M5A1 Conversion for AFV Club M3A3 Kit
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII


For some time, Tamiya was the only company to represent the Stuart line of tanks, with their M3, M5A1, and M8 HMC kits. Some 25 years later, Academy released M3 and M3A1 versions. Each of these five kits have drawbacks, so the release of AFV Club's Stuart V caused some excitement, though it is the Lend-Lease version of the Stuart family exported to Great Britain and the Soviet Union. They are expected to release the M5A1 version in early 2007.

Fortunately, Formations provides another way to get a correct M5A1 using their conversion kit for AFV Club's Stuart. Basically, this combines the best available suspension and turret in plastic with a resin upper and lower hull, road wheels and detail parts. The Formations hull is correctly sized, a vast improvement over the Tamiya kits, which used a notoriously smaller hull to accommodate their battery pack from the M3 Stuarts kits. Legend Production's update mimiced this error.

Lower hull

Formations provides the nicely detailed lower hull as a large single casting. The front and rear hull panels and sponsons are cast integrally and the piece is warp free. This is very important, as it is very difficult to build a kit when the lower hull is not square. At the front are separate final drive covers with good details. There are two options for the bottom plate. You can fit an escape hatch and also the reinforcing found on initial production M5A1s, carried over from the M3 series of tanks.

Upper hull

Again, this comes as an impressive one piece part to which the front glacis and rear engine screens are added. This is a good move, because you can easily fit etched screens from either aftermarket sets or homemade. Formations recommends the set from Eduard made for the Tamiya kit (35492). If you don't want to add the extra expense, just fit the resin screens.

The front glacis is a single piece. This needs to be carefully fitted to the front opening because it forms a straight line with the transmission cover and any offset angle will show. All hull detail such as hatches, tools, lights, bow MG, brush guards, grab handles, lift ring, etc. come from the AFV Club kit.


Formations provides you with a new set of road wheels, drive sprockets, and idler mounts. The road wheels are the later stamped types applicable to the M5A1. Formations have released this set as a separate aftermarket kit, that could used for a less extensive updating of the Tamiya and Academy kits.

The sprockets have the correct amount of teeth, again something that was missed by Tamiya, Legend, and also Verlinden Productions.


For markings, you have to look elsewhere. I have the Bison Decals set which has two sets of applicable markings for early M5A1s.

The later M5A1 had a stowage box on the rear plus a different turret layout with armoured shield around the AA MG. Tamiya has got this in their kit, so this might be a source of parts. I'd recommend taking a look at Knee Deep in Stuart Stew, as there is a quite a bit of aftermarket stuff for the M5A1.

The conversion itself is very good, with clean, crisp detail, and while I have not yet built the kit, my experiences with Formation's M4A2 conversion suggests there will be no problems.

-Martin Dogger-

Editor's Note: This conversion kit was discontinued by Formations in 2008 with the arrival of the AFV Club M5 Stuart, but you may be able to find it through private sales.


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter