Australian M3 Lee
MiniArt, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Al Bowie
|Stock Number and Description||MiniArt Kit No. 35287 - Australian M3 Lee|
|Media and Contents:||Approx 1,244 light grey coloured parts with on 73 Sprues, 1 PE Sheet, 1 Clear Sprue with 17 parts and a single decal sheet for four examples.|
|Price:||AUD$71.00 available online from Creative Models Australia|
|Review Type:||First Look|
|Advantages:||Superb detail and accuracy, includes full interior, engine and photo-etched detail.|
|Disadvantages:||High parts count.|
|Recommendation:||This is a great kit of an important subject with excellent detail and good buildability for such detail. Whilst it is an Australian subject it can also be used as an excellent starting point for a British Burma Lee as it has many of the modifications that these used including the Armoured intake cover and some of the bins.|
The M3 Medium was developed hurriedly as America rapidly tried to equip itself for the war it was fast becoming involved in. Based on the experiences of France in 1940 by the French and British experience in the desert, it was a compromise design until the US could get the 75mm gun in a suitable turret.
It had the 75mm M2 (and later M3) gun mounted in a sponson on the right hand side of the vehicle and a fully revolving turret with the 37mm M5 and later M6 gun. In addition, it had two fixed hull .30 cal MG and another two in the turret with one in a revolving cupola.
It was powered by a large radial engine and driven through its front drive sprockets. This resulted in a very high profile for which it has been criticised to this day. It was roomy and had a crew of six.
The British were not initially impressed with it and had a number of changes made to suit their needs such as a radio in the turret, a driver’s periscope and other small items. This resulted in the M3 Grant, which was bought in some numbers although the Lee was also bought alongside it.
When the US officially entered the war and Lend Lease commenced, different variants ceased and only the Lee remained in production.
Australia, via the British Purchasing Commission, ordered a large number of M3 Grants to equip its fledgling Armoured Divisions alongside the M3 Light Tanks. When the contracts for the Grant were completed, Lees were substituted for the Australian Order and eventually Australia received over 700 Lees and Grants from the earliest to the latest production batches. These served in Australia for the duration of the war and with the Reserve (Citizens Military Forces) into the 1950s.
This is the latest in Miniart’s M3 Medium family and represents a late production M3 of riveted construction with a driver’s periscope and without sponson doors. The Australians quickly modified the M3s they received adding new rear hull stowage boxes and a low profile Commander’s hatch similar to the one fitted to the Grants and Australian modifications. Some of these were supplied with the later M3 75mm.
Like the M3 Grant and Lee kits that preceded it, Miniart has done an amazing job giving a very accurate and detailed kit with full interior and Engine and individual track links (T51 rubber block). Nearly 1,300 parts make up this kit, 672 being the tracks alone.
The kit is in typical light grey plastic and is cleanly moulded with little flash and sharp detail.
Construction is in 118 stages but offers a stunning level of detail. Unlike most of the Miniart M3s, the interior detail will be difficult to see once the kit is completed as this variant has no side sponson doors and not even viewing slots on some of the options. The interior does have the driver’s periscope as required for the Australian variants but Miniart has included a US radio installation instead of the 19 Set they would have been fitted with. A full set of sand shields is included with PE brackets.
The individual track links are of the T51 Rubber block type and are made up of two halves joined by an pair of end connectors.
These are a bit fiddly and I recommend a visit to the excellent PMMS website where Terry Ashley shows a number of useful easily constructed jigs that will help keep your sanity whilst assembling these:
This is an amazing kit that appears very daunting at first due to the sheer number of parts and assembles but it should present no real problems if you take your time and follow the instructions. You will need to pre paint a lot of the interior and its complex parts as doing so when assembled is a nightmare. You can leave out a lot of the interior if you want to simplify construction.
Care will also need to be paid to which version you are building from the four options as these have subtle differences in construction represent the differences in build type.
Miniart is to be congratulated on the research that has gone into the marking options and all examples can be found on the web in either the Archives of the Australian War memorial Collection or Paul Handel’s excellent articles on Anzac Steel.
The markings are as follows:
3rd Armoured Division, 2nd Army Tank Bn C Sqn 42-43 in a Green/Sand Camouflage vehicle has M2 Gun with counterweight
1st Armoured Regiment, 1 Tk Bn, B Sqn named “Bushape” 42-43 with Green/Sand Camouflage and an M3 Gun as per Boxart
3rd Army Tk Bde , 2nd Army Tank Bn 43 in Green/Sand Camouflage
An unmarked example used as a recovery training aid at the Land Headqurters EME School Ingleburn October 44 .
This is a great kit of an important subject with excellent detail and good buildability for such detail. Whilst it is an Australian subject it can also be used as an excellent starting point for a British Burma Lee as it has many of the modifications that these used including the Armoured intake cover and some of the bins.
Thanks to Creative Models Australia for the sample www.creativemodels.com.au