M24 Chaffee (Bronco) after-action report

Total time building 320 hours.

Begin date January 12, 2020; end date September 24, 2020

Vendors:

Bronco

Kit #CB35069 – M-24 Chaffee (Early Production)

Tiger Model Designs (TMD)

Set #35-70023 – Tie-Down Cleats, Small

Verlinden

M-24 Chaffee engine compartment set #2728

M-24 Chaffee interior details #2735

Dry Transfer WWII US Army-type Stars #DTM1305

Tamiya

Infantry Equipment Set #35206

Archer Transfers

Set #AR35209B – Gauges and Interior Stencils

M&Models

Set #GM-34-005 – .30 Caliber Barrels (s), turned brass

The Scenic Factory Mud

Set #MK-02 – Ardennes Forest Kit “Dry”

Lots of solder, wire, lead foil, paint, and sprue

My opinion

I really wanted to like this kit…but I really do not. These notes are my experience with kit number CB35069 which is the early production US version, 1944 – 1945.

This kit is definitely a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s finely molded (which creates problems of its own, as I’ll get into in a bit). On the other hand, once building starts it quickly becomes evident that in far too many situations, location indicators for subassemblies aren’t poor, they just aren’t there at all (more on that later, also). If you’re hoping that the instructions that come with this kit will save you, you are SO out of luck. Given the kit’s initial production date, none of these problems should exist.

According to Scalemates.com, this kit has a production date of 2012 and has six variants.  The kit is molded in light tan, has a small photoetch (PE) fret, and two decal sheets. One decal sheet is of rank and unit patches for the nicely cast crew figures, the other decal sheet offers markings for three different tanks (interestingly, they’re all for vehicles from March 1945); option one is for Company D, 36th Tank Battalion, 8th Armor Division (Rheinberg, Germany, March 1945) and is the one I used I this build, option two is for the 81st Reconnaissance Squadron, 1st Armor Division (Northern Italy, March 1945), and option three is for the 37th Armored Battalion, 4th Armored Division (NW Europe, March 1945). The decals were a mixed bag. The large ones did not go down well and ignored ANY decal solution I threw at it, including Solvaset (they just laughed at Mircrosol). The decals were less like commercial decals and more like the horrible home-printed crap I tried to use on another build.

It seems as if Bronco couldn’t decide what “early production” meant. The lower front hull is accurate, providing the stirrup-style steps frequently seen on early production tanks to make getting into them easier. The rear hull, however, does not have provisions for mounting the steps (though they’re provided in the kit) and it should. What it has instead are provisions for attaching the mounting pads for the float assemblies that ended up not being used (developed for the land invasion of Japan, which thankfully for us didn’t need to be used)…and this is a feature of later production tanks.

The tracks are individual track shoes. They are, as are most parts of this kit, nicely and delicately molded. I am not ham-handed when dealing with delicate styrene parts, yet during the assembly process I managed to break two tracks shoes to where they cannot be used. Not an auspicious beginning, to my mind. I replaced the kit’s tracks with those from Fruilmodel, part number ATL-39. Well, I thought I was going to but the suspension when assembled is so fragile that I couldn’t be sure that the suspension parts would support the weight of metal tracks, so I wasted the money on Fruilmodel parts and used the kit’s tracks anyway.

When I started assembling the suspension is when I realized that Bronco had designed these parts, the road arms, torsion bars, shock absorbers, and compensating idler wheels, to be operable. I’m trying to figure out some manner that I can use to express my reaction to that that doesn’t involve profanity. Operable “features” on model kits were okay 55-60 years ago. Back then the kits weren’t really miniatures representing actual equipment as much as they were toys that had to be assembled. It was about this point that I discovered that Bronco included a plastic spring that was intended to go into the main gun assembly so it would have a recoil feature! Okay, so this is really very weird to me. Weird segued into annoying when this whole “operational” notion dictated a needlessly high part count combined with little delicate plastic parts in order for things to be “operational.” The tracks, the suspension, and the main gun all have problems directly caused by some moronic engineer (or project manager) that decided “operational” was a good idea.

Since I’ve mentioned high part count…

The breech of the 75mm gun is comprised of TWENTY-THREE parts. Well…okay. Hopefully the instructions will show me where these damned parts go because there are NO indicators on the parts. I hope you don’t have any problems fitting parts to the right side of the breech because there is no illustration for the right side. Clever.

Each road wheel and return wheel is comprised of six parts. Why?! Each shock absorber is comprised of two parts (plus two more for individual mounting bolts for each shock absorber) so that they’re “operational.” WHY?! Each suspension arm that road wheels attach to has its own torsion bar. Yes. Really. An individual, thin, torsion bar that’s supposed to be “operational!” Why?! If Bronco’s engineers/project manager wanted these parts to be posable, okay. That makes sense. Aircraft kits have canopies that can be posed open or closed. They often have flight control surfaces that can be posed as well as landing gear with the same option, to name only a few. But operational?

It’s freakin’ stupid and complicates the model needlessly.

