by: Matt Szefer [ ]
In the 1960ís the US Army began to develop a lightweight gun and missile launcher to replace the traditional main gun on tanks. The new launcher system, called Shillelagh could fire anti-tank guided missiles and the standard ammunition. This system was installed into a newly designed turret for the M60. The M60A2 also used one of the first laser rangefinders. 526 M60A1 were upgraded to the A2 standard. During use it was discovered that the system was overly complex and never popular with crews. The A2 was so complicated and difficult to use, that it was called a starship. M60A2s were withdrawn from service after only a few years. Many of them had their turrets removed and were converted to armored vehicle bridge launchers.
The newly released Dragon Models M60A2 follows after M48s and M60 and continues the "Patton" series from this producer. To this time if somebody wanted to build the M60A2, one of the most interesting and best looking cold war era tank they had to resort to the ancient Tamiya kit. Recently three producers released M60A2 Starship offerings. I looked at the model from Dragon.
This model kit contains:
7 gray plastic sprues
2 vinyl tracks
2 small clear sprues
Photo etched sheet
One sprue made from DS vinyl
One small decal sheet
All of the contents are packaged in sturdy box with nice box art that shows the M60A2 on the edge of the forest. Despite the large size of the box the contents fill the entire space inside. The sprues are packaged individually in plastic bags, except where the sprues are duplicated. The model parts are molded in Dragon models standard grey plastic and is very well done. This includes many of the previously release sprues, from M48 and M60 kits. On the back of the box Dragon Models provides details of some of the different elements of the model with a short descriptions.
This sprue contains two main hull pieces, it's marked as the sprue from the M60. This is because the M60A2 version had a hull form M60A1. Both pieces are very well moulded and the cast texture on them is one of the best that I've ever seen in plastic kit. It's visible but not over scale, good job Dragon.
On this sprue the producer placed almost all of the details that are needed to finish the hull: fenders, fender braces, air cleaners, and other smaller details. It's also marked as sprue from M60. All parts are well done, I had no any reservations while checking this sprue. I should mention about the fenders. They are excellent, very thin and without any pin marks or others issues, even on bottom side.
These are all chassis parts: swing arms, road wheels, drive sprockets, idlers return rollers etc. In the box there are two C sprues. Quality- without any reservations.
This sprue comes from the previously released M48 Patton. There are many different parts, but to build M60A2 we only need the engine cover and driver hatch. The rest of the parts like the suspension components, bump stops etc, go to box with spare parts. The engine cover is beautifully moulded, molding is clean and sharp, also there are some fine details like handle grabs which look great too.
This sprue is made specifically for the M60A2 Starship, and contains almost all of the parts needed to build the turret. All parts on this sprue are made in superb quality, just look at the gun mantlet and commanderís cupola to see what I mean. Turret haves are made using slide mold technology, they have a lot of crisp moulding and sharp details like casting numbers. The only small negative I noticed is the lack of gun rifling inside the main gun.
Like sprue D this comes from the M48 kit, and from this we need only a few parts to build the model, a search light and a couple of other parts. Other parts for example fenders, head lights guards and others go into the spares box. The parts on the J sprue, just like the others are well made, Dragon replicate details such as the heads of the bolts.
Inside the box you will find two small clear sprues, K and H. From these sprues we use the head lights, driver's periscopes and part for search light, other parts are unnecessary. It's a pity that Dragon Models has not included transparent visors in the commander cupola and other periscopes, one clear visor block is on the sprue, but it doesn't fit the M60A2 Starship.
Photo Etched Parts
The photo etched content consists of one small photo-etched sheet, these are the elements needed to build the turret basket. They are made from a thin and easy to bend material, so working with them is not a problem even for the inexperienced modeller.
Dragon gives us full length early tracks made from DS material. Vinyl tracks have as many supporters as opponents but for me they are one of the best vinyl tracks on the market, soft and easy to assemble. One small issue is ejection pin mark on every few link but they are on the inner side so road wheels mask them very well, and after the final assembly they are almost invisible.
The decal sheet is small and provides markings for only two vehicles. The decals are crisp, thin and have good colours. Itís hard to write something more, before using them but I do not expect any difficulties judging from previous Dragon's decals.
