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M5A1 Light Tank

AFV Club, 1/35 scale

by Steve Zaloga


AFV Club's long-awaited (and long delayed) M5A1 had finally appeared, and it is every bit as good as their earlier M3A3 Stuart.

The kit is a welcome replacement for the old Tamiya M5A1 which had a badly distorted hull shape due to Tamiya's attempt to base both their M3 and M5A1 kits off a common lower hull. The AFV Club M5A1 has surprisingly little in common with the earlier M3A3 beyond the suspension and tracks. They have provided entirely new turret sides and rear since the M5A1 has a later grouser stowage pattern than the M3A3. The hull is all new except for some minor bits. The kit includes a nice little PE sheet with the screens for the upper air intakes.

AFV Club's kit depicts a common, early M5A1 configuration: without the exhaust deflectors, rear stowage bin, or covered machine gun mount. I added the early pattern exhaust deflectors (with the one-piece lower deflector) to my model from some modified Verlinden resin after-market. The kit comes with a fair amount of interior structure which suggests that Hobby Fan is probably preparing a resin interior kit.



Assembly is similar to recent AFV Club kits, meaning it is not Tamiya-style "shake-in-the-box" easy. Some of the assemblies are fiddly and the hull requires a fair amount of care to get together due to the numerous separate parts. The fit is generally good, but it is not a "walk-in-your-sleep" build. The grousers, as those on the M3A3, are extremely fiddly although beautiful when done. They are very tiny, and I sacrified a few to the voracious carpet monster before I was done. It would help if they provided a few spares of these teenie bits! There are a few aggravating injection pin/mold marks including an odd rectangular set on the hull sides, and visible pin marks on the lower rear hull panel and the interior of both hatches.

There are some oddities in the kit. The suspension is basically the same as the earlier M3A3 though with the proper heavy spring housing of the M5/M5A1 added. The stamped road-wheels do not have any back detail. I can live with that, as they are barely visible on the finished model. Annoyingly, AFV Club provides two types of stamped wheels, but only a half-set of each. This is not a big issue if you have a left-over set from the M3A3 or are planning to build a couple of M5A1 (and so can swap the partial sets between both kits). Some tanks (the APG museum vehicle for example) have mixed stamped road-wheels, but this is far from common and will look odd on a model. As on the M3A3, the turret is still missing the trim along the interior of the turret hatches, though this is only an issue if you leave the hatches open.

The kit provides a fair amount of interior detail for the turret including a fairly complete gun (minus the stablizer bits) and the radio. I had a Verlinden interior set in the stash and used this along with some scratch-building to finish up the turret interior and the visible bits of the hull.



I finished mine up in the markings of a tank of Co. D, 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division courtesy of Mike Canaday's decals. I illustrated this particular tank in one of my Concord books based on a veteran's photo of the cartoon; eagle-eyed observers will note that the Concord illustration shows a later hull configuration. The photo does not show this clearly, so I opted to go for an earlier configuration. I mounted my model on a small vignette base with John Rosengrant's superb US tanker figure from the S&T series. The two figures shown here in the "scenic" view are in fact Dragon 1/6 scale "Battle Barbies" which were added to the model via the magic of Adobe Photoshop (the background of this illustration is a farm south of Utah beach). The stowage on my model is a mixture of Blast, epoxy putty and various other bits and pieces including Tamiya musette bags.

In summary, this is a really nice kit and a welcome relief from the tedium of fixing the ancient Tamiya kit. The breakdown of the kit suggests that AFV Club has left open the possibility of other versions. Maybe we shall see a M5, M8 75mm HMC, or maybe even a late production M5A1? All would be welcome considering the quality of this kit.

  • AFV Club M5A1 by Steve Zaloga: Image
  • AFV Club M5A1 by Steve Zaloga: Image
  • AFV Club M5A1 by Steve Zaloga: Image
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Model, Images and Text by Steven J. Zaloga
Page Created 2 March, 2008
Page Last Updated 2 March, 2008