Academy 1/35 M12 155mm Gun Motor Carriage
Old tanks never die, they get recycled. Such was the case with the M3 Lee. When the Second World War broke out, the US Army had decided to develop a self-propelled heavy artillery system to be used to train artillery officers and troops. Army engineers selected the surplus M3 Lee chassis to be modified as a carriage for a WW1 surplus French-made 155mm artillery piece. The resulting gun carriages were designated M12s and were used in the training role until 1943.
When planning for the invasion of Europe was underway, the US Army realized they needed self-propelled artillery to provide heavy fire support on a mobile battlefield. The Army decided to update the M12s and ship them overseas. With the Army workshops already working over capacity, the Baldwin Locomotive Works was enlisted to perform the needed modifications. No strangers to heavy metal, Baldwin completely removed the track and suspension leftover from the M3 and replaced them with the current standard M4 Sherman suspension and track. They also deleted the co-driver's hatch and added a small gun shield to the mount. These updated M12s were sent off to Europe in 1944.
Like the early Shermans, the M3/M12 was powered by an air-cooled Continental R975 radial engine developing 353 horsepower. This gave the M12 a maximum speed of 24 mph. The French-made 155mm gun had a firing range of over 8.5 miles. Each M12 had a storage capacity of 10 rounds.
Academy has been producing some rather impressive armor kits in the last several years. Their latest offering is the M12, and this kit captures a load of detail inside one small chassis! This kit comes on seven parts trees and as youíll see in the accompanying photos there are a load of parts on each tree. What is interesting is that, while Academy doesn't list the total number of parts in this kit (and I donít want to count them either!), there are 34 parts that don't get used in this model. Some of these are off of the two trees that have the Sherman suspension and wheels (since the two trees were identical, only one is shown). That leads me to believe that weíll be seeing some M4 Shermans from Academy in the future. The bulk of the unused parts come from the tree that has the two machine guns, pioneering tools, etc. These will be good detail fodder and spares!
The underside of the hull has absolutely no holes in it for motorization. Hooray! Score one for Academy. I'm not a Sherman expert by any stretch of the imagination, but the suspension on this M12 is better looking than anything I've seen in an M4 kit. There is more detail in the twin road wheel suspension units for starters. In fact, this is the first set of M4 suspension that I've seen that captured the return roller and guide spring too. Score another one to Academy.
The driver's compartment is very nicely detailed, with two crew positions separated by a detailed transmission unit. The driver is also provided with a full set of control levers and brake pedals. There is a bunch of detail here for a compartment that is only visible through the open hatch. The only thing that puzzles me is that the historical write-up in the instructions (and I mention this as well) state that Baldwin removed the co-drivers hatch during their modifications, while the kit retains the hatch and associated crew position. I honestly don't know which is correct here.
Step 10 covers the 21 parts that comprise the 'dozer blade that anchors the rear of the gun carriage and keeps it from hopping onto its back when the 155mm gun is fired. The level of detail here is very impressive.
The 155mm gun is no less detailed than the rest of this great kit. The breech can be positioned open or closed, while the gun itself can be positioned for firing, maintenance, or stowed for transport.
Since the Army didn't field many M12s, there aren't many variations in color schemes. As another reviewer put it, you have your choice of olive drab, olive drab, or perhaps olive drab. Academy provides markings for four different machines, each of which carried personalized crew markings.
It is obvious that the mold makers at Academy liked this project. The level of detail in this kit reflects that. There doesn't appear to be any tough spots or surprises in this kit, so I'd recommend this kit to virtually any modeler. And with the level of detail that comes straight from the box, the Academy M12 would look great perched on the back of your Tamiya Dragon Wagon!
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!