AFV Club has finally released its long-anticipated M5A1 Stuart kit. While some parts are from a previous M3 Stuart, most of the moldings are brand-new.
Typical of most AFV Club kits, the main hull comprises several panels. Features inside the hull indicate an interior might be planned, perhaps as a separate detail set.
A small photoetched-metal sheet provides the two main hull screens. Also included is a two-piece, turned-metal barrel for the main gun. All the hatches can be posed open, and the periscope covers can be shown open or closed. Some turret interior is provided, but opening the main turret hatches would require more detail. The decal sheet covers six different markings, two of which are very colorful. The instruction booklet is well illustrated and even includes a photo of a real M5A1. No figures are included.
Assembly starts with the running gear. AFV Club provides both spoked and pressed road wheels; the pressed wheels have hollow backs. Curiously, the kit contains two styles of pressed wheels - but only four of each. While they were no doubt mixed in the field, an even mix of the two types would be very uncommon. I left off the running gear until after painting.
Rather than assemble the hull in several steps as the instructions show, I glued all the main panels together in one sitting to allow minor adjustments before the glue set up.
The photoetched-metal screens fit perfectly and really set off the back deck. However, if you look too closely you'll notice the empty interior. Sadly, the headlight moldings are solid.
The turret posed problems. Mounting the main gun to the mantlet so it would still elevate was complicated by the small surface area of the attachment points. Aligning the coaxial machine gun (E4) and gunsight (D45) was difficult because of a lack of precise attachment points to the main gun. The only other problem with the turret is that there are not enough grousers provided to fill the racks on the turret sides.
I painted with Tamiya olive drab and highlighted panels with olive drab lightened with dark yellow. The decals are very thin and respond well to Micro Sol and Set. After washing and dry-brushing with oils, I installed the running gear.
At last! A dimensionally accurate M5A1 Stuart! My finished model exactly matched the measurements listed in the Standard Catalog of U.S. Military Vehicles
, by David Doyle (Krause).
The AFV Club kit is a little more difficult than others, but the level of detail makes the effort well worth the trouble. It took me about 19 hours to build my Stuart.
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