The 76 mm Gun Motor Carriage (GMC) M18 was an American tank destroyer of World War II. The manufacturer, Buick, gave it the nickname “Hellcat” and it was the fastest tracked armored fighting vehicle during the war with a top speed up to 60 mph.Hellcat crews took advantage of the vehicle’s speed to protect against hits to its thin armor. Many German Panther and Tiger tanks were destroyed because they could not turn their turrets fast enough to return fire. While the M18 was capable of high road speeds this attribute was difficult to use successfully in combat, but along with the high top speed was a commensurate ability to accelerate rapidly and change direction rather quickly.
Although sustained travel at road speeds was hardly ever used outside of the Allied response during the Battle of the Bulge,most Hellcat crews found the higher speeds especially useful in a sprint to flank German tanks, which had relatively slow turret traverse speeds, and such maneuvering allowed the tank destroyer crew a shot instead into the enemy’s thinner side or rear armor. In general, Hellcat crews were complimentary of their vehicle’s performance and capabilities, but did complain that the open top created a cold interior in the Northern European winter of 1944-45.
This problem was not helped by the fact that the air-cooled engine pulled a percentage of its cooling air through the crew compartment, creating in effect, a large armour plated refrigerator. It was not designed to do so, but it proved impossible to seal off the crew compartment entirely from engine induced drafts.
Here is a kit that could potentially bring mixed feelings. If you want to measure every single corner for scale accuracy, then its quite possible that this kit is not for you. Now, -and this is a strong personal opinion- many of my recently built kits become pieces of conversation among friends in the hobby or family members when they come visit me. Those conversations revolve around the kits of course, but mostly about the real subject itself.
Yes, I want the most accurate model kit possible, but there is no such thing as the perfect model kit IMHO. One the other hand, when was the last time I showed a built model kit to someone in the hobby that came with a measuring tape and started counting rivets? Yes, I remember, never.
The Academy 1/35 M-18 has a few scale inches missing on its width and length, but still makes a nice display alongside any Sherman Tank on the shelf. So, until someone else, or even Academy themselves decide to retool this kit, lets enjoy what we have because we don’t have (for the moment) too much of a choice.
The kit features the transmission, driver seats and room to add the scratch built parts of your choice. It is comprised of almost 400 parts molded in olive green. The M-18 also includes plenty of accessories but unfortunately, Academy did not provide any figures to populate this kit. The turret area is as confined and crowded as the real thing. This kit used to be an R/C model, so a picture of the optional turret interior is provided so you could see the difference between one part and a multi-part turret.
The turret has a lot of parts to fiddle with but they all fit quite nice. This step in the instructions is a little bit confusing, so before you commit those parts to your plastic cement of choice, check and double check. You have the choice of building the turret with or without the gun canvas mantlet.
My biggest concern with this kit is not what I can’t barely see as the missing scale inches, but rather the poor tracks included with it. Academy provides rubber tracks and styrene in large and link sections. The tracks are noticeable thin. I did used the rubber tracks and they are about 2 links shorts.
This is obvious as soon as one stretch them up over the drive and idler sprocket. On the drive sprocket, they do sink inside, so to overcome this, I used two separate styrene links on each rubber track to give them some stretch relief. Should you decide to use the styrene tracks instead, then I’m sorry to inform you that they are thin as well. This kit is waiting for a third party like ehem! AFV Club and bring those styrene tracks.
Painting the M-18 Hellcat was a very straightforward job.
I am presenting this model as WYSIWYG OOB. Even with its imperfections there is room to make this kit a show stopper. With those drawbacks including a less than concise markings info, I wouldn’t have reservations to recommend the Academy 1/35 M-18 Hellcat.