We are continuing to move forward in our build of the M3 halftrack. We have found that it represents some great opportunities to improvise and add details or features that were not part of the original kit. There are so many variants of the M2/M3 that we have a number of choices in terms of how our project is ultimately going to take.shape. As a personnel carrier, we will be adding at least two 30 cal machine guns and possibly a 50 cal as well. On this page, we are going to add a few details to the driver's cockpit since the kit does not include much in the way of gauges, dashboard details etc. We will also scratch build a few gun mounts as well.
This page was last updated: February 27, 2012
If you have any questions or would like additional ordering information please do not hesitate to contact us at SdragonsAFV@aol.com or 1-561-312-8883 from Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm EST.
We are just about finished with the interior/exterior door details on the driver's side. We repeated the process from the passenger's side door by filling holes, adding door latches, armored window/visors and window supports. We cleaned up a number of the screw posts to provide a somewhat more realistic appearance as well.
We turned our attention to the M3's armament and decided to go with one 50 cal and two 30 cal machine guns. Our M3 is fashioned after a personnel carrier that served in Italy around 1943 and had this same setup.
We used several pieces of 11/32 brass tubing along with two smaller diameter inserts made from brass. These inserts would fit inside the 11/32 tube while cradling the M49 gun mount. We soldered a .125 inch brass square to the end of the tube to provide a stable footer for the pedestal. We added four strips of styrene and sanded them down to size.
Pictured left is the completed pedestal prior to painting.
We mounted a Browning 50 cal machine gun onto an M42 pivot mount onto the pedestal in order to see how this setup looks. We added an extra pin and drilled a retaining hole which will keep the machine at a level position.
We have held off permanently mounting the pedestal to the floor of the M3 since we are going to add diamond patterned flooring which has not yet arrived.
In this shot, we have just installed the diamond patterned flooring in the M3. There are a number of rivet heads that had to be ground down and we had to use strips of 1/16 plastic to provide a level anchor or base for the portion of the floor near the rear hatch. Once it is painted, hopefully you will see more of the diamond detail.
Now that the flooring is in, we will start on the 30 cal MG's and mounts.
We decided to use 30 cal MG's cast from white metal as opposed to raiding our 1/6 figure bin of spare parts and equipment due to their detail and realistic weight. Assembly is fairly straightforward but requires a degree of sanding and filling in order to achieve a more finished look.
We are going to use the 1917A1 MG mount (see below) and a modified pintle base to secure each unit to the sidewall of the halftrack. So far so good.
As previously mentioned on page two, the kit comes with a set of gear shift knobs and a steering wheel which are all cast from resin. These items needed a great deal of cleanup, filling and sanding in order to get the appearance right.
As we get closer to the end of this project, we are constantly checking for any features we might have overlooked or opportunities to upgrade the existing kit. Proper fitment is always a concern and sure enough we noticed that the bonnet covers or hoods did not seat properly when closed. The leading edge was hitting the engine compartment rail which would have prevented us from installing the bonnet latches and left a larger than desired gap between the hood and the side compartment rail.
We decided to remove this "rail" since it did not seem to provide any real service to the halftrack and the structural rigidity of the engine compartment would not be compromised. The result is a much cleaner fit.
In this shot we have fixed the hood or bonnet issues and have installed the bonnet latches. More holes were filled during the process and we repeated this step on the other side of the halftrack.
We almost forgot to fabricate the strap that secures the axe to the side of the M3. We use a piece of brass strip and bent it to shape while securing it with two hex head jeweler's screws. The other item on our list was to make an extension to the existing mud guard. According to our reference sources on the M3, most of them had this feature.
There is one particular feature on the M3 kit that has been bothering us for awhile and that is the armored windshield visor that is mounted above the windshield. The visor that comes with the kit is not meant to be functional and is also cut larger than it should be. We finally broke down and decided to make some improvements and add more detail to the M3.
We started by removing the visor and cutting 3/8 inch off of the lower edge. We removed the mounting tab from the opposite edge and sanded the edges smooth. According to our references, the visor should have three hinges mounted along the upper edge of the windshield frame. The visor should be able to swing down unobstructed in the event of enemy small arms fire.
In this picture we have trial fit the visor after mounting a brass strip across the upper windshield frame. The visor would not lie flat without this modification. In addition, we fashioned prop rods or struts out of brass strip and brass rod. There are three of these mounted on the front cowling which allow for the prop struts to fold down when not in use. These were bolted to the cowling using jeweler's screws.
Pictured to the left, the visor is finished and has just received a few coats of olive drab. We are really pleased how this feature turned out. The visor is fully functional and scale in its appearance. The brass struts can fold down or remain in the upright position.
Here is another shot of the M3's finished front end. Now, onto the interior.
One of the more perplexing challenges we faced was duplicating the mounts for the 1917A1 30 cal. machine gun. The Allies used a number of methods to secure the side MG's such as a skate rail, a pedestal or a modified pintle mount that was secured to the upper lip of the side walls. Modifications were often made in the field using whatever materials or spare parts that was available.
We decided to fabricate our own mounts that would attach to the upper lip or edge of the M3's sidewall. From the top, it closely resembles the mounts we found in several pictures in our M2/M3 reference guide. These mounts needed to be strong enough to support the weight of the 30 cal and they needed to be functional. We fashioned ours out of laminated plastic, brass tubing and stainless steel.
In this shot we have started laying down the diamond pattern flooring for the front cockpit floors. Once painted olive drab, this really "cleans" up the M3 interior and adds some much needed detail.
Unfortunately, the M3 kit does not come with decals for the dash gauges and registration plates etc. The dashboard is pretty bleak and is in desparate need of upgrading. We decided to make up a set of our own using reference material from Chris Hughes who has published a fantastic set of DVD's on the M3/M2/M16. There are a great deal of color closeups and we were able to use some of these images in laying out the format for our gauges etc. More on this later.
The shifters were sanded and shaped to the correct size although the kit does not have the proper number of mounting holes for this particular version of the M3.
Finally, we removed the front seat cushions and decided to spruce up a new set of our own. We used Aves Epoxy Sculpt to build up the seats for greater accuracy. The picture on the left shows the finished seat cushions and seat backs before applying a few coats of brown leather paint. This small upgrade really makes a big difference in the overall impact of the interior.
In this shot you can also see the finished diamond pattern floors which will be painted olive drab to match the rest of the interior paint scheme.