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M3 Lee Kit

Academy 1/35 M3 Lee Medium Tank Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2006 Manufacturer Academy
Subject M3 Lee Medium Tank Scale 1/35
Kit Number 13206 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Excellent interior and exterior detailing Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $42.00

First Look

M3 Lee
M3 Lee
M3 Lee
M3 Lee
M3 Lee
M3 Lee
M3 Lee

As the US realized that war was rapidly approaching, the Army had few viable tanks in its inventory, and the main battle tank of the day, the M2, was already obsolete against the German armor rolling around Europe. The M2 had thin armor and only a 37mm main gun.

The next generation of tank would need a 75mm main gun and far thicker armor. The design that met those requirements was the M4 Sherman, but it would not be ready for prime time due to engineering challenges with the turret ring used at that time. The Army quickly turned out an interim solution that was on the front lines by the time the US had entered the war and was already arming our allies. This interim tank was the M3, dubbed the "General Lee" by the British.

The M3 was essentially the M2 with thicker armor, the same 37mm gun in the turret, but a new bunker-type gun mount in the hull which protected the new 75mm main gun. Like the M2, the M3 had a high silhouette, but it had a good mix of firepower and was the only US solution initially available.

The M3 Lee served the Montgomery's 8th Army in North Africa, in the Soviet Union, and with US forces in the Pacific theater as well.

Academy's much anticipated M3 Lee has been released! Let me say right up front that this new-tool kit is a beauty and features a detailed interior. Molded in medium green styrene, this kit is presented on seven parts trees, plus a pair of flex tracks molded in gun metal.

As with nearly every other tank project, construction begins with the lower hull and suspension. The VSS suspension is nicely done and you'll notice the abundance of wheels and sprockets provided. You'll have lots of spares as this kit uses only one of the three different road wheel styles provided.

The interior is next and the driver straddles the transmission. The driver's station is nicely captured along with the transmission block and drive shaft.

The interior goes into the lower hull along with storage boxes and radio gear. The rear hull plate and transmission cover are also installed along with the associated details that mount on either end.

The rear bulkhead that divides the crew compartment and the engine compartment goes in next and it has some nice detailing including ammo storage for the 75mm gun. This is followed by assembly of the upper hull and look at all of those bolts and rivets!

Before the upper hull goes on, you install the twin bow machine guns on the left side of the driver, and the 75mm gun mount on the right. You have a choice of short or long-barrel guns, but the gun is fully detailed with breech and mount, not just a barrel.

Next comes the turret basket and it has ammo storage for the 37mm. The 37mm gun has the coaxial machine gun plus an addition machine gun for the commander's cupola.

The side hull hatches and the commander's cupola hatch can be positioned open, and you'll definitely want to show off that interior!

This kit has markings for two examples:

  • M3, W309316, Bizete, Tunisia, May 1943
  • M3, W309513, 'Kentucky', Souk-el Khemis, Tunisia, 1942

As you might expect, this new-tool kit blows away the only other real choice for a styrene M3 - the venerable Tamiya kit. This model has a beautifully detailed exterior, an equally nice interior, and lots of possibilities for the AMS modeler.

This makes me want to find a copy of Humphrey Bogart's "Sahara" to model the Lulubelle.

Thanks to MRC/Academy for the review sample.