M925 Shelter Truck
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
During World War II, the US Army discovered that making purpose-built truck bodies for support functions had a number of serious drawbacks. First, they were expensive when compared to series-production vehicles. Second, they ran the risk of losing a necessary administrative or support function if the truck broke down, and could not easily be repaired. Third, a specialized vehicle had to be developed for each specific function that the Army needed to fill. The Signal Corps had over 75 different items which were used by them, and required either a dedicated vehicle or trailer to perform the function needed, and the Army Air Forces had more of their own as well.
The solution, which appeared at the end of World War II and was pioneered by the Signal Corps, was to create a simple drop-on body, referred to as a "shelter", for these functions. A generic shelter could be created, fitted out as need be, and then dropped on any vehicle class for which it was designed. The first ones were lightweight steel or aluminum with plywood walls and windows which could be sealed with "blackout" slides. Later, in the late 1960s, the shelters changed to ones with two layers of aluminum with a sandwich of styrofoam insulation between them. By the early 1970s, the most common shelters in service were the S-250, designed for use on 3/4 and 1 1/4 ton vehicles, and the S-280, designed for use on 2 ½ ton and 5 ton vehicles. They served as message centers, radio relay nodes, analysis centers, electronic warfare carriers, repair workshops, and mobile parts logging and storage centers, among other functions.
Italeri has now released a kit which combines their previously released M925 (initial production model M939 truck with its original 10-wheel suspension and "universal" tires) with a new sprue of 23 parts for a basic model S-280 shelter. Decals and paint schemes are included for a communications system vehicle from 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, V (US) Corps, circa 1983-93, and one from 10th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, "Desert Storm" 1991.
The truck portion of the kit is the second version of the M939 released by Italeri, and was a disappointment at the time of its release. The M925 (with winch, but this can be left off to make the truck an M923) was better than the M923A1 "Big Foot" version in that it had the better done "universal" mud and snow tires used for over 60 years by the US Army, rather than the poorly executed big single tires of the "Big Foot" version. (It wasn't even that – the "Big Foot" was the A2 version of all M939 family trucks, and used a completely different tire with modified wheels.) While the kits are reasonably accurate dimensionally, they suffer from simplification (i.e. half-molded air tanks which can be seen from the side of the vehicle when upright, and other molding shortcuts which hurt the model. It also comes with an inexplicable wood floor, which was not found on the US models of the truck. This can at least be fixed by sanding the floor (part 107B) flat and cementing a plate of .010" styrene over it.
The S-280 shelter, however, is a real disappointment. While few kits today come with interiors, this one skimps on the exterior as well. Most of the details appear two-dimensional and lifeless, such as the power and input access plate on the rear of the shelter (part 7E). The door is about half its correct thickness – for one, the parts are too thin rather than too thick – and is missing all of its large number of internal details (locking mechanisms, ventilation/escape door frame and components, etc.). Two heater/air conditioners are provided, but both are tarped and pretty simplistic. The door is a separate component, at least, so you could fit an interior if you had a specific vehicle referenced and wanted to go through the effort.
Worst of all is the cabling and turnbuckle system. Army regulations require that shelters be tied down with steel cables to ensure the shelters stay put, and for the most part, 3/8 inch (8mm) cable is used with fittings and turnbuckles to keep it taut. In 1/35 scale, these are braided wires approximately 0.010" in diameter (.25mm). The molded cables with the kit are around .040" (1mm) and have very poorly executed turnbuckles, so you will need to get some fine brass or steel wire and some Grandt Line turnbuckles to fix this problem. Parts 2E and 3E are locally made shoes for the shelter to ride on in the truck bed (and not damage the steel floor from rubbing by its aluminum skids, and vice versa) and are not part of the shelter.
Overall, I was disappointed that Italeri still hasn't fixed the problems with the original kit, nor that they didn't do a very good job on the shelter. I wanted to use it in a future project which involves converting another M925 into an M934 expando van (which I worked in for three years in Frankfurt with 3rd Armored Division) and use this truck for the Special Security Office van which always went with us to the field. More work before that happens.
Cookie Sewell AMPS
Review Copyright © 1999 by Cookie