Hot on the heels of the M48A2GA2 last autumn, Revell of Germany also gave us the earlier M48A2 “as delivered”. Your humble Reviewer planned to look at it when it first hit the shelves, but it has taken a year longer than hoped…
For those who don’t know, the M48 was designed in the 1950s as a planned replacement for the M47, which itself only debuted with US forces after the fighting in Korea was over. It retained the 90mm main gun of its predecessor, but housed it in a larger “turtle-shell” turret on top of a completely redesigned lower hull. The earliest version to be fielded was the M48A1, recognised by a flat-ish engine deck made up of multiple louvered engine doors. The rear hull wall sloped outwards at the top, and the tracks still used the small tensioning idler wheel between the sprocket and last roadwheel as seen on the M47. It was powered by the same gasoline engine as the M47, so was somewhat underpowered. The next version was the M48A2, with a new gasoline engine (with more horsepower) and redesigned rear end that added the large cast “hump” to the deck and the finned doors to the rear hull wall. (These carried on right through M60 production two decades later…) Next came the M48A2C, in which there were internal upgrades to the optics and range finder, but the main externally-visible change was deletion of the tensioner wheel. After these, the tank went over to a diesel engine with big aircleaners in boxes on the fenders – this was the M48A3.
The Germans used the –A1, -A2, and -A2C versions over the years, eventually upgrading all three with “German” lighting systems and smoke launchers, as well as a large searchlight on the mantlet and a searchlight storage box on the turret rear. In addition, the –A2C was also given a major upgrade to M48A2GA2 standard by replacing the gun with the same 105mm weapon as used in the Leopard 1.
For ages we in 1:35 scale have had only the ancient Monogram M48A2 kit, and the Tamiya M48A3. Resin conversions were available to convert the Tamiya kit to an –A2 or an –A2GA2, but it was expensive and hard. The new –A2GA2 was very well-received because it made the Bundeswehr version available to all, and this –A2/A2C will no doubt go down a treat too!
(For Darren Baker’s review of the M48A2GA2, see here
In the usual Revell end-opening box are six green sprues (in three bags), two vinyl tracks, decals, and instructions in an A4-size booklet.
Three of the sprues (A, B, C) are carried over from the –A2GA2 kit. These are the hull, suspension, and wheels. Sprue D (the turret) is mostly the same, but the turret shell is modified to remove the –A2GA2 upgrades (searchlight box, electrical socket, and new cupola ring) and adds the correct M1 .50cal cupola ring. Where the other kit had sprues E (gun & cupola) and F (German lights, searchlight box, smoke launchers etc), this new kit replaces them with sprues G (90mm gun, MG cupola) and H (track tensioning wheel, fuel cans, bustle rack extension).
Replacing sprue F means that this new kit can only build the early tanks as delivered from US stocks. This is fine for the two US marking schemes, but after only a very short time the Bundeswehr upgraded pretty much all of its M48s with new lights and smoke launchers which they wore for the rest of their service lives. I am not sure what extra goodies the IDF examples might have had, but if they weren’t “vanilla” you’d need to look for aftermarket stuff to add any upgrades.
There are five sets of markings, two Bundeswehr, two US Army, and one IDF.
M48A2C, Bundeswehr, Panzerbrigade 2, 3. Kompanie, PzBtl 24, Braunschweig, 1962
M48A2, Bundeswehr, Panzerlehrbrigade 9, 2. Kompanie, PzBtl 93, Munster, 1959
M48A2C, US Army, 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd TkBn, 40th Armor, Korea, 1963
M48A2, US Army, 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 1st Squadron, Fulda, 1962
Magach (M48A2C), Israel Defence Forces, Rafah, Sinai, Six-Day War, 1967
According to Tankograd, the only units in the German army to use the early –A2 with tenshioner were Panzer Battalions 83 & 84, as well as the Training Battalion 93.
These are typical line drawings in an A4-size booklet. There is a sprue diagram, as well as paint/marking diagrams. Taped to the front is the antenna wire.
First impressions of this kit are of a solid 1980s-style model, with its big one-piece upper hull and multipart lower hull (to avoid slide-moulding). Some of the details are a tad lumpy (no PE light guards?) and there are no clear parts despite all the periscopes and lights on this tank. (The periscopes are moulded on, so no option to leave them “closed” without surgery.) Worse still, there is all that bumpy “sand-cast” texture to deal with! (They went a little OTT with it, even on rolled-plate items like the engine deck access panels…)
But on the plus side, it is actually a reasonably detailed rendition of the M48A2! We get canvas for the mantlet and the TC’s cupola gun mount, a choice to use the early track tensioner or a plug to cover the hole, and a hull with a decent front lip – the big bug-bear of Tamiya’s M48. It isn’t a patch on Dragon’s kit for detail, but then it is less than half the RRP!
