched a few of your questions for my project already. The decals for Painintheass are the ones that are the wrong color, they should be red on white instead of white on red. The decals for the Pay Off seem to be correct, but the problem is that academy only gives you two of the white squares with the 5 on them, whereas photos clearly show that this was painted on the turret in four spots, not two.
The fuel drums would have been dropped prior to combat, and they were some sort of rubber, not at all like the ones provided in the Academy kit. I have modified my by sanding them smooth, and am using the Eduard set for the straps.
The .30 cals in the sponsons were removed and the ports plated over.
The other modification that I am making is that if you look closely at the photos of the Payoff, it is clear that it had grousers installed. I am using the Voyager grouser kit, which is a little bit insane, as each grouser is made up of six separate parts.
Feel free to email direct if you have any other questions.