by Randy Colvin
When the U.S. entered World War II it had practically nothing in its inventory to counter the German armor that was used to overrun almost every country in Europe. By the end of the war the U.S. had developed it's own "tank destroyers" to help combat the threat of German armor. One of these was the M-18 Hellcat.
At just over 40,000 lbs and carrying a 76mm gun, the Hellcat was lightweight, heavily armed and could travel up to 55 mph. Carrying a crew of 5 the Hellcat was a significant improvement in American armor technology and forever changed the tank designs of the future. A total of 2,507 would be built by wars end and some would go on to see action in Serbia as late as 1993.
The kit comes with 394 injected pieces molded in Olive Drab, 2 flexible rubber tracks molded in dark gray, 2 sprues containing a complete set of link by link track, 14 polycaps, 1 piece of white string for the tow cable and decals for two versions.
Each sprue is wrapped separately in clear cellophane plastic and comes with a 16 page instruction sheet.
The two versions provided include markings for an M-18 that served in France during September of 1944 nickname "I Don't Want A" and one that served in Germany during December of 1944 nickname "Dorothy". It is unfortunate that Academy decided not to do more research on these two versions, as they don't list what Battalion, Regiment or Division they belonged to.
The kit also includes the bare or canvas covered mantlet, and a 75mm and 76mm barrel with or without the muzzle brake. Extras include three .30 Cal and three .50 Cal ammo boxes, 75mm and 76mm ammo and crates, two fuel cans and several different externally mounted crew packs.
Construction began with assembling the transmission and driver's and radio operator's seats together inside the interior. The interior is overall white with the exception of the seat cushions which are olive drab. The rear interior pieces that are actually under the turret ring which include the fire wall, compressor and interior storage boxes - again all this was white. The steering bars were painted white and the handles black, the radio was painted black and dry-brushed white.
Once all this was complete a gloss coat was added and after drying it was washed with a dark brown. After drying I dry-brushed the interior with white and then a final flat coat. Don't forget to paint the four 76mm shells that are stored on the inside right side.
The next step was to begin on the exterior. I left off all the pioneer tools that are stored on the exterior so I could paint them separately. I replaced all the tie-down rings (pieces E26) with wire as well as the headlight guards (piece's E33, E34 and C28).
The suspension system was molded separately and this makes it easier to spring the suspension if you choose to do so. There are poly-caps provided for all the road wheels and drive sprocket so they can be slipped on just like a Tamiya kit.
The fit of the upper deck to the lower hull is not that great and some filling and sanding was required where the bow meets the lower hull. Don't forget to paint the inside of the upper deck white to match the interior. The next step was to add the fender guards, however most photos of M-18's on the front didn't have these because they were made of very flimsy metal that often tore off in the field so I left mine off.
The inside of the driver and radio operator hatches are the same color as the exterior. Because this was an open topped turret, the interior of the turret was painted olive drab, the same as the exterior. I chose to do the version that didn't have the canvas cover on the gun mantlet but has the muzzle brake that was fitted late on the M-18 production run.
The turret has a lot of pieces on the inside and it looks very cramped when complete, but in reality it was very cramped with a crew of five. The gun breech has alone has ten pieces which include the gunners guard to keep him from getting in the path of the recoil. All three seats for the gunner, loader and commander are provided in the down position as well as the turret motor, manual traverse mechanism, gunner's periscope and foot pedal for the automatic traverse. All this was painted olive drab, washed and then dry-brushed with a light khaki color. There are nine 76mm shells that are placed on the right side of the turret interior and I painted these brass. The crew padding was painted khaki drab.
On the exterior of the turret I replaced all the rings, grab irons and guards with wire. Academy provides the option to place a radio or ammo boxes on the inside of the turret overhang. I chose the radio.
The antenna was made from stretched sprue and I used the small filament found on the inside of a light bulb as the spring located at the base of the antenna.
The overall color was Olive Drab with Gunze Smoke added to all the shadowy areas to give it a faded look. A gloss coat was applied and then the decals were added. A wash of very dark brown was applied next and then a flat coat followed by dry-brushing with the same light khaki color as used on the interior.
Unless you have a photo of a particular tank then you can do almost anything you want to a tank. I decided to do a version that served with the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion while attached to the 10th Armored Division in January 1945. Although the "Kimberly Ann" probably didn't actually exist I decided to name this tank in honor of my wife who can be as tough as a tank sometimes. She liked the idea and I was safe. There are not many photos available of the M-18 and it's pretty safe to do just about anything you would want to do within reason of course.
"U.S. Tank Destroyers in Action" Squadron/Signal Publications # 2036, by Jim Mesko, 1998. (ISBN 0-89747-385-X)
"Military History of World War II" The Military Press New York by Barrie Pitt, 1986. (ISBN 0-517-49596-1)
"Modeling Tanks and Military Vehicles" Kalmbach Books, by Sheperd Paine, 1982. (ISBN 0-89024-045-0)
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