M-88 A1 (Broadcast Track) & Bloom Mobile (F-450)

On April 6th of 2003 a popular television journalist David Bloom was embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq in support of the attack on Baghdad. On April 6th David Bloom was just outside the city limits as the brigade prepared for its penetration the next day. David Bloom would never see the attack. He succumbed to a pulmonary embolism on the morning of April 6th. He collapsed in the morning and while the medics tried immediate life support David Bloom died enroute to the brigade aid station. 

David Bloom was a popular journalist at NBC and loved by all that knew him. He was also credited with the development of a new methodology / technology of reporting news on the go in environments that do not support a modern technological infrastructure. This creation came to be known as the Bloom Mobile. The Bloom Mobile was a Ford F-450 with a flatbed style rear deck that had storage boxes framing it, think of a Reading after-market worker platform, which had a large enclosed variable position dish on the rear deck. All of the transceiver / electronic equipment were installed in the back half of the double cab. The technology was a reshaping of current technology used on large yachts at sea. This vehicle could make a satellite connection on the move enabling the journalist to keep the pace of his story. In this case the story was the war in Iraq. Most news agencies would have to stop set up a dish; establish a connection and transmit video/audio sessions. In this instance the journalist was riding an M-88 Tank Recovery Vehicle. David Bloom and his cameraman both rode the M-88 as the Bloom Mobile trailed behind at about 2 to 4 miles. The M-88 had a trellis rigged to the left side of the M-88 from which was suspended a gyro stabilized camera system in a ball mount similar to what is found on a Kiowa scout helicopter. There were also a few antennas mounted on the rear of the M-88 to transmit live feeds back to the Bloom Mobile which would essentially retransmit the signal from the M-88 to a satellite link.

In November of 2003 I was contacted by NBC and asked if I would be interested in building the M-88 for a memorial for correspondents lost in service to NBC. Another man Jim Lewis was contacted to build the F-450 (Bloom Mobile). The F-450 would prove to be a monumental task as it does not exist in 1/35 scale. Jim wanted the vehicles to be in scale with each other to give a good example vehicles size. Jim had to mold the double cab section of the F-450 in clay and then cast it in resin.  That was one heavy model.  After that he scratched the rear bed and used some Plastrcut materials for the radome. Which had a clear side through which you could see the dish antenna; very impressive to say the least. I built the M-88 for the memorial. I used the AFV Club kit (AF3508) as a base and a friend gave me the MR Models (MR-31) interior. I also had the AFV Club individual link tracks for the M-88 (chevron track pads). I started with the MR Models interior. It is a good fit but does require a lot of sand and fit before gluing. From there I went to the suspension. Here I had a problem with the road wheel arms. I just could not get them all at an even height which in the long run will give you an uneven track run where they are supposed to meet the ground. However the display in the memorial would have a sand base so this would not be a major issue but one of frustration for me personally. From there I moved onto the hull top and exterior. I added a Calibre 35 M-60 cupola ring to replace the kit piece. The Calibre 35 piece is molded very nicely and is made of clear resin. So when you paint it you simply mask off the periscope glass (masks provided) and paint. It looks great when completed. I also removed all bolt detail for the plate on the hull roof where the TC’s cupola is located and replaced it with some bolts I made using a punch. I must also comment of AFV’s design of the boom crane on the M-88. AFV did a great job in replicating it and enabling the modeler to position the boom in the upright position if so desired. It also provided all needed cables and chain and pulley’s to model all the rigging. I also used wire cable for the tow cables and some Eduard PE here and there. As for the camera mount on the right side of the M-88 I used some styrene tubing that I filled with brass wire. By heating the tubing slightly I could bend the tubing to the desired position and it would be supported internally by the wire. After making the basic camera mount tubes I used Evergreen styrene angle iron shape strips to form the support lengths that would support the camera mount tubes. From there I made two discs to be plates from which the camera ball would be mounted. Between the plates were shock absorbing springs that would absorb major jolts to prevent damage to the camera system. To represent the springs I used the old Radio Shack wire and wound it around proper diameter tube and cut into desired lengths. The whole frame assembly only took two and half weeks and about 6 attempts. Good modeling fun! From there it was time to finish the model. I used a combination Vallejo Model Air and Tamiya paints. From there I used washes of oil paints in umbers and blacks.   

NBC saw fit to fly Jim Lewis and I to New York City so we could hand carry our models and assist in the final arrangement of the memorial. On April 8th of 2004 the Memorial was unveiled in front of the family members and friends of the 12 peopled being honored. It was very nice service that was led by Tom Brokaw. The memorial is located in the 30 Rockefeller Center and if you take the NBC studio tour you will see the memorial as you exit the third floor elevators during the tour. 

Overall it was an exciting build and it did offer its challenges. If I were offered to build something for someone else I would most definitely do it again. It was very nice to see others reactions to the models and to see the appreciation they had for the models. I do believe the models accomplished their task which is the purpose of any model; to enable people to see a subject or object that they would not normally be able to see for themselves in real life. To give those people a chance to experience something they normally would not have the opportunity to experience.

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