M3 Lee Mid Production Sahara with Crew – Real Characters
MiniArt, 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
|Stock Number and Description||MiniArt Kit No. 35274; M3 Lee Mid Production Sahara with Crew – Real Characters|
|Media and Contents:||1,453 parts (1347 in grey styrene, 89 etched brass, 17 clear styrene).|
|Review Type:||First Look|
|Advantages:||Options to build one of two different movie tanks or a straight early/mid production M3 medium tank; MasterBox figure set included.|
|Disadvantages:||Lots and lots of tiny parts, especially etched brass; figures only for the 1995 version of the film and not the classic 1943 version.|
|Recommendation:||Highly Recommended as is for fans of the 1995 movie but also can be built as the 1943 version.|
During WWII everyone in Hollywood wanted to do their bit to support the war effort and as a result films about wars and especially the current one were popular. Columbia had the rights to a play called “The Thirteen” about a small group of men cut off and defending against a large number of enemy forces, which when adapted for the screen pitted an American tank and Commonwealth group of soldier against the Afrika Korps in North Africa. They worked a trade with Warner Brothers to get Humphrey Bogart to play the lead and then assembled a strong cast to support him. When the film came out under the title “Sahara” in 1943, it was a big hit with both critics and the public.
The film was shot on location at the Desert Training Center in Indio, California, which had a number of US tanks available for training purposes and they loaned one to the film crew to use as their “star” Lulubelle. It bore registration number W-304512 which they kept on the tank, but the DTC codes and other details were painted out.
The movie was remade in 1995 using a different M3 tank with different tracks and missing the US style machine gun cupola off the turret. This starred Jim Belushi in the title roll and a cast of fairly unknown actors to support him. It was virtually shot with the same script and only a few detail changes to differentiate it from the original.
Tamiya came out with kits of both the M3 Lee and M3 Grant versions of the tank in 1974, but after an initial cheer it was seen that the models were riddled with errors and not really very good. (This did keep the aftermarket boys in business for more than 30 years however…) In 2008 Academy released kits of the same two tanks; while they did provide interiors for the fighting compartments of the tanks they added their own errors even though correcting the Tamiya ones. Strike two.
Now we have kits from both Takom and Miniart which are far more accurate than the previous two kits, and many of the offerings from Miniart include a complete interior with engine and driveline. This particular kit, which was released in 2021, does not include that feature but does include a set of figures from MasterBox and a lot of details for either the 1943 or 1995 movie tanks. 132 parts in the kit cover the figures, weapons, kit and other details to hang on the model.
Based on the two tanks, the kit provides the early T41 tracks, commander’s cupola with .30 caliber machine gun, and low stowage bins on the rear deck for the 1943 version. It also includes WE212 tracks, flat British style cupolas, and high stowage bins for the 1995 version.
Construction starts with the hull and that is composed of flat parts – just like the original design. The belly pan and sides consists of 9 parts and does provide things like the belly escape hatch. While it does not have an interior per se, it does require some of the internal bulkheads and panels in order to assemble the hull properly. All parts are detailed on both sides.
All of the vision ports, doors and hatches may be portrayed open or closed so pay attention to the directions when assembling the hull. The directions use “Color Variant 1” for the 1943 tank and “Color Variant 2” for the 1995 tank in the directions.
In step 21 they show the hull machine guns as a plug, but from what I saw in the kit they also do include two full-size Browning .30 caliber guns that could be used.
In step 36 the grouser box is installed but from photos the lid may be left off and the grousers displayed.
Step 45 covers bogie assembly and they are a bit on the fussy side, but quite accurate. You have a choice of small bolt attachment to the drivers for 1943 and large bolt attachment for 1995.
Each track link consists of four parts – inner face, outer face, and two connectors which fit between them; properly assembled the tracks will be workable. But prepare for tedium as that requires 632 parts.
There are a lot more parts needed to finish off the 1943 turret than the 1995 turret and they do separate which is which.
The figures provide reasonable versions of Jim Belushi (M/Sgt Gunn), Rodney Wisdom (Tambul), Michael Marsee (Leroux), Alan David Lee (Bates) and Simon Westway (Williams). Personally I wish they had done Bogart, Bruce Bennett, Dan Duryea, Rex Ingram and J. Carroll Nash from the 1943 version but apparently there may have been problems with images and legacies. If you want Bogart, it is obvious to many of us “old guys” that the original Tamiya US Tank Crew had the commander figure based on Bogart in the movie.
Finishing is based on seven different brands of paint and the color charts are not bad. The decals are provided for the 1943 and 1995 tanks but note that even though I sent complete directions to Miniart they missed the point on the painted out DTC markings on the 1943 tank.
In summary, this is a nice effort and the fact that they did do their homework to provide for both versions of the tank is impressive.
3954 68 MasterBox figure set
A 15 Basic hull components
B 61 Guns, transmission housing, hull and turret details
Bc 16 Small arms
Bd 40 British equipment and kit
Bf 8 .303 Enfield rifles
Da 41x2 Idlers, mounts, final drives, hull details
Dc 19 Pioneer tools, details
Dj 2x2 Grouser box
Dk 3x2 Air cleaner
Dp 1 Track assembly jig
Eb 28x6 T41 track faces
Ed 14x6 Bogies
Eg 28x6 Track block inner faces
Ei 28x6 WE212 track faces
Hb 8 Bow machine guns
Hc 7 Cupolas
He 12 Vision blocks, smoke grenade mortar
Jb 4 Belly pan, firewall
Jc 8 Sides and side doors
Ea 3x4 Road wheels
La 17 Clear styrene
Lc 2x2 Drivers
Ld 2x2 Drivers
Le 1 Early production turret
Lg 5 Stern plate, exhaust tips
Kb 8 High stowage bins
Kc 5 Low storage bins
Kd 14 US style commander’s cupola
PE 89 Etched brass
Rc 11 Side arms and kit
Y 24x14 End connectors/teeth