Friday, August 23

In-Boxed: 1/35th scale M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams US Main Battle Tank from VOIIO

A new model company on the scene bringing another Abrams to the mix - VOIIO has launched their new line of models with the king of American tanks - the M1A2 SEP V2 of the mighty Abrams in 35th scale. Andy Moore has already built this kit, but has paused to take pictures of the box contents and compare parts of the tank to the original in a neat "In-boxed" article in today's news.

In-Boxed: M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams US Main Battle Tank
Manufacturer - VOIIO
Kit Number - 01101
Scale - 1/35
Available now only on pre-order
Price: AU$79.95 from BNA Modelworld.

Product Link on the VOIIO Website
We seem to have new manufacturers cropping up quite regularly these days, and the latest to join the throng are China-based VOIIO, and they've picked the M1A2 Abrams for their first release. It's an interesting choice because, on the one hand, the Abrams is a popular subject that should sell well, but on the other, there's a lot of competition out there for 1/35 M1 kits, so VOIIO will have to hit the ground running to stand out from the crowd. We'll take a look through the box to see what they've produced in a moment, but first a little background on the SEP v2 Abrams.
The Abrams has been the mainstay of the US Army's tank fleet since the early '80s, when it replaced the long-serving M60. The initial M1 production model was fitted with a 105mm gun, but from 1986 production switched to the upgraded M1A1 which replaced the original gun with a Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore similar to that in the Leopard 2.
The current version of the Abrams, the M1A2 entered service with the US Army in 1992 and is a further upgrade over the M1A1. The operational tanks are a mix of new builds and older models upgraded to the new specification.
The A2 has itself been upgraded over the years with the System Enhancement Package (SEP), with the SEP  v2 package, as represented in this kit, adding the prominent CROWS weapons station ahead of the Commander's cupola, along with new electronics and computer systems, improved armour, and an upgraded transmission.

The Kit
In the box, you'll find nine sprues in dark green styrene along with a separate hull tub. Additionally, there are two more sprues, one in clear holding the light lenses and optics, and one in a translucent black for the wheel hubs. A small photo-etch fret, a set of rubber tracks, and the decals and instructions round out the contents.

Sprue A
Mainly turret parts on the first sprue, including a very nice single-part upper turret moulding, which has a lot of detail already moulded in place, something that should speed up assembly significantly. This approach towards streamlining assembly seems to be a cornerstone of this kit, and it's something I'm very happy to see. I've built far too many kits with hundreds of parts, non of which make much difference to the final appearance.
Having the surface details moulded in place hasn't compromised the quality in any way. The non-slip texture and the various weld beads and bolt heads are all very well rendered.

Sprue B
Here we've got a mix of hull and turret details, including the single-part side skirts, the front fenders and the rear exhaust grills. The machine gun near the centre of the sprue isn't used for this build, and probably points towards other Abrams versions coming in the future. In fact, there are several unused parts scattered across the sprues.

Sprue C
More turret details here, including the rather delicate framework parts for the side and rear stowage bins. You'll need to take some care when removing and cleaning up these parts. Also on here, you'll find the main 120mm barrel, which has been moulded in a very novel way.
Rather than split the whole barrel lengthwise into two halves, which is the usual approach kit manufacturers take with barrels of this kind, VOIIO has slide moulded the barrel in fully formed sections that simply slot together. It's a really clever idea which removes the need to deal with an awkward seam and, again, makes assembly as simple and straight forward as possible.

Sprue D
Only three parts on here, the largest one being the main upper hull moulding. Like the turret, the upper hull has a lot of surface detail moulded in place, including the anti-slip textures.
Most of the engine grills are moulded solid on the rear deck, and I'm sure a few people would prefer to see these in photo-etch. To me, it's not a big deal though, as most of the time this area is completely covered by the rear overhang of the turret. VOIIO have included a PE mesh piece for the air intake on the left-hand side of the hull though, as this grill does remain visible with the turret in place. In other words, they've used photo etch where it counts, and not for details that won't be seen at the end.

Sprue E
Here we've got parts for the turret hatches, the rear hull panel, and the turret base which attaches to the hull via a regular bayonet mount.
The rear hull panel is a very neat moulding, with the louvres over the exhaust opening being fully open. The louvres are later covered by mesh panels which hides this detail slightly, but it's a nice inclusion all the same.

Sprue F (x2)
These two sprues are an interesting, and very welcome addition to the kit. They include the combat identification panels commonly seen on M1s, but also a wide selection of stowage in the form of water and fuel cans and various ammo boxes. Stowage accessories are a rare inclusion with kits these days, so it's great to see them supplied here. There's enough on these two sprues to fully load the stowage bins, and probably still have some leftover to use with other kits.

