ARM: Review - Academy 1/35 Scale M36 90mm GMC

Kit Review: Academy 1/35 Scale Kit No. 1395; U.S. Tank Destroyer M-36 Jackson
Gun Motor Carriage; 620 [777] parts (617 [774] in dark olive green styrene, 2
in black vinyl, 1 nylon thread); retail price $45.00
Advantages: fresh, scale kit of this vehicle in 1/35 scale; full interior less
engine provided; covers all known versions of the M36 and M36B2 vehicles
Disadvantages: too many parts carried over from the similar but structurally
different M10 kit; some minor quibbles with "mix and match" sprue selection
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: For US WWII armor fans and post-war MAP armor fans
The Germans got the big jump on everyone during WWII when they managed to
create a KwK version of their famous 8.8 cm antiaircraft gun and shoehorn it
into the Tiger I. While all of the Allies had similar weapons ? the British
the 3.7" AA, the US the M1 90mm, and the Soviets the 85mm M-1939 ? it took
until 1944 for the US and Soviets to get tank versions of those guns, and the
British never did get a good medium-caliber tank gun until after the war (the
17lber did fill in nicely, however.
While the US Ground Forces Board futzed around with the 90mm tank ? first
arguing the merits of an M4 version with a 90mm and then the T26E3 heavy tank
? a stopgap was found via the T71 90mm Gun Motor Carriage prototype, which
used the new 90mm gun in an open turret combined with the chassis of an M10A1
3" gun motor carriage to create a new heavy tank destroyer. The result was
accepted for service as the M36 and entered combat in Europe in the fall of
1944. Units immediately loved the new gun, as while the lightweight chassis
still could not take punishment, they now had a vehicle that could defeat all
of the German tanks at most combat ranges.
When production lagged, the M36 turret was installed on an M4A3 chassis to
create the M36B1. This gave units with mixed vehicles the advantage of
identical drive trains (M10A1 using the Ford GAA engine) for logistics.
Later, after evaluating complaints, a final variant was created after the war
was over ? the M36B2, which used the new M3A1 90mm gun from the M26A1 and M46
tanks with a bore evacuator and single-baffle muzzle brake, and top armor
protection for the crew from grenades and shell fragments. Investigations were
also being held as to the merits of installing a bow machine gun, like that
provided organically by the M36B1.
Many vehicles were provided to other nations via the Military Assistance Plan,
and France used them in Vietnam in 1954 and the ROK Army used them after the
end of the Korean War. Others were supplied to Yugoslavia, and were still
serving there on all sides in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Some of them ?
mostly M36B2 types ? received really bizarre armor arrays from rubber and
steel (industrial belts being the prime choice) and some even received Soviet
V-54 diesel engines, albeit that was a tough fit!
Overall, however, the M36 has not been well served as a modeling subject.
About 30 years ago Tamiya released a kit of the M36 tank destroyer which,
while nicely molded and easy to assemble, was plumb awful. It was one of their
motorized efforts, and as such all of the parts of the kit were modified to
take the motorization pack. It was also in "occasional scale" ? e.g.
sometimes the kit accidently was in 1/35 scale, but most of the time it was
not. Lastly, it came with a very curious bow machine gun position in its first
release, which subsequently vanished in re-releases later in the late 1980s and
early 1990s. A matching (and equally poor) M10 was later released by Tamiya,
using the same hull.
In the early 1980s, Italeri released an M36B1 that had a reasonably good M36
turret mated to their "M4A2 Jumbo" M4A3 hull. This was a much more accurate
model, with only a bogus turret basket really hurting its accuracy, but it was
a "niche" version and not the service model that saw the bulk of the combat for
this vehicle.
Now Academy has followed on the heels of their M10 and Achillies kits with a
new kit of the M36. To give the modeler a good idea of what this kit is like, I
will cover what it is and what it is not.
The model comes with a huge amount of parts, many from the now familiar DML
concept of "mix and match" sprues. Most of the lower hull/running gear parts
are straight out of the M10 kit ? sprues A, B, D, G, C, H, and M are provided
intact. But it comes with a new two-piece turret and new sprues O and P that
cover all of the major component differences between the M10 and M36. The only
part not swapped out was the lower hull, which retains the twin access panels
from the M10 for the twin GMC diesels. Happily, this is on the bottom of the
hull, and since most modelers don't do much more with the hull bottom than file
off trademark data and fill motorization holes, this should not be noticeable.
Having scratchbuilt the hulls for both the M10 and M36, there is no difference
in the upper hull, so that is as is. Academy designed it for exactly this
function, and as a result a correct M4A3 type Ford GAA engine deck and lower
rear plate are provided for the kit. Very late model twin exhaust deflectors
are also provided, but these don't seem to be used on most of the WWII models
from what photo evidence I checked.
