There’s something just iconic about the Landing Vehicle, Tracked or LVT. Not only is it impossible to think of the Pacific War without evoking images of US Marines and soldiers under fire clambering over the sides of one on sandy tropical beaches, but the vehicle itself is uniquely American.
The LVT was originally a civilian vehicle developed by American entrepreneur and inventor Robert Roebling to fill the need for a rescue vehicle in the swampy regions of the Florida Everglades which were inaccessible to cars or boats.
After learning of the LVT from an article in Life Magazine in which it was featured, the United States Marine Corps became interested in the vehicle and convinced Roebling to design one to suit their needs.
Originally the LVT was intended to be used solely as a logistics support vehicle for ferrying supplies to beachheads. The LVT’s value as an assault troop carrier as well as fire support vehicle was quickly recognized however and several variants were designed and put into use. The LVT-2 which I have modeled here was the second most produced variant of the LVT family of amphibians. It was an improvement of the LVT-1 featuring a new power train, suspension and tracks.
The Italeri LVTs are the only kits (that I know of anyway) available in plastic. I had wanted to build an LVT for years and after some joy rides on modern Marine LVTs in Iraq I determined it was time. I chose the LVT-2 for several reasons; first, there is no LVT-1 kit available in plastic (again, that I know of anyway) and second, it’s more proper for the early Pacific campaigns (for which I have a weakness) than the later LVT-4.
The kit itself has nice lines but suffers from soapy details. There are no copyright dates on the box or instructions so I don’t know how old the kit is but it definitely isn’t state of the art molding. Never the less, it’s a wonderful base for aftermarket parts and scratch building, which is just what I did.
I used the Verlinden LVT(A)-2 Interior and Detail set for a number of parts. I was a little disappointed with the fit and level of detail I found but after a lot of sanding and grinding they filled the bill. With the open cockpit door and clear windows in front I felt like I had to put something in the driver’s compartment.
The one glaring item missing on the kit was the floor boards. These were wooden pallet-like structures to keep cargo and the occupants’ feet from getting wet from any water shipped over the sides and sloshing around on the deck. I built these from Evergreen stock and placed them on the cargo deck. I wasn’t too worried about having all the boards dress-right-dress since most of them would be covered by boxes and other miscellaneous cargo.The real star of the kit is the tracks. The vinyl tracks that come with the kit were simply awful. The detail is ok for vinyl tracks I suppose but they are thick, stiff and simply defy any and all attempts to make them look like they are real metal caterpillar type tracks. I broke the front drive sprockets several times trying to get them to fit correctly. As a result, my poor LVT kit spent a good year on my shelf in a half-done state while I searched in vain for viable alternatives. Well, as the saying goes; all good things to those who wait. Lo and behold the good people at Friulmodel came to the rescue with their beautiful individual link LVT track set. They cost about as much as I spent on the model and Verlinden set combined but I can’t imagine any LVT kit without them. They are simply superb and worth every penny. Once constructed they are pretty heavy tracks though. As a result I had a hard time getting the tension right. There is a little more sag in the upper track run than I would have liked. Period photos of LVTs usually show a nice taught track run but occasionally there is a photo that shows something more loose so, I guess I’m still in the ballpark.
I decided to paint and mark the LTV in Army markings because, well, let’s face it... the Marines seem to get all the good press for the Pacific theater. For whatever reason Marine LTVs never seem to have been marked with the white star while Army amtracks did which (besides my bias toward the Army – 21 years in the service will do that to you) made the Army markings more attractive since the vehicle would otherwise be decidedly drab. Initially, most LTVs were painted in a Navy blue/gray color which quickly faded to a more gray shade. Later in the war OD green and camouflage paint schemes became more common. I used a mixture of Tamiya XF-19 Sky Grey and small amounts of XF-17 Sea Blue to give it a nice faded blue gray shade. Since sea water and tropical sun work quickly to weather a vehicle I followed this with some particularly heavy post shading. I used the XF-19 + XF-17 mixture with 10% XF-2 Flat White thinned with about 90% alcohol. I followed this with the same heavily thinned blue/gray mixture but with 10% XF-1 Flat Black. This gave the lifeless gray color a nice three dimensional feel. I also glazed the sides of the vehicle very lightly in an irregular up and down pattern with the diluted mixtures. I followed this up with a wash of black Grumbacher artist oils thinned with odorless turpeniod. I paid particular attention to the vertical sides of the amtrack giving pronounced up and down streaks.
I followed this with a wash of ground pastel chalk (beige) mixed with the same turpenoid I used with the artist oils. I only used this wash on the tracks and sides where sand and dirt would be churned up and dumped by the tracks. Since LVTs were originally intended to be used as logistic support vehicles I thought I’d build my LTV loaded as if on a resupply run to the beach rather than carrying troops. The fact that I stink at painting figures had nothing to do with it (really). For the “beans and bullets” cargo I used several different sets of ration cartons and some resin ammo cans from the spares box. The wooden crates are 37mm ammo crates from the outstanding line of laser cut wood products from GC Laser. They are fiddly to put together but the look they give just can’t be beat. The tarpaulins are facial tissue stiffened with diluted white glue then painted. The machine guns are from two different Tasca sets which are simply stunning. They are hands down the best aftermarket M1919 and M2 that I have ever seen. They are pricey though. Between the two sets I ended up spending about $35. I figured that the guns would be eye catching though so I splurged. Besides, the M2 set came with the early style ammo can and I couldn’t resist. By the time I got to this point the model was still a bit drab. It needed color. So, I added an orange aircraft recognition panel. This was made from Tamiya epoxy putty rolled thin, cut and set to dry with the proper folds. The tie downs are lead foil. I also added a beach marker sign. These were used to guide the amtracks and landing craft to the correct beaches during landing operations. They were used most prominently during the Marianas campaign but were in used early in the Southwest Pacific campaigns as well, mostly by Army units. This sign is Evergreen stock with a balsa wood post. I drilled through both and put pegs of stretched sprue through to hold them together. I tried hand painting the number but it came out looking more rustic than I wanted. So, I used a waterslide decal that I printed on Testors decal paper with an inkjet printer.
Besides that, I added electric wires to the headlights using lead solder as well as MV lenses. The antenna is stretched sprue as is the tiedown cord. The hook on the tiedown is a bent piece of photoetch brass. This would be the end of the story... were it not for my good friend Murphy. I was in the process of photographing my finished LTV when said Murphy implemented his Law and caused me to find out what will happen to a model when it slips off a table and is left to allow the force of gravity to work on it for the approximately 29 inch drop from table to floor. Of course it landed upside down. I warn you, the following images are not for the faint of heart... Yes, it's enough to make the strongest of us break down and weep.
Both tracks were sprung and the driver’s compartment cracked open like a hollow egg. Luckily those expensive aftermerket machine guns were still intact. Don’t ask me how they survived. The beach marker sign cracked and some of the cargo came loose too. To my eternal relief most things broke cleanly and were relatively straight forward to fix. The tracks were the biggest problem but an afternoon of cutting out and replacing broken track links saved the day. Thank you Friulmodel for providing extra links! So, after another day or two of work patching up what my clumsiness and gravity combined to achieve everything was back to good as new: