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Academy 1/35 scale M551 Sheridan

Kit: No. 13011
Scale: 1/35
Manufacturer: Academy, from Model Rectifier Corp., 732-225-2100, www.modelrectifier.com
Price: $38
Comments: Injection-molded, 248 parts, decals
Pros: Easy to assemble, fine detail
Cons: Shape of driver's hatch, gun mount droops, tracks too short, no clear lens for lamp
Academy's Vietnam-era M551 Sheridan light armored vehicle is molded with the field modifications seen on the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment vehicles, which included extra armor around the commanders' cupola and external storage. Academy adds a later-style gun/missile tube, too. One-piece vinyl tracks are provided, along with a decal sheet for three different markings. The 12-page instruction booklet is clearly illustrated for both assembly and painting.

Assembly starts with adding the small tie-downs and detail parts before the suspension arms are installed on the hull. Academy has included photographs of how the shock-absorber mounts should look when finished; this was useful to get the correct angle. The one-piece vinyl tracks appear to be designed for a motorized version; they're a bit short, so I glued them to the road wheels with vinyl cement to make them lie a bit more naturally.

Assembly of the finished upper hull to lower hull was an easy task. Academy has provided a standard sprue of World War II tools and .50-caliber gun.The driver's hatch is a bit narrow and tall compared with hatches in reference photos.

The gun mount has no breech to counter-balance the barrel, so without modification, the gun will droop. I added a length of sprue with a piece of lead glued to it inside the turret. Now I can raise or lower the gun, and it will stay in place. The other option is to glue the gun at your desired elevation.

The armored shields around the commander's cupola are a bit thick for the scale and they have ejector-pin marks that should be filled. No clear lens for the lamp is provided. Most of the time, the lamp was covered with a canvas cover, so I made a cover from tissue dipped in thinned white glue.

I painted my model with Gunze Sangyo H78 olive drab overall, then weathered with thinned Model Master rust and pastels. I finished the model with the markings of the 11th ACR. The decals went down fine over a gloss finish.

My reference for this project was Simon Dunstan's Vietnam Tracks - Armor in Battle 1945-1975. I put 15 hours into the project, and I'm pleased to have a modern, injection-molded kit of this interesting tank.

- Tom Foti

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