by: Mike Drobrzelecki
INTRODUCTIONGlancing through the various references and hobby articles I have collected over the years in my library on the M3 Stuart, most authors and reviewers tend to play it safe by choosing the well-worn, but quotable sound bite,’It’s a Honey!’, supposedly uttered by a British test driver after he took the speedy little tank for his first spin when the M3 was first being evaluated by the British Army. In my mind, the M3 Stuart will always be known as the ’Haunted Tank’, mechanical star of the ‘G.I.Combat’ series of comics, which were published by D.C.Comics in the USA. First created by famed comic book artist, Joe Kubert, ‘The Haunted Tank’ series was my favorite comic when I was growing up in the 1960’s and, by extension, the M3 Stuart will always be my all-time favorite tank.
In the basic story line of the comic, the ghost of the tank’s namesake, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart (not Jeb Stuart) appeared on his ethereal cavalry mount only to the tank’s commander and provided warnings, sometimes cryptic, sometimes crystal clear, of dangers lurking around the next hedgerow or sand dune. Of course, his crew thought he was a “Section 8” – seemingly talking to himself up in his cupola, as the spectral general did not elect to appear to the rest of the crew. They quickly learned to overlook their commander’s small bit of insanity, however, since they survived many a battle as a result of his “conversations”. It was Kubert’s treatment of the Stuart tank that made me fall in love with the vehicle. Granted, he was not concerned about getting every detail correct on the tank’s art, often mixing up hull styles, turret details - putting a raised cupola on the later M3A3 style turret, being just one whopper.
It was the mythical powers he bestowed on the Stuart that convinced me at the age of 10 that it was the best armored vehicle of WWII. Besides being able to run rings around lumbering German tanks, the M3’s 37mm gun easily penetrated a Tiger tank’s frontal armor, blowing them up as punctuated by the emphatic upper case “BAM!”. How did the puny little pop-gun 37mm manage that, you ask? Well, by virtue of special ammunition, of course, all explained by Kubert in dialogue, sidebars and the occasional answer to reader’s letters published in the comic!
Ironically, years later, I met Joe Kubert when my step son, Steve Mannion, an incredibly talented all-around artist, graduated from the Joe Kubert School of Art in Dover, NJ, and went to work as a comic book artist for D.C.Comics in New York City - he now has his own comic book line as an independent author. Steve often incorporates styles and themes seen in these great DC Comics of the 1960’s and admits he was influenced to a small degree by all the military history in my library – ah, the circle of life. Log onto Ebay and look for ‘gophernugget’, or contact Steve direct at firstname.lastname@example.org to order samples of his comics –‘The Bomb No.1’ &’“The Bomb No.2’, published by Catskill Comics, which include scantily-clad beauties, Nazi zombies, a great morality tale on Adolph Hitler making a deal with Satan, which, of course, backfires on him, and, one of my personal favorites, ’Chicks on Bombs’, but I digress.
To round out the background story of this kit review, just about the time I acquired the Mirage M3 Stuart tank kits, I was weaving my way through the militaria flea market at the Reading PA airport World War II Weekend Airshow/Military Vehicle and Re-enactor Show, and came upon a vendor with some old comic books. Lo and behold, he had several issues of ‘G.I.Combat’, 5 of which I quickly bought at a reasonable price. Spanning a period between 1965 and 1969, the issues were a great cross-section of the typical story lines in the series. About 3 weeks later, I spent about 3 hours going through them and down memory lane, noting such things as the ads for many classic model kits – comics and model kits went hand-in-hand back in those days. The ads included some of the great model companies of the time – Monogram, Revell, Aurora and AMT. Drenched in the ocean of nostalgia afforded by these 5 issues of the ‘Haunted Tank’, I was reminded why I fell in love with the hobby at a young age and continue with it to this day.
