by John Daniel
At first, the Academy Stuart series was hailed as a quantum leap over the elderly Tamiya offerings; subsequent examinations have proven to be less enthusiastic. The most serious problem with the M3A1 kit revolves around the rivets on the kit’s hull.
As is well known, later examples of the M3A1 utilized as many welded parts as possible to save construction time; the kit is of a riveted hull type. This limits the “Rivet Counters” (no pun intended) to the earlier vehicles. The road wheels have also come in for some criticism, many people suggesting the use of the Tamiya parts to improve the kit’s appearance.
All of these observations are valid, but, in my opinion, serve only to detract from the kit’s obvious attractive points, which are:
- Dimensional accuracy: the kit has again and again been praised for its fidelity to Ordnance plans.
- Accurate tracks: both rubber band and individual link.
- Accurate interior.
- Reasonable price.
- Popularity of subject.
- Ease of assembly.
- Copious amount of extra parts, including a complete set of M5 road wheels.
By now, it’s probably obvious that I’m a fan of this kit. It was a pleasure to build Out-of-the-Box for a friend. The only addition I made was a piano wire antenna with a lead foil pennant. I do wish, however, that the one piece tracks were glueable; I just don’t like melting the pins.
The model was painted with Tamiya acrylics over a black base coat. Lightened OD was used on the highlights. The kit decals were used; Academy provides a “U.S.A.” decal for each side in blue drab, but no serial number. The decals were in register, and adhered well with Solvaset; for “Tiger”, the yellow stripe on the mantlet is not provided; Testor’s Insignia Yellow provided an excellent match. A mix of 25% Tamiya Buff in 75% Gunze Flat was used to weather the vehicle; to my eye, the result is more convincing than using the Buff alone.
In conclusion, Academy’s Stuart series is a pleasure to build, and looks like a Stuart to my eyes. Unless you are a victim of AMS (Advanced Modeler’s Syndrome), just build and admire. The kit’s basic dimensional accuracy, ease of assembly, and popular subject more than outweigh its deficiencies. Is it perfect? Frankly, no, but it’s a darn sight better that its predecessor. That’s enough for me.