DRAGON MODELS LIMITED
6627, M7 Priest Early Production Smart Kit. 1/35th-scale injection-molded styrene/multimedia kit. Contains: 295 styrene parts (including eight clear), two DS100 flexible styrene track lengths, one etched brass fret, one length of braided metal wire, one turned aluminum gun tube, six decal markings schemes and six pages of instructions in 12 steps.
DML has slightly back-dated their original M7 to an early production version by the usual method of swapping-out a sprue, adding some new parts and adding new markings. In this case, the superstructure side and rear plates have been replaced with the type that did not have the fold-down armor panels; the MG pulpit does not extend below the upper rim of the armor. In addition, new, side-opening stowage bins are added to the engine deck; these also feature fittings molded in place to accommodate auxiliary fuel tanks. Finally, DML has added two separate 105mm rounds as well as two separate ammunition stowage tubes.
While it is nice to see this variation, DML has chosen not to address some concerns I had expressed in my original report on kit 6637. Indeed, the markings included bring up even more issues. See my comments, below.
Readers should note the following: I am using, wherever possible, US ordnance parts numbers to help describe some of the components in this kit. These numbers are found in several of Steve Zalogas books and magazine articles, where he acknowledges Joe De Marco and Richard Hunnicutt as his prime sources regarding M4 esoterica. Any lapses in the interpretation of these numbers are my responsibility.
These are composed of two lengths DS100 material, molded in soft styrene, which can be fixed together using standard styrene cement. They represent rubber block types and the detail is typical of tracks molded in this fashion: crisp and accurate. Of note, these tracks also have excellent detail on their sides, with the end connectors and track pins sharply portrayed; this makes them a rival to any individual link tracks on the market in the detail department. And, they are far more quickly assembled. The modeler is advised to ensure that the idler wheel axle (a separate part, which will need to be slightly modified) is doing its job, so the tracks are properly tensioned.
This is the early D37893 VVSS suspension system, commonly referred to as the M3 type, which was first introduced in DMLs M4A1 DV kits. The read-wheels are the welded D38501 types with five spokes, which feature properly-placed grease nipples and relief valves. The brackets consist of inner and outer halves and there are separate two-part volute springs that go between them, return rollers and two swing arms; after assembly the latter will remain movable. The main parts have fine casting texture, but there are no foundry symbols or numbers present. The parts go together well, but I needed to apply pressure and some super glue when assembling the inner and outer halves of the brackets. Only one pair of drive sprockets, of the open type, is provided. The idler wheels are the welded type with six spokes. The final components for the suspension are the axle spindles for the idler wheels and a mounting plate. It is recommended that the idler wheel axles are not fixed in place until the tracks are fitted. Unlike previous DML M4-based kits, these can not be adjusted to help properly tension the tracks. With a simple modification, they can be made adjustable, which I recommend, so that the tracks can be properly fitted.
The lower hull is provided as a single, slide-molded part and depicts the riveted type. It is not the same part included in earlier M4-based releases (or the most recent iterations, for that matter), since upon close examination, there are some subtle detail differences; also, an entirely new row of rivets and a flange has been added beneath the molded-on sponson floors. It features proper rivet, bolt, panel and rib details, while the escape hatch lid on the belly has been properly deleted. The hull sides also have the mounting plates for the VVSS brackets molded in place. Internally, there are mounting locations for the M7s main floor plate, as well as some molded-on dividers. All that is missing is the row of bolts on the side walls, directly aft of the transmission/final drive housing.
Up front, there is a 12-part, E6480 three-piece cast transmission/final drive cover. Unlike previous DML kit releases (except for their first M7), this one has a separate mounting strip with bolts. This is because the upper rim has a deflector lip, not seen on the parts in the M4A1 DV kits. This assembly has subtle casting texture, foundry numbers and drain plug details. The bolted-together flanges used to assemble the cover come as one part per side; in reality, this is a two-part assembly, so the modeler should be careful during clean up, RETAINING the seam for the proper appearance. The final items are separate tow shackles and their mounts.
