Building the Academy M7 Priest
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Suspension and Lower Hull

There are no big problems with the Academy hull and suspension units. The lower hull contains the bolts seen on the early and intermediate Priests. You need to plug the hole on the bottom floor that must have been designed for a yet-to-be-produced motorized version. There are a couple sponson details left over from the M3 Lee that need to be removed carefully as the sponson is exposed on this open-topped vehicle..

The kit gives you the option of using the "plain" or "ribbed" bogey trucks, but the ribbed style (part H2) was rarely seen on Priests. The slots that anchor the installation of the triangular struts on top of the bogey trucks leave gaps that need puttying, and you'll want to attend to the seams where the parts join. The open-spoked wheels spanned the production run of the Priest, but solid-spoked and dished wheels were common on late vehicles.

The diagrams for assembling the differential cover at Step 5 are carried over from the Lee instructions. You can see the notched differential cover that was used on the Lee and the earliest run of the Priest. The parts are not textured, so I used some Mr. Surfacer

If you are going to use photo etch for the fenders, you'll want to remove the fenders from parts H7 and H8 before gluing them to the hull.

The kit does not call for building the rear hull wall until step 9, where it is attached to the upper deck, and I followed the instructions in this instance. But now is a logical time to note that the wall comes with separate engine compartment doors you can leave open if you wish to detail the interior. The kit provides box air cleaners, but I opted to use a pair from Italeri's M4A1 to present the earlier round version. To get them to fit between the rear wall and the overhang wall, I had to scrape off the raised mounting rectangles. I used the Eduard photo etch eyebolts rather than the thicker kit parts. (This is one of those detail toss-ups: thicker but properly rounded kit parts or thinner but flat photo etch, or scratchbuilt wire pieces. I vacillate between the options depending on my ambition.)


Also be aware that if you do not use the kit's rear fenders (parts B21 and B22), you will have a gap to attend to when you mount the deck and rear wall to the lower hull. But we'll get to that later.

As previously mentioned, the rear overhang needs to be notched out as seen at right. You can also see that the protective plates that covered the air cleaners are notched on the outboard sides. This is a strange Academy construction "feature" that you can remedy with putty after the body is assembled. Or, You can do what I did, which was to remove these plates, replacing them with plastic stock, and then carving off the support tabs on parts B26 and B27 that this overhang wall rests on. I did this since I wanted to add welding beads where appropriate, and felt that having the more accurate joints would more easily facilitate this.

Don't forget to drill out the "keyhole" for the engine starting crank. It is a little tricky to get the correct shape. I used a very thin bit in a pin vise to drill two holes next to each other, and then a larger bit to drill the larger center hole. If you don't get it quite right, well, that's what big tarps are for.

The kit comes with the distinctive fish tail exhausts that can be easily seen when the overhang is correctly notched. The exhausts are one piece (C17) that mounts to the underside of the engine deck, but they are too high to present themselves properly. I used some scrap plastic between the deck and the part to move them lower and into view. The Priests had screens on this back area that aren't easily visible, but there was a sheet metal deflector that I fashioned out of some aluminum.

Before leaving this section, it's necessary to point out a fit problem between the lower hull and the upper hull: a gap between the edges of the sponsons and the superstructure sidewalls. Academy tried to conceal this gap by molding a strip of plastic along the bottom of the two wall pieces. It is still not enough to bridge the gaps, and has effect of forcing the ammo bins to stand away from the walls. This can be remedied by adding a .030" (0.8mm) strip of Plastruct to the edge of each sponson, as seen here. I masked these strips before painting the lower hull to give a clean surface for gluing.

Suspension and Lower Hull

Driver's Compartment
Fighting Compartment
105mm Howitzer
Upper Hull Exterior
Final Assembly, Painting, and Weathering
Building "Baboon"


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © Timothy S. Streeter