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US Armoured Bulldozer (35403) 1:35


Mike

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US Armoured Bulldozer (35403)

1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd

 

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Based upon the Caterpillar D7 Tractor that was designed in the 1930s, the US forces took them into service in large numbers when the attack on Pearl Harbour completed the inexorably journey into WWII.  It was used as a pure ‘dozer in the safer rear areas, and where there was a likelihood of contact with the enemy it was up-armoured to protect the crew from injury.  The important engine compartment was armoured to an extent in some variants, and in others it was totally enclosed for operation on the front line to protect the delicate ancillaries from damage that would immobilise the vehicle sooner or later.  It was used to tow damaged armour out of the battlefield, and to clear away debris that would otherwise inhibit the forward movement of the Allied troops, such as the StuG shown on the boxtop, which its previous owners clearly tried to recover for their own use, judging by the tow cables still hanging from its shackles.

 

The height of the dozer blade was cable-operated from a winch at the rear of the vehicle, the cables routed over the engine and cab area on a length of square profile conduit.  The winch hung over the rear towing shackle, and must have been somewhat susceptible to damage when reversing using just the slit in the rear window, and the open cable at the front that operated the blade was exposed to enemy fire, although it was doubled-up to add redundancy.  How well this worked is anyone’s guess.  Armoured bulldozers are still used in combat zones today, and it can trace its heritage back to these early pioneers.

 

 

The Kit

This a reboxing with new parts of a tooling by MiniArt from 2015, and it seems that they are gradually working through the various up-armoured versions, with this the first to have a completely enclosed cab with armour to protect the crew.  It arrives in a good-sized top-opening box with a painting of the subject matter that is busy pushing a StuG III off the road with Allied half-tracks waiting to pass once the job is done.  Inside are thirty-six sprues of varying sizes in grey styrene, a small clear sprue, a length of braided cord, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, decal sheet, and the instruction booklet printed on glossy paper in colour.  If you hadn’t guessed already, the detail is excellent throughout the sprues.

 

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Construction begins with the engine, which takes up more than two pages of the instructions, creating the sump, block, transmission, and a host of ancillaries that would be about the size of a small car at full scale.  The radiator is built and joined to the motor by a pair of hoses that lead into a header tank, and it is supported in front of the fan by a pair of stays and the larger hoses that lead directly to the cooling chambers within the engine block.  The engine bearers are moulded into the end-plates of the power transfer housing, which is itself made up of nine parts, two of which remain unglued and are trapped inside the housing for later use in mounting the track sponsons.  The motor is then lowered into position between the bearers and locked in place in three locations on each side, adding some additional plating and ancillaries, then building and installing the pedal box and other controls for the driver’s use, all of which are linked either with rods or in one case, a PE wire that has a bending template next to it.  The forest of controls and linkages are boxed in on three sides that butt up against the forward bulkhead, and have a layer of tread-plate added over the front of the cab to create the floor, leaving the rear portion open for the time being.  Under the centre of the chassis, a large two-layered twin leaf-spring is made up and installed on two pairs of notches moulded into the lower rails, fitting a towing arm to the bulky rear axle, and a pair of outriggers to widen the cab on each side, supported by three L-brackets that slot between rows of raised rivets that are moulded into the sides of the cab floor.  The rest of the underside of the chassis is armoured with smoothly contoured sheets of steel to minimise hang-ups on terrain, a small plate crossing the gap under the suspension, and adding a rugged towing hook to the front under the radiator that is of more use on variants where the dozer blade isn’t fitted.

 

Three sub-assemblies are made next, including a rectangular stowage box with lid, a cylindrical muffler for the top of the exhaust that bears a resemblance to one of those bottles on a water cooler.  The largest assembly is the combined fuel tank and crew seat, which is more like a settee in shape, and must have made driving over rough ground very entertaining.  The tank is the full width of the back of the seat, with a filler cap in the top centre, and a cushion attached to the front, with another squab on an upstand in front of it, adding the sides with grab-handles for access, and additional cushions for their delicate little elbows.  It fits in place over the hole in the cab floor, hiding away the rest of the greeblies and linkages for eternity, or until some swine smashes your lovely model.  At the rear, the towing arm has the shackle and further supports fixed to it to strengthen it further.

