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Mike

M3 Lee Early/Grant Medium Tanks 1:35

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M3 Lee Early/Grant Medium Tanks

1:35 Takom via Pocketbond

 

boxtop-lee.jpg

 

boxtop-grant.jpg

 

The US Army had been remarkably complacent with regard to tank development in the lead-up to WWII, and approached war with precious few that were hopelessly outclassed.  This realisation resulted in a frantic clamour to produce a modern tank that could hold its own in combat, with the M3 Lee coming into service as a stop-gap measure within a year of its first design while the M4 Sherman was in development.  As a consequence of its rather rushed introduction, it was known to have a number of fairly serious flaws, but it also had some strengths that (at least in part) made up for them.  Its high profile and sponson mounted main gun gave the enemy a large target, but when the 75mm main gun was brought to bear on a target, it was surprisingly powerful and effective, gaining a reputation in North Africa.

 

A great many examples were exported to the British and Russian forces in the early stages of WWII, and after the majority of British armour was left on the beaches of Dunkerque, the need became even greater.  The British required some changes to improve the vehicle's performance, which most visibly included a new larger turret with a bustle to accommodate radio gear, and a cupola instead of the sub-turret with machine gun mount, which was named the Grant after general Lee's opponent.  Due to the pressing need for suitable numbers however, the British did take a number of Lees, and the Soviet Union also took delivery of a substantial number of Lee variants, although some ended up at the bottom of the sea thanks to U-Boat action.  The Soviets disliked the Lee intensely and gave it a wide berth wherever they could in favour of the more modern and capable T-34, the production of which ramped up substantially after the initial shock of Barbarossa, which led to its retirement from front-line service by 1943, while the other Allied continued to use them (mainly in Africa) until the end of the war.

 

The Kits

There have been two kits released initially, one being the Lee, the other the British specification Grant.  Both kits share a core of common parts, which is why I'm reviewing them together.  Like the real thing, I'll deal with the Lee first, then note the differences between it and the Grant, with pictures of the common sprues and the individual Grant sprues, as the Lee sprues are effectively a subset of the Grant boxing with one exception in the tracks, but more on that later.

 

Both kits arrive in the same box that shares the tank's feature of having a modest size but higher profile.  Sprues are bagged individually, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet and a landscape A5 instruction booklet in each box.  The box art shows one of the decal options, however some of the glue on the box corners appears to be failing already, so you might want to put a precautionary staple in yours when it arrives to save scattering sprues everywhere at some later point.

 

M3 Lee Medium Tank - Early (2085)

Inside the box are ten sprues and two parts in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with headlights, a PE sheet, decal sheet and instruction booklet as mentioned above.  Construction begins with the lower hull, which has a rear bulkhead and final drive housing attached at the front, with three stations on each side for the VVSS (vertical volute-sprung suspension) units, which held a pair of wheels each.  The drive sprockets are fitted to the front, and idlers at the rear on a trailing arm that is where tension is adjusted on the rear thing.  A number of large bolt heads are added to the suspension units, which can be found on the sprue runners and are cut free with a sharp blade to be glued in the noted position on each arm.

 

hull.jpg

 

turret-lee.jpg

 

sprue1.jpg

 

sprue2.jpg

 

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The tracks are link and length, with a jig supplied for the top run, which has an upward curve at the front as it rides over the drive sprocket.  The highly curved areas have individual links supplied, with the diagonals under the drive and idler wheels fitted in short lengths.  The tracks fit under the sponson floors, with separate sides added, which have crew hatches cut into the sides for later fitting.  The complex angles of the glacis plate and casemate of the 75mm gun are formed over a number of steps, with the roof having a cut-out for the turret and the limited-traverse mantlet of the main gun attached before it is flipped over and fitted to the rest of the hull.  The engine deck is fitted last, and has a choice of pioneer tools and towing cables, which require some holes to be drilled from the inside before fitting.  The exhausts and mudflaps are fitted to the rear bulkhead along with a number of panels and towing eyes to the rear, while the bolted glacis flanges are fitted to the front, with the driver's hatch and caged light cluster on the wings.

