The Japanese Stuart is the first kit I really dove into after getting back into the hobby. The Academy M3 Stuart kits are all really quite nice, especially when compared to the aged Tamiya kits. While they are not without flaws, there isn't much that can't be fixed or at least covered up. The nicest thing about them though, is that they are a nice base to start from and satisfy all those advanced modeler syndrome (AMS) yearnings.
The German M3 “Honey” was the second captured Stuart I tackled. I built this a couple of years after the Japanese one and had perfected a few new techniques and uncovered some different photoetch sets. One flaw with this kit I uncovered that I didn’t notice when I did the Japanese tank was the sand shields. The way they attach to the fenders and sponson just isn’t accurate. It took some serious reworking and scratchbuilding (thank you Evergreen Plastic!) to get them close to correct. They still aren’t quite right but are now somewhat better.
On both projects I started with the M3 "Honey" kit and added a Tiger Models Designs interior along with some Eduard and Verlinden photo etch. While the Academy kit comes with a full interior for the turret and fighting compartment it is pretty basic and is actually an interior for the M3A1 which is configured quite a bit differently than that founds on the early M3s.
I have to give props to Tiger Models for the resin interior (great job Joe and Karl!). I've used a lot of resin products from different companies over the years since this one and TMD is head and shoulders above the rest. Quite simply the best out there as far as quality and accuracy.
With the Japanese Stuart I preshaded with black then gave it a base coat of Olive Drab lightened to scale with Desert Yellow. I masked and added the Japanese camouflage then post shaded with heavily diluted base and camouflage colors. I used Tamiya acrylics thinned with alcohol. I weathered with oil and enamel washes and finished with pastels. The turret insignia is a decal from the kit with lots of MicroSet and Testors Dullcote. The bustle rack is scratch built with Evergreen stock and wire mesh. I also replaced the engine intake cover with wire screen from K&S.
I used the Tiger Models resin interior set for the German Stuart as well. Just like before, it was a pleasure to use. The castings are crisp and the attention to detail is fantastic. This set came with a sheet of lead and some solder wire as well that came in handy for various bits inside the fighting compartment. The instrument dials are from a 1/32 aircraft decal sheet. The gear teeth in the turret ring are from notched Evergreen sheet, the kind model railroaders normally use for HO scale siding on buildings. Stuarts are a challenge since the teeth below the turret ring point downward. To make the teeth you simply cut a thin strip of the plastic sheet and bend it to form the ring. On the Stuarts you have to bend the thin strip longitudinally though which requires a little more finesse. (Many thanks to Master Builder Karl Van Sweden for that little tip!)
The period photo showed of the German vehicle the vehicle with the original British desert camouflage on the lower hull and what appears to be German Panzer gray on the upper hull and turret. For the exterior I used Tamiya XF-63 as a base and just mixed it until had the right feel. (I refuse to get into a debate on what constitutes “correct” Panzer gray – Pat Stansell did a great job of that in issue 46 of MMiR. Props to him for that.) I post shaded with my Panzer gray mix lightened with Tamiya Buff and a little white. I did the lower hull with a mixture of Tamiya Buff and Desert Yellow, mostly buff though.
I had a real problem finding decals that worked on the German Stuart. I ended up using Balkenkruz from a 1/72 scale FW190 kit for the crosses on the sponson sides. Wilt a slight bit of trimming they fit well. The cross on the rear engine access hanch was from a 1/48 scale Fokker DVII decal sheet. Both the sponson and rear crosses were soaked with Micro Set and nestled right down to the finish. A coat of Testors Dullcote made them look painted on. The cross on the front hatches was hand painted.
I weathered the German Stuart with opposing washes of thinned buff on the upper hull and thinned black artist oils on the lower hull. Once that dried thoroughly I treated it heavily with pastels. One thing I learned working on military vehicles in the desert is that dust is omnipresent. The desert dust can cover a vehicle (not to mention the human body) in huge amounts but it sets on a vehicle a certain way (hard to describe, but distinct nonetheless). So, you can’t just take a powder puff and cover your model in pastel dust. Short of taking an armored vehicle out into the desert yourself, the best thing is to study photographs, study photographs, study photographs and then when you’re done, study photographs some more.
The tracks on both vehicles are the beautiful individual link tracks that come with the kit and are the best on the market as far as I'm concerned. Much better than the AFV Club tracks which have those pesky sink marks that need to be scrubbed off with a sanding stick. I wish Academy would market them by themselves.
Both this and the Japanese Stuart were terrific projects. Unfortunately I’m not aware of any other Axis countries using captured Stuarts. I’m just hoping someone will uncover long lost photographs of one in Italian markings! Or maybe one of these days I’ll actually do a Stuart in US markings just to be different.