Academy, finished 04/2010. M3 was an american medium tank, used by the allied forces in World War II. In Britain the tank was called "General Lee", named after General Robert E. Lee. M3 was developed from the base of M2 that came into production in 1939, and which was inadequate both in armament and in armor when USA joined the second world war in 1941. US army wanted a new tank with 75 mm main gun, but M4 Sherman was not yet ready for mass production. The M3 was the interim solution. The tank design was unusual in that the main weapon - a larger caliber, lower-velocity 75 mm gun - was in an offset sponson mounting in the hull, with consequently limited traverse. A small turret with a lighter, higher-velocity 37 mm gun was on the top of the tall hull. A small cupola on top of the turret held a machine gun giving the effect of one turret on top of another. The design's limitations were high silhouette, limited main gun traverse and riveted armor that led to a problem called "spalling", whereby the impact of enemy shells would cause the rivets to break off and become projectiles inside the tank. M3 was generally appreciated for its mechanical reliability, good armor, and heavy firepower. In all three areas it outclassed the available British tanks, and were able to fight German tanks and towed anti-tank guns. [wikipedia]

For some reason the M3 Lee has always looked good to my eye in all it's strangeness, and when Academy released a kit of it in 2006 I had to get one and start working on it. For various reasons the project was then buried to my todo-pile until this year's February, when I decided, motivated by the coming Model Expo show, that now it's time to get the kit finished. And due to the deadline I actually was able to get it completed right on time.

Academy's kit is quite ok on base level, containing for example full interior. Construction of upper hull however is quite challenging, as it must be glued together from numerous armor plates and still after that be able to fit beautifully together with lower hull and side gun. Not an impossible task with enough patience and concentration, but it also could have been designed to be much more builder-friendly. The kit has been criticized for example for it's suspension and turret shape, in addition to some hull details. I decided to get a resin set from Legend productions, that contains "ALCO" model turret and stowage bin set, which are larger than the ones coming with the kit. There seem to be atleast three different types of stowage bins according to reference pictures, so the correct bin type depends of the individual vehicle. I didn't want to build either of the kit's vehicle options so I got Echelon's decal sheet that provides several options for both Lee and Grant vehicles (I have also Academy's Grant kit waiting...). Also some Eduard's photoetches were used.

Two weeks before Expo I woke up to the fact that now it's time to move on from basic building to painting and weathering in order to get the kit ready in time. So there were a couple of minor building defects left visible to the kit as I didn't have time to do primer painting etc finetuning. I airbrushed the basic colour with Lifecolor acrylics, a couple of olive drab shades. After that some clear coat to the area where decals were to be set, and then I added the decals. After that I covered the whole model with satin coat to act as a base for weathering effects. First I added two filter layers with Mig filters, and then a dark wash. Typical of me, I used the wash too roughly, and then had a lot of work to get the wash away from unwanted areas. Some turpentine with microbrushes + a couple of hours work solved the problem. After that I did some fading/decolouration effects with oil colours, and then some chipping and drybrushing. After that as a final touch I added a mixture of pigments to give the vehicle a faded and dusty look. My idea was to build a vehicle used in North Africa's dry conditions, so I didn't want the vehicle to look muddy, just dry dust and faded look. I decided not to give the vehicle any final coat of matt varnish, as I thought it would change the effect pigments were giving and also I suspected it to make the paint job look more dull.

All in all, this was a nice project although I had to work quite hard at the end to reach the deadline. On the other hand I wanted to do all the mentioned paint finishing and weathering steps, and it's always so that when there's a deadline, it will give the motivation to get a model finished.

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