M3A1 Stuart
Verlinden Kit No.889
1/15th Scale

Review by Terry Ashley

The Kit::
The M3 was a development of the earlier M2 Machine Gun armed scout cars in an attempt to produce a vehicle that could survive in the coming war in Europe.
The initial production M3’s had a number of small changes in the production run of 5811 vehicles between March ’41 and August ‘43. The M3A1 differed from the M3 with the fitting of an improved turret design and other design improvements as a result of experience gained in war situations. As with the M3 it was produced with both gas and diesel engines and between July ’42 and Feb ’43, 211 diesel engined and 4410 with the Continental Radial engines were produced. Production was then switched to the improved M5 series of vehicles.

The M3A1 first saw action with the US Marines in Guadalcanal in Sept ’42 where it was more than a match for the Japanese armour encountered. They next saw action in North Africa in late ‘43 against French armour, giving a good account of themselves. Things did not go so well when coming up against German Panzer III’s and IV’s in Tunisia , late ‘42,’43 and where totally outclassed in tank v’s tank engagements.

The M3 has always appealed as an attractive vehicle and with the release of this kit in big 120mm (1/15th), I chose the Stuart as my first venture into resin kits in this scale as it is a fairly simple kit as far as resin kits go and to learn the new techniques required for this medium, and believe me things are very different from injection plastic.

The Model:
The kit comprises of 142 resin parts with a further 170 individual track links, plus two frets of etched copper. The resin parts have been cast in two styles, one has a single casting block attached which must be removed with a razor saw or sharp blade depending on it’s size, care must be taken not to damage the parts (and your fingers). The second type has the pieces cast on one single backing sheet and it is this which takes time to clean up. Firstly snap the parts from the thin (or not so thin) backing sheet and using a sheet of course wet and dry paper firmly attached to a smooth service (a piece of glass does nicely, with safety edges of course), carefully sand the excess resin from the part. Care should be taken not to sand too much and damage the part, use a circular motion constantly checking the part as you sand. (Remember to wear a good quality face mask to avoid breathing the resin dust, you could also use water to keep the dust down). The parts themselves are cast to a high standard with few if any air holes, if any are present normal plastic filler works fine (eg, Tamiya, Green Stuff). If any parts are warped these can be corrected by dunking into hot water, straightening then dunking immediately into cold water. I find it easier to clean up all the parts before you begin and using a soft pencil, write the part number on the parts, this makes life a lot easier as construction goes along.

Just a quick word on adhesives. Super Glue (Cyanoacrylate) is stated as the preferred type, this has a nasty habit of sticking fingers to everything and anything (extreme care must be taken). There are several types of Cyanoacrylate, the normal Thin liquid plus Medium and Thick gel, all types have their uses, gel taking slightly longer (up to 30 seconds) to cure, is stronger and can be used to fill small gaps (you can also use an accelerator). The best Cyanoacrylate I have used is FLASH available in various size bottles from good hobby shops. I have found that assemblies which must take the stress and load for the whole model are best glued using ‘5 minute epoxy’, (which require you to mix two parts together) obviously this means you have to support the parts until the glue cures, but the resulting join has far greater strength than Cyanoacrylate, although the Thick FLASH gel is extremely strong. On to the model.

Construction begins with step 1 (surprise) the running gear, which is fairly straight forward. The road and idler wheels are in two halves, the resulting join line must be filled and sanded smooth (normal plastic filler doing the job fine). I used ‘5 minute epoxy’ to assemble all the suspension parts for added strength. I left the suspension units off the model until last to avoid damage and make the model easier to handle during construction.

The Hull:
Step 2 covers the lower hull and it is essential to get the sides and rear positioned at exact right angles and aligned correctly otherwise the whole kit will be out of kilter. To strengthen the joins and help ensure alignment I epoxied lengths of 7mm plastic beam at each of the side and rear joins.

Step 3 is the fitting of the top hull sides and top deck which should present no problems, (providing the lower hull is all square) a small amount of trimming of the top deck may be required to get a snug fit.
Step 4 & 5 deals with the smaller fittings to the hull, again I used epoxy to attach the side fenders for added strength. The front part of the fenders and fender supports are from fairly thick etched copper. Carefully bend the front mudguards around a large round object like a screwdriver shaft, gently rolling around the curve till you get the right bend. The front fender supports are the first major correction needed, the type provided in the kit is for the M3, not the M3A1 version. I rebuilt these supports using plastic card. (See photo’s for details)

On the rear hull a number of additions are required. Wires for the tail lights should be added coming out from the side of the hull just behind the lights. The radio antenna support is provided in etched copper, but the part is about half the size it should be, again I rebuilt it from plastic card. Numerous tie-downs are provided, these should be round in profile but the etchings supplied are flat (a common problem with etched parts) in this scale it just didn’t look right, so I rebuilt the tie-downs from card and copper wire. Using a punch and die set, I punched out numerous small disks in plastic card, attached these in position with Cyanoacrylate and then drilled holes in each to take lengths of bent copper wire resulting in better looking die-downs. The remaining etched copper fittings can be fitted as they come, after carefully bending them into shape.

