M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams
Manufacturer: Dragon Models (Kit No. 7215 & 7216)
Here are the latest boxes of spare parts from Dragon Models. A couple of months ago when Dragon announced their new series of small scale armor kits, I placed an order with my local model shop for all eight kits that had been announced at that time. These models are now steadily beginning to arrive in this country, and thankfully there are only a couple left in my original order. Since these are the first models I have purchased in many months, I am sorely disappointed in how my money has been wasted, but I think that the next two will be the last ones I buy.
So why am I not happy with these latest kits? I guess mainly I feel let down because my expectations were so high. Considering that Dragon is the leader in providing highly detailed, accurate (and affordable) 1/35th scale armor models, I was led to believe that we could expect the same in our scale. Alas, no. I'm not sure how Dragon views small scale armor modelers, but it can't be good. They keep giving us products that are some freakish hybrid between simplistic toys and real models. Each one of their releases has loads of potential, which is ultimately ruined by some strange choice in the kit's design. In the case of these Abrams, the primary problem is the main hull. Obviously designed as a motorized toy, the hull is simple, and mutated to accomodate a motor (not included).
The surface detail on the hull top is pretty good; again, it had potential to be a very nice kit. The armored side skirts are molded onto the hull, so surgery will be required to remove them, if the modeler so wishes. I haven't taken the time to measure this kit and compare it to reference material, but I did compare it to the Revell M1A1 Abrams, and this Dragon kit is smaller than the Revell kit in every dimension. The turret is substantially smaller. In my previous articles on the Abrams, I had measured the Revell kit to be completely accurate in scale, so that implies that this kit is small (perhaps 1/73?). I will soon update my Abrams Comparison article, incorporating these new kits, as well as comparison scans.
The turret is modular, allowing for several options, depending upon the version you wish to build. I like this idea. For the most part, the detail is crisp and clear, though not as good as on the Revell kit. Good luck in separating the tow cables from the sprue.
The wheels are nicely done. Two sets of this sprue are included with each kit.
This first sprue of parts shows many of the turret details. The pieces bracketed in yellow are included only in the A1 kit, and not in the A2 kit. These parts are not molded all that well, with huge sprue gates, and some soft features on many of the parts.
This second sprue shows the rest of the kit parts. Those parts outlined in yellow are included only in the A2 kit, and not the A1 kit. This includes the new commander's cupola, and indepedent thermal viewer (which looks a little hinkey to me). Note that the A2 kit represents the standard M1A2, and not the SEP version.
Of course, you all know how much I hate vinyl tracks, but considering that the side skirts will hide the top track run, these tracks may look decent enough if painted well. They are nicely detailed, and represent the T-158 style (also called "bigfoot" track, though I've been led to believe that this is a fictitious name). This track is appropriate for the M1A2, and late versions of the M1A1.
A final bag of stuff included with these kits are parts to make the wheels turn. Yippee.
We are provided a vast choice of markings for each kit. Wait . . . no we're not. I guess I got these confused with something else. We are actually provided with a single marking option for each kit. The M1A1 kit gives us markings for the 3rd Infantry Division in the current war in Iraq. The M1A2 kit includes markings for 194th Brigade, Task Force 1-70 at the National Training Center. In addition to the waterslide decals, there are also a couple of stickers included in each kit for special markings. This is a good idea in theory, but I am concerned about how well they will stick to paint. Some additional adhesive may be necessary, as well as several clear coats.
Ultimately, I am quite disappointed with these models, as well as the entire line of Dragon's kits to date. But the prices are reasonable, and they do provide many nice parts for conversion projects.
Foot note By Simon Barnes
Despite the simplistic nature of some of the details in these kits, the base vehicle is actually the most accurate out of all the Abrahms kits, do not let the poor details in some areas and the terrible lower hull. plus the fact that it is smaller than the Revell and Esci kits, detract from the fact that the kit in size and shape is accurate. I have assembled a set of 140 engineering drawings like the one below.
Be warned it is a large drawing, I have put the comparative measurements of the Revell and Dragon kits, as the Esci kit is similar to the Revell kit. From the rest of the drawings it is easy to see that the Revell kits turret front has the wrong angles. I hope to later be able to visibly demonstrate this.
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