What is inside, and what makes me say this is the ultimate incarnation of the light tank series? Well its standard AFV Club fare with instructions and various sprues, but this kits tosses in three photo etch screens, one turned aluminum barrel, one aluminum AA mount, string for the tow rope, and very nicely detailed rubber tracks. No link by link here, and without those two hundred parts that would have made up link by link tracks, you still get an estimated 300 parts for the vehicle itself! This is one well detailed kit, and I am so impressed that I had to scurry over to Armorama to let you all know how happy I am with purchasing this kit. I have begun assembly and have completed the lower chassis. The four bogey units are simply beautiful to look at. I am particularly pleased with the "D" shaped track spacers that sit on top of each bogey. On the Tamiya and Academy kits, they are way too thick and ugly, and without any bolt detail. Well on this kit, the bolts that attach them to the top of the bogeys are molded in place. So is the wire that locks all the bolts on the return rollers. Each road wheel and the idler wheels have weld detail around the ribs in between the spokes. The weld detail is there, its extremely subtle, and I had to take my spectacles off and put the part in front of my eye, but its there... Some of the handles for various doors and hatches are very thin and properly scaled. Weld detail is prevalent throughout the rest of the chassis and body.
Plenty of rivets, bolts, and of course weld detail make up this kit. There is a turret race with geared teeth molded into the upper body. Even though it will not show, its there for you super detailers who may wish to do a "rear area repair" dio and show the turret removed. There is a rudimentary turret interior. The hatches for the driver and co-driver are made to work after assembly. All wheels turn, if assembled properly (somewhat delicate to keep from getting glue on the shafts, but all my wheels turn) with the exception of the return rollers. The drive sprocket utilizes poly caps, ala Tamiya. All periscopes are provided and are complete, IE: you don't get just the portion that is outside the vehicle. There are some beautifully detailed 30 cals and grousers that should look fantastic when I am done with assembly. There are minor knockouts on the insides of hatches and here and there that will be covered during assembly. There are a few sink marks to fill but not too many and can be easily attended too. However, this should not discourage anyone from considering the purchase of this model.
This particular vehicle was built by America during the war with some 3,400 units rolling off the assembly line. Somewhere around 2,400 were sold or given to our allies. Details to distinguish various parts to be used to model Great Britain/Yugoslavian or French/Chinese versions are included. Decals are for Free French 1st Moroccon 2nd Armored Division, 3rd Co. 1st Battalion Chinese Tank Group in Burma, Yugoslavian 1st Tank Brigage July 1944, Free French 5th Armored Division, British 5th Royal Regiment 22nd Armored Brigade June 1944, British 22nd Armored Brigade 7th Division June 1944 and finaly 1st Chinese Provisional Tank Group in Burma 1945.
I am not a rivet counter, but I have looked at various websites with photos. Although I can't tell if its off dimension-wise, or number-of-bolts wise, this kit looks right too me. I have read at other sites that the turret is the proper size (an old Tamiya Stuart kit problem, and copied by Academy..), but because of the great running gear detail and the metal parts, this model is a winner in my book. I suspect there may be an M5 and M3A1 version in the works. I hope so..It would be a shame to waste that running gear on just this kit. The attention to detail by AFV Club really shows on this one. Please note: This is just complex enough, and with all the very small parts, this may not be suitable for beginners. This kit ranks a nine out of ten due to the few minor sink marks and knockouts .
Perhaps the ultimate incarnation of the Stuart Light Tank series of models...