Takom 1/35 M3 Lee (early)
KIT #: 2085
PRICE: $50.00 SRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2017 new tool kit.


The M3 Lee, officially Medium Tank, M3, was an American medium tank used during World War II. In Britain, the tank was called by two names based on the turret configuration and crew size. Tanks employing US pattern turrets were called the "Lee", named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Variants using British pattern turrets were known as "Grant," named after Union general Ulysses S. Grant.

Design commenced in July 1940, and the first M3s were operational in late 1941. The U.S. Army needed a medium tank armed with a 75mm gun and, coupled with the United Kingdom's immediate demand for 3,650 medium tanks, the Lee began production by late 1940. The design was a compromise meant to produce a tank as soon as possible. The M3 had considerable firepower and good armor, but had serious drawbacks in its general design and shape, including a high silhouette, an archaic sponson mounting of the main gun preventing the tank from taking a hull-down position, riveted construction, and poor off-road performance. They were extensively used in northern Africa.

Its overall performance was not satisfactory and the tank was withdrawn from combat in most theaters as soon as the M4 Sherman tank became available in larger numbers. In spite of this, it was considered by Hans von Luck (an Oberst (Colonel) in the Wehrmacht Heer and the author of Panzer Commander) to be superior to the best German tank at the time of its introduction, the Panzer IV (at least until the F1 variant).

Despite being replaced elsewhere, the British continued to use M3s in combat against the Japanese in southeast Asia until 1945.


I like armor kits. I really do. However, my purchase to completion rate is about the same as it is for 1/48 multi-engine aircraft; pretty poor. I was delighted to have won this kit in a raffle as one military kit I built and really liked was by Takom.

The detailing is first rate and from the look of things, they seem to have hit a nice spot between Tamiya and Dragon in terms of the number of parts and the use of photo etch. There is a p.e. fret, but it is relatively minimal . Itssems that most of the bits are for an engine screen, some fasteners, light guards (and there is a form included around which these are bent), and that seems to be it. I looked through the instructions several times and have to guess the other bits are for other kits.

The kit also provides link and length tracks, which I know many modelers prefer as they are a good compromise between the single piece flexible tracks and the individual link tracks. Takom has provided a build up form to help you assemble these prior to installation on the kit. Both of the side entrance doors and the turret hatch are separate and while there is no interior, you could easily place figures in them. The 75 mm gun is designed so it can be elevated and operate thorough its limited azimuth. The upper turret is installed with the usual bayonet attachment.

Takom's instruction books are very well done and while I personally wish the printing was darker, it isn't that great a detriment. On construction steps where several subassemblies need to be brought together, each separate little 'box' has an arrow on one edge to guide you in the proper sequence. All four markings options are in olive drab (go figure). One is the Soviet box art tank with all the slogans on it. The other three are US, but oddly, none of them are markings used in combat. One with the interesting colored insignia is from the 2 AD when based stateside in 1942. The other two options are also from 1942 and based at the Desert Warfare Center. Decals are nicely done and the instructions use Mig color references. Not very convenient for most of us.


I knew that if I wanted to actually complete this one, I had to start right away. So, recalling how nice their siege mortar was, I got to work. Not surprising is that the first part of the build was the suspension and parts of the hull. I found that the fit is quite close so one has to be sure to remove all the sprue stubs as they will prevent a proper fit.

I also found that parts of the suspension pieces had some rather inconvenient ejector towers on them that had to be removed. It is things like this that keep a company out of the top tier. While these were on the inside of the suspension housings, they will be visible to the flashlight crowd at contests. Since I don't do contests any more, I simply removed them and scraped the area down a bit. I continued to build up each suspension member until it became time to attach the road wheels. Since I don't grunge up kits, these had to be painted prior to installation. Same with the tracks.

Before applying the first paint, I built up more of the upper hull. I will caution you to be sure to attach the inner sections to the front fenders the right way around. I initially did not and wondered why it didn't fit. Once I swapped them around, no problem. Once I had 'most' of the lower hull bits painted, I prepainted the road wheels and their attachment areas. Now painting the rubber bits is always a pain without masks. It was suggested that I use Sharpie pens to do the rubber. So here is how that turned out. First an ultrafine was used to get the area close to the rim. Then a wider one was used to do the rest. Sharpies don't cover as well as paint so needed not only a steady hand to get the rest of the sidewall, but a couple of coats to keep the rubber from looking streaky. It is time consuming but has the benefit of being more precise near the rim than most of us can do with a brush. It also stinks. 

Meanwhile, I managed to break off the handles that fit above both doors so scraped that smooth. The doors were then added. No need to do any of the interior bits if you are going to keep the doors closed. I did one just to see what it was like, and the pieces are very small and look to be easy to lose. Same for the brackets for the shovel. An additional application of OD was made after those items were installed. I also painted the idler and sprocket.

Moving along, I went to the roof that holds the main gun. This has pieces that need to be bent prior to attachment. You also need to do the hot knife bit to get the main gun to move side to side along with the sight on the other side. I chose to use the counter-weight on the gun as it seems to have been used as much as not. I also drilled out the barrels of the machine gun and smaller cannon.

Eventually I got all the turret and roof pieces installed. I also installed the front and rear fender pieces even though the instructions want you to attach those later. I found out that this made attaching the track bits more difficult. I also found that installing the head and tail lights was a bit of a pain as the bits are so small and the attachment points are equally tiny. Once I got all the various pieces attached to the hull and turret, these items were painted.

With everything painted (well, most of it), I put together the road wheel assemblies. They can be simply snapped in place though a bit of bending is required on the outer attachment areas to get them into place. These are keyed to interlock in the middle so keep that in mind. Now that the road wheels were installed it was time for the tracks.

I had hoped that link and length tracks would be pretty easy to install. Well, they are not. Part of the issue is that all the suspension pieces move. This makes things very difficult and when you think of it is a bit silly as the lower track piece is not flexible to take advantage of a moveable suspension. It was a bit of a fight to get everything in place. This is the sort of thing where flexible tracks would have been preferred.

With that out of the way (and it won't win any awards as it causes the tank to rock), I sprayed a few areas with gloss clear to attach the decals. These did not work all that great with setting solutions and it took not only several applications of the hot stuff (Solvaset and Mr Mark Softer), but I also had to press some of them down over details as they did not 'suck down' on their own. This was followed by another coat of matte clear.

Finally, the last bits were attached. This is basically the pioneer tools along with the head light guards. I truly suck as bending photo etch and the guide was only partially useful. I did paint the inside of the light housing with liquid chrome before attaching the clear bits and the p.e. guards. The rest of the pioneer tools were painted and attached or attached and painted. I then dry brushed the entire model with sand to bring out details.
I am glad that I built it. Despite all the issues I had with the tracks, it is probably due to a lack of experience with these sorts of things. The general fit of the kit was very good even though I did find it a bit on the fussy side to build. I don't know how this compares to the Tamiya and other Lee kits, but then I don't build a lot of armor. I would think that those with experience in the genre will be quite pleased with this one.


2 February 2018

Thanks to Gateway IPMS for allowing me to win this in a raffle.

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