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Academy 1/35 scale Achilles tank destroyer

Manufacturer: Academy, distributed by Model Rectifier Corp. (MRC), 80 Newfield Ave., P.O. Box 6312, Edison, NJ 08818, 732-225-2100, http://modelrec.com
Kit: No. 1392
Scale: 1/35
Price: $35.00
Comments: Injection-molded, 564 parts (2 vinyl), decals
Pros: Well-molded parts, excellent interior detail, lots of options, good vinyl track
Cons: Ejector-pin marks inside turret walls, tiny parts (bolts) difficult to handle and clean up
The Achilles was a British adaptation of the U.S. Army's M10 tank destroyer. Removing the standard 3" gun, the British installed their high-powered 17-pound antitank gun (also used in another conversion, the Sherman Firefly). The new gun's performance compensated for the M10's main deficiencies - light armor and an open-topped turret. The vehicle was used in the late stages of the Northern European and Italian campaigns, and saw limited service after World War II.

The Achilles is the first in the long-awaited line of tank destroyer kits promised by Academy. I was impressed by the quality and quantity of parts provided. The model is cleanly molded in sand-colored plastic, and free of flash.

The kit is overflowing with features. Multiple suspension options are included, along with two styles of drive sprockets. Alternate idler wheels and bogie wheels are also provided. Two versions of the cast-armored transmission housing are also provided. The T-56E1 tracks are provided as one-piece vinyl components.

The interior has detailed parts for the transmission, crew seating, interior stowage and floor. The kit includes gas cans, stowage boxes, spare track, packs, tools, machine guns (.50-cal., .30-cal., Sten guns, and a Tommy gun), ammo, and ammo stowage containers. There are small detailing parts such as wing nuts, bolt heads and casting numbers (they are molded onto a base piece and require careful shaving to remove).

Following the instructions, I started constructing the wheels and bogie units. These parts are similar to Academy's M12. The bogie wheels feature separate back parts for detail in the pressed-style wheels. Due to the nature of the bogie unit construction, I painted the parts before assembly. Though it left the parting seams untreated, it allowed thorough painting of the bogies' interiors. The bogie units can articulate, but I recommend gluing them to prevent this; the tension of the tracks will pull the end wheels up in an unrealistic manner.

I started on the lower hull by building the transmission and the driver station. Floor detail is nicely done and features the escape hatch. A British-style radio adds detail to the co-driver's compartment. When adding the central fighting compartment to the chassis, slide the floor all the way back to the stops on the inside of the hull and properly align the rear firewall.

The kit has a full ammo load in storage tubes representing 3" rounds. However, five separate 17-pound rounds are provided, and I used them to flesh out the ammo storage lockers. The instructions show U.S.-style canteens below the ammo, but I chose not to add them based on reference photos.

The product features a late-model hull configuration, as the obvious bolt assemblies are confined to the hull front only. These bolts are provided as separate parts. Though few in number, removing the bolts from the sprue and cleaning them up required tedious work.

The upper hull has separate parts for the crew hatches, periscope ports (including periscopes) and the engine compartment. The shape of the crew hatches seems off. Photos show them to be slightly less rectangular but the kit parts have a very noticeable bevel on the back edge. I'm impressed with the scale thickness achieved on the molding of the hull ice-cleat rack.

A fair amount of engine compartment detail is provided, though there's no engine. Though they are not seen after the top hull is added, the sponson fuel tanks are provided!

The rear hull, muffler, and exhaust detail is very good and the unique exhaust deflector is provided. After I completed the subassemblies, the top and bottom hull components went together perfectly. Carefully note the contact points at the rear hull to keep the parts from breaking free later. Tool placement on the rear hull is indicated by raised outlines. You may wish to sand them off.

The insides of the turret sides and back are severely marred by many ejector marks. Though they are somewhat covered by interior details, I recommend filling and sanding them. The kit provides the prominent ready rounds. They are molded with the ammo loaded, but with careful painting they'll look fine.

The one-piece vinyl tracks were easy to install and fit just right. The track loops are closed by molded-in pins that hold tight, but plastic glues have no effect. I used super glue to ensure they wouldn't come apart. Since Sherman/Achilles tracks have no sag (otherwise they would be thrown off the wheels), the vinyl tracks look fine.

The turret comprises six major components and the gun. It goes together well, but make a dry run or two to help align the parts. The square, bulky shape of the 17-pounder's breech assembly is well represented. The gun sight aperture in the mantlet is present but molded as a shallow depression; it should be open its full length.

I painted my Achilles with a dark olive shade of Polly Scale paint acrylic. The kit instructions call for a dark green but the vehicles started with U.S. Army colors and probably not all were repainted.

Decals are provided for two vehicles. Though I put down a gloss coat they silvered a bit, so I recommend trimming the excess film as close to the markings as possible.

My prime reference was Militaria (Wydawnictwo) No. 115 M10/M36. It has excellent photos and drawings specific to the Achilles. Overall, the kit matches the references well, though from certain angles the turret looks a bit narrow at the back.

My Achilles was an enjoyable project and was finished in 22 hours. Though the large number of parts may seem daunting, the kit builds quickly and is a good model for anyone who has built a few armor kits.

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