The hulls rear plate features molded-on engine compartment access door lids, to include a molded-on grab handle. The plate transitions to the hulls belly plate at an angle, rather than as a curve. Other items such as the usual tow shackles and their mounts are given, as well as a two-part trailer hitch. The multi-part carburetor air cleaners represent one variation of the round type. The final items are the exhaust pipes with their fish-tail ends, which is presented as a three-part assembly.
The basic shape of the superstructure is captured quite well, with subtle weld bead detail and tie-down loops present where appropriate. The side plates are quite thinly-molded and there are no unsightly and difficult to remove knock-out pin marks present anywhere. The side and rear panels around the fighting compartment are now devoid of the hinges needed for the later folding extensions that covered the ammunition stowage bins. However, the extensions are still in the box. Each side plate also mounts two pairs of separate ladder rungs for crew access; that on the starboard side represents the type with the shallower, original MG tub.
The superstructure front plate properly captures the appearance of the curved top section. Separate head-lamp mounts and horn are provided, as are the relatively thin and appropriately-shaped brush guards. The head-lamps are provided with clear lenses. The drivers view-port flap is separate. Unfortunately, the prominent mount that held the stem, which in turn secured the flap in the open position, is molded in place. It is therefore, poorly represented, while the stem itself is molded in its stowed position on the inside face of the view-port flap. All of this means that opening the view-port flap will require extra work from the modeler.
Three grouser boxes (representing one known variation) are provided and they are fully stowed with grousers; personally I would have preferred that they were empty with separate grousers. This would allow the modeler more display options since these boxes were frequently used to stow all manner of things. The spot welds that held them in place are also present on the superstructure part, which is a nice touch. The final items are a filler cap for the area above where the transmission is mounted, as well as separate fenders for each side of the superstructure.
The rear of the superstructure consists of an extension plate on each side and another plate bridging the two, across the rear. The extensions each have a separate tail-lamp and include fine weld detail. The bridge plate features an opening for the engine starter crank and a separate axe for stowage. The final items in this location are the two mud flaps, one on each side above the idler wheels.
No sand-shields or mounting attachment points are provided.
The engine deck part is separate and features crisp bolt and panel details. Three etched brass parts for the screened areas are provided and they fit into recesses on the deck. The forward-most grill covers the engine deck air cooling intake vent. However, it and the two smaller vents are not opened up, but merely very slightly recessed. The small screens are covered with plates that extend somewhat above the surface, so the fact that they are not open beneath is difficult to see. Not so for the larger air cooling vent, where parts of the engine can easily be seen if it were open. So, the modeler can either accept DMLs design decision or open things up. If doing the latter, some detail must be added inside.
The tool stowage is well done and these items are all separate parts. There are attempts on some of the tools to depict the straps that held them in place. Some have this treatment and some do not; some only have part of the strap molded in place. I applaud the idea and think that the execution simply needs to be tweaked. Braided metal wire and styrene end loops are given to create a tow cable. The end loops have strap details molded in place as well, but their overall appearance seems to be somewhat undersized. The two stowage boxes appear to be properly-sized and represent the earlier side-opening type with mounting brackets for auxiliary fuel tanks on top. Other items on the deck include several fittings whose purpose is unknown to me, as well as separate fuel filler port caps. While previous DML M4 kits often had detailed openings under the caps, this kit does not.
The prominent ammunition racks are partly filled with closed packing tubes; there are several empty cells in each for a more candid appearance. Overall molding is quite fine, with all of the cell walls crisply represented. Two each of extra packing tubes and 105mm rounds are now provided. There are a few small brackets present, some of which are separate and some of which are molded in place. The rear bulkhead has various fittings molded in place, plus several separate stowage items, which I assume are aiming stakes and/or gun tube bore swab staffs. The plate is partially covered by a sheet metal shroud, which features an etched brass part for the screened opening. The opening itself is not actually open, which seems to be an odd engineering decision. I recommend that it be carefully opened, leaving the molded-on rim in place to fit the screen. The floor plate is a separate molding featuring scribed lines representing the ammo bins and other openings, as well as proper tread plate pattern.