The instruction booklet is printed in black and white manual contains 19 steps. On the first page you will find a sprue map which shows all the frames and parts distribution. The instruction are clear, but sometimes require using the ref photo to determine the exact position of the part. Steps 1-12 are focused on hull and suspension assembly, the remaining 6 show how to make the turret, the last one illustrates the final assembly. On the last page Dragon models provides two paint schemes. Both are marked as vehicles from unidentified units, 1970ís paint in winter verdant MERDC camouflage. It's a bit of a shame that there are no other paint schemes to allow the option to cover more of the many units that were equipped with this vehicle. Dragon Models, more research work would be very appreciated.
The constructed the model according to the instructions. I started with the wheels. The drive sprockets are made up of four parts, The road wheels need four parts to build each wheel; inner hub, rear hub, and 2 x road wheel outers. It requires a lot of work to create the full complement of road wheels and the two idler wheels but the final effect is worth the time spent with them. I realize that to facilitate painting you could glue the tyres on later, but before the painting I always try to glue as much as is possible. I also checked the track and sprockets fitting, all fits very well.
When I looked at reference photos I noted that almost all drive sprockets have three mud holes. Then I started modifying the Dragon sprockets, and cut out these holes, I drilled pilot holes and used a combination of hobby knife and sanding to form the holes and achieve the slightly oblong shape. This took some work, but the drive sprockets now look more of a match to the original.
Next, I tackled the suspension assembly. First, I glued the lower and upper hull together, they fit each other really well. Next I removed some details that is for a different M60 version and used some putty for cover unnecessary holes. Then I could begin to add suspension details like bump stops, swing arms and return rollers. All parts fit very well. When I glued each swing arm in place, it could still move up and down so you have to be careful to make everything equal to each other. One note: after gluing torsion bars in the place as designated in the instructions, the gap between the 5th and 6th road wheel is too big and that is incorrect for this vehicle. Fixing this issue is very easy, you need to remove the mount on the last torsion bar and then it's possible to move is closer to the correct position.
When I finished the suspension I started work with engine deck. Unfortunately I had some problems, some parts don't fit too well. To glue these parts together I used cyanoacrylate glue and next I filled the cracks with acryl putty. Despite minor fit issued engine deck looks really nice, it has a really good detail and these handle grabs looks cool.
I then corrected another of Dragon Models errors. The kit comes with two fuelling ports which is incorrect, so the left one should be removed. I just placed putty in the mount for the fuel cap.
Later I made the rear part of the hull. I only I had to remove one pin mark, which was located in visible place, beside this everything fits perfect and assembly went very quickly and to good effect. The hull body was finished so I could start work on the fenders and other details, details such as the drivers periscopes, heater etc. I must mention that the plastic fenders look very nice, they are thin and work with these parts does not require a lot of time. Equipment on them also didn't bring me any problems as did the rest hull parts. Only one thing that I improved on a little bit were the headlights. To make them more realistic I glued a piece of silver foil between the plastic and clear parts, it has imitated the mirror inside the reflector.
When the hull was finished I started work on the turret. Most of the parts fit together very well so building this element was fast. The turret rack assembly was a little bit hard to do but other parts fit very well. On the turret example you can see how well Dragon mapped all the details, all bolts and rivets are sharp and crisp. As with the hull the build was straight form the box except the wire between turret and search light, that I made of thin electric wire. During this stage of work I noticed two more kit errors. Firstly there is no tow cables in the box despite the fact that you have to glue their attachments on the turret sides. Secondly on the box art Dragon Models shows an M60A2 with the dust cover on the mantlet, reference photos shows, that most of tese vehicles had them, but if you want your model with a dust cover you have to make it from scratch because Dragon Models didn't provide it inside the box.
The last thing to do was track mounting. Earlier I glued all of the wheels using Humbrol Clear Fix and fitting the tracks. It turned out that they are a little bit too long so I cut off one link of each side. Then I connected them together and put on the chassis. The assembly was finished, now time to painting and weathering, can't wait.
Overall, this is a really good kit, allowing you to build an interesting model with a high degree of detail straight from the box. Quality is no different from any other new Dragon product, all parts quality is of a good level, also fit is very good, but the kit has some simplification mainly some of the dimensions and a few details are wrong. For me a few millimetres difference is not so important, but I know that some people pay attention to this aspect. The lack of tow cables and dust cover inside the box is the biggest issue, there are others that are easy to fix. Despite these drawbacks the kit is really interesting and allows you to spend a lot of time with the hobby and this is most important aspect for me.