While this set is labelled a “Detailing Set” it is almost a replacement kit with the only thing remaining from the Academy kit is the lower hull and small parts such as the guns, lights, tools, fuel filler caps and the suspension if you don’t use the separate Legends suspension set #LF1129 and the tracks.
Everything else is replaced in the set with the complete resin upper hull, turret, fenders, later exhausts and the transmission cover plus many smaller parts including etched light bush guards for what it one serious “Detail Set”.
The set has 49 resin parts in light cream resin which doesn’t sound
a lot plus there are six sprues with various sized bolt and rivet heads that
can be cut off and used about the place to add additional detail.
Also included is a small etched fret with 20 small parts for the light guards and hatch latches and two lengths of brass wire plus the usual Legends colour instruction sheet.
The quality of the casting is generally very good overall with clean crisp castings and thankfully the larger parts such as the upper hull are perfectly square without any warping at all. There are a few small air bubble holes about the place that should be easy to deal with by using a drop of thick cyanoacrylate but some are in awkward places like in the tips of two of the .30cal barrels.
There are some quite substantial casting blocks to be removed which will take
a bit of work, especially on the larger parts like the transmission cover and
upper hull and other parts have the pour gates overlapping the actual part
needing care when removing. The resin film inside the hatch and panel openings
is very easy to remove but the usual care should be taken with this and in
removing the smaller parts from their casting sprues to ensure no damage occurs.
To fit the new transmission cover will require a bit of surgery by cutting off the side final drive extensions and a strip from the lower hull with the instructions giving measurements where to make the cuts. It is very important the side cuts are the exact same angle and position as each other as this will affect the fit of the resin tranny cover in turn the fit of the upper hull.
After making the cuts I added two small temporary plastic brackets to the lower hull to allow the resin tranny cover to sit at the correct height and angle while gluing to ensure it was perfectly even and these brackets can be cut off after assembly.
Providing the hull cuts are made correctly the fit of the resin tranny cover to the plastic hull tub was very good not requiring any further trimming but I must stress you have to get the side cuts even in the first instance to avoid problems.
The kit final drive covers (parts A18) require the inner locating stubs be cut off and then these are glued to the resin transmission housings and again the fit is very good not requiring any trimming. It should be noted that you have to remove the entire casting block from the resin tranny cover for the upper hull to fit correctly and also if you intend to use the Academy kit interior to allow the inner floor (kit part #C1) to fit.
The rear hull plate is also replaced with a resin item with open engine inspection hatch to which is added the kit doors and there is the later oil bath air filters and fishtail exhausts to use in place of the early exhausts in the kit and these have extremely fine cover clips and you will have to handle these with care to not break off the fine wings nuts at the bottom.
The fit of the rear panel to the Academy hull is very good without any trimming
required and added to the rear plate are the kit idler mountings, tow shackles,
tail lights and fender extensions
There are the openings for the side and top hatches, front Driver’s vision port as well as the turret ring and gun opening all requiring the resin film be removed with separate parts for the side door hinges which are quite fine requiring care in handling.
Subtle cast texture has been added to the top of the gun mounting plus the left side plate angle corrected but the engine deck depth is the same as Academy kit and is short by about 1.5mm.
All the rivet locations are correct for the early version except there is one rivet missing from the left side on the panel in front of the side door and two on the right side, these rivets were not on very early M3s but most production M3s had them in these positions and you can use the additional rivets supplied to add these. Carefully cut the rivet from the resin sprue with a sharp blade and attach with thin cyanoacrylate.
As mentioned the substantial casting blocks will need to be completely removed if you plan on using the kit interior parts with the fit of the separate hatches and visors is spot on and will actually stay in place without glue such is the good fit.
The driver’s visor has internal detail and the small support rod when open can be made from the brass wire supplied and the small side panel visor is also a separate part but is not designed to be open as there is no internal detail.
The two side crew doors have excellent detail on both sides with the grab handles added from the thin wire provided and these have separate hull hinge fittings and it’s best to temporarily fit the doors before attaching the hull hinges to ensure they are in the right places.
The larger US style rear sponson storage boxes are provided and you have to cut off the hull rivets before fitting these, just mark out which need removing and cut off with a sharp blade to save for future use if required, can’t have too many spare rivets.
