Accurizing and detailing 
the Tamiya M2A2 IFV kit.

Tamiya  1:35

PART 1

    Tamiya Bradleys are generally known as very good kits. They can be built quickly and easily, the fit of parts is very good and there is a lot of nice details on them to make casual modeler happy. What is however not so well known is that building accurate M2A2 Bradley from Tamiya kit is quite a lot of work. Original Tamiya M2 kit released in 1985 was quite accurate. It even included interior - very simplified, but generally accurate. Tamiya made just a few little errors in this old kit and the biggest problem of it being that it was also released as a motorized version. The hull had motorization holes in it and the suspension was simplified. After the Desert Storm Tamiya decided to quickly release updated version of their Bradley model, based on parts from older kit. Unfortunately this new kit didn't have interior parts included anymore. Also while many new parts required to convert Bradley to M2A2 variant were provided, most older parts were still used, and this brought the accuracy of the kit down significantly, as this way many smaller features distinguishing two variants of Bradley were overlooked. Last year (2003) Tamiya released another updated version of their Bradley - this time in form of M2A2ODS vehicle, as seen in action during the operation Iraqi Freedom. Again a set of new parts was added to the kit, but unfortunately most of problems of basic M2A2 kit remained. In this article I described results of my research on accurizing the Tamiya M2A2 model. Some information regarding the latest Tamiya M2A2ODS kit will also be included (please read this additional information regarding ODS variants of Bradley), but my article concerns mainly early M2A2 vehicles. 
   
Please remember that I am a modeler, not a military equipment expert. I have never seen any Bradley in flesh, so all my observations are based purely on analysis of photographs from books and from the Internet. Surprisingly it is not easy to find a good "walkaround" style collection of M2A2 Bradley photos. There is a lot of "in action" photos but they rarely reveal any details - Concord "M2A2/M3A2 Bradley" book is great for this kind of photos (in my article photos taken from this book are marked "Photo CP"). Verlinden Warmachines No. 5 book is a good source for detail photos of early M3A2 ("Photo VP") and there are also many good shots in Rob Gronovius' Motorpool gallery on Armorama website ("Photo RG"). Still there is a lot of areas on the Bradley hull and turret, which remain a mystery to me and I could have only try and guess how they should look from some not clear photos. So if, while reading my article, you realize that you have the knowledge or, even better, some pictures that prove that information I put here is wrong, do not hesitate to let me know and I'll correct this article.

    Please note that in this article I didn't include any information about changes necessary to accurize interior of M2A2 Bradley, as Tamiya kits come without any interior parts. It is possible to use interior from older M2 Tamiya kit or Academy copy of it and improve it with new Eduard PE sets, but it is a lot of work and it is also a bit costly solution. I decided to close all hatches in the model I currently build and not add any interior parts, so I didn't investigate this subject. But in the future I plan to build Bradley models with interior, so maybe I will update this article one day.

   

  THE SUSPENSION AND LOWER HULL

    As mentioned earlier the original M2 kit was available in motorized version and suspension parts were simplified to allow for this. Sadly all those parts were also used in all later Tamiya Bradleys. The lower hull part has two motorization holes on the bottom and also two large holes behind sprocket wheels - all those should be filled. All the suspension arms are molded on the lower hull part. Unfortunately there are no shock absorbers. The most serious problem is the lack of the shock absorber on the last road wheel and the track adjuster on the idler wheel, as these are clearly visible on Bradleys when they have their last armor skirt section removed. And most operational vehicles indeed do have them removed while moving on rough terrain to prevent mud build-up. Idler wheel in Tamiya kit is acceptable, although the center "hub" is too big in diameter, particularly in the part of wheel closer to the hull (Tamiya had to enlarge it to fit the vinyl cap inside to let the wheel turn). Drive sprockets are a much worse. The outer disks are way too flat and do not have holes in them. They are partially covered by armored skirts, but still enough can be seen to seek the way to replace them. You can drill holes in them, but they will still be too flat. There are some options to replace them - read further. Road wheels lack some detail - two little bolts are missing from center hubs and there should also be a ring of tiny bolts around the rim. In my model I decided to use parts from Revell MARS kit (rebox of Dragon MLRS kit) to replace drive sprockets, idler wheels and shock absorbers as this vehicle uses the same suspension system and unlike Tamiya model it includes all those parts and they are better detailed. I used Tamiya road wheels, as those in the Revell/Dragon kit are even worse, but if you think you need more accurate ones, you can get Blast Model resin Bradley suspension update set. It contains more detailed road wheels, nice sprocket and idler wheels and all shock absorbers. You also get a resin set of new style tracks with more rectangular rubber blocks, which replaced older tracks with chevron shaped rubber blocks. In the original Tamiya M2A2 kit you get early style vinyl tracks - they are not very well detailed, but are still quite useable. Individual link replacements for early Bradley tracks are available from Model Kasten and Academy if you prefer to use those. If you build more current vehicle (e.g. from Bosnia, Kosovo or OIF) you should use new style vinyl tracks included in Tamiya M2A2ODS kit (nicely detailed tracks made of glueable vinyl) or resin link and length tracks from Blast Models suspension set.

