M-923 A1 BIG
U.S. ARMY 5t TRUCK
M923A1 is a relatively short lived member of the M939 series truck family. M923 is a designation of the dropside cargo version of the truck, without a winch (it becomes M925 if the winch is installed and Italeri offers this version with a shelter, as a kit No.367). M923A1 variant replaced the original M923 trucks, and was itself quickly replaced by newer M923A2 truck. The biggest external difference between M939 and M939A1 trucks are new wheels. Original truck had ten wheels (with duals installed on rear axles), while newer trucks have only six of new much larger wheels (thus Big Foot nickname). M939A2 version added (among other modifications) CTIS - Central Tire Inflation System to all wheels.
The kit comes in a typical Italeri top opening box. In the box there are 3 big sprues of dark green plastic and one small sprue of clear parts. Clear parts are for cab windows, main front lights lenses and the large convoy signal light. There is also a big folded instruction sheet and a small decal sheet.
Instructions are very clear and quite reasonably arranged in 13 steps. First you build the complete suspension, then cab as a separate assembly, followed by a cargo bed and in the last step you put all these subassemblies together.
Decals are provided for two painting options shown in instructions. First is US Army truck in Saudi Arabia in 1991 in 3-tone standard NATO camouflage. Bumper numbers suggest a vehicle from 3rd Armored Division. These decals are however incorrect, because are printed on yellow background, while it should be pale tan color and brigade number is missing. Interestingly the box art shows this exact truck and the bumper numbers are correct there! Paint colors are matched to the Model Master range, but do not seem quite right. Suggested paints are 1591 RAL 6003 Olive Green, 1571 Flat Green and 1701 FS30117 Military Brown. I can't comment on the Brown and Flat Green colors as I don't know these paints, but Olive Green is definitely not correct - it should obviously be black (faded black is the best, like Tamiya "NATO black" paint). The pattern of camouflage as shown in the instructions is almost correct with only some minor errors. The only thing that looks dubious to me is the inclusion of white hand-written inscription on truck doors (20GEDA4). I've seen these before on vehicles taking part in various REFORGER exercises in Europe. I don't know if these inscriptions are standardized exercise markings and if they were really likely to appear on a vehicle in Saudi Arabia (Update: Major Rob Gronovius informed me that those markings are chalk convoy numbers and it is possible that vehicle moved to the Gulf region could retain them). The other painting option is a vehicle from 3rd Infantry Division in Germany in 1990. This vehicle is overall green and Flat Green 1571 paint is suggested. This particular vehicle is shown on two photos in Concord "USAREUR" book and it even has the same names on the windscreen, but... the vehicle on the photos is painted in 3-tone NATO scheme, names are swapped ("Reese" should be on left side, not on the right as in the kit instructions) and it is M923A2 version of the truck...
Quick inspection of parts on sprues reveals that, as is often the case with
Italeri kits, there is large number of ejection pin marks, some in very visible
places like exhaust pipe and cargo bay side walls. Also typical for Italeri are
numerous sink holes - some can be easily removed by filling and sanding, but
some are almost impossible to get rid of, as those on suspension leaf springs.
On this photo some of ugliest sink holes are visible. They may not be the largest,
but are most difficult, if not impossible, to correct. Also some strange
shape attached to the transmission box is marked (read two paragraphs below).
Click on photo to see enlarged version.
The most problematic area of the kit is the suspension. Italeri took just way too many shortcuts here. Some parts like air filter and air tanks are molded in 3/4, with the section missing - a way to save some plastic, I guess. There is also a lot of quite important parts missing completely from the kit. Some of these are: all brake air chambers, rear brake assemblies, all steering rods and steering gear assembly, front axle shock absorbers, a few air tanks. I really wouldn't want to be in a real truck missing all these parts ;-) Of course there is also much more parts that advanced modeler may wish to add to suspension (read my article about superdetailing this model >here<), but these mentioned before should really be it the kit. One of more serious problems is the lack of the whole brake assemblies on the rear axles. The kit is designed in a way that dual wheel configuration of basic M939 truck can be built correctly (as is the case in the Italeri M925 Shelter Truck kit, where smaller brake assemblies are part of inner wheels), but building the M939A1 version without adding the brake assemblies will cause the track of rear wheels to be way too narrow. Actually if the kit is assembled out of the box, the track of rear wheels is much narrower than the track of front wheels (that can be seen on the photo of the completed model below).
