U.S. M20 Armored Utility Car
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII


After Tamiya's release of the M8 armored car, it was natural that the M20 would appear. This low-silhouette vehicle was used in the reconnaissance and scout regiments. The M20 carried a more powerful radio than the M8 and had a map table, benches, and a small step-up for the MG gunner. It was fast, reliable and some commanders used it as their personal vehicle. Armament consisted of a .50 caliber M2 Browning MG, a bazooka anti-tank rocket launcher, three M1 carbines, and the small arms the crew carried.

The turret of the M8 kit has been replaced with a sprue providing all the necessary parts to convert to M8 in to the M20: new front hatches, new interior with bench seats, a bazooka, rifle rack, etc. The kit includes a driver figure. If you have the M8 as well, there are some 37mm rounds left over in this kit, so it's an excellent opportunity to fill the rather empty racks in the M8 with six more rounds.

With Tamiya's excellent instructions and parts layout, this kit is very easy to construct. Step 1 has you add the separate bottom to the chassis and Tamiya has designed this very well. The drive shaft and axles are cast as one part (B17) and all you have to do is add some of the smaller parts to it to complete it. When this is done, you can attach it to the underside of the hull and add the shock absorbers and front side of the hull (C7). In Step 4 you add the rear panel, the rear shock absorbers and the exhaust. I drilled out the end of the exhaust and opened the holes on C15 to add the first aid kit later in Step 15.

The instructions tell you not to glue the wheels until after you have attached the upper hull; you may wish to paint the wheels and the car body separately and add the wheels at the very end of the project. The wheels assemble from five parts. The back pieces with separate brake drums fit inside the main wheel body, trapping the famous Tamiya poly caps and allowing the wheels to turn.

Step 5 is the beginning of the interior and first you have to make some subassemblies like the fire extinguisher and rear bulkhead. These are all attached in Step 6, together with the back rests for the front seats. One of the two bench seats and the lower parts of the front seats are fixed in Step 7. The next step concerns positioning the other bench seat, jerry can, canteen, and driver.

The upper hull is next in Step 9, and here is the first place for improvement. The column of the steering wheel should end just in front of the hull front with a vertical column running down to the floor. This area is quite noticeable when you leave the front hatches open, so it's worth correcting this.

Step 10 focuses on the armored superstructure. Take care that everything aligns well. This assembly is attached to the hull in Step 11, which in turn is attached to the chassis together with the rear engine doors. The last step in the interior part is to add some rifles to the rack and you can take this opportunity to include some more stowage of your own.

Again, you start with some subassemblies; MG ring, .50 caliber MG, and mine racks. In Step 15, the exterior is completely fitted out with fenders, tools, the tripod for the .50 caliber M2 Browning, the tail lights, etc. You have a choice to add mine racks or stowage bins.

Driver's hatches are next as well as the brush guards for the head lights and here you could improve on the kit. The hatches fit fine when closed, but when you want them open to show some of the interior, they just don't fit. Try to catch some photos (perhaps at the AMPS website) to fix this. The last step is to fit the machine gun and ring and tow rope, which is made of nylon cord and two end loop pieces. If you've chosen the mine racks, you can add the mines.

Because this is a U.S. vehicle, your choice is simple: olive drab. It was common, however, for the front drivers section to be painted white for better internal visibility. There are also many other small items such as weapons and gear that break up the predominant color. As with any open-topped vehicle, you will need to plan ahead for painting certain parts; it would be easier, for example, to paint the interior before attaching the roof assembly than afterwards.

The markings are offer several options, including the 2nd Armored Division, 82 Armored Recon Battalion, C Co., 1st Platoon in France, August 1944; the 807th Tank Destroyer Battalion, B Co., 1st Platoon in Germany, 1945 (with "Crunchin' Kitty" logos on the rear fenders); and a very colorful M20 of the commander of 5th Armored Division, 2nd Dragon Regiment of the Free French Army in France, August 1944.

All in all, it's a quite good kit in the typical Tamiya style with state of the art molding, and very easy to construct out of the box. There are a few small faults but don't let that distract from a otherwise good kit. And you can always add extra detailing with Eduard photo-etch or Verlinden's M20 accessory set. For references, Squadron Signal offers an inexpensive book on U.S. armored cars, while Richard Hunicutt has authored the definitive volume for just under $100.00. And AFV Interiors has images of the M8 interior, which can help you detail the wiring and gear clips for the interior of the M20 driver's area.

- Martin Dogger -


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter