The first photo shows the kit box. The outside of the box has a single label on it identifying the kit and a color prototype photo.
Inside the box we find the body shell, and a mini CD with a PDF document of how the car was lettered at various times, a PDF document of the complete step-by-step instructions on how to build the kit, and 70+ photos of a prototype car taken in 2007. Also included are decals, the underbody with other kit parts, and a bag of miscellaneous items, including two couplers. Note that the mini CD requires a slide-out tray-type of computer disk drive to be able to read it. My laptop, for example, was unable to load it, so I had to use a desktop computer.
The main body of this kit comes in one cast piece. It is a nice, straight, and well detailed casting.
The difference between an M53 and an M53a is apparently the two rows of rivets between the ribs. I want to model an M53, so those rivets have to go. The next photo shows a close-up of the rivets. I removed the rivets very carefully using a jeweler's flat file. A light touch is all that is necessary, because they come off very easily. I was careful not to remove the rivets that are part of the ribs.
The underframe was in good shape, with just some minor flash along some of the edges.
After the rivets were filed off, I decided that the large block of material in the door opening was the next part to go. The instructions state to work on getting the underframe to fit in the body. However, the fit is extremely tight. To be able to get the underframe in there and to be able to remove it, I needed access to the interior of the car. I decided that the big blob of plastic in the door frame had to go. The removal of the block is not discussed until page 6, so I didn't know how to remove it, until it was too late. I decided to use a pair of flush-cutting pliers to cut the sprues that hold the part to the body. I cut each one and noticed that they weren't quite cutting through. The material is very, very thick. When I got to the bottom part of the door opening, disaster struck! The bottom part of the body broke off (see next photo). It splintered into several pieces. I wrote Jim King (owner of company that manufactures this product) an e-mail about how to remove it. He suggested a razor saw, but I had already tried that. It just didn't go into the material, because it is so thick and dense.
I slept on it, and the next day I realized I could use the cut off disc on a Dremel tool to cut through the material. It worked, but the disc slipped a couple of times and caused some damage to the body. Argggh!!! Why did that darn piece have to be there!?! I did manage to glue the pieces of the bottom of the body back together using 5-minute epoxy. I am going to clean the inside of the door first before re-attaching that part. I think with some filing and, later, some painting, the accident will be hidden. If not, then it will just add more character to the car!
Finally, after several sessions of whittling away, I managed to get the underframe to fit the car body. What I did was file the ends of the underframe until it fit the body length-wise. I did not file the underframe to fit the body width-wise; there just isn't much material to file away in that direction. I then turned my attention to the body. It is very thick. I used a #11 blade and treated it more like a piece of wood that needed to be carved to fit the underframe. The inside corners of the body are mostly rounded. That rounded-ness needs to be carved out. Very time-consuming and laborious. I definitely needed to have the big blob removed from the door openings to be able to test and then remove the underframe during all of this. Note that in the photo below the underframe is just inserted to fit; it is not glued yet, because details need to be added first. The instructions state to fit the underframe in the "proper orientation" so that the "B" end matches the brake end of the body, but I couldn't find any difference between the two ends of the underframe.