This new kit of the M7 Priest is the first in plastic since the older Italeri late model M7 released back last century and is a welcome addition to the Allied ranks.
Various modifications were made to the M7 during its production life and as they were produced at several facilities there were crossovers where some vehicles had early and later features that differed from the “normal”
This kit best represents an initial Intermediate Production type that still has a few features of the First Production models with Intermediate features of full M4 type transmission cover without the right side M3 style cut-out, the rear hull storage boxes with top opening doors and the revised interior layout with just two fold-down crew seats and additional ammo storage bins.
It also has the First production features of M3 style suspension bogies, no top folding armour panels on the superstructure and the first style short pulpit .50cal AA mounting but unfortunately it also has the Late Production Engine Deck layout that will require some work to represent the earlier configuration.The Kit:
This has 410 parts in dark green plastic, a set of full length vinyl T51 rubber block tracks plus the decal and instructions sheets for a fairly conventional kit by contemporary standards today.
The two sprues A are from the previous M3 Lee kit (#13206) and only a few parts are used for this kit with the rest consigned to the spares box.
The standard of moulding is quite good overall with some nice surface details such as the welds around the superstructure panels and bolt head/rivet detail but there are many small pin marks on the parts especially the interior and gun which will need attention. Many of these are situated on the outside of the parts in amongst the detail and not on the inside out of the way which makes removing them a little trickier than is usually the case.
While there are some nice details other areas are rather simplified and there is the usual cleanup of the moulding seam lines on the parts before assembly.Lower Hull:
The lower hull tub is from the M3 kit and is the correct bolted hull of the early and intermediate M7 types before switching to the welded M4 hull of the later production types and still has the large oval cut-out in the bottom which will need work as the plug provided is not a good fit at all.
The M3 style suspension bogies have been redone for this kit correcting the height issue from the M3 Lee kit and you also get a choice of outer bogie castings with different cast detail but no small casting numbers seen on many actual bogie units.
Also included in the kit is the later M4 type suspension bogies but these are not applicable to this kit as the early kit features mean the M3 bogies are really the only ones that can be used and you can consign the others to the spares box.
There are also still the two types of road wheels included, the open spoke and solid dish wheels with the open spoke being the better choice for the earlier M7. These wheels are nicely done and included the grease nipple on the inner hub but there are quite large mould seams around the middle of the rubber sections that will have to be sanded smooth. The open spoke idler wheel also has the grease plug and the mould seams to be removed before adding to the axle mountings moulded as part of the lower hull tub.
Bogie assembly is quite straightforward with the wheel arms designed to be movable after assembly but I found it best to glue these in the neutral position as the vinyl track tends to distort the angle of the first and last bogie wheels unless you want to animate the suspension for a diorama setting.
A new set of fancy smooth drive sprockets is provided along with the original fancy smooth and solid plate sprockets from the M3 kit which you can again consign to the spares box as the new sprockets (parts H5, H6) are the most common seen on early M7s. These fit neatly to the nicely detailed final drive housings but are designed to be glued in place as they lack the inner poly cap common to other kit drive sprockets and I would leave these separate until fitting the track to make this task easier.
Also new for this kit is later M4 style three piece transmission housing which has the curved housing with separate final drive bulges that include the small drain plugs but the three plugs are missing from underneath the housing and there are no foundry casting numbers on the cover as is usually the case.
The bolted join flanges are moulded as one piece each side with fairly basic representation of the bolt detail as well as just raised mould lines to represent the join seam between the two flanges and its best to leave this seam line to at least give a representation of the join line if you don’t feel included to re-scribe this?
The top bolted securing strip for the transmission housing has fairly basic bolt head detail not well defined but should be okay unless you want to replace the bolt heads?
You should also note that the instructions show the earlier M3 style transmission housing with right side cut-out but the kit part is the later M4 style without this cut-out, probable just a left over from the M3 kit instructions?
