Tamiya's new M151 kits

  • move
Build Review and Comparison between Tamiya's new M151 kits and the newer Academy M151 kits
M151 History
In 1951 the Ford Motor Company was awarded a contract to develop a new vehicle to replace the WWII era MB Jeep and its descendant the M38. The result was the M151 series of ton utility trucks, designed by Ford and later built by Kaiser, AM General Corporation, and GM. A production contract was awarded in 1960 for over 10,000 units that would be used by all US and many foreign military forces. More commonly referred to as simply a "jeep" or "quarter-ton", The M151 was produced from 1959 through 1982 and served from the Vietnam War throughout the Cold War and beyond.

The M151 had a monocoque body design making it roomier than previous jeep designs, and incorporated front and rear independent suspension with coil springs. Production of the M151 continued for just a short time when the M151A1 was introduced in 1964 with modifications to carry heavier loads and added small turn signals to the front fenders. Serious problems existed with the suspension that made the M151 and M151A1 unstable and susceptible to roll-over in tight cornering situations due to the central articulation of the suspension arms, the lowering of one wheel relative to the frame would make the wheel move inward, effectively over-steering the vehicle and causing it to abruptly overturn.

The M151A2, fielded in 1972, brought a significantly revised rear suspension with semi-trailing A-arms that greatly improved safety in fast cornering. Many smaller upgrades including improved turn signals and a one-piece front windshield with an electric wiper motor were also included. The M151A2 can be identified by the large combination NATO turn signal/blackout lights on the front fenders, which also had to be modified to mount the larger lights. With some M151A2 units still in US military service well into the 1990s, the M151 series achieved a longer run of service than that of the WW2 MB/GPW, M38 and M38A1 series jeeps combined. It has since been replaced by the larger AM General HMMWV.

M151 kit History
The M151 has been represented for quite a few years in model kit form. The first kit of one came out in the early 1980s from Tamiya in the form of the M151A2 (35123). This initial kit was what all the other Tamiya and the early Academy kits were all based upon. It was a pretty good kit with a simplified front suspension and differentials and cut corners on details with items such as a solid front bumper and some soft details. Tamiya continued to bring forth more M151 kits in the following years with an M151A2 (M825) TOW carrier (35125) and an M151A2 with M416 trailer with stowage for the trailer and a soft top (35130). Academy quickly jumped on the bandwagon by copying and reboxing these Tamiya kits, a common practice in their early days. Academy offered copies of all three Tamiya kits. Tamiyas kits were the standard for the M151A2 for 20 years.

In 2005 Academy massively reworked their M151s and introduced what were basically totally new kits. These had great improvements in details such as full engines and battery boxes, foot pedals represented for the brake and clutch, and the gas pedal in later releases. They also have separate front bumpers with the proper C profile, wheels with lightening holes that go all the way through, separate clear lenses for headlights, taillights and the reflectors. Soft rubber tires, new weapons and mounts, and detailed hood underside are also present. However, they still had some of the earlier problems of simplified front suspension and lack of underside details.

Academy also offered the first M151A1 kit (1323). This kit was nice, but was not a true A1 version since it still had the M151A2 rear suspension and A2 features such as the square tab on the rear wheel opening, dished steering wheel, and NATO adapter plug on the right engine cowl. Academy followed this release with an M151A1C 106mm Recoilless Rifle Carrier (13003) and an IDF M151A1 Shmira Patrol Vehicle (13004), which is incorrect as all IDF M151s were M151A2s. Their next vehicle was a revamped M151A2 Hardtop with an M416 trailer (13012). This kit was updated with all three pedals for the driver, seat backs, and various other details throughout. The hard top is also a unique piece that is well executed and it has very nice, colorful decals. Their last rework is an M151A2 (M825) TOW Carrier (13406) which updated the older TOW parts with all new ones which are well detailed and include the night sight and other parts not seen in earlier kits.

To bring us up to date, Tamiya has recently (Oct 13) released another M151A2 kit (35332) and a reworked M151A1 (35334). These are nicely done with the M151A2 being the same as its earlier release with three new sprues to provide the parts to build an M151A2 as seen in the US invasion of Grenada in 1983. These include gear, weapons, and a couple more crewmen. The M151A1 is totally reworked with a corrected rear suspension, new front grill and fenders, a reworked windshield, rear lights and a new sprue with a new canvas top and a few other detail pieces to build a vehicle from the Vietnam War. These still have some of the earlier problems exhibited in both the Tamiya and Academy kits of incorrect steering wheel on their A1s, simplified front suspensions, and lack of underside detailing.

This article will focus on building the two new Tamiya M151 kits and comparing them to the Academy M151 kits that have come out in recent years. For in-box reviews of the individual Tamiya kits you can look at my earlier reviews via links at the end of this build feature.

  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move
  • move

About the Author

About Gino P. Quintiliani (HeavyArty)

Retired US Army Artillery Officer, currently a contractor at MacDill AFB in the Tampa, FL area. I have been modelling for the past 40+ years, really seriously on armor and large scale helos (1/32, 1/35) for the last 35 or so.


I hope that Tamiya provides you with the front upper suspension arm; they haven't done so in the past.
NOV 05, 2013 - 09:42 AM
Hi Chris - No the upper control arms on the front suspension are not included (they are not hard to scratch though). Only the rear suspension for the A1 has been corrected. The rest of the suspension on both the A1 and A2 kits are the same as in their earlier releases.
NOV 12, 2013 - 06:11 PM
I found the new Tamiya M151A1 kit on a recent trip to the hobby store. Having a price of $34.99 I will pass.
NOV 27, 2013 - 08:38 AM
That is nuts. Online supplier and eBay have it going for about $20, including shipping.
NOV 30, 2013 - 01:13 AM
Thanks Gino, this is a very useful article. KL
NOV 30, 2013 - 01:54 AM
Glad it was helpful to you Kurt.
NOV 30, 2013 - 05:40 AM
I think that Tamiya is basing the Grenada version on a Ron Volstad painting in the Osprey Ranger book. The painting is bad-ass. I did a version of it years ago when I was stationed in Germany. The Tamiya kit is pretty lame compared to the painting. A couple extra dudes in Kevlar helmets and a couple M60s just ain't cutting it. It is good to see these re-released, tho.
DEC 11, 2013 - 01:59 PM
I haven't seen the Volstad painting, but the exact vehicle they based it on, down to the bumper numbers, is in this picture.
DEC 11, 2013 - 02:52 PM
I can't post a link to it, but if you google "ron volstad ranger jeep" in google images, it's the first one. Four rucks on the hood, dudes in soft covers and old school NVGs. 60 on the pindel mount and one on a tripod on the front passengers lap. Looks like the Tamiya has some cots lashed to the hood....
DEC 11, 2013 - 03:18 PM
Similar, I still think it is based on the pic I posted. It has the same bumper numbers, same sand color, similar gear set-up, crew with Kevlar helmets, etc.
DEC 12, 2013 - 07:45 AM