AFV Club M728 CEV Combat Engineer Vehicle (Early Version)
Known far and wide for many highly detailed and sought after kits, AFV Club offers yet another excellent kit. This is the first complete 1/35 scale kit of the venerable M728 CEV in styrene rather than some of the older resin conversion kits. This important engineer vehicle provided the US Army with much needed combat punch and versatility in the removal or placement of obstacles on the battlefield. The M728 CEV utilized a licensed built 165mm M135 demolition mortar which had previously been employed successfully on the British Centurion 5 ARVE 165. This new kit from AFV Club utilizes a few previously issued sprues for many of the suspension and hull components while also including new molded sprues for the CEV turret. The M728 utilized the venerable M60 series main battle tank hull and power pack with a purpose built turret that mounted both the demolition mortar and the A-frame crane. The turret visually looks very similar to a regular M60A1 or M60A3 turret with the exception that the panoramic range finders seen prominently on the upper turret sides of the M-60 being deleted on the CEV turret.
The kit is labeled an "early version" of the M728 CEV, but don't let that labeling fool you into thinking that the builder is limited to only the early version of the vehicle. The kit includes both aluminum and steel wheels that were commonly used on the M60 series main battle tank, so the builder can choose either wheel type or a combination as they choose to utilize according to reference photos. With that, steps 1- 6 are focused on the build-up of the suspension components of the lower hull. Step one involves drilling out internally marked locations for the dozer blade mounts to the front of the lower hull and the placement of the torsion bar housings to the hull tub as well as the drivers compartment floor escape hatch. Step two-4 requires the mounting of the swing arms to the hull as well as their stops and struts in their respective positions and the final drive units being married to the hull rear. Step five sees the attachment of the rear hull details and step six is when the road wheels are called to be installed. The road wheel attachment design with this kit was unique to me as it utilizes small rubber "o"rings that are sandwiched between the inner and outer road wheels which are then pressed onto the swing arms. This allows for the wheels to turn with slight resistance, typical for a static display model which also offers ease of installing the tracks later on. One note about the lower hull which I found strange, the M728 hull looks mostly like an average M60 lower hull, but the CEV has 4 chain/load binder ring mounts welded to the lower hull sides above the road wheels/suspension while the M60 MBT only utilizes 2 chain/load binder ring mounts. The instructions do not call out the attachment of all four mounts even though the kit does include the needed parts, so make note of this prior to and during assembly!
Steps 7-9 is when the nicely detailed drivers interior compartment is assembled. I painted this area the usual semi-gloss interior white and detail painted the gauges and details before fully attaching the hull glacis plate to the hull. The interior was a nice and unexpected feature of this kit, but is one previously included in AFV Club's M60A1, A2, and A3 kits. All details are very crisp with minimal flash. Please make sure to check that all required holes are drilled from the inside out of the glacis plate before attaching the plate to the hull in step 10! There are many holes required for the numerous chain and dozer blade travel lock components can be attached later in steps 17-19. In 10, the engine deck and rear engine louvered hatches are installed. Fit was nearly perfect in the marrying of these parts. The armored upper engine access hatches and their grab handles are attached in step 11. Take care in removing these handles from the sprue as they easily go flying and are easily damaged when being cut from the sprue. Some careful cleanup of these parts will also be required for their sprue attachment points. Step 12 calls for the installation of the kit rubber band tracks. These tracks are easily glued together using Tamiya ultra thin cement. I was pleased to see that, as my previous AFV club track experiences were tainted by vinyl tracks that seemed impervious to nearly every kind of super glue that I tried on them. I built the kit with the included T97E2 tracks, but also purchased a set of workable AFV Club T142 tracks. Both tracks fit the drive sprockets perfectly with no issues. One odd aspect of the kit tracks is that they had an extra end connector molded in that needed to be removed before gluing the male to female ends of the track together.
After the tracks comes the assembly of the fenders in steps 13-19. The fender support brackets were especially impressive to me during this assembly as they are crisply detailed with nice scale thickness. I'd even go so far as to say that they looked equally as nice as the old Eduard PE parts that were used on my old build of the 1980's Tamiya M60A3. I deviated from the instructions in step 15 for the reason that as stated previously, I desired to build a later model M728 rather than the early version. Because of this I utilized the kit parts to build the later style fender mounted air filters instead of the early style filters that the instructions call for.