At the back the lower rear plate has separate engine access doors and five part square style air cleaners as well as separate idler mountings and the large central towing pintle and this fits neatly to the hull tub.Tracks:
These are full length vinyl T51 rubber Block track as with the M3 Lee kit and have okay detail for this medium with the end connectors in the correct position and the securing bolt on the inside of each connector.
You will have to heat weld the two ends of the track together and also be very careful when fitting the track around the new drive sprockets as the end connector spacing in fractionally wider than the sprocket teeth gap and you start to get a miss-match half way around the sprocket causing the track to bulge a little at the front of the sprocket so some minor trimming of the teeth may be in order.
This is made up of multiple panels that have nicely done weld seams included but again there are some pin marks on the inside surfaces that will need attention with the fit being quite good overall with the fit of the panels being good overall with just some minor seams to be filled.
The two side panels are the early style without the folding armoured flaps at the top of the sides and rear panels which were added later to protect the tops of the ammo rounds exposed in their racks.
On the right side there is the original shallow pulpit only seen on the early production vehicles but the contours of the pulpit and machine gun ring are incorrect slightly in a couple of areas for the early style pulpit.
Firstly there is a distinct straight edge at the front of the MG ring just behind the front panel join and the angle of the pulpit plate at the rear is slightly out of position and you have a join seam to fill but this may not be an issue for some? The fully round MG ring is a feature of the later pulpit with the added depth on the right side but not the shorter pulpit applicable to the version in this kit although the corrections are fairly easy to deal with.
On the front plate the driver’s vision port flap and the corresponding bullet splash guard on the plate are too square at the bottom corners and the visor port on the flap is also too small as well as the vision port being about 1mm to far inboard and should be more to the left but these issues will take a bit of work to correct and some may choose to leave as is?
You are provided with the armoured glass “windscreen” box on the inside of the front plate but there is no actual “glass” included to use if showing the visor open and you will need to find some clear sheet elsewhere if you want to fit this?
Also the two large storage boxes on the left side of the front plate are for track grousers not supplied in the kit and not for the spare track links that are provided. The head lights are mounted high on the front plate with additional bush guards that are quite thick and could do with being thinned with the position on the lights being correct for the early/intermediate vehicle depicted in the kit.Engine Deck:
The engine deck, rear hull overhand plate and the large storage boxes all represent the later types with the deck in particular requiring a bit of work to bring it back to the early/intermediate configuration.
On the deck the forward intake grill is represented as solid textured plastic and will no doubt be provided in the inevitable etched sets for this kit or from those already available for the M3. Two fuel cut-off valves on the sides of the forward engine deck plate are too far forward and should be positioned between the rear two bolt heads.
The biggest issue is that the early/intermediate deck had two additional air intake grills either side of the rear deck protected by metal plates over the top (see images). These intakes were deleted from the later deck as included in the kit and will have to be added which should be within the capabilities of most moderately experienced modellers.
The rear overhand plate requires a cut-out added in the middle as the straight plate was again a later feature with this being easy to add by cutting out a section of the plate exposing the two curved exhausts behind.
You also need to add an engine crank hole in the middle of the plate and extend the lower sides out to be level with the rear plate; again these are quite easy to deal with.
It should also be noted that the very first engine decks were without the additional rear intake grills and had the straight rear panel but these were quickly replaced with the early/intermediate deck configuration and would also need the interior modified to the early configuration.
The two large storage boxes have the later top opening lid while those on the early vehicles had side opening doors with hinges along the sides of the boxes and are quite distinctive when seen in photos.
The combination of the short pulpit, lack of superstructure top folding armour panels and the later style storage boxes is quite feasible given the overlap of features on production lines as mentioned at the start but not the later engine deck configuration.
The fuel fill caps are all separate parts as are all the tools with moulded on tool brackets and replacing these with etched items would improve the detail definition here and adding the wiring to the side mounted tail lights would also be of benefit.Interior:
The forward compartment floor has tread plate pattern as well as the front differential housing covers in five parts and the transmission in a further six parts and represents the details quite well.
Included is the two part driver’s seat, steering levers, clutch and accelerator pedals but strangely the gear shift level on the side of the transmission is missing as are a couple of linkage rods on the differential housing and brackets on the rear of the transmission but the basics are provided. The driver’s instrument panel is the smaller intermediate type mounted on the side sponson and has engraved details that should come up okay with careful painting.
Moving back the rear engine compartment firewall is that of the early/intermediate with the detail quite well done and on the sidewalls are the larger intermediate ammo bins that extend along the sidewalls as well as just the two fold down crew seats, fixed in the down position. These are canvas covered in the real M7 but the texturing is way overdone on the kit seats and it’s best to fill this for a better appearance.
You are provided with the upper halves of the 105mm ammo canisters to fill the side bins but these lack the dividers between the bin segments and it’s best to show the full load as provided due to the bins only being half the depth they should be and missing dividers.
On the right sidewall are racks with two M1 Garands but should actually be M1 Carbines for the early vehicle kitted while later vehicles would carry M3 SMG and there are also some pin marks on the rifle and racks to be removed.105mm Howitzer:
Overall the gun is quite well done with some excellent details including the barrel segments done using slide moulds resulting in them being completely hollow and perfectly round with just the smallest of mould seams to be removed which improves the final look considerably.
Item such as the hand wheels are relatively thin and there is nicely represented detail on the gun cradle halves but the telescope and quadrant parts are a little simplified.
The breech is also moulded using slide mounds and is nicely done in one piece but again there are a couple of pin marks on the outer face to be removed and the separate breech block has a large sink mark on one side but this will be hidden if you fit the block in the closed position.
What does let down the gun is the myriad of pin marks and some nasty sink marks on the parts with most of the pin marks being on the outside of parts such as the gun cradle and gun mountings that compromise the otherwise nice detail.
Some effort will be needed to remove some of these pin marks without damaging the detail and a bit more planning to see the pin marks on the inside of the parts would have eliminated much of the problems.
Assembly is fairly straightforward with the gun able to elevate and traverse after assembly and the two long trail arms also have pin marks on the outside that are fairly easy to remove as there is no detail around these like on the smaller gun parts and at the back is the folding travel lock that can be fitted raised or lowered.
The front gun shields thankfully have the persistent pin marks on the inside and are virtually hidden after assembly and while the shields are a little on the thick side this is not that noticeable after assembly.
Additional armament provided in the kit are two .50cal and one .30cal machine guns but only one .50cal MG is used for the kit, part Y5 with the early style gun cradle and you can add the others to the bulging spares box.
The .50cal is very nicely detailed with separate feed cover, cocking handle and rear firing handles and thumb trigger as well as having the muzzle hollowed using slide moulds. Some of the separate detail parts are a little on the thick side and you may want to thin these a little and the cooling jacket is fairly basic as is common with plastic moulded .50cals.
A three part ammo box has a separate cradle with securing latches with the only real drawbacks being more annoying pin marks on one side of the .50cal receiver and some fairly heavy mould seams on the lower U mounting bracket but overall this is a very nice plastic .50cal MG.
There are also a couple of nicely done jerry cans provided that you can use as required in a diorama setting.Decals:
The large decal sheet is nicely printed with thin carrier film cropped close to the printed image and has markings for 4 M7 Priests.
Overall this is nicely done kit of the early/intermediate M7 Priest with the only real concern being the rear engine deck layout and upper rear plate configuration that will need some work to remedy.
The mixture of the other early/intermediate features is commonly seen so these are not a problem but you should check references for the decal options offered as some have different features than those in the kit.
The number of pin marks especially on the gun parts will be a little frustrating but most other issues are rather minor in the overall scheme of things and fairly easy to remedy and a nice representation of the earlier M7 Priest will result without a lot of hassle.
Highly recommended 7.5/10