When Israel started shopping for replacements to its aging Sherman fleet in the 1960s they turned to the US for M48s. The West Germans had started to replace their US-built tanks with home-grown Leopards so a deal was struck whereby the Israelis bought a number of M48 variants from them, later supplemented by direct sales from the US. Israel called these tanks Magach
(Hebrew word meaning “ramming hit”), with the Magach 1 being the M48A1, Magach 2 being M48A2, and Magach 3 being at M48A3 standard. (However, the Magach 3 story is more complicated, as it includes a mix of tanks built as –A1, -A2, and –A3 up-gunned to the British L7 105mm, and all re-engined. These are not the subject of this review…) The first M48 tanks to arrive were used almost unaltered in the 1967 Six-Day War, after which they were joined by a number of captured Jordanian M48s.
This means a Six-Day War kit of the Magach 1 or 2 should build to resemble a generic M48A1 or –A2, offering a broad appeal to anyone modelling these US-built tanks regardless of operator. The more typical Israel-specific visual changes took place after the dust had settled, so aren’t in this Six-Day War boxing.
This 2-in1 kit is labelled as “01” in the “Middle East War Series”, as well as “50th-anniversary of the Six-Day War”. Dragon already has form regarding the M48, having first released the –A3 Mod B (#3544), then the –A3 “early” (#3546), and later the –A1 variant (#3559). These were well received despite a few minor issues, and not surprisingly this new kit includes a majority of sprues recycled from them. In fact, there are only two completely new sprues in the box – both concerned with the –A2’s unique engine deck area.
Kevin Brant reviewed the M48A3
a while back, and Gino Quintiliani did a full-on build review of the -A3Mod B
kit. A build log for this Magach 1 & 2 kit was started here
Packed in the usual “lid & tray” box are 11 grey, one clear, and three DS sprues, as well as two DS tracks, wire (for the tow cable), decals, and instructions. That’s a whopping 413 grey parts, 19 clear ones, and 11 in DS plastic! Once again I found myself with that satisfying Dragon dilemma – how do I get it all back in once I took it out? Moulding is very sharp, with no flash. There are lots of unused parts for the spares-box, and mine will no doubt lift the details on some Revell & Tamiya kits.
One thing to note is the lack of any significant stowage – the kit is just the bare tank. Modellers will need to source any duffel bags, etc for themselves.
There is one sheet of markings, for four tanks in 1967 – three are IDF Magach 2s in that odd Israeli grey, and the fourth is a Jordanian M48A1 (renamed “Magach 1” after capture by the Israelis) with striped sand/black camo. Research is variable, since one of the Israeli schemes doesn’t even have number plates for the front & rear fenders. The instructions have paint mixes in GSI Creos paints, as well as Model Master, but as I don’t have access to any of these I would have to do my own thing with Tamiya paints.
I wouldn’t usually bother to mention the instructions, but I find this one to be unusually complicated and tricky due to the way they call out the different versions. To avoid trouble it may be best to highlight the sections for the version you want before starting the build!
Before I got stuck in to the build, a few things struck me. We have seen most of the parts in other kits, so the pedigree of the basic tank is already well known. That means we know it is fairly accurate and extremely well-detailed, so I won’t be doing any complex measuring! But there are a few issues that need pointed out below. The “add a sprue” approach means we get two upper hulls (3-roller & 5-roller), three engine decks (for -A1, -A2, and -A3), three gun tubes, and two-point-five sets of fenders. (The –A2 uses new rear sections that graft on to the –A3 fenders…) Because this kit is meant to build a single Magach 1 or Magach 2 it only includes one set of lower hull, turret, and running gear. So I decided to raid the stash and borrow the missing parts from a Mod B kit – that way I could build and review both versions!
One issue is the design of the road wheels. Dragon came up with a wheel shape that does not match the classic wheels seen on pretty much all the M48s I’ve ever seen. The inner face of the real thing has a distinctive rounded stiffening bulge between the hub bolts and the outer rim, which Dragon somehow translated into an angled step. The real thing in profile can be seen here
. Even the old Tamiya wheels were better at this shape! Then there is the hub, which to my eyes seems a bit over-large compared to photos of the real thing. Fortunately there are options to replace them, including Click2Detail
(which appears closed for “maintenance” at time of writing), Bitzkrieg
, and a resin set by DEF Model (could not find a good link). The real things have an undercut behind the front lip of the rim, so Dragon’s multi-part approach is better in this respect than the single-piece kit wheels from other manufacturers of M48 & M60 tanks, but the wheel faces need to be replaced. Many will ignore them as they do look “good enough” from normal viewing distance, or cover them with caked mud to hide the problem.
