'Walker Bull Dog'
759th Tank Battalion, West Germany, 1955
All Rights Reserved
Produced in 1973, Tamiya's M41 Walker Bulldog is an oldie and often maligned 'goodie'. It once had motors in it's belly, because that was the rage when the kit was originally marketed. This was a highly detailed 'toy'. Over the years, I've heard other modelers carp about this kit's shortcomings, and delayed building my own. I regret having not jumped into this kit sooner - I had a good time working with it. My Bulldog isn't a denizen of the 'Dog Pound' any longer!
This kit isn't highly accurate - but not immensely inaccurate either. With a little bit of fine detailing and careful assembly, the finished model can stand against any produced today. It all depends on how far you wish to go with your project. Also, in the world of $35 dollar-plus tank model kits, the value in a Tamiya Walker Bulldog can't be beat.
In completing this miniature - I stuck to the "Fun Rule" - if it wasn't going to be fun - then I didn't do it! This means that I noted, but ignored, some detail additions or corrections to even further enhance the miniature. I figured I've done plenty enough here already.
I chose to model the M41A1 Walker Bulldog "Bull Dog" from the 759th Tank Battalion, West Germany, 1955. This vehicle is pictured in the now-out of production Squadron Signal Publication M41 Walker Bulldog in Action. It was all at once appropriate - the nickname of the vehicle and opportunity to model the American 1950's "look" to the tank - big National Symbols, paint jobs with a sheen, and relatively uncluttered looks. Grab a beer, turn on Elvis' GI Blues, and enjoy...
The General Motors/Cadillac M41A1 Walker Bulldog is the best looking American tank ever fielded - in my humble opinion. It just has it all - a purposeful squat appearance, a gun proportionate to its compact size (without looking woefully inadequate), and from any angle looks as fast as the real tank could go. No American tank before (the Hell Cat came close) and none since has the lines the M41 Walker Bulldog does. They even looked good as Godzilla kicked them around in Japanese monster flicks!
Photos of the original miniature from 2000 below:
The Driver's Hatch Area is a good place to spruce up your Walker Bulldog miniature. This area was a real concern in the real vehicle - note how well Tamiya captured the cramped area and the overhand of the Mantlet. A Driver caught unaware could be seriously injured or killed if the turret suddenly traversed while he was driving with the hatch open. Here, I extended the roofs of the Driver's Vision Blocks and inserted plastic ones to simulate the glass - naturally blacked out as there is no interior in my miniature. I added a simple angle iron bracket for locking the Hatch closed. There is an On The Mark Models Padlock securing the hatch on this model. I cut of the bump Tamiya molded to represent a grab handle and added two made out of brass wire to either side of the Periscope. Over the Left Vision Block is a little fork made from styrene strip. This fork engages the post in the far left of the photo - sticking up proud of the glacis and looking for all the world like it has nothing better else to do. When the Hatch is opened, and swung around, the fork engages the post. The three Hatch Travel Guides are made from styrene rod, punched styrene discs, and lengths of brass wire. These allow the Hatch to traverse smoothly when opened. A real tank is covered with these small details, and the Tamiya kit really benefits from paying a little service to the small details. You don't have to go overboard with this model kit - a little goes a long way.
I added a Horn swiped from Grief's M113 set. Since I was digging into my stash of Grief detail additions, I also used their M48/M60 Headlight Lenses. Drilling out the Tamiya kit parts is simple, and these fit quite nicely. You'll need the Headlights and Blackout Lights for this application. Ordnance Model's M41 Detail Set comes in handy for boosting the level of detail on Tamiya's model kit. Here, I used their brass Headlight Guards. Aber's Narrow Weld Beads mark the join between the Glacis and Front Hull Plates immediately in front of the Front Lift Rings. The Tamiya model kit is missing these prominent features of the Walker Bulldog. They aren't easy to miss. I used a second M41 model kit to add these - trimming them from the ones meant for the Rear Hull. Easy detail and simple solution.
In a bit closer, the Pioneer Tool Rack and Tools aren't worth using as provided in the Tamiya kit. These are relics of the 1970's. I made the legs for an AFV Club Pioneer Tool Rack - and went ahead and used AFV Club Pioneer Tools from my now depleted M35A2 Deuce model kit. Just changing this simple detail gives the whole kit a lift. On the front of each Fender, Ordnance Models brass Fender Braces also add a realistic flavor to the miniature. The unusual downward slanting angle the real braces are attached on gives the Walker Bulldog a 'hunched shoulder' appearance when viewed from head-on. The big National Symbol on the glacis is a Superscale decal, as is the one on the Engine Deck. Next to the Pioneer Tool Rack is the muffler for the Auxiliary Generator. The Walker Bulldog has been seen without the AUX GEN muffler/exhaust altogether; the arrangement as displayed in my miniature; or with a reverse arrangement where the muffler is positioned on top of the Right Muffler Cover at the rear of the vehicle. This gives the modeler a little room for making their miniature unique. The AUX GEN exhaust runs out of a housing located on the forward portion of the Engine Deck - behind the right central Sponson Storage Box. I scavenged handles from Italeri's M47 Patton model kit to add to this miniature, as these details are molded-on in the Tamiya kit. The bumps just don't look good.
