Italeri 1/35 M-108 SPG

KIT #: 238
PRICE: $20-40.00 on the 'used kit' market
DECALS: US and West German options
REVIEWER: Robert Myers
NOTES: I built the Italeri M108, M109A2 and M109A6 at the same time, with very different paint jobs. The kits use the same hull and turret with just a few add-on modifications and different decal options.


 The M108 Howitzer was an American armored self‑propelled howitzer developed by the US government Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, first introduced in the early 1960s.  It was armed with a 105mm‑caliber gun barrel mounted on a rotating turret, the M108 had a maximum effective range of 7 miles (11.5km), using conventional High Explosive shells, and 10 miles (15km) when it fired High‑Explosive Rocket Assisted (HERA) ammunition. It was operated by a crew of 5 men and had a rate of fire of 4 rounds per minute.

 The M108 was used in Vietnam. Although it was a dependable and well‑protected self‑propelled artillery piece, the M108 was too heavy to be transported by helicopter because it weighed 22 tons. So, in the jungle of Vietnam its operation as a support weapon was limited to fire support bases it could reach by road. The M108 was phased out soon after the American intervention in Vietnam, as the M109's 155 mm caliber was considered better fitted for the modern war.

 The vehicle was powered by a General Motors 8V71 T diesel engine, that generated 425 horsepower. It had a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour (60 km/h).


 This is a nice older kit, so there is no photo etch.  It does show its age with sink holes, injector pin marks and little lumps for door handles. You purists should check the bottom of the hull. The Italeri logo and “made in Italy” are molded on to the outside-bottom. I think the detail is ok for the era this kit came from. Sanding off the handles and replacing them with wire handles would really add to the kit, as would a photo etch set to add the small tie down points.

 The hull and turret have some couple major inaccuracies, but they would be easy to fix. The rear door on the hull is a one piece door. It should be two pieces, with a split in the middle of the door and hinges on each outside edge. I didn't update the door, I just noticed it looking at pictures of the real thing on-line. The next is the gun mantelet. The turret was made for the larger gun on the M109. So the mantelet needs some shims around it to fill the gaps, I put them in.

 The tracks are the rubber band type.  There are plenty of extra tools and small handles to glue on for detail, but not enough to become fiddley. There is no extra crew equipment to fill the bustle stowage. There is not enough detail on the interior to leave the hatches open; that is not totally true, there is no detail in the interior. There are decals for  different units. All of them are for an olive green vehicle. (I believe the M108 was phased out before the U.S. Army started wide spread use of camo paint jobs).


 I started building the turret, first. (I know I said that in my M106A6 built, but I built this one at the same time.) It has a lot of detail and pieces. The instructions are clear and the fit is very good. The only problem areas were the barrel and mantlet. There is a major visible seam on top of both. I used a little excess glue to join them. When it dried, I sanded it the excess off. The bustle racks on the back of the turret were easy to install. They are multi piece, but fit together very well, if you take your time. The hatches do open, but since this M108 has no interior I keep them closed.

 The machine gun was painted gunmetal with OD wood handles. Painted or natural wood would be appropriate for the handles. We were still using a lot of older 50 calibers with plain wood handles during this era.

 The hull was next. I just glued it together, carefully. The seams all match seams on the real M108 hull. No putty or sanding was needed. I have seen builds that putty the seam along the front of the hull. There should be a seam there. If you look closely, there are doors on the top front of the hull that open. At this point, if you want to correct the rear door, all you would have to do is scribe a line down the middle of the big door and use some 20 thousands card to make new hinges for the left side of the door. They are very simple. I left the wheels off so I could paint them separately.

 I glued all of the pioneer tools, small bits and hatches in place. As a side note, some pioneer tools had the natural wood handles and steel parts, some were painted, some were a combination natural and paint and some were issued in OD. It just depended on the unit the vehicle was attached to.  In our unit, everything was painted and the tools even matched the camo even if a change of color line crossed them. New issue tools had to be painted before they were placed on a vehicle.


The paint is simple late 1950s-early 1960s olive green, with a slight sheen.  Everything was painted.  The track has the rubber pads in place, so I brush painted each one with model Masters rubber. After the track had dried I gave it and the road wheels a spray coat of clear flat. I wanted the track and wheels to be flat coated to show wear. And provide a little contrast with the rest of the vehicle. As I said, this olive green has a slight sheen. The paint of this era was not totally flat for a while after it was first applied.

 On to the decals. The decal sheet has plenty of markings for this era howitzer. The decals themselves are just right, for my taste. They are thick enough for the white to cover the paint and thin enough not to break as I moved them around. As to which unit markings to use; I just chose one and went with it. You can also do a West German vehicle. Yes, it is now Germany, but it was West Germany when this kit was issued. I decided to apply the decals without my usual coat of Future. That was a mistake. Some of them didn't bond well with the surface and show silvering. The bright light taking the pictures really brings it out. I think it is interesting the vehicle weight to the M108 is 22 tons, but the yellow weight plate marking shows decal 21 tons. (?)


 Final assembly was pretty simple. I added the machine gun and tow cable. They had previously been brush painted a gunmetal color. The road wheels were slipped in place with no problems. I stretched the rubber band track around them, put the drive sprocket in the track and slipped in on its mounting shaft. This way of mounting the track can break the join, so I always put a couple of staples across the join and touch them up with paint. If you place the staples close to the center and under a road wheel they are out of sight. The last item was placing the turret on the hull, at about 1:00 am.

 At this point, I was finished, I thought. The next day when I took a good look at it, I was rather disappointed. It just looked blah! So I gave it a flat black wash, painted the lights, put a dot of flat black on the tip of the exhaust, painted fuel can straps, went over the tow cable with a dry brush of uneven gloss to make it look like it had a coat of grease and added few other small details. Now, other than the decals I am happy with it.


 This is a simple older model. I enjoyed the build. There were no major problems or frustrations. It builds into a nice shelf piece. As with a lot of the older Italeri kits, there was no crew or extra stowage, but that can be added from the parts stash or after-market. The prices are still reasonable on the secondary market, if you do a little shopping. This is definitely a good kit for a beginner, it won't frustrate them.


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Robert Myers

October 2013

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