M7 Priest Early Production
|Stock Number and Description||Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale ‘39-‘45 Series Kit No. 6627; M7 Priest Early Production - Smart Kit|
|Media and Contents:||302 parts (287 in grey styrene, 10 clear styrene, 4 etched brass, 1 turned aluminum barrel)|
|Price:||estimated retail price US$57.95|
|Review Type:||First Look|
|Advantages:||Very nicely done changes to earlier kit to produce the early production variant; excellent 105mm howitzer|
|Disadvantages:||Few noted other than selection of T41 track may limit options (see text); fixed ammunition stowage limits options|
|Recommendation:||Highly Recommended to all “redlegs” and US armor fans, as well as Allied forces and postwar|
As I stated with my first Priest review, during WWII there were four iconic open-topped self-propelled guns used by the major powers: the German 15 cm “Hummel,” the Canadian-designed “Sexton” with a 25-lb gun, the Soviet SU-76M, and the American M7 150mm HMC “Priest.” The latter three were excellent designs and went on to live long after the war, all three serving into the early 1960s with various second- and third-world armies. Two of them, the Sexton and the M7, were based on the reliable US M3 medium tank chassis.
The M7 came about due to a perceived need for self-propelled armored artillery weapons to keep up with armored divisions. After a number of prototypes were tested, the M7 entered service and full-scale production in April 1942. While it was based on the M3 chassis, it also absorbed many of the changes that came about due to the introduction of the M4 series medium tanks and reflected those changes as production proceeded along. A total of 2,814 were built as well as 826 of the later M7B1, which used the M4A3 tank’s Ford GAA engine in place of the original’s radial air-cooled engine. Roughly one-quarter of these vehicles served with the Allied forces, going to the British and Canadians (and later replaced by the Sexton, which carried the preferred 25-lb gun in place of the American M2 105mm howitzer) and the Free French forces as well as postwar MAP deliveries to many other countries.
DML has now followed its earlier mid-production M7 Priest with suitable changes to realize the early production models – new sides and new tracks accompanied by other “tweaks” to the molds and sprues.
This kit closely replicates the early version and has done a good job, with the new sides less folding panels capturing the sculpted sides very nicely. It also includes the early model stowage bins for the hull rear. The riser for the “pulpit” is also absent. The model retains the early model bogies with five spoked welded wheels and six-spoke idlers, machined drivers, but now substitutes the early T41 irreversible rubber block tracks. The additional air vents are present on the engine deck as are the covers that go over the top of those vents. Grouser bins with grousers molded in place are provided as is an interior of all visible components. The kit also comes with the current generation of DML’s take on the M2HB machine gun. Top bows are provided but only in their stowed positions.
As some sprues were used intact from the first kit, note that DML did skimp on some items. For example, the ammo racks come filled less four rounds on the right and six on the left; while more to scale than the Academy ones and with at least the dividers in place, but this time they have added two cased and two uncased rounds. All of the engine deck vents are solid with the brass grille work simply mounting over them, but as little can be seen through the original even from a few feet away this may not be bad other than making their installation more difficult to accomplish in a clean manner. The engine access doors are molded closed and the auxiliary air vents are also solid. However, it does come with the earlier “round” air cleaners.
The T41tracks are a good set and represent their prototype well, but the T41 tracks were short lived and a set of T51 tracks may have been more appropriate.
The lower hull is a new mold for this kit and includes the mounts and baffles found in the Priest. The transmission cover replicates the same version as the Academy kit but is cleaner and has a more realistic cast texture. The driver’s instrument panel is the long narrow type. The interior is fairly complete as the upper hull is molded in flat components and as such has inner and outer details on the fighting compartment section.
Stowage bins are the non-vented top-opening type , but while these now come with the top fittings nothing is provided to store in them.
The M2A1 howitzer is provided verbatim to include the turned aluminum forward section and in this case is missing the shield Steve Zaloga noted was a later addition. A complete new lower carriage and the original travel lock for the weapon (which interfered with access to internal hull ammo stowage) is also provided. Three grouser bins are provided but the grousers are molded in place.
Technical support for this kit is listed as the H3 Design Office.
Six finishing options are offered: Unidentified Unit, ETO 1943 (OD, “Mabel” with painted out stars); Unidentified Unit, USA 1942 (OD, white starts, registration number 3934680S); Unidentified Unit, Anzio 1943 (OD, white stars with circles); A Squadron, 11th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, 1st Armoured Division, Egypt 1942 (sand, brown and green, red triangle H); A Squadron, 11th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, 1st Armoured Division, Egypt 1942 (sand, brown and green, red triangle E, census number 169299); 2nd Division Blindee, Free French Army, France 1944 (OD, 1A - “Franche-Comte”). A sheet of Cartograf decals is provided for all options.
Overall, this kit offers the early model Priest and is nicely done.
A 10 M7 - upper hull, engine deck and interior sections
A 46 M2A1 Howitzer upper carriage and gun section
B 63 M7 - hull details, interior, M2HB machine gun
C 4 M7 Early hull sides and storage bins
C 35 M7 - Howitzer lower carriage and OVM
D 31x2 M4A1 DV suspension and road wheels
D 48 M7 - Ammo racks, bins, fittings, pulpit riser
H 10 M4A1 DV transmission cover fittings and details
E 10 Clear styrene
S 1 Twisted steel wire
V 4x2 Drive wheels
X 1 M7 Lower Hull
Z 2 DS Plastic T41 type track runs
MA 4 Etched brass
MB 1 Turned aluminum barrel
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.