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Panda M1 Abrams

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/35 scale plastic model armor kit
There have been several recent Abrams kits by different companies, but no new tool of an original M1 until Panda’s release.

Most of the dark yellow moldings are for individual tracks. Periscopes, lights, and wheel end caps are clear styrene. A photo-etch (PE) sheet provides engine screens, tow-cable supports, a jerry-can rack, and a wheel template. Two brass cables are also included, along with markings for four tanks: one from the NATO Reforger exercises; another in the MERDC scheme; and two from the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Division.

The moldings exhibit flash, protruding knockout marks, mold shift, deep mold lines, and sink marks, all fairly easy to fix. Fits were mostly good, with only a little filler needed around the hull edges and turret halves. Test-fit parts, though; many of the mounting pins or tabs are oversize, and you risk breakage if you force them.

Once the hull halves are joined you can add the detail parts. Step 5 presents the option of two different pieces for the hull rear but does not explain the difference. The answer comes in Step 9, where you have a choice of two rear sections of skirts; the ones with cutouts match parts C33 and C46 at the rear. These skirt options match different marking options.

The suspension arms (parts D4) have tabs that are supposed to lock them into place, but there is a lot of play; make sure they are all even when gluing them. I glued the inner road wheels together first, then painted them with my shade color and painted the outer road wheels black. Next, the outer rims were snapped into place on the hubs. A PE wheel mask was used to spray the vehicle’s main color on the outer rim and inner hub.

The tracks took most of the build time. You get 160 links; I broke four of them during cleanup, leaving no spares with 78 links per side. The end connectors do not want to stay in place, so I ended up gluing one pin per connecter; this leaves the tracks mostly workable.

I glued the skirts together in one piece. But the joints are not strong, so I glued a reinforcing piece of styrene along the joint. I left them off the model until it was painted and the tracks were installed.

Turret assembly was straightforward. The barrel is supplied in halves with the muzzle glued into the end. But the mounting pin on my muzzle was oversize, so I had to drill out the barrel to fit. The barrel moves up and down but doesn’t stay put, so I glued it in position.

Parts B15 and B16 of the smoke dischargers were missing pins to mount them to the base plates (parts B5 and B6). So, I added styrene rod to join the two parts. In Step 13, Part B17 of the smoke discharger should be B7.

I had trouble folding Part PE 7, the tow-cable end bracket; I could not get it to bend around the end of the tow cable, and after repeated attempts it broke. There is no guide for the cables’ length, and when I found they were too long I left them off.

My .50-caliber machine gun was damaged on the sprue; it can be replaced in the aftermarket.
On the hinge for the commander’s hatch (Step 18), parts B55 and B54 are switched.

The turret side racks are molded as one piece. I found it easier to clean up the racks while they were still on the sprue, and I mounted them last to avoid breaking them. Do not mount the turret until you are finished with the model; once it clicks into place there is no way to remove it.
I chose to model the Reforger tank because I liked its large, blue numbers on the front. The decals were a little thick but easy to maneuver, and there was no silvering. The color sheet shows a large regimental insignia plaque on the back of the turret, but the one on the decal sheet is much smaller. It appears you are supposed to cut out the one shown in the directions and mount that, but I used the small decal.
Panda’s M1 is an advance from the 1982 Tamiya kit, but it is not easy. Due mostly to the tracks, the build took almost 47 hours. An aftermarket .50-caliber machine gun barrel and additional crew gear would improve the model. Internet discussions question its accuracy, such as the left rear fuel cap position, but the model looks like the first production M1.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the May 2018 issue.


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