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M18 Hellcat

AFV Club 1/35 M18 Hellcat Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review October 2005 Manufacturer AFV Club
Subject M18 Hellcat Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35015 Primary Media 302 parts (297 in light olive drab styrene, two in black vinyl, one brass barrel, one steel spring, and one section of nylon string)
Pros Clean, neat kit of this vehicle; very nicely done with accurate components Cons Second release behind Academy kit may cause low sales; some annoying oversights
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) Approx $40.00

First Look

The problem with most modern modeling is that he who gets his product on the street first, if it is a reasonably good one, will usually clean up in the market. Academy got their version of the M18 kit out first, and probably picked up a good portion of the general market with their kit. That model was a pretty good effort, but a lot of shortcuts were taken with it by the manufacturer which took the edge off its being a real nominee for “Kit of the Year”.

Now AFV Club has released their kit, and it is everything that the Academy kit was not. This model has much more petite and in scale detail, as well as eliminating many of the problem areas of the earlier model. If you have not purchased one yet, this is the better one of the two to choose.

AFV Club has produced a very neat model, which replicates the later production version with the muzzle brake. There is only one option in the kit, namely the late model without a canvas mantlet cover. However, most of the problem areas have been fixed, and this kit has a much neater appearance.

The main areas which are different are a very nicely done engine grille area; surprisingly, this is all styrene without an etched metal grille over an insert. (There is no engine detail, and the grilles are not “see-through”, but the correct pattern offsets that and there really isn’t much to see on the real thing in this area anyway.) The suspension and wheels are more petite, and while this kit only provides a vinyl track, it is well done and looks very good. Most modelers are now once again asking for vinyl tracks if there is no need for sag in the top runs anyway, so this should not be a problem.

The kit has a very well done brass gun barrel which is cemented to the breech assembly and takes a two-piece muzzle brake. The one really odd feature is a spring loading in the breech which permits the gun barrel to “recoil” when tapped. This is a somewhat toylike feature, but since the spring is hidden, it does not detract from the model’s appearance.

The one thing where this kit duplicates the Academy kit is with a lack of detail in the driver’s compartment area, to include leaving the controls out as the Academy kit did. The controls are overhead levers which attach to the glacis and pedals, but neither kit provides them. The AFV Club kit also leaves out most of the “headache” pads around the fighting compartment, which were provided with the Academy kit.

Decals are included for four US vehicles, one Italian vehicle, and two Taiwanese (ROC) vehicles. The painting and marking directions are sort of in English, as they keep talking about things like  “unsetting wainscotting” which to the best of my knowledge is the trim around the base of a wall in a house. (This appears to mean leaving off the fender skirting. I wish all of the companies which produce English-language translations of their directions would get native English speakers to do this sort of thing as it would make life much easier for all concerned!)

While the kit comes with twelve rounds of ammunition, the brass kit provides a total of four each rounds of M42A1(HE), M62A1 (APCBC), M79 (AP), and M93 HVAP (APCR) ammo, as well as four empty casings. These can be substituted, but once in the racks the rounds are nose in and the differences are lost.

Overall, the best way to sum up the differences in the two kits is by comparing them to Tamiya products. The Academy kit is comparable to a 1980 Tamiya kit; the AFV Club one, a 1995 kit. When the price is about the same, this kit comes out as the clear winner.