Tamiya road wheel. On this photo you can see details of real road wheel. Also visible to advantage are shock absorber and part of track adjuster.
Photo VP.

Highly simplified attachment of the idler wheel. Shock absorber and parts of track adjuster 
are visible when the last skirt section is raised, and this is very common configuration on operational vehicles. On this photo you can also see that small details, which Tamiya didn't mold on road wheels are no longer visible once the wheels are covered with thin layer of mud.

Flat and solid sprocket in Tamiya kit. Note the shape of the real drive sprocket. 
This vehicle uses newer style tracks.
If you choose to build your model with all the skirts up, you need to add all
four shock absorbers on each side and the track adjuster to the idler wheels.

 

     On the lower front armor slope are located two round final drive covers (parts A47). They were already too small in diameter in original M2 kit and this problem is even more visible in M2A2 models. In A2 variant these covers have been uparmored and their diameter was increased, but Tamiya used parts from older model, which were already too small... Because these parts are too small, the proportions of the lower armor slope don't look correctly. You can try to increase the diameter of parts A47 by gluing pieces of styrene sheets around them. I think they should also be shifted a bit higher - this will make it necessary to move parts B61 and B62 higher as well. Additional inaccuracy is that parts B61 and B62 should be attached differently than Tamiya planned it. Take a look at photos below to see what the problem is, as it is hard to explain (well, at least for me). I suggest you first remove all locating pegs from parts and fill all holes in the hull. Then attach parts as shown on the photo below. Of course there is no point in making this correction if you don't plan to remove the front skirt sections from your model, as these parts are completely hidden.

This is how Tamiya designed it. On this photo of a real Bradley you can (hardly) see that upper straight edge of the cover is parallel to the sponson edge.
Photo VP.

Rotate parts B61 and B62 a bit and attach them as shown on this photo.
Many bolts are missing on those parts, but at least you can attach them in more correct way.
All motorization holes visible on this picture should be filled.

    There should be rectangular protrusions on front of each final drive cover that can be easily added from styrene sheet (see photo below).

    Flat armor plates on the lower front slope are applied in two layers. There are two large plates and smaller plates are bolted over them. In the kit lower plate is very accurate, but upper has been molded as one wide plate, while in fact it should be split in the middle. It is easy to fix with a razor saw. Quite unusually for Tamiya there are shallow sink holes in these plates. Probably the easiest way to fix it without destroying all details in the process is to cut all bolts off using thin razor blade, then fill and sand holes and finally replace all bolts on their original places. Tamiya had to modify the shape of two larger plates above the final drive housings to fill the space that appeared there because of too small diameter of parts A47. Once you modify the size of these parts you can (and actually have to) correct the shape of armor plates as well. On those plates there are two towing eyes, but there are no holes in them. It is easy to fix, but you need long drill bit to keep the pin vise away from the part while drilling and hold the bit parallel to the surface of armor plates.

    In the real vehicle there are two small metal plates that fill the gap between final drive covers and front mud guards, bolted to the armor plate lower front slope. In Tamiya kit there are bolts for these small plates molded on part E26, but the plates themselves are missing. And because of the wrong size and position of parts A47, much larger plates would be necessary to fill the gap between them and mud guards molded on front of upper hull part (C7). Those small plates are easy to add from styrene sheet. 

Lower front slope of real Bradley. Note how big final drive covers are compared to those in Tamiya model on the next photo. Also note the small plates that fill the gap between final drive covers and front mud guards (note that they are not attached to mud guards). This vehicle has older style tracks. Tamiya model parts. Final drive housing is noticeably too small. Note that there are no holes in towing eyes. Also note how much larger is the gap between the mud guard and final drive cover.
Rectangular protrusion visible under the "- 14" number. Kit part E26. Bolted upper armor plate should be split in the middle and sink holes should be filled. Large main armor plates should be reshaped once you enlarge the final drive covers.

    

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Most of the photos of real vehicles in this article came from various sources on the Internet. I have so many of them downloaded on my computer that I lost track of where each of them came from. If you recognized some of the pictures as yours and want me to credit you for them here, or you want me to remove them, let me know - I'll sure do it.


          

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