by: Jim Rae [ ]
Introduction - confessions of a quarter-scale virgin...
In the dim, distant past, I built some of the old Bandai models in 1/48th scale (their Wespe and perhaps 2-3 others) and, like many others forgot all about the scale. Recently though, having read a few reviews of some interesting quarter-scale subjects and having covered a number of emerging AM companies for the News section, I have to admit in having my interested re-awakened...
Like many others, I was somewhat surprised when Tamiya announced a 're-emphasis' from their (established) 1/35th armor range, to what, to many, seemed like an aberration, by beginning a new range in 1/48th. There did though, seem to be a logic to the switch. Firstly, some of the first releases were clearly aimed at the Aviation modeler - nowadays, for many, 1/48th is the chosen scale as there is more detail than (the traditional) 1/72nd but less space is required than 1/32nd or 1/24th. However, Tamiya began to bring out an increasingly large range of 'pure' AFVs and while few of these deviated much (in terms of subject) from their 1/35th scale range they WERE interesting subjects - particularly subjects like the Sherman Firefly or the Cromwell. They also began doing figures - more of this in later Reviews!
I bought this particular model as a) I like the subject, b) This site needs to begin some serious coverage of Quarter-scale and c) I fancied an uncomplicated OOB build with no PE, AM or other complications. Yeah, modeling IS supposed to be FUN!
Consisting of just 124, dark-green injection moulded parts, on five sprues, a metal chassis (plus screws) an instruction booklet and a decal sheet covering two vehicles. MM51 - U.S. M8 Light Armored Car Greyhound is a fairly recent release from the Japanese manufacturer Tamiya.
Inside the box
The first look at the sprues shows a nice crispness of moulding. The instructions are typical Tamiya - clear, uncomplicated and break the construction into 16 seperate stages (in effect, stage # 16 is the commander figure). There is, it has to be said a touch of 'over-packaging' - the (die-cast) floor section is contained within it's own seperate box which had me scratching my head somewhat... Everything else though is seperately bagged and no damage is present in any of the more delicate parts.
The first five sections of the instructions concentrate on the suspension. Those of you who have 'labored long and hard' with suspension from models from companies such as Skybow or Italeri are in for a very pleasant surprise here - the construction is entirely logical and broken down into as FEW components as practical. This doesn't mean it's over-simplified, it's all there, but unless one displays it on a mirrored base, you won't see much of it. There is (naturally enough) a bit of cleaning-up necessary on the leaf-springs but nothing major.
The following three sections (6,7 & 8), finish off the lower hull with the rear plate and begin construction of the upper hull. The main section of the upper deck (B24) attaches onto the lower hull tub with few problems although there IS a gap at the front. This is apparently present in my photos of my build (see below) but it actually isn't - for a few weeks now, i've been using Mig Productions' Acrylic Resin as a gap-filler and, as it dries transparent, the gap still looks as if it's there..
Section # 9 finishes the suspension with the attchment of the wheels which have the two front ones listed as seperate numbers - why i'm not too sure, as they look identical to the other four.
10,11 & 12 add the detail to the hull including the distinctive wheel covers and the seperate front fenders. In section 11, an alternative is given to use either the mine-racks or the middle stowage box. Following Chris Hughes' comments on HIS review, it appears that the mine racks were in use up until the end of '44 whereas the central stowage box DIDN'T appear before then. So, as a rule of thumb, the mine-racks are fine for the majority of vehicles - the stowage bins aren't. Guess who added the central bins? Fit is good although a little bit of care is necessary to get the hinges aligned.
The penultimate three sections (13, 14, & 15) deal with construction of the turret and the 37mm gun assembly. Of all the sections, these are perhaps the most complex. Section 15 covers the construction of the MG ring around the turret top and while the three uprights fit well, some care is needed to align them correctly. I would have preferred the turret to have been done as a one-pice moulding as the vertical joins DO need a bit of covering-up to avoid an unsightly seam.
The construction offers few difficulties and although the parts are (inevitably) 'fiddlier' than in a 1/35th scale model they aren't THAT difficult to manipulate.
This was built as more of a trial-run than anything else. I also wanted something that I could build OOB with the minimum of hassle and (lack of) AM additions. It's been a year or two since I built anything from Tamiya and the experience was totally positive - nice, uncomplicated instructions, good fit of parts and a model with a lot of potential for super-detailing.
On the debit side, there are a few points i'd like to mention. Detail is good. Good, not great. In some of the details (such as the .50 Cal MG) it's a little 'clunky' it DOESN'T show the finesse that other manufacturers demonstrate in 1/35th and which modern-tooling can be capable of. I'm TOTALLY bewildered by the inclusion of the die-cast chassis section. Just what is the point of this apart from increasing the price? Totally, utterly pointless... There's a lack of detail in areas such as the inside of the turret although they COULD have 'forgotten' about the turret basket (they didn't).
As to accuracy, although i've got a fair few books, photos and articles on the M8, I kept them closed. I kept to the 'spirit' of my intentions with this Review - OOB and building it for sheer enjoyment. In this it was a great exercise in the basics. That isn't to say that some AM won't improve this kit - it certainly will, replacing the .50 cal would be a good start along with some stowage.
Finally, some thoughts about 1/48th as a 'viable' scale. I have to admit, when Tamiya announced their change of direction a few years ago, to be highly sceptical. Now, I cheerfully admit to being wrong - it needed a large company to give the impetus to 're-invent' this scale. All the arguments on the 'plus' side have been well expressed - large enough for good detail, occupies less space on the shelf etc. However, looking around, there is a problem - cost. Unfortunately, in Europe and the States, there isn't much of a price differential between 1/35th and 1/48th this will inevitably encorage many to follow the path of least resistance and stick with 35th scale. This is a real pity although nowadays, there really is no excuse NOT to buy from the Far East where the prices are LOW - buying from Hong Kong, this model cost me roughly a third of the quoted price from a Spanish retailer. Buyer beware!