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Takom M31 U.S. tank recovery vehicle

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/35 scale armor kit
As the world’s armies became increasingly mechanized, the need to recover broken-down vehicles grew. Outdated tanks were often adapted to this purpose; the U.S. Army converted more than 800 obsolete M3 medium tanks to the M31 tank recovery vehicle.

With a large fighting compartment and additional space vacated by guns, the M3 was ideal. An internally mounted 60,000-pound winch operated through the bottom to the front or rear and through a crane on the turret. Side hatches were welded shut; entry was through a door where the 75mm gun had been mounted.

Adding two new sprues (H2 and J2), Takom has used its recent M3 Lee kit to produce an M31. Detail is well defined. There is little flash, and most of the knockout marks are easily removed or in places not easily seen. Fits are good, requiring very little filler.

Small instructions make the five color profiles from Ammo by Mig Jimenez hard to read. Markings cover five vehicles: two olive drab, one olive drab and black, and two olive drab and sand. 

Study the directions to drill out holes for this version; they’re hard to locate after the hull is assembled. You must decide how you want to display the crane. Steps 24 through 26 show you the options, but if you choose to mount the crane with its feet on the telescoping arms, do not drill out the holes in D16 as shown in Step 13; these are the four holes near the engine-deck screen.

The lower hull is a one-piece tub. I mounted the winch rollers and their mount after the model was painted. Be sure to paint the hull interior black; you can see through the photo-etch (PE) engine-deck screen directly to the hull bottom.

If you are careful with the glue, the bogies will work. But the set sag of link-and-length tracks make this a moot point. Follow the directions and you will end up one link short — but there are four extras on the D sprue. The kit supplies a form that can be used on the upper run to get the proper angle from the first return roller to the drive sprocket.

On the upper hull, individual panels fit well and needed filler only in one small gap. In Step 9, the directions have you bend part D12 into shape to fit around the hull roof D15. I glued the middle of D12 to the roof first, and once it was dry I bent and glued the two side sections. This prevented over-stressing D12.

A form is supplied to help bend the PE brush guards, but it was too small for my fingers. Glue a styrene rod to the form D24 for a good grip.

Step 17 has you assemble the cover over the oil filters/exhaust pipes, then glue this assembly to the hull. Instead, glue the two sides (H6 and H9) to the hull, then glue the back (H15). Any fit problems this causes are easier to fix than if you follow the directions. 

Assembly of the crane can be a little tricky. If you glue the two plates J2-25 on the top and bottom of the crane first, you’ll have a more-stable surface to allow you to glue the pins (J2-7, J2-13) and the pulley.

When assembling the tow bar, ensure J2-19 has the bolt facing up (mine’s upside down). With the crane mounted to the turret the whole assembly is kind of flimsy. So I mounted the roller assembly (Step 21) to the turret and left the crane off, snapping it into place after painting. The kit’s cable is oversized; I replaced it with thread. The cable is also too thick to fit the roller that enters the turret; I had to raise it a little to fit it as shown. There is no hook for the winch cable. 

I modeled a vehicle of the 2nd Armored in Sicily. After base-coating with Tamiya olive drab (XF-62), I varied the finish with shades of olive drab from Ammo, LifeColor, and Vallejo Model Air, and used Vallejo sand yellow (71.028) for the tan portion of camouflage.

I had a little trouble getting the decals to release from the backing paper and had to soak them longer than usual. Several coats of Tamiya Mark Fit settled them with no silvering. 

Modelers used to seek conversion kits or scratchbuild to make an M31, but Takom has come to the rescue with a model that looks complex yet is easy enough for most modelers. Mine took 52 hours to complete, mostly for painting and weathering.

According to published plans, the model is a little tall and wide but measures out to about the right length. Photos show these vehicles laden with tools and caked in mud — easy things to add to make this model your own. 

Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2018 issue.


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