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Heavy Fuel Tanker M978




S u m m a r y

Stock Number and Description Italeri 1/35 Scale Kit No. 298; US Heavy Fuel Tanker M978
Media and Contents: 227 parts (201 in olive styrene, 16 in black styrene, 10 in clear styrene)
Price: USD$30 - $40
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: Only kit made in styrene of the standard American tactical fuel tanker; big kit captures the heft of the tanker very nicely
Disadvantages: Usual problems with "split" plastic tires and tread pattern; some shortcuts taken with some parts, especially on the underside of the chassis; glass in original is tinted but is provided clear in the kit
Recommendation: Highly Recommended for all modern US Armor and Softskin fans, all modelers following "Operation Iraqi Freedom"


Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

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F i r s t L o o k


For many years the US Army used the GOER family of 8 ton heavy tactical trucks to provide food, fuel and ammo to armored formations. However, with the advent of the M-1 and M-2 vehicle families the day of the slow and ponderous GOER was over. Most of the GOERs were limited to speeds of no more than 15 mph on roads and 10 mph or less cross country due to the fact that the vehicles were top-heavy, prone to tipping, and had dangerous driving characteristics. As a result, a new, more useful vehicle was sought, and the winner of the competition was the Oshkosh company.

The new truck family, dubbed HEMTT (for Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck), used a more rational 8 x 8 conventional chassis with a mid-engine arrangement and a forward projecting cab to keep the overall center of gravity lower. It was also much faster able to cruise at 55 mph on roads in convoys and nearly as capable as the GOER cross country. These trucks went into production in the early 1980s and came in four basic models: The M977 8-ton cargo truck; the M978 2500 gallon tactical tanker; the M984 heavy wrecker; and the M985 8-ton heavy duty resupply vehicle (a dedicated truck for MLRS resupply).

These trucks had become extremely popular with the US Army over the course of the 10 years prior to Operation Desert Storm, and some were also used by the Marine Corps. (Most of their tactical trucks were the near cousins of the HEMTT, however, which were hinged in the middle, such as the Mark 48 cargo truck.)

Italeri released kits of the M977/M985 and M978 a number of years ago, but the M978 has only really come into the public eye with its appearance all over TV screens with the support trains of the 3rd Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As such, I finally picked one and wanted to pass on some info on the model.

These are BIG trucks, and Italeri did a good job getting it morphed down to fit in the standard Italeri large kit box. (In their Revell versions, they provide larger boxes!) There are a lot more parts than the numbers would indicate, as most of the large subassemblies are pretty simple and most of the small ones are not. The basic frame consists of 19 parts, for openers. Some of the parts are simplified, but unless one wants to make a vehicle torn down for maintenance many of them are hard to see once assembled. The winch is rather unimpressive, but since it goes low on the right side midships of the chassis, it's going to be hard to tell much more than it is the winch.

The cab is sealed but the driver's side door (part 116B) is left separate so that it can be shown in the open position. One problem is that the glass in the original vehicle is tinted a light blue color and Italeri provides all glass as clear. That may make painting the "whoopie light" (part 120C) orange and headlights (parts 93C) silver easier but the 7 windows are going to be wrong.

It's been a while since I built the M985 version but I do recall that the stock wheels do not fit well on their axles and a lot of "shimmy" and wobble set in if you do not cement the wheels in place. Based on numerous complaints on the web, it may be best to seek out a set of after-market resin wheels as the stock ones have their limitations. To give Italeri their due, modern tread patterns are much harder to duplicate (and in the case of this vehicle, some vehicles have tires with grooves in them for better highway traction as well) in a two-part injection mold, and they did give it a game effort.

For no discernable reason I can figure out, Italeri molded the pump and distribution box part of the fuel tank separately but then molded the doors shut and provided no details. This is truly a shame, for this is a model which really begs to be opened up and "operating" next to either a Bradley or an Abrams. It will be a bit of a chore searching out photos and plans and building this detail into the kit, and so far I do not recall if anyone such as VLS makes a conversion/detail kit for this vehicle to provide those parts.

The kit provides two paint schemes (NATO standard and Operation Desert Storm) but there are no instructions as to where to apply the decals! The unit markings appear incorrect in several ways, beginning with the fact that Italeri has them on yellow backing vice the more command (and standard) FS30277 sand. One vehicle apparently is supposed to belong to 40th Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Division in West Germany and the other to a support unit (130th Engineer Brigade? 34th Engineer Battalion? Your guess is as good as mine!) in Operation Desert Storm. The box art at least provides most of the correct positions, at least for the 1st Armored vehicle.

Overall this is a nice kit, and like many of the recent Italeri efforts, one nobody else could be bothered with, but as with too many of them there are some annoying shortcuts taken that really put a lot more work on the modeler to get a superb model out of a nice kit.

Highly Recommended

Cookie Sewell

Review Copyright 2003 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 23 February, 2003
Last updated 24 August, 2003

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