engineered update sets that integrate easily with Academy
kit parts (F068 & F069) or your favorite M4 lower hull
Somewhat fragile details require careful cleanup and
Recommended to modelers with moderate experience
Academy’s M3 Lee
has been available for some months now. While it is a very nice kit
with a wealth of detail, there are some well-publicized detail
discrepancies that the fastidious will wish to correct.
Most of these
issues can be corrected with patience and some styrene, but one of
the more difficult problems is the dimensional error in the Academy
kit’s VVSS bogie housings. According to a number of sources
including Steve Zaloga’s posts to Missing-Lynx, the bogie housings
are approximately 2mm too tall. In order to keep the overall
dimensions of the suspension correct without affecting the ride
height of the vehicle, Academy shortened the mounting arms for the
return rollers. The result is something that looks almost, but not
quite like an M3 bogie.
discrepancy arose from Academy’s desire to use the volute spring
part from their earlier M4 suspension set. The M4 springs were
larger than the M3 springs, and their efforts to accommodate the
larger part led to the “mutated” bogie housing.
To be fair to
Academy, the bogies do not look too bad and at first glance the
discrepancy is not all that noticeable. However, when you compare
the bogies to photographs, it is easy to see the difference. Take a
look at the photographs accompanying this review, and see what I
There are a
number of approaches to dealing with this problem. You can whine
about it (most of us started there), you can perform some
complicated and tedious surgery on the kit parts (make sure you get
all six of them identical, now) or you can go looking for an
The Formations Update Sets
Into the breach
(not the breech) steps Rob Ervin from Formations. The master of all
things M4 has learned to subtract 1 and turned his attention to the
M3. Formations have released the first two sets to correct and
augment the parts in the Academy kit, along with a separate set of
Set F068 provides
a full set of stamped (or “pressed” if you prefer) road wheels,
along with a spare road wheel and two welded idlers. These wheels
allow you to correctly depict one of the many M3s fitted with these
wheels in the North African campaign.
Set F069 provides
a full set of corrected bogie housings including correctly sized
volute springs and return rollers.
Set F070 provides
a complete M3 suspension set including the contents of F069 plus
swing arms, open spoked wheels and idlers, and a set of adjustable
F069 Quick Fix Set for Academy’s M3 Lee
Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:
Let’s start with
the bogies. Each bogie is comprised of three resin parts (the bogie
housing, the volute springs and the return roller) which, when
combined with the swing arms and road wheels from the Academy kit,
make up the complete bogie.
I compared the
parts with the drawings on p51 of Hunnicutt’s Sherman book,
and they scale out well, based on the accuracy limits of my ruler,
eyeball and calculator (the drawings are to 1:48 scale). Perhaps
more importantly, the finished bogie looks right.
The bogie housing
is cast as a single part, and requires some minor cleanup around the
lower edges; nothing that a few careful swipes with a hobby knife or
a file cannot fix. You must remove some flash from the cut-outs in
the reinforcing brackets on top of the housing, and this is called
out in the instructions.
are quite delicate, which is nice but means that they require some
careful cleanup. Thankfully the resin that Formations uses is
somewhat flexible so the brackets are a little forgiving of some
rough handling. I recommend cleaning the flash from the lower bogie
housing first, then using a sharp #11 blade to clean out the
cut-outs. Be careful of the two bolt heads on the top of the bogie
housing. I nearly removed one, thinking it was a casting
A locating pin is
cast into the rear of the bogie housing and mates with the locating
hole in the side of the Academy hull. This should provide a
sufficiently strong join with cyanoacrylate, but you may wish to use
epoxy if you have a particularly cautious nature.
The two volute
springs for each bogie are cast as a single part, and even include
the ends of the wound springs. The springs, along with the return
roller, are cast on a substantial pour plug, but the attachment
point is on the top of the spring which makes it invisible when the
parts are assembled.
The return roller
is cast as a separate part on the same pour plug. The rear (inner)
mounting arm is cast integrally with the return roller, while the
front (outer) arm is cast integrally with the bogie housing. This
makes for a nice visible separation on the most visible part of the
return roller while reducing the number of parts and thereby
simplifying the construction.
The rear mounting
arm is cast a little too long, and will require some filing to make
the return roller sit parallel to the top of the bogie housing. I
suspect that this is a deliberate move since it allows for some
shrinkage in the resin and avoids the risk of the part being too
short when you go to attach it to the bogie housing.
The set uses the
swing arms and road wheels from the Academy kit. After cleaning up
the styrene parts, fit the wheels to the swing arms and cement the
two swing arms together. When the joint is set, slip the resin
bogie housing over the swing arms, remembering to insert the volute
springs beforehand. Insert the length of styrene rod through the
hole in the rear of the bogie housing, through the centers of the
swing arms, and into its locating point on the inside front of the
bogie housing. Apply adhesive sparingly to the styrene rod at the
rear of the bogie housing, and to the volute springs, and the swing
arms should remain workable. After the adhesive sets, cut off the
styrene rod flush with the rear of the bogie.
set also includes the bottom portions of the bogie attachment plates
that wrap around onto the bottom of the hull. These parts are
missing from the Academy kit.
