Total time building 270.5 hours.
Begin date March 21, 2019; end date* December 30, 2019. * Six-month hiatus during the build.
Kit #13269 – M3A1 Stuart
Kit #3542 – Stuart U.S. Light Tank M3
Kit #35360 – M3 Stuart Late Production
Kit #35250 – M4A3 Sherman
Tiger Model Designs (TMD)
Set #35-1039 M3 USMC Interior
Set #35-70023 – Tie-Down Cleats, Small
M3 details #1647 (just the vision block covers for the commander’s cupola)
Set #AF35056 U.S. Light Tank M3/M5/M8 Stuart Vertical Volute Spring Suspension
Set #AR35209B – Gauges and Interior Stencils
Set #AR88001 – Resin Rivets, Various Scales
Set #35B24 (RB Models) – Turned Aluminum 37mm Barrel
Set #GM-34-004 – .30 Caliber Barrels (s), turned brass
The Scenic Factory Mud
Set #MK-02 – Ardennes Forest Kit “Dry”
Lots of solder, wire, lead foil, paint, and sprue
Academy has a reputation for being soft on details and this kit would support that viewpoint. The kit is labeled as an M3A1 which it’s not. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either an M3 with an M3A1 interior (yes…the two interiors really are that different), or it’s an M3A1 with an M3 hull. So that’s the starting point.
The suspension has earned its reputation as a cock-up. It appears as if the engineers got the ground clearance incorrect with it and rather than start over and get it correct, they “drooped” the roadwheel arms much too far. If you’re concerned with accuracy, scrap the kit’s suspension and get the AFV suspension kit, which is MUCH better. I’d suggest getting that set if you’re doing any Academy M3 variant. The Academy drive cover (the lower nose) isn’t very accurate and the AFV drive cover is…and it’s included with the suspension. Yes…you’ll have to cut the Academy part off and graft on the AFV part. It’s worth it. If you decide to go with the AFV suspension, you’ll either have to use the AFV drive sprocket with their tracks or if you use the Academy tracks, you’ll have to use the Academy drive sprocket. The tracks are sufficiently different that you won’t be able to use the AFV drive sprockets with the Academy track and vice versa. (And each drive sprocket has inaccuracies.)
I was surprised (and somewhat disappointed) by Tiger Model Designs. Their Marine interior for the M3 didn’t really fit. It appeared that I needed more length in the lower hull to fit all the stuff that was supposed to go into the crew compartment, but when I extended the compartment, the driveshaft cover turned up too short (requiring me to lengthen it). I don’t know how that happened; I’m hoping that it was an as yet undiscovered mistake on my part as I really like the guy who runs TMD. And to be transparent, no…I didn’t complain or tell him about it (I think he’d needlessly beat himself up over it and I like the selection he has and the quality of his castings). I made the modifications required to get what I needed and just went on with things. So if you decide to use the Marine M3 interior set, be aware you may have fit problems.
This was my first attempt at adding a light to a model. It was easy, limited more by my ignorance than any other factor, and I suspect I’ll be adding more LEDs in future builds. (And I was proud of myself for figuring out what to do with the battery and switch.)
I knew at the outset that I would be doing a tiny bit of kit-bashing as I wanted to backdate Academy’s turret from the kit-supplied D58101 turret to the more correct (for an earlier M3, not an M3A1) D39273 turret. The ancient Tamiya M3 #3542 has the rounded commander’s cupola that I wanted and that was my source for it. I didn’t expect to do as much kit-bashing as I ended up doing. Tamiya cupola, AFV suspension, and final drive cover, and then the new Tamiya M3, #35360. I’d originally intended to use just the headlights from the new Tamiya kit, but once I opened it up and started looking at what Tamiya’s engineers put in the box, I realized that a few other parts were much better than the (loosely) corresponding Academy parts. I used the air filter assemblies, sponson storage boxes, siren, headlights, and tail lights from the new Tamiya kit. The results were substantially better than if I’d used the Academy parts. (The next time I do an Academy M3, and I have two in the stash, I’ll source the same parts from Tamiya again.)
Another surprise was The Scenic Factory’s mud. GawDAYUM what a nifty product! Versatile and realistic, it’s easy to use and gives a great finish. If you need mud, check this stuff out.
I’m also surprised that this build was as short as it was. Then again, I suspect after the Blackbird, the heat death of the universe would seem quick to me.
This kit was a secret build for someone. Actually, it was done for the wife of the friend I built the Blackbird for. He likes aircraft, she likes tanks…so I built one for her (I managed to be slick enough for her not to know what I was up to when I managed to get her to decide with tank I built!). I didn’t mention it before this because I wanted to keep the secret and surprise her with it. Mission accomplished. The tank was delivered to her on February 2: