Sunday, August 19

In Boxed: 1/35th scale M978 Fuel Servicing Truck From Italeri

Italeri has upgraded the base Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) kit in 35th scale that has served them in four previous kits with the latest in the series, the M978 Fuel Servicing Truck. We take a look at the sprues and see what is changed (and hopefully improved) in our review today...

In Boxed: M978 Fuel Servicing Truck
From Italeri
Kit No 6554
1/35th scale
Model Dimensions: 29,7 cm
Box Dimensions: 373 x 241 x 60 mm
Price: € 48,00
Product Link on the Italeri Website

The HEMTT Truck family. 
The HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck) identifies a range eight-wheel drive, off-road capable heavy trucks, produced from the mid-80s for the United States Army by Oshkosh. Thanks to its eight-wheeled, forward projecting cab, an overall lower centre of gravity combined with high clearance and large wheel range, the HEMTT gave a great off-road mobility and significant transportation performance. Entering service in the early 1980s, this family became the real “workhorse” of the Army in four basic models: The M977 8-ton cargo truck, the M984 heavy wrecker, the M985 8-ton heavy duty resupply vehicle and the M978 2500 gallon tanker. 
This model kit from Italeri focusses on the M978 Tanker type so we will concentrate on that version here. 
M978 bulk liquid transporter
The M978 variant is a bulk liquid transporter fitted with a 2,500gal tank and a fuel resupply module. It is used to refuel tracked vehicles, wheeled vehicles and helicopters. The volume of these truck is that they are used to refuel not just larger vehicles, but even small boats and cars. The main difference of this variant to the other HEMTT trucks are of course the large volume tank on the rear of the truck. 
The tank installed on the M978 is able to transport 9,500-litres/ 2,500gals of fuel, and in fact not always OF fuel, because the M978A0 was produced in both potable water (approximately 18 units) and fuel servicing truck variants. Although not the subject here, the later A2 and A4 models have only been produced in the fuel servicing truck variant of the current model is the M978A4 and it is still in service today. 
All models of the M978 are capable of operating in temperatures from -25° to 120°F (-32° to 49°C) and to -50°F (-46°C) with the Arctic kit installed. It can ford water up to 48 inches (1,219 mm) deep for 5 minutes without damage or without requiring maintenance before the operation can continue. The normal operating range of all models is 300 miles (483 km), based upon 154 gallons (583 L) of fuel and 100,000 pounds (45,400 kg) GCWR, travelling over mixed terrain. Varying loads, prolonged idle, use of power takeoff (PTO), offroad driving, and climatic conditions affect operating range. The trucks are provided with sufficient tiedown points located so vehicles can be restrained in all directions during air transport in C-130, C-141, and C-5A type aircraft. All models are capable of being transported by highway, rail, and sea.
The M978 has been effectively used by the U.S. Army all around the world in regular service as well as in various war-time operational areas such as the Balkan conflict in the 90's, in Iraq in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and in Afghanistan in the continued the fight there. In addition to this, the Oshkosh company has sold this truck to many countries around the world, so there are plenty of these tankers to capture in this boxing from Italeri. 
The lineage of the HEMTT from Italeri
This is not the first boxing of the HEMTT in 1/35th scale we have seen from Italeri - the bare bones of this kit go back to 1996 actually, when it was the first injection moulded kit of this type in production. First, we had the M977 HEMTT Italeri - No:0292 (1996),(There was also a rebox of this kit from Revell in 1996). Next, we saw a kit a little like this one we are looking at today in 1997 with the U.S. Heavy Fuel Tanker M-978 No:298...

We saw popular boxing of the HEMTT Gun Truck No:6510 in 2013, and lastly, only recently, the M1120 HEMTT Load Handling System No:6525 in 2016. There are even newer versions of the HEMTT trucks from both Dragon in an MLRS and Trumpeter in a tractor and missile launcher system. These are both really expensive compared to these kits from Italeri and they include things like a full engine, so I'll leave that comparison here.
This kit of the M978 from Italeri
On seeing that this truck was about to be re-released and with some work done on the sprues and specifically the wheels I was interested in looking at this kit. The broad use of the vehicle and the cool futuristic look of those big tyres and the forward leaning angular cab really appeal to me in all of the variants of the truck, but having many kits that would be in line for a little fuel it is an easy choice for me.

