M4 81mm Mortar Carrier US Halftrack
Ref. # 6361
Scale: 1/35th
Manufacturer: Dragon
Price: Unknown
Material: Styrene, PE

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Introduction

It’s been a few months now since Dragon made an awful lot of Allied modellers very happy indeed with their kit of the M2A1 US Halftrack, and despite a few nitpickers saying they had got the bulge on the tyres too big, it was generally well-received. Well now they’re about to make them even happier with this release of the M4 Mortar carrier version.

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Kit Contents

Now I have to admit to being a tad confused at the very beginning here. No doubt somebody with the requisite knowledge will appear as soon as I publish this review, but from what I understood, the M4 81mm Mortar Carrier was virtually an unaltered M2, from which the mortar was fired only if absolutely necessary, and that it didn’t have a machine gun mount. When the skate ring was added for the .50 Cal it was called an M4A1, in which case this is a model of an M4A1 and not an M4. Could somebody clear this up?

Whether it’s an M4 or an M4A1, it still a great kit! Inside the box there are nine large sprues of grey styrene, and two smaller ones, plus one of transparent plastic. Ad to that the small ‘branch’ with the two alternative hull fronts on it, plus a decal sheet, photo-etched fret, and small poly bags containing the idlers and drive sprocket, plus a machined aluminium mortar tube, and you have all the elements for what promises to build into a magnificent model!

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Mostly what we get is what was in the original release of the M2A1, for example, all the sprues in that release are present here, although many contain parts that are marked as ‘not for use’ since they are replaced on the two new sprues S & S. More on these later. We also only get two alternative radiator louver sections, since we won’t need the one that contains the hole for the power take-off for the winch which isn’t present in this version. Or is it? According to my references again, the M4 did have the winch at the front? Still, not difficult if you wish to build it with the winch, as everything else is provided, you’ll just need to drill a hole in the radiator housing.

As with the M2A1, we get photo-etched engine louvers, along with photo etched windscreen wipers, and headlight guards. The tracks as before are beautifully made, and are supplied as two longitudinally split injection moulded parts. The drive sprockets and idlers are each supplied as two slide-moulded parts, (three in the case of the drive sprocket) and these have to be seen to be believed, such is the detail.....look at the photographs!

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Those controversial tyres are still in the kit, although it might just the way I’m looking at them, they do look a little less bulged? I no longer have the tyres from the M2A1 to compare them with. In either way, Dragon now state that they’re to realistically mimic a heavy load...so there!

The drive train is fully represented, with differential, complete engine, and Dragon have even underscored the hood so if you wish to have it opened up to show off the engine it isn’t too difficult.

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Of the two new sprues, both of which are called ‘S’ for some unknown reason, one contains a crew member to sit in the driver’s position! At last! Although not a second generation figure, look at the detail on the driver’s hands to get some idea of the quality of the figure........specifically his fingernails! The other, larger sprue S holds all the parts specific to this version, so we are given a new fighting compartment floor, which helps fit in the boxes that hold all the mortar rounds, all of which are supplied full. The floor is the specially strengthened one for firing the mortar from the vehicle, which again point to it being the M4A1. A new rear wall is supplied with the central door of course, plus new tail light assemblies etc. The mortar itself is on a new small sprue, and the base-plate for firing the mortar from a dismounted position is also supplied. The mortar tube itself is made from two machined aluminium parts supplied in a small poly bag, and looks superb! It even has the tiny ball-mount at the bottom end for inserting into the ground plate.

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The marking options provided in the kit are restricted to just two vehicles. Both olive drab as you would expect, one unidentified unit from the US itself, with just a serial number on the hood, and the other being from the 2nd Armoured Division in Belgium during 1945. carrying 1-32 in large white numerals.

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Conclusion

Anybody who bought the M2A1 will already appreciate what a fantastic kit this is. The detail and engineering are of the very best. If you absolutely must have un-bulged tyres then there are alternatives, but the ones in the kit look fine. The domed rivets on the body can be easily altered to represent domed screws, so they’re not a huge problem either. For myself, I’m thankful that Dragon took the time and used the capital to produce this kit, and not some other manufacturer, because then we wouldn’t have such a great kit. Highly recommended!

To read Frank V. De Sisto's review on this kit, please see here.

My Thanks to Dragon for the review sample

For full information on all Dragon products, please see their website, Dragon Models Ltd.