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M7 Priest 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage

Academy, 1/35 scale

by Steve Zaloga


Academy's new kit of the M7 105mm HMC comes nearly two decades after the Italeri kit. Academy attempts to portray an earlier configuration of the Priest compared to the Italeri kit which depicts the less common 1944 production version. Unfortunately, the Academy kit is a mish-mash of early 1942, intermediate 1943, and late 1944 production features.


On the good side, Academy has fixed the dimensional problems with their M3 Lee medium tank suspension, and have generously provided two sets of outer bogie covers. This will prove useful to anyone contemplating a correction of their earlier M3 kit. Quite honestly, this feature alone makes the kit worthwhile as it provides the first decent set of early M3-style medium tank suspension bogies in plastic. Not to go go too giddy in delight, the bogie assembly is still sloppy, with a fair amount of filling needed on the top of the bogie. The track is stiff vinyl and not up to current standards. The kit also provides the "M4" heavy bogie assembly and both spoked and stamped road-wheels, so the kit is very useful if for no other reason than as a source of Sherman suspension bits.


The lower hull provides a proper riveted configuration and a typical three-piece differential housing. The differential housing is OK, though without the characteristic casting marks.

The upper hull is a mixed bag depicting the rare initial configuration without the vent covers on the top engine deck, and the initial rear plate without the cut-out for the exhaust stubs. This configuration was limited to the first hundred or so production vehicles, some of which may have been rebuilt with vent covers prior to dispatch to the British 8th Army in North Africa. In the event, this configuration is extremely rare, which means that for most vehicles it will be necessary to cut the rear plate and add the vent openings and covers on the back deck for the vast majority of 1942-43 production M7. The kit provides the standard top-opening stowage bins on the rear hull top, not the initial style with side opening doors compatible with the early hull configuration. The method of attaching the front and rear fenders is not ideal especially considering the poor detail on both components.


The fighting compartment interior is a mixed bag. Academy has changed the firewall to the early/intermediate bulkhead style. Unfortunately, the detail is very poor, especially the cover over the oil radiators. The driver's compartment is better than the Italeri kit and provides a better three-piece transmission. The rest of the interior, unfortunately, appears to have been inspired by the Italeri kit and not by careful research. The stowage configuration is wrong in many respects. For example, the driver's compartment has the later style instrument panel and misses most of the other stowage typical of either early or intermediate configurations. The configuration on the right side shows the 200 round MG ammo stowage of the 1944 production vehicles, not the 100 round stowage of the 1942-43 vehicles. The kit comes with a nice assortment of 105mm ammunition transport tubes, unfortunately they are molded in a simplified fashion so that that Academy has skipped depicting the typical "egg-carton" stowage configuration of the ammo bins. Academy has introduced some modest improvements to the 105mm howitzer such as a one-piece slide mold barrel and gun tube. On the other hand, the breech and breech-block remain the simplified configuration as shown in the old Italeri kit. Sad to say, this kit will do little to enhance Academy's reputation for accuracy after a rash of mediocre kits like their M3 Stuart, M3 Lee, and M551 Sheridan.


I had an old Italeri M7 kit in my basement which I was planning to convert into a 1943 configuration M7, so I sacrificed this for many parts to upgrade the Academy kit including much of the 105mm howitzer as the old Italeri kit has sharper details. I recently finished a Tasca M4A1 and had a buch of suspnesion parts left over such as roadwheels, ideler wheels and drive sprockets, and I used these as the detail is better than the Academy kit. I spent a lot of time re-detailing the fighting compartment. The rear stowage is primarily from the excellent Blast resin after-market set, modified to fit this kit. The crewman is the recent Alpine release, and it is a first-class bit of sculpting and molding. I configured my model to depict one of the 14th Armored Field Artillery, 2nd Armored Division vehicles in France in 1944 with their characteristic additions such as the hull stowage racks. A detailed article on this project will appear in Military Modelling magazine along with an accompanying piece on early British use of the Priest by Peter Brown.

Model, Images and Text by Steven J. Zaloga
Page Created 03 November, 2007
Page Last Updated 15 December, 2007