The drive sprockets also need work, as they lack the three mud holes – resin replacements can be found in the DEF Models M48A3 rear-end set
Then there’s the gun mantlet issue. The kit has the “naked” steel mantlet, the rubberised –A3 style mantlet with wire hoops to give the accordion effect (in DS plastic), and a separate DS part to create the earlier loose canvas mantlet seen on early models such as the –A1 and –A2. Trouble is, this early part is meant to be grafted on to the front of the later rubberised cover, so the result resembles nothing I’ve ever seen in a period photo! (See this photo
over on Prime Portal for reference.) Legend does a resin early cover complete with front turret face in one of their sets
, but if it was me I’d grind off the resin turret face to leave only the mantlet cover to add to the plastic turret – cutting off the whole front of the kit turret is far too drastic for my liking! The Revell plastic one in their A2C kit is ok-ish within the limitations of plastic-mould extraction (no undercuts allowed), but not up to the standards of the rest of the Dragon kit, so not worth plundering a Revell kit just for it. Or, you can make your own from tissue and PVA glue, which is my most-likely route. Then again, I’m not sure if at least a few of the IDF’s hand-me-down machines might have received the new rubberised cover before they were upgraded to 105mm guns, so using it might be an option?
Magach 1 (M48A1)
As I always do, I threw the instructions aside and assembled the main hull components before adding any of the details. The fun started with the engine deck, which is made of two top “grille” parts (L2 & L6) and two side extensions (L32 & L33) for the hull. I found the hard way that the sides have to overlap the edges of the grille (L2), so if (like me!) you put those sides in first, taking care to get as smooth a joint as possible around the hull “bulge” on the sides, it all gets undone when you have to pry them apart to drop the grille in! The trapezoidal rear grille section (L6) has no support at its front end that I could find, so is prone to being squashed in if too much pressure is applied. (Found this out while adding the suspension and holding the hull a bit carelessly…) The grilles match the images and drawings I have seen, but are solid and thus lack a certain “depth” that perhaps a good wash/weathering might bring out? They are all moulded closed, and the parts have no underside details, so posing the engine covers open is not at all possible without some kind of aftermarket replacements. Then again, the design of the Dragon upper hull part puts a substantial “shelf” in the way, so a saw would be needed just to open the hole for an engine. (By comparison, the ancient Italeri M47 had separate grilles and
Another challenge around the engine deck is the placement of the supports (parts C26, C27, C29) along the edges of the hull. These rectangular parts are tiny, and definitely required my optivisor and tweezers! I’m not sure why Dragon didn’t simply mould them as part of the hull sides L32 & L33. And they hang on by a toenail, so be extra careful…
The suspension goes together well, but I found that the tie-down rings (C8) really needed to be installed before anything else. Then there is the issue of the first road-wheel station – the M48A1s were originally designed for a single volute-spring bump-stop above each swing arm. The kit has the single bump-stops on all the wheels except the first, where the later double-stop part (D17/18) is provided. These were fitted as an upgrade, and became standard on the -A2 & -A3, but to fit them the mount cast into the hull had to be modified and enlarged. The kit has the original smaller mount, so the double stop hangs loose at the rearward end (which it shouldn’t). Most of the pics of –A1s that I have seen show a single stop anyway, so I decided to modify mine back to a single! The kit already has one of the necessary parts (D15/16, on the last wheel station) so using it as a guide I carefully sliced off and kept the little triangular flange with bolt, and then sliced off the offending second volute spring in its round housing. To rebuild the parts I added the main chunk to the mount, and then carefully added the triangular flange. To match the revised single stop I removed the second peg on the back of the swing arm (D37/38). Don’t be tempted by all those other single bump-stops left over on the sprues (C1/2) – they are a round-bodied type that does not match the square-bodied ones on the first and last wheel stations! M48A1s left the factory with a small track-tensioning idler wheel on its special swing arm, located between the sprocket and last road-wheel. These were removed eventually during maintenance cycles, and deleted completely during –A2 production, but if you want to add them the missing tensioner wheels (C23/24 with spacer C30) and arms (L36/37) are supplied but not called out – you’ll want to look at the M48A1 instructions (page 1
and page 4
) over on www.1999.co.jp for guidance.
