ARM: Review - Academy 1/35 scale M7 HMC "Priest"

Kit Review: Academy 1/35 Scale Kit No. 13210; U. S. Howitzer Motor
Carriage M7 Priest; 414 parts (412 in olive drab styrene, 2 in
gunmetal vinyl); retail price US$40
Advantages: new kit of early/interim model of the popular Priest; new
suspension mounts and options for mounting; different method of
assembling the howitzer but seems to be well done
Disadvantages: some "mixed metaphors" in features, one error which
requires fixing on the engine deck but this may not be a problem (see
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: to all "redlegs" and US armor fans, as well as Allied
forces and postwar
During WWII there were four iconic open-topped self-propelled guns
used by the major powers: the German 15 cm "Hummel," the Canadian-
designed "Sexton" with a 25-lb gun, the Soviet SU-76M, and the
American M7 150mm HMC "Priest." The latter three were excellent
designs and went on to live long after the war, all three serving into
the early 1960s with various second- and third-world armies. Two of
them, the Sexton and the M7, were based on the reliable US M3 medium
tank chassis.
The M7 came about due to a perceived need for self-propelled armored
artillery weapons to keep up with armored divisions. After a number of
prototypes were tested, the M7 entered service and full-scale
production in April 1942. While it was based on the M3 chassis, it
also absorbed many of the changes that came about due to the
introduction of the M4 series medium tanks and reflected those changes
as production proceeded along. A total of 2,814 were built as well as
826 of the later M7B1, which used the M4A3 tank's Ford GAA engine in
place of the original's radial air-cooled engine. Roughly one-quarter
of these vehicles served with the Allied forces, going to the British
and Canadians (and later replaced by the Sexton, which carried the
preferred 25-lb gun in place of the American M2 105mm howitzer) and
the Free French forces as well as postwar MAP deliveries to many other
Academy had promised this kit for some time, but after the major
problems that cropped up with the M3 Lee kit it apparently went back
for some revisions. The kit is now on its way to the shops, and as the
"boo birds" have already started making comments on this kit without
ever seeing it, the best way to review the kit is to say what it is
and what it is not.
What it is, is a fairly accurate representation of what appears to be
a mid-production M7 with a riveted hull, T51 tracks and some of the
MWO changes that went with it. It comes with the increased ammunition
stowage racks which appeared about the time of the Operation Husky
landings in Sicily, based on combat operations in North Africa. It has
the production three-section bolted transmission housing with the full-
size E4151 right side housing section vice the E1230 used on very
early production vehicles and taken straight from the M3 medium tank.
It has the top-opening stowage bins on the rear deck vice the side-
opening ones from the early production series but not the mesh baskets
which appeared on top of them or vents which are seen on late
production vehicles. It also has the early model shallow "pulpit" for
the .50 caliber machine gun.
Analyzing the kit, it comes with the M3 lower hull pan (with some
subtle revisions, as it does not totally match the one in the M3 kit)
and many of the M3's parts for the suspension, but this is primarily
to give the modeler his choice of road wheels and idlers. A new set of
bogies and drivers is provided separately. Note that very early
production M7s and all of the M7B1s appear to have used the welded
"spoke" style of road wheels whereas the bulk of production vehicles
used the welded "pressed" type with the domed six-ribbed covers. They
also used the "fancy" type of machined drive wheel rings (on the new
sprue) but with most vehicles using the welded "spoke" type idlers.
(This combination seems popular, for you see it on the M10 3" GMC as
Using a simple Staedler steel rule, my best estimated is that the new
bogie assemblies are 11mm even from the bottom of the hinge mount to
the flat top of the bogie casting; those on the unfortunate M3 kit
were a hair over 13mm, so the changes have been made to the design.
(Hopefully this will be retroactively provided to the M3 kit as well,
as it solves it major bugaboo.) The new bogies also come with a choice
of facings, either original or with supplemental cross-brace webbing
for stiffness; so far I have not seen this on any of the WWII photos I
checked on for the model.
Each bogie consists of ten to twelve parts - wheels, rocker frames,
spring sets, front, rear, return roller, and side flanges for the top
of the rear section. Note that the directions would have you use the
welded "spoke" road wheels, but as noted this is not as accurate a
choice as the welded "pressed" wheels.
As noted the transmission cover is the original production three-
section bolted one and comes in a total of six pieces (housing, joint
strip, bolted flanges, and final drive covers). The hull rear is new
and has separate doors, but for some reason comes with the later
"square" air cleaners and not the early model "round" ones. The
fasteners are provided but as Steve Zaloga has noted look much better
if replaced by etched brass ones.
The interior of the hull includes all bits which can be seen from the
outside, such as the transmission, driver's position, and other basics
which go in front or around the gun mount. Note that there are a
number of fine ejection pin marks on the inside of the hull sides and
glacis which will need removing. The driver's instrument panel is the
later M4 style rectangular one and not the longer thinner M3 type.
