by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
introduction During the American Civil War, Generals Grant and Lee faced each other in battle. Seventy-seven years later they fought side by side in name as American built medium tanks, the M-3 Lee being the American version. Rapidly designed, produced and fielded, these tanks came as a nasty shock to Rommel's Africa Korps when first encountered in the Battle of Gazala in May & June, 1942. Able to slug it out with the Panzer IIIs and IV's, impervious to most of the German tanks guns, it was especially appreciated by the British for firing high-explosive ammo, a capability lacked by British armor. Reliable from an automotive standpoint, but relatively huge, it's main gun limited in traverse and thus inhibited from firing in defilade, Lee/Grant were judged by Afrika Korps as able to absorb great damage and a serious threat. Soon into obsolescence, it fought in all theaters against all of the Allies' enemies.
the kit Academy's new M-3 is not a refurbished mold of either Airfix's, Monogram's or Tamiya's Lee. Seven sprues include 461 pieces of which this kit uses 375, as shown in Academy's easily read, well illustrated, 19-step instruction sheet. Photographs of the model are inset on some pages. There is a slip of paper featuring corrections to the building process.
The M-3 was produced in several versions, and the sprues suggest Academy will be releasing more than one. It is crisply molded without flash in a dark green, featuring a subtle texture on the armor. This is the riveted hull version and all of those rivets festoon the parts, and look in-scale. While the kit also has many ejector marks, Academy has engineered most hidden from view. I do have some concerns with the kit however, firstly, the mesh for the engine intake is molded into the hull. A piece of photo-etch would have been nice, as would clear plastic lenses for the headlights. Ejector marks mar the exterior of part B1, the rear upper hull plate, some hatch inner faces and the barrels of the cannons. There is no interior structural detail on the interior of the superstructure (except one piece in front of the driver), turret, cupola, or most of the hatches and pistol ports. The bulkhead between the crew and engine compartments has (nicely detailed) molded-on details. There are other nit-picky molded-on items, which considering the plethora of individual items offered by Academy's competition, could be thought of critically. As could the lack of individual weapons and personal equipment seen stowed inside the vehicle.
The ninety-six 37mm rounds seem plump. There are no 75mm rounds provided except as their bases molded into their ammo storage box. No engine compartment detail. Also some of the tools appear odd.
Now the good points! The early type Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS) features open and solid road wheels, and casting numbers and grease fixtures. There are parts for another type of VVSS, and drive sprockets. Interestingly, these sprues display "1/35 Sherman Series". Obviously, most of these pieces will not be used for this kit. The one-piece vinyl tracks are crisply molded, but have odd mold marks on the outer side. The fighting compartment interior is full of details. The turret ring has beautiful bolt and screw detail. The lower hull is almost one-piece, lacking the rear plate and curved transmission cover, but including a big oval hole under the main compartment. This will be filled with an escape hatch molded on the bottom of the fighting compartment floor. Casting numbers adorn many of the vehicle parts. The fluid filler hex nuts on the transmission covers are present. The top upper rear armor, 3-pieces on the Tamiya kit, is a single piece. The gun barrels are round single pieces with open muzzles. The driver's instrument panel dials are recessed. Four Browning .30 caliber machine guns accompany the 37mm and 75mm cannons. The 75mm can be built as the long or short version.
Decals for two vehicles are supplied, both "Torch" U.S. Army machines.
in conclusion Overall, this appears to be a worthwhile offering of a popular early WWII tank. It may be pricey compared to the lack of the extra parts Academy's competitors offer, but I believe the fit will decide whether this model is worth the price. Me, I am grateful to Academy for creating these new models of the M-3 medium tank family and am willing to recommend it based on first look.
Click here for additional images for this review.