M3 STUART - A BRIEF HISTORYThe M3 series of tanks were used by almost all Allied nations in just about every theater of operations during WWII and served well into the postwar era. There may even be a few clanking around some South American countries to this day, having made themselves useful in defending the dictatorships common to the southern regions, or, conversely, serving with the either the rebel forces, as captured vehicles, or employed in the seemingly annual festive military coups popular south of the Equator. One author, Jonathan Forty, in his Allan Publishing tome, ‘M3-M3A1 Stuart 1 to V’, lists 14 different variations of the Stuart starting with the first all-riveted tanks to the slope-armored M3A3 version. The last version of the Stuart, of course, was the double-Cadillac-driven M5 series, which resembled the M3A3, the quirk of history being that the early versions of the M5 actually entered service prior to the M3A3.
The M3 Light Tank was a development of the preceding M1 and M2 series of so-called ‘Combat Cars’, which culminated in the M2A4 Light Tank, the latter of which saw combat service on Guadalcanal with the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Army Ordinance Department incorporated the lessons learned from armored combat in the Nazi 1940 Blitz on the Low Countries and France, which also had the affect of accelerating arms development in the U.S. for all branches of service. The armor thickness was up-rated from the M2A4, large vision slots were reduced in size, the rear idler was repositioned to touch the ground affording more contact area for the track, the mufflers were moved to under an armored overhanging cover and a number of other innovations were incorporated to improve the design. An M2A4 was used as the basis for the conversion with the basic M3 design being accepted on 5 July 1940. The first M3 rolled off the production line in March 1941 from the American Car & Foundry in Berwick, Pennsylvania (Hey, I helped build the nuclear power plants at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Berwick, back in the 1980’s!).
Some of the first M3’s featured both all-riveted hulls and all-riveted hexagonal sided turrets, the latter fitted with a hexagonal cupola for the tank commander. Some the earliest M3’s still featured the M2A4’s old M20 mount for the 37mm, which had much of the gun recuperator exposed, until the improved M22 mount, which had the recuperator assembly moved to the interior, came available. Most of these early all-riveted M3’s served as training machines in the U.S. and Britain, although it seems that Mirage Hobby is alluding to the possibility on the instruction sheet of the early M3 Stuart, kit no. 72670, that some of the all-riveted M3’s served in the Western Desert with the British 8th Army. I would like to see photographic confirmation of this claim, as most photos show riveted hulls and welded turrets.
Within a the first year of its introduction, steps were taken to reduce riveting in the construction – starting with the M3’s flat-plate turret, followed gradually with reduction of the riveting on the hull as the M3 evolved. These improvements served to shorten production time as fabrication transitioned more and more to welded construction. There is no hard and fast rule regarding the degree of riveted vs welded construction as M3 and M3A1 production overlapped and some vehicles were hybrids. Likewise, the sponson-mounted .30 calibers were gradually removed and their ports plated over, then done away with entirely. The next major change, in my mind, was the replacement of the flat-plate turret with a new rounded horseshoe-shaped design made from homogeneous armor plate. The new turret featured improved optics, but the horseshoe-shaped turret retained (in its earliest versions) the commander’s cupola - this configuration is depicted on the old 1/35th scale M3 Stuart kit. Along with the Stuart’s short 70-75 mile range, its relatively high profile with the turret cupola was noted as some of its design flaw by the Brits. The cupola was eliminated from later M3 series turrets. Most versions of the M3 were powered by a gasoline powered Continental W-670-9A 7 cylinder radial engine. The second type of engine used was the Guiberson diesel radial engine. Production of the M3 ended in August 1942, during which 5,811 were built, including 1,285 diesel-powered Stuarts.
These variants were followed by the M3A1, which again benefited from additional combat experience, the most significant improvement being the addition of a turret basket, which took maximum advantage of a turret traversing motor and a gyro stabilizer on the gun. The M3A1’s commander’s periscope was linked to the 37mm gun’s telescope, the modified mount being designated as M23. The tank’s short range was addressed by the introduction of a pair of jettisonable 25 gallon fuel tanks mounted atop the rear hull. Out of a total of 4,621 M3A1’s built between May 1942 and February 1943, only 211 were diesel powered.
The ultimate production version of the M3 was the M3A3. This version incorporated a mostly-welded sloped upper hull armor – front and sides - as well as, a new enlarged Model D59965 turret with a bustle in which a radio was fitted. Moving the radio to the turret bustle allowed for increased ammo storage and fuel capacity was increased to 110 gallons, which addressed the earlier Stuart’s short legs to some degree. In all, 3,247 M3A3’s were built between December 1942 and August 1943; most of which, were used by our allies – 277 – France, 1,000 – Republic of China, 2,045 to Commonwealth forces and about 105 for U.S. Army training purposes, although some sources quote the latter as being around 150-170.
Arguably, the Stuart was already obsolete by 1941, so why did we persist in building them at all? The answer is that the M3 was one of the few combat vehicles that were immediately available from President Roosevelt’s “Arsenal of Democracy” at the time. The Brits knew a good thing when they saw one. Certainly, the 37mm main gun was nothing to brag about, but at least it could fire explosive rounds, something the standard British 40mm 2 pounder AT gun could not. Most of the early M3 series carried the shorter M5 series 37mm gun, which was later replaced with the slightly longer M6 37mm, although both types could be found on M3/M3A1 Stuarts until the M6 mount was standardized on the M3A3 version. And, the M3 was fast and it was reliable, something that most British tank designs also were not.
The Brits were first to use the Stuart in combat, the first compliment of which arrived in the summer of 1941 in North Africa and allocated to the 8th King’s Royal Hussars. Its main combat debut occurred in the autumn of 1941 with the 7th Armoured Division during Operation Crusader. The Stuart’s acquitted themselves well in the North African desert with both the British and, later, the U.S. Army. In that same autumn, 108 M3 Stuarts of the U.S.Army’s 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions were dispatched to the Philippine Islands. Upon arrival of the stateside units, the 17th Ordnance Company joined the group to form the Provisional Tank Group under Brig.General Weaver, and was the first U.S. tank unit to go into combat. Despite the fact that the American crews were unfamiliar with their new mounts, and neither high explosive rounds, nor gun recuperator oil were shipped with the tanks, the composite unit somehow managed to get operational. They participated in a series of engagements with the Japanese invaders all the way through to the surrender of Corregidor. This action included tank vs. tank combat against Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks, the first two in mid-December 1941 going to the Japanese, with the third, on New Years Eve, a slam-dunk victory for Company C’s M3’s, which knocked out 8 Ha-Gos from the 4th Sensha Rentai in Bailuag. Many of the unit’s M3 Sturts were captured after the surrender and repainted with Japanese Army 3rd Chutai, 7th Sensha Rentai markings. These captured Stuarts were used by the Japanese against their former owners during the fight to recapture the Philippines 4 years later. As stated in the Squadron In Action book on the Stuart, these Philippines-based M3’s were the first and last Stuarts to be used in combat in the Pacific.
The rest of the M3 Stuart’s combat history is legendary in breadth and outside of the scope of this review. Likewise, this brief summary is neither meant to be a list of each variant, nor an exhaustive summary of the features they each had. I would refer the reader to the vast amount of reference works available on the Stuart for a more extensive look at the Stuart and its combat history. On with the kit reviews.
THE KITS The M3 Stuart has vexed kit manufacturers for years and kept me pretty frustrated about building a model of my favorite tank. The first kit I remember being issued was Hasegawa’s eminently forgettable 1/72nd scale early version flat-plate turret M3 Stuart. I dug the ancient Hasegawa Stuart kit out of my collection, opened the box and immediately remembered why I never even bothered to build it when it first came out. The back half of the volute suspension was molded to the hull sides along with all the tools and the rest of the detail could only be described as ‘blobby’. Likewise, Tamiya’s attempt at the first injected 1/35th scale M3 diesel-powered Stuart was an abortion from its short hull to its undersized Model D39273 turret. Academy and AFV Club have released versions within the last 4 years of the M3/M3A1 and M3A3, respectively, in 1/35th scale, which, though not without fault, offer up better prospects for building a decent Stuart kit.