 

The turret has a simple two-part construction, with the mantlet inserted into the lower half, allowing the gun to elevate, while the top machine gun turret actually has more parts, including vision ports, a split hatch, lifting eyes and machine gun barrel.  The 37mm gun and coax machine gun are fitted last before the mantlet cover is installed, which makes one wonder what the purpose of the additional machine gun on the top of the turret was when there was already one mounted coaxially.

 

 

Markings

There are four markings options spread over the inner cover pages of the instructions, All of which are in Olive Drab expect for the Soviet option, which is in Russian Green.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • Soviet Union, unknown unit, unknown date, with red star on the turret, and patriotic slogan on the glacis.
  • US 2nd Armoured Division, 1942 with colourful red/white/blue star roundel on the sides, glacis and turret top.
  • Unknown training unit, Desert Warfare Centre USA, 1942 – white star and 16 on turret with yellow band at the bustle.
  • Unknown training unit, Desert Warfare Centre USA, 1942 – White star and yellow band on turret.

 

decals-lee.jpg

 

The decals are printed anonymously, and have generally good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  On my sample the blue centre to the early roundel is slightly offset, but not all that noticeably.

 

 

M3 Grant Medium Tank (2086)

With two addition sprues and one replacement, the build is essentially the same except for the replacement of the smooth track links with treaded plates, with a set of side-skirts and additional stowage on the engine deck setting the hull apart from the earlier Lee.  The mudflaps on the Grant are boxed in to reduce dust kick-up in conjunction with the side-skirts, after which the turret is a totally new assembly.  Using the same turret ring size as the Lee, the Grant's turret is appreciably larger, although it mounts the same 37mm gun in the same manner as the other, but omits the machine gun turret in favour of a folding hatch in a cupola.  It retains the coaxial machine gun and mantlet plate, but goes at least some way toward reducing the profile of the tank in the enemy's sights.  it appears on closer inspection that the moulding insert on the cheeks of the turret has not lined up completely, and has left an infinitesmal mark around the port.  This should be pretty easy to clean up, just by mimicking the texture with a round burr in your motor tool, and a little judicious sanding.  cast armour was never all that cleanly done.  Look at the sharpness of the bolt heads below, and the casting numbers on the Lee turret.  Crisp!

 

turret-grant.jpg

 

sprue1-grant.jpg

 

tracks-grant.jpg

 

 

Markings

Because the Grant saw service with the British and Commonwealth forces in the deserts of North Africa, the base colour of the tanks were a sandy yellow, with camouflage patches of various shades applied over the top.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • 2/10 Armoured Regiment, 1st Australian Armoured Division – Khaki green camouflage and yellow triangle on the turret.
  • British 7th Armoured Division, 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, Squadron C, battle of Al-Gazala, 1942 – black camouflage pattern and yellow circle on the turret.
  • 3 RTR north Africa, 1942 – Brown camouflage patches, and Khaki green horizontal surfaces.
  • Montgomery's personal command tank, 8th Army HQ, 1942-3 – Khaki green camouflage.

 

decals-grant.jpg

 

Decals are again anonymously printed, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  The denim colour of the Porky Pig emblem is slightly offset on my sample, but as it looks like a highlight, it shouldn't pose much of an issue.

 

 

Conclusion

Whilst the old Academy offering isn't a bad kit and includes a basic interior, it is beginning to look dated to the modern modeller's more demanding eyes, so these new releases should be welcomed, especially as the cast texture on the turrets and various other parts is provided in-box without any messy dabbling on the modeller's part with noxious solvents and tools.  The lack of interior will hardly bother many, as a lot of models are built with their hatches closed up, or with crew figures to give the vehicle a sense of scale.  Detail is excellent, and with a number of other variants including a recovery vehicle forthcoming, Grant/Lee aficionados will be pleased.  The Priest also shares the same basic chassis, so perhaps we might see a new tooling of this in due course?

 

Highly recommended.

 

 

Review sample courtesy of



logo.gifUK Distributors for logo.gif

 

 

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Lookslike good builds and not too over complicated like many new tool 1000+ pieces affairs.

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