Stuart series of tanks has been a popular modeling subject for many
years. Academy provided us with the M3 and M3A1 in 2001, and AFV
Club released the best kit so far, an M3A3, in 2003. These followed
the M3, M5A1, and M8 kits from Tamiya, which were released back
in the 19'70s.
M3 is not bad. Its turret is way too small, and the hull also is
suspect, but overall it resembles an M3. The
M3 lower hull was used as the basis for the following M5A1 and M8.
A number of early Tamiya kits were motorized, often modifying the
lower hulls to accept a standard power pack and battery. This practice
spoiled several kits, including the M5A1 and M8, which in reality
they used a longer hull than the M3. To fit the upper hull on the
M3 lower hull they shrunk the engine deck. From a financial standpoint,
this can be understood, but from a modeler's point of view it ruins
the accuracy of the kit. Consequently, the M8 and M5A1 kit really
need work to bring them up to date, but it can be done.
Stuart has been the subject of various books and Internet discussion,
so I'm not going to dwell on the more esoteric details. But it might
be interesting to consider the conditions under which the M8 was
in the war, U.S. armored units were either designated as light battalions
(equipped with the light M3 or M5 tanks) or medium battalions (all
M3 Lee or M4 Sherman medium tanks). But experiences in Africa showed
that the light tanks were obsolete as fighting vehicles, underarmed
and underarmored compared to their German counterparts. Thereafter,
all tank battalions were composed of three medium tank companies,
and one light company.
had begun on the M8 HMC before this change. The Army authorized
the development of a vehicle which could be used as assault support
for the light tank battalions, i.e., when confronting strongpoints
or fortified positions. First, a 75mm howitzer was fitted in a turretless
M3. This was not satisfactory, as the gun had limited traverse.
Therefore, a 75mm howitzer in a open topped turret was proposed.
First it was to be fitted on an M3 hull, but this was switched to
an M5 hull. The design of the turret meant that the front hatches
could not be opened, so two hatches were placed in the front glacis
plate. The vehicle was accepted for service as the M8 75mm Howitzer
Motor Carriage. Production began in May 1942, and a total of 1,778
vehicles were built and used by the U.S. Army and French units.
M8 was not used in its intended role, however. The traditional light
battalion had disappeared, and the tank companies used fire support
from the M4 with 105mm howitzer (subject of a 2003 Tamiya kit).
Instead, the M8 was used as fire support in the cavalry reconnaissance
squadrons, which fielded the light tanks as well as armored cars.
detail on the Tamiya hull can be used, but the basic part needs
adapting. As said, the M8 used the old M3 lower hull and it's noticeably
short by several millimeters. If you want to fix the lower and upper
hull pieces, the best references would be Steve
Zaloga's Stuart book, or an article by Zaloga in Military
Modelling (Vol. 29 No. 14 Nov-Dec, 1999). Cookie Sewell also
did a write-up on the M5A1 hull in Military Modelling (Special
Issue No. 2 Vol. 29, No. 10 and a followup exchange between Sewell
and D.P. Dyer in issues Vol. 29 No. 12 Oct 8-28, 1999 and Vol. 30
No. 3 Feb 17-Apr 13, 2000). Chris "Toadman" Hughes has
a CD-ROM with reference photos that will highlight the detail you
Models Design released a full resin kit of the M8 HMC in 2005, so
hopefully, they might release an update set as well. There's the
possibility of using the Formations hull M5A1 conversion, but that
would be a shame to do. That set converts the AFV Club Stuart to
an M5A1, so it means more work is needed to make it an M8. )
transmission cover is fair, but needs some work. It has an incorrect
lip at the point were it meets the upper hull. Scratch building
is an option, or try modifying the piece. Wrap three bits of plastic
around the transmission drive bulges and the center nose part. After
letting it set, use putty to fair the pieces in, and add some casting
all this work, you still need to plug the various motorization holes,
and as usual with Tamiya, you must supply your own sponsons.
suspension is not entirely accurate either. The bogies are quite
fine, and compare favorably against the Academy ones. The wheels
have some big seams, the skids are thick, but with some more work
this will do for most tastes. The
sprockets are wrong, with an incorrect number of teeth. Get a sprocket
ring from a DML Sherman kit. The rear idler assembly needs some
detailing. The inner spring is not present at all, there should
be a cut out, and a small disc at the front plate.
