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Tamiya 1/35 scale Dragon Wagon/U.S. 40-ton Tank Transporter

Kit: No. 35230
Scale: 1/35
Manufacturer: Tamiya, distributed by Tamiya America, 2 Orion, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-4200, phone 800-826-4922
Price: $115
Comments: Injection molded, 700 parts (582 plastic, 17 photoetched brass, 65 vinyl, 36 miscellaneous hardware), decals.
Pros: Subject matter, excellent detail, photoetched treadplates, crew figures
Cons: Scope of the project and complicated assembly may overwhelm beginners

Consisting of the M26 tractor and the M15 semi-trailer, the M25 was one of the biggest vehicles the U.S. Army fielded in World War II. Used exclusively in Europe, it was a capable battlefield armored recovery vehicle and could haul everything from supplies to landing craft. It was also infamous for tearing off corners of buildings on tight turns! The Dragon Wagon soldiered on into the Korean War and found additional users in the European civilian market.

Tamiya pulled out all the stops for its "Commemorative Thirtieth Anniversary kit." The plastic parts (nearly 600 of them!) are cleanly molded in olive styrene and are supplemented by photoetched, metal, and vinyl parts. Detail is top notch. The cab interior details match photos in the U.S. Army technical manual and even features the vehicle commander's desk. All the lights have chrome reflectors and clear lenses. Photoetched parts are provided for tread plates. The trailer features wheel guards, ramps, tie down chains, and tire blocks. The 19 vinyl tires are beautifully molded, as are the four seated crew figures.

Any model this big is a major project, so study the 28-page, 39-step instruction booklet before beginning. I decided early on to paint the kit in subassemblies.

Tamiya provides great detail for the power train - drive shafts, chains, and sprockets - but there is no engine. It would be buried in the middle of the cab, so you wouldn't see it anyway. You can pose the armored window and radiator shutters and cab doors open or closed. Unfortunately, all have ejector-pin marks on the inside surfaces, so if you drop them as I did, you'll have to clean them. Instead of installing the clear cab windshields in step 13, I slipped them in from the side after painting the model.

The photoetched exhaust shield is shaped around a provided tool (B24). You'll wish you had an extra set of hands when you try to attach it to the exhaust stack; wire holds the ends together while you superglue the shield to the stack.

Many of the parts - steerable front wheels, towing draw bar, trailer loading ramps - are designed to work, so watch the instructions closely for the "do not glue" symbol. The rear axle assembly in step 6 fit well during a dry run, but when I added the differential case, the fit was sloppy. I needed to clamp the sides together while gluing.

The rear tandem winch is complex, and its assembly is spread over five steps! The instructions tell you to mount the A-frame assembly after the tandem wheels are installed in step 20, but it would be easier before that. The instructions call for the A-frame to be in the stowed position, but if you are planning an action scene, it can be positioned upright with a little work. I had to trim part B16 as it collided with H33 on the right rear tandem axle.

The trailer assembly receives most of the non-plastic parts. Six screws that anchor the metal reinforcement plates are exposed on the underside of the trailer; you may want to cover them with filler. You also might want to pre-paint the plates before assembly, as you'll glimpse them in the framework. My trailer went together quickly and without major problems.

Tamiya's painting instructions are vague in places. When in doubt, do as the Army - paint it olive drab! I painted my Dragon Wagon using Polly Scale's various versions of olive drab. Decals provide markings for four vehicles, a couple with personalized artwork. They went on fine over a glossy undercoat, but they seemed to wrinkle slightly when decal setting solution was applied.

For such a well-known vehicle, references are pretty scarce. You can find several useful action photos in the readily available World War II armor battle books, usually showing the battlefield recovery of German or U.S. armor. I was able to find good basic reference material in US Army Vehicles of World War Two by J.M. Boniface and J.G. Jeudy. Shep Paine's Modeling Tanks and Military Vehicles (Kalmbach) provides useful drawings and photos, too. The finished model appears to match the photos.

Boy, this was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. I spent 52 hours on mine. There is nothing particularly difficult about building the Dragon Wagon - it just takes patience. Experienced modelers won't mind that, but beginners may be overwhelmed by its scope.

- Jim Zeske


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