M18 U.S. Tank Destroyer
Tamiya 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
B a c k g r o u n d
The M18 Hellcat (officially designated the 76 mm Gun Motor Carriage M18 or M18 GMC) is a tank destroyer that was used by the United States Army in the Second World War and the Korean War. It was the fastest U.S. armoured fighting vehicle on the road.
This speed was attained by keeping armuor to a minimum, using the innovative Torqmatic automatic transmission, and by equipping the relatively light vehicle with the same main gun used on some variants of the much larger Sherman tank.
Entering service in 1944, the M18 served primarily in Western Europe, but was also present in the Pacific. M18 strength in the European Theatre of Operations varied from 136 in June 1944 to a high of 540 in March 1945. Losses totalled 216.
Kills claimed were 526 in total: 498 in Europe, 17 in Italy, and 11 in the Pacific. The kills-to-losses ratio for Europe was 2.3 to 1 and the overall kill to loss ratio was 2.4 to 1.
M18s were not primarily used for tank fighting, but were committed more often to improvised roles, usually direct fire support for infantry.
The Hellcat was the most effective U.S. tank destroyer of World War II. It had a higher kill to loss ratio than any other tank or tank destroyer fielded by U.S. forces in World War II.*
Hellcat in 1:35 scale
There are currently two other M18 Hellcat kits in 1:35 scale - Academy, released in 1997 and the AFV Club kit released around 2000.
Both of these kits suffer from detail and dimensional issues.
More than two decades since their release, we deserve a new 1:35 scale M18 Hellcat to 21st Century standards.
Tamiya has apparently drawn the same conclusion.
F i r s t L o o k
Tamiya's 1:35 scale M18 Hellcat is a brand new kit comprising 384 parts in olive coloured plastic, ten parts in clear, two polythene caps, one length of black string and decals for two Italian Front marking options.
The upper hull is a single part. The driver's and radio operator's hatches are separate parts. The instructions only show them shut but I don't see why they could not be posed open. The top of the crew episcopes are moulded closed.
The kit features fighting compartment and turret interior detail.
The lower hull is a flat-pack made up from separate sides, bottom and rear panels.
Suspension elements including the ends of the torsion bars and bumpers are separate parts.
Wheels are two-part plastic assemblies - no vinyl tyres here. The drive sprockets may rotate after assembly thanks to polythene caps.
Surface textures are as nice as you would expect from a 21st Century Tamiya offering.
The depiction of the canvas mantlet cover is particularly impressive, with convincing drape moulded into its three solid plastic parts.
Fine exterior detail is also depicted in plastic. Brush guards, turret baskets, hand-holds, tie-downs and the engine vents look really good.
Clear parts are supplied for the light lenses - a nice touch. Three sets of crew goggles are also on the clear sprue so you'll have some useful bits for the spares box.
Tracks are link and length. If recent experience with Tamiya’s tracks are anything to go by, these will be fast and easy to assemble.
The open turret is made up from a base and two sides. The turret will rotate after assembly and the main gun can elevate and depress. Stowage boxes and other detail is moulded to the inside of the turret.
Breech detail looks great.
Although we don't get a full action-posed crew with this release, the single supplied figure looks terrific. He is wearing a US Infantry uniform and helmet.
Markings are supplied for two Italian Front vehicles.
Decals are in perfect register and colours look good.
C o n c l u s i o n
This is a gorgeous depiction of America's WWII sports-car tank destroyer.
Tamiya's M18 leaps ahead of the Academy and AFV Club kits to be the best Hellcat in 1:35 scale - or any other scale for that matter.
Marcus Nicholls has already finished this model and he says that it is the best Tamiya armour kit that he has ever built. I can't see anything in the box to contradict him.
Tamiya has delivered another instant classic.
* Historical summary courtesy of Wikipedia
Kit purchased by reviewer
Tamiya kits are distributed in the UK by The Hobby Company Limited
Text and Images by Brett Green