M60A3 "Patton" Main Battle Tank

Published: November 26th, 2017     
Product Image
Reviewed by: 
Andrew Birkbeck, IPMS# 27087
Scale: 1/35
Company: AFV Club
Price: $79.99
Product / Stock #: AF35249

Background

The M60 series of tanks replaced the M48 as the main combat tank of frontline US armored combat units, first entering production in 1960. Instead of the 90mm main gun of the M48, the M60 introduced a 105mm gun. This was deemed necessary to defeat the latest Soviet T-54/55 tanks that entered service with Warsaw Pact forces in the mid to late 1950's.

With the introduction of the more powerfully armed Soviet T-62 (an upgrade of the T-55), the M60 received an upgrade to provide it with better ballistic protection, including a newly designed turret: the M60A1. More improvements were made to the M60 after the failure of the joint West Germany/USA MBT-70 main battle tank project. This resulted in the M60A3, including the introduction of a laser rangefinder and a thermal sleeve for the 105mm M68 gun, the combination of which resulted in greatly improved first round hits on targets. This version of the M60 entered service with U.S. forces in 1979, with M60 production ending in 1987. The M60 series of tanks was widely distributed to U.S. allies, including large deliveries to the armed forces of Turkey, Egypt and Israel.

What's in the AFV Club Box

  • 11 sprues large and small of injection molded green plastic parts
  • 2 sprues of clear injection plastic parts
  • 2 small frets of photo etched brass parts
  • Rubberized plastic parts including 2 "rubber band" style tracks plus gun mantlet covers
  • Various bits and pieces such as a small metal spring, string, etc
  • 1 sheet of water slide decals with 5 different marking options
  • 1 booklet, with 16 pages of black and white assembly instructions covering 44 assembly steps and incorporating a color 4-page markings and painting guide, together with a sprue map

Before You Start Construction

The green plastic parts included in my kit appeared to come coated in some very heavy and slimy mold release agent. I felt that this would be very detrimental to paint adhesion once the model was built, as well as feeling weird to the touch as construction of the kit proceeded. So, I gave the sprues thus affected a lengthy bath in concentrated "Simple Green" brand cleaner. I used a large soft bristled model paint brush to "scrub" the parts. Then I thoroughly rinsed off the cleaner in back to back baths of warm water, and left the sprues to air dry. This did the trick, and the parts were now contamination free. Check your parts before construction as I am not sure if this is a rare event on the M60A3 kits? I have experienced such mold release before on AFV Club kits I have built in the past, though not to the same degree as with this M60A3 kit. Other than the mold release issue, the quality of the injection molded parts contained in this kit are first rate: detail on them is to a very high standard, they were flash free, and ejection pin marks were to a minimum. I did not find any parts in my kit that had sink marks.

Construction

Construction of the kit starts with the lower hull and the road wheel suspension parts. There is nicely done casting mark detail on the main lower hull tub, part "H". The model is designed with "workable" suspension, but never being a big fan of such things, once I got the parts lined up, utilizing a metal straight edged ruler, I glued everything firmly in place. There are lots of parts, and the suspension looks suitably busy, but if you take your time, carefully study the instructions, and test fit before applying glue, all should go smoothly. Assembly Sequences 1 through 7.

AFV Club offers the modeler the choice of two-part aluminum road wheels or four-part steel road wheels. The real tank's road wheels had mold lines on the rubber areas, but those that appear on the kit parts are not to scale, so I sanded them all off. On the real vehicle these mold lines wore off fairly rapidly anyway. It is my understanding that the M60A3 initially came with the aluminum road wheels, but that they weren't "substantial" enough to handle the rigors of military maneuvers and so were replaced on the production line with the steel wheels. I am reliably informed by a tanker friend of mine that it wasn't uncommon for M60A3s to be seen with a mixture of aluminum and steel road wheels, all steel or all aluminum. If you are building a specific vehicle, obviously you will refer to your reference photos to get the correct layout. Me? I went with mostly steel wheels, but tossed in a couple of aluminum ones just to show that they existed.

The kit comes with interior hull details covering the driver's area, Assembly Sequence 10 through 12. For the front hull interior floor, you get various pieces, including foot pedals, gear shift leavers, seat mechanism etc. For the same area, but attached to the interior hull roof, the kit supplies parts for various control consoles, viewing prisms etc.

Assembly Sequences 13 and 14 deal with the construction of the rear engine deck. The main deck part, K47, has some nicely cast detail on it. The various armored louvers that festoon the rear deck all fit exceedingly well, while all the lifting handles for the rear deck (over 20 of them) are delicately molded separate parts.

