Friday, September 15

Dual video & build guide: Takom's 35th scale M29 Weasel

A popular release, great artwork & a subject - Takom's M29 Weasel looks set to hit the sweet spot of many modellers. What does it build up like? Clayton Ockerby gives us his opinion in his build guide for this kit in text & video today...

M29 Weasel
From Takom
Kit No: 2167
1/35th scale
Driver included
Four marking choices included in this kit
Photo-etch included
Price: $30 USD from Hobbylink Japan
Some Weasel context...
The Weasel is one of those subjects that have been long neglected in the hobby. Yes, you could try your luck with the ancient Monogram kit and yes, there have been resin offerings over the years, but fact of the matter is there was a hole in the market, and it looks as though Takom have moved to fill it.
There was a fair amount of anticipation with this release, and it seemed obvious it was going to be popular. I know I was looking forward to it.
The M29 Weasel:
The Weasel was an interesting, and highly capable vehicle. It was essentially Americas’ version of the Universal Carrier but boasted an even better score sheet in terms of its capabilities.
Developed by Studebaker in 1942, the Weasel was proposed to be used in the snow covered landscape of Norway by US Special forces, in an attempt to knock out strategic power plants. The criteria for the vehicle was it needed to move swiftly across the snow. It needed to be air transportable, and it would need to be suitable for carrying arms, explosives and resupply stocks.
The mission however never proceeded, but the development of the Weasel meant the Allies now had a vehicle that was semi amphibious that could cross just about any terrain. Terrain that would prove too difficult for even a jeep.
The M29 had 2 x 510mm wide, rubber band tracks. This allowed it to have very low ground pressure. So much so there are instances where the vehicle could safely cross a minefield without fear of detonating them.
The Weasel was not only a Cargo Carrier but was also used as a command centre, radio vehicle, ambulance as well as a signal line layer.
Although the vehicle was amphibious, it could only operate in reasonably calm water. The M29C was later developed by fitting buoyancy cells to the front and rear of the vehicle which allowed it a little more scope however it was still not overly suitable for rough water or surf conditions.

Takom – M29 Weasel – Introduction & sprues.
I’d seen a lot of people buying these online, and a few inbox reviews singing its praises, but I hadn’t seen anyone actually build one. But more on that later. So, let’s focus on the kit and have a quick look at the parts.
The instruction booklet comes in the typical Takom booklet style and looks to be reasonably straight forward. The build is presented in 17 steps. It’s only a small vehicle, so that would seem logical.
Four schemes come in the kit, with two of them with an interesting, structured white-wash finish. Interestingly I see AMMO paint call outs are noted on the instructions again. They have been absent on the Hetzer instructions.
The etch set has a number of very fine pieces. I must admit, although PE can greatly enhance a model at times, I do question how practical some of these parts will be once the building starts.
The decals set include the Stars as you’d expect as well as a few dials and placards.
In closer detail
I did get a shock when I saw the size of the hull. Its around 85mm long. 
The moulding looks to be very good however and in the typical Takom grey plastic.
The tracks for the kit come in the link and length style. The detail (in terms of a model) looks to be excellent and really well refined. In reality these tracks would have been a continuous rubber band style. Seems it would have been the perfect opportunity to use vinyl tracks in the kit.
The underside maintains the detail however these are a lot of ejector pint marks in the parts. I suspect most of these well be hidden however some may want to consider removing them prior to construction.
This vehicle has A LOT of wheels. A lot of tiny wheels…
Moving to some of the other parts, and everything looks to be beautifully sculpted and moulded.
The drivers’ instruments are no exception and look to be well presented as do the levers for the radio section.
The sculpting for the fabric on the seats is exceptional and should add an organic touch to the model. Each of the four seats is unique and presents nicely.
The clear sprue houses the front screen and the lenses for the lights. Unfortunately, there is no option to pose the screen in the lowered position, so that seems to be a bit of a missed opportunity.
As an added bonus the kit comes with a driver figure. The sculpting on the body and uniform is very authentic, and without actually test fitting it looks to be naturally weighted. The face, whilst being OK seemed to lack any type of expression, so I’d probably be using an aftermarket head once it came time to build mine.

