In October of 1941 development of a new Light Tank M4 was approved by Ordnance. However, there was also a project underway for the M3A1E1. Clear heads prevailed, and these were combined to become the M5. M4 was skipped, to avoid confusion with the Medium tank M4 which was just introduced.
The M5 used the suspension and turret of the M3A1, but with a radically different hull. This design proved quite successful, and about two thousand were produced.
For whatever reason, Ordnance wanted a light tank that used the Continental engine, whereas the M5 was Cadillac based. This resulted in the M3A3, which was produced in large quantities, but never used by U.S. forces.
The turret of the M3A3 was eventually combined with the M5 hull and became the M5A1.
There are a few M3 series kits on the market, as well as a few M5A1 kits. However, there hadn’t been an M5 until Best Value Models
(BVM) released the kit that is the subject of this review.
I ordered this kit after seeing it promoted on one of the popular Internet model stores. When it arrived, I was surprised to find a plain brown box with a simple paper label in one corner. This was just the first surprise.
After opening the box, I began checking out the contents, which I usually do as soon as I receive a kit. Things looked really familiar. This was because I happen to have an AFV M5A1 late edition in progress (like several other partially completed kits, but that’s another story). After closely examining both kits, what I found is that the BVM kit is primarily the AFV kit without the turret, and without the sprues that make the late version. The turret is replaced by one taken from an Academy M3A1 kit.
After discovering all this, I turned over the box top, surprise, inside is the box art for the AFV M5A1 late kit. The box was simply turned inside out (see pictures).
The AFV kit used appears to be the late version M5A1, even though all the parts that make the late version have been removed. This kit, and the early version have already been reviewed on Armorama here:
M5A1 Stuart (Late Type)
These reviews provide pictures of the sprues, etc. so I’m not going to repeat those here. I have provided pictures of the Academy kit parts that are used.
The kit consists of the following:
AFV kit parts:
• Sprue A – lower hull
• Sprue B – hull and suspension
• Sprue C – bogies and wheels (twice)
• Sprue D – turret, but only two or three pieces
• Sprue E – machine gun
• Sprue F – upper hull
• Sprue I – upper hull
• Sprue K – tiny bits like handles (twice)
• Photo etch – from the M5A1 late kit
• Poly caps
Academy kit parts:
• Sprue B – a few pieces for the turret, machine gun, and loose in the box, the main gun
• Sprue E – most of it, including 1 and ½ fuel tanks; why not all of it?
• Turret shell
There is no painting guide, or instructions for placing the decals.
There are no clear parts; the Academy kit didn’t have any.
As mentioned earlier, the base for this kit (The AFV M5A1) has already been reviewed on Armorama, so I won’t cover that territory again. However, the turret is from an Academy kit that has not been reviewed, so I’ll say a few words about it.
The pictures show the partial sprues provided from the Academy kit. My impression is they are not as finely molded as the AFV, and are a little soft on details. I did a partial assembly of the turret, and I found the part fit to be good. The plastic seems a bit “hard” to me, and it doesn’t take Tamiya Extra Thin cement too well. The attachment point required a fair bit of sanding.
I was already building the AFV A5A1, so I was able to try the turret on that hull. The instructions from BVM specify adding some material where the lugs are that would hold the turret to the hull. I found that inadequate. After some experimenting, I found that some 3/32 tube I had was a perfect spacer, so the turret was snug into the hull. It won’t stay if you turn the model over (but who’d do that?), but it does center it. The fit to the hull ring (D55) is then quite good.
Based on photos in the reference below, I’d say this makes a quite good model of the M5.
One significant issue I do have is the instructions. These are simply copies of the original kit instructions slightly reduced to end up taking only four pages. The pictures show the four pages supplied, and a couple of side by side of the AFV and Academy originals. The stripe that runs through the BVM pages is there, it’s not my scanner. I sometimes find the AFV instructions hard to follow, so reducing the size only makes it worse.
I have been told, by the usual reliable sources, that BVM often uses an existing kit as a base, and then adds their own aftermarket parts to create a hybrid that provides a model of something not otherwise available. They then charge a premium price, that’s justified based on their R&D. In this case, they have simply combined two manufacturers kits, without adding any new work of their own, this for a hefty price ($63 discount).
If you really want an M5 you can do this yourself for less. Then, you get to keep all the extra bits for spares, or create your own “what if”. The AFV kits are about $34 discounted, and the Academy kit is about $22. So, for $56 you get the same thing, less $ but more stuff. The only thing missing are the decals, which I’m sure can be found.
Based on the relatively light detail of the Academy turret, I really think BVM missed their calling by not doing this themselves in resin, like they’ve done in other cases.
I wrote this review primarily to alert y’all to what BVM is doing in this case. Not that there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing. However, I personally feel that the contents of the kit should be revealed.
The Internet, of course.
A book by Squadron Signal STUART U.S. Light Tanks in action, a review will appear on Armorama shortly. The cover of this book actually portrays the M5 which is the subject of this kit.