One thing I find odd in most models is the assembly sequence. They often have you build the entire suspension and track before adding the upper hull – this kit is no exception. Experienced modellers will ignore the sequence and do the logical thing – building the hull “box” before adding any details to it, and leaving the wheels off for separate painting.
So, let’s start by looking at the hull.
The lower half is made up from four parts – the sides, bottom, and rear plate – so we get decent details on all sides without expensive slide-moulding. In particular, the hull bottom is nicely detailed with access covers and bolt heads, but there are long joint lines to eliminate and re-texture. There should be prominent foundry markings under the rear engine doors and on the curved sides, but not in this kit. The rear plate is our first “texture” casualty – the two square bolted-on access panels should be smoothed out. Sure, I can scrape the unwanted texture away, but why? The upper hull is ok, but the integral fenders are over-thick. The engine cover is a mixed blessing because the welds aren’t quite right and the access panels should be smooth – both are fix-able, but again, why? It isn’t as if the designers at Revell (Germany) are short of real examples to study in local museums! The cast engine deck is made up of several welded sections in real life – front, rear centre, and rear sides, leaving a transverse weld bead between front & rear and two beads running up the sides from the rear. Revell got the transverse bead about right, but the other two are placed along the edges rather than being set inboard about 2mm, so the edges themselves can be rounded. (See pics for how I fixed this.)
While we are at it, they made the side louvred access panels too short by a couple louvres – they should extend a little further to the rear on each side. (See this photo
over at PrimePortal for a good shot of the real louvers and the aforementioned welds.) The difference is only a few extra louvers, so many won’t bother, but I wanted mine to be correct. I cut them just forward of the last hinge so I could splice in an extra section from 0.080” strip and add new louvres from 0.040” stock – see photos. Then I trimmed the odd curvy bit from the hull side so the longer panels would fit. Again, this should have been corrected before we saw it…
There is also something a bit “squat” about the rear doors, but I cannot see an easy way of fixing it. A quick look at real ones shows that eleven of the diagonal “fins” touch the vertical outer edge of each door, but only nine fins do on the kit part. This adds to the visual impression that these doors just aren’t tall enough (by about 2mm) below the lower hinge, which in turn means the other panels of the rear end are wrong if they all fit this shortened part. Grafting on a spare from Tamiya or Dragon is one solution, but then plate B4 would need to be adjusted, and of course this would also cause new issues around the snorkel mounting plate on the right-hand door since the –A2 used a different shape to the –A3. We will have to let the AM companies come to the rescue here.
The rest of the separately-added details are ok, if slightly less crisp that we expect these days. The tool rack is rather weak, but a judiciously placed folded tarp will hide the worst of it! Sadly the fender stowage boxes are all moulded closed, and the handles are moulded on rather than being separate parts – this isn’t much better than Monogram’s 1957 effort! One thing to note is the angled infantry phone box on the right rear fender – I thought this version was specific to the Germans? Modellers building the US version will need to scratch up a replacement.
Cast into the hull are all the mountings for the suspension arms. The arms themselves are added and aligned via D-shaped pegs for a level ride. If you want to pose them articulated, modifying the pegs will work, but those at either end with shock absorbers will take extra work. Also, the arms include the octagonal cover plate for the mounts, which did not turn when the arms moved – separating this plate will be a pain. On my example the arms all have sink marks, as do the thick mounts on the hull for the return rollers, but it is no surprise since my –A2GA2 kit also has sink marks aplenty. Fortunately these are fairly well hidden when the wheels are on, so I probably won’t bother filling them. The Final Drives are clever, incorporating the curved shields for the tail lights. But the sprockets don’t have the necessary three mud slots in them. There are separate bump-stops, which are nice, and the usual lift rings. Wheels are all simple two-part affairs with tyres and hubs moulded on, and they are glued over pegs on the arms so cannot rotate. The hubs and bolts look ok, but Revell struggled with the distinctive “bulge” around the edge of the rim face, which is represented by a narrow raised lip instead. The tracks are single lengths of “old school” black vinyl that must be heat-welded, with a series of knock-out tabs to cut off around the edges, and round ejector-pin marks on the inner faces of the track pads. While these are decent enough, many folk will be reaching for AM sets. If building the –A2 the tenshioner arms are keyed to sit at a slight upward angle, but need to be added before
the bump-stops which otherwise get in the way.
Once again Revell has provided a stunning cast turret shell, differing from their earlier kit because of the MG cupola and lack of searchlight fittings. Sadly it lacks any foundry marks, often seen prominently on top between the cupola and the loader’s hatch, as well as on the cupola and TC’s hatch. Because it uses most of the parts from the earlier kit, there is a “patch” section for the middle of the turret bustle rack to replace the gap where the –A2GA2 had its searchlight stowage box. Assembling the rack was a challenge requiring extra fingers! (Next time I might cut off the horizontal bars, drill out the vertical plates, and thread in some Evergreen rod to make the rack more solid.) One thing that is strange is the choice to make the range-finder hoods as two halves, rather than as single parts. Still, after I let them harden I could sand away the seem and tone down the texture to make hoods with nice lens detail lurking in the openings. The two fuel cans are part of their racks, and are of German pattern with a groove between the halves, so perhaps aren’t appropriate for a US tank? The smooth featureless straps will bother some folk.
