by Brian Cavet
3rd. Inf. Div. M1A1 Operation Iraqi Freedom
Tamiya’s M1A1 has been around for quite some time. It started life as a motorized kit of the original 105 mm gunned M1. In the early 90’s they re-released it with some new parts to make the A1 version. While it’s not perfect, it’s close enough for a good starting point. I did a few minor changes to get it more accurate.
I started with the lower hull by filling in all the motorization holes. This was done with sheet plastic and filler used Testors red putty. It’s actually Bondo spot filler for auto use but it turns out to be the same stuff as Testors at 1/3 the price. Since I wanted to leave off the rear-most side skirt I also filled the gap above the drive sprocket. The sprockets themselves are missing the lightening holes, so I marked the location and drilled them out – four on each sprocket. You could also use the ones supplied in the Legend Productions update set. If you do, I suggest cutting the sprockets off the kit wheel and gluing it to the aftermarket wheel. You will see how I did this on the mine plow version I’m building.
The skirts were easy: just cut off the last section thin it down some and add a hinge. Do the same thing with the rear mud flap. Thin it down and add the mounting pins. Next up was the upper hull. It is missing the anti-slip surface on the deck. I drew out the pattern with pencil and then used Mr. Surface 500 applied with a stiff flat brush in a stabbing motion. This was done on the turret as well. The hull is missing the fire extinguisher cut out on the left side this was cut out and a strip plastic back added then the handle was put in. Additional parts were added from the Eduard set #35333. I also used the smoke grenade boxes from a Trumpeter kit as the Kit parts are not correct.
All of these things were done with reference help from the web and books mainly the Concord M1A1 book. The tow cables were attached with shackles from the spares box to the front and rear hull. They are rarely stored on the turret for combat. They need to be ready for use. I used the kit end drilled out and added a length of nylon string. I like nylon cause it doesn’t fray like cotton string and it is easy to work with.
The paint is overall Testors #2136 U.S. Army/Marines. I used a wash of browns and dark sand then I used a sand color mix of pastels sprayed through an airbrush over the whole tank. I also used the same mixture as a wash in all the areas were dust would collect.
The reflective material for the vision blocks is gift-wrap curling ribbon I found at hobby lobby. It is transparent and has that highly reflective property that changes color as the light hits it. The blocks were painted black then the strip was cut to size and glued in place with white glue. A very nice touch for modern armor! All the stowage is from Tamiya’s new set of modern gear. I also added strip plastic straps to everything that needed them.
The tracks are from AFV Club and work quite well on the kit. They were assembled per the instructions. I painted them flat black and weathered them right on the tank. One additional step: since the tank would be displayed on the highway, the track blocks were painted a suitable gray/ black color.
Tamiya is set to release another version of this kit as of this writing and will include many new parts including some of these improvements. It will include an APU, new tracks, and parts to make the A2 as well as the USMC versions. It will also have the extra stowage parts and decals for O.I.F. With this you can build your Abrams out the box.
Photos by Phil Novak