The high quality
of the casting and sound engineering of the parts makes for very
easy assembly. I assembled a complete bogie in about 15 minutes.
A nice side
effect of using this set is that you no longer use the Academy
volute springs. This gives you a complete set of M4 bogies as
spares, since all of the other suspension parts, including a set of
stamped road wheels, are included in the Academy kit. Just the
thing to correct that Tamiya M4 kit.
F068 M3 Lee Stamped Road Wheels
If you want to go
a step further and update your Academy kit to represent one of the
many M3s used in North Africa that used the later stamped road
wheels, you can use set F068. This set provides a complete set of
road wheels plus a spare with mounting bracket, and two open spoked
The idlers and
spare wheel are cast singly, while the road wheels are cast in sets
of three. All have a large pour plug with well-defined attachment
points and a resin web encompassing approximately half of each
wheel. Simply trim away the thin web, score the main attachment
point until the wheel comes free, then sand away any remaining
excess resin. The wheel hubs will require careful drilling out to
accept the axles on the Academy swing arms, but this is nothing that
a competent modeler with some experience cannot handle. Just be
careful to keep your drill perpendicular to the wheel to avoid the
dreaded “wobbly wheel” effect.
Again, this is a
very simple set to assemble. Less than an hour’s work will result
in a complete set of road wheels, ready to add to your M3.
F070 M3 Lee Style Suspension Set
If you do not
have the Academy M3 Lee kit but want an M3 style suspension for an
early Sherman or M7 HMC, set F070 will provide you with the parts
you need. For example, you can use it in conjunction with
Formations set F031 to produce an early production M4A1 as used in
The set provides
the bogies, volute springs and return rollers from set F069 plus the
swing arms (new items), open spoked road wheels (including a spare),
open spoked idlers (from set F042), and a set of adjustable idler
mounts (from set F052). The set also provides a set of mounting
plates for the bogies, including the parts for the hull sides and
Many of the
comments already made with respect to set F069 are applicable to
this set. This is only natural, since there are a number of common
parts. The swing arms (parts D and E) will require care in
separating them from the pour plug since the attachment points are
on the lower ends of the swing arms. I recommend using a
fine-toothed razor saw and cutting slowly and gently on the lip of
the pour plug below the part, then sanding away any remaining
excess. For part D, which has the axles cast integrally, I suggest
using a sharp #11 blade to cut away the thin resin web that attaches
the axles, prior to cutting away the rest of the part.
With respect to
the road wheels, see my comments on set F068 above. While these are
different wheels, the construction and attachment of the parts is
the same, and they come off the pour plugs in the same way.
plates are comprised of two parts each. The part that attaches to
the hull side is of the correct shape and has the correct number of
bolts for an M3, and a separate part depicts the bolted bottom of
the plate with its attachment bolts. Again, these parts scale out
correctly within the limits of my Mk 1 measuring stick and eyeball.
There is a little
more work involved in assembling these bogies, but that is only
natural since there are more resin parts involved. Nevertheless, I
managed to assemble a complete bogie in less than half an hour.
These sets are
accurate, well engineered and definitely up to the standard we have
come to expect and admire in Formations’ products. Whether you wish
to correct and/or update your Academy M3 Lee, or backdate your
Sherman, Priest or other similar vehicle to an earlier version,
these sets will provide a good basis.
hinted at some more M3 Lee products to come. I will keep my fingers
crossed for an accurate set of rear stowage bins and perhaps even a
counterweighted M2 75mm barrel. In the meantime, these sets will
allow me to get started on my first M3, which I intend to build as a
training vehicle at Ft. Knox in early 1942.
recommend these sets to any modeler with moderate ability and
experience. I would even go so far as to say that set F069 Quick
Fix Suspension Set would make an ideal first foray into resin if you
have the Academy M3 Lee, want to fix the suspension but have never
tried a resin kit before.
Sherman – A History of the
American Medium Tank by
R.P Hunnicutt, Taurus Enterprises 1978. Long considered the
shermaholic’s bible, this comprehensive volume includes details
on the M2 and M3 series tanks as well.
Tanks in Detail #4, Medium Tank
M3 to M3A5 General Lee/Grant by Terry J. Gander, Ian Allan
Publishing 2003. This slim volume provides a concise yet
informative reference for the entire M3 series of vehicles, plus
variants such as the T1/M31 and offshoots such as the RAM.
AFVisual – The M3 Lee
by David Doyle, Letterman Publications 2005. Another slim but
worthwhile reference packed with development, production and
Items purchased with my own long
suffering credit card