Mirage’s Stuarts are the first injected M3 kits issued in 1/72nd scale that are worth building. In quality, they are on a par with that company’s excellent 7TP/Vickers 6 ton / T-26 series, as well as their M3 Lee/Grant series of tanks. The two versions covered in this review offer a kind of ‘Alpha/Omega’ approach to the M3 Stuart - an early production M3 ‘First Hundred’, Kit No.72670 and the final version – the M3A3 ‘Lend Lease’ ‘Liberation of Paris’ Stuart, Kit No.72676. Mirage also has plans to offer several other versions of their Stuart kit – Kit No.72672 – U.S. Light Tank M3 ‘Luzon 1942’ in Japanese captured markings, Kit No.72673 – U.S. Light Tank ‘Tunisia 1942’, Kit No.72674 – M3 Light Tank ‘Kuibishev’ Soviet Union 1942, Kit No.72675 – M3 U.S. Light Tank from late production ‘Pacific 1943’ and Kit No.72871 – M3 Light Tank ‘Honey’ - ‘Operation Crusader’. Judging by the two versions I have, I would bet that the other kits share some common sprues and the vinyl track.
M3 U.S.LIGHT TANK FIRST HUNDREDThis kit represents the earliest production series of the M3 Stuart sporting a fully riveted hull and fully riveted flat-plate hexagonal-sided turret. For such a small-scale kit, the number of parts included is surprising. Molded on 3 ‘larger’ injected sprues – A, B and C, 2 smaller injected sprues (no letter identification for these) and 1 soft vinyl sprue, the kit has a whopping 109 injected parts, 2 two vinyl tracks and 1 vinyl tow cable. A quick glance at the parts reveals a host of goodies, including separate hatches, grab bars, tow clevises and pioneer tools. There is no interior detail at all, but the kit is engineered to facilitate one being added. Given the amount of time required to just clean up the small parts, this kit is not a weekend build, at least not for me, and therein lies the pleasure of modeling.
INSTRUCTION SHEETPrinted on 2 sheets – 1 double and 1 normal-size sheet that fold into 6 pages total, the instructions are well laid out in typical kit fashion with a capsule history of the tank and tank specifications on the front page, an 11-part build on three pages and two pages for painting and markings. Text, as researched and written by Mirage Hobby’s Jerzy Majszcyk, is in both English and Polish, with the layout by Jaroslaw Leoniec. The build instructions include minimal, but helpful text and consist mainly of the classic exploded view assembly graphics.
RUNNING GEAR & TRACKSStarting from the ground up, the running gear, mounted on Sprue B and consisting of 17 parts per side, is very delicately molded, especially the bogie wheels, drive sprockets and idlers. It would appear that Mirage is going to offer only one type each of bogie wheels – (spoked), 14 teeth sculpted style sprockets and spoked idlers for all of their Stuart kits. There are some sink marks to be filled in on some of the suspension parts, including one half of the trailing idler arm (the other is OK) and the vertical suspension units, but, being 1/72nd scale, it will take mere minutes to fill and sand them flush and no detail should be lost as the surfaces are flat in those areas. There are no return track guides atop the volute suspension units. These can be replicated with this brass sheet from companies, such as KS Brass. Fussy modelers may want to drill out axle holes in the volute suspensions where the bogie wheels are mounted. The left arm of each volute suspension unit should bend in towards the center to clear the right arm as it rocks up and down. I’m thinking that this can be replicated with a couple of swipes of a file, but take care not to go too deep. The vinyl tracks have detail on both sides and pass my inspection for being rated as pretty nice representations of T16 rubber block tracks. Also, see my note below on track length in the M3A3 review.
