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LOWER HULL TUB (cont.)
One look at the bottom of the Tamiya kit hull shows that it is a complete mess... Motorization holes, raised flat area in the middle (not present in the real tank), no sponson bottoms and no weld lines... The kit actually includes two small "plugs" to close the rearmost holes, and the rest of the holes and the raised area will be covered by the TUSK belly armor, but these "features" just show how old this part is.
The Dragon kit hull does not have any holes on the bottom. Weld lines are nicely reproduced. Sponson bottom plates are molded integrally with the hull tub and there are reasonably accurate details on the right side of the hull, but they are not correct on the left side. Unfortunately Dragon design team did not have access to photos of the bare Abrams hull like those that are now easily available online, so we had to guess the shape of left sponson bottom. Well, we guessed wrong :) The fender reinforcing slabs above the second road wheel are too narrow and too tall.
The bottom of RFM kit hull is similar to that of the Dragon kit, with three differences: several access panels were added, the bottom details of the left sponson are more accurate, but there is a section of the sponson bottom missing from the right side - leaving a strange recess there. Also reinforcing slabs over the second road wheel are molded hollow, white they should be solid.
Meng kit has even more details on the bottom. Unfortunately I cannot tell if they are fully accurate, as I don't have clear enough reference photos. Sponson bottoms are correct on both sides, with the small exception of the reinforcing slab located over the second road wheel - on the right side of the hull it is shorter for some reason. My references suggest that they should be the same length on both sides of the hull.
Academy unfortunately decided not to include sponson bottoms... The hull tub bottom is also devoid of any details or weld lines.
Comparison of the front section of the hull tub bottom (in the photo below) shows that in both Dragon and RFM kits the raised "strips" along the hull bottom sides get slightly narrower towards the hull front (the angle is a bit larger in the RFM kit, so it is more noticeable). To be honest I don't remember why we designed it that way in the Dragon kit... I must have had references back then that convinced me that this is the correct shape. Today - I'm not so sure anymore. RFM designers probably got "inspired" by the Dragon kit design. All other kits have the strips the same width along the whole hull. I really cannot tell what is more accurate...
Meng and Dragon kits have towing eyes molded on the hull bottom, with a hole slide-molded in them. Tamiya also has these eyes molded on, but they are solid - no holes in them. Remaining two kits have just locating holes in the hull bottom - the eyes are separate parts.
As mentioned above Tamiya and Academy kits are devoid of weld lines on hull bottom.
FINAL DRIVE COVERS (SPROCKET AXLES)
Another reminder of the motorized past of the Tamiya hull tub is visible at the rear - with a large hole where the sprocket wheel axle goes. In the kit the final drive covers are provided as flat parts with a ring of bolts around them and simple axle in the middle. This is inaccurate, as rear final drive covers are conical with a bolted flange around it's wider end. Bolts should be in small recesses, but they are not in the Tamiya kit. There should be 28 bolts, but there is only 20 in this kit. Also in reality bolts don't go around the entire cover - on both sides there are small cutouts with lubrication points. The final drive cover in the Tamiya kit is also a bit too small and there are no details around it on the hull tub side walls.
This is how it looks in reality:
In the Dragon kit unfortunately the molded-on final drive cover also has inaccurate flat shape and is also too small. But there are reasonably accurate details around the cover and bolts are correctly represented. The lubricating points are also present, although not entirely accurate.
RFM kit has good details around the final drive covers, which are separate parts, but the cover itself is a bit too large. Bolt details are correct though and there are even spaces left between bolts for lubrication point in correct places, but actual details are missing there.
Meng kit also has nice details around sprockets. Please note that small rectangular plate with four bolts is present on tanks when the mud scraper is not bolted on there. I have no idea why some tanks have it and some don't. Meng kit actually includes the scraper as separate part - but to attach it you need to remove the molded on bolts from this rectangular plate first. The size of final drive covers, provided as separate parts, seems to be accurate in the Meng kit and lubricating points are well represented. In the Meng kit we even have bolt holes (recesses actually) molded on the hull sides. One small problem - related to the shape of sprocket wheels described earlier - is that the conical shape is not quite correct, with the smaller end a bit too large in diameter.
In the Academy kit the final drive covers are molded-on with good details around them. Covers are a bit too small in diameter. Academy made a mistake in the pattern of bolts - they assumed that lubricating points are placed symmetrically on both sides of the cover. This is wrong - in reality there is 17 bolts above lubricating points and only 11 bolts below them (see correct Meng part above). You can see that Academy also molded the rectangular plate with bolts on the hull - but they did not include the mud scraper part as an option.
SIDE SKIRT SUPPORTS, SWING ARM STOPS, MUD SCRAPERS
There isn't much to show for Tamiya kit in this chapter... It does not include any swing arm stops or mud scrapers and just three (out of four in the real tank) side skirt support bars. In the picture below I show only two - there are two identical straight ones included in the kit.
The Dragon kit includes all the correct details: optional mud scraper or cover plate, swing arm stops and all four side skirt supports.
The RFM kit includes almost identical parts as the Dragon kit. The only difference is that for TUSK skirts RFM provided slightly different support part.
In the Meng kit we get similar set of parts as in the Dragon kit, but with some differences: side skirt supports are slightly beefier (I'm not convinced which is more correct). Also Meng provided two lengths of straight supports, while in Dragon kit supports were the same and the base plate molded on the hull was thicker on the left rear position - to compensate for the lack of extra armor there.
As I mentioned before, Academy kit does not include mud scrapers as an option. Another difference from the Dragon kit is that base plate for one of the swing arm stops is molded on the hull side, not on the stop itself, as in other kits.
This is how various details on lower hull tub sides look like on a real tank:
TO BE CONTINUED...
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