The turret itself appears to be well done and matches up well with my own
rebuilt Italeri turret used on the scratch conversion, but it comes with the
correct asymmetric turret basket floor (saving the modeler the misery of having
to fix it as I did!) The turret can be equipped with an early model 90mm with a
plain barrel, a later model with the dual muzzle brake, or the late model with
the M3A1 gun and bore evacuator. The only one missing ? and alas the most
common version ? used a stiffener cast into the gun for mounting the heavy
muzzle brake (those things can weigh 150-250 pounds, as they are very
high-density cast steel) and a simple thread keeper in front of it. As such,
most of the WWII versions fought without the muzzle brake, so if you are the
type of modeler who has to replace the gun with a turned aluminum barrel, get
the one with the cast stiffener and keeper and you won't have a problem.
The only major goof I saw with the turret is in the M36B2 version, as somebody
didn't do their homework. The armor conversion parts are included, but the rear
half of the roof is actually THREE separate folding hatches and not ONE as
provided in the kit. Parade photos show the crews usually opened the left and
right sides and left the center section closed. This is not a disaster, as a
bit of judicious use of a T-square and razor saw will solve the problem (the
panels split evenly between hinges 2 and 3 and 4 and 5.) It's no big whoop, but
surprisingly somebody missed that one.
Most of the rest is pretty straightforward. The kit provides a new rear plate
without all of the etched in "cement me here" tool locations, and strangely
enough also provides an optional bow plate with the bow machine gun mount. I
have not been able to find out to this day which MAP countries ? if any ?
had the vehicles fitted with bow guns, so I consider this a bit spurious. It's
safer to ignore it and pocket the parts in your goodie bin than to use it
without photographic data.
Note that while the kit provides plenty of extra bits ? the difference in
the numbers are all of the add-on casting numbers and fittings provided on the
Academy "Sherman Series Common Sprue" provided in each one of their M3/M4 based
kits ? some are sadly wrong. The 90mm rounds for the M36 are not the same as
those for the M10, and are stowed differently. The kit provides 32 3" (76mm)
stowed semi-ready rounds in tubes and the racks for them inside the hull. This
is because the M10 carried 54 rounds - 6 in the turret ready racks, 32 on the
hull sides, and the remainder below the floor. The M36 stowed 11 in the turret
(1 slot was left empty due to location) and 36 inside the hull ? 24 in the
side racks and 12 below the floor. You will have to make new round containers
from scratch; length is the same, but the diameter of the tubes is about 4.5mm
vice the size of the 3mm 3" round tubes.
The kit gives all kinds of options, but from my research on doing up the
scratch conversion nearly all M36s rolled out of the factory with the following
parts in place (keyed to the kit): bow B28, drive wheels A19/A23, road wheels
A14, and idler wheel A15/A16. They also preferred to use cleated tracks like
the T54 series, whereas the kit provides the T51 irreversible flat rubber
shoes. This is not wrong, but they were less common as when the M36 was
introduced the T51 tracks had been discredited for lack of traction.
For those interested in the postwar MAP versions, you should note that many of
them received the M4 tank series E9 upgrade with spaced out suspension and twin
"duckbill" tread extenders fitted to each set of end connectors. The kit
doesn't provide that (don't blame them!) but you can find websites on how to
space out the suspension, and RHPS makes both T54 series tracks and "duckbills"
for them.
Decals are provided for four vehicles: one Republic of Korea (as seen on the
box top, still with US stars and serials); one French Marine from Vietnam; one
US Army in Germany 1945 and one US Army in France 1944. However, unfortunately,
the sheets seem a bit short on some of the codes and more research would help
get a full set of markings.
By the way, there was NEVER a name formally or informally applied to the M36.
I have no idea where the name "Jackson" came from but it was never used in
conjunction with this vehicle in any records any of the better researchers have
gone through. "Slugger" was the one used by the Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen
Proving Ground while their M36 was on display; again, that was never used with
this vehicle.
Two good references for this vehicle are "US Tank Destroyers in Action" by Jim
Mesko from Squadron/Signal and "US Tank Destroyers in Combat 1941-1945" by
Steve Zaloga (Concord.)
Overall this is a nice kit, and it does not suffer from the turret shape and
dimensional problems which were eventually discovered on the earlier M10 kit.
It is a great platform to start with for some of the wilder Former Republic of
Yugoslavia country conversions, but I suggest you get good photos of those due
to the screwy changes made to the vehicles.
Thanks to Greg Boggis of MRC/Academy for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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"AMPSOne" wrote
Regarding names, I found an article in the Feb '45 issue of Ordnance Sergeant (published by the Ordnance Department) that listed "Slugger" as the M36's "well-established nickname". Whether it was PR or a real soldier-started nickname, it was there at least.
Reply to
Kurt Laughlin
Steve looked in the Carlisle files and NARA and nothing indicated it was more than PR. Just like Dodge calling the WC-62/63 "Big Shot" in their PR and ads.
Cookie Sewell AMPS
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