M5A1 Stuart Light Tank–Early Production
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

By Kurt Laughlin

Editor's Note: Kurt Laughlin is the author of A Field Guide to the M5 Series Light Tanks and the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage, available through Formations. The book provides a written and visual narrative of production changes through the lifespan of these vehicles. He also provides the range of registration numbers associated with the vehicles' serial numbers and production features.

I picked up this kit at the 2008 AMPS show and since I've done a little reading on the subject I was asked to review it with regard to detailing and accuracy. Because my reference is organized to sort of go top down, that's how I look at the parts.

  • The turret is acceptable for an M5A1, except for the roof. AFV Club has used their M3A3 roof, which is different in details from that on the M5A1 (see below). Namely: The M5A1 did not have rivets on the front of the roof to hold the internal gun travel lock; the holder for the spotlight weather cap should be behind the spotlight base; the grabirons in front of the gunner's hatch and the padlock hasp are in different locations. The roof top antenna mount is included but there were many M5A1s made without it. Consider removing the antenna mount, the spotlight base (leave the circular hatch, which was the original antenna mount location), and the weather cap holder.
  • The engine deck is the correct four-piece type, with the later simplified filler cap splash guards. Four-piece decks with complex splash guards exist and the transition date to the simplified splash guards is unknown, so the accuracy of the configuration cannot be determined. Consider backdating the splash guards.
  • The hull looks to be accurate in shape and size, but the weld texture is a little overdone. The right rear hull antenna port has a splash ring around it, which seems to be a later production detail. Consider removing it.
  • The glacis and engine deck configurations are correct for an M5A1.
  • The clip type track stowage is appropriate for an M5A1.
  • No air deflectors or sandshields are included which is okay for an early M5A1. The front fenders have sandshield attaching screws though, which should be removed.
  • The kit has a towing pintle, which was not added in production until after the later turret type entered production. It looks like it can be omitted easily.
  • The suspension has open spoke bogie wheels, 13- or 14-tooth sprockets, and open spoke all-metal or plated-over rubber tire idlers. Plating the wheel openings came after production of the early M5A1 had ended. A rubber-tired, open spoke idler wheel would be a better choice. The sprocket should be the 13-tooth variety. The idler bracket (without skid) is right.

In summary, this is a good representation of an M5A1 so long as you correct a few details.

So what vintage M5A1 can be made from the AFV Club kit? If we look at the introduction dates of various features we can bracket the build date and serial numbers. If you want to go with the spoked, all-steel idler you can model S/N 1471-1985 and 3519-3536 as built, or 533 tanks manufactured. There were 3576 M5A1s made with the early turret, so you can model 15% of those produced. If you can find a spoked, rubber tire idler and air deflectors, and include the Formations disc wheel set, you could cover almost all of the early turret tanks.

Editor's Note: See also Cookie Sewell's review and Martin Dogger's Observations on Building the AFV Club M5A1.


Errata for A Field Guide to the M5 Series Light Tanks and the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage

On page 6, replace:

"The M8 began production after the five segment plate was introduced and kept it throughout its run. Because the M8 didn’t have a hull machine gun, the casting on the right side of the glacis was the same size as that on the left."


"The M8 began production after the five segment plate was introduced and kept it throughout its run. Because the M8 didn’t have a hull machine gun there was no casting on the right side."

On page 45, replace the upper illustration with this:


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