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Building a Bantam Abrams

I first built the 1/72 scale Esci M1 Abrams when I was stationed in Germany in the late 80s. The Esci kit (#8070 & #8307) was reissued in the US by AMT/Ertl (#8637) in 1992 and most recently by Italeri in 2002. Although I am unsure of when this kit was initially issued, my old box is dated February 1983. This kit has aged well during the past 20 years. The M1 Abrams is Italeri kit number 7001.

The kit consists of three tan sprues, one of which comprises the link and length tracks. The tracks are the older T-156 tracks with diagonal hexagon pads. These are the proper tracks for an early Abrams tank. The tracks have nice inner detail but are missing the center guides. This task was too daunting to correct in 1/72 scale.

One of the first things you notice about the kit is that the road wheels are molded as one wide wheel instead of in pairs. Since I have a tendency to start a kit from the ground up, rectifying this inaccuracy was the first step. The solution is quite simple, cut a groove along the center of each road wheel. Easier said than done. I used a razor saw to put a shallow cut along the circumference. I then used a file to widen the gap until they were all the proper width and depth. Use caution when doing this, you do not want to slice the road wheel completely in half.

Next, I began to add the lightening holes in the drive sprockets. I drilled the four holes into the outer half of the sprocket only (only the outer half has holes). I then used a circular file to shape each hole into an oval. Before gluing the sprocket halves together, I used the track links to ensure that they were glued the proper width.

Once the running gear was completed, I test fit the road wheels, idler wheels and sprockets to the hull. When using single link or link and length track, care must be taken so that all the elements line up. That is, all road wheels are properly aligned. The lower hull was assembled and set aside to dry.

One of the problems when doing Braille scale armor is that some of the parts are molded too thick. I noticed that some of the side skirts were too thick, others too thin. Most of the side skirts are just thin sheet metal. Only a couple per side are Chobam armor. I thinned out the appropriate skirts using a knife blade and file. The Chobam armored skirts were thickened with sheet styrene. I also thinned out the front mud flaps and rear sand shields.

The front and rear tow hook mounts were drilled out as were the upper hull front lifting eyes and headlights. Also drilled out was the square fire extinguisher port on the left side of the hull. The last modification to the hull was the opening up of the engine grills.

I started the turret by rebuilding the main gun. The original wasn't very good and the seams left the gun out of round. I used Evergreen styrene tube and rod of the appropriate thickness to replace the misshapen kit parts. I used the kit's bore evacuator and the end of the gun tube that has the muzzle reference sensor (MRS) molded on the end.

The gun mantlet was missing the hole for the gunner's auxilary sight so I drilled it out. The coaxial machine gun tube suffered from the same problem as the main gun so I replaced it with a piece of styrene rod and drilled out the end. I cut the sides of the mantlet down and added Grandt Line bolts to detail the sides. A quarter is placed next to the completed main gun assembly to show how small the gun is.

The gunner's primary sight (GPS) doors are missing on the dog house so I replaced them with strips of styrene and then I thinned out the bottom lip of the GPS. I also added the dust cover to the top of the gun mantlet. The rest of the turret was build per instructions with stretched sprue used for the antennas. I found a couple of 1/72 scale bed rolls in my tool box. They looked a lot like scale tanker rolls so I added them to the rear of the turret.

I used Model Master forest green spray paint for the vehicle and flat black for the rubber areas of the track and mud flaps. The kit decals were out of register, but were the only ones I had.

Each square on the cutting board is a square inch. This gives you an idea of the size of the completed kit.

The completed kit is only about 4" long.

The Italeri (Esci/AMT/Ertl) M1 Abrams is the best M1 A-nothing kit available in this scale. It is superior to the Matchbox (#40179) and Hasegawa (#31133) M1s. Esci did issue an "M1-A1" Abrams at the same time as the original M1, but it suffered accuracy problems since it only differed from this kit by changing the kit barrel, grunt rails and added an incorrect bustle rack.

Image of the original Esci kit I built around 1991.

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