part of my personal challenge to build three Priests more or less concurrently,
I acquired two Academy kits: One to build a later early version as may have been
seen in Sicily; and the second kit to build "Baboon" of the 2nd Armored
Division as it arrived in Normandy with wading trunks and deep water fording walls
around the crew compartment. The Italeri
kit provided a late Priest as seen in the winter of 1944-45.
2007 release continued Academy's track record of raising AFV modelers' hopes and
then perplexing them with some notable improvements bedeviled by peculiar shortcuts
and errors. As Steve Zaloga has noted, it seems that Academy was more inspired
by the Italeri Priest than in-depth research. Academy may have felt there was
a safe harbor in the fact that many features changed through the production run
and made some preemptory decisions that in retrospect were somewhat dubious.
M7 Priest, based on the M3 Lee chassis, underwent numerous changes during the
production run of 3,490 vehicles between the spring of 1942 and spring of 1945.
These changes were introduced throughout the manufacturing process, and some vehicles
were upgraded during maintenance in the field, so while there are some distinctive
"markers" that separate early, mid, and late versions, there are also
features that were more fluid in their appearances and may be seen in one mid
version M7, but not in another one.
example, after the early version was well into production, the need to raise the
side walls to better protect the ammo stored in the bins led to the use of field-manufactured
plates being welded on top of the side and rear walls. This feature was introduced
in the factory as hinged plates, and is one of the markers of most, but not all,
intermediate versions. The hinged plates were standardized on the later Priests.
such, this Priest straddles the ground between early and mid versions. It does
not included the notched differential cover, 12-round ammo bins, and brackets
mounted on the stowage bins for auxiliary fuel tanks seen on the earliest version.
It does not have the welded or hinged plates on the walls.
side-opening stowage bins mounted on the rear deck continued into the intermediate
production variant, but this kit has the later top-opening bins (albeit without
the distinctive mesh baskets of the late Priest).
Academy kit does not include the long, rectangular instrument panel that carried
over from the M3 Lee into the early Priest, but the panel that is included seems
spurious. The early and mid variants were equipped with M1 carbines in the wall-mounted
scabbards; Academy includes Garands (as does Italeri, though the late Priest carried
Thompson submachine guns).
very earliest Priests had problems with gasoline vapors collecting in the engine
compartment. This was alleviated for later early and intermediate vehicles by
cutting two rectangles out of the deck plate and covering them with screens and
protective armor plates. The Academy kit omits these, a significant error that
can be rectified by scratchbuilding, photo etch parts, or loading the deck with
gear (which was certainly common, but the gear would sit atop shelves that spanned
the vent plates).
with this kit are the early suspension, corrected from the manufacturer's M3 Lee;
more detail in the driver's area; and the three-piece differential cover is represented
well. The floor has the correct anti-skid pattern.
full complement of fiberboard ammo tubes is included. However, they are shortened
in order to fit into the false bottom of the ammo bins, which lack individual
the down side, there are numerous ejector pin marks to fill. The parts are not
cast as crisply as we've enjoyed from other manufacturers. As mentioned, the instrument
panel is fantasy, as is an additional seat on the sponson behind the driver. The
gun's panoramic telescope is unusual or considerably simplified. The rear overhang
wall notched as should be.And the ammo arrangement is disappointing, and there
are some fit issues, but nothing that is beyond repair. There are a couple errors
in the instructions.
being said, this is a much better basis for building an early or intermediate
Priest than trying to backdate the Italeri kit, which for some 20 years was the
only recourse and required cannibalizing a Tamiya Lee or Grant to get the early
suspension and three-piece differential cover. Now there are a wealth of aftermarket
sets, including early suspensions from Tasca, Formations, and Tank Work Shop;
extensive photo etch sets from Eduard and Voyager; and 105mm
ammo sets from Resicast, Tiger Model Design, and Verlinden.
used the Eduard photoetch set #35446 for the Sicily Priest, and the Voyager set
for "Baboon." But be aware that these sets include numerous parts for
late-early or intermediate versions, without any explanation of what may or may
not be appropriate. Using references can help you sort out the details.
with technical manuals and numerous online photos, other references used for this
build included Tankograd's excellent U.S. WWII 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriages
M7 & M7B1 Priest, Steven Zaloga's U.S. Armored Artillery in World War
II, Jim Mesko's U.S. Self-Propelled Guns in Action, (albeit with some
errors in the text and photos), Richard Hunnicutt's Sherman, and Chris
"Toadman" Hughes' 105mm H.M.C. M7, M7B1, and M7B2 Photo Detail CD.
Also available but not sourced are Allied-Axis #17 and Steve Zaloga's article
in Military Modeling.
and Lower Hull
Upper Hull Exterior
Assembly, Painting, and Weathering