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Kit, Bronco CB35069, US Light Tank M24 Chaffee (Early Prod.)

February 16 2012 at 9:06 PM
Frank V. De Sisto  (Login zappa93)
MODERATORS ONLY - Time on Target
from IP address 108.21.76.232

BRONCO MODELS

CB35069, US Light Tank M24 Chaffee (Early Prod.) w/ crew (NW Europe 1944-45). 1/35th-scale styrene/multimedia construction kit. Contains 745 styrene parts (including 13 clear, 168 for the individual track links and 64 for the figures), one etched brass fret, one piece of nylon string, three water-slide decal/markings schemes and 26 pages of instructions in 43 steps.

Introduction.

The M24 Light Tank came into service with the US Army towards the end of hostilities in Europe and Italy in late 1944-early 1945. It saw relatively little combat but was still proven an able performer in the role of a reconnaissance vehicle. This well-armed, light and compact AFV went on to serve in the post-war armies of many nations, seeing action in Korea and Vietnam, among other hot-spots. Because of its length in service and the number of nations under which it served, it was modified in a number of interesting ways and wore very colorful markings and colors. For these reasons, it has been a favorite amongst modelers for quite a long time.

In styrene, Hasegawa released a kit in 1/72nd-scale several decades ago, while Italeris golden oldie is still available in 1/35th-scale. The latter needs a great deal of help to bring it up to todays standards and has therefore spawned a number of correction and upgrade sets from the after-market folks, notably Formations, Friulmodel, Eduard and Royal Model. Now, Bronco has released what is the first of a series of M24s using current, state-of-the-art molding techniques. Suffice to say, this has made the Italeri kit obsolete so if you have one in the stash, give it to a novice modeler, gird your loins and prepare for the real deal!

Tracks.

These consist of individual links that click together and are therefore semi-workable. They are very cleanly-molded and have three sprue attachment points that must be cleaned up before they are fitted together. They go together extremely easily and will take a bit of rough handling, but not too much. These are the T72, 16-inch wide, single pin, steel parallel grouser types as seen in use during World War Two and later. It should be noted that the kit includes two sets of drive sprocket tooth rings, with the latter being for the T85E1 double pin 14-inch wide rubber chevron tracks. This indicates that a post-war MAP vehicle is forthcoming from Bronco.

Suspension System.

This is by far the most complicated part of the kit to assemble, since not only does the track articulate, but the torsion bar swing arms move as well. If thats not enough to get you thinking suicidal thoughts, consider this: the shock absorbers also move and compress. This means that the modeler who wants all this stuff to move in order to conform with his ground-work, will have to be extremely careful with his use of glue.

The road-wheels come as four main parts: the inner and outer wheel disk and the inner and outer tire/rim segment. The rubber tires have data and the manufacturers name molded in place. To this assembly is added an axle pin and then the outer hub cap. Keep the glue away from the pin, or if you want articulating suspension components you may have just thrown that option out of the window. Now, you have to glue the (hopefully) still-moving pin to the swing-arm, without it adhering to the inner part of the wheel disk. The return rollers come as inner and outer halves, with the axle pin and hub cap as separate items. Relax hereif these dont move they will have very little effect on the remainder of the suspension system. It should be noted that the pair of suspension sprues contain parts for a total of eight return rollers. When you consider that Bronco already has a 155mm M1 howitzer on the market, this means that the M41 HMC is two-thirds done. Like the M41, the M19 40mm GMC and the M37 105mm HMC also had four return rollers. So, the future should be bright for fans of the so-called Light Combat Team derivatives.

The drive sprockets are an example of what can be done with slide-molding, a technique as old as injection molded styrene itself. In this case, it has been used to ensure that all the lighting holes (not lightening holes) go clearly through the core part. Separate inner and outer tooth rings, tailored for the tracks in the box are now fitted. An inner hub connects to the final drive units with a substantial axle pin. The idler wheels are molded in the same fashion, so the holes are all in their proper places. Separate outer and inner rim rings, a hub cap and a fine axle pin complete each idler wheel assembly. Again, if you want everything to move, be careful with the glue.

The torsion bars are the next to be installed. Each is separate and keyed to fit into a slot inside the hull. Each pair of torsion bars is then covered with a fairing inside the hull. Keep everything properly orientated so that when it comes time to fit the swing-arms, they will be properly aligned. Also, note that although they are similar, the swing-arms are handed, so be sure to use the proper ones in their proper locations.

