ARM: Review - DML 1/35 scale M7 Priest Early Production

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale =9139-=9145 Series Kit No.
6627; M7 Priest Early Production - Smart Kit; 302 parts (287 in grey
styrene, 10 clear styrene, 4 etched brass, 1 turned aluminum barrel);
pre-order price US$57.95 via Dragon USA Online
Advantages: very nicely done changes to earlier kit to produce the
early production variant; excellent 105mm howitzer
Disadvantages: Few noted other than selection of T41 track may limit
options (see text); fixed ammunition stowage limits options
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: to all =93redlegs=94 and US armor fans, as well as Allied
forces and postwar
As I stated with my first Priest review, during WWII there were four
iconic open-topped self-propelled guns used by the major powers: the
German 15 cm =93Hummel,=94 the Canadian-designed =93Sexton=94 with a 25-lb
gun, the Soviet SU-76M, and the American M7 150mm HMC =93Priest.=94 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=92s Ford GAA engine in
place of the original=92s 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
countries.
DML has now followed its earlier mid-production M7 Priest with
suitable changes to realize the early production models =96 new sides
and new tracks accompanied by other =93tweaks=94 to the molds and sprues.
This kit closely replicates the early version and has done a good
job, with the new sides less folding panels capturing the sculpted
sides very nicely. It also includes the early model stowage bins for
the hull rear. The riser for the =93pulpit=94 is also absent. The model
retains the early model bogies with five spoked welded wheels and six-
spoke idlers, machined drivers, but now substitutes the early T41
irreversible rubber block tracks. The additional air vents are present
on the engine deck as are the covers that go over the top of those
vents. Grouser bins with grousers molded in place are provided as is
an interior of all visible components. The kit also comes with the
current generation of DML=92s take on the M2HB machine gun. Top bows are
provided but only in their stowed positions.
As some sprues were used intact from the first kit, note that DML did
skimp on some items. For example, the ammo racks come filled less four
rounds on the right and six on the left; while more to scale than the
Academy ones and with at least the dividers in place, but this time
they have added two cased and two uncased rounds. All of the engine
deck vents are solid with the brass grille work simply mounting over
them, but as little can be seen through the original even from a few
feet away this may not be bad other than making their installation
more difficult to accomplish in a clean manner. The engine access
doors are molded closed and the auxiliary air vents are also solid.
However, it does come with the earlier =93round=94 air cleaners.
The T41tracks are a good set and represent their prototype well, but
the T41 tracks were short lived and a set of T51 tracks may have been
more appropriate.
The lower hull is a new mold for this kit and includes the mounts and
baffles found in the Priest. The transmission cover replicates the
same version as the Academy kit but is cleaner and has a more
realistic cast texture. The driver=92s instrument panel is the long
narrow type. The interior is fairly complete as the upper hull is
molded in flat components and as such has inner and outer details on
the fighting compartment section.
Stowage bins are the non-vented top-opening type , but while these
now come with the top fittings nothing is provided to store in them.
The M2A1 howitzer is provided verbatim to include the turned aluminum
forward section and in this case is missing the shield Steve Zaloga
noted was a later addition. A complete new lower carriage and the
original travel lock for the weapon (which interfered with access to
internal hull ammo stowage) is also provided. Three grouser bins are
provided but the grousers are molded in place.
Technical support for this kit is listed as the H3 Design Office.
Six finishing options are offered: Unidentified Unit, ETO 1943 (OD,
=93Mabel=94 with painted out stars); Unidentified Unit, USA 1942 (OD,
white starts, registration number 3934680S); Unidentified Unit, Anzio
1943 (OD, white stars with circles); A Squadron, 11th Regiment, Royal
Horse Artillery, 1st Armoured Division, Egypt 1942 (sand, brown and
green, red triangle H); A Squadron, 11th Regiment, Royal Horse
Artillery, 1st Armoured Division, Egypt 1942 (sand, brown and green,
red triangle E, census number 169299); 2nd Division Blindee, Free
French Army, France 1944 (OD, 1A - =93Franche-Comte=94). A sheet of
Cartograf decals is provided for all options.
Overall, this kit offers the early model Priest and is nicely done.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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