Academy 1/35 Scale Kit No. 13208; M551
Sheridan "Gulf War"
Media and Contents:
457 parts in sand colored styrene, 2 in
steel colored vinyl, 1 section of nylon screen
Adds parts for M551A1 series vehicle and
configuration for "Desert Storm"
No corrections to errors in previous kit
Recommended for all modern American armor
I can't help feeling a bit
disappointed in Academy. They have shown themselves to have some of
the best ideas and molding going in today's market and yet their
research tends to not be applied to their kits, which is a shame.
Three kit lines which could have been big winners were their M3
light tanks, their M3 medium series, and their M551 Sheridans.
When the M551 Sheridan Vietnam kit (No. 13011) was released two
years ago, it was a initially a very welcome model as it replace the
awful Tamiya kit and Academy's even worse clone of that kit. But
once it got into the hands of the modelers, it showed a number of
problems with shapes and details which was unfortunate. Its more
annoy flaws were some shape problems with the turret, a length and
angle problem at the rear of the hull, and errors in the location of
the suspension arms. While I personally can find the first two
errors (the engine deck is too long, resulting in too steep an angle
of the rear upper hull plate) the only error I can find with the
basic suspension geometry are some hollow areas behind the road
wheels I don't seem to find on any of the production vehicles.
This kit does correct some of the detail errors of the Vietnam kit
and provides some new bits of use. Some items like the AN/VVS-3
searchlight lens are still missing, which is another annoyance that
could have been fixed, however. As I noted when I reviewed the
original kit, some items were skimped over in order to make a
reasonably produceable kit. One point concerns the road wheels,
which have a very annoying lip around the rims (a sure dust and mud
magnet) whereas the kit's wheels are simple dished affairs.
There is a large hole in the belly but it is NOT a motorization
hole; this is the vehicle's belly escape hatch (there is a shape
like this which the belly armor leaves a cutout for, figuring that
the center of the hull is not as likely as the bow or sides to
suffer mine effects; however, it is much farther forward so this
should just be cemented in place, filled and forgotten.) One nice
touch is the provision of buckles and strap tiedowns on the C
(suspension) sprues, which will be very handy items for modelers to
As for the kit, it provides the main sprues from the 1-11th ACR
Vietnam model with a large new sprue of parts for the A1 and
upgrades of earlier bits and two from the very nice US Machine Gun
Set by Academy; this vehicle actually comes with three .50 caliber
M2HB guns and two .30 caliber Brownings, so it provides four of them
for the spares box up front. It also comes with the OVM sprue from
the M4 series kits and more extra bits.
Some new basic parts are included, such as new idler mounts and
idler arms as well as shackles and hull details. The kit does
provide most of the detail changes between the M551 and the M551A1.
The massive smoke grenade launchers are replaced by standardized
modular units as used by all other US vehicles today, but the
brackets for the older ones are now also provided. Also included are
the laser rangefinder and detail changes to the entire "crow's nest"
commander's station and a new bustle rack which appears to be a
close copy of the one used by the 82nd Airborne Division vehicles.
Maddeningly the Academy folks have provided a number of spare bits
to dress up the model, such as a spare wheel, fuel and water cans,
ammo cans (including the popular 20mm boxes used for stowage) but
then they provide ten links of track. Other than some ejection pin
marks on the inner face of the links, they are more accurate than
the two vinyl runs which come with the kit. Somewhere along the line
Academy either took their dimensions from a Sheridan with worn-out
tracks or missing its rubber pads, for their tracks come without
them. This is more than a minor annoyance, as correcting it will
call for either getting the Legend Sheridan track and suspension kit
or a set of Fruil tracks.
Decals are provided for three different Sheridans from 3-73 Armor,
82nd Airborne Division, during Desert Shield. (My readings were that
the Sheridans were used for security and did not directly
participate in combat operations once the "heavy" divisions arrived
in Saudi Arabia, but the 82nd's Sheridans were the first "boots on
the ground" armor for US forces.) However, the two named vehicles
are "Die Hard" (listed as C-11) and "Drifter" (B-34) which should
have been part of D Company, and photos of "Deathstalker" (D-34)
seem to bear this out. I could be wrong (as most of the photos of
3-73 Armor with the flashier markings were taken much later in the
campaign; upon arrival they were just quickly repainted in FS30277
Sand and not the later shade) but few units rarely stray from
American Army traditions (company letter is the first letter of the
vehicle's name.) The geometric shape markings likewise indicate
different subunits and platoons.
Overall, except for the ultra-purist the only really problematic
area of this kit are the skinny and incorrect tracks, and most
modelers will probably be happy to build this kit to complete their
collection. I have seen one individual state the Tamiya kit is
actually better but that is pure fantasy. I suggest he seek out the
corrected version I built of that model that was presented in Fine
Scale Modeler with one photo showing the Tamiya kit's hull enclosing
the ENTIRE hull of a correct size 1/35 scale Sheridan before making
such ill-advised comments.
A 2 Turret
B 76 Sheridan Vietnam series parts and smoke grenade launchers
C 92x2 Wheels, ammo cans, smoke grenade launchers, sprue details
D 48 M4 series D sprue with .50, .30 machine guns and small details
F 106 Sheridan details and new parts
Y 24 M2HB machine guns
Z 15 .30 caliber machine gun, jerry cans
1 Upper hull
1 Lower hull
1 nylon mesh
2 vinyl track runs
Bob Lewen of MRC/Academy for the review sample.