The tool rack on the left fender is the reason we have a sprue of machine-guns from the M2 halftrack – it donates the actual tools. The surplus .30cals and mounts will find homes elsewhere. The sides of the rack are bent from photo-etch, but as I used them on the –A2 version I had to use 0.010x0.060” Evergreen strip instead – the benefit is it’s a lot easier to handle. And as I used the tools on the –A2 too, I decided to leave the rack on the –A1 empty with just bare Footman loops for the canvas straps. At the front there are two square blocks on the hull top that take brackets for fender supports; these are correct for the -A1, but the -A2 should have the forward block angled forward instead of being straight up – more on that below. I found the big one-piece fenders had the inner vertical sides (that bracket the nose of the tank) moulded on, which meant they were completely plain. The real things are covered in bolt heads (just like the separate parts for the –A2 version!) so I really cannot understand this decision by the DML designers. And the two vertical supports lack any bolt detail too. When I tried to fit the fenders to the hull they tipped upwards at the outer edges – I had to shim the socket in the hull turret area with 0.015” strip to correct it and level off the fenders. (By contrast the –A2 fenders were fine without any shimming.) There was a warp in the flimsy rear sections of both fenders that I just could not remove, but the good news is many pics show similar upward bending on the real things! At the rear the instructions call for a one-piece pyramid-shaped bracket for the tow pintle instead of the girder construction used on the –A2, but both versions are seen on real –A1s so I went with the girder type. (At least it meant two less holes to fill in the back plate!)
Despite the instructions calling for only the outboard headlight on each bracket, I added both. Many photos show IDF tanks with both headlights, and it is easier to remove one later than it would be to add one of those fiddly things once the bracket was in place. There is a hooded blackout lamp included on the left-hand cluster, but no siren for the other side. Lenses are separate clear parts, ideal for adding after the kit is painted.
Casting numbers are a big deal on models of US armour, and Dragon have given us quite a few to look at. Real steel castings were marked with the drawing or pattern number, a serial number for the individual casting, the foundry symbol, and heat-treatment batch info. One of the few walk-arounds available shows a drawing number of 7364149 above the right tail-light on the rear plate of the hull, but the kit part is blank. The hull numbers cast into the lower-rear and lower right side of the plastic part are not consistent with the –A1 version, coming from whatever research DML did for their first –A3 Mod B kit. Up on the turret there are numbers cast in the top, but none on the bare gun mantlet or the hatch for the M1 Tank Commander’s cupola. The markings on the cupola body are tiny, but at least they are present. Photos of real mantlets show some with markings above the gun, and others without, so the DML part is correct for some tanks. (Take care with the lift-loops on the bare mantlet, the more “curly” end should be at the top.)
Speaking of hatches, the TC’s hatch lacks interior details such as the locking handles or the inner faces of the vision block mounts. The Revell kits may be a bit crude, but they at least have something to see here. (Best to hide it under a TC figure’s backside? Pity no figures come in the box.) The Loader’s hatch is similarly bare inside, so is best left closed – in fact the springs have part of the hinge moulded on, so would need a little surgery to pose open. The DS cover for the cupola MG mantlet is a bit plain and lacks fastener details, but I found at least I could pose the gun at a slight elevation instead of the dead-level typical of plastic or resin covers. In looking for pics of Jordanian tanks I found quite a few straight M48s, evident from the simple low-profile urdan-style TC hatch instead of the M1 cupola of the –A1, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the kit and its Jordanian decals. And the cupola lacks the three lift-loops around the base that are standard on the M1, so these will be added from wire.
The gun comes as two pieces for the barrel, and a choice of DS or plastic mantlets. Each mantlet combo has a different gun tube, onto which the bore evacuator and muzzle brake are added. I found it tricky to get this exactly straight, so take care to avoid a bent barrel. (No doubt many will reach for their favourite AM metal guns…) The instructions call for the T-shaped brake as moulded onto the evacuator, but either –A1 or –A2 tank could be fitted with the T-shaped or Y-shaped brakes. The Y-shaped brake is a two-part affair requiring the T-shaped brake to be cut off and replaced. The plastic “bare” mantlet has three mounts for the searchlight moulded on, but early tanks often did not have them, so the instructions call for their removal. There are studs on the turret face for the empty cover clips, so a bare-faced tank looks accurate.
We are told to carve off the searchlight power socket and fill the holes for the cupola MG fence by the Gunner’s sight – take care with these since the casting marks are very close. There are two choices of water cans for the sides – a WW2-style metal American one, or a single-handled plastic one. All the period pics I’ve seen show metal cans (where the detail can be seen at all) or empty racks, and I suspect the plastic cans come from a later era. Also, while many –A2s wore metal cans on both sides of the turret, the kit only has one, so to add a second can on the TC’s side it has to be the plastic one. (I robbed a spare from the Mod B donor kit.) The rest of the turret assembles as instructed and is very well detailed, but the bustle rack takes a delicate hand and a ton of patience. The square extension G27 in the middle of the rack (for spare track links, IIRC) is not present on those IDF tanks where it can be seen – but most contemporary shots have a ton of crew stowage that obscures this area so it might not be unheard-of. Still, I chose to leave it off.
Magach 2 (M48A2)
Starting again with the hull “box”, I decided to use the 5-roller hull with the intermediate stations left blank. Of the few walk-arounds that show this area under the tracks, most seem to have these extra roller mounting pads cast into the hull sides, but left untapped and unused. (The bolt holes for the roller bracket are drilled after casting, so deleting them was as easy as just not drilling.) This ties in with the casting mark on the lower hull rear, which shows it to be from pattern drawing 8721799 which from a quick online survey of preserved tanks appears to be correct for the 5-roller hull. The revised 3-roller hulls without the extra mounting pads were drawing number 8734084, but this means scraping off the moulded number and replacing it from Archer transfers – fortunately it is pretty hard to see down there! The numbers on the hull side are at odds too, and are suspect.
Assembling the engine deck was a struggle, so I am glad I hadn’t added any breakable detail! The side parts (M11/12) and side grilles (M25/26) in particular were a bit wobbly at first, and needed to be held in alignment to set the glue. Again, the trick is to install the grilles first, then add the sides after, since they overlap. I did both sides, squeezing here and pulling there, until it all looked ok, and temporarily sat the main cover casting between them to ensure a good fit. I did not want to glue the cover until I fixed the missing welds and the over-sharp corners – the former were added from Evergreen while the latter was a simple task with a sanding stick. Below the doors, the rear plate needed a bit of putty to blend with the hull (the real thing is part of the main casting), and the area around those version-specific hull side inserts needed some too.
Generally the hull looks correct for an –A2 (unlike the recent Revell offering!) and I am pleased to see the side grilles are the right length. The fenders are a little tricky – the rear sections of the –A3 fenders (parts J13/17) are cut off and swapped for new –A2 rear ends (M27/30), assuming you make the cut nice and straight! Pity DML didn’t just give us new complete fenders. I found that laying a straight-edge against the front of the middle fender-brace uprights allowed me to score a line exactly where the cut was needed, but I used a sharp knife to do this and avoided using a saw since the width of the saw-cut would effectively shorten the fender and need to be made up with plastic strip. (It would have helped if the cut-line was more sensibly placed through the centre of the brace, where there is already a slot!) The resulting “jointed” fender piece is a bit fragile, so I left it bare and only added the front filler piece (J2/3) before gluing the fender to the hull, since the angled ends and all the other details can come later. At least it does stiffen up once the main parts are installed!
One odd thing about the fenders is that square block on the front of the hull that the angled forward fender support sits on – it should be a single block angling forward from its base on the hull rather than a two-part block with a cranked profile. The kit does this to make maximum use of a single mould for the hull top (since it is correct on A1s and many A3s, which were mostly rebuilt from earlier A1 models), but on all the A2s I’ve looked at this is wrong. I left it, but in future if I build another I’d consider cutting it off and making a correct block for the forward fender support.
The headlight guards are a little tricky to get right, since there aren’t any positive slot locators. And the clear headlights are a waste since I cannot see how to mask them when painting the rest of the unit – it would be better if the actual lenses were separate parts to add after painting. Still, most other kits mould them in opaque plastic anyway, so no great loss.
The turret is as described above, but we are instructed to use the Y-shaped muzzle brake. T-shaped ones are just as common on –A2s, so it is a matter of choice and good reference photos for specific vehicles.
All in all, I now have both an –A1 and –A2 waiting for painting and final assembly, and they are streets ahead of anything we had before in 1:35. I may not use the IDF decals on mine (I’m partial to early Bundeswehr vehicles), but I have no doubt these would look great with the kit decals and suitable weathering. As always, it would pay to work from photos and add whatever details are needed to match a real tank – there are certainly enough options in the box!
There are a few minor disappointments in this kit, but by and large it makes up into a decent M48A1 or A2. (And we desperately needed a “modern” A2!) Those wanting to make a tank used by another country will find plenty of parts here, and by adding some AM decals a German, Greek, or US tank can be had. The only real pity is the mantlet shroud – nobody offers a decent replacement yet.
I’m glad I built both versions of this kit – they will definitely fill a hole in my post-WW2 collection. Now, what to do with all those Revell M48A2s I bought last year?...