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M3 Grant Tank (A1370) 1:35


Mike
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M3 Grant Tank (A1370)

1:35 Airfix

 

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The US Army had been remarkably complacent with regard to tank development in the lead-up to WWII, and approached war with precious few tanks 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 stipulated some adaptations 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 their own tanks ramping up substantially after the initial shock of Barbarossa, which led to the Lee/Grant's retirement from front-line service with them by 1943, while the other Allied continued to use them (mainly in Africa) until the end of the war.

 

The Kit

As you’ve probably already guessed, this is a reboxing of the Academy kit, which until not long ago was your best bet for a Grant/Lee, having its origins as recently as 2006.  It arrives in the new red-themed top-opening box, and inside you will find eight sprues of sand-coloured styrene along with a lower hull part in the same colour, two lengths of black flexible track-runs, a small decal sheet and the instruction booklet with colour profiles for the decal options on the back pages.  The Academy logo has been blanked out on each of the sprues, and on inspection it’s a detailed model with lots of raised rivets, some nice casting texture with casting codes in raised lettering, and restrained use of slide-moulding to fashion the barrels for the choice of two lengths of main gun and the smaller 37mm barrel in the turret.  This is a British specification of the Lee, which discards the top machinegun turret in an effort to reduce the Grant’s high silhouette and remove a substantial weight into the bargain, which will have had a positive impact on MPG, albeit a small one.

 

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Construction begins with the vertical volute-sprung suspension (VVSS) units that are also seen on some Shermans, trapping two road-wheels between a bogie that is articulated centrally around the suspension unit with a return roller on the top.  There are three units per side, so there is some repetition involved, and when they are complete they are cemented onto the mounts on the sides of the lower hull, with an idler wheel fitted to the rear of each side.  Moving to the interior, which is included in the kit, the transmission is made up with the gearbox projecting into the centre of the cab, fitted to a sled-shaped interior insert, which has the drive-shaft and driver controls fixed in place, plus seats, treadplated footrests and foot-pedals.  The lower hull is completed at the front with the rounded glacis plate, the large riveted support ribs and final drive housings that project to the sides and in front of the glacis.  The drive-sprockets and towing eyes with shackles finish off that area, permitting the interior assembly to be slotted into place within, then adding a driver’s seat, radio gear for the left-seater, and a treadplated stowage box behind the driver.  At the rear the aft bulkhead is built up from a myriad of exhaust parts, towing shackles and mudguards before it is fixed to the lower hull and an engine firewall placed at the rear of the fighting compartment.  Ammo storage for the turret gun is added to the right sponson floor, a turret motor on the left, then the two front fenders are attached and decorated with lights, horn and the first of the pioneer tools, ready for the upper hull, which is next.

 

The upper hull is an angular structure made up around the roof, with various facets and exterior strengthening beams fitted along with stowage boxes, vision ports, the upper glacis, side hatches and the curved splinter shield for the 75mm hull gun.  It is flipped over to add the driver’s instrument panel, a twin-mounted bow .30cal machinegun mount, and a pair of rails that run down the side of the sponsons.  The hull gun is next, and you have a choice of long or short barrel, so check your references if you aren’t sure.  It is slide-moulded, so only needs its moulding seam removing with a scraper or curved blade.  The longer barrel has a 2-part counter-balance around the muzzle to help the crew move it around and balance the centre-of-gravity of the longer gun.  The recoil tubes, breech protection frame, seat and elevation/traverse controls are all fitted, and it is then dropped into the lower hull, rotating on a cup on the right internal sponson floor.  A vision block is glued to the roof before the upper hull is mated with the lower, and the side-skirts are glued in place using the tabs moulded to the inside.

 

It's turret time!  The full turret basket is included, festooned with ready-rounds and having a treadplated floor that supports three simple seats, and an accessway to the rest of the interior.  The 37mm cannon has a .30cal co-ax strapped to its side, and is inserted into the mantlet back plate, then the riveted front is offered up, and the two are joined by a set of caps that trap the axle in position.  Elevation mechanisms are glued in, then the assembly is inserted into the turret from outside, with a lower part and turret ring installed, spare vision blocks on the sides, and clamshell doors on the hatch fitted before the basket is mated from below.  The turret is added to the hull, some additional pioneer tools and a large riveted strip is added to the front, then it’s time to put the tracks on.

 

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Some modellers like individual links, some like flexible “rubber band” tracks, and some don’t mind either. Some folks will just get some metal tracks for every AFV kit they have, so there’s bound to be no pleasing some people with their choice of the flexible ones here.  They are turned into a complete run by melting the pegs with a hot screwdriver, but please don’t use your best one as it’ll ruin it - also, don't burn yourself.  There are some spare track links included to fit on the vehicle, and these are all individual links, but there are only nine of them with separate track spuds on the sides.  You’ll need to place your tracks carefully on your Grant, as there are some inconvenient injection points with sink-marks around them on the main tracks, or you could smear them with some dirt to hide their appearance.

 

 

Markings

There are two decal options in the box, one from North Africa, the other serving in Australia’s defence, wearing desert camo and olive green respectively.  The decals are printed anonymously for Hornby,  and consist of unit badges, numbers and suchlike.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • Robin Hood or Robin Hood II, HQ Squadron, Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Brigade, 10th Armoured Division, North Africa, 1942
  • 1st Armoured Division, Australian Military Forces, Puckapunyal Camp, Australia, 1942

 

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Decals are in good register, colour density and sharpness, with the two schemes divided by a handy dotted line.

 

 

Conclusion

This is another welcome AFV model from Airfix, and it will find a ready market both in impulse purchases and from us “serious” modeller, as it’s a decent kit for a reasonable price.  New tracks might be on the menu if you feel the need, but many a good model has a set of “rubber band” tracks on them.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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I have this Grant A1370 kit and the VVSS suspension bogies are the Academy corrected height ones and match the resin aftermarket ones height and real pictures scale dimensions also :)  

 

The cast texture on the turret is nicely randomly rough, and there is almost a full interior and running gear as well, if you want to do open hatches to see inside.

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