The gun has the Y-shaped blast deflector seen in many photos, but of course the M48A2 could also sport the T-shaped deflector offered by Tamiya and Dragon in their M48A3 kits. And the Revell deflector lacks the key strip on top, as well as bolt detail. (I designed a Y-shaped deflector for 3D printing at Shapeways
that includes these missing features, but they can be created from strip plastic.) The gun tube is split into a top and bottom, with the bore evacuator and canvas dust cover moulded on. The mantlet is likewise covered in “canvas” detail complete with fixing tabs, but because it can move up and down these tabs aren’t meant to be glued to the turret face! This would look odd since the tabs should be fixed to the turret rather than “floating” up and down. However, when I built mine I found the fit was too tight for movement anyway, so I just glued it in place on the turret front in the correct location which gives the gun a slight elevation. One odd thing about the new sprue G is that two of the parts (141 & 142) are marked “not for use”, suggesting they go with yet another variant in the works. These have mounting pins that match blind holes in the mantlet where the later M48A2s in German service had their searchlight brackets installed – could an upgraded M48A2CG be on its way? All it would take is the addition of the “F” sprue with the searchlight and grenade parts from the –A2GA2 kit. (Hint, hint, folks at Revell…)
Then there is the commander’s MG cupola, which includes the early hatch without the “helmet bulge” seen on M48A3s – no more stealing un-bulged hatches from the old Monogram kit! This has a dust cover, as well as fixed mantlet that points the gun slightly below horizontal. There is some internal detail on the hatch (the glass vision blocks), but it lacks latches or padding so is best left closed. Besides, the cupola itself also lacks internal details. By comparison, the loader’s hatch does have moulded-on internal details, so can be left open. The three lift loops are moulded on, but are very good, needing only to be gently bent up at an angle to match photos of real ones. The TC’s periscope is moulded integral to the guard, so cannot be “removed” and has no visible daylight around it, but is otherwise adequate. The .50cal MG barrel would be ok once the end is drilled out, but could be replaced with one of the finer modern offerings from the likes of Tasca/Asuka for better appearance.
Cast parts on US tanks have several marks as raised letters. First there is the Drawing number, usually seven digits long. Then there is a serial number for the individual casting – these obviously differ between tanks. There is Heat Treatment info (often “HT” followed by a number), and finally a Foundry symbol. Not all marks are necessarily visible on assembled vehicles, and the locations can vary between identical parts on different tanks for reasons I don’t know. On the M48A2 the Drawing numbers I know of are:
Turret – 8694366. Either on top in the middle, or under the base of the bustle. Most also appear to have the “G in shield” symbol of the General Steel Castings Corporation on the left side below the rangefinder hood.
M1 Cupola body – 8683239. On right side ahead of the hatch.
M1 Cupola hatch – 8697577.
Hull – 8734084. On the sides (under upper track run) in front of third track support roller on right-hand side. Also on rear plate under the tail light on right, next to towing eye. Again, examples often have the “G in shield” Foundry symbol. Note that some preserved examples like the Danbury one have flat mounting bosses between the return rollers where the earlier M48A1 had extra rollers fitted. These hulls have Drawing number 8721799 on them, suggesting that very early-production M48A2s had a separate hull pattern that was later revised into the 8734084 hulls when the intermediate roller pads were deleted. The kit represents the later 8734084 hull, as seen on walkarounds of German preserved vehicles.
I find the Archer AR88007 resin sheets handy for these markings, although cutting out the individual numbers can be a pain. Plus, some digits seem to run out too fast, calling for multiple sheets just to have enough of the offending digit! (“1” and “0” are inordinately popular…)
As with the other recent kit, this is a welcome offering from Revell. The overall impression is slightly “dated”, so don’t expect it to be as sharp as the recent DML M48A3. (It stands up to the “3-foot” rule, but may be found wanting if you get up close & personal…) The kit actually builds a fairly basic M48A2, so don’t go looking for those peculiar details that make Bundeswehr or IDF tanks stand out – any such owner-upgrades will need to be purchased separately. But with a little TLC this will make a decent M48A2 that knocks spots off the ancient Monogram kit! And with any luck at all, Revell might take the hint and follow up with the M48A2CG, and (dare we hope?) an M48A2 AVLB…
Update: Since starting to draft this review our friends at Legend have released a resin update set that addresses many of the kit’s weaknesses.
Stefan Marx, Der Kampfpanzer M48 in der Bundeswehr
, Militarfahrzeug Special No. 5011, Tankograd Publishing
There’s a great walk-around at the Panzer-Modell
website, under the References/In Detail section.
Prime Portal M48
Prime Portal M48A2
Preserved Tanks Danbury M48A2