The drivers instrument panel well-represents the type compatible with the Wright radial engine. There is a separate floor panel for the driver (with molded on foot pedals), to which a rather simplified two-part seat is added. The drivers prominent hand controls are given as separate parts, which link with the transmission. The transmission itself is made up of multiple parts, but details are missing. Above the driver is situated a stowage box for the gunners sight quadrant. On the opposite side, below the MG pulpit, are parts to represent a tool drawer and part of the .50 cal ammo stowage tray. No ammo boxes are provided for this area nor are parts for the racks that stowed the crews personal weapons, or the weapons themselves. A pair of two-part folding seats is given, one for each side of the fighting compartment, as are a pair of fire extinguishers complete with mounting brackets.
The .50 cal. M2 heavy machine-gun is a two-part affair with separate grips; it comes from a slide-mold so is pre-bored. The cradle is molded with the gun, while the pintle is separate. A separate ammo box, a three-part skate rail mount and a separate gun barrel travel lock complete the area. The ring mount is very well-detailed, capturing the look of the original quite nicely; the prominent brace for the mount is also given. Overall, the M2 looks OK, but the cocking handle needs replacing as it is too small.
The howitzer is mounted on an adaptor base, which in turn fits onto a receptor on the floor plate molding. Separate I-beams are provided to extend from the mount to the lower hull side walls.
The core of the howitzers tube is slide-molded, and has the recuperator cylinder, recoil cylinder and the main portion of the tube molded as one piece. The tube is completed with a turned aluminum and styrene bore end, a recuperator cylinder cap, a two-part breech ring, and a two-position, two-part breech block. The aluminum bore end has rifling on its inner surface. The two parts representing the recoil sleigh are then added.
The cradle assembly is a five-part affair with a separate front end cap. The latter part is the type seen on the towed howitzer and sometimes on the M7. Most photos of the M7 show an armored cap which is bolted in place; this is not in the kit, but can easily be added using styrene sheet. The equilibrator spring assembly is based on a slide-molded core. It is complimented by a movable bearing spring rod, which ties in to the carriage assembly.
The cradle assembly is then mounted to the carriage and elevation mechanism, which has the proper lighting holes and gear-tooth detail on its quadrants. This item will traverse and also elevate, so be careful with the glue when you assemble it. Separate linkages for both elevation hand-wheels and the single worm-and-rack traverse hand-wheel are given as are the hand-wheels themselves. The M21A1 telescope mount, M12A2 panoramic telescope, M4A1 range quadrant and M23 telescope mount parts are all included, and they compare quite well to TM photos. Note that the M12A2 panoramic telescope should be carefully cut off and returned to its location at an angle, per photos. Many small non-descript parts provide for the final details.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
Molding is excellent, with fine seam lines and no ejector pins visible after assembly. Fit should be generally OK, based on my experience with kit 6637. I originally noted some places where things went slightly amiss. The recoil slide has a prominent seam when assembled, so filler and some careful work will be needed in its elimination. The ammo bins will need a slight amount of thinning on the walls that butt up against the superstructure side plates. The breech will also need care in its clean-up. Otherwise, I found fit overall to be excellent.
These are typical for DML and are well drawn. They are relatively brief, since the parts count in this kit is not excessive. There are some glitches: parts B37 and B38 are reversed in the drawings. Part blue A40 is shown being assembled, but has no corresponding part number shown on the instruction sheet. Painting instructions are rather sparse as they dont give information for the colors of the .50 cal. M2, the instrument panel, the ammo stowage tubes, the newly-included 105mm rounds, seat pads and other small details. It should also be noted that the instructions show the application of the yellow stripes to the ammunition stowage tubes, but the decals were not included in my sample.
Accuracy and Details.
There are a small number of omission and detail issues as follows:
Tow cable end-loops are provided, but they appear to be undersized.
According to Hunnicutt, vehicle specs call for: Provision for (3) .45 cal. SMG M3; according to TM 9-731E C1, its one M3 and six M1 Carbines. These two denominations probably represent the evolution of the amount and type of small arms stowed in specific versions of the M7. Regardless, no small arms or their stowage racks are provided by DML.
