Academy M3 Lee

I’ve always had a weakness for the M3 Lee/Grant tanks. Besides being cool early war tanks they’ve got lots of rivets and nice big hatches to show off busy interiors. The Academy kits are really quite an improvement over the venerable Tamiya kits and other worldly compared to the Monogram 1/32 scale kits from the 1970’s. While not without warts, most of the problems can be fixed without too much trouble.

The biggest problem was the well documented problems with the suspension. I fixed this with the very nice Tasca aftermarket set. The tracks are vinyl and while better than the ones offered in the old Tamiya kits they are still, well, vinyl. I replaced these with AFV Club individual link tracks.

I added the Eduard PE sets and a little scratch building to the interior and exterior. The cavernous interior by far took most of the time. Even with the nice side doors it’s still sad how little of the work you can see. So, I added turret gear teeth to the turret ring so it could be displayed sans the turret. In addition to the PE bits I added wiring, some resin stowage, doors on the ammo storage, headphones for the radio and printed decals for placards etc. I chipped and scuffed the interior heavily with a #9 graphite pencil. Then I gave it an overall wash followed by a pin wash using black artist oils.

The exterior was a little more straight forward. I added PE lenses, straps on the pioneer tools and other bits and pieces. I drilled out the hinges on the side doors and slid some stretched sprue in to make them articulate. I got such a kick out of opening and closing them that I wore out one side and had to rebuild the hinges with plastic pipe. I can't say it's just my four year old who breaks my models now. The dimensions on the turret were off quite a bit and needed some reshaping which didn’t present too much of a problem. I added cast texturing to the turret, 75mm gun housing and transmission housing with Mr. Surfacer. The one highly visible error left was the stowage bins on the rear engine deck. The ones provided in the kit are undersized. I opted not to fix this since the replacements in the PE set were the same dimension, thus not correcting the problem and I was already way behind schedule with the project. With 20/20 hindsight I wish I would have fixed them but all in all they are not too distracting.

I pre-painted and masked the national and tactical markings using Eduard vinyl masks and ones I fabricated myself from Tamiya tape. The base color is Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab lightened a little with XF-60 Dark Yellow. I then post shaded with this mix heavily diluted and lightened with XF-57 Buff. I then added hull numbers provided by Archer Fine Transfers which are top notch. Following this I gave the vehicle judicious chips and scuffs with a #9 artist pencil.
I gave the vehicle an overall wash of straight black followed by selective pin washes in black around shadowed areas and the fuel caps etc. The final weathering touch was a selective dusting with ground up pastel chalk.

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