Takom – M29 Weasel – Build review.
Looking at the pieces in the box is good and well, however as modellers, that only tells a portion of the story. So whilst looking at the parts is the good, unfortunately this is the part where things didn’t really go to plan…

As many of you know, I’d been working away on the Hetzer and needed a little break from it. I had received the Weasel as a review kit and made the mistake of assuming I’d be able to knock it together in an afternoon. Construction began with the underside of the model. The assembly of the return roller brackets was extremely awkward, and clean-up of the leaf springs was time consuming, however it is a small vehicle, so it is what it is ?

Hard to tell the story in the picture so I’d encourage you to watch the video at the end of this review guide.
The tiny wheels were cleaned up as best I could given how small they were. There is just nothing to grip on to. The eight wheels per assembly are glued together on the arm. There is so much movement and play in the part it is a constant battle to try and keep the wheels straight and parallel. To the naked eye these pieces looked reasonably tidy. Under the macro lens they look horrific! It is worth noting the fine detail moulded into the wheels though – GOODRICH. Very hard to detect without magnification…
The Drive sprockets, returns and idlers are built. The idlers have a couple of photo-etch rings on the insides of the wheels. Nice detail but given they are so small I am questioning how necessary they are.
The wheel assemblies now have the arm attached to them. This is a two-piece assembly and again it is extremely fine. It was here I also noticed that the plastic didn’t seem to like any of the glue I was using with it. I tried SMS, Mr Hobby and Tamiya extra thin, and each of the glues seemed to turn the plastic to chewing gum and not want to grab how I was expecting. It was quite odd and something I’ve never come across before.
These arms are designed to clip onto the ends of the leaf springs, but every time I tried to get that the parts just broke apart. I ended up removing the small pins in the moulding so it didn’t ‘clip’ on, it would have to slide on and be glued in place.
The stabilizing arms fit off to the hull and connect with the tops of the arms off the wheel assemblies. The instructions were questionable and gave no real indication of the placement or angles they should sit. I spent a long time trying to figure out exactly how these should work. I appreciate it seems logical however it didn’t make sense because when the arm was in the position I felt was ‘correct’ sometimes the wheels were on angles and not sitting flat. The whole assembly was ugly, frustrating and overly time consuming.

Again, I appreciate the fact that these wheels and assemblies have to be small because its a small vehicle. It was always going to be slow going, but the engineering and the order of construction just was not as good as I would have hoped.
I knew the wheels and suspension sections were going to be where a great deal of the building was, or at least I’d hoped, and I could now get moving through the model in a more efficient way. The last few Takom kits I’ve built have included link and length tracks and they have been perfect, so I’d had no reason to think this kit would be any different.

How I usually make these tracks is to glue the top run of the tracks together and whilst the glue is still wet, manipulate the pieces around the idler and the drive. That was the tactic I was taking with this build however the issue with the glue not performing very well on the plastic seemed to be wreaking havoc with the process.

I persevered with it and managed to set the top rail in place. Unfortunately, however, when I tried to fit the bottom section of the rail it became apparent that the tracks were about half a link too big.

I moved to the other side thinking maybe I’d done something wrong and would deal with it later, and with hope I set about making the other side only to find the same issue.
Again, I’d encourage you to watch the video because I was too annoyed to be taking pictures, but I ended up having to cut half a link out of the bottom track and wedging it in to complete the track length.

One side was OK, although the joins will need to be filled at some point depending on the final destination for the model.
However, on the other side the small wheels didn’t sit flush, and the result was the tracks kicked up through the middle of the vehicle. Very frustrating and very ugly.
The bed of the vehicle is assembled and glued to the chassis. The radiator, engine cover and mid wall are pre-assembled and attached. HOWEVER – The radiator assembly is clumsy at best with no defined position. The engine cover and drivers’ instruments are assembled in a previous step with again no clear positioning, so once it made its way to the assembly to see here it doesn’t line up with the details and positions on that mid wall.

There are also fine pieces of PE called out in the instructions, however I didn’t attach them because it seemed pointless with the issues, I was having with just the basic fit… I couldn’t add them into the equation, they wouldn’t last a minute.

