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Academy 1/35 scale M12 155mm Gun Motor Carriage

Manufacturer: Academy, distributed by MRC, P.O. Box 6312, Edison, NJ 08818-6312, 732-225-6360.
Kit: No. 1394
Scale: 1/35
Price: $35
Comments: Injection molded, 364 parts, decals.
Pros: Excellent moldings, good detail, good choice of subject.
Cons: Track style may be inappropriate for versions represented in the kit.
The M12 Gun Motor Carriage was the largest self-propelled artillery piece the U.S. Army fielded in any numbers during World War II. It was armed with a 155 mm gun, which was a U.S. copy of a French World War I design. Based on the M3 medium tank, the vehicle was upgraded with the M4-style suspension.

The modern concept of self-propelled artillery was resisted by some factions in the Army command, and only 100 vehicles were produced. Prior to the Normandy invasion most M12s were in storage or used for training. Orders were eventually given to rebuild 75 vehicles to be sent to the European Theatre.

It was the best decision possible. The M12 proved to be the only large artillery piece that could keep pace with the fast-moving U.S. Army advance after the Normandy breakout. It was also the weapon of choice when Siegfried Line pillboxes needed to be dealt with.

Academy's new M12 is an exciting release. I was impressed with the quality of molding and detail. The kit is molded in light tan plastic and is virtually flash free. A comprehensive driving compartment is featured, including transmission and driving controls. All hatches can be positioned in the open position. Two types of bogie, idler, and drive wheels are given, and two styles of track skids are also provided. The breech of the M1918 gun can be positioned opened or closed. Lots of peripherals are provided, including track chocks, powder charge containers, and a nice accessory sprue.

The well-illustrated instructions guide you through the mostly trouble-free assembly. The bogie units are designed to pivot but I recommend gluing them in place. Otherwise the tension of the tracks will pull the front and rear wheels upward into an unnatural position.

When adding the transmission bulges, parts E42/43, make sure you use fast- setting glue and a bit of pressure. This will avoid creating gaps and needing any filler.

The driver's compartment was painted and assembled next. It looks convincing with all the pedals, controls, and seats in place. The exterior of the kit is festooned with equipment - tools, seating, shells, boxes, and the massive recoil spade. I grouped these into small tasks, carefully assembling and painting each group.

Any opened-top vehicle kit requires more time spent on the "interior," and this extra work is well rewarded. I recommend threading the provided black thread into the rollers of the winch, which raises and lowers the spade, while the rollers are being assembled. It will be more difficult later.

The gun went together quickly. Elevation detail is simplified and the gun will not hold a high-angle stance without being glued in position. The gun shield had numerous deep ejector pin marks on the back side.

The well-molded, one-piece vinyl tracks represent the T49 "three bar cleat" type. I couldn't find photos of M12s using this style track, so you may want to borrow an alternate Sherman track.

Decals are provided for four vehicles; I chose "Adolph's Assassin," a 991st FAB vehicle. The decals are well printed but were a bit of a problem. They did not release easily from the backing and some silvered even on a gloss coat. I substituted a dry-transfer star.

The model measures properly to scale. My primary reference was the excellent (but out of print) Bellona Military Vehicle Print Number 22, which focuses on the M12 and its associated M30 ammo carrier.

I assembled my M12 in 26 hours and found it a satisfying project. Modelers who have built a few armor kits will have no problem with this one. I highly recommend Academy's M12.

- Jim Zeske

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