Sprue G (x2)
The final two green sprues hold the road wheels, drive sprockets, and swing arms, along with a few small details for the hull and turret. The wheels are simple two-part assemblies and don't feature poly-caps, so they'll need to be glued in place on the axles.
While the road wheels look to be pretty accurate, the drive sprockets are, unfortunately, a little off. The general shape is good but some of the detailing is incorrect. The real sprockets are held in place by 16 bolts around the hub, whereas the kit parts only have 12. The shape of the hub itself is also not quite right. Not major problems by any means, and probably not that noticeable on the finished build, but worth pointing out all the same.
The bathtub style lower hull is a nicely rigid moulding, so there should be no problems with it warping or twisting. Like the rest of the parts, there's some nice moulded detail on here, including weld beads and casting numbers, although most of it will be hidden on the final build.

Sprue H
The clear sprue holds the light lenses, the periscope blocks and the optics for the various turret sights. The periscope blocks for the driver's position and the Commander's cupola have been done as single parts, rather than separate pieces; another convenience to make assembly easier and quicker.
Another inclusion on the clear sprue are a set of drinks bottles. There are two styles included, and appropriate labels are supplied on the decal sheet. A nice touch as they'll help bring some personality and life to the finished model.

Sprue L
The last sprue comes in a translucent black styrene, and holds the hub caps for the road wheels. On the real Abrams, these are indeed clear, and are used to check the oil levels in the wheel hubs. VOIIO aren't the first manufacturer to include these as clear parts, but I don't think I've seen them done with a tint before. The real ones are clear when new, but do get discoloured fairly quickly, so these tinted ones should look fairly realistic.
The only problem with the hub caps is that they seem to be entirely the wrong shape. When compared to the real thing, the design is completely different. Now, I'm no Abrams expert, so I guess it's possible that there could be another type of cap in use, but I've not come across any photos showing anything that look like the kit parts.
To confuse matters even more, the sprue map in the instruction manual shows another sprue (marked M) which looks to be the same, or very similar to sprue L, but sprue M didn't come with this review sample. In the build step for the road wheels, you're told to use either a hub cap from sprue L or sprue M. What the difference between the two sprues is, and whether the extra sprue will be included with retail versions of the kit, I can't say.

VOIIO have opted to go the old fashioned rubber-band route for the tracks which, on a modern tank like the Abrams, where most of the track run is covered, is not that much of a compromise. Yes, the detail won't be quite as high as you'd get with indi-link tracks, but I'm happy to take that over the hours of clean-up and assembly that would otherwise be involved.
These ones are pretty good overall, the only real compromise regarding detail being the solid guide horns. That will hardly show once the tracks are painted and weathered. The instructions don't state whether the tracks can be glued with regular styrene cement but, having now built the kit, I can confirm that they can't – you'll need to use super glue or epoxy to join the ends together.
One additional point while dealing with the tracks; the small sprue tab that they come attached to also holds the ammo belt for the 50 cal machine gun. It's easy to miss this, and throw it away by accident, so make sure to put it somewhere safe until needed.

Photo Etch
VOIIO have kept the PE to a minimum, with just a couple of engine screens, the mesh for the stowage bins, and the combat identification panels supplied on the small brass fret. The quality's good and, even though the fret is fairly sparse, what's there does add some refinement to the finished model.

Manual, Markings and Decals
The manual's a nicely printed A4 booklet, with easy to follow 3D CAD style build steps. The build itself is fairly conventional, and VOIIO have done a good job of pointing out the various colours needed for detail painting during construction.
The decals have been printed by Cartograf, so no prizes for guessing that the quality's great. The markings are sharp, opaque, and in register with no excess carrier film.
You even get the appropriate labels for those water bottles supplied on the clear sprue.
Markings options are pretty generous, with a total of nine to choose from, one in overall NATO green, two in desert sand, and the rest in NATO tri-colour camo. 
 There are even a few named tanks included in the list. All the paint references are for Tamiya colours.
So, what's the verdict on this first release from VOIIO? Well, I really like the simple and straight forward approach they've taken with this kit, and they've side-stepped the current trend for huge parts counts and pointless interiors. The kit's clearly been designed to be simple and quick to build and, having now finished the construction, I can confirm that they've succeeded in that goal. There are a few issues regarding accuracy, particularly with the running gear highlighted earlier, but the finished thing looks like an Abrams and, ultimately, that's what counts.

The full build guide will be coming soon but, in the meantime, I'll leave you with a few shots of the finished build so you can decide for yourself if the VOIIO Abrams hits the mark.
 Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we bring you Andy's build guide for this kit, then a painting & weathering guide after that.

Andy Moore

Thanks to the people at  VOIIO for sending Andy this Abrams to review & to build for you - you can find a link to their distributors at this link