When tanks break down, you can't call your local tow truck or AAA. Somebody with a very BIG lift is going to be needed.
Tank recovery vehicles have been around almost as long as tanks, though most of them seem like hasty conversions of an existing vehicle. The Germans needed THREE Sd.Kfz.9 18-ton halftracks to recover a Tiger tank. So over time, armies have developed specialized vehicles, though often by using an existing chassis. That's the case with the M578 ARV (Armor Recovery Vehicle). Intended for recovering light tanks and other vehicles, it was based on the chassis of the M107 Self Propelled Gun and M110 Self-Propelled Howitzer. The M578 first saw service in Vietnam, and was a workhorse in the US armed forces, as well as those of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Israel and the German Bundeswehr.
Its mission was to tow or otherwise recover light armored vehicles, and it had a 30,000lb (13,600kg) winch & crane that would qualify as adequate for most repair scenarios. In addition, its 60,000lb (27,000kg) winch mounted on the front of the cab would pull a lot of iron. Its cab had doors on each side, along with double doors at the rear. An important vehicle, it's still not the kind of kit styrene companies will invest molds in releasing. Better another Panzer or Sherman.
Fortunately Germany's Perfect Scale Modellbau
has taken on the mission of recreating the classic armor of the post-war era, especially those serving in NATO or the Bundeswehr. The company offers many obscure or otherwise unusual items like the M578, a new resin kit that looks to be a must-have for armor enthusiasts working in the Vietnam or NATO eras (the company also offers a version with a complete interior).
The kit comes in a white light cardboard box containing with the contents securely packed in plastic peanuts. Inside you'll find:
234 resin parts in a half-dozen bags
1 small fret of PE Parts
Copper wire for the crane
6 pages of assembly instructions in German & English with color and B&W photos
For those who love armor, this is an armor-lover's kit: it has virtually everything you'll need except glue and paints. While Verlinden has a resin conversion set for the Italeri M107, this is the first complete 1/35th scale M578 I know of. And while the Verlinden cab is a single piece of resin, the PSM version builds up with greater detail from separate doors (there is also a version with a complete cab interior).
That having been said, this isn't a kit for everybody, starting with its price of €120 (nearly $170). Or its complexity: with over 230 parts, it's intended for the advanced kit builder.
Yet let us linger on the many nice features about the M578 ARV.
First is the clean casting. Resin makers are getting better, but "hairy" resin parts are still a problem in too many kits. There's none of that to be found here. The precision of the detailing is excellent, including a winch with molded-on cable, something that can only work with the extra detail possible with resin. The PE screens are delicate without being annoyingly so. The hatches are all separate, resulting in better definition even if mounted in the closed position.
The M578 was a working vehicle, and came equipped with its own welding rig, so there are oxygen and acetylene tanks complete with their own decal markings. Plus there are hand tools and jerry cans to complete the realism.
The kit isn't without faults; I would have liked to see more information about decal placement, or some paint schemes, though I appreciate that the vehicle has served in so many armies, it would be difficult to pick a selection. But the standard 3- or 4-color NATO scheme seems like it should be explained. Of course, there is plenty about the M578 on the Internet, including various guides for painting the camouflage scheme developed by the Mobility Equipment Research & Design Command (MERDC). See the references at the end of this review. This is definitely a kit that would benefit from a reference book.
The instructions are generally good, though not perfect: I couldn't figure out where the MG is placed (hint: at the left turret hatch on the mounting). PSM handled my questions, so don't feel you can't ask, especially at this price.
Since this is the only game in town, you'll want this kit if you plan on a Vietnam-era tank repair or motor pool diorama (throw in some Archer Playboy-type pinups
). And if you love NATO vehicles, you'll want this one in your stash. While expensive, the quality makes its high price more bearable.
This site has templates for applying MERDC camouflage.
This site has guides on matching model paint colors to MERDC patterns.
Thanks to Perfect Scale Modellbau for providing this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering from them.