Working through my stash of resin kits, here's a preview of Extratech's "U.S. Air Force V-100", or to be more precise, the Cadillac Gage XM706E2. Again, feel free to reuse for OTW, etc.
This was one of the first resin AFV kits I purchased, shortly after the kit was released in 2004. Extratech released two version of the V-100, the turreted "Commando V-100" (kit EXM72037) and the turretless "U.S. Air Force V-100 (kit EXM72039). Both kits share many parts, so most of the comments below apply to either kit. I don't have any photos of the Commando V-100 kit parts, but I'll include some photos of the completed model at the end of the review.
The V-100 armoured car was produced as a private venture by Cadillac Gage (unrelated to the Cadillac division of General Motors, Caddilac Gage started out manufacturing precision measuring instruments, and branched out into AFV development). Cadillac Gage developed a variety of turrets and armament combinations for the V-100, but two were acquired by the US Forces during the Vietnam War- the XM706E1 (later M706) equipped with a one-man T50 turret equipped with two M37 machine guns, as used by the US Army and ARVN; and the XM706E2, equipped with a raised parapet with mounts for various combinations of 50 caliber or M60 machine guns, as used by the US Air Force.
Following the initial use in Combat by the ARVN, the V-100 underwent a number of modifications to the basic design during production, including:
- change in shape of the wheel-wells from squared-off to rounded
- addition of a raised armoured shield over the engine air intake
- deletion of one firing port and one vision block from each side of the hull
- relocation of the pioneer tool rack from the left rear side of the hull to the rear plate
- replacement of the flat plate fuel tank filler covers with cast armoured covers common to most US AFVs
The Extratech kit comes in a small box with a Black & White photo of a USAF Security Police XM706E2 test firing an M2 50-caliber machine gun. The side of the box includes colour profiles of the 2 decal options included in the kit. Inside, the single piece hull casting is wrapped in bubble-wrap, while the remainder of the resin parts are in a resealable plastic bag, and a second bag includes the decal sheet and photoetched parts. The instructions include multiple exploded view assembly steps, a brief history of the V-100, and 4-view drawings of each of the markings options.
The core of the kit is the one-piece hull casting. The hull is moulded solid, with the two side doors, the rear hull door, the radio operator's hatch on the hull roof, the driver's and co-driver's hatches, and the bifold doors on the armoured parapet all moulded shut. The parapet includes three mounting points for machine guns, but does not include the two folding pintles, one fitted to each side.
The casting is very crisp, with no apparent defects. The detail of the hatches and firing ports is well-defined. The only obvious error is in the hull side and rear hatches. Each of the hull side and rear doors on the V-100 was split into two sections. The upper section opened to the rear (or the side in the case of the rear door), while the lower segments opened downwards. The break between the two sections of each door was just above the bend in the hull side. However on the Extratech kit, the break point is below the bend in the hull side. I suspect that the problem is that the firing ports in the doors are too large. Without rebuilding all the detail on the doors, I can't see an easy fix for this, so most modellers will leave the hull as is.
The hull is moulded with a large casting plug on the underside, so there is no detail on the bottom of the hull. In the wheel wells, there are leaf springs moulded in, but no steering gear or other detail.
The hull depicts a mid-production version, with single vision blocks and firing ports on the hull sides ahead of the doors, the armoured cover over the engine air intake, and rounded wheel-wells. The fuel filler covers are depicted a rounded domes. These should be flat plates with a grab handle for this stage in production.
There are 14 other resin parts, comprising 4 wheels, two axles, a pair of headlights and a pair of taillights, M60 and M2 machine guns, and 2 50-cal ammunition boxes.
The resin wheels and tires are very well moulded, but here is where I ran into the second issue with this kit. The V-100 had its own unique run-flat tires (Commando Special). These featured directional tread, so the left and right wheel/tire assemblies are not interchangable. Extratech did recongize this, and moulded different parts for the left and right sides. Unfortunately, the instructions fail to note this (labelling all the wheels as part A2), and in my two kits I received 5 left-hand wheels, and 3 right-hand wheels. Hopefully someone out there has the opposite problem, and I can swap a left wheel for a right, otherwise I'd have to cast a copy of the right wheel for a complete set. The axles are very simplified - the real parts were adapted from the M44 2.5 ton truck chassis, so if you're looking for more detail, perhaps parts from the Academy M35 could be modified to suit.
The other detail parts include the machine guns, lights and ammo cans. The 50-caliber is well done, with separate photoetched details for the spade grips. The M60 is a bit flat (particularly through the receiver), but includes a beautiful photoetched bipod. Both guns include photoetched pintles, which don't really resemble the mounts used on the actual guns.
The photoetched parts are very well done, as is to be expected from Extratech. Highlights include the headlight brush guards with mesh screens, and the exhaust screen. Other details include the rear-view mirrors, lifting lugs, grab handles and steps, towing eyes, and a chain and hook.
I din't scan the tiny decal sheet, but it includes two options - one with no serial number but three black 'kill' markings and "HEAVY WEAPONS" on the hull side (as shown on the box-top photo), and one with only a white U.S. Air Force and serial number. Both are in a three colour camouflage scheme. I haven't been able to determine if this used the three colours (tan, dark green and medium green) of the standard USAF South East Asia camoflage scheme commonly seen on aircraft of the time, or different colours. The instructions suggest olive drab, sand and forest green.
All-in-all, the Extratech kit presents a very complete package. That being said, there are a few details that are conspicuously missing from the kit, particular on the rear hull plate:
- there should be a pioneer tool rack below the exhaust fairing
- there should be a towing pintle
- most vehicles carried a jerry can in rack on the exhaust fairing
- there should probably be a raised coaming around the exhaust vent. This was added during production to avoid issues when the V-100 was swimming.
All of these can easily be added, however given the standard of detail and the price of the kit, it would have been nice to see these included in the kit.
I don't have any reliable scale drawings of the V-100, but the hull scales out to be about 9 scale inches too short, while the width is within 2 scale inches. The wheel base is about 7 scale inches short. The effect of the length issue is to make the model look a little too stubby, but this is not noticeable to most.
The Extratech Commando V-100 kit shares most of the same parts. The hull features a recessed turret ring, but is otherwise identical. The T50 turret is moulded with the hatch closed. The gun mantlet and M37 machine guns with flash hiders are separate parts. The kit also provides additional M60 machine guns and mounts. The decal sheet includes colourful markings for 5 US Army MP XM706E1 vehicles, most with names or artwork.
Having built the XM706E1 kit, I can make a few comments on assembly. I found the axles mount too high, so there is too little clearance between the tops of the tires and the wheel-wells. I replaced most of the grab handles with fuse wire. I think I may also have replaced the taillight mounts, as I recall the photoetched parts were too large. I scratchbuilt the pioneer tool rack and jerry can and mount, and added a towing pintle from the spares box. I also added lifting eyes to the turret. Finally, I scratchbuilt a litter (stretcher) for the front hull. I placed the model on a small base with a scratchbuilt wall and modified Preiser figure.
I did not try to correct the hull doors, or the lack of wheel clearance.
Here's the rear of the hull, with added tool rack, jerry can and towing pintle.
Cadillac Gage V-100 Commando 1960-71, Osprey New Vanguard no. 52
Cadillac Gage V-100 Commando - Armor Walk Around Color Series No. 8, Squadron Signal