The M88A1 is a development of the M88, a recovery vehicle based on the American M48/M60 chassis. The early models served in Vietnam, and the A1 variant came about in 1975 when a more powerful diesel engine was fitted. The A1G variant is the Bundeswehr upgrade that included a new auxilliary power unit and the replacement of the .50cal M2 HB machine gun with a German MG3. These TRVs are true brutes capable of dragging a 44-ton Leopard 1 or even dead-lifting up to 25 tons on the boom. According to the recent Tankograd book (Reviewed Here
) on the subject, they can even move about with a load of up to 18 tons suspended!
With the introduction of the 70-ton M1 Abrams the M88A1 was found inadequate for US service, and an A2 upgrade was designed, but the M88A1 continues in service elsewhere in the world.
This kit is a re-box of AFV Club
’s earlier M88A1 (kit 35008) with extra details to match the German upgrades. The original M88A1 kit was re-worked (or backdated) to M88 configuration prior to this release as kit 35011 that included individual-link tracks, but these were not included in this G variant. (They are available separately as set AF3505.) Revell of Germany has also re-boxed this G variant, but it seems they may have changed the photo-etch.
Opening the large and rather flimsy box I found nine sprues containing 402 parts in green styrene, another sprue of six parts in black, two large hull castings in green, two photo-etch frets, two rubbery vinyl tracks, 16 poly caps, two lengths of string, and some decals. Each sprue (or pair, as three had duplicates) was packed in an individual plastic bag for protection, but the two hull parts were packed together which led to a problem discussed below.
The parts are very well cast, with most of the numerous ejector-pins on the “back” sides where possible. A few parts however will require some clean-up. Flash is nearly non-existent on the plastic parts (except on the largest sprue with the boom), but is a real problem on the tracks. Much of the real M88 is welded up from cast-steel shapes, and the kit parts have a nice rough cast texture on these parts.
The hull is made up from a large lower-hull tub including the sponson floors, an equally large upper hull that incorporates the crew compartment and engine deck, and separate front and rear plates. The front plate is the separate winch compartment access cover as seen on the real thing, so there are maintenance diorama possibilities for those brave enough to scratch-build the winch and other interior details. Assembly sequence will be a challenge if the model is to be painted in sub-assemblies – a problem common to many recovery-tank kits due to all the added gear.
Multi-part tooling allows for detail on the sides and bottom of the lower hull. The suspension arms and shock absorbers are all separate, and the nicely detailed wheels all attach with poly caps (except the return rollers). The arms locate into holes with slotted pins to ensure a level ride, but a little creative surgery would allow them to be repositioned to follow terrain or even to represent compression during a heavy lift. My kit’s lower hull had a distinct upward bow (see packaging issue below) that will need to be straightened out with plastic bracing since it affects the fit with the upper hull.
Up on top, that large upper hull casting is nicely textured and again benefits from multi-part tooling so detail could be moulded onto all sides. Somehow there isn’t even a join to address between the sides and top! A wealth of detail parts get added to this once the upper and lower hulls are joined, so it struck me as odd that the handles on the side compartment hatches (either side of the engine deck) are moulded on rather than separate. The other detail moulded on is the commander’s cupola, which means all those vision blocks around it are solid green plastic that would require major surgery to replace. The same goes for all the vision devices at the front.
All the spare tracks are of the US type as fitted to the M47, M48, M60, and M88. This is fine because in Bundeswehr service they only supported the M47 & M48 equipped units, with Leopard-equipped units being supported by the Leopard-based Bergepanzer 2A2. The two identical sprues of more Bundeswehr-specific details provide two MG3s and two shield-shaped convoy light plates, so the spares can be used to upgrade other models. The M2HB .50cal machine gun on the large sprue is also surplus, and includes the large flash hider commonly seen on Bundeswehr tanks in the 1950s and 60s – perfect for my M47 build!
The larger photo-etch fret covers Bundeswehr additions such as the cable guard used when the boom was erected, and the stowage tray fitted to the boom. The smaller fret is from the M88 “Vietnam” kit, and has one-piece replacements for the two-part plastic headlight brush guards that are notoriously difficult to remove from the sprue.
Decal markings cover three different M88A1s all in NaATO 3-tone camo, but the only real differences are the vehicle number-plates and tactical signs on the fenders. When originally delivered as straight M88s in the 1960s these vehicles were painted solid Gelboliv, but as the upgrade to A1 standard coincided with the introduction of NATO 3-tone camouflage this is the only legitimate scheme for the model.
There are three big design drawbacks to this kit. The periscopes and vision blocks are all moulded solid to the hull in green plastic, it lacks any interior details given all the big hatches that can be positioned open, and it will be impossible to completely clean the flash from the very rubbery tracks. A resin interior kit is available from MR Modelbau, but is pricey (£50 , including postage). The tracks can be replaced with the M48/M60 individual-link set from AFV Club, but it would have been nice to have them in the box. The vision blocks, sadly, aren’t readily fixable.
A fourth drawback is the packaging itself. The box is very thin and floppy cardboard, as weak as a cereal box from the supermarket, so it offers little resistance to crushing. In my kit the hull halves effectively filled the whole height of the box and were “squeezed” at some point between the factory and my local hobby shop, leading to distortion that is evident in the photos. (Look for the tell-tale white stress marks at the rear.) The other packaging issue was with the decals, since the “protective” paper cover-sheet had stuck to the black print, peeling some off when removed. I can fix both faults, but it would have been better if they were avoided in the first place. I have two other AFV Club kits of different subjects in similarly flimsy boxes, but they aren’t as tightly packed and thus have escaped damage.
The basic parts of this kit are over ten years old, with newer sprues added for the German variant. Although the biggest sprue is showing its age with a little flash the moulds have held up well. Some choices of moulded-on detail like the vision blocks are unfortunate by today’s standards, but are typical of the previous generation of kit design. All things considered this is a wonderful model that is let down by the “flashy” tracks and lack of interior. However, it is still a fine-looking beast and the extra MGs will help decorate other Bundeswehr conversions!
I intend to build mine for the Military Engineering campaign, so watch out for a build feature in due course…