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For new remote control (RC) hobbyists just getting into the world of RC tanks, we’ve put together a brief guide on the different types and materials of tracks available. We’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of each track type, which should help you make a judgement on what variation to use, as well as whether you need to replace the default tracks on a purchased scale model.
If you’ve ever put together a military scale model vehicle kit, then you will know that modelling caterpillar tracks with any realism is tricky. Though you can simply opt for building armored cars and other military vehicles for an easier ride, if you want to build tanks you will have to learn how to put tracks together.
In the past, the tracks on AFV scale models were unrealistic and often constructed from cheap rubber that didn’t imitate tracks well. With no alternatives available, you’d be forced to use these inexpensive tracks on an otherwise realistic vehicle model.
However, on modern scale model kits, this is a thing of the past. Even plastic RC models now feature well-constructed tracks, often being made from individual metal links. Even if the default tracks included in a kit don’t satisfy you, you can now replace them with an aftermarket product purchased individually which you can put together yourself. However, they can be expensive when bought separately, as well as taking a great deal of labor to construct and paint.
Types of Scale Model Tank Tracks
In this section, we’re going to look at the three broad categories of tank and AFV tracks that you can fit on your scale model. These are the belt, link and length, and Individual link tracks.
Belt (Flexible/Rubber Band)
When we talk about the inexpensive and much-loathed, unrealistic tank tracks of years gone by, these are the tracks that we’re referring to. When injection-molded scale model kits started to be mass-produced in the 60s, these tracks were packaged alongside AFV and tank models.
These tracks would be very basic in design, lacking any fine detail, and often suffering from deformations resulting from the production method. Alternatively, bad packaging could result in kinks and damage to the tracks. Any defects such as these resulted in a track that was difficult to fit to the tank properly.
What’s more, getting any kind of glue or paint to adhere to the molded plastic was nearly impossible, and many scale model enthusiasts would resort to melting the plastic between seams to join links together. Overall, it’s no surprise that modelers didn’t have a great deal positive to say about this type of tank track.
These tracks are an improvement on the belts described above. Injection-molded plastic parts are mounted on sprues, much like the other components required to assemble the vehicle, with a combination of individual links and wider lengths of track. The longer lengths are typically used for segments in contact with the ground, with shorter pieces used for the portion of track around the wheels.
Link and length tracks are much more realistic than belt tracks, though they are more complicated to assemble. They’re also far more accepting of adhesives such as liquid cement. Though they are easier to paint, there are still some restrictions around painting specific parts, as some links need to be glued to the tank’s wheels. As a result, there’s a split between modelers who love link and length tracks, and others who would still prefer something more.
Individual link tracks are one of the more expensive options available, though they’re also deemed to be one of the most realistic types that modelers can buy. These tracks differ between manufacturers, so we’ll highlight some of the more popular choices below.
RC Tank Track Reviews
Dragon Magic Tracks
The brand Dragon pleased a lot of modelers when they began producing military scale models that included their own Magic Tracks inside the box. Not only are they injection-molded to a high standard, with excellent attention to realism, but they’ve also been removed from their spruces prior to inclusion in the box. Adhesive is still required to keep the track links together, but overall these tracks are far more appealing and functional.
Modelkasten is another brand that produces its track links from hard injection-molded plastic. There’s a fair amount of variation in the types available, with some requiring adhesive to function together and others using small plastic pins. With Modelkasten tracks, you get a great deal of realism without the increased price tag associated with metal links.
Unlike most other brands that produce injection-molded plastic track links, Fruilmodel produce individual metal links that are some of the most realistic products available. The components are more complicated and much more expensive than plastic. However, with that increased price tag comes a high degree of realism. These tracks are also extremely easy to paint, as the paint can be applied prior to construction, making the whole task easier.
The three brands discussed above are the most popular and well-known options when it comes to individual scale model track links. However, there are some alternatives available from brands such as Tamiya or AFV Club. You’ll normally pay less for track links purchased by scale model kit manufacturers, with specialist parts from aftermarket vendors costing more on average.
It used to be that you could only pick up rubber tank tracks that offered little in the way of realistic or flexibility. However, problems associated with unrealistic and cheap scale model tank tracks are a thing of the past. Now, modelers have access to more detailed components made of injection-molded plastic or metal links.
The quality of the included tracks has come a long way within modern scale model kits, and in the worst case, you can replace them with a track kit purchased separately, provided you’re happy accepting the increased labor and cost.