Kit: No. JA63901
Manufacturer: Jaguar, distributed by Marco Polo Import, 532 S. Coralridge Place, City of Industry, CA 91746, &626-333-2328
Comments: Mixed media, 453 parts (129 resin, 324 injection-molded styrene)
Pros: Excellent exterior detail, individual-link track, good overall fit, accurate
Cons: Poor illustrations in instructions complicate building, tedious assembly of track
The development of what would become the M551 Sheridan began in the early 1950s with the need for an air-deployable light tank. General Motors' design was accepted for development in 1960. The small tank featured a unique gun that could fire either a Shillelagh missile, or a special, caseless high-explosive round.
Teething problems with the armament plagued the Sheridan, especially in the humid climate of Vietnam. The Sheridan, originally envisioned as a heavily armed reconnaissance vehicle, found itself in the role of a main battle tank. The U.S. Army began phasing out the Sheridan in the late 1970s, but the 82nd Airborne continued to use the vehicle. The M551 saw action in Panama (Operation Just Cause), and it was the first U.S. armored vehicle deployed in the Gulf when Iraq invaded Kuwait (Operation Desert Shield).
Jaguar, a producer of resin detail and figure kits, has chosen the M551 as its first complete kit. It is molded almost completely in a light tan resin. Only the road wheels and individual-link tracks are injection molded. I was impressed with the quality of the detail in the moldings; no large lugs of excess resin are present on the parts, making cleanup quick. I left most of the small parts on their resin plugs until they were needed.
Four pages of instructions with a parts list and grainy photos show placement. It is difficult to distinguish some of the parts and their location. No decals or color notes are provided, except for the color photographs of a finished model on the box top.
Before starting, I stuck the small parts to card stock and labeled them with their part numbers. Some of the parts were identified by process of elimination.
I started assembly with the hull, rather than the turret as the instructions show. Most of the suspension arms are keyed to the hull. Carefully install them so they all line up in the right position. I could only guess at the location of the shock absorbers as the photo is murky.
The tires are separate parts from the road wheels, and I added them to the rims but left the road wheel halves apart until after painting. All hatches are separate, so you can install them open or closed, but since no interior is provided, I closed them.
There were a few small gaps to fill between the upper and lower hull halves. Adding the details to the hull was easy. You have a choice of two styles of tow hooks for the rear of the vehicle. I couldn't tell them apart from the illustrations, but made sure I used two of the same style on the front, as well as on the rear. Dry-fit the fender flaps (part Nos. 28-30) to the hull before you add the tow hooks to make sure they won't interfere when the flaps are installed later. The brush guards for the headlights are delicate resin castings; one of mine was broken in the package, and I broke the other while trying to clean it up. Phooey! I left them off. I'll replace them later with wire or stretched sprue.
The turret is molded in one piece and features excellent detail. The holes were too small for the commander's and loader's hatches, and you have to be careful enlarging the loader's hatchway - it's easy to make the hole too big!
The rear turret basket is molded in one piece and requires a delicate touch to remove the resin flash. No mesh is provided for the turret basket. The main gun tube was slightly warped, but I corrected it with heat and careful bending.
Painting my Sheridan was easy. After painting the tires grimy black, the entire vehicle was painted with Testor Acryl U.S. Desert Storm Tan. The road wheels fit loosely on the suspension arms, so I attached them with gel super glue, making sure they were straight and level.
Jaguar's tracks are well molded, and the only cleanup was the sprue attachment points. The individual links were fiddly and took longer to assembly than others I've built. I glued them into strips with Testor liquid cement. After they had set a while, I added them to the suspension, carefully bending them around the drive and idler sprockets. Photos show a lot of track sag, so I formed mine that way. Although the instructions say you need 115 links of track per side, I ended up using 121 per side. After they dried overnight, I painted them with Testor Acryl rust and then dry-brushed them with Testor steel.
I covered the searchlight reflector with Bare-Metal Foil, then gave my Sheridan a wash of burnt-umber oil paint thinned with mineral spirits. When this was dry, the entire vehicle was dry-brushed with the base color lightened with white.
My Sheridan took about 32 hours to build, a little longer than an injection-molded kit. Some of the extra time went into figuring what part went where. The finished model matches exactly the dimensions in Squadron/Signal's M551 in Action. Jaguar's Sheridan is a challenge even for experienced builders, but it is the most accurate Sheridan available, and well worth the extra effort.
- John Plzak