Up until now
it has been a disappointing year and a half for American armor modelers.
Of the five most highly anticipated kits, the first four saw one
hit (the Hobby Boss M4 HST), one satisfactory (the Academy M7 Priest)
and two duds (the Academy M3 Lee and Grant). But now, after a five
year delay behind their excellent M3A3 (Stuart V) kit, AFV Club
has now released the first of their M5 kits, an M5A1 early production,
and it is thankfully worth the wait.
AFV Club teased
us back in 1997 when they released two sets of M3/M5 track, the
rubber pad T16 (AF35019) and steel three-cleat T36E3 (AF35020) types
and a lovely M3/M5" suspension kit that was superior
to anything else on the market. But then it took until 2002 before
they released the first of their kits, the M3A3, and while a beautiful
kit in its own right it was not a more common American type like
an M3 or M3A1 variant. In the meantime Academy released their kits
of the M3A1 (which was not) and M3 Honey which, while better in
many areas than the 30+ year old Tamiya kits, were no bulls-eyes.
Now as we roll into 2008, this kit has come to market and it is
everything many modelers had hoped it would be.
First off, it
does not use many of the sprues from the M3A3 kit and where it does
supplementary parts for the correct bits on the M5A1 are provided.
These specifically cover items like the new mounts and VVSS springs
for the idler wheels - but being AFV Club, the provide nylon inserts
so the springing action works! Go figure. The modeler
also has a choice of either welded spoke road wheels or the welded
pressed steel types, as well as welded open spoke or
patched spoke idlers.
The lower hull
is molded flat, but this is not a major problem as it actually permits
more accurate construction of the hull. The hull also comes with
a firewall and mounts for the twin fans at the rear of the compartment,
but no engines or any other lower hull innards are included. The
crew escape hatch is also a separate component. The engine access
doors come in six partstwo folding sections and two fixed
sections. Fenders and the rear section of the sponsons are separate
parts, and the lower glacis is also provided with separate bolt
heads molded on one of the sprues for accuracy. AFV Club doesnt
appear to have tumbled to the tricks of slide molding
as used by DML, Trumpeter and Academy, but their molding is nonetheless
The upper hull
comes in a total of six basic partsupper sides, upper glacis,
turret roof, fuel tank covers, and engine deck. The bow gun is mounted
so that it can move and all of the hatches and periscope inserts
are separate components, and if carefully assembled the directions
also indicate the hull periscopes are moveable. Brass parts basically
cover two of the big grilles at the rear for the upper air intake
and exhaust vents from the engine compartment. None of the lower
grilles are provided, however.
The kit comes
with one sprue24 linksof AFV Clubs T16 single
link track. This is only for the four spare links carried at the
rear of the hull, and it comes with two acceptable vnyl track runs
for the main track; I daresay most modelers will be very happy with
these and will use them vice going for single links. AFV Club indicates,
like most other manufacturers, these can be cementedbut in
the fine print it says Instant Glue (e.g. ACC cements.)
The turret comes
with a complete 37mm gun and a turned aluminum barrel (no plastic
option.) A few other interior parts are included to include an SCR-508
radio set for the turret bustle (no No. 19 set is provide for the
Stuart VI, so Commonwealth modelers are on their own here). The
base for the .30 caliber AA machine gun mount is also a turned aluminum
part. A different set of turret moldings are provided for the M5A1
turret and are different from the M3A3 ones in the placement of
grouser mounts and other details. There are some small ejection
pin marks inside the turret but nothing of major note most places.
Note the grousers are quite accurate but come in two pieces each,
and since there are 24 of them this may be the most tedious part
of the kit.
AFV Club offers
six finishing options: Carol, C-34, 3rd Battalion 33rd
Armored Regiment, 3AD, Normandy 1944; 2nd Chasseurs dAfrique
Regiment, 1st Division Blinde, Free French Army, 1945; ROC Army,
1950s; 4th Tanks, 4th Marine Division, Saipan 1944; 23rd Hussars,
29th Armoured Brigade, 11th Armoured Division, British Army; and
D Company, 34th Tank Battalion, 5th Armored Division. Carol
also comes with a box-size portrait packed with the kit directions.
Markings look okay but the very fussy will want to replace them
with dry transfers.
kit is what modelers have been asking for five years, and while
it does seem to take AFV Club a while to get their kits out for
the most part they arrive ready to meet the anticipation.
Thanks to Miin
Herng Tsueng of AFV Club for the review sample.
* A 41 M5 lower
hull and fittings
* B 34 M3A3 kit engine details and rear panel
* C 87x2 Suspension and wheels
* C 16x2 Fuel caps, lift rings, fire extinguisher
* D 53 M3A3 D59954 turret base and internal components
* E 12 M3A3 .30 caliber machine guns
* F 2 M5 upper front hull and fan mounts
* G 10 etched brass
* H 2 turned aluminum
* I 3 M5 glacis and turret decking
* J 1 black nylon string
* K 37x2 M5 fine details, lights, extra bolt heads
* L 3 M5A1 alternative turret
* P 4 black nylon wheel keepers
* T 2 black vinyl tracks
* 72 T16 track for M3/M5 series tanks
- Cookie Sewell
See also Kurt Laughlin's review
of the accuracy of the kit, and Martin Dogger's Observations
on building the AFV Club M5A1.