Tamiya M3 Stuart Late Production Full Build Review
Introduction: In early June I posted a first look review of the Tamiya M3 Stuart (Late) kit. In that review I indicated “I’m very excited to be able to build this kit as I think Tamiya has hit this one out of the park. The detail provided in this kit is excellent.” and I was not disappointed in actually building this model. Did Tamiya make a perfect kit? Not yet! There are a few things, like thick headlight guards and front step and cast screening of the rear deck air intake and exhaust. However, it didn’t take much in the way of research and the application of some modeling skills to some of these issues.
Research: As I was doing the research prior to building this kit, it struck me as a bit strange that Tamiya would make a late production M3 Stuart instead of an M3A1 because outwardly there’s not much difference. I suspect Tamiya may introduce an M3A1 at some point as they only need to modify the rear hull and remove the rivet heads on some of the upper hull plates. What I found was that British combat experience pointed to the need for the commander and gunner to be in an integrated fighting compartment in a basket attached to the rotating turret. Thus, as part of the constant upgrading process a new turret was developed with an integrated basket. This new turret design eliminated the cupola and replaced it with roof hatches and a periscope for the commander. The 37mm main gun was also undergoing upgrades with the introduction of gyrostabilizer and a power traverse system. In an attempt to allow these improvements to reach the field at the earliest possible date, some of these improvements were introduced into late production M3 Stuarts. According to Hunnicutt, “M3 serial number 3722, was the first light tank to be received by Aberdeen with the new turret and gun mount, but without the basket and power traverse”. A search of M3 Stuart serial numbers indicates approximately 1500 late production M3 Stuarts was produced. There is also evidence that a majority of this production was provided through the Lend-Lease program to Russia and Great Britain. The British dubbing this configuration of the M3 Stuart as the Stuart Hybrid.
Steps 1-4, Lower Hull and Suspension: Tamiya uses 6 parts for the construction of the lower hull. Before I started construction, I remove the molded on grab handles on the rear plate (part D41) and replaced them with brass wire (Figure 1). The bogie and return roller attachment points are molded on to the lower hull and hull sides which helped in aligning the suspension parts (Figures 2 and 3).
Figure 1, Rear hull plate
Figure 2, Left lower hull Figure 3, Right lower hull
In Steps 2-4, you assemble the idler wheels and bogie assemblies and attach them to the lower hull. Note: Please pay attention to the instructions as these assemblies are annotated as to their placement on the lower hull. The idler wheels are fairly easy to assemble, but require a bit of work to address the seam between parts D40 and D59 (Figure 4). I added some details to the idler housing like the screw to tighten the volute spring, cast texture and foundry markings (Figure 5 and Figure 6).
Figure 4, Idler assembly
Figure 5, Volute screw Figure 6, Foundry marks
I had no problem with the assembly of the bogies (Figure 7). I did thin parts A11 and A12 a bit and added three .7mm bolt heads to each part to represent their attachment points to the bogie assemblies (Figure 8).
Figure 7, Bogie assemblies Figure 8, Skid plate attachments
You also attach the front step (part D35) to the final drive housing. The front step is a fairly thick casting which required some thinning to get it to look about right. This part begs for a photoetch replacement.
Steps 5-12 and 15, Upper hull: In step 5 you are given the option of either adding .30 Cal machine gun barrels or plates designed to cover the machine gun ports. I elected to use the plates as most of the pictures I have shown them installed (Figures 9 and 10).
Figure 9, Right MG cover plate Figure 10, Left MG cover plate
Part D20 represents the screen cover over the rear deck air intake. This is solid plastic and while the detail of the screen is very good, I decided to blank off the hole in the rear deck and use photoetch screen (Aber AB35S06) to represent the kit part (Figures 11and 12).
Figure 11, Air intake opening Figure 12, Air intake screen
The headlights are designated for the right and left fenders. I added 0.10 lead wire to each light to represent the electrical cables. After final painting I added MV Lenses L149 lens to each headlight. I also added some part numbers to the cast machine gun housing using Archer casting details (Figure 13).
Figure 13, Front hull detailing
Note: In Step 8, the instructions indicate an assembly sequence for the driver’s/co-driver’s hatches and front plate. Follow this assembly sequence and you’ll have no problem with the fit of the parts.
In Step 9, you assemble the oil bath air cleaners. I used some putty to fill the seams on each air cleaner. While the air cleaners are quite good they could use some photo etched fasteners for added detail. I believe Formations made some Stuart air cleaners, but they seem to be long out of production.
In Step 10, you add some armor plates and other details to the upper hull. The right side sponson plate (part D45) has two holes (well almost) on its upper edge. Doing some research, I found these holes are where there are two large screws. I drilled out these holes and added some LionMarc .6mm screw heads (Figure 14). I also thinned down the headlight brush guards (Figure 15).
Figure 14, Right sponson screws Figure 15, Headlight brush guards
In Step 11, you add the rear fender storage boxes and taillights. I added footman loops using 0.10 plastic rod and 0.18 x 0.10 plastic dots, and lead foil straps with photoetch buckles to the fender storage boxes (Figure 16). I also added 0.10 lead wire to each taillight to represent the electrical cables (Figure 17).
