by: Darren Baker [ ]
The M3 Lee and Grant can be largely considered as stop gap armour due to the issues they had with height and the main gun having a limited traverse. With that said these tanks did have a reasonable lease of life in service even when replaced by the Sherman. MiniArt has started to release a family line of the Lee and Grant and have now reached the M3A5 Lee variant of the tank.
This offering from MiniArt arrives in the usual packaging of a cardboard tray with a separate card lid; the artwork on the lid represents M3A5 Lee in the field. Inside there is a substantial instruction booklet and a single plastic bag containing all of the plastic for the model plus the clear sprue and decals in a bag of their own and packed along with the other parts. In this example no obvious damage has been caused to any elements of the model; while no damage has been done to the model from what I can see it does leave small and fragile parts exposed to be knocked loose or damaged. There is a sheet of photo etch included with this release and that is protected by a card envelope in the packaging.
Rather than repeat verbatim other reviews on this vehicle I am going to restrict myself on what is right, wrong or different. The M3A5 is an M3A3 with a riveted hull rather than a welded one as on the M3A3; this detail has been very well replicated on the model and will add a spark to a finished model during the weathering process. The M3A3 and M3A5 dropped the Wright radial engine as these were needed by the aircraft industry and replaced it with two General Motors G-71 diesel truck engines mounted side by side with some modifications by engineers to allow access to needed elements. I am a little surprised that use of the Diesel engine was not carried on into the production of the Sherman as it would have saved a lot of Allied tankers lives in combat due to the much reduced risk of fire in combat. One of the changes on this vehicle that does not affect this model is due to it not having an interior, the fire wall inside the vehicle had to take up 1 foot more space.
With the engines being diesel and so water cooled rather than air cooled this variant required radiators. The radiators were placed at the rear of the tank and given armoured shrouds that extended further down the rear of the vehicle and were also slipped and so improving the armoured properties. The two rear doors that were access points for the radial engine were removed completely and instead access was via the two engine deck doors. Below the armoured covers there were deflectors fitted that are present on this model and were used to help reduce the amount of dust kicked up by the tank when in use. I will mention at this point that the M3A5 served with the Commonwealth as the Grant II and was the same tank with the Grant turret fitted and so is likely to be with us soon.
The M3A3 and M3A5had the side access doors welded closed and eventually removed completely and that is where the floor escape hatch seen in the interior model offering came into being. A problem that occurred due to this was a build up of carbon monoxide in the crew compartment; in order to overcome this build up of carbon monoxide two extractors were fitted; one in front on the left side of the turret and the other behind and to the right of the turret. Going back to the door on the left side you will need to remove the hinge detail on the door and hull and also remember not to add the vision port in that location.
The gun fitted to this model is the M2 75mm gun and has a counterweight attached to the barrel. The counterweight is supplied with this model, but it is not indicative of this specific tank variant and could be left off if so desired judging from what I have read. If you do fit the counterweight you need to make sure that you add it in the orientation depicted in the instructions; so the halves go up and down rather than left and right.
For those that have not read any other reviews I will add that the machine guns are very well done, the casting detail on the turret is exceptional to the extent that I believe it is possibly the best I have seen. The tools provided do not have moulded on clamp detail and so while not workable the photo etched tool clamps look good and of course provide the ability to depict a tool missing. One other area that needs to be mentioned here is the addition of workable individual track links that require care during assembly but look very good.
The finishing options are a little disappointing to me, but it was used a lot as a training vehicle rather than a combat one. The finishing options are:
Armoured Training Unit, USA 1943
Training Combat Vehicle, Used as an Enemy Tank at the US Army Training Ground, 1943
Brazilian Army, 2nd Battalion of Combat Cars, 1950ís
This offering of the M3A5 Lee is a good model with a high level of accuracy, but it does need to be remembered that there is the need for some alterations by the modeller to ensure an accurate model is built. My only real area of concern is the door on the right side of the vehicle that I understood was also welded shut and eventually done away with. The effort put in by MiniArt in this release or should that be family of models is very good in all respects; although it is true that I would have liked to see parts included for building an accurate model from the box rather than turning to plastic surgery.