Friday, January 22

In-Boxed: Peter reviews Takom’s 1/35th scale M9 ACE (Armoured Combat Earthmover)

There was a little bit of excitement recently when the pocket sized but very cool looking earthmover the M9 ACE (Armoured Combat Earthmover) was announced as a new release from Takom. Our man Peter was just as pumped as the rest of us and after some examination of the kit with comparison pictures he brings a great in box review of the kit before he tackles it…See what he thinks so far…
In-Boxed: Takom’s 1/35th scale M9 ACE (Armoured Combat Earthmover)
Product number: #2020
Part count: 518
1/35th scale
Photo Etched detail & clear parts
8 marking options
Takom have surprised us again with something out of left field with this latest kit, allot of people unfamiliar with the subject are probably wondering what exactly is it?
The M9 is a highly mobile, armoured, amphibious tractor, dozer and scraper. Initial design concepts began in 1964 and production versions were finally fielded in 1986. Its role is to support forces in both offensive and defensive operations. It performs critical combat engineer tasks such as digging fighting positions for infantry, tanks, artillery and other battlefield systems to increase their survivability in battle. The M9 also performs tasks in combat such as breaching defensive positions, clearing roads and removing road blocks.
The M9 is operated by the US, South Korea and Taiwan and has been involved notable in deployments in Kuwait and Iraq. Though in Iraq it performed exceptionally well problems where encountered such as having a single operator and no weapon system for local suppression. 
Due to this it required two Bradley Fighting Vehicles for protection during combat operations (a good tale about M9's in Iraq is to be found here). It also suffered from visibility issues with the hatch needing to be closed during combat operations and time consuming maintenance requirements. Some of these issues were rectified when the M9 began upgrades in 2014. The kit represents an M9 pre 2014. More information and even videos can be found on our earlier post covering the kits announcement.
The kit comes packaged in a large box decked out in great art work that we are now becoming familiar with on Takom kit boxes. Upon opening the box you may think half the kit is missing as there appears to be a lot of empty space. This is not the case as the M9 is a small vehicle and Takom have just decided to give you a big box to keep it in. There is zero flash and all parts look to require very minimum cleaning up between stages of construction.
You will find the following in the box;
1 Grey styrene lower hull,
21 Grey styrene sprues,
1 Clear styrene sprue,
1 Sheet photo etch parts,
1 Decal sheet
1 Instruction manual.

The kit’s feature set includes.
·       8 marking options
·       Workable individual track links
·       Workable hatches
·       Dozer blade can elevate and depress
·       Earth ejector is able to move forward and back
·       Suspension can be built at various ride heights

Like most AFV kits we will start by looking at the lower hull and work your way up from here. The lower hull is a single piece and there is no compromise on detail due to this process. An example of this is the detail around the suspension arm mounts.
Sprue A
This contains the sides, rear and other large main parts like the engine cover and base for the earth ejector.
Sides of the hull, panel and rivet detail in close up

Sprue B
Located on this sprue are the main structural parts for the crew compartment as well as some other parts for the main blade.
Of note the part designed for the front wall of the crew compartment. Takom have moulded this in one part and managed to achieve an acceptable level of detail. 
This area would have been produced with various parts from other manufacturers. Although this method can give you more detail it can be time consuming and hard to build for basic level modellers as it increases the complexity of the kit. This is a prime example that Takom are trying to produce kits that are simple to build without the compromising detail.

The bottom and fold over of the Dozer blade
The spare road wheels are also here on this sprue
The crew hatch which can open or close -  clear parts are provided for the periscopes

Sprue C
We now start to move onto the smaller detail parts on this sprue, more experienced modellers will probably want to detail or replace a few of these parts with aftermarket items. 
Two of the main points are the Fuel/Water cans and the cable winch. The fuel cans have been produced with their vehicle mounts moulded on and are also in two halves.
This will require some time to clean up to get a detailed result. Some may also wish to add tie downs for these as they are not included. Next point is the winch. They have also produced this in two parts split down the middle and includes the winch cable being moulded on. This is going to take time cleaning up. An easier option maybe to simply add aftermarket winch cable.
The large springs are in half as well which could be painful.
 Sides of the dozer blade are detailed - those are not ejector marks they are on the blade!
Simple tools are provided with the kit

Sprue D (x4)
This is a small sprue containing parts for two road wheels and corresponding suspension arms. To save construction time Takom have done the rubber separate on the outside wheels only.

Sprue E (x2)
Again small a sprue containing tie downs, lift points, D-shackles, lights and the main drive wheels. A nice touch is the pins on the D-shackles have had the heads drilled out.

Sprue H (x4)
In this image we have sprue H containing the rubber track pads and the individual working tracks. The tracks once cleaned up will only need to be clicked together.
 Separate guide horns-ugh!
The instructions are presented well in a nice multi page booklet, they have kept each step simple and easy to follow with minimal part construction in each step, Takom are setting a benchmark in this area that other manufacturers could follow.

Adjustable ride height.

Dozer Blade
Some features the kit comes with that haven’t been explained yet are the adjustable ride height, moveable earth ejector and the functional dozer blade. These can be seen in the below images from the Instructions.

The Decal sheet provided is well printed and covers what is required for eight painting options. They are sharp and in register.
The painting and marking guide comes on a separate A4 folding booklet similar to what we are starting to see in allot of kit manufacturers these days. Takom has continued its partnership with MIG Ammo in producing this guide and references for painting during the construction completing of this kit are given as Mig Ammo colours.
The eight paint and marking options given are;
•         US Army Green, Iraq
•         US Army Camouflage “Dirt Diggler” Invasion of Iraq
•         US Army NATO Camouflage
•         South Korean Army Camouflage
•         US Army Desert Sand
•         South Korean Marines Camouflage
•         US Army Desert Sand 20th engineers Iraq
•         Taiwan Army Camouflage

Some things we saw of note when making this kit...
Takom have provided us a great kit and something most would have not expected to see in plastic. I believe there have been a couple of oversights though. The first is the lack of a crew compartment. This is sort of compounded by the fact that while that cupola can be opened, because there is no interior, Takom have simply mounted the cupola on the flat plate of the roof. This means the depth of the cupola is just from the roof to the top of the cupola. So if you want to put a figure in you will either have to use a half figure (which won’t look great given the large opening of the cupola) or you will need to open up the roof to allow a full figure to fit. This would probably require the scratch-building of some sort of interior as well.
Those that like to build their models as close to the real thing as possible need to be aware to check photos for the following points.
Due to poor visibility the rear door to the stowage area was removed to help improve this.
Some vehicles in Iraq (not all) and post Iraq appear to have what look like added armoured panels attached to both sides and in some cases the rear. These are actually Combat Identification Panels or referred to just as CIPs (I have circled these in red below.) These would not be hard to reproduce out of some plastic card.
Another very minor exclusion from the kit if you’re wishing to do a NATO version is the orange warning light fitted to the rear of the vehicle. This also would be an easy fix if you wished to do this.
Those that are a fan of engineer vehicles or enthusiast of modern modelling subjects Takom has hit the mark again. The overall detailing is what you would expect from kit released these days with well moulded parts. The inclusion of workable tracks will save time in the building phase and help with the ease of painting. The option of the multiple positional suspension, moveable blade and earth ejector will allow for many display possibilities. The kit is not over engineered so this will make for what looks like a pleasant build. Apart from a few minor issues as stated before and the lack of a crew compartment I highly recommend this kit.

Peter Davis

Thanks to Takom for sending this kit for review.