The very visible mount for the stem that holds open the drivers view-port is overly simplified. It and the stem should have been separate parts.
I dont understand the wisdom of providing etched brass screens for certain areas, while leaving the openings beneath them sealed.
The firing lanyard for the howitzer (part blue A16) is only partially represented; it lacks the pull-cord with its wooden handle.
The tray that held the extra .50 cal. ammo boxes, just forward of the pulpit is only partially represented; there are no extra ammo boxes in the kit.
No sand shields or their mounting points are provided.
Decals and Markings Information.
The water-slide decals are printed in Italy by Cartograf. They are this companys usual fine product and have crisp edges, well-saturated colors and perfect registration. The designs are individually covered with a thin, clear, matte film, cut close to their edges. Markings and painting information is provided for a total of six M7s, as follows:
Unidentified US Army unit, ETO 1943.
Unidentified US Army unit, USA 1942.
Unidentified US Army unit, Anzio 1943.
Gun H, A Battery, 11th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, UK 1st Armoured Division, Egypt 1942.
Gun E, A Battery, 11th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, UK 1st Armoured Division, Egypt 1942.
Franche Compte, French 2nd Armored Division, France 1944.
The first thing I noted relating to the decals is the lack of the inclusion of the yellow stripe decals that are used on the ammunition tubes. These were included in DMLs first M7 kit and are shown in step 8 of the instructions for this release.
References confirm the general appearance of the one French and two British schemes, although the British ones appear to have some issues. For instance, references indicate that the Battery Signs should be blue and not red as the kit supplies. Furthermore, gun H should have a census number, 5160306, on the rear of the superstructure side plates. Both had sand shields fitted and these are not in the box. Finally, the color descriptions are suspect as are the patterns. Simply stated, if replicating a British M7, the modeler must consult his references!
Overall, this kit is visually quite accurate, although it falls somewhat short when it comes to some of the smaller details. There are some rather annoying omissions, foremost of which is the lack of sand-shields, particularly since two of the included markings schemes demand them. There are issues with the colors to be used as well. So, in short, it is a fine basic kit, but some extra work will be required to bring it up to a more acceptable standard.
Frank V. De Sisto
References consulted for this report included:
1. Sherman, a History of the American Medium Tank; Taurus Enterprises, by R.P. Hunnicutt.
2. M7 Priest Howitzer Motor Carriage; Allied Command Productions MV-25, by S. Arnold.
3. 105mm Howitzer M2A1; Allied Command Productions ARTY-02, by S. Arnold.
4. US Armored Artillery of World War II; Concord 7044, by S. Zaloga.
5. US Self-Propelled Guns in Action; Squadron Armor 38, by J. Mesko.
6. Allied-Axis; Issue 17, Ampersand Publishing, article by D. Doyle.
7. Toadmans 105mm HMC M7, M7B1 and M7B2 Photo Detail CD; CD15, Toadmans Tank Pictures, by C. Hughes.
8. M7 Priest Technical Manual TM 9-731E C1; CD from Dataview Publishing.
9. American Field Artillery 1941-45; Equipment of the US Army 1, Histoire & Collections, by P. Gaujac & N. Gohin.
10. Light and Medium Field Artillery; WW2 Fact Files, ARCO, by P. Chamberlain & T. Gander.
11. US Field Artillery of World War II; Osprey New Vanguard 131, by S. Zaloga & B. Delf.
12. Military Modelling magazine, 29 February 2008, article by S. Zaloga.
13. Armor Camouflage and markings of the French 2nd Armored Division in World War Two; Armor Color Gallery #8, Model Centrum Progres, by C. Gillono.
14. The New Breed, North Africa Colour and Markings Series, Part 1; The Factory Publishing, by D. Oliver & M. Starmer.
15. US WWII 105mm Howitzers M2A1 & M3; Tankograd TM Series No.6016, by M. Franz.
DML kits are available from retail and mail order shops. For details see their web site at: www.dragonmodelsltd.com.
Note: Since May of 2005, I have been writing books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reports.
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