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M551

Academy 1/35 M7 Priest Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2007 Manufacturer Academy
Subject M7 Priest Scale 1/35
Kit Number 13210 Primary Media 318 parts (316 in olive green colored styrene, 2 in steel colored vinyl)
Pros First 'new generation' tooling of this subject Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $40.00

First Look

M7
M7
M7
M7
M7
M7
M7

The US Army realized that with the coming war in Europe, mobile artillery was a must and self-propelled artillery was ideal. Early adaptations of half-track-based gun mounts revealed that the best system would have to be armored and fully tracked. The first iteration of a fully tracked and armored carriage was the pairing of a 105mm howitzer with a reworked M3 Lee chassis. This pairing was designated as the T32 during its development and trials, and upon production authorization was redesignated at the M7 Howitzer Motor Carriage.

During early production of the M7, a number of these vehicles were diverted to support the British Army, and in that service the vehicle was named 'Priest' because of the pulpit-like machine gun mount. While in British service, the M7 Priest was a very successfuly weapons system except for one crucial detail - the armament was American, which meant that it was incompatible with British rounds and therefore required special logistics to support the vehicle in combat.

In US service, the M7 was a great success and provided the US Army with crucial fire support throughout the push off the beaches and into Germany. The M7 was later upgraded from the M3 Lee to the M4 Sherman chassis late in the war and use of the M7 continued well into the Korean War.

Based upon Academy's beautiful M3 Lee kit, this new release updates the hull with the new open-top arrangement and a super-detailed 105mm howitzer. Academy has finally created the first new-tool M7 Priest since the classic Italeri kit that, up until now, used to be the only option in this scale.

The kit is molded in olive green styrene and presented on eight parts trees, plus two lengths of steel-colored vinyl track. Molding is very nicely detailed without any visible flash or serious ejector pin marks left in visible spots.

As with the Lee, this kit has a detailed interior with driver station along side the vehicle's transmission. Part of what used to be the interior space in the hull is now stowage lockers for the howitzer's ammunution which creates a raised platform for the crew to operate the main gun.

As with the Lee kit, the engine compartment is boxed in and an interior firewall provided to divide off the crew compartment. If you want to open ip the engine compartment, you'll either need to find an aftermarket engine set or scratchbuild your own.

The kit not only replicates all of the structural details of the hull and interior, the kit is also well appointed with radio gear, personal weapon stowage, sidewall ammo racks with ammo cases, and even the mandatory pioneering tools.

One of the centerpieces of this kit (aside from the beautifully detailed howizter) is the 'pulpit' mounted 50 caliber machine gun. Academy didn't scrimp here as the nicely detailed 50 that they previously released separately is also provided to arm up this model as well.

Markings are provided for four examples:

  1. 2nd Armored Division, US Army, Sicily, July 1943
  2. Battery B, 14th AFAB, 2nd Armored Division, US Army, Nomandy, July 1944
  3. 11th Regt, Royal Horse Artillery, 1st Armoured Division, El Alamein, 1942
  4. 31st Firing Battery, 64 RADB, 2nd Armored Division, French Army, France, Sept 1944

This is definitely going to be a popular kit. As quickly as the Italeri re-releases of their venerable M7 Priest kit sell out, this new kit is going to provide a far-more detailed alternative for armor and field artillery modelers.

Thanks to MRC for the review sample.

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