Partially molded tanks and air filter.
There is no engine in the kit, just a bump on the bottom of part that is a cab floor, but this is not a big problem unless you want to show your truck with the hood open. There are some parts for the transmission assembly, but they have some strange and completely unnecessary blocky section added at the front (marked on one of the pictures above). This block makes the transmission fit too far aft on the frame. Also the transfer case is a bit too far aft. In my model I cut this block away from the transmission and moved this assembly forward, and also moved transfer case - it improved things a little, but I had to modify lengths of all propeller shafts. The rubber splash guards that cover the engine behind the front wheels should be rounded, but are made as flat slanted plates and molded as one part with cab floor.
On the left is the cab floor part. The angular shape in the middle is engine...
Also note splash guards composed of flat sloped plates.
On the right is the actual shape of splash guard with support structure.
This unique photo shows the suspension of real M923A2 truck. Things worth attention are:
big brake subassemblies on the inner side of rear wheels, small brake chambers on all wheels,
the correct position of the transmission box and some air tanks missing from the Italeri kit.
Interesting is the way tires are installed - they are directional, but those who installed
them obviously didn't care :-)
Click on the photo to see larger version in new window.
Generally the assembly of the frame is a bit tricky - one needs to make sure all
parts are perfectly aligned, otherwise the finished truck can look bent and
twisted. Large care is also needed when assembling the rear axles with the leaf
springs to get all the angles right.
This is how the model looks, built out of the box (not finished, but close).
I drilled the holes on the canvas cover in preparation to add some string there.
Note that the track of front wheels is wider than track of rear wheels!
For those wondering what is this strange shape on top of the big storage box
(the one just below the muffler) - it is supposed to be fuel/oil can holder!
The wheels are an Achilles' foot of this kit. They are just UGLY. They look nothing like wheels of the real M939A1 series trucks, what is particularly sad as the wheels are what gave these trucks the nickname BIG FOOT. Italeri made the wheels as plastic parts that you have to glue from two halves. It is just impossible to reproduce the tread pattern of the Michelin XL tires this way, so obviously it is missing from the kit's tires. The wheels are also a bit too small for the scale. You can see the kit tires on the picture above and also in the review of two resin replacement sets >here<.
Cab interior is simplified, but not all bad with reasonably accurate dashboard. However Italeri gave this truck manual transmission - complete with clutch pedal and floor mounted shifting lever, while M939 series trucks have automatic transmission in reality and mentioned parts should not be there. The biggest part missing from the cab interior is the large battery box - the passenger seat should be installed on top of it, not on two "legs" as it is in the kit. The clear parts for windows are free of distortions, but way too thick and will look much better replaced with some thin clear styrene sheets. Cab doors are separate parts, so can be attached in the open position.
Spare wheel carrier and lifting device in the kit are incorrect for the version of the truck. They are quite correct representation of these devices in basic M939 trucks, that have smaller wheels, but M939A1 and M939A2 that use much larger wheels use completely different, much stronger carrier and lifting device. Also because more space is needed for spare wheel, the whole cargo bay is installed slightly further back on the truck frame in M939A1/A2 trucks, and my measurements show that Italeri actually put it in the correct position for these versions. So if you want an accurate M939A1 or A2 truck you need to scratch build the new spare wheel carrier, but those of you building the M925 Shelter Truck kit from Italeri can use this part as it is - however you could try to move the cargo bay about 2.5 mm forward on the frame and relocate splash guards slightly.
You can compare two types of spare wheel carriers on these pictures.