Verlinden resin Antenna Mounts and Minimeca Modelismo Antenna Wire dress up the rear quadrant of the Turret. On The Mark Models produces excellent brass Jerry Can Holders - which I use for every miniature. The straps are paper, with brass buckles. The Jerry Cans themselves are excellent resin castings from AP Bayardi. The unit markings for "Bull Dog" are Pre-Size dry-transfers applied to decal sheet for application to the model. This made alignment and difficult areas easily accessible. And the carrier film is so thin, a gloss Cote makes them disappear. The .50cal Tripod comes from the Academy AFV Tank Set, complete with paper straps.
Tamiya's Gun Travel Lock is passable as is in the model kit - but benefits from some cleanup and detailing. I deepened the mount itself to allow the Lock to hang down at a sharper angle. Behind the mount there's a Stopper, which when elevated to engage the Barrel, braces the Lock at a slight forward angle. This simple detail is made with scrap styrene strip and a Verlinden resin bolt to simulate the rubber stopper pad. There are three more of these Stoppers to either side of the Engine Deck. I made these by cutting slices of tubing into four parts. These Stoppers braced the Engine Doors when opened. I drilled out the sections of the Fenders where the Sand Skirts would have attached. "Bull Dog" didn't have 'em, and I didn't add them to my miniature. Lastly, I fashioned a clamp to secure the Travel Lock in the stowed position out of styrene strip. Brackets to hold the Muffler Covers were made the same way, with Grandt Line Bolts for detail. I chose not to burn and rust out my Muffler Covers, because I like the pristine look of this model overall. Perhaps in the future I'll decide to do so. The actual Walker Bulldog was a 'hot runner' and the mufflers would glow red after a few minutes of running the engines. The heat would bake off the finish on the Muffler Covers in short notice. I did add Heat Baffles to my miniature, however. In actual practice, these were asbestos-like panels inserted between the Mufflers and the center Sponson Stowage Box to protect it from the heat. Simple styrene strip, painted light gray, suffices for this detail. I also cut away the center Engine Door Support molded in the Tamiya kit as I couldn't find reference to support it's being there on the real vehicle.
Ordnance Models supplies brass Tow Cable clamps to add to your miniature M41A1 Walker Bulldog. The clamp on the Fender is a resin part that you can drill out to accept your Tow Cable - as none is provided in the Tamiya model kit. I made mine from picture hanging wire, and used two Tamiya Tow Cable ends from the scrap box. Suitably rusted out with your favorite medium and voila - move on to the next area!
Turret grab handles are made from brass wire. The Sledgehammer Bracket is made from Verlinden Foil. I added Kendall Model Company brass tie downs to secure the Camo Bag on the Turret - which disappeared when I "tied" it down. The "Bull Dog" and Registration Numbers on the Camo Bag and Sponson Box are Pre-Size and Railroad Scenics dry-transfers. These were applied to decal film and them applied to the model with traditional waterslide decal techniques.
Skybow's beautiful .50cal Heavy Machine Gun and Details replaced the one provided originally in the Tamiya kit. Ordnance Models' detail set provides you two pintle mounts for the Turret. For the version I decided to model, I had to cut away and discard the original Tamiya part. Then I had to fill the resulting hole in the Turret roof. While I was at it, I cut away the Splash Ring molded around the Loader's Hatch. This feature isn't present on the model I was rendering. In retrospect (Fun Rule Violation) I could have cut out the Loader's Hatch too, and sunk it so that it was flush with the Turret roof. I decided not to, but modeled the little Retaining Clamp that holds the Loader's Hatch opened, as well as adding a handle made from brass wire like for the Commander's Hatch. One last detail I made was the Retaining Clamp for the .50cal HMG. This was mounted near the Loader's Hatch Retaining Clamp, in front of the Commander's Cupola. It had a Locking Clamp on a swivel head that could be turned to lock down the .50cal HMG regardless of which pintle it was mounted on. This detail was made out of a length of styrene strip and Verlinden Foil bent to suffice.
Lastly, I added the curious loops located on the Return Roller mounts. These U-shaped projections extend from the mounts, down, and angled forward at about 45 degrees. I made mine out of .050" rosin core solder, bent to shape. I made mine a bit longer than observed on the actual tank - partly because I wanted the detail addition to stick out - no pun intended.
In the photo, "Bull Dog" isn't wearing a rubber idler wheel. The M41 Walker Bulldog could be found using either the steel wheel with lightening holes or the rubber wheel idler. I wanted to be different again, and decided that since I modeled "Bull Dog" with a more pristine appearance, I'd select the rubber idler wheel option too. It could have been changed on down the line in the vehicle's active service life.