Armour Track Models 1/35 US T-156 Rubber Track Set
for 1/35th scale M1, IPM1, M1A1, and K1 MBTs
review by Scott Taylor
176 links for M1, IPM1, M1A1, and K1 MBTs
TK-02, Injection-moulded plastic tracks plus two resin sprockets, two resin track retainer plates, and two resin idlers
Although the "Bigfoot" T158 series of tracks are de rigeur on the M1 Abrams family these days, all M1s and many M1A1s were delivered with the earlier T156 integral rubber block tracks, easily identified by the rubber chevrons on the track blocks. In fact, most M1A1s that saw service during Operation Desert Storm wore T156s (the T158s were only just being introduced at the time).
The T158s have been popular tracks with model companies, with DML, Italeri, and Tamiya all including versions of that track in their current M1A1/M1A2 releases. Only the Academy M1s and the older Tamiya M1 and M1A1 kits came with T156 tracks, albeit in rubber band form.
To the best of my knowledge, Armour Track Models is the only company that offers individual link T156 tracks (AFV Club makes individual T158 links as AF3512, and Armour Track Models also does T158s as TK-03). This set contains enough parts to make 176 links, more than sufficient to outfit an Abrams. Armour Track recommends 82-84 links per side, while Hunnicutt's Abrams volume says 78 per side. Regardless of the discrepancy, there are plenty in the box, including a few attrition replacements. One can also hang a few extra links from the side racks, a common feature on M1s in the field.
The T156 tracks are a double-pin design, which means that making accurate individual links is a bit more of a challenge than with conventional single-pin tracks, such as those of the T-54/T-55, Tiger, Panther, and so on. In fact, each link in this set has no less than six pieces: the track blocks, end plates for each block, the centerguide, and the end connectors. As a result, there are over 1,400 parts in this kit!
However, the engineering of the links is excellent. There are no ejector pin marks present anywhere, and only small amounts of easily removable flash on some of the end connectors and end plates. The links are designed to have the smallest pieces (the end plates and end connectors) assembled to the track blocks while still on the sprues, then being trimmed off afterwards. The sprue design allows up to 15 links to be assembled to their end connectors at a time. Incidentally, I would recommend following the instructions when building these links.
A word of warning, though: DO NOT PAINT THE LINKS FIRST! Tolerances are very tight on the links, but they will fit together and work without glue. Snapping the guide teeth into the centre of the track blocks is somewhat nerve-wracking, but I have not had any breakages yet. The links work well once assembled, and do not come apart easily.
The set also includes a pair of resin sprockets and idlers for the Korean K1 MBT - note that they are not suitable for the Abrams. These single-piece castings are quite nice, with easily-removable casting plugs and minimal flash. I don't have a K1 kit, so I cannot comment on how much of an improvement the resin pieces are over the kit contents. The track retainer plates for the sprockets are separate pieces, and they can be fitted to Abrams that had these plates.
I test-fitted these links to a Trumpeter M1A1 and, not surprisingly (Trumpeter is Armour Track Models' parent company), they fit well. When test-fitting the links to a Tamiya M1 sprocket, I discovered one would have to trim down the centerguides so that they clear the inner portion of the sprocket (I think Tamiya's inner sprocket diameter is too big in order to accommodate poly caps). From what I can tell, there could be a similar problem with the DML M1A1 (mine is assembled, so I could not fit the tracks to the sprocket). Pitch and width is good for all three of the above-mentioned kits, however. I do not have either the Academy or Italeri kits, so I cannot comment on them.
Overall, these are excellent links - certainly
the best double-pin tracks I have worked with - and will very much enhance any
Abrams or K1 kit that they are put on. Obviously, this is not a set for the
faint of heart, however. I would highly recommend them to anybody wishing to
build an early Abrams or a K1/K1A1 MBT.
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