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AFV Club M54A2

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/35 scale 5-ton truck kit
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The M54 series of 5-ton trucks was developed in the late 1950s as a replacement for the M39. Initially powered by a gasoline engine, the M54A1 introduced in 1962 had a diesel power plant; AFV Club’s kit represents the M54A2 launched in 1964 with a multifuel engine. M54s could haul 5 tons of cargo over any terrain; on paved roads the load could be increased to 10 tons. The trucks were used throughout the Vietnam conflict by the Army and Marine Corps. 

AFV Club’s kit is actually the M54A2C truck, with C indicating a cargo bed with hinged drop-down sides for unloading cargo the sides and rear. 

The olive-green plastic parts show excellent detail with fine mold seams. A few shallow ejector-pin marks are present as are some sink marks, most notably in the bed. They are subtle and, I think, give the bed a worn appearance. The tires/wheels are molded in plastic and show brand logos as well as sidewall data. I was especially impressed with the molding of the canvas cab roof and bed cover. Thin clear plastic provides the windscreen and side windows as well as headlight lenses. 

A small decal sheet supplies markings for three trucks and instruments and placards for the cab. A photo-etched (PE) fret adds the exhaust shield, winch hook, bed chain hooks, and fittings for the rear cargo strap. A small length of chain is also provided. 

Although the frame is a multipart assembly, I had no trouble keeping it square and flat. Only the lower parts of the engine and transmission are included. I was a little confused by the front axle assembly. At first I thought they had the inner wheel hubs (B20, B21) reversed until I figured out that you needed to work these over pins on the axles. This allows the front wheels to pivot. While they are movable you will need to fix them in one position when adding the steering linkage as that must be glued. The wheel hubs trap polycaps to hold the wheels. There is a tiny bit of play in the fit of the wheels and hubs, but that ensures all 10 wheels hit the ground. Don’t attach the fender supports (A17, A18) until after the cab for proper fit with the fenders. I left off the tools and jerry can for painting.

The decals for the dash responded well to Microscale decal solutions; I added a drop of Pledge Floor Gloss for instrument glass. I left off the top, clear parts, and the mirrors until painting was done. AFV Club only provides the thin rear hood stripe as a decal. Rather than trying to match the yellow, I painted the nose of the hood with Tamiya yellow, then masked the stripe and nose before painting the hood.

The cargo box goes together quickly and easily. The side extensions have wood grain molded on both sides. Perhaps the most difficult part of the model was adding the PE bed chains and cargo strap. The chain hooks go into slots on the bed, but the forward ones weren’t recessed and the tailgate interferes with rear hooks. I cheated and attached them to the frame. Getting the strap the right length was challenging.

I painted the model with Tamiya acrylics. The decals went on well over Tamiya clear. The white decals are a bit translucent but since they went over solid colors they look fine. 

Since there are extra PE buckles, I used one with strips of notebook paper to make a strap for the jerry can. The canvas top was painted Tamiya khaki followed by a  Tamiya dark brown panel wash. After dry-brushing it with dark yellow, I applied Tamiya brown panel wash. The mirrors were done with Bare-Metal Foil and I used Mylar film behind the headlights and reflector.

The windshields were glued in place with pressure-sensitive adhesive. The side windows didn’t fit flush with the windshield, so I omitted them; it was not uncommon to see them rolled down in Vietnam.

I spent about 28 hours building my M54A2. The finished model matched perfectly the dimensions found on the truck’s technical manual seen on Google books. 

While the kit does have some challenges, I think any modeler with a few years of experience could do it justice. It’s great to finally have an M54. A few unused parts in the kit hint at more to come. I suspect AFV Club will do a guntruck version, but I would love to see a dump truck or wrecker.  

Note: A version of this review appeared in the January 2019 issue.

Download a free wallpaper of the M54A2 here.
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