This set is specifically designed for use with Dragon’s 1/35 M1A1 AIM kit #3535 and provides a significant number of detail replacements and upgrades to and already decent kit. It is packed with nine frets of photo-etch, twisted metal tow cable and 3 antenna bases made out of tightly wound spring. The PE frets are protected by a thin plastic film on both front and back and then either secured to black cardboard or sealed in small zip lock bag. There are 6 pages of instructions printed front and back on green paper.
Here is a rundown of what you’ll need to know if you’re considering this set to upgrade your build.
Smoke Grenades – There are two PE base plates for the smoke grenade launchers which mount to the front corners of the turret. PE smoke grenade stowage boxes which mount just below and forward of the smoke grenade launchers replace the kit parts. The boxes can be modeled open or closed. Six smoke grenades go into each box, PE parts #53 will need to be annealed and rolled into their cylindrical shape. The box is then formed around the grenades which are attached to the bottom of the box along with a strip with six holes which forms the top of the holding rack. You have two options for the box lid hinges, either a single angled plate to represent the hinge assembly with the lid closed or you can form the individual hinges by rolling the little tabs on the hinge plate and inserting 0.3mm wire for the hinge pin. The lid can be posed open and the small flap on the upper front of the box can be posed folded down. There are separate PE buckles and clasps for securing the lid. Four mounting brackets are used to secure the box to the turret using 0.5mm ABS rod which you will need to provide. The instructions do a good job of showing the folds and assembly process step by step.
Ammunition boxes and Stowage – There are three ammunition boxes to be made from the two frets labeled Z US ARMY Cal .50 M2A1 Ammunition Can. There are enough parts to make 4 if you want to make an extra or need a “mulligan” to replace one if you make a mistake. The PE assemblies replace kit parts P8 and P12. The boxes are quite intricate and will look very realistic with all the clips, clamps, handles and straps. The hinges for the lid are comprised of 4 tabs off the lid and back plate and need to be rolled so as to allow the insertion of the PE hinge pin. PE parts are provided for the ammunition box stowage shelf which mounts to the front of the storage bins on both sides of the turret. PE latches, brackets and handles add some really nice detail to the turret stowage bins. The rear stowage rack receives a PE mesh bottom.
Loaders Hatch – Starting with kit part N13, you will need to carefully remove a small nub on the topside of the hatch which will be reattached to the PE replacement ring so be sure not to damage it. You will need to remove the plastic ring around the top of the hatch and replace it with the PE ring. The nub you removed previously needs to be re-attached along with the handle, kit part O11. There are two small PE parts that provide detail to the outer ends of the hinges. The rotating periscope mount in the loaders hatch, kit part N22, receives 4 small PE parts for the detail on the inside of the hatch. The instructions show only one PE butterfly nut, part C43, for securing the periscope bracket however if you look closely at the final assembly drawing of the ammunition boxes it shows 2 butterfly nuts in place. There is a latch and bolt head for the internal hatch latch which is secured in place with a short piece of 0.5mm diameter ABS rod which you will need to provide. There are two small brackets and another bracket with a butterfly nut which are used to secure the hatch. If you are not modeling the hatch open you can save yourself some time and energy by just upgrading the outer ring and hinge details. There is a PE outer ring which replaces kit part N3 which attaches to the raised rectangular supports and is secured by two short lengths of 0.5mm ABS rod which you will have to supply.
.50 cal Browning M2 HB – The commander’s weapon station mounts a .50 caliber heavy machine gun. This set adds all sorts of details and enhancements to the kit parts. There are two different options for the grab handle which mounts to the barrel; one with a flat handle grip PE part Ah1, and the other Ah2 with a round handle which you create by rolling the tab around the grab handle similar to the real thing. There is a perforated sleeve, part Ah4 which you’ll have to anneal and roll to shape which attaches to the base of the barrel. There are additional PE parts for the breech plates. PE hardware adds the missing gun sites which mount to the underside of the base of the gun. The ammunition can, ammunition belt and feeder will better represent the scale thickness of the actual parts and replaces the kit parts MA18, MA13. The ammunition belt with ammo has mirrored halves which fold over to better represent the 3d relief of the ammunition. PE securing pins, chains and hardware add detail and require that several holes be drilled into the side of the base of the gun to accommodate the pins. A PE securing cable finishes off the detail. You’ll need to be comfortable drilling small holes in small parts to be able to take advantage of all the detail upgrades. PE parts replace the kit mount O16 and the mounting ring on the turret roof at the commanders weapon station.
