U.S. Light Tank M3 Stuart Late Production
Tamiya 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
B a c k g r o u n d
14,842 of these models were built. Later variants (the M3A3 and M5/M5A1) used many different components and were not basically the same tank). While most of the tanks equipped US Army and Marine Corps units, large numbers were also provided to the UK (as numerical Stuart variants) and the USSR (as the M3l for light versus M3s for the medium tank).
This tank has always been a favorite of modelers and until 1975 the only way many modelers could have one was making a major conversion of the relatively incorrect Revell 1/40 scale M4 HST. But in that year Tamiya released a 1/35 scale kit which was immediately sought out by nearly every US and UK armor modeler. Well, while it WAS an M3 it had a lot of serious problems. First off was the underscale turret based on the D39273 circular turret with commander’s cupola, some 9% underscale. Second, it was the diesel version with modified air cleaners that were not the same as the more common gasoline ones. Finally, due to the relatively stiff vinyl of the day the tracks were molded with the end connectors ON each track shoe and not connecting them. They also made a cheesy attempt at mold amortization by making an M5A1 and M8 using the same lower hull, making both of those vehicle about 14" too short in scale.
In the late 1990s Academy released two new kits, an M3 Stuart Late Production and a British Stuart I. Both looked great and had interiors to boot, but brought with them their own flaws and failings. It took kit-bashing them with a Tamiya M3 and an AFV Club M3/M5 suspension from their M3A3 kit to get a good model.
F i r s t L o o k
Finally - after 43 years - Tamiya has seen fit to release a brand new kit of the M3 Light Tank. This kit fixes almost all of the failings of their earlier effort and comes with a much superior D58101 turret and proper tracks with end connectors connecting ends and not middles!
It is also a gasoline version with the smaller air cleaners. Also part of the package is a new mold commander figure; while there is only one torso it comes with both a US tanker’s head and helmet and a Soviet commander’s head with the padded helmet.
The sole nit I can pick is that while Tamiya does intelligently give you separate air intake grilles for the engine deck they are solid styrene; here is one place etched brass makes sense and looks much better.
Construction begins with the multipart lower hull pan with a firewall and separate bow and rear plates. It comes with the “rollover reversal” hooks as separate parts as well. Bogie construction is not much different from the original but the parts are better molded and researched.
The upper hull offers you the option of either with or without sponson machine guns; these were soon found to be close to useless in combat and were removed to provide more internal stowage early in the tank’s career. Steve Zaloga’s excellent Osprey book (#33 in the old series is a great reference and the American subject of this kit, “El Diablo”, is the centerpiece. It is shown here with the sponson guns in place; the Soviet “Kuibishev” one is shown in a photo with the ports in place but no guns. Your choice.
A 24 piece M1917A4 machine gun is included with the gun going on the commander’s side of the turret and all of its bits elsewhere, including a stowed five-part tripod.
Note that in many steps Tamiya shows pips and stubs that need to be trimmed off the parts; this is signified by a small “snap blade” knife icon.
One odd part I cannot seem to find is the device represented by parts A2 and A3. All photos of the tanks show handholds in those locations and not these brackets.
Tamiya does continue providing sponson floors with their new kits so am happy to see they finally caught on to that fact!
Assembly of the turret starts at Step 15 along with tools, which now at least sport straps and clips. The kit provides a sturdy race and skirt for the top parts, as well as two platforms for mounting figures in the turret; no interior is provided. Step 17 is dedicated to the very nice .30 caliber Browning. With care it may be left to elevate and swivel in its mounting.
Step 19 covers the commander figure with detailed assembly of the US tanker’s helmet but only “stick here” for the Russian one. Both of them have a bespoke head at least.
Three finishing options are offered: “El Diablo”, 1st Armored Regiment, 1st US Armored Division, Tunisia February 1943 (yellow stars and stripes, blue drab markings, red 5); Soviet 241st Tank Brigade, Southern Russia, late 1942 (“Kuybishev”, red stars with white trim, US blue drab markings); Soviet 5th Tank Brigade, North Caucasus, Summer 1943 (white 58-4, US blue drab markings).
All would be in AN613 olive drab.
C o n c l u s i o n
S p r u e L a y o u t
Text by Cookie Sewell