Airfix 1/35 British M3 Stuart 'Honey'
Please see the First Look review of this kit.
Airfix has added 1/35 scale to their line and has done so by releasing some older Academy kits under license. With this in mind, I will simply report out on what's in the box and how it builds and only mention a couple areas so the modeler is aware and can handle as desired.
Off we go …
Steps 1-2 build up the running gear and attach same to the lower hull. There are a few things to watch for:
-- in step 1, clean the vertical slot in J1 so the bar on J9 rides freely when assembled and only glue the slot on J3 to the tab on J1.
-- in step 2, the sprocket assembly (J1,J2) will press fit and rotate on the axle on the lower hull if you keep paint and glue away; that's handy when putting on track later; there is axle/bolt detail on the inside halves of the idler arm (J6/J8) which must be sanded down to allow the idler assembly (C) to fit squarely and parallel to the hull; test fit all 4 bogies and widen the mounting slots and holes as needed to get all four aligned and level (if desired for your display) before gluing them.
Although track is not addressed until Step 17, I wanted to see how the track went together. There are two choices - Flexible Track or Individual Track - with the latter consisting of single blocks (3 sprue attachment points each) and two links/block (2 attachment points each). I am not a "rubber-band" fan and frankly prefer Friul tracks but I did try the individual tracks first. Cutting from the sprue and cleaning is a long haul. The links press fit to the blocks but not easily or consistently. There are 65 blocks/side on the flexible tracks but 65 individual blocks come up about a half-block shy. Anyway, once I tried to run the individual track and they started to fall apart, I decided life is too short and used the flexible tracks which actually look quite nice with some metal paint on the links.
Back to Step 2 and the return rollers. One of my concerns was how the track inner links interfaced with the nicely detailed return roller brackets on the hull and as shown below it appeared there could be a conflict (wider arrow) using the flexible track as a test. As the brackets are hidden by the return rollers (doubly so if sand skirts are installed) I decided to cut away the upper half of the brackets to ensure clearance. As it turned out, this may have been unnecessary, but I would rather deal with it before than after.
Steps 3-7 build the interior to the floor (C1) and rear wall (C26).
But Step 8 needs test-fitting with the upper hull because of two issues. I found the "escape hatch (?)" (C31) needed sanding down (or simply left out) to get the floor to sit properly in the Lower Hull and the rear/firewall (C26) needed some sanding along the top edge. The goal is to get the rear/firewall to fit onto the sponson without a gap. I did not figure this out ahead of time but since I was not showing the interior, then only fit of the upper hull mattered. Actually, there is a 3rd issue - the engine cover and track cover on each side of the Upper Hull form a "notch" that must fit over the "peg" on each side of the Lower Hull and the rear cover (B36). And pay attention to how the Upper Hull front deck fits at the bow of the Lower Hull. All this takes place later but this is a good place to prepare for it.
Steps 9-16 add all the detail to the hull. There are a number of "?" options and if not already obvious, I selected early British, closed interior. The pictures below are early in the process and I seem to have lost some in-progress.
If you elect side skirts (B2,B55), parts C16 from step 14 may help with fit and alignment. If you do not use the vertical bars (C2) then sand off the raised marks on the side skirts. If you do use the bars, be aware they are all the same length but the raised marks do not align horizontally.
As a side issue, in the First Look I mistakenly thought the C2 bars were part of the sunscreen attachment and was planning to use them plus a horizontal bar (not provided in the kit). It wasn't until I had fixed the alignment, mounted the bars, and such that I actually went back to my references and found I was all wrong. By that time I might have done major damage getting the vertical bars off so I just left them.
In step 15, the shovel (D1) is reversed from every photo I have seen. In steps 15-16, do not mount the boxes/cans to the track cover directly -- they slope rearward. I just mounted the gas cans to the upper hull (as that appeared correct from photos) but I used a couple pieces of Evergreen to fake a mount for the box as shown in many pictures.
Step 17 is where the track, Lower Hull, and Upper Hull come together - and the tow cable which is barely visible in the instructions. I found it necessary to sand off the top 5 bolts on each sprocket to get the upper hull w/sand skirts to fit over - if the sand skirts were thinner this might not have been an issue.
Steps 18-21 assemble the turret basket and gun. I merely put it together as it is a later version as mentioned in the First Look - I had thought about correcting it but then considered outside the scope of the review. The only tricky area is Step 20 when placing the seat rails (A13) - ignore the 2 slots in the bottom ring and use the guides on the floor and match to the locations on the upper ring - Step 21 provides a better view.
Steps 22-24 complete the turret and the model. I recommend you put the turret (A23) on the ring (A4) then add the front plate (A6). The mantlet (A5) can be tricky as it may force the main and co-ax guns to diverge and it itself may not want to sit squarely from front and top views. I may have caused some of this in the previous step, the gun mount looks sloppy. I did some minor widening of the ports from the inside and even removed and remounted the main gun and the MG to help out.
One last thing - the AA machine gun in Step 23. The cradle (D23,D24) and the pintle (D4) in particular, require some sanding to get them to fit together - but be careful of the little pins on the pintle. I wanted the MG to point upwards as much as possible, but that's not possible without removing the T&E molded onto the gun (D18), trimming off some detail on the lower side of the gun near the pintle, and sanding down the lower back of the pintle.
Painting and decaling. I painted as I went. I used Humbrol enamels for the 3 "advanced" main colors, mixed as per the kit instructions which as I noted in the First Look, match Mike Starmer's from the IPMS(UK) Magazine 2010 #3. I, of course, am playing the usual role of Other Rank handed some paint pots and ratios that I cannot accurately measure - somewhat similar to real world - but they look good anyway.
I am unsure why the two air cleaners would be painted Brown (Hu186) and finally just painted them hull color.
The decals went on nicely using MicroSet/Sol - no fuss at all. I did my best to forget the OD (Hu155) backing strip for the WD number but recovered just before those decals went in the water.
As an ancient Airfix modeler, I'm happy to see them enter 1/35. It should enhance visibility and distribution of the scale world-wide. Their current new-tool aircraft, in several scales, are setting standards for detail and accuracy and it would be nice to see them design and produce their own military kits in 1/35. They could release a new-tool version of the 'Honey' any old time -- it should clean up really well.
Pros: The kit comes from a solid background and certainly looks the part. The molding is quite good. Two new decal options are offered.
Cons: It's a 17-year old kit design and the detail is behind the times. The turret interior is incorrect for the version.
Highly Recommended, for any range of skills right out of the box but also quite amenable to detailing to suit.
I would like to sincerely thank Airfix for providing the review sample to AMPS.
Reviewed by John Ratzenberger, AMPS Eastern Carolina Plastic Modelers and AMPS Central Virginia.
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