HULLBeing of mostly straight-sided construction, the lower hull is broken down, as one would expect – flat bottom, sides and rear plates, with the front curved plate being the only exception. This molding design philosophy logically was carried out for most of this kit, which allows maximum rivet and other detail to be molded right onto the kit parts. The hull sides have the required riveting expected for an early M3. On my example there were 2 knock-out pin marks on the hull sides, which will take some care in removing. The return roller mounts have half-axle profiles, required for the track end connectors to clear these axles as the track moves around the wheels – one armor modeler stated this is correct for the M3, another noted this is a compromise (on the Academy 1/35th scale kit), which is not accurate. I plan on leaving it as is. Detail on the hull bottom plate differs from that on the Academy 1/35th scale, which has two cross-wise half circular axle projections following the centerline of the volute suspension units. These projection have also been described as “C” channel in shape. Despite a lot of Stuart reference material in my library, none had a photo of an M3 upended on its side, or back, so I cannot comment on this issue further.
The upper hull comes in 1 large piece with openings for the upper vertical hull plates and hatches, all of which are separate parts. The fenders are molded right into the top hull piece. The rivets are finely rendered and care will have to taken in not destroying them during the build process. The upper hull correctly depicts the unarmored refueling caps and the 6 turret ring stubs. There are engraved lines between some of the plates on the upper hull and glacis plate. I noticed two small sink marks on the rear of the upper hull just behind the turret on my sample – these will be easily filled. The large grouser boxes, two each, of kit parts A8 and A9, fitted atop the rear fenders were standard issue on M3’s, but I doubt whether the early all-riveted M3’s had them fitted.
The rear plate features nice detail on the doors. The separately molded small parts that attach to the hull, such as the pioneer tools, lights, tow clevises, filters, horn, antenna mount, etc., are all exquisitely molded. Some of the tools have canvas covers molded onto them. Barrels for the two sponson-mounted .30 calibers are included, however the instruction sheet tells the builder to cut the front hull .30 caliber barrel from one of the two fully molded .30 caliber machine guns, the other being for the turret’s exterior- mounted machine gun, of course. Did I mention that all of the machine guns barrels have perforations molded into them? Well, I’m doing that now.
Fussy builders may want to either thin down the light guards, Part No.A12, and the step, Part No.C19, mounted to the front hull plate, or replace them with thinner material, such as PE brass. I will probably be adding some small MV product lenses to the lights (if I can find ones small enough), replacing the grab irons and lifting eyes with wire and the screen molded onto the upper engine deck with some brass mesh screen.
THE TURRETThe “First Hundred” Stuarts featured all-riveted turrets, which, when struck, would tend to have their rivets shear off and go bouncing around inside the tank wreaking havoc along the way with human bodies, ammunition and equipment. Traditional molding of the hex-sided turret would obviate the possibility of properly rendering the correct rivet detail. So how did Mirage solve the problem? The same way they handled the bombadier’s gondola on the underside of their 1/48th scale PZL P.23 Karas Light Bomber kit, namely they engineered the sides of the turret and the cupola as a continuous series of plates on one piece of flat plastic, Part Nos.15 and 16, respectively, that are scored on their opposite sides and have to be folded up correctly to match the original article’s sharp-edged angular shape. I do not think that this is going to be as difficult to do as it sounds. Aircraft modelers report to me that they have successfully tackled the P.23’s gondola with excellent results, so my advice is to just take it slow. Certainly, use of both the lower turret plate, Part 17, and upper turret plate, Part 18, as guides, is well recommended.
The hatches, vision doors and other fittings are separate parts. The rest of the construction of the 37mm gun, gun mantlet, front turret plate, and exterior mounted .30 caliber are handled in the first steps of the instruction sheet. I have not measured the 37mm to see if it matches the length of an M5 or M6 version, but it appears as though it will clean up nicely when removing the delicate mold lines, although I will probably be replacing it with one of the ARMO after-market metal 37mm barrels. Most early M3’s would have the M5 mount. The exterior mounted .30 caliber consist of 4 parts for the machine gun and its mount, which should look pretty sweet atop the M3.
CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS Mirage offers two basic schemes, each with variations in the kit:
Two U.S. Army training machines, with two different light blue serial numbers - U.S.A. W 30978 and U.S.A. W 30123, both in basic Olive Drab. Included on the sheet is a selection of extra light blue numbers, 0 through 9, to depict other early M3’s. Serial Number U.S.A W 30978 appears in the markings artwork and includes a white cavalry unit designation – two sabers crossed at an angle with the letter – R - in the upper middle of the cross and two letters – C - on each side of the crossed sabers. This unit is neither identified on the kit’s instruction sheet, nor in any M3 reference I have. The Squadron In Action book on the M3 does have a photo of this vehicle on page 8 and describes it as belonging to an unidentified cavalry regiment at Camp Funston in March 1942.
The other scheme offered is an early British Stuart, serial number T27978 in white and suggest either the standard ‘as delivered’ Olive Drab or Light Stone, using Vallejo paints as color matches.
M3A3 LIGHT TANK LIBERATION OF PARISLogging in as the “Omega’ version of the M3 Series, the kit includes some of the same sprues as the Mirage “First Hundred” kit, namely Sprues B and C, and provides the other M3A3-specific parts on 2 ‘larger’ sprues – D and E; and two smaller sprues – F and G, plus the same single soft vinyl sprue for the tracks and tow cable. I counted 103 injected parts in this kit. Besides a similar list of small parts provided in the early Stuart kit, Mirage also includes a tiny photo-etch fret with but one item – the externally mounted driver’s windscreen – the modeler provides the thin clear sheet plastic for the glass portion.
INSTRUCTION SHEETPrinted on 2 double sheets that fold into 8 pages total, the instructions are similar to that provided in Mirage’s early Stuart kit, the difference being that the M3A3 kit can be built in 9 steps – mirroring the easier manufacturing process of the mostly welded construction of the M3A3, as opposed to a fully riveted Stuart and that 4 pages are dedicated to painting and markings choices. As before, the text, as researched and written by Mirage Hobby’s Jerzy Majszcyk, is in both English and Polish, with the layout by Jaroslaw Leoniec. Jerzy includes a colorful background story about how De Gaulle acquired his name, a nom de guerre, in order to protect his family from reprisals, after he escaped imprisonment in June 1940 – a perfect lead-in to the French markings included as one of the versions supplied in the kit. It is all together fitting for a Polish model manufacturer to make reference to De Gaulle, since Charles just happened to have helped train the infant Polish Army after WWI, as part of the military assistance lent by France to Poland, the latter of which used the skills to good effect by beating the Bolsheviks in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920.
RUNNING GEAR & TRACKSAs stated previously, the running gear mounted on Sprue B is the same as provided in the Mirage’s early M3 Stuart kit. Later versions of the M3 featured pressed steel bogie wheels with no openings to prevent fouling with mud, snow, ice, or other debris, and solid disc drive sprockets (as opposed to the sculpted version in the kit). Since I would not hold my breath waiting for an after-market cottage industry to release different wheels in 1/72nd scale, I suggest sticking with the kit parts.
There were more sink marks to be filled in on some of the M3A3 suspension parts, namely all the trailing idler arm parts, which indicates to me that there will be variations between each kit in the amount of sink marks, but, cleaning these up will take little effort on the modeler’s part. The other comments I made in this section for the early M3 Stuart kit apply to the M3A3 kit. The same T-16 block track provided in the early M3 kit are found in the M3A3 kit. As with the different style wheels, I doubt that T36E6 3-bar track, T24 or T28 track will ever show up from an after-market company, which is OK, since a cursory review of photos in my references show that the M3A3 used the T16 track, also.