The Turret:
Step 6 & 7 is the turret and is fairly simple, with only the front plate needing a little trimming to get an even fit. The periscopes are moulded closed, I decided to open these by adding periscope lenses from blocks of clear perspex, also the support for the 30. Cal machine gun appears to be on the wrong side of the turret. All references I have show the mount on M3A1’s to be the opposite side from that in the instructions, this is a simple matter of attaching the assembly on the opposite side. I have left the MG’s for now, as these have extensive detailing which I will come to later.

The Hull: (smaller detail finishing)
Step 8 deals with the smaller fittings around the front hull, unfortunately the positioning of these parts are a little vague in the instructions and good reference material is essential. There is extensive wiring which comes out of brackets in the hull to both headlight assemblies which I added from thin solder ,this is much softer than wire and gives a more natural sit (see photo’s for positions). Numerous bolt heads were added to the head light guards and fender supports, these can be made by slicing up lengths of thin sprue like salami and attaching with small dobs of Cyanoacrylate. To make hexagonal bolts, use an xacto blade to shave the sprue lengthways to form the six sides before slicing the bolts heads.

At this stage I attached the suspension bogies but left the drive sprockets off till the track was fitted, this makes life a lot easier as we will discover.

.30Cal Machine Guns:
There are three machine guns on the vehicle, one complete gun and two barrels, one advantage of this large scale is you can add a lot more detail. Real M/G’s have a barrel surrounded by a perforated cooling jacket and I decided to simulate this on the model. Firstly I carefully drilled out the jackets, and I mean carefully, (using a pin-vice, a power tool of any type would destroy the barrel instantly) as I drilled further along the barrel I was left with a very thin outer jacket with the cooling holes. This is not very strong and must be supported by firmly griping between the fingers as I drilled, virtually drilling between the fingers.

I drilled only as far as the cooling holes go in the jacket, next using a drill the same diameter as the aluminium barrel, drill out the muzzle to take the barrel. From plastic rod I added a collar to the rear of the jacket with a hole for the barrel which was added using a length of aluminium tube, this is extended out the back of the jacket and inserted into holes drilled into the hull and main body of the machine gun.
This all sounds complicated but if you take things easy a very realistic appearance is achieved.

The Tracks:
Finally and probably the most time consuming is the tracks. The instructions give no help at all to assembling or fitting these, being extremely vague. There are separate links (parts R74) designed to fit around the drive sprockets, but do not, they required extensive surgery to get a reasonable fit.

Fortunately the tracks on the M3 are “live” (as with all American tanks) which means they will curl up on themselves if not supported resulting in no sag between return rollers on the top of the roadwheels (other than a very small amount for gravity eg the M113), as opposed to Russian and German tanks which have “dead” track (which flops all over the place) resulting in the characteristic “sag” between return rollers.

The long straight sections of track along the ground and along the top of the suspension were easily assembled using 5-minute epoxy and a straight edge to ensure they were aligned correctly.
For the curved sections around the idler and drive sprockets, I attached the track links to lengths of masking tape on the inside of the track (to hold in position) added the 5 minute epoxy and positioned these around the drive and idler wheels, adding more masking tape to hold in place until the epoxy cured.. To add more strength I drilled holes in each track link end at opposing angles, which when filled with epoxy resin forms solid ‘pins’ when the epoxy cures.(This technique can be used on other assemblies for added strength as well)

Painting and Finishing:
Verlinden gives you a rub on decal sheet of generic stars and numbers (but no specific M3 markings), unfortunately these decals are in White. The markings on most M3’s up to around 1942 where Yellow, therefore I had to produce my own markings. To do this, I firstly sprayed the areas of the model where the markings would go Yellow, when dry I masked off the stars and strips on the turret and added the “USA” and “W” numbers on the hull sides using Letraset. After spraying the Green (and it is dry) use masking tape to remove the Letraset by sticking on the tape and peeling off leaving the Yellow showing. Simple remove the masking tape on the turret as normal.

The overall Green was airbrushed using Humbrol ‘Marine Corps Green’ (HP5). When dry a wash of Black oils was applied to highlight the details and final weathering was added by drybrushing (on a model this size, that’s an exercise in itself). Various shades of green and earth colours where drybrushed until the desired effect was achieved.
I mounted the finished model on a rudimentary base with two 120mm Verlinden figures to give perspective to the size of the model and ease of handling.


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