 

The two track sponsons are completed in mirror image, sharing aspects such as road wheels that are made up from a stack of three or five discs on a short axle, interleaved between cross-members that hold the rails apart, and with two gigantic concentric springs running along the  top of the sponson and covered over by curved armour panels once the multi-layer idler wheel and simpler drive sprocket have been built and installed, the latter held to the sponson by a large flat-topped peg that also holds the final drive housing against the inner face of the wheel.  The completed assemblies are offered up to the chassis, fixed in position by gluing the final drive housing to the corresponding inner half, adding two closed Y-supports to the inner face of the sponson and linking up the other end to the free-rotating cylinders within the transfer box, fitting the rear of the sponsons onto the ends of the leaf springs to complete the process.  The armoured cab has a sloped lower section at the front, and two crew doors in the sides, first building up the sides, the front vertical surfaces, and the doors, which have handles inside and out, plus a grab handle next to them.  The diagonal surface at the front of the cab is inserted over the air-box that projects through a hole in the roof, and has a mushroom vent and filter fitted to the top after installation.  Short armoured panels are also added to the sides of the radiator, protecting it and the hoses from damage, although most of the rest of the engine is exposed on this variant.  The twin spools of the winch are layered up along with the included cord, which isn’t cut to length at this stage, just attached at one end to the cover over the spool.  Two long control arms snake over the back of the seat, allowing the driver to operate it simply by turning around, even after the rear armour is installed, as the bottom of the armour hangs free, which looks like a shot-trap, but hopefully wouldn’t have been an issue.  The front cable support frame is braced by a pair of long struts mounted on the diagonal front of the cab, although they disappear in the next drawing for ease of viewing the top armour over the engine, which is a curved shield shape and has several holes in it to accept the exhaust and muffler, plus a hand-starter crank handle.  Three flip-down armoured window covers with vision slots are fitted to the windows in the front and rear, adding their operating mechanism from behind, the part number depending on whether you are posing them open or closed.  The roof with a square vent in one corner closes in the cab, and an initial armoured radiator grille wraps around the radiator to protect it from incoming rounds.

 

A set of pulleys are made to fit to the top of the winch, including PE covers and plenty of plastic, and once in place it is depicted as transparent to help guiding the cord through the assembly and up to roof level where it passes through another pulley that is supported by a large A-frame, and the front square frame with diagonal supports holding the pulley firmly, adding a pair of floodlights onto the corners of the assembly, which is supported by the two diagonal out-riggers fitted earlier.  Another layer of armour is attached to the front of the frame, spacing it from the initial layer so that cooler air can still reach the radiator core, although by a more circuitous route.  The two pulleys are linked by the bottom of the conduit and the cable is laid over it to run through the pulley, leaving it free until later in the build.  The tracks are individual links, each one consisting of two rollers and three verticals per side, all of which aren’t glued to the rollers, but are held together by the track plates, with thirty-six of these on each run.  Each link has either three or four sprue gates, while the pins have just one, although these are sensibly placed and easy to clean up after removal.

 

The focal point of any bulldozer is the blade, which in this case is made from two parts, has several brackets attached, plus side plates and two V-frames that have attachment eyes that are pinned in place between the brackets once the glue is dry.  A massive U-frame that does all the heavy lifting is prepared by adding a central bracket above and below the frame, four brackets added to the top, and a larger finned bracket near the pivot-point, with a small PE part nearby.  The bottom of the frame sits on a step within the upper, hiding the ejector-pin marks and saving some work.  The reason for the brackets on the top of the frame becomes clear when joining the blade to the support, as it allows the modeller and operator to adjust the angle and direction of the blade by inserting the blade supports in the relevant bracket and securing it in place with an L-shaped pin, allowing it to be angled left, right or straight.  Another pulley is layered up, leaving the rollers free to rotate, and this is woven into the cable path, then attached to the centre of the U-frame, pushing another pin through it to hold it in place once the completed assembly has the pivot-point completed and a pin pushed through into the side of the sponsons.  The last job is to complete the conduit over the cable by gluing the C-profile part over the top of the run.

 

 

Markings

There are four options on the decal sheet, all in olive green, one of which has a patchy coat of winter distemper over the top.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • 103rd Engineering Combat Battalion, 28th Infantry Division, US Army, Europe, 1944-45
  • Unidentified Combat Engineer Battalion, US Army, Europe, Winter, 1944-45
  • Presumably 127th Combat Engineeer Battalion, 6tg US Army, Manila, Philippines, February 1945
  • 17th Armoured Engineer battalion, 2nd Armoured Division, US Army, Germany, Spring 1945

 

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Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.

 

 

Conclusion

A highly detailed replica of this WWII workhorse that did sterling work on and near the battlefield.  It’s also a great canvas for some interesting paint effects, weathering and diorama possibilities.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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