best overall solution is to buy AFV Club's separate suspension set,
and fit this to a modified or scratch built lower hull. (This set
actually gives you more than just the suspension. It also comes
with grousers, periscopes, grab handles, towing eyes, antennas,
a transmission cover, front faces for the siren and headlights and
some British tank bits like fire extinguishers and smoke dischargers.)
tracks also need replacing. The end connectors are molded to each
single link, rather than spanning them to connect the links. As
molded, the tracks would fall apart in pieces! By far, my favorite
substitute is the AFV Club individual link set, although there are
other options: Academy vinyl tracks or link-to-link type, AFV Club
vinyl tracks, Accurate Armour resin, or the Model Kasten set (the
latter is only recommended if you're a modeling masochist).
the upper hull is too short. The references build-up articles from
Zaloga and Sewell will help you here.
upper hull has a new turret ring part. This has the periscopes molded
shut, so you could drill them out, and fit the AFV Club periscopes.
The rear hull has molded on details like the fuel filler caps, engine
screens, and tiedowns, but it does come with separate grab handles.
These have a bit of flash however, and making them from wire is
easy enough. Replacing the grills with PE from Eduard would go a
long way in improving the look as well.
mentioned upper hull part has the weld seam included, but as it's
a separate part, this sits actually next to the joint, so there
is still a small seam.
bits on the hull include tools, which need straps, and the front
light, sirens and associated brush guards. The brush guards are
fairly thick, so a replacement might be useful. The shapes however
are more difficult than Sherman brush guards, and some work with
a file will save you some money.
the hull exterior is done, you add the hull interior. Basically,
this is four parts. Lower hull floor, under the turret ring, two
complete assemblies of the ammo storage and a fire extinguisher.
No front detail is included for the driver's area. The Verlinden
interior set would be helpful here, or if you're lucky, you have
the old YANKS M8 detail set still stashed away.
turret assembly starts with the gun. This has quite nice details,
and is a good basis for super detailing. Zaloga's article gives
good guidance here.
back to the kit. The turret gets some interior bits: two grenades
in molded on racks, two small stowage boxes, and three seats. That's
all. The .50 M2 on the ring at the rear is best left alone. Get
a replacement from Academy or your own favorite resin set. Hervé
Charbonneau supplied me with some info over on the Missing Lynx
discussion groups that the machine-gun ring included in Academy's
and AFV Club's M18 is the same as in this kit. AFV Club includes
the better gun of the two, so this might be an option.
turret sides get grouser racks molded in one complete assembly.
Scratch building will give you more detail. The AFV Club suspension
set contains 32 grousers, maybe not be enough for the whole turret,
but the parts are a lot better defined than the Tamiya parts, and
building the racks is easier than making the grousers.
remember to add the weld seams at the turret front. They are present
on the kit, but can use some stronger definition.
one figure included, dressed in the winter combat jacket, holding
a binocular. Details are soft, but with some careful painting and
new hands and head, he serves the purpose.
are included for three vehicles. One of these has ID numbers for
an M8 displayed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, so for me this is
the least interesting option. The others are for two WWII units
that served in Europe, both in plain olive drab. One is from HQ,
67th Tank Bttn, 2nd AD. The other is from F Co., 85th Cavalry Reconnaissance
Squadron, 5th AD. Markings include stars, serial numbers and a yellow
vehicles provide a more colorful alternative. Take a look at www.chars-francais.net
for photographs. You'd need to get your own decals however. Again,
AFV Club provides several decals in their M3A3 kit, so the basics
are there. Serial and unit numbers need to come from other sources.
this kit can't be rated as good by today's standards. It's a basis
to start from, but an accurate M8 needs a lot of work. Much can
be done by using the AFV Club suspension and tracks. But this still
leaves you to do the reworking of the hull, and detailing the turret.
The fact that AFV Club included the later pressed wheels in the
set might indicate they're working on an M5 as well. Hopefully,
the M8 will get the attention it deserves in the future.