Figure 16, Storage box detail Figure 17, taillight detail
In Step 12, you add the sponson fillets, exhaust cover screen and .30 Cal machine gun barrel to the upper hull. The sponson fillets (parts D22 and D23) drop fit into the upper hull (Figure 18). The exhaust screen is solid plastic with good screen details. However, I replaced this part with photoetch screen and a frame of .20x.40 plastic strip (Figure 19).
Figure 18, Sponson fillets Figure 19, Exhaust screen
In Step 15, you add the pioneer tools to the rear hull. I added lead foil straps with photo etched buckles to each tool. Tamiya did a great job in capturing how these tools look (Figure 20 (6043)).
Figure 20, Pioneer tools
Steps 16-18, Turret: In Step 16, you assemble the turret. The various parts are well engineered and went together quite well. I did us a little Mr. Dissolved Putty on the seams of the turret halves, front plate (part D5) and turret roof (part B16); however, this was very minor (Figure 21 (6009)). Initially, I considered replacing the kit 37mm gun barrel with one from RB Model; however, the kit provided barrel was very good so I decided to use it instead.
Figure 21, Turret construction
In step 17, you assemble the turret .30 Cal machine gun and its mount. This entire assembly is a small kit unto itself. I elected to replace the barrel with RB Model (35B82) .30 Cal barrel (Figure 22).
Figure 22, .30 Cal Machine gun
In Step 18, you add the machine gun mount, armored port covers and hatches to the turret. I added 0.23 hex heads to the machine gun mount to simulate the bolts which secure it to the turret. The turret hatches had some small punch out marks which needed to be addressed. In addition, I added brass wire to simulate the hatch handles (Figure 23 (6015)).
Figure 23, Turret hatch
Step 19, Figure: The kit provides one body and two heads for the commander’s figure. One head is for a Russian tanker and one for a US Army tanker. I elected to use the US Army tanker head. In general, the figure is very nice; however, I used an xacto knife to sharpen the details of the figure body a bit (Figure 24).
Figure 24, Figure
Track: The kit track is made of softer black plastic. There are some mold release nubs on the inside of the track which needed cleaning. I glued the track together with Tamiya liquid cement. The track seems to be very durable and accepted paint very well. I painted them Ammo by MIG track and tire black grey. They were weathered with a heavy wash of AK European Dust and a dry brushing of Ammo by MIG dark track on the end connectors.
Painting and Weathering: I always give my models a bath of warm soapy water before I start the painting process. I primed all the parts with Tamiya grey primer. About a year ago I purchased some Mission Models paint at IPMS Nationals. I’ve put off using this paint until I built a US World War II subject. I used their US olive drab (MMP-25) for the base coat and did panel fading with US olive drab faded 1 (MMP-20). I have to say this is great paint. It went on very smooth with no clogging of the airbrush (Figures 25 and 26).
Figure 25, Primed model Figure 26, Base coat applied
The kit provides markings for three vehicles (one US Army and two Russian). I elected to use the US markings. Due to the marking scheme there are 11 different decals for the turret. It took some time and quite a bit of Solveset to get these decals in-place and conforming to the turret shapes (Figure 27). I must admit I touched up the turret decals with some Vallejo yellow as I made a few mistakes in their application.
Figure 27, Model with decals applied
I applied several acrylic and enamel washes to the model to achieve the weathering effects I was after. I generally don’t go for heavy weathering as I think it detracts from the details of the model. Finally, I attached to completed model to a simple base (Figures 28 and 29 (6255 and 6263)).
Figure 28, Right side view Figure 29, Left side view
Aftermarket upgrades used: This kit is so new that at the time of construction there were no specific aftermarket upgrades available. Since release of this kit, DEF Model and Passions Models announced Photoetched sets. In addition, Miniarm announced a series of suspension system resin upgrades aimed at this kit.
References: Stuart U.S Light Tank in Action, Steve Zaloga, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1979.
The Stuart Light Tanks Series, Bryab Perrett, Vanguard 17, Osprey Publishing, 1980.
Stuart A History of the American Light Tank, R.P. Hunnicutt, Presidio Press, 1992.
M3 Stuart, Andrzej Chojnacki, Wydrawnictwo Militaria, 1997.
US Light Tanks at War 1941-45, Steven J. Zaloga, Concord Publications Company, 2001.
Tanks Detail M3-M3A1-M3A3, Jonathan Forty, Ian Allen Publishing, 2002.
Modelling the M3/M5 Stuart Light Tank, Steven J. Zaloga, Osprey Publishing, 2003.
Allied-Axis Issue 29, M3/M3A1 Light Tank, Kurt Laughlin and Jeff KlenHenz, Ampersand Publishing Group, 2003.
Stuart Light Tank, Rob Ervin and David Doyle, Squadron/Signal Publications, 2014.
Conclusion: The M3 Stuart is one of my favorite tanks. I was very excited to be able to build this kit. In my opinion, Tamiya has provided the armor modeling community with an excellent kit. This kit is designed for all skill level modelers. I have to admit the application of the turret decals for the US Army tank was a bit tricky, but the modeler is given other options if they don’t want to tackle the US version. I want to thank Chris Lloyd-Staples for allowing me to snipe this review kit from him. I owe him a pint or two for the privilege.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Tamiya USA for this review kit.
Reviewed by Mike Petty
AMPS, 1st VP
AMPS Central Virginia
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