by: Russ Amott [ ]
Monogram has reissued one of their vintage kits, the 2.5 ton Eager Beaver, otherwise known as the M34 2 1/2 ton truck. The box art for this kit dates back to 1957, and the plastic may be older. Described in the instructions as a workhorse of WWII, this kit comes from a time when accuracy and detail were secondary considerations in modeling fun.
The actual M34 truck was a 3 axle, 6 wheel truck designed in 1949 by REO and entering manufacture in 1950, quickly supplanted in production by the 10 wheel M35 series. They were briefly referred to as the eager beaver because of their fording ability. Although listed at 2 1/2 tons capacity, they were frequently found to be able to carry far more.
Presented in a vintage looking box with dynamic box art showing the co-driver hanging on to the door from the outside as the truck heads down a dirt road, and armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun with drum magazine, passing a 4 man combat team in a fox hole, the box top text states the kit features operating tail gate and doors and has black tires and a removable top.
The box contents consist of several sprues with no visible lettering system. Each part is numbered. The plastic is dark green. The 1/35 scale claim on the box art appears to be somewhat negotiable on examination of the contents, as the figures appear closer to the 1/32nd scale figures from a vintage Monogram StuG IV I have on hand.
The molds would appear to be the original, as there is quite a bit of flash and ejector pin marks abound. Details are limited or missing. The engine is represented by the bottom of the oil pan. The gas tank is hollow in the back, and both are visible if looking at the kit from eye level. However, it does show the pedals, even if molded on, as well as the T clamps for the windscreen (though the kit is supplied with a solid cab top). The black tires are good old fashioned black rubber, but there were no creasing lines or flaws in the molding itself.
The figure detail can be compared to the plastic army men I had as a child and are nowhere near to modern standards.The windscreen and rear window are to be cut from a piece of clear acetate.
The instructions are in line drawing form, with clear depiction of the kit parts, aside from a couple of pieces, such as the grille assembly, part 16, which shows installation from the rear. You have to look ahead in the instructions to see which side is up. The first step in the instructions is to cut out the windscreen and window with a provided template. The instructions do state to use white glue to fix them in place.
I followed the instructions in assembling this kit, skipping only the windscreen installation until after the kit is painted. There were no issues during building. The drive line is molded in a single piece and was warped, but is flexible enough to fix in place. The driver door does not close securely. The mud flaps should be placed with the detail to the outside. The tail gate, which is shown as a not to glue part, is also installed with the detail to the outside. It has a limited range of motion. The wheels snap into place and can turn with a little graphite.
As you can see from the photos, the kit is simple in detail and appearance. I can't speak for the dimensional accuracy of the completed model, but if not exact, it does resemble the M34.
The kit decals are for two marking options, one US Army and one USMC. The decals appear to be very thick-ish but are well printed and include a data plate for the cab. Painting instructions call out for the vehicle to be painted in olive drab.
So who exactly is this kit for? Not for accuracy enthusiasts or super builders, unless they want a significant challenge. It is crudely molded and looks like what you would expect for its age. However, the build is simple and straight forward, no issues. The decals, while thick, are sturdy enough to be handled by inexperienced modelers. This kit may appeal to some for nostalgia, but it would be ideal for a younger modeler who wants to play with the kit they built, and wants some figures they can press into the dirt without the worry of losing pieces of equipment.
If you are looking for something that might appeal to a new modeler and get them started in the hobby, this kit may offer what you want. Monogram will continue to offer releases of older kits as part of this program. They are not at the original prices, but are still value priced at around $20.00 US.