The shock absorbers will probably be the most tricky of the assemblies to complete if the modeler expects to have a working suspension system. Each consists or a slide-molded cylinder and a separate, movable piston rod. The rod gets glued to a swing arm using a fine pin, while the cylinder gets fixed with another pin to the appropriate mounting point on the hull side wall. That last place is where the modeler must use care with the glue, because thats where motion is required. It gets even more challenging when the swing arm and shock absorber gets connected to the adjustable rear idler wheel mounts. Again, be patient; once that is all done, the rest is smooth sailing. Separate bump-stops are added to some road-wheel stations.

Lower Hull.

The lower hull is a slide-molded pan that incorporates the belly and side plates in a single part. The belly features molded-on weld beads as well as engine and torsion bar access plates, various drain plugs and escape hatch. Each side wall features mounts for the torsion bars, return rollers, shock absorbers and idler wheel. Further up is a mounting flange for the track-guards and pads associated with the track-guards support struts. The final drive housings are two-part assemblies that fit into a separate opening.

The front and rear plates are separate parts. Since all are rather thinly-molded (translation: a bit wobbly) and there are no locating strips along their sides, great care will be needed to get them properly aligned with the belly plate and especially with the side walls. An error hear will haunt the modeler later on.

Both front and rear parts are well detailed with the rear plate featuring tie-down cleats and the front plate featuring final drive bulges, weld beads and openings to mount tow hook eyes. Up front, separate tow clevises are clicked into place on the eye parts, separate crew steps are fitted and etched brass parts are provided to create foundry casting symbols and numbers for the final drive bulges. The etched parts are extremely tiny and will need careful clean-up (they are all individual characters) prior to careful fitting. They can probably be held in place with liquid styrene cement while they are properly placed and then fixed with super glue. One would also hope that the folks at Archer are already at work on a dedicated foundry casting marks set for this kit. Such a set, or their already-available generic set would ease the process considerably. The rear plate mounts a two-part trailer hitch and hook, two-part tow eye and clevises, pads to fit a floatation device, lift rings, and some other tiny details. A multi-part etched brass stowage basket completes this area.

The vehicle pioneer tools are stowed on the starboard side of the hull, above the track-guard. These include a shovel, axe, sledge-hammer, and a two-part pick. All feature etched brass straps and brackets for a well-detailed appearance. The port side stows a tow cable which is made of nylon string with styrene end-loops. This assembly is held in place with etched brass brackets. Both sides feature several other detail parts above the track-guards.

Track-Guards and OVM.

The track-guards are molded in two main parts, with the upper plates including the support struts and their various mounting bolts molded in place. The rims are separate and contain sharp bolt details. There are separate single-piece sand shields added to either side, along with etched brass supports if they are left off.

The port-side track guard has two pairs of spare track links stowed aft; midway there is a styrene and etched brass first-aid box. In fact, both track-guards are really quite bare, so the fact that a number of useful accessories are in the box (see below) means that there are plenty of stowage items to hand.

Upper Hull and Engine Deck.

The upper hull and engine deck is broken down into its constituent parts, precisely like an actual M24. So, the entire front end is one piece, from the lower edge of the glacis plate until the rear edge of the turret ring. The engine deck and its surrounding area is broken down into seven main pieces.

Starting at the glacis plate, the transmission access cover is separate as are the driver and co-drivers hatch lids. The slide-molded head-lamp assemblies each have a separate clear lens, with the one on the port side featuring an optional black-out hood. A two-part siren is also fitted. Multi-part etched brass assemblies make up the head-lamp brush-guards; they are complimented by styrene formers. These parts are also offered as all-styrene parts, which are extremely thin. Once cleaned up they will look just fine and will be far less complicated to use that the etched brass option. Finally, lift rings are placed on each upper corner of the glacis plate.

The bow-mounted .30 cal. machine-gun is a slide-molded part that includes crisp cooling jacket perforations as well as a bored-out muzzle. It is fitted into a four-part ball mantle. On the opposite side, the driver gets a multi-part styrene and etched brass auxiliary wind-shield. This includes clear parts for the glass panel and only lacks the canvas hood that sealed the driver from the elements.

The transmission access cover is separate and if it is left off, the empty interior will be visible. This leaves scope for the after-market industry. It should be noted that the interior flange to which the cover would be attached will also need to be added for a complete appearance.

The driver and co-drivers hatch lids feature separate rotating plates and covers for the separate clear periscope heads. Each also gets a separate grab-handle, while separate parts are also given for the gizmos that held the lids locked in the open position. Between them is fitted a dome cover for the vent.

The engine deck begins (from front-to-rear) with the main grill part, which covers the twin radiators. The two filler caps are molded in place, while each grill section is covered with etched brass screens, each enhanced with some very tiny detail parts. A pair of lift handles finish off this panel. It is flanked by separate removable access plates, each of which has molded-on tie-downs, brackets and a pair of separate lift handles.

Next aft is the hinged engine access panel, with molded-on tie-downs and separate locking handles. Behind that is another grill panel, which features separate exhaust pipe stubs as well as a pair of lift handles. These two panels are flanked by separate panels, each of which incorporates separate fuel filler caps, separate lift handles and separate fuel system vent covers. The latter have a subtle cast effect and foundry numbers molded in place.

With these engine deck features, this kit is ready-made for an after-market engine compartment set.

Turret.

The main turret shell is divided into an upper and lower half, with a separate part to depict the ring and the forward cheek. A fourth part represents the cast front segment that was welded to the otherwise all-welded turret. The gun mantlet is a single part and the stowage bin on the turret rear is made of three main parts; etched brass parts provide some smaller details.

The commanders cupola is a multi-part assembly featuring a two-position (opened or closed) hatch lid. The lids center section is separate so that it, along with commanders clear styrene periscope head, can rotate. It also features a separate lift handle and separate cover for the scope head. Etched brass parts also detail the lids hinge pin ends. Separate glass blocks in clear styrene embellish the rim, fine casting numbers are seen on several parts, and other separate styrene parts provide further detail. The loaders hatch lid features separate internal and external lifting and locking latches.

Some detail is molded in place on the turret roof, including a slightly-misplaced and too-long weld bead. This is easily shortened, but the remainder is best left in place, since moving it would also require slightly re-contouring the roof and side plates. It is best in this case to let sleeping dogs lay! For the WW2 version, the instructions correctly show that the rim around the separate dome vent should be removed. Optional opened or closed 2-inch mortar tubes are given as is a separate commanders blade sight and gunners periscope sight cover. The scope is a clear part with a styrene forehead pad. The final major detail item is a search-light composed of three parts to include a clear lens.

The .50 cal.M2 heavy machine-gun is based on a slide-molded core part (think Tasca). This allows for an open and completely detailed receiver, perforated barrel cooling jacket and an opening for the gun barrel. The latter part is also slide-molded so the bore is already opened up. An alternate gun barrel has a flash suppressor; this feature indicates that a post-war variant is planned. Either can be embellished with an etched brass barrel changing handle. Of course the trigger grips, receiver cover and cocking lever are separate. The pintle and gun cradle total four parts and the ammo box, from the accessory sprue (see below), is in six parts. The ammo box cover, if left open, reveals an empty box; the modeler will need to source the .50 cal. bullets elsewhere. The ammo box cradle is composed of a total of four etched brass parts, some quite miniscule. The tripod mount is a multi-part assembly that features a separate travel clamp for the gun barrel. Thus, the M2 can be shown in the combat or travel mode.

The starboard side of the turret features a separate shell ejection port with separate rim guard and separate hinge cover. Internally, there is a separate locking bar. A pair of lift rings and a number of styrene and etched brass parts are provided to stow the M2. The opposite side of the turret features another pair of lift rings as well as a two-part antenna mount and base. The instructions show how to make a stretched sprue antenna rod, but no length is given.

Up front, the gun mantlet is fitted with a pair of lift rings. The main part has a slight bit of texture and includes foundry casting numbers. Some of the contour details do not precisely match photos of several different M24s. So, the modeler, when he textures the mantlet can very easily match the contours to a given photo with the judicious use of files and some putty.

Turret Interior.

A fair amount of attention has been paid to the turrets interior. This includes a choice of two different radio sets, as well as multi-part seat assemblies for the commander, gunner and loader. A multi-part elevation gear assembly includes a separate hand-wheel; it fits next to a quadrant with a telescopic gun sight, attached to the gun mount. The mechanism that rotated the turret is not given, but the gunners trigger/rotation control grip is provided as a three-part assembly.

The gun is rather complete. The gun tube is slide-molded, so it is already bored-out. An attempt has been made to give the inner surface of the gun tube a rifled appearance, but it appears to be far too coarse. The outer surface has a pair of molded-on rings, apparently left-over from the mounting of this piece of ordnance in the North American B25 Mitchell medium bomber. Internally, there is a multi-part breech, multi-part breech-guard and a number of parts to provide for the recoil mechanism. A unique styrene spring is fitted internally; this will allow the gun tube to be pushed back for recoil action, should the modeler wish to get his jollies.

