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

Upper Hull Exterior

Moving to the upper hull brings a few challenges—or what I like to think of as "skill enhancement opportunities."

One of the most significant problem with the Academy kit is that it includes the later style of engine deck that is more appropriate to the very first or very late M7s. When the initial batch of M7s was produced, it was discovered there was a buildup of gas vapors in the engine compartment. The solution was to cut two triangular holes in the deck, cover them with screens, and then protect the screens with welded plates on "stilts." In the field, these plates typically supported a shelf on which the seven-man crew's gear and vehicle equipment was piled high. This often obscured the screens and protective plates. If you want to bypass this step and are more interested in look than accuracy, the Resicast equipment set is designed to sit right on the engine deck.

But cutting the deck is a pretty simple affair for most modelers. I eyeballed the locations, and, using the Eduard photoetch screens as my size guide, I scribed the outlines so that they were tad smaller than the screens that would cover them. I used my Dremel to drill out the plastic, and the hobby knife and files took care of the rest of the job. I painted the rear deck and the undersides of the plates before gluing them onto the deck.

I also filled in the location points for the fittings on the deck as I was going to use photoetch rather than the thicker kit parts. I added extended handles and p/e chains to the armored gas caps.

The two large top-opening stowage boxes on the hips of the deck were one of those changes introduced during the intermediate M7 production run. I opted to scratchbuild the earlier side-opening version, with one of the bins opened. This was a simple matter of using two pieces of plastic card and some makeshift hinges for outer side. The latches came from the Eduard set.

I wanted to use Eduard's rear and front fenders. Unfortunately, the rear is designed in such a way as to easily accept the kit fenders only, as you can see by the gaps where the sponsons and back plates should meet. Because of the way the parts are offset, the raised position of the sand shield strip, and the sponsons not being truly perpendicular to the hull sides, I took the path of least resistance and used the kit's fenders on the back side. Evergreen stock gave the outer edges more surface.

An obscure little detail seen only on the early and intermediate Priests: Mounted on the back hull wall just above the engine access doors was a curved plate of thin metal that either served as a deflector or protector for the fishtail exhausts. I snipped the thin metal cup for a cheap votive candle, bent it to shape, and glued it in place between the air cleaners. It's barely visible, but it's one of those personal satisfaction things.

While the kit does have some subtle weld beads on the corners where the sides join the front armor, as well as some of plates that make up the front armor, many of these welds were of different widths and some more prominent than others. I used Archer Fine Transfers surface weld details to make these more dimensional and add the many missing welds, particularly to the back hull joints. Because these simulated welds are made of resin, their flexibility is limited before they break. Since they are set onto the model just like decals, I used hot water to make them a little more flexible to accommodate the curve of the pulpit.

The pulpit, by the way, came from another Italeri kit. I had dropped the Academy part on the floor, and in trying to get up to find it, I rolled my my chair right over it. Oops!

I used photoetch for the fittings for the lights and brush guards, and added wiring. Wiring was also added to the rear lights (make sure you remove the long pegs off the backs of the rear lights; this error is a carryover from the Italeri kit).

I added a couple Resicast modified pieces for the front grouser boxes. Some complaints were voiced about Academy repeating the Italeri "error" of loading up these boxes with spare tracks rather than grousers. Actually, tracks are seen in these stowage boxes with surprising frequency, as is other equipment.

With everything I place, I masked off the interior and prepared for the final round of painting and weathering.

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