The glue not reacting with the styrene was again causing issues here. Usually, you can somewhat muscle your way through ill-fitting parts until the glue sets, but this was just turning the plastic to goop and not holding. All three glues I had pretty much were doing the same thing in different degrees. I found the Tamiya extra thin the most effective…just.

Quite frankly, if this wasn’t a review kit, I would have probably walked away from it by now.
...So, after a cup of tea and a reset I headed back to the bench. I wasn’t going to let this beat me.

As pointed out at the start of this review, the moulding in the seats was quite nice and they were set in place. There is a buckle and strap attached to the seat pocket, but there is a bit of guesswork as to exactly how that should look.

You may also notice I glued some weights in the hull in an attempt to settle the wheels and tracks and flatten everything out. It wasn’t overly successful however the weight did make handling the model a little more user friendly to work with.
The side walls and rear deck are attached to the model, and I couldn’t for the life of me get it to sit flush on the right-hand side. I had to trim away a hunk of the side wall to get it to even come close. In saying that, there is also a gaping hole where the engine hatch meets that wall due to the misplacement from previous steps. I am going to have to add stowage or a tarp or something, because it is horrendous.

I keep coming back to the word, but the meeting points were just clumsy and will require filling.
The exhaust includes a mesh screen and a guard piece. The kit gives you a block to try and form the mesh, but I really can’t see how anybody could get a decent result trying to use it. I bent mine with a PE Bending tool which made short work of the job.

There is a smaller bent piece of PE (very hard to see) which is included here also but be careful because the instructions make it looks like it goes outside the mesh, but it is supposed to be on the inside.
Moving to the front and I am having more fit issues. It has come as a result of the poor positioning of the radiator walls. Its was effecting the top and the front pieces.

By shaving the locating pin from the top side, I was able to get around that. And taking to the radiator wall with some sprue cutters allowed me to get the part to sit flush. Filling will be required.
The windscreen is supplied as a single clear part and is only posable in the upright position. Both front and rear faces of the piece are masked prior to attaching it to the model.

Of course, when I test fit it, it didn’t want to fit, so a micro file and some further plastic surgery was required to wedge it in and get it to sit completely upright.

I loaded the connecting points up with superglue in the hope to hold it in place as a certain amount coercion was required to have it sit correctly.
There were significant gaps around pretty much all of the joints around the model, so a reasonable amount of filler was required to plug the holes. Further refinement will be required after I get a look at it with the primer down, but for now the model was ready for priming.

I have been building models for a long time, so I’d like to think my skill set would be reasonably well developed, but I really struggled with this model. It was pretty much a fight from start to finish and it would have been very easy to just walk away from it and be done with it. I kept questioning and second guessing myself with construction issues and the inability of the glue to bite. Was it me? Was it the kit ? It was just plain weird.

A walk around of the primed up kit, ready for paint & weathering...
The Weasel is undeniably one of those overlooked subjects, so I applaud Takom for venturing into the subject. Takom's manufacturing process seems to be in full stride with the detail in the sculpting and the moulding being at a very high level, but the tiny parts and questionable fit just made the whole kit quite unenjoyable.
I would imagine, depending on how this version sells, a version with the buoyancy cells may follow. It wouldn’t be that big of a stretch for them to do it and would certainly make for an interesting subject. But for me, unfortunately it may be a case of once bitten twice shy, and I don’t think I could put myself through this again.
All I could think of when I was building this was, imagine if this was your introduction to the hobby. It would seriously turn you off for life. This is not a kit for the faint hearted. Just be mindful of what you are in for before you start and hopefully your experience may be better than mine.
I’m sure I’ll be able to cover the construction issues with weathering and stowage, but that is not the point. It’s just not good enough for a modern-day kit…but in saying that, now looking at the shapes and the overall look of the model I can see myself using it in a small diorama or vignette. Once its finished it OK…It’s just going to be one of those ‘socially distanced’ models. Good from 1.5met back.
Clayton's video of this construction is up on his excellent YT page - Workbench Hobbies...
Until next time….

Clayton Ockerby

Thanks to Takom for sending this kit to Clayton to build and review
See more of Clayton's amazing works on his YouTube Channel, his modelling portal "Workbench Hobbies" or his FB page