Hobby Model Kits
was really excited when the first new kit of a favorite American tank, the M3
and M5 light tank series, came out in 2002 from Academy. Upon opening the box,
the changes from the quarter-century-old Tamiya
kits appeared to be tremendous.
begin with, as with the M3 kit, this one literally drops over the Ordnance Museum
1/35 scale set of blueprints (alas, no longer available) for the M3 Light Tank
and has a SCALE turret. The hull also has sponson floors under the sponsons. Length
and shape issues have been resolved as well. While the rear air intake vent is
solid (no nylon screen is included) it is easy to fix, and since it is a separate
part there is also some wiggle room to put an engine in view.
kit comes with the modified armament for the M3, consisting of the bow, coaxial,
and AA .30 caliber machine guns, and the M6 37mm cannon. This gun is slightly
longer than the earlier M5, which was still quite common in most M3 variants,
but those who wish to externally modify the gun should have no problems. It will
be tough to fit the model with an aluminum barrel, however, as the gun is presented
in full and mounts to the turret race and not to a set of model-type swivels inside
the turret. The new turret sprue also provides the "wing" guns. This
kit also has detail inside the turret hatches, but as it retains the other kit's
hull fittings there are no details inside the driver's lower entrance hatch flap.
kit comes with a gorgeous interior and if you build a "real" M3A1 version
with the turret basket will work very nicely.
model comes with a choice of either CORRECT vinyl tracks (e.g. the teeth join
the links together, not fit at the end of each link as with the Tamiya M3 Stuart
and M3 Lee/Grant kits) or three-piece styrene links, joined in the same manner
as AFV Club and RHPS kits (note that the pins are shorter and you will need cement
to get them to stay on.) One nice touch: the kit provides 138 track pads but sufficient
end connectors for 144, so there are 12 extra connectors for those of us getting
fat of fingers in our old age.
model again provides a choice of wheels. (I'm not omniscient, the sprues are marked
"M3/M5" so it's sort of simplified...) Two different drive wheels (solid
disk or sculpted), two idlers (open welded spoke or spoke with pie-shaped fillets
in them for late-war tanks) and spoke or pressed steel road wheels. The wheels
have a thicker tread which more approximates the actual vehicles, and are superior
to the skinny Tamiya ones.
that is it for the good news.
it does come with two sets of wheels, and the road wheels are wider, they turn
out to lack some of the subtle details found on the Tamiya ones such as the weld
beads. Also, the belly pan of the vehicle was apparently copied from the Tamiya
kit and is thus about 1-1.5mm too shallow. Since Academy did do its homework on
the numbers, but did not correctly identify the culprit, they instead changed
the angle of the bogie arms downward to a very awkward angle and thus achieved
the correct height for the vehicle, albeit at the expense of its normal appearance.
(Also note that since they didn't do this for the idler assemblies, they now sit
about 1mm off the ground!)
Zaloga has suggested that you may want to use the Tamiya bogies on this kit with
some minor modifications (such as drilling out the axle holes) and perhaps the
Tamiya idler wheels in the Academy mounts. (This is if you have some spare Tamiya
kits around; the prices for them have dived since the Academy kits came out, so
you can pick them up for around $5-10 in many shows and flea markets.) At least
the result will sit flat!
are some shape differences and some minor problems here and there on the hull
(I personally like this one better than Tamiya's) but there is one major error
to this kit. The production model of the M3A1 was oriented on an improved tank
that required less time and labor to build, and as such employed welding to replace
most of the riveted construction of the M3. As it went down the line, more and
more components were switched over to welding. Since this kit uses the M3's riveted
hull, a lot of work is going to be required to remove the rivetsand the
later model you want, the more rivets will have to come off. The very late models
even used a one-piece rolled rear plate, and that means major filling and filing
of the rear of the hull top to get a good appearance.
modelers will probably settle for the early model M3A1. To get this model to appear
correctly, all rivets must be removed from the side panels of the hull top, the
upper perimeter and side edges (but not the bottom fastening strip or around the
viewports) of parts B1 and B54; the late model will necessitate removing all of
the rivets on the rear of the hull and sternplate part B37, cement it to the hull,
and then round off the edges to create the appearance of a single bent steel plate.
This isn't a earthshattering change to make, but it is tedious and if not careful
other details will be nicked up.
are provided for five different vehicles: an M3A1 in Tunisia, 1943 with the yellow
stars and US flag markings; two USMC tanks on Bouganville in November 1943; and
two Soviet tanks from 1943 (one should be located in Voronezh, not Woronez, which
is a German spelling.) The Soviet stars were off but a correction was included;
alas, the blue drab on my sample's decal sheet came out bright aqua and it was
not corrected. Archer Fine Transfers makes some excellent dry transfer blue drab
markings which can be used for the US ones; but the Soviet ones have their markings
applied over the blue drab ones and as a result nearly render the decals useless.
this is a nice little kit with a lot of possibilities, but Academy took some unhappy
shortcuts with it and as a result it is not as much of a quantum change from the
Tamiya kits as first thought. Hopefully they do not scrimp in this manner on their
M5 series light tanks and use the same too-short Tamiya hull as a reference.
Follows on heels of "Honey" kit; offers vinyl or 3-piece single-link
track; literally a "drop fit" over Ordnance blueprints!
Some odd shortcuts hurt the overall effect of the kit; needs work to be a true
this page for photos of the M3A1
at Brainerd, MN.