Academy includes the same odd little oval hatch in the belly of the
hull, which is some sort of quirk they have in every one of their
kits. This is annoying and I wish they would get rid of it, for it
serves little or no purpose that I can see as the kits are not
The gun is nicely done but in a totally different manner than I would
have suspected. The main portions of the gun come in three sections:
muzzle section, main section, and breech. The muzzle is a hollow
"slide molded" tube and the main section is a solid plastic molding.
Normally this is asking for the appearance of our old friend "Sammy
Sinkmark" but Academy cleverly "slide molded" the heavy end of the
tube and it comes out smooth and even. The remaining parts are fairly
conventional for an artillery piece, and the entire assembly mounts on
a subfloor which is installed when completed. (At this stage the kit
has the lower hull with details and now the modeler moves to the upper
Most of the upper hull details are well done. Academy has added the
boxes usually noted as being grouser racks but instead uses them to
stow eight links of T51 track. I looked over my photos to see it that
matches and while I found a number of other items in the racks (!) no
track links.
The one glitch in the entire model that I found is the engine deck.
On the original early and mid production M7s, due to problems in the
geometry under the decking the vehicle had to have two large mesh
vents placed on the rear sides to prevent a buildup of heat and fumes
from the gasoline tanks. To prevent them being blocked by the usual
kit tossed on the engine deck, they had a bent steel guard over them
with two sturdy braces to keep it from collapsing (see photo.) Academy
apparently used a late-production or post-war refitted vehicle, as it
has the late engine deck without the vents. These will have to be
added for an early or intermediate production variant. (The way around
this is to do what the MWO said, namely weld some steel bars across
the engine deck and use it for expanded stowage. The stowage can then
be arranged to block the view of most of the engine deck - bags work
wonders! - and obviate the need to fix the vent problem.) Also the
three-section vent at the front of the deck is solid, and most
modelers will want to replace it with etched brass.
The original M7 came with four crew seats which folded in the rear
compartment and at least two versions of stowage before the MWO came
out. One had six rounds in a 2 x 3 arrangement at the right rear and
six in a 1 x 6 rack down the left side of the hull. The other had two
bins, each 3 x 4, at the rear corners of the compartment. The MWO
upgraded this by adding 1 x 6 racks in front of the bins and moving
the seats, giving the vehicle a total of 36 rounds of ready stowage.
This is the option proved in the kit. However, Academy gives you the
ammo as two strips of 4 tubes and one strip of 10 tubes per side, and
they mount directly in the bin. This means the "eggcrate" slots for
individual rounds are not present, so if you want an "in-action"
vehicle you will need to add the racks from thin sheet styrene or just
strip and black paint. (This isn't wrong at all, but it does limit
your options.)
The tracks are nicely done but are the non-cementable vinyl type and
only attach with one link. My experiences with Academy track is they
tend to be a bit loose, but nothing much to worry about. However, I
would bet many modelers will switch to better-looking single-link
tracks instead.
The kit provides a total of three machine guns but only one .50 is
used, so you get two of the excellent Academy weapons for the spares
Markings are again one of the shortcomings of Academy kits, and while
they have selected four options none of them seem complete. (It's like
Academy seems to forget there is a front and rear to the vehicle; I
wish that, like DML, they would have solid researchers on that subject
provide them with the necessary info to get it right.) The four
options offered are: 2nd Armored Division, Sicily 1943; B Battery
(Baboon), 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Armored
Division, Normany 1944; 11th Regiment RHA, 1st Armoured Division, El
Alamein 1942; and 31st Firing Battery, 64th RADB, 2nd French Armored
Division, France September 1944. The first one is a solid olive drab
vehicle, which strikes me as odd as most of the vehicles were painted
in a sand over OD finish for Husky. As noted the side markings look
complete, but bumper codes seem missing across the board except for
one set for "Baboon."
Overall, however, this is probably Academy's best effort to date and
even with the snafu on the gas vents for the engine provides the basis
for a really nice model of the M7. The rest is up to the modeler, but
even out of the box it will produce a pretty decent representation of
the vehicle.
Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample and Steve Zaloga and
Joe Demarco for their research and assistance.
Cookie Sewell
Reply to
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: : Academy includes the same odd little oval hatch in the belly of the : hull, which is some sort of quirk they have in every one of their : kits. This is annoying and I wish they would get rid of it, for it : serves little or no purpose that I can see as the kits are not : motorized. : I have seen Tiger I kits from Academy with a "STATIC" sticker under the shrink, so I suspect that Academy provides motorized kits for the home market.
Still, you have to wonder where Academy would motorize a Priest - there seems to be a lack of room...
Reply to
Bruce Burden
You want to see something packed with motorization gear and batteries, check out the Tamiya Panzer II in its motorized form.
Reply to
Pat Flannery
re the motorized tank kits. did anyone here ever add in the engines, etc that came with some of the kits? is it a Japanese thing only? I remember only once way back around 1974 building a 1/35 tank with an engine that worked really well. a carry over from the 60's thing with airplanes with engine noise fiddly bits?
Reply to
"" wrote in news:
A friend's son had the Tiger done with the motor and the wired remote. It seemed to work well.
To me if it was wireless and had traverse and elevation and didn't cost a ton it would be interesting. Sorta.
Reply to
Gray Ghost

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