A fairly complete .30 cal. co-axial machine-gun is given. The MG is slide-molded, so the cooling jacket has proper perforations and the bore is drilled-out. A mounting plate, ammo box and spent case chute is given in styrene, while three tiny etched brass parts are provided to create a guide for the ammunition feed. Finally, four parts are used to make the trunnion mounts for the complete gun mount.

All-in-all, Bronco has done a commendable job of providing just enough detail for the modeler who wishes to leave the hatch lids open. In addition, references show that most of the other items easily seen here are standard bits such as ammo boxes and racks, and various equipment stowage brackets. A modeler with modest scratch-building skills and a well-stocked US spares bin ought to have no trouble cluttering up this relatively small space.

Figures.

These are sourced through DML (DragonUSA is Broncos North American distributor, so this is not a surprising development) and by now should be well-known to modelers of US tank crew figures. They are a bit long in the tooth, but at their time of release, they represented the state-of-the-art in styrene. In fact, due to their engineering, they presaged DMLs later Gen2 figures and are thus still extremely presentable.

There are five of them in total, allowing for a full crew for a typical US tank. They wear uniforms seen on US tankers in a 1944-45 European cold weather scenario. Two are half figures designed to fit into hatch openings. One is a driver figure wearing a tankers helmet; the other wears a cold weather hood and has his arms resting on a hatch rim. Two other figures are depicted on the ground; one holds his .45 cal. M1911 automatic pistol and the other carries a .45 cal. M3 submachine gun in one hand and a 5-gallon jerry can in the other. Both wear tankers helmets and one has his trousers bloused inside leggings. The final figure is a tank commander wearing head-phones under his M1 steel helmet. He also wears coveralls, a shoulder holster for his 45 and has binoculars hanging around his neck.

All have very crisply-molded uniform and equipment details. What set them apart from other figures of the era was the fact that they had separate collars or parts that showed open necks to their jackets. Their helmets are in multiple parts and their heads are all separate. This allows for an undercut look that only comes with more expensive resin figures. All of their web gear (ammo pouches, holsters and goggles) are separate for increased detail definition. The M3 SMG has a separate wire stock and the jerry can is a four-part assembly. To top it off, a small decal sheet includes five US armored division shoulder patches as well as a pair of sergeants chevrons for the tank commander. About the only improvement these guys could use are resin heads. Essentially, these figures are a perfect compliment to the kit, particularly when one considers the time period in which the M24 was initially deployed.

Accessories.

Six sprues provide for a number of useful accessory items. One contains four small haversacks, a rolled tarp and a cinched canvas bag. A second sprue contains the parts for six .50 cal. ammunition boxes. Each is composed of six parts and the cover can be shown opened or closed; decals are also included for these, but none of the other ammo boxes. Two more sprues contain a total of six more .50 cal. ammunition boxes of a different (post-war?) style, as well as six .30 cal. ammunition boxes. These are all single-piece, slide-molded items with open bottoms. The final two sprues provide parts for a total of eight US jerry cans. Each is a six-part assembly and two of them (marked as not for use) are complete with strap and standard vehicle mounting tray. Additionally, their pour caps have optional etched brass or styrene closure latches. Finally, someone at Bronco thought it would be a good idea to include a typical farmers milk can, so a five-part assembly was supplied. Who knew US tankers preferred milk over schnapps or cognac? Certainly not I!

Molding, Fit and Engineering.

Fit is generally fine overall, but since some parts are very thin and others quite delicate, there is lots of wobble. Perhaps too much, especially if the modeler wants all the working parts to do so. The fit of the front and rear hull panels to the main hull will also need care since the sides must properly align with them and there are no positive locaters. The fit of the track-links is noteworthy for their ease and their relative sturdiness; just dont try to roll them across the floor! Mold seams are minimal and ejector pin marks are not visible on any surface. In many cases, vestiges of the pins must be removed for a good fit; this is especially prevalent on the road-wheel disk halves. In order to eliminate pin marks on many parts, the usual nodes are used, which will result in more work to clean-up after their removal. This is a far better alternative to having pin marks on parts, to be sure.

As far as the fit of the finer parts go, check back with me in about nine months. I may have an idea by then, if I havent given up and devoted myself purely to photographing birds!

