Australian armour subjects in any scale are thin on the ground - particularly from the hard fought Australian campaign against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1942-43. Mouse House Enterprises recently released this great little update for the Academy kit which allows anyone with basic modelling skills to create an eye catching version of the iconic US light tank with minimal effort.
Although great things were expected from the Academy M3 Stuarts, the hull is essentially the same as the ageing and flawed Tamiya offering (to the point that most parts can be readily interchanged) and the interior is for a late M3A1 variant with turret basket, which is not correct for any Stuart with a rivetted hull. One big saving grace for the Academy Stuarts however is the turrets are bigger, which make the finished product look more in proportion, and the sponsons are sealed. While not correct, the interior provides a good basis for conversion to represent an earlier vehicle, and the hull hatches are moulded separately.
Back in the 1990s I built a model of an Aussie Stuart at Buna based on the Tamiya kits that can still be seen on a few websites, and it was a saga that took some months ... the "horseshoe" turret with cupola now looks ridiculously undersized, but at the time it was the only game in town. I am still well satisfied with my first Buna Stuart, but building the Mouse House welded turret kit update is a "no brainer" by comparison and the end result is far more accurate and complete than my initial project which was made in the dark pre-internet age. Because I was keen to see how the various bits fitted, I decided to build a "buttoned up" tank, which is the way that all the Aussie vehicles went into battle. Without the need to detail the interior, the kit literally flew together overnight.
Included in the Mouse House kit is a distinctive one piece enclosed armoured skirt for the turret base (a cow of a feature to scratch build) , a bin for the starboard front guard, replacement front sponson plates with the gun ports blanked off, an engine intake shroud, earlier model bins for the rear guards, fire extinguishers, exquisite Commonwealth "flimsy" cans in mounts, and grousers in stowage rails for the hull sides. The standard of the casting was very, very, good to excellent and all the parts fit perfectly. With minimal effort and not much time, you will have a distinctive Commonwealth Stuart. Many of the parts are also applicable for tanks destined for British service, so the kit will have wide appeal. One area of weakness though are the instructions, which assume some advance knowledge on the part of the builder in terms of having done research to know what goes where, but otherwise this is a solid upgrade option.
Needless to say, I'm a fan of the hassle-free conversion kit and down the track I plan to complete a more comprehensive project with an interior and grousers installed on the tracks. I note with great anticipation that kits for "horseshoe" turret variants are on the way. Recommended.
Highs: Accurate and very complete upgrade of a Commonwealth vehicle than can be achieved with basic modelling skills.Lows: Instructions need better illustrations for those who haven't researched the Australian Stuart variants in detail.Verdict: I'm a fan!
About Mick Toal (Heatseeker64) FROM: NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA
Journalist and photographer - aka :"scribbler and snapper" - based in Sydney Australia. Been modelling as long as I can remember and it's my great distraction away from work. Regards my career, well every time I think it's slowing down it goes and speeds up again! Check out my blog at: http://heatse...