On the left is the M939 series truck, in the middle is the M939A2 one.
Third picture shows Italeri kit part on the sprue - obviously basic M939 version.
Another strange mistake made by Italeri is the floor of the cargo bay. In the kit the floor is a nice replica of wooden boards - what a pity that in real trucks it is made of two long steel plates welded together along the middle of bay. And is completely flat, without any texture. Of course it is easy to fix this problem with a piece of styrene sheet, but I wonder if the person who designed this part ever realized that all the work that went to make the nice wood pattern was wasted...
Kit cargo bay floor on the left and extremely rusty real one on the right
- obviously not wooden...
(Photo of real truck taken on my request by Rob Gronovius.
Visit Rob's Motor Pool Gallery on Armorama!)
Cargo body walls and gates are completely flat inside (except for numerous ejection pin marks of course). It is a pity that Italeri didn't try to add the tie downs that are on all walls in the real truck. Adding these would definitely be easier than making this ridiculous floor pattern... The benches in the model are supported by three bars each, while in fact there should be five of them. On the front wall of the cargo bed wall there should be two small reflectors (facing forward), but Italeri omitted them. There are also some other small details missing in various places on cargo body walls.
Cargo canvas cover and cab cover look quite well and with skillful painting can look realistic, but bottom edge of cargo cover is too thick. It sticks too much away from cargo walls. It is possible to thin the edge with some filing and sanding, but it requires thinning the plastic almost on the whole cover sides to make the change unnoticeable. Quite a lot of work - it may be easier to make your own canvas from a tissue paper...
The gun mount is a bit simplified as well. The steel ring in a real thing is not directly attached to the support arms, as is the case in Italeri model. There are steel plates between these parts, secured with nuts and bolts, so the big support arms are not even directly under the ring (see >here<).
The kit can be built out of the box and most parts fit quite well. The result doesn't look bad (as can be seen on the picture above) and is immediately recognizable as the M939 series truck, maybe with the exception of wheels that really should be replaced with resin. However anyone trying to build an accurate M923A1 truck model must be prepared for a lot of extra work. Eduard PE set greatly improves the model, replacing many of the parts with much more accurate ones. There is a lot of aftermarket resin wheel sets available to choose from (CMK, CAM Decals, Hobby Fan, Real Models and Tank Workshop offer them to name a few. My review of first two sets is >here<). Some wheel sets come with brake chambers missing from Italeri kit, but those I've seen don't include the big brake assemblies - much more important than small brake air chambers (UPDATE: I think MR Models wheel sets for M939A1 and A2 trucks include the brake assemblies, at least it looks like they do from this picture: http://www.mrmodellbau.de/mr/pix/mra/MRA-3590.jpg). There is also resin update set available from Real Models, but I don't recommend it (review >here<). Czech Master's Kits offer engine set for the M939 trucks, that includes the whole new resin hood, but I cannot comment on its quality as I have not seen it (UPDATE: I took a close look at this set in a hobby shop. The engine is molded integrally with the splash guards, radiator and firewall. Only a few separate parts are added on top of it. The hood is one large resin part and is a copy of plastic kit's parts, thinned down a bit, with just the internal insulation and same detail added. The splash guards are also just copies of kit's parts (so they are wrong shape), but it looks that Eduard PE parts were glued on to them before the resin copy was molded! Most disappointing was the bottom of the engine compartment. There is none!!! It is still the same strange featureless flat shape that was provided by Italeri!!! So while the engine is very nicely molded, it is only a top section of it, no details of its lower parts and bottom are provided. So this set can only be used for showing the open hood - the bottom of the truck, including the area visible behind front wheels will still look as bad as in the Italeri kit.) Still there is a lot of parts that have to be scratch built by the modeler to turn this kit into an accurate replica of the M939 series truck.
In the article in Features section (>here<) you can find many photos that show numerous modifications I made to my model to improve accuracy.
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 prefer I remove them completely, let me know - I'll sure do it.
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