Academy 1/35 M3 Grant Kit First Look
Images by Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||January 2008||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||13212||Primary Media||488 parts (486 in sand colored styrene, 2 steel color vinyl tracks)|
|Pros||Corrects most of the glaring errors in the Tamiya kit; provides wide option array of parts or spare parts; comes with nearly complete interior less engine||Cons||Nothing corrected from the M3 Lee suspension; turret has some shape problems, among them being about 1.5-2mm too high|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$46.00|
I have to admit I like Academy as they have great molding and very good ideas that they use in their kits, such as offering numbers and letters molded on the sprues for modelers to do up their own casting marks, as well as extra nuts and bolts for replacing or enhancing their kits. But when they miss the mark, too often they do not seem to pay attention to honest review comments and move to correct them. Two of their major competitors, Trumpeter and DML, now do that and make adjustments to the kits in the light of comments. (There are always "Boo Birds" out there who will quibble over any transgression, and happily most companies have learned to dial them out of the equation.)
When they released their M3 Lee, I was quite happy to look into the box and see some major corrections looking back at me in comparison to the ancient and over-used Tamiya M3 Lee kit from the mid 1970s. First and foremost were tracks with the end connectors in the right place and five-spoke wheels. But as one got into the kit – and especially when Steve Zaloga took a ruler and set of plans to the kit – it turned out to have many new and unhappy errors introduced, the worst of which were an oddly shaped turret and a too-tall M3 suspension. This was a great shame as I had even provided Academy with the reduced factory blueprints for the M3 Medium Tank direct from the original plans, and still they missed the mark.
The M7 Priest kit was another cause for hope, and this kit did correct the suspension errors while unfortunately bringing in new ones to a much-desired kit. So with the experience of two misses behind them, I had high hopes that Academy would redo the molds and get the even more anticipated Grant right.
Alas, such was not to be. Academy's new kit of the M3 Grant is a verbatim reuse of the M3 Lee molds, too tall suspension and other errors intact, and adds but one new sprue of parts distinct to the Grant. Again, it is a case of frustration on my part.
Academy did apparently study some plans and resin kits, as the turret for the Grant is quite correct in plan view (e.g. from above) and the right size, something Tamiya has yet to figure out with their shopworn kit. But it has new problems, and a cursory comparison to what is arguably the best resin replacement turret on the market, the M3 Grant turret from Armoured Brigade Models from Canada (their ABM015 kit) shows some of the subtle shapes of the Grant turret were missed. Worst sin is the fact that for some reason Academy added a "riser" into the lower part of the turret, boosting it up about 1.5-2 mm and giving a "stalky" look not seen on any Grant. The good news is that from the same comparison most of the errors CAN be correct with sanding, filing and cutting, but once again it is a pain to have to do that to a brand-new kit which should have corrected those errors.
The rest of the kit, as before, is a partial "mix and match" sprue kit. The wheels are from the standard "Sherman Series" from Academy (sprue A) and provide two types of wheels, two types of drivers, two types of idlers, and the "flattop" return roller mounts with pillow blocks. This is essentially there to provide the VVSS springs and the five-spoke road wheels, and they are very good parts indeed. The Lee kit's mounts with rollers on top (D47527 bogies) – as noted before some 2mm too high – and a third set of drivers are provided on one of the kit's dedicated sprues. This kit also has the oddity of coming with nicely done one-piece vinyl T51 irreversible link tracks, but then the kit provides WE210 "Double I" British pattern shoes as spares! Go figure.
The rest of the kit is new, but as before it is a case of quirks and oddities. The lower hull is one piece less the stern and transmission cover, but still has the odd Academy "trademark" finger hole in the belly. The floor unit for the interior (part C1) has a similar sized oval projection on it for positive alignment, but anyone wanting belly detail will have to putty this in and sand it smooth. Note that due to the thickness of the center of the hull floor it tends to suffer from sink marks, but when painted flat white and under all of the rest of the "kit" inside the hull it should not be a problem.
The interior is fairly complete, and detail hawks will probably only want to add some wiring and etched brass to complete it. The guns are provided complete and the 75mm gun comes with three correctly shaped barrels for either the early M2 (short), transitional M2 with stabilizer and counterweight, or later M3 (long) guns. However, no counterweight is provided for the 37mm gun. The gun barrels are "slide molded" with hollow bores, as is the turret 37mm gun.
The interior comes with some more oddities. 48 rounds of 37mm are provided as single rounds, which is pretty much correct as they were clipped to the inside of the turret wherever they could find space. 75mm rounds are only provided as rims on one locker with an optional position lid; also, a tray with 24 50-round Thompson drums is provided with the locker. While this is correct, the Thompson is not provided!
The driver's position is pretty complete as well, straddling the transmission and driveshaft, and the complete turret basket is also provided. Unfortunately, and as I have looked inside of one of these tanks, once the turret basket is in place it is nearly impossible to see anything of the interior! Note that these parts also have a number of ejection pin marks on them as well, which may have to be cleaned up; however, as awkward as cleaning them up will be, they are all pretty much invisible once the model is assembled.
The model also comes with optional position rear access doors on the stern plate and a separate engine access plate on the engine deck. Underneath it the kit provides the fuel tanks and other rudimentary parts for the engine bay, but no engine. This is probably just as well, for the kit comes with a solid grating over the engine air intake vent on the engine deck which, due to the open nature of the original, should be replaced with coarse mesh. Unfortunately, when this is done you can see the engine and driveshaft connection on the original, which is not provided with this kit.
The kit again provides the early pattern of mufflers and stern plate, but this was quickly replaced or modified due to problems with heat venting and it should have at least optional air cleaners and "fishtail" exhaust tips.
The tank again comes with four .30 caliber machine guns (two hull and turret) but the AA one is not used. Again, not one of them comes with an ammunition box or container.
Hull details are not bad, but the tools seem a bit anemic and it is hoped somebody can produce decent injection molded tools for kits someday. Right now it takes an aftermarket resin or brass set, or stripping another kit with more robust tools, to give American armor the right look. The most egregious sin to Commonwealth modelers will be the fact that the kit does NOT provide the driver's periscope which sticks out of the hull roof over the driver's position.
The kit comes with two finishing options: "Atlanta II", serial T24334, which is simply identified as "Royal Army, North Africa 1943" and is overall sand; and a sand and grey camouflaged tank from the 7th Armoured Division, 8th Army, El Alamein 1942 with flashes on the fenders but no other markings. Unfortunately, having pre-released these markings they have been identified by Commonwealth modelers as lacking and therefore the kit will require after-market markings.
Overall, I am really frustrated that Academy apparently paid no attention to the negative comments on the Lee suspension and the positive comments on the Priest suspension and then reuses the inferior one. I really want to see Academy succeed, but so far they are naught for three in scoring a hit with these much wanted and highly anticipated kits. They are far superior to the ancient Tamiya ones (the Lee and Grant at least) but still take a lot of work that they should not have required.
Thanks to MRC for the review sample.
- A 55x2 M4 suspension and wheels
- B 67 M3 hull details and bow components
- C 45 M3 floor and interior hull components
- D 103 M3 gun and interior components
- E 76 M3 suspension and turret base
- F 8 M3 upper hull components
- G 76 Grant turret and major parts sprue
- 1 M3 lower hull pan
- 2 vinyl tracks