The kit comes in a smaller than I would have thought boxing for such a large vehicle. With a length of 29,7 cm of the truck, this box is 373 x 241 x 60 mm so it is considerably smaller than the Revell re-boxing of the HEMTT as well as those massive boxes of the Trumpeter and MLRS Dragon kits. The attractive drawing on the boxart leads to an open box with 

Box Contents
In the box, there are four sprues in light grey/ cream plastic in the box along with a clear sprue for the transparencies and nine vinyl wheels. There is also a black and white construction booklet with two colour profiles and a small set of decals to service these choices.

The plastic in the box is apparently with upgraded moulds, or so it says on the Italeri website. The main difference in this kit is the deletion of the god-awful tyres that used to grace this kit that has been replaced by the nine vinyl replacements. The gry plastic is nicely executed, with not much flash on the kit at all, there are seam marks that must be removed, and some sink marks and ejection holes especially around the doors that we will look at later in the review.

The Instructions 
The large paper instructions are of the fold-out variety, with simple instructions over fourteen steps. These steps are easy to follow but there are a few things in each step, so the constructions look deceptively easy here.
There are two coloured pages in the instruction leaflet, they are the two colour choices of the vehicle. These are both from the first "Operation Desert Storm" in 1991:

1: Unknown Unit Saudi Arabia 1991 in what Italeri has called desert tan. I find this to be a little off and would prefer to use one of the AMMO shades of the Gulf War set "sand" colour.
 2: Unknown Unit, Saudi Arabia, 1991: The second version is in the more standard NATO camo we would associate the trucks in Northern Europe to be in. The rush of material to the gulf saw many vehicles enter service into the fray without being repainted, and this was especially so with the rear echelon vehicles like these tanks. The flat green/ brown/ black trucks would, therefore, be OK for the Gulf war/ Saudi Arabian service and for European, Asian or U.S. Based trucks of the time.
While we are on the colours, the decals to match are a simple sheet of stencils and markings with common vehicle stencils, data plates but no vehicle dashboard dials which would have been nice. The JP8 and flammable warning signs, as well as the arrow of the allied vehicles of the time, are included here. The instructions now show you where to put some of these tiny stencils which is better than the last boxing that did not show you where to put them.
 The detail on these stencils are clearly apparent here in this picture shown to sale with this match head. The words are very legible even blown up like this which is impressive for a mainstream kit maker and that is no surprise as Italeri have used Cartograf to make these decals. Maybe another country included in these sheets would have been nice, but an aftermarket decal would serve this need just as well,
The main thing that has changed on this kit is the deletion of the older injection moulded tyres that have been replaced by vinyl tyres that fit over the injection moulded rims. These tyres have that characteristic rippling of the rubber like the real ones do. There are nine tyres in the box, attached to vinyl little sprues by the tread that needs to be removed as I have here.
There are still two of the older tyres on the sprue in the box, and this is what the older ones looked like in comparison, and below that a close up of the real thing...
The real things on an IDF truck.
Sprue D:
While we are looking at cylindrical things the wheels that go along with the tyres are here on a new sprue. The wheels used to have some spurious detail in them that was only really dealt with by replacing the whole tyre/wheel set up with resin replacements, these are unfortunately not right. There are eight large bolts on the inside circle, there should be ten,  the stubs from the other side are needing sixteen threads to be sticking out, and there are none. I don't get it - so save yourself the bother and just buy replacement resin wheels/ tyres. why, after such a good start with the tyres this was overlooked I don't know.
Sprue A:
The first of the larger, main sprues houses the main structure of the chassis, fuel tanks axles and suspension and the drivetrain of the M978.
 On closer examination, you can see the small mould seal on the centre of the leaf suspension system. This is on the top and the bottom of the plates and the supports.  
You do not see much of this suspension and it is upside down so not that big of a deal
Just a quick shot of the inside of the chassis showing the lugs and notches where they are hollowed out for the nineteen part structure to go together. I would suggest when you are putting this together glue every cross member into one side of the chassis then after it is set solidly secure the other side otherwise your chassis will be wonky and maybe not set so well.
 The large fuel tank FOR the truck is offered in two halves, as are the cylinders for the air of the brakes.
Sprue B:
The second of the larger sprues houses the forward cab, the interior of the cab, the exhausts, the pumps, air filter, front grille and the forward deck of the truck.
The front "grille" of the truck is seen here with the flat emblem of "Oshkosh" represented here. The rest of the grille is pretty well replicated with all of the holes and bolts present on the plate.
The cab of the M978 is seen here in a large part in plastic. Some might want to replace the windscreen wipers with the photo-etched ones available on the Eduard set made to match this kit. as they are thinner in the blades. You could just trim these though no problem I think.
To me, the angles of the cab look ok, the main headlights look a little thin, while the front blinkers look a little thick on detail. Not a lot, but the more you look at these things the more slight differences there are to pick up.
 There are two front doors shown here. One for the driver is moulded separately so you can pose it open if you like, that is good, though I see some sink marks int he doors just below and above the holes for the grab handles that the driver uses to get into the truck and while I am looking there are ones either side of the front of the door also - very small but discernable.
 A view of the door from the outside on the lower left, and the inside of the door on the lower right.
Below is a picture of the kit's inside doors, little ejector pin marks will not be too much of a problem to eliminate.
 The exhaust shroud/ Guard is another part some people use the Eduard etch set for. It looks OK to me as is, but if you want that thinness in detail I can see it is slightly better than plastic could possibly provide. I would not bother. The pump gearbox and universal are also here above the exhaust in this picture. Most of the drivetrain is hidden indie the chassis of course.
 The seats are passable, but the supports for the seats are a moveable scissor action that isn't at all replicated here. You look right in at them with that open door also - not good.
The Dashboard is all analogue, meaning that it has dials and also that there are none provided for on the decal sheet either, you will have to paint these old school. 
Sprue E
The last grey sprue is this one that houses mostly the large 2500Gal tank and its pump.
The big tank comes in two halves divided down the middle horizontally. The two holes for filling the tank are moulded closed on top of the tank. 
A look at the end of these tanks shows the welded seam around the top of the tank in detail.
 Even a refueller needs some spare Jerry cans huh?
 The large towing/ recovery winch is moulded to a passable standard, just a little sharper detail on the cable could have made this look a hell of a lot better as that is the detail that people most look at here.
The rear doors to access the rear fuel dispenser reels and pump are moulded closed on the enclosure. They join to this large part to form the enclosure at the back. What a wonderful opportunity to put all of the aftermarket companies out of business with this kit and make an open rear with decent pumps. That did not happen alas, and we have a truck with doors you will need to cut open and then add aftermarket to show them doing their job. A missed opportunity there.
Clear Sprue D:
The headlights, indicator and the siren on top of the cab of the truck are all here moulded in clear plastic, as are the windows of the cab.
On the real truck, the windows are a slightly blue-ish tint that is missing here. You will need to give them the lightest clear light blue colour to match that ever so slight tint.
OK, so that is everything in the kit box.

I really like the look of this truck, and I was anticipating the model being much improved. However, the improvement of the tyres is great, but the wheel studs on those are still wrong, and to replace the wheels only and use the kit tyres, there just isn't an option, so the modeller who wants to depict this correctly will go back to the resin replacements and that was the whole point of upgrading the tyres huh? There are a few missed opportunities here on this kit that I wish were taken up by Italeri.

However, on the positive side, this is a model that will not take a lot to bring up to a great standard with a few improvements, and let's face it most of us buy some little extras to improve kits, the base kit is cheaper than the newer moulds of the Trumpeter and Dragon kits of the HEMTT, and that is where this kit does do well, as a budget base you can add your own detail to. At this time this kit is still the only injection moulded plastic M978 Tanker on the market, and I do like the kit.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Italeri for sending the kit to us to review...