M3 Lee / Grant
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

The M3 Lee was the first U.S. medium tank to see action under American command in WWII during the North African campaign, and it wasn't long before it was recognized as outgunned by it opponents. The 37mm turret gun was effective only against thin-skinned targets, with a close shot capable of taking out a Pz. II. The 75mm gun on the sponson was critically hampered by a lack of mobility. The tall silhouette made it a conspicuous target.

The tank had been employed by the British, where it was reconfigured with a new turret and rechristened the "Grant." The Russians accepted it as it was, though they nicknamed it "the coffin for six brothers."

The initial M3 was bolted together, but it was followed by the cast hull M3A1, the welded M3A2, the welded and diesel-powered M3A3, and the M3A4 equipped with the Chrysler multibank engine. After the tank fell out of favor, it was modified to become the M31 tank recovery vehicle. Its chassis was put to further use as the platform for the M7 Priest 105mm self-propelled gun.

Tamiya produced the M3 Lee and Grant early in their catalogue, circa 1973. These tanks were plagued with problems such as poorly designed tracks and misshapen turrets. Prior to that, Monogram had issued the tanks in 1/32 scale, and they won a following due to Shep Paine's imaginative rendering of the kits displayed in booklets included with the kits.

While there was well received—and relatively pricey— resin kit from Armoured Brigade Models in the late 1990s, it took until 2006 before a new M3 Lee hit the shelves. Produced by Academy, it was an improvement over the Tamiya kit, but the oversized suspension bogeys were a sorry disappointment. The company did come out with properly scaled bogeys for the 2008 M7 Priest and M3 Grant, and offered replacements for the oversized parts.

The photos below show the similarities found on the M3 Lee and Grant, essentially everything below the turret.

Neil Baumgardner provides the first set of photos of M3 Lee serial number 2, located in Detroit, MI. This nicely preserved specimen gives a good overall impression of this early tank.


This second set comes from Ian Sadler, showing the fourth produced M3 Grant, shipped to the UK for evaluation, where it remained. According to Ian, it ended up on the firing range as a target, thus the pockmarked complexion. Photographed by Ian at the War and Peace Show in 2006, the tank is in running condition but is past the point of restoration. The measuring rods are marked in 3" segments, to give an idea of the dimensions of the suspension.


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2008 Timothy S. Streeter