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M3 Stuart "Honey"

 

Academy

 

S u m m a r y

Stock No. Academy 1/35 scale Kit No. 1399; M3 Stuart "Honey"
Contents and Media: 703 parts (276 tan styrene, 424 steel colored styrene, 2 steel colored vinyl, 1 nylon string )
Price: USD$22.50 - $28.00
Scale: 1/35
Review Type: First Look
Advantages: Totally new kit; offers vinyl or 3-piece single-link track; literally a "drop fit" over Ordnance blueprints!
Disadvantages: Kit shows a turret basket where none existed (M3A1 fittings); some odd shortcuts
Recommendation: Highly Recommended for all US and Allied armor fans, especially British North African armour

 

Reviewed by Cookie Sewell


Academy's 1/35 scale M3 Stuart "Honey" is available online from Squadron.com

 

F i r s t   L o o k

 

A number of us greying types can remember the days when the Monday Night Football crew consisted of Frank Gifford, Don Meredith, and Howard Cosell. Although it got to be a trite conclusion, after a game had turned into a blowout (which Cosell had been telling the audience for 30 minutes or so) Meredith would crank up an off-key rendition of "Turn out the lights, the party's over..."

Such is the case for Tamiya's quarter-century-old M3, M5A1, and M8 kits, as with the release of this first of a string of new kits covering US light tanks that is the case for those shopworn old friends. This is a gorgeous new kit that corrects every one of the major flaws that the Tamiya kits had, and even throws in a complete interior. There are very few glitches on this kit of consequence, which is truly a rare event.

To begin with, the kit literally drops over the Ordnance Museum 1/35 scale set of blueprints for the M3 Light Tank (alas, no longer available) and has a SCALE turret! (Tamiya's M3 turret was between 10 and 15% underscale, based on source.) While this kit only comes with the welded octagonal turret, a second kit is coming behind this one for the M3A1 with the "flat top" horseshoe turret and some other changes.

The hull also has the correct curvatures under the lip of the bow, and (surprise!) 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. (Based on the Academy M12 and the M10 series, I would be willing to bet Korean resin manufacturers got test shots of the kits and will have the engines and corrected interior bits out quite soon.)

The 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. No "wing" guns are provided. One curious thing is that while Academy has made the parts of the commander's cupola separate, there is no detailing on the inside of the view ports, which will be quite visible when the turret flap is open. The same goes for the driver's lower entrance hatch flap. (I expect Eduard will have a brass set out for this and for the various bits that keep the driver's and gunner's flaps open as well.)

The kit comes with a gorgeous interior, but alas, it is for the M3A1 version with the turret basket. Apparently Academy's researchers did not tell them this fact, even though it was stated in both the excellent R. P. Hunnicutt book and the more affordable Osprey/New Vanguard one by Steve Zaloga. The basic floor and seats are fine, but the ammunition stowage is all wrong for the straight 3 and will have to be redone (there are several rectangular bins which were optimistically expected to function as a floor for the crew). The turret interior is also quite different.

The 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, jointined in the same manner as AFV Club and RHPS kits (note that the pins are shorter and you may 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.

The model also provides a choice, more applicable to the apparently coming M5 series of tanks, 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 is superior to the skinny Tamiya ones. The bogies have the same parts breakdown as Tamiya spring rider, spring set, bogie sides, top, and track guide but all are much nicer and closer to the right size and shape, although the track guides are a bit on the thick side. The idlers are much better done, and have a separate cap for the HVSS spring inside the front of the mount.

While the model comes with the odds and ends needed for a British vehicle, such as 2 gallon "flimsies" and some of the external bits such as the smoke mortars with SMLE action and the map reading mounts for the commander's hatch, surprisingly the kit only comes with a US SCR-510 type radio and not a No. 19 Wireless set. The now-standard "D" sprue is included, so Sherman and other US armor fans get the bennies of another nicely done .50 caliber for the spares box.

Four different markings options are provided: two for the 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars, one US tank from the 80th Armored Regiment (Training), and one Japanese tank captured in the Philippines. Other British markings are also included for troop and tank variations, but only two serials (no "Tent Hat" either...) However, I may be wrong but it appears that only one set of fender markings is included; I do not know if it should have two but this has been a problem with Academy sheets in the past. It does provide two different sets of quick-identification stripes, at least.

 

 

Conclusion



This kit is yet another wake-up call for the Big T. They will either have to get their act together and start correcting older kits to stay competitive, or decide to give up on US armored vehicles and duke it out with DML for the German armor market. Academy has cut sufficient molds to give them fair warning that they will be going after the US Light and Medium tank markets, but Tamiya for whatever reason has instead opted to compete with DML in the US WWII Heavy tank arena (T26E3 vs. T26E3). While there are modelers who will ignore kits just because "they're not Tamiya" (and in the case of this one and its coming sisters, they'd be complete idiots for doing so) I wonder if they will sell in sufficient volume. Tamiya just can't keep re-releasing the same kits from 25 years ago and expect them to sell when there is a superior kit from a more aggressive competitor on the block.

Cookie Sewell
AMPS
 


Review Copyright 2002 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 14 August, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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