Fitting the 75mm gun housing is a bit of a compromise as the resin housing is not designed to traverse but there are small locating points on the inside for the gun housing for the pins on the resin gun mounting (part #7) but these are not large enough to fit in the mounting points and you may want to add longer pins to get the sit right.
The fit of the gun housing into the hull is very good and you can add the inner kit gun breech if you wish but you will need to drill out the locating hole for the kit barrel in the resin gun mounting and there is the bolted muzzle counter weight for the shorter M2 gun barrel provided but this is a little loose on the barrel and you will need to take care when gluing in place.
The top mounted gun sight is provided in resin with separate top cover and this should be glued to align with the barrel orientation.
There is numerous kit items added to the resin hull such as the fuel filler
caps, some tools with the axe and short crowbar provided in resin and there
are etched clips for the engine deck mounted tow cable and at the front the
kit lights have multi-part etched bush guards included.
|Fitting of the upper and lower Hulls:|
There are indentations along the undersides of the hull sides to sit the lower hull sponson insert panels into making for a very snug fit along the length of the hull without the need for any trimming at all.
At the back the fit was again quite good and you should note the outer rear panel extensions fit inside the hull side panels but overlap top sponson plate, this may be confusing as there is an indentation under the sponson cover making you think the rear panel should fit in there, so take care and again test fit to check where things go.
After assembly there are minor join gaps between the rear plate and hull panels but using thick cyanoacrylate should take care of these and attaching the front fender sections sees the initial fit again good but test fitting will determine if any trimming is required with all the additional smaller parts fitted in the usual manner.
Overall the fit of these major parts was very good considering the potential
for issues when fitting large plastic kit parts and resin parts together.
The detail on the turret is nicely done with cast surface texture, small casting numbers on the top and the subtle contour on the sidewall under the cupola much more in keeping with the real thing than the kit turret bulge.
There are three large casting blocks to be removed from inside the turret shell but if you are leaving the hatches closed these could be left alone but there is no lower turret ring with the turret shell designed to just be glued in pace on the turret race on the hull top which means it can’t rotate after assembly unless you modify things with some form of attachment lugs.
Detail on the cupola is very good with nicely done vision ports and the front machine gun mounting but there is no internal detail if you leave the top hatch open and is designed to be glued into the lower bolted cupola ring.
At the front is the gun mounting plate with nice details included with cast texture, flush screws and small casting numbers (different from those on the Academy part) and the gun mounting is again designed to be glued into place in the mounting plate with you cutting off the kit 37mm gun at the appropriate place and gluing to the mounting. If you wanted to add the inside kit gun breech detail this would have to be modified to fit into the resin turret as no provision is made to accommodate these parts.
The fit of the front gun mounting plate to the turret is very good and will basically hold in place without glue but the gun mounting needs a bit of work to fit neatly inside the mounting plate as it just didn’t want to sit evenly on my set.
The instructions are colour photos of the assembled kit with the parts called out by number but you are felt to work out how some sections go together such as the rear hull plate/upper hull joins and no real indication on what are the best assembly sequences.
There is a fair bit of work required to remove the huge casting blocks on
the hull, transmission cover and turret in particular with care needed.
The new hull and turret address the major issues with the Academy kit parts as well as offering improvements in the smaller details although the cast effect on the transmission cover is a little overdone for this particular part but overall the set will build into a better looking M3 Lee than the Academy kit and it’s up to the individual to decide it the set is overkill or just what is needed?
The kit is really for experienced modellers but shouldn’t pose too many problems for anyone using basic skills and a bit of patience.
To fully update the Academy kit you can also use any of the available M3 early suspension sets from ABM, Formations and Legends, reviews of these sets will follow when the mailman does his thing.
|SHERMAN A History of the
American Medium Tank
R.P.Hunnicutt. Presidio Books
Medium Tank 1941-45
Osprey New Vanguard
ISBN 1 84176 889 8
|Medium Tank M3 to M3A5
Tanks in Detail 4
by Terry J Gander.
|US Armored Funnies
|AFVisual M3 Lee
By David Doyle
Squadron Signal Publicatrions
Armour series #2033