Shipped in a plain plastic zip-loc bag, one might underestimate the quality of Formations Models conversion for AFV Club’s excellent M3A3 Stuart (Number 35053). This set will turn the AFV Club M3A3 into an early variant of the M5A1 Stuart Light Tank. Formations Models instructions recommend using separate track link runs for your project, citing both AFV Club and Academy products will fit their parts. They also produced this set to negate the need for photoetched details, but do mention that Eduard Set 35492 will work on their set and that any detail Screens produced for the old Tamiya model kit will work on this conversion set. There are extra parts included for what they consider the smaller and or more fragile items.
The Upper and Lower Hull pans are bagged separately for protection, along with several smaller baggies holding detail parts, a length of brass wire, and a pack of three MV Products .116 (3mm) Lenses, and four pages of instructions.
The Formations Models parts are cleanly cast in cream-colored resin. This example had small air bubbling along the lower edge of the Upper Hull casting which will present no problems in cleanup. Openings in the Upper Hull for the Turret, Engine Grills and Hatches are lightly flashed over. Full weld bead and round-head bolt detail is present on the resin casting. Tie-downs are cast in place. The Front Plate is inside the Upper Hull baggie, as well as two more bags of detail parts. The opening for the .30cal Machine Gun is flashed over on the Front Plate and the pour gate is attached to the upper edge in a fashion that requires care in removal. The weld beads and rough torch-cutting detail is very fine on these parts - but will show up well in finishing. A nice feature, Formations Models includes an Escape Hatch in this set – though pointing out that initial production M5A1 Stuart Light Tanks did not come with this feature.
Formations Models set offers the modeler resin Screen Mesh for the Engine Deck for those not wanting to purchase an aftermarket item. It appears some deft sanding will remove the hair-thin flash – making them just as useful. More on this to come later in the build-up review of this conversion set.
The Lower Hull pan was warp free and equally detailed. It is a shame you can see the underside as well in the natural position of the finished miniature – it is that good. As mentioned above, you can model and initial production example of the M5A1 Stuart, or an early variant. Positioning the Escape Hatch will be simple if you so elect. Particularly nice are the weld beads detailing the part. The Ventilation Screen that locates behind the Engine Access Doors is cast solid and the Engine Doors are cast closed. If you didn’t know where to look on the M5 Stuart – you would not miss this detail. The pour gates for this piece are placed on the trailing edges of the Sponson Floors and some material needs to be removed from the tops of the Engine Access Doors. None should cause the experienced resin modeler any problems. The interior of the Lower Hull is cast completely smooth and blemishes free – a clear invitation for modelers to insert their own interior into the kit. Naturally, you know what this means…
Formations Models provided instructions comparable to those of their previous releases – notably, the join between Upper, Lower and Front Plates bold printed to get modelers attention. Test fit and trial presented no initial concerns. The follow-up build review with point any issues out. The thirteen-tooth Drive Sprockets are provided in two halves and finely detailed. Left and Right Fenders come packaged separate from all other parts and have Tie-Downs cast on the parts and nice bolt and support strip details underneath. The dished Road Wheels are cast with fine detail front and back – and do not initially appear to call for any addition work other than removal from the relatively thick pour gates. If you are into the recent vogue of chunking up the rubber portions of AFV Road Wheels – this might be a good opportunity to do so. Lastly, Idler Wheel Units are well cast and detailed.
Overall, and pound for pound of resin and plastic, this release from Formations Models is suitable for the novice resin modeler because the subject isn't complexly engineered nor difficult to assemble. It shapes up well with information provided in the R.P. Hunnicutt reference book. I rated the estimate of ease of use highly due to the quality of both the AFV Club and Formations Models kits. Neither will cause the average modeler much difficulty in assembly.
This Formations Models Conversion Set was purchased by GunTruck Studios for review here on Armorama.