by: Bradley J [ ]
IntroductionThe M5 was the result of an upgrade of the radial engined M3 series to dual Cadillac engines after a radial engine shortage due to the high demand of continuing production of the M3 until late 1943. It skipped a mark so as not to be confused with the M4 series of medium tank. The M5 improved in top speed and operational range compared to the M3, and featured a preferable sloped glacis, drivers hatches positioned above the glacis, and a larger turret introduced in 1942 which featured a radio bustle on the turret rear, thus designating it M5A1. 6,810 were produced and, having only the M6 37mm gun as main armament (plus 3 x .30cal MG), was used in secondary roles such as reconnaissance and scouting.
The KitThe only other version of this kit I can recall in plastic is the 70's-era Tamiya kit. Any Allied modeller worth his or her salt would know the innacuracies that kit contains and, with little option but aftermarket resin conversions to produce an accurate kit, there has been a longing for a newer version for years. So for that alone I thank AFV Club! This is the first I have seen of an AFV Club kit and to me the parts seem slightly 'translucent' and more flexible than say a Tamiya equivalent. There is no sacrifice on detail though and the extras are of good quality.
The kit contains 14 separate sprues of varying size. A few are doubled up which can mean a few parts for the spares box I reckon. Six of these are new (a total of 8 including doubles) and the other five appear to be from the great M3A3 kit from a few years ago. The remaining sprue is black with individual track links and end connectors for mounting as spare links. This is part of a track link set AFV Club released over 10 years ago and it still looks the part. There is a turned aluminium gun tube, M6 37mm, and an AA machine gun stand included. (Note that there is no plastic guntube included.)
In addition the kit contains a small photo etch brass fret with string tow cable, a decal sheet, a sprue of four polycaps, a sprue of 24 tracklinks and end connectors, a pair of rubber band style tracks, and a sheet print of the box art.
The instruction booklet is B/W and contains a parts list and paint colour chart. It shows standard 'exploded' assembly diagrams through 11 pages. There is little in the way of wording throughout these diagrams, relying more on the part numbers, directional arrows, and symbols to get you through. Following this are line drawings of the M5A1 showing marking options. I wouldn't completely trust the colours chosen for certain components such as the periscope lens but asking around on the forums should set you on the right path quite fast.
ReviewThe suspension (Sprue 'C') is from the M3A3 kit and features two identical sprues. These contain excellent detail and also the grousers for adorning the turret. You are given three options of road wheels (one spoked, and two slightly varied solid versions) and two each of drive sprockets (plain and fancy) and idlers (spoked and 'covered' spoked, with welded plates covering the gaps). I suggest your own further research for the individual tank you wish to build as in the past I have found the accuracy of manufacturers markings and features to be a little off. Unfortunately there is the age-old problem of no backs on the solid roadwheels but as you would mostly see the M5A1 version with spoked idler and roadwheels, I'd run with this option as easiest and accurate.
A quick look at the hull (Spue 'A') showed good detail, with some interior detail included on the firewall for example. The hull has to be fully constructed from flat sections which allows for good detail. Included is a separate escape hatch in the hull. The fenders appear a little thick (not uncommon to most Allied injection kits) and could be refined or replaced? The tools appear adequate although some additional straps could really spruce up such a small tank. Good-looking welds appear on the hull joins and some nice foundry marks are present on the idler mount. (I have been told this is a different mount to the M3A3.) The brush guards aren't bad, but could definitely benefit from some after-market or scratchbuilt pieces.
All ejector marks appear to be on the blind side of parts, therefore tucked out of sight. There are a couple of flat square marks between the bogey assemblies on the lower hull-sides though, which could be a little tricky to sand smooth. There are rivet and grab handle details in abundance over the rear of the M5A1.
The upper hull comes in six parts from glacis to engine deck. It has good detail including weldseams around the turret ring bullet-splashes and drivers hatches and on the glacis plate (Sprue 'I'). Separate periscope housings, mounts, and lids are good additions too. There are three parts on the rear being the engine deck flanked by the fuel tank covers, which are on the previous 'A' sprue. There are separate fuel filler caps.
Two turrets are included; the left-over M3A3 version (Sprue 'D') and also the relevant M5A1 turret (Sprue 'L') which features attachment points for the grousers on the turret rear and sides. An SCR-508 US radio set is included for the bustle. The grousers look to be a little fiddly, as there are two parts to each and about two dozen all up.
The photo-etch fret contains the air intake covers and some grab handles. They seem robust enough for handling. They are sizeable in relation to the the engine deck, so will surely be noticed in a finished kit and should look great. There is also a length of black string for the towing cable.
The tracks are one piece rubber band style and to me look fantastic. There is daylight between each rubber pad, and the end-connectors are crisp and well detailed.
The decal sheet contains markings for six tanks from four different countries, all in olive drab finish. As I mentioned earlier, I strongly suggest following up your own research in order to obtain the most accurate version of the markings portrayed.
Option A, 33rd Armored Regt., 3rd Armored Div., Normandy, July 1944
Option B, Free French, 1st sqd., 2nd Regt. "Chasseurs d'Afrique", 1st armored Div., Rhine crossing, April 1945
Option C Republic of China Army, 1950s
Option D, 4th Marine Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Div., Saipan, July 1944
Option E. British Army, 23rd Hussars, 29th Armoured Brigade, 11th Armoured Div.
Option F. 34th Tank Battalion, 5th Armored Div.
ConclusionAn accurate and newly tooled kit of the M5A1 that will be a welcome update from the old Tamiya offering. The fact that it's boxed as an "Early" production means that additional versions with later features may follow.