One modeler who entered his Mirage M3A3 at the IPMS USA Nationals (and won) reported that he had to remove 3 lengths from the track provided in the kit in order for it to fit properly around the wheels. Since the suspension provided in the M3A3 kit is the exact same mold for the early M3 Stuart, this note may apply to that version and the other versions to be offered by Mirage Hobby. Before cutting the tracks, first test fit them around the wheels.
HULLThe M3A3 kit has the same mostly straight-sided flat plate construction for the lower hull as on their early M3 kit. The hull sides, Parts 1 & 2 on Sprue E for the M3A3, have different detail than the early M3 kit, which is, as it should be, since the M3A3 had much less riveting, reflecting the move to mostly welded construction. There are some rivets, however, on the hull sides, but they belong there. This vertical line of rivets hold the interior firewall in place, although some sources indicate that there should be a bar strip on this line with the rivets over the strip. The bottom hull plate on common Sprue B is the same as that provided in the early M3 Stuart kit, which may not be correct, since it features all-riveted construction, not welded, or combined rivet/welded construction. I will have to find some drawings or photos of the bottom of the M3A3 hull to determine whether it has to be modified. My guess is it will need some work.
Most parts of the upper hull can be found on Sprue D. More can be found on Sprue E and Sprue C. The sloped armor of the M3A3 upper hull is nicely molded with hatch openings for the separate hatches. There is rivet/bolt detail on the top of the upper hull, which is accurate, since even the last version of the M3 was not fully welded. The armored fuel caps are separate parts – C15. The upper hull has the 6 turret ring stubs. The rear hull curved stowage rack, part D7, is molded solid, but most M3A3’s show this rack be constructed out of flat bar stock and screen. This part, along with the molded-on screening on the upper hull, Part D1 and Parts E4 and E5 should be replaced with brass mesh.
The driver’s windscreen, injected Part D6, can be replaced with the sole photo-etch brass item included in the kit. The modeler will have to provide the clear sheet for the glass.
The rear plate features nice detail on the doors. As with the early Stuart kit, the small parts that attach to the hull, such as the pioneer tools, lights, tow clevises, filters, horn, antenna mount, .30 caliber barrel, etc., are great. I will be replacing the lights with MV product lenses and the grab irons and lifting eyes with wire. There are no spare track racks on the small flat corner sections on the back of the hull sides – these usually held two spare track sections with connectors, although the French often hung 4 track sections in these racks. Modelers may also want to add skirt brackets at the bottom of the sponsons, but it’s not entirely necessary.
THE TURRETThe Mirage M3A3 Model D59965 turret consists of 24 parts covered in steps 1 through 3 on the instruction sheet. The main section of the late model turret is molded in a single piece, with a second piece for the bustle underside and a third for the bottom of the turret itself. Just about every detail one could hope for in this scale is present on the turret molding, including the splayed protective wings on either side of the gunner’s periscope on the left side of the top of the turret. The turret has openings for the separate hatches.
Included as a separate piece is the door, Part G3, at the back of the turret used for removal of the 37mm. The M3A3 was equipped with the longer M6 version of the gun, but the kit has the same 37mm as the early M3 kit. Replacing the 37mm with an after-market metal version from ARMO should be considered, although the kit’s gun is not bad, at all. As with the early M3 kit, the hatches, vision doors and other fittings are separate parts. The lift rings and grab irons are provided, but modelers may want to replace these with wire or brass rod. The rest of the construction of the 37mm gun, gun mantlet, front turret plate, and exterior mounted .30 caliber follow the early M3 kit. Modelers may want to also consider adding grouser racks to the turret, usually 11 on the left side and 10 on the right.
CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS Mirage offers four schemes in the kit – two French and two Republic of China Stuarts:
Free French 2nd Armored Division, 501st Tank Regiment, Escort Squadron, Paris 1944
Free French 2nd Armored Division 1st Morocco Spahis Regiment, Paris 1944
Two different M3A3’s from the 1st Chinese Provisional Tank Group, 1st battalion 3rd Company, Burma 1945
All are finished in Olive Drab, but the most colorful are the Free French vehicles, thus Mirage’s decision to identify the kit as “Liberation of Paris”. The one minor English-language error on the instruction sheet is that it identifies the Chinese vehicles as belonging to the “3th” instead of the 3rd Company.