Accuracy and Details.

The only real accuracy issue concerns the turret roof plate shape as well as how it affects the profile of the side walls. It is, as is widely known, wrong. Some modelers will want to correct it (good luck!) and others will live with it. Still others may wish to wait for the soon-to-follow British version, which is supposed to correct this issue. Overall, the level of detail is simply fantastic, with even the most minute bits included.

Instructions.

These are line drawings and are extremely clear. The steps are adequately broken down, but the more experienced modeler will probably modify certain sequences to add smaller detail parts after major assemblies are completed. For instance, seal the turret and clean-up the join lines prior to adding all the external details. Paints are keyed to Gunze, Humbrol and Tamiya hobby paints and there are a number of icons to enhance certain steps, such as drill here or do not glue. The figure assembly sequence is presented in full color and the three markings schemes are represented in full color with five views per vehicle.

Decals and Markings Information.

Water-slide decals are provided to mark three US Army vehicles. Two are in NW Europe and one is in Italy, all in the late-war, 1945 time frame. The markings are crisply-printed on glossy carrier film, cropped close to each individual design. Registration is not an issue, since all, except the bridging circle, are one-color designs. The bridging circle is in register, but the disk is distinctly orange in color instead of yellow. All tanks are painted in US No.9 lusterless Olive Drab and are from the following units:

D-Company, 36th Tank Battalion, 8th Armored Division, Germany 1945.
A-Company, 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, NW Europe 1945.
C-Troop, 81st Reconnaissance Squadron, 1st Armored Division, Italy 1945.

Amongst the references cited below, there are only about two-dozen different photos of the M24 in service in Italy and NW Europe in 1944-45. This no doubt reflects the M24s limited availability towards the wars end. Photos confirm the markings on the tank from the 1st Armored Division, while a drawing confirms the markings on that of the 8th Armored Division.

Conclusion.

If ABER was in the business of manufacturing styrene kits, I suspect this would be how they would approach the medium. This kit is absolutely not for the beginner or the week-end modeler since it requires a skill level and a determination to complete a project, which can only come with many years of practice. There are some small problems regarding some shapes, especially that of the turret. That said, Broncos M24 is a remarkably accurate and extremely complete offering, straight from the box. As the instructions note: It will require a little more care in assembly, but you feel the end result is well worth the effort. Sounds rather totalitarian, but I guess they told me!

Frank V. De Sisto

References consulted for this report included the following publications, some internet sources and a CD. References 1 through 8 provide historic information, archival photographs and in some cases, color art work for markings. References 8 through 10 also provide walk-around detail information on preserved M24s. References 11 and 12, are both by Steve Zaloga, and posted here on Missing Links. They show a means to align the road-wheels and give the correct ride height to your model if you wish to dispense with the articulating suspension system. The reader is also, as usual, urged to head on over to PMMS for Terrys preview of this kit.

1. Stuart, a History of the American Light Tank, Vol.1; Presidio, by R.P. Hunnicutt.
2. M24 Chaffee Light Tank, 1943-85; Osprey New Vanguard 77, by S. Zaloga & J. Laurier.
3. US Light Tanks, 1944-84; Osprey Vanguard 40, by S. Zaloga & T. Hadler.
4. US Light Tanks at War 1944-45; Concord 7038, by S. Zaloga.
5. M24 Chaffee; Armour in Profile No.6, by Col. R. Icks.
6. Light Tanks M22 Locust & M24 Chaffee; AFV Weapons Profile 46, by Col. R. Icks.
7. M24 Chaffee in Action; Squadron Armor No.25, by J. Mesko, D. Greer & P. Manley.
8. M24 Chaffee Light Tank; Allied-Axis Issue 15, article by C. Fontaine.
9. M24 in Detail; Wings & Wheels Special Museum Line No.40, by F. Koran & M. Velek.
10. Toadmans Light Tank M24 Photo Detail CD #19; Toadmans Tank Pictures, by C. Hughes.
11. http://www.network54.com/Forum/47208/message/1327522405/13mm
12. http://www.network54.com/Forum/47208/message/1327603474/11mm

Bronco Models are available in North America from DragonUSA. For more information, visit their web-site at: www.dragonusaonline.com.

Note: Since May of 2005, I have been writing books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DragonUSA, the current North American importer of Bronco products. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reports.

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  1. Addendum to report - Frank V. De Sisto on Mar 24, 2012, 9:15 AM
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