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Dragon 1/35 scale M48A3 Mod. B

Kit:3554 // Scale:1/35 // Price:$49.95
Dragon, from Dragon Models USA, 626-968-0322
Good fits, surface texture; long-awaited new tooling in this scale
Contents do not match cover art; no mantlet cover or searchlight
Injection molded, 303 parts (1 metal, four vinyl), decals

The M48 Patton was the U.S. Army’s Cold War armored might. Famous for its use in Vietnam and the Middle East, it also served with many NATO armies. It was even a Hollywood star, performing in many war movies — usually as a World War II German tank.

After more than 30 years of only having two kits in 1/35 scale (not including knockoff boxings), we now have an up-to-date kit, Dragon’s new M48A3 Mod. B (the B featuring additional armor on the exhausts and taillights as well as a raised commander’s cupola).

Checking the contents, I was impressed with the clean molding and parts quality. Having built many Dragon kits, I was surprised that the contents weren’t overflowing the box. Still, it is well detailed with more than 300 parts. Included are one-piece tracks, metal wire for the tow cable, and clear parts for the headlights, periscopes, and vision ports. No figures are provided.

Following the instruction sequence, I started with the drive sprockets and wheels. The main wheels comprise a center hub and outer tire; two of these build into one main bogie wheel. The driver wheel assembly is a bit fiddly, as the part-locking ridge/slot system is very faint.

I detailed the lower hull by adding the suspension attachment points, bumper stops, and lifting lugs. Some of the suspension struts are fragile, so be careful when you are mounting the wheels. Also, the bogie-wheel mounting points on the suspension arms are a bit stubby. Make sure all the wheels align.

I joined the lower hull to the upper with no problems; joints cleaned up nicely with no need for filler. I was impressed with the surface texture of the main hull.

The turret comprises two main parts, a top and a bottom. The multipart commander’s cupola features clear parts for the vision ports and turret riser. Clear parts are also used for the rangefinder.

The main gun is constructed from two slide-molded parts: barrel and muzzle brake. Surprisingly, Dragon missed two major items on the turret: the mantlet cover and the xenon searchlight seen on most M48s. There are aftermarket parts already available to correct this omission. But, these distinctive features should have been included.

The fenders are built as separate assemblies and can be attached after the tracks are installed. All the stowage boxes and air cleaner boxes are separate parts. The box handles are molded onto the box parts, which I did not like — Dragon’s M46 Patton had separate handles.

The tracks are one piece and molded in Dragon’s unique DS plastic. They have good detail and look great painted up.

I finished my Patton with a combination of olive drab Tamiya spray and bottle paints. There are markings for four vehicles — three unidentified and one U.S. Marines. The decals applied well with some help from decal solution. A note on the markings — all the vehicles are listed on the instruction sheet as being from 1965, but this would not be accurate for an M48 Mod. B, especially the Marines vehicle.

My primary reference was M48A3 in Vietnam, by David Doyle (Squadron/Signal “In Action” series, ISBN 978-0-89747-611-9). It has several pictures of Wild One 4 with the scheme I modeled.

I polished off my Patton in just 20 hours. On the one hand, I was pleased to have a new M48 kit that builds into a great-looking model. On the other hand, I was disappointed Dragon missed standard M48 features like the mantlet cover and searchlight. Still, I can enthusiastically recommend this kit to anyone who wants to build Vietnam War armor.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2013 FineScale Modeler


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