CONCLUSiONMirage Hobby’s M3 Stuarts are neat little kits packed with great detail possessing, in my mind, few faults, and the few that are there are easily corrected. To be fair, though, I only checked the dimensions of the M3A3 kit against plans from a Fine Scale Modeler issue, which I reduced on a copier – they looked close enough for me. I also did not count the rivets. I hear that the ultimate drawings are the Ordnance set, which are no longer available. I rate the Mirage Hobby M3’s a solid 9 of out 10 for an ‘In Box’ review.
BIBLIOGRAPHYThis review article borrowed liberally from the following list of reference material and articles in various hobby and history magazines. I included as many gems as possible from Steve Zaloga, Cookie Sewell and host of other more knowledgeable armor experts, but, if there are errors in the text, they are mine, not theirs. I would like to mention at least two of the references as my personal favorites.
The first is Zaloga’s, ‘What is the AcademyM3A1 Stuart Kit?’, AMPS Boresight Magazine March 2003, which, as its title hints, tries to make sense of which mark Stuart actually comes in the 1/35th scale kit. In the article Steve explains that the confusion over the features in each variant of the Stuart started with authors and modelers looking at photos of pilot vehicles, not realizing that most new prototypes were based on earlier variant vehicles, and thus incorporated features of both the early versions and new versions. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that the production of different variants, M3’s and M3A1’s overlapped and late model M3’s could have features of M3A1’s and vice-versa. So-called hybrid vehicles were not uncommon.
The second is an article in May 2006 edition of World War II magazine, entitled, ‘Armored Debut on the Road to Damortis’, by Raymond Wolfe, Jr., which covers the story of the first U.S.crewed M3’s that went in to combat in the Philippines in December 1941. The Stuart reference that I wish I had is, of course, R.P.Hunnicutt’s Stuart – A History of the American Light Tank. I have the M4 Sherman and U.S. Halftrack book from the same source, so I can only guess what I am missing. The other references are:
“Modeling the M3/M5 Stuart Light Tank, Steven J.Zaloga, Osprey Modelling No.4
“Stuart Light Tanks In Action”, No.18”, Steve Zaloga, Squadron Publications
“The Stuart Light Tank Series” Bryan Perrett, Osprey-Vanguard No.17
“Light Tanks M1-M5”, Chris Ellis & Peter Chamberlain, AFV Weapons Profile No.4
“First Look – Academy M3A1 Stuart Kit”, Valentin E.Bueno, Boresight, September 2002
“Another First Look – Comment on the Academy M3”, Cookie Sewell, Boresight, September 2002
“Accurate Armor’s M3A3 Stuart Conversion”, Cookie Sewell, Military Modelling, Vol.29,No.15
“Desert Honey 2 – Fittings for British 8th Army M3 Stuarts”, Military Modelling, Vol.29,No.7
Review – AFV M3A# Stuart Light Tank, Ron Poniatowski, Fine Scale Modeler, September, 2002
“International Color & Camouflage – British Stuart I”, George Bradford, Fine Scale Modeler, November 1997
Review – “Tanks in Detail – M3, M3A1, M3A3 Stuart I to V”, Peter Brown, Boresight, November 2002
“Research Data – U.S. M3A3 Stuart Light Tank – The End of the Stuart Line”, Ron Poniatowski, Fine Scale Modeler, February, 1993
“Modeling a U.S. M3A1 Stuart in 1/35th Scale”, Paul Krylowski, Fine Scale Modeler, December 1993
“M3A1 Stuart”, Ian McPherson & Michael Koenig, Kagero Publications Top Shot No.11017
“Modeling Conversions – An Early M3 Stuart Light Tank in 1/35th Scale”, James Steuard, AFV G2 Vol.6, No.8