And since I’ve mentioned the torsion bars…

No matter how much I tried, I was not able to get all ten torsion bars mounted identically. They must be mounted identically because there’s a little square extension on the end of each torsion bar that the suspension arm mounts to. If they aren’t all exactly aligned, then the suspension arms that attach to them won’t be exactly aligned. If the suspension arms aren’t exactly aligned then the road wheels won’t be at the same height relative to a flat surface, which is what I want this thing to sit on. Sure…were I doing a diorama where the tank is sitting on an uneven surface, then having the ability to pose the road wheels at different heights would be of benefit. But does each suspension arm require an entire torsion bar? [REALLY FOUL LANGUAGE DELETED] A simple mounting stub would be sufficient and a lot stronger. Since that’s now how this kit was engineered, I took advantage of the flexibility of plastic by dry-fitting the suspension arm over the protruding mounting stub. I cranked the arm past the position I wanted to fix it at, used the shock absorbers to determine how far each suspension arm had to hang…and then glued the arm in position. It took some doing to get all five suspension arms per side to hang at the same angle so that all of them touched a flat surface equally. It took some more doing to get each suspension arm to be laterally identical so that when the road wheels are attached, they are all the same distance from the hull and will therefore sit in the tracks along the same line.

It’s freakin’ stupid and complicates the model needlessly.

Small parts, and there are many of them, are a stone bitch to clean up. They’re often tiny and don’t offer much in the way of grip. Ghastly.

2011, when this model was copyrighted, is well within the 21st Century. CAD/CAM is widely used. Dies aren’t being cut by hand anymore, computers attend to that. As a result, fit tolerances are much tighter than they were before the advent of CAD/CAM…or they certainly should be. That is not always the situation with this kit.

The upper hull parts, which are comprised of seven parts (of course…isn’t every armor kit engineered like that?), don’t fit the lower hull very well. Either the seven parts are too wide, or the lower hull is too narrow at the top. 1/16th of an inch is too large an error for a kit produced by CAD/CAM, I don’t care what the scale is…and that’s how far off the upper hull parts, plural, PARTS, were off. I checked to see if perhaps the box the parts were packed in was too crowded, resulting in pressure deforming the lower hull. No. Not at all. That means the lower hull was built too narrow. (I managed to reduce, not eliminate, the size disparity by submerging the lower hull in hot water while the upper hull’s front part was taped to the lower hull to spread it. The rear parts required very careful sanding for them to fit, particularly as the end of the lower hull was approached; there was no easy way to spread the end of the hull whether it was the front or the rear of the lower hull.)

The front of the upper hull was mostly one piece assuming one doesn’t count the transmission cover plate at the front because it’s separate. The one piece upper hull ended just after the turret ring, where six separate parts have to combine to create the upper hull aft of the turret ring. This is a nice feature if the builder is adding interior parts and/or wants to build a diorama of the tank undergoing servicing and adds an engine bay, fuel tanks, and batteries. The problem with that is that as of this writing, only one aftermarket vendor ever made a detail set to enable that. Verlinden. The same Verlinden that closed its doors and went out of business three or four years after this kit was released. If someone has the Verlinden parts to add the engines and engine bays (plus associated parts), that’s good. As of this writing, good luck finding any of these aftermarket sets. You will, however, find Bronco kits with six separate panels aft of the turret ring in every M-24 kit…

And after whining about the high parts count and how complicated Bronco has made just about the simplest tasks, there is one place they could have engaged in their preference for complications…the M2 .50 caliber on the turret roof.

The gun as molded is quite nice. The top where the breech opens is molded as a separate part (of course) but there’s no bolt or chamber detail in the receiver, so if you want to mold this open, you’ll have to supply that yourself. The carriage the gun sits in can be built relatively easily if you look at the illustrations in the “directions” closely. (Whoever authored the instructions should have used the instructions as written. Maybe after trying that they would have rewritten them to be useful.)

PE parts. Bronco seems married to the idea that the more parts needed for a subassembly the better. The PE fret and the parts supplied takes that notion to stupid lengths. And as far as the rear basket that attaches to the rear of the hull, I would like five seconds with the idiot that engineered this part as two pieces. (The last three seconds would be spent gloating over his cooling body.)

The PE fret also includes VERY SMALL numbers for the casting numbers on the final drive cover…well, most of them. There are two sets, but one set doesn’t include the numeral 1. I managed to get one set of numbers glued on but with the second set of numbers (for the other side) I managed to launch two of those VERY SMALL numbers into oblivion. That means I’ll only have one set of casting number in place, unless I decide to tear the DAMNED THINGS off.

I do NOT like this kit at all and as such do not recommend it. It’s needlessly fussy, parts are ridiculously delicate and there are LOTS of them. Fit is lousy. Of course there are inaccuracies…it’s a kit, after all. If you absolutely MUST have an M-24 in your collection, look around. Yes…it will build into a nice looking kit if you take your time, enjoy a warm, steaming, cup of luck, and I don’t know as you’ll enjoy the process of building it. I CERTAINLY would not recommend it for any but an experienced modeler! I was SO ANNOYED AND ANGERED by engineered-in problems that the bloom was off that rose right quickly. I am SO put off by having to wrestle with problems that were engineered into the kit at the basic level that there are two things I will not be doing with Bronco kits.

1 – Show mercy

2 – Ever buy another one (or even accept one as a gift…eBay is my friend)

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