Assembly Sequence 15 deals with the tank's tracks, and these as mentioned in the introduction are old style one piece "rubber band" type tracks. The detail is quite good for this sort of track, and they glued up nicely with superglue. I scrubbed them thoroughly with detergent as I did with the other plastic parts. The fit to the sprockets/road wheels/idler wheel was excellent. And later during the painting stages, the paint I used adhered well to the rubber parts.

Next came the fenders. These are separately molded parts, three on the left side of the vehicle, two on the right side, and are commendably thin. They attach neatly to the hull sidewalls. There are four fender lockers for tools etc., and these are very nicely molded, with separate delicate handle parts. The fender braces are very thin, giving a good scale appearance.

AFV Club gives the modeler a choice of main gun barrel types: an M67A1 "early type" or a "late type". Whichever the modeler chooses, the barrel tubes are five pieces each, split into two plastic halves times two, plus an aluminum barrel tip piece. Despite all this, the parts clean up nicely (removal of the seam line) with a little care and patience utilizing sandpaper and steel wool. The barrel then plugs into a cylindrical rubber accordion shaped part, T5, which in turn is plugged into another rubberized part, T2, representing the canvas mantlet cover. These two rubberized parts are nicely molded, and fit well. The one issue is the cylindrical accordion shaped part, which has some difficult to remove mold lines. Again, with care and time, these can be removed with sand paper fairly well. There are some rudimentary gun breach details for the turret interior. Included among these parts is a metal spring, the use of which complicates (or it did for me) the assembly of the breach area. The purpose of this spring I can only assume is to give the model some sort of "recoil" ability which on a model of this quality and fidelity of detail seemed completely out of place? Toy-like rather than high quality scale model?

Turning to the turret, the two main parts A6 and A7, fit together with superb precision. AFV Club has provided "cast texture" to these parts, but I believe it is both slightly overdone, and too uniform in texture. I took a piece of sandpaper to these parts, and rubbed out the more exaggerated areas. In the end I got it looking decent. Regarding the various exterior turret fastenings, Assembly Sequences 32 and 33, there are various optional parts provided for either a standard M60A3 or an M60A3 TTS. So be sure to check the instructions carefully to avoid mixing up the parts. For the tow cables that wrap around the turret, I discarded the "cable" material AFV Club provides, and replaced it with twisted wire cabling from Eureka XXL Model Accessories, while utilizing the AFV Club parts for the two cable ends. This all worked extremely well, following the measurements for the cables as listed in the kit instructions. As for the turret basket, the kit includes nicely rendered photo etched brass parts for the basket mesh. If one is careful all the parts for the basket, both plastic and PE, fit together nicely, though it would have been helpful to have an extra pair of hands when trying to hold it all together and apply the super glue!

Next comes the machine gun cupola atop the main turret. The shell of the cupola is molded in clear plastic. I must admit I am not a fan of using clear plastic. Why? Well, clear plastic has properties that are different than the rest of the plastic in the kit, including the fact that it doesn't glue together as well. However, this isn't too difficult to overcome, and is to me a minor issue. The cupola has some excellent casting detail molded onto the exposed outer surfaces. The machinegun in the cupola has a nicely molded dust cover molded out of a rubber compound, the same as the 105mm gun mantlet cover. AFV Club includes alternative parts for the machine gun cupola, either a live machine gun, or one that is a blank firing system.

Next comes the installation of the Xenon searchlight, which mounts atop the main gun mantlet. Assembly Sequences 41-42. The kit allows for construction of a searchlight with the glass lens deployed, or buttoned up, and includes the cabling from the side of the searchlight box to the turret roof. Then in Assembly Sequence 43 and 44 comes the final attachment of parts, these for the muzzle blast simulator and combat vehicle kill indicator. The former mounts atop the main gun barrel, while the latter mounts atop the rear of the turret. None of these parts appear on my model, as they were not present on the Egyptian tank I chose to depict.

Paint and Markings

Which leads me to the color and marking schemes available in this kit, of which there are five.

  • Option A is an Egyptian Army vehicle, listed as "Cairo, January 2011". This was the time period of the Egyptian popular uprising against the government of Hosni Mubarak leading to the fall of this government the next month. The vehicle is overall sand yellow.
  • Option B: 4th Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, Hesse, Germany January 1985 (Reforger '85) in a three-tone scheme of green, dark earth and black.
  • Option C: 5th Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, Bad Kreuznach, Germany September 1988 (Reforger '88) in a four-color scheme: black, hemp, dark earth, green.
  • Option D: Republic of Taiwan Army, no date given. A 3 color scheme: Brown, Green and Black
  • Option E: 3rd Battalion, 32nd Amored Regiment, Germany January 1985 (Reforger '85) in a four-color scheme, same as Option C.

The decals provided by AFV Club are what you would expect in a modern kit: perfectly useable. They are printed in register, with good color saturation, and with a thin carrier film. However, I chose to utilize some decals I had in my collection, that covered an Egyptian M60A3 from the same time period as the AFV Club decals, apparently from the same unit, but which came with additional Arabic writing that appeared on the gun barrel, fender tool boxes and front of the hull. These decals were from Echelon Fine Details: "M60A3's in the Middle East", sheet #356240.

The model was painted utilizing the Mission Models line of acrylic paints, over a base of Tamiya rattle can fine gray lacquer primer. The Tamiya paint adheres extremely well to both photo etched brass and injection molded plastic, thus providing an even base for the follow on acrylic colors. Once the primer had cured for a few days, the entire model received a coat of Mission Models black primer. After a 24-hour cure period, I then airbrushed on Mission Models MMP-038 US Desert Tan Modern 2, FS 33446. Then the base color was mixed 50/50 with Mission Models MMP-019 Dunkelgelb Late 1944 RAL 7028, as a way of lightening the Desert Tan. This was airbrushed onto various flat surfaces and raised surfaces all over the model as a "panel fade".

After 24 hours, Tamiya X-22 acrylic clear was airbrushed over the entire model to give it a nice gloss coat. The decals were then successfully applied utilizing Gunze Sangyo's two-part decal system, with the blue and green topped bottles of setting solutions. The decals settled down nicely in all instances, and once dry, were given a few light coats of Tamiya X-22 clear to seal them.

I then utilized a suitable dark sienna colored oil paint, and mixed it with Mona Lisa brand odorless mineral spirits to provide me with a "wash". This was applied across the entire model, concentrating on the recessed and raised detail and wiped away were appropriate with Qtips dipped in mineral spirits. This was then allowed to dry for a week, given the long drying times common to oil paints. Then the model was airbrushed with multiple light coats of my favorite matt clear, AK Interactive's "Ultra Matt Varnish AK 183", the "matt-est" matt on the market. I airbrush this without thinning it, straight from the bottle. All my paints are airbrushed utilizing an Iwata HP-C and the paint is sprayed at between 12 and 15PSI depending on the consistency of the paint (if thin for post shading, then 12PSI, but otherwise 15PSI for most applications).

I then took a suitably dark gray color from the Vallejo range of acrylic paints and mixed a couple of drops with a drop of distilled water, plus a dab of Vallejo airbrush thinner to break the surface tension. I snipped off a small piece of sponge from a sheet I have of this material, and dipped the sponge material in the paint utilizing some tweezers. I then wicked most of the paint off on a paper towel, and then proceeded to dab the paint-covered piece of sponge randomly about the model, "chipping" the Desert Tan paint. I then repeated this process using a dark rust color, only less so. I added to the "chipping" using both these colors, and a fine tipped brush, making scratch marks etc.

Once this was dry, I got out two suitable "rust" colors from my store of artists' oil paint, mixed these up with some odorless mineral thinner, and went about beating up the vehicle's condition. Given the climactic and environmental conditions in Egypt, I decided to add a reasonable amount of "rusted metal" to this model tank. Sand is brutal on painted surfaces and despite the dry conditions of Egypt, there is moisture in the air. "Rust never sleeps". The tow cables were also treated to coats of rust colored oil paint washes.

The tracks on M60A3's are rubber, with metal fittings. I touched up the rubber areas with a suitable Vallejo paint (I had tried to keep the Desert Tan paint off the Black Primer on the tracks as best I could during the painting process). I then took Vallejo's "Track Color" and painted the metal track parts in this color. The rubber rims of the road wheels were also touched up where appropriate with Vallejo's Dark Rubber color.

The entire model was then once again given a couple of light coats of AK's "Ultra Matt Varnish" to give the entire model a uniform matt finish. I then airbrushed some Tamiya XF-57 Buff over the running gear and parts of the lower hull as "road dust", followed by a very light coating over the entire vehicle.

Conclusion

Having examined the kits of the M60A3 from other manufacturers such as Tamiya and Academy, I can state without fear of contradiction that AFV Club's kit is by far the best detailed of the lot. Despite all the excellent detail, the kit is not difficult to construct provided you take your time, study the instructions well, and test fit parts prior to applying glue. In other words, the usual caveats for any model kit. I would like to thank AFV Club for their generosity in providing IPMS USA with the opportunity to review this excellent model kit.

  • Finished
    Finished
  • Finished
    Finished
  • Finished
    Finished
  • Finished
    Finished
  • Finished
    Finished
  • Finished
    Finished