M240 7.62mm MG – The loaders weapon gets several upgrades such as the ammunition can, ammunition belt, mounting brackets and feeder hardware. There are additional PE parts for the ring and skate mount. All these parts will be fairly easy to fold and put in place although the nut and washer on the mount are very tiny.
Turret – PE brackets replace the chunkier molded on plastic detail on the angled metal pieces which attach to the top turret roof. The plastic brackets will need to be cut from kit parts N10 and N27. The PE tabs combine with short lengths of 0.5mm ABS which you’ll have to provide. There is nothing in the instructions as to the how long the ABS pegs should be so you’ll have to eyeball it or use the original kit part as a guide. A PE flap with pins and hinges replaces kit part N31 which installs at the top of the external gun mount assembly to keep dirt and moisture out of the gap. The co-axial machine gun in the gun mount receives a PE protective sleeve which replaces kit part N26, and will need to be annealed and rolled to shape. There are 5 very tiny tabs at the end of the tube that will require careful folding. The gunner’s site protective door flaps get a PE tab which replaces the molded on overlapping flap. The inside of the commander’s hatch gets some attention as well with a grab handle and closing latch which replaces kit part P1. You’ll need a very short length of 0.5mm ABS rod for the latch assembly. There are small PE brackets for mounting the tow cables to both sides of the turret below the storage bins which will need to be annealed and bent to shape. The brackets for the stowage rack at the rear of the turret mount to the back plate which will require some care to fold out properly and will require the removal of the plastic details of the kit parts. You will need to drill some small holes to insert the mounting pins and handles.
Wind Sensor – The wind sensor mounts to the top rear of the turret and can be folded down and stowed in a bracket mounted to the right. There are several different wind sensors for the M1, the kit and this set represent the version a cylindrical sensor at the top which replaces the kit sensor part Q9. There is a stowage bracket assembly to be folded and attached which replaces kit part O12.
Tank Infantry Phone – This set features several upgrades to the external infantry phone which allows troops outside the tank to communicate with the tank commander. There are several PE handles which replace the molded on kit handles, replacement screens on the front of the box which replace the kit parts A10 and A21 and the microphone and cord which replaces kit part N1.
Hull and Engine Deck – There are numerous PE mesh screens for the engine deck which you’ll use in place of the kit provided PE screens. PE bolts parts B74 add the fastening bolt detail, they are very small so be careful! There are PE brackets and securing chains for the fuel filler caps in addition for various PE handles for the various hatches and latches on the stowage lid. There are replacement rear side skirt assemblies which replace the kit parts. The hinges for the rear side skirt are formed by rolling the tabs to shape and then inserting 0.5mm rod for the hinge pin. Bolts add detail to the parts and as usual are very small so use caution. PE strips with screw detail line the top of side skirt panel along with small rectangular pieces that attach to the front corners of the panels. There are also replacement latches which will require 0.5mm pins to be cut from ABS rod. PE detail brackets replace the PE kit parts MA13, MA20, MA21 and MA17 on the front fenders.
Rear Engine Grate – The deep water fording engine grates parts U10, U11, U12 and U37 are replaced by intricate assemblies of slats and brass tube (not included). The grates are literally put together slat by slat using the PE slats 0.3mm brass rods cut into lengths of 12mm. ET model has provided a jig to help you get the spacing and angle of the slats even and proper while you insert the brass tubes. Thank goodness for the jig as otherwise this assembly would be beyond the skill set of most modelers. PE protective covers are rolled into shape and mount around the rear tail lights replacing kit parts U24 and U25. There is a small cylindrical assembly which looks like it is the feeder wire for the tail lights which needs to be rolled to shape and the PE mounting plate replaces the kit plastic detail which will need to be removed. Additional details are provided with various brackets and bolts, securing chains and pins for the joint in the side skirts between the rear and sides and a deflector plate assembly with separate mounting brackets which replace kit parts F2 and F3.
Items needed to build this set – You’ll need to have 0.5mm ABS rod for various pegs, 0.3mm wire or rod for hinge pins and 0.3mm brass rod for the rear engine grates. Good magnification, like an Optivisor, is a must, especially when working with the tiny bolts and hinges. A PE folding tool will be helpful and you will need a heat source to anneal the parts which require rolling to soften them. Cyanoacrylate (Super Glue) and/or Gator Glue will be needed for attaching the PE parts.
Conclusion – This set has a lot to offer for the advanced modeler and is a comprehensive update set for the Dragon M1A1 AIM kit 3535. I was really impressed by everything offered in this set and recommend it to anyone wanting to upgrade their M1A1. It will require a pretty good skill set working with Photo Etch and very tiny parts so this set is not for beginners.