After building the Renwal kit of the M65 280mm Motorized Heavy Gun “Atomic Annie” the follow-up is also an old Renwal kit. It’s the U.S. Army M55 8-inch Self-Propelled Howitzer “The Beast”.
This Self-Propelled 8-inch Howitzer was developed between 1951-1952 and manufactured by Pacific Car And Foundry Co., Renton, Washington between 1952-1955, under direction of U.S. Army Ordnance. It was the “Atomic Age” type of the U.S. Army 8-inch Howitzer of World War Two fame. It’s high mobility and versatility is aptly demonstrated by its ordinance specifications, and by the fact that it can be emplaced for firing in approximately three minutes, as opposed to the time of about two hours required to emplace the prime mover-towed 8-inch field artillery piece. This self-propelled howitzer has a lighter gun and improved power train (based on M47 Patton Tank components), with greater mobility and maneuverability than its World War Two counterpart. This howitzer can be elevated and traversed either manually or by power and is also equipped with a power rammer. It fires a 200 pound projectile to a maximum range of eleven miles. It can also fire a 8-inch Atomic shell, thereby affording mobile Atomic Artillery Support.
The M55 has a nominal weight of 94,000 lbs., carries a crew of six, has a length of 26 feet and a width of 11 feet, 1 inch. The engine is an air cooled, valve-in-head, 12 cylinder type, rated at 704 H.P., with a crankcase capacity of 64 gts.
U.S. ARMY M55 8-INCH SELF-PROPELLED HOWITZER “THE BEAST”
It has a cross drive transmission and a 24 volt electrical system. Its integral armament consists of the U.S. 8-inch Howitzer and the U.S. Browning. Cal .50 machine gun. Standard ammunition provisions include 10 rounds of conventional 8-inch ammo, 900 rounds of .50 ammo, and the small arms and ammunition for its crew members. Vision and Fire Control are aided by its periscope, azimuth indicator, telescope mount and panaramic telescope, with radio and interphone communications. Performance data includes two forward speeds, with a maximum speed of 30 M.P.H. The fuel capcity is 380 gallons, with a cruising range of 163 miles at a average of about .43 miles per gallon. Maneuverability specifications include: turning radius-full pivot fordability: 48 in., gradability: 60%, ditch-crossing ability: 89 in., and vertical climb: 40 in.
The Renwal kit of the M55 is from 1958 and is in 1:32 scale with over 240 parts. 08-07 (18 kb) Since detail and production quality were average for the time, the kit really shows its age. Lots and lots of parts were completely wrong and Renwal had never heard of details. You can say that it is an extreme basic kit!! I made over 850 new parts which took 302 hours to complete the entire project, including the diorama. Because it’s impossible for me to describe everything that was done, I will only mention the most important improvements and use the original names out of the U.S. Army Technical Manuals as much as possible. Please pay special attention to the photos prior airbrushing/painting. Here you can see the scratchbuilt parts very good.
Completely wrong shape at the front-side. It’s angular, but it should be rounded. The details are incorrect too and incomplete.
The recoil-spade itself is good of shape and dimension but it has no details at all. The recoil-spade liftingarms are entirely wrong and should be scratch-built.
The tracks can be thrown in the dust-bin right away. I’ve used the fine M48/60 tracks from AFV-Club. These are made to measure. A blessing in disguise. The road-wheels and the support-rollers are “open” (U-shape) at the rear. They’re closed with sawed out wheelparts from the Testors M47 Patton Tank. The spocket-wheels and the guard-wheels had to be scratchbuilt entirely.
The fenders are much too thick and had to be thinned. The fender dust-shields had to be replaced entirey and had to be provided with details and attachments for the fenders.
The exhaust grills are replaced by photo-etched grills, the missing airducts have to be applied.
Complete scratchbuilding of the headlighthousings with lamps and horn. Detailing of the tail lights.
I wanted to make an opened powerplant. Because of this, all present louvers/covers had to be moved and scratchbuilt (a hell of a job). Except for the muffer and exhaust outlet, I’ve built the entire powerplant, including batteries, cables, air-lines, air cleaners, oil coolers etc.
The Renwal howitzer/tube is totally wrong. That’s why I’ve scratchbuilt it entirely. I have no turn-lathe so I had to build and sand the whole tube to get it round and conical (grrrr.) . The following parts are added: Cradle group, recoil mechanism, recoil cylinders, gun shields, gun coverholders, telescope cover, breechelock counterbalance-operating, lever-carrier assembly, firing lock, hydraulic pump unit, all the adjusting cylinders and hydraulic cables, equilibrator balncing level, projectile rammer, etc.
I will only mention the parts I changed and reconstructed: Detailing .50 machine gun with ammorack and ammobox, drivers hatch and door with all handles, gunners door with all handles, commanders coppola, turret ventilating fan outlet, all periscopes, turret doors with all the torsion bar links, spare track holders, jerry can holders, stowage holders and straps, handles and grips, etc.
Instrument panels, periscopes, traversing console, ammunition hoist and track controls, projectile rack and powder container rack, seats, fire extinguisher cylinders, etc.
Once all of the construction work was finished, I airbrushed the base coat of paint to the model. Using (always) Testors Olive Drab. I applied three thin coats. The first thinned with 40% thinner, followed by a layer with 50% thinner and finally one with 75% thinner. The second color coat was applied with the same Olive Drab, but with 15 to 20% Matt White and 75% thinner added. This applied in a “cloudy” pattern across the model. The dust coat was applied sparingly to the bottom of the model using Matt Dark Earth. Inside the turret I used Matt White with some Matt Grey. The Howitzer Tube has a coat of Olive Drab plus 10% Humbrol Gun Metal. Than Gloss paint in the aras where the decals were to go, set the decals and allow to dry at least 24 hours, cover with Testors Matt Paint (only Testors Matt Paint is 100% matt), and allow the whole model to dry at least a week. Apply a heavy wash of brown and black oil paints and some drops Humbrol Matt Black. Then drybrushing with a mixture of: white oil paint, Humbrol 63, 74 and 179.
The bottom plates are glass plates of 4 mm thick. The bottom is covered with self adhesive velvet and the top is attached with plaster. Before curing make the track prints, etc. After curing smear with thinned white glue and brown acrylic paint. Do not use glue in the track prints. After this strew sand and stones. Finally: airbrushing and a little drybrushing. The figures are from Dragon (DML) with some heads from Verlinden and Warriors. The trunks, arms. legs and necks were lengthened. This brought them in line with 1:32. The diorama is of course provided with a nameplate with the text:
“Atomic Artillery Support”
M55 8-inch SELF-PROPELLED HOWITZER
Testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground USA, 8/1952
I know that I have not really discussed how I have built and detailed this kit, but I hope the photos give you a good idea of the work that went into it. Especially the photos prior airbrushing/painting. If any readers are interested in this project they can always contact me for more information. I have lot of documentation including Technical Manuals, photos of the real M55, videoclips, about 40 inprogress photos of the model and over 90 photos, among which detail-recordings, of the built M55. For those who have RENWAL model-plans a joyful announcement. Of the most old Renwals (including the M55) there are re-issues from Revell and Matchbox.