The assembly of all the parts for the dozer blade in steps 17-24 were clearly laid out in a simple to follow order. One word of caution in these steps. In step 18, the dozer blade travel lock release lever (part #AA38) was quite fragile. Mine ended up breaking later on when I attached the blade assembly to its mounts to the lower hull front brackets. Upon looking over the M728 CEV that is at my local National Guard Armory in Columbia, SC, I noticed that the kit's dozer blade mounts do not include molded on weld details present of the vehicles dozer blade mounting brackets, so I added these welds utilizing some Vallejo plastic putty and my trusty modified toothpick to get this detail added. Assembly for the blade and it's mount was quite trouble free, however the hydraulic lift cylinders and their armored covers didn't seem to fit very well when installed and looked somewhat wonky in their final placement. This didn't seem to matter though after the blade was installed as they seemed to look more natural and less poorly placed than before. The dozer blade is movable if you take care not to glue any of the moving parts and will stay in the lifted position simply by its natural friction of the moving parts. The chains that get mounted to the glacis plate really look nice although they were a bit of a PITA to paint later on (the brass kept showing through after several repositioned placements while trying to paint, so just take care with this when you paint them).
In steps 25-29 the assembly of the CEV's turret takes shape. One somewhat odd feature of the kit is that the main gun includes a spring to offer a "recoil" if one chooses to take advantage of this toy-like feature. Not exactly my cup of tea, but oh well. Either way the gun assembles nicely with good detail of the breech as well as nice rifling on the included turned aluminum barrel. During this assembly the only real difficulty that arose in the assembly of the main gun was that the barrel needs to be run through the inner mantlet (Part A3) BEFORE attaching parts E44 and E43. I initially tried assembly of the parts as called out in the instructions, but as a result could not get the barrel to go through the mantlet as called for. After building up the gun and its breach I painted the parts as called for, painted the interior of the turret semi gloss white, and adhered the lower and upper halves of the turret. I really like the nicely done cast texture of the turret and it's cast marking numbers on the sides and top of the turret. The kit's periscopes are all molded in clear plastic and look the part when installed. Another feature of the kit that I enjoyed is that the mantlet canvas cover is molded in flexible styrene similar to that of Dragon's DS tracks, but without the negative issues. It glued nicely to the front of the turret with normal Tamiya ultra thin cement and looks the part quite well.
The next few steps (30-35) entail adding several finer detail parts to the turret such as the "A" frame lift cylinder on the right side of the turret, the hoist winch cable and assembly with an included length of nylon string for the cable and tow cables, as well as the turret basket and mounted jerry can. The turret basket includes a nice amount of photo etch brass, but the assembly itself was on the tricky side to build up. Mine ended up looking used and abused, but I just went with it.The commander's MG turret/cupola is the same on the M728 CEV as the M60 MBT with the short receiver M85/T175 .50 caliber machine gun. Once again before assembly, I painted the interior parts as necessary after masking off the vision ports with some liquid mask. The M85 also includes a nice canvas cover that looks as great as the mantlet cover. Step 38 sees the IR searchlight coming together. This is a step that I passed over, leaving the light off of the tank. Step 39 calls for the assembled IR light and Commander's Cupola to be installed.
The final major assembly component is that of the "A" frame crane in steps 40-44. The instructions only show the crane being in the erected position, although the modeller can easily place it in the stowed position as well, so long as they wait to install the crane travel locks (found in step 44 until the end, whether up or down. The crane utilizes two stabilization cables on both sides of the turret to anchor it when in use in the erected position. These cables look similar to tow cables with their ends, and the nylon string for these is also included in the kit. After looking at the kit with the crane up or down, I found it more impressive with the crane up, so, I decided to go with than and glued it in place in the "in use" position. To complete the kit assembly, as small cable pulley is added to the left turret side in step 45, and the radio aerial is installed before the turret is finally placed on the hull.
As previously mentioned, I wanted to build this as a later service variant, so I did not follow the color/marking call outs of the kit's instructions. The kit gives color plates for 3 Vietnam era vehicles with markings for one vehicle of the 7th Eng. Bttn. at Fort Carson in 1967, and 11th ACR vehicle in Vietnam CA 1969, and one for the 65th Brigade Engineer Bttn, 25th ID in Hawaii. I wanted to build this as a S.C. Army National Guard vehicle in the later '90's/early 2000's, and so I painted it in 3 tone NATO camouflage utilizing painting templates found from the US Army NATO Camouflage field manual. The markings that I made on the back of the tank were the result of using Alliance Model Work's Photo Etch U.S. Army stencils. I did try one of the letter decals (Decal #5: 5-7E) to give this kit a full review along with one of its included markings. To do this I simply painted up the unused M60A1/A3 turret in Nato Green and applied the decal directly over the paint. It laid down nicely without using any decal setting solution and the result was without any silvering, so the kit decals were nice quality.
Completed build before weathering.
Overall I give this kit from AFV Club high ratings for crisp, quality parts, clear instructions, and very nice fit. If I had to ding it for anything, it would be that the high number of parts will likely frustrate less experienced builders, and the plastic is soft enough that it can easily break (which was the case for me on one of the left rear suspension struts). I really enjoyed this highly detailed and accurate kit from AFV Club and would recommend it for intermediate to advanced modelers. This is a beautiful kit!
Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to AFV Club for this review kit.
Reviewed by Ben Brandes AMPS #23566
AMPS Central SC Wildcats
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