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Early M3 Lee Deluxe Update Set

Armoured Brigade Models 1/35 Early M3 Lee Deluxe Update Set First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review December 2006 Manufacturer Armoured Brigade Models
Subject Early M3 Lee Deluxe Update Set Scale 1/35
Kit Number ABM011 Media 130 parts in grey resin
Pros Fixes all of the most egregious faults with the Academy M3 Lee kit; includes both ABM's suspension and turret sets as well as many new parts; provides for maximum use of the kit parts where applicable Cons Sources of supply for ABM kits have been erratic in the past
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $60.00

First Look

Back during the AMPS 2000 International Show well-known Canadian modelers Sid Arnold and Dave Dean brought down their first samples of a new line of kits which were dubbed Armoured Brigade Models. These were focused on correcting the rather elderly and quite awful Tamiya M3 Grant and M3 Lee kits, and were either modularized for use by modelers to fix specific parts of the kit or combined into a complete kit of the M3 Lee which made its debut at AMPS 2001. Their one drawback was availability, for at both shows ABM could have sold far more items than they brought.

Fast forward six years, and the new Academy M3 Lee was released in May 2006. But while it corrected many of the massive failings of the 30 year old Tamiya kits, unfortunately it added some new ones of its own, primarily a bad suspension set and an exaggerated cast turret. ABM has now modified its older moldings, which were first rate when released, reorganized them, modified them to fit the Academy kit, and re-released them.

This is their "top of the line" set, which combines the 14 parts from the ABM012 turret update set and the 50 parts from their ABM013 suspension update set with 66 new parts to correct or upgrade many other parts of the kit.

The new parts in this set include a new upper glacis, a new rear plate with more accurate and optional air cleaner/exhaust fittings, an engine insert section and new grille section for the engine deck, a new firewall, and nearly completely new outer vehicle materials, pioneer tools, and lights.

The suspension set provides an integrated set of parts to fix the unfortunately erroneous Academy suspension. As many modelers now know, Steve Zaloga built the kit and found the main suspension mounts used the springs from the previous M4 kits and as a result wound up a bit more than 2mm too high, which caused the model to sit high and look wrong when completed. They also made some simplification errors and as such really hurt the finished product.

With this kit, ABM provides six new suspension brackets (dubbed "bridges" in the instructions, six new return rollers, two new drivers, and two very nicely done idlers with new mounts.

First off, the directions describe what has to come off the hull pan of the kit and provide photos of the parts to be removed and the new parts in situ on the modified hull pan.

The "bridges" come with new springs and a new lower spring mounting plate, but all of the remaining parts less the return roller come straight from the Academy kit. The directions give a very good description of how to simply modify Academy parts to fit on the new "bridges" and thus get the tank to sit at the correct height.

The only major cleanup in this kit are the return rollers, which come with a "flake" of resin for protection and should clean up in a couple of minutes with a sharp Xacto knife and a mouse-tail file.

The new drivers are very nicely detailed on both sides and are an upgrade from the workmanlike but pedestrian kit ones.

The idlers use an ingenious method of assembly with a center casting and two separate outer sections in order to provide the accurate rim to the wheel not found in any plastic kit.

This is the turret set, which now provides 14 parts to fix the turret and cupola from the Academy kit. It provides a new, accurate turret shell with casting numbers and a nicely done mantelet in place, a new rotor with optional counterweight (not provided by Academy), a counterweight for the stabilized M2 (short barrel) 75mm gun, and two new rear stowage bins.

The directions are excellent, as they show where most of the kit's failings are found and also provide very good descriptions of how to correct them. Most of the first two pages cover how to fix the problems with rivets and the missing brackets and fasteners on the upper hull. Modelers will be happy as "before" and "after" photos are provided, so since the rivets and bolts used are in light colored plastic it is quite obvious as to what changed.

Assembly of the turret is integrated into the assembly instructions for the M3 kit itself, and photos show how the update kit's parts differ from the base kits’ parts. Other than some very quick cleanup, little is different than just the kit assembly and it should be a snap for any modeler to carry out this update with few problems. Note that this set also includes correct size and shape stowage bins for the rear deck.

The other new parts provide a new upper glacis and driver's viewer that fix some of the rivet issues on the glacis. The new rear plate provides both the early model "coffee can" mufflers or the later square air filters with "fishtails" protruding either below them. Both are provided in the kit.

While you can't see much inside the engine bay, ABM has provided the front of the engine in a nice little drop-in module for the bay and a new section of firewall with detailing right in front of it. Fuel shutoff valves are also included, but you will have to find grille material on your own. 

The kit provides totally new tools, brackets and lights for the kit, as well as fire extinguisher brackets, a siren, starter crank, machine gun tripod, and tow cable. The only thing some modelers may want for is etched brass or single link tracks to finish off their model.

Overall, this fixes nearly all of the problems with this kit, and covers nearly all of the ones modelers do not want to do on their own. Modelers must note that this set is specifically designed for the Academy kit, and will not work very well on the ancient Tamiya kit.

Thanks to Sid Arnold of ABM for the review sample. For further info on distributors contact Sid at sidneya@sympatico.ca

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