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S u m m a r y

Stock Number and Description Italeri Kit No. 6396: LVT(A)-4
Media and Contents: 132 parts (128 in light brown styrene, 4 in steel colored vinyl)
Price: MSRP around USD$35.00 (USD$31.47 from Squadron.com)
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: New kit of this popular vehicle corrects most problems found in the ancient Nitto kit; lots of colorful marking options
Disadvantages: Kit appears to be produced "on the cheap" and not as well researched as some others; tracks are a compromise (see text); turret insides must be replaced
Recommendation: Recommended to all USMC and US Army amphibious fans and those who grew up with the old Adams "Winnie the Whale" kit!


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

Dragon's 1/35 scale LVT(A)-4  is available online from Squadron.com


F i r s t L o o k


Steve Zaloga and I have debated the worth of the Italeri line of LVT kits for some time now, since we both got to see one of the first LVT-4 kits released. Italeri has tried to get a lot of stretch out of their kits, to be sure, but in many cases Steve's criticisms are well deserved. These include such things as only offering the kit with the mild steel side pontoon panels; the LVT(A)-1 and this kit, the LVT(A)-4, both had two large panels of armor plate instead. The -4 also came with a postwar Italian designed interior and not the more desirable WWII US one without the side seats and stands provided by Italeri. Lastly, Steve correctly pointed out that the tracks were thin and not a good replica of the original, being riddled with ejection pin marks to boot.

I can agree wholeheartedly on the first point, as the modified pontoon sides should not have been hard to provide. But as for the tracks, I think this time modelers probably brought that one on themselves. Many modelers have loudly complained about single link hard styrene tracks, which would have been a better (and more expensive) way to do the tracks. They have consistently harped for "one piece vinyl" tracks, partly because some modelers are lazy and want to finish projects now, and partly because single link tracks are tedious and do take some of the fun out of modeling. Italeri has also been singled out in the past for nearly inflexible vinyl tracks (the M107/M110 series comes to mind first in this area) where the tracks are hard to wrap around wheels, hard to install, and will not conform to the wheels in the case of unsupported track runs.

In their defense, Italeri has tried to compromise and meet modelers half way, and for most modelers their solution is fine. It DOES beat the rubber band tracks with hints of the propelling cleats so well known on these vehicles, but it is far from perfect. They are much more flexible, do have the "see-through" effect and spaces between propelling links, and made a stab at the connecting bars in the back. Most modelers will be happy with them as is.

But what most modelers will most likely not be happy with is the new turret. Italeri got the shapes basically correct, but then they added the very early model .50 caliber machine gun ring and rear panel that was quickly dumped when it was found to trap crew members inside the turret if they had to bail out. This will have to be removed, and if it is, the barren insides of the turret will be all too apparent.

For some reason beyond me, Italeri detailed the BOTTOM of the turret basket and base (part 44) with a race, gearing, and details, but then left ejection pin marks and the turret attachment lugs on the topside. (They did provide three relatively thin support arms and a non-slip base without ejection pins, to their credit.) They do provide what are probably two bogus covers for the lug slots (parts 83 and 84) but then there is little detail inside the turret. The 75mm howitzer itself is mostly one very anemic piece (part 41). Most modelers of intermediate or higher ability will want to swap most of the interior parts for those from a Tamiya M8 HMC as they are more detailed, and the gun itself is much healthier.

Five color and decal schemes are provided four Marine and one Army: USMC 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion, Iwo Jima 1945; US Army 7th ID, Okinawa 1945; USMC 3rd Armored Amphibian Battalion, Peleliu, 1944; and two generic USMC vehicles from Iwo Jima. Four of the vehicles are in an attractive three-color scheme of tan, field green and brown; the other is straight olive drab.

Overall, history shows this has been one of the more popular vehicles to modelers, and many of us still like it since we built the 1/40 scale Adams (then SNAP, then UPC, then finally Lifelike) kit of the USMC "Winnie the Whale" in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But while it puts paid to the awful Nitto (and its descendents) 1/35 kit, it is still not a perfect kit, and building an accurate LVT(A)-4 will take some other kits and parts, plus a lot of patience. One could also use it as the basis for a conversion to a Korean War LVT(A)-5 with bulbous bow and covered turret if they did not want to accurize it!

Cookie Sewell

Review Copyright 2003 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 23 February, 2003
Last updated 05 October, 2003

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