1/35 injection plastic kit with decals, metal barrel and photo etch
Commonly known as the Priest, the M7 Howitzer Motor Carriage (HMC), formed the backbone of the US armoured division’s self-propelled artillery. Recognising that the likelihood of becoming involved in World War II was very real, the American Army saw a need for fully tracked self-propelled artillery that could keep up with the tanks. This lead to the mounting of a 105mm howitzer on the chassis of the M3 medium tank in 1942. Over time the M7 HMC underwent changes to increase the ammunition storage and update the chassis for changes introduced on the M4 Sherman. The M7 HMC proved successful and continued to serve in several armies after WWII including in the Korean War. The British officially called it, the Priest, which reflected that the machine gun ring resembled a pulpit and the British practice of naming self-propelled guns after the titles of church officials.
This 2010 Dragon release is in the Smart Kit format and is Dragon’s first model of the M7 HMC/Priest. The kit depicts a mid production vehicle typically of many used in Western Europe in WWII. As a new subject, it has numerous new parts including the hull, superstructure, open fighting compartment, and many small fittings such as air filters, and spare track racks. The kit contains a 105mm howitzer with metal barrel and new lower cradle. Photo etch is provided for four mesh screens while other small detail is captured using modern moulding techniques. The gatefold instructions have 12 steps of line drawings.
NEW ARMOR & FIGHTING COMPARTMENT
The Priest has new tooling for the armoured body and fighting compartment which capture fine detail such as weld marks and internal bracket bases. The upper side plates are large parts with detail on both faces and the right site has the base of the MG ‘pulpit’ integrated into which results in a neat appearance. The hinged upper side flaps are separate pieces which will be useful for dioramas or displaying the kit to show off the internal detail.
The engine deck is based on a slide molded cover with separate parts for the fitting such as tools, tow cable (made from twisted metal with plastic eyes), flaps, and the PE mesh screens over the vents. The tools have integrated claps and are new to this kit.
On the Priest’s front there are new parts for the transmission cover and glacis plate both of which are to Dragon’s latest standards depicting weld marks and casting detail. Again the kit has separate parts for the relevant small fittings like the lamp guards (clear plastic is provided for the lens), spare tracks (one part per rack to save time and avoid misaligned gaps between links) and flaps. The transmission cover is based on a slide-molded part with separate parts for the ribbed vertical joins and horizontal join to capture the numerous bolts.
The fighting and driver compartment is impressive, and definitely in the Smart Kit format, which from talking to other modellers is very much what people will want in this kit. Features include a single piece floor tub with anti-skid, detailed bulkhead with sharp integrated detail for several fittings and separate parts for the range/cleaning rods, crew seats, driver’s steering and braking levers. The ammunition bins come partly filled with crisply cast cases. The pulpit mounted Browning machine gun is mounted on a multi-part U shaped bracket and has a separate ammunition box. The pulpit’s ring and upper curved armor are separate parts. The inner face of the front armor is detailed and includes the dash board with dials. The driver’s compartment also features the transmission and shaft.
HULL & TRACKS
The one-piece lower hull tub is new and has ample detail on the belly plate. The rear hull plate is also new and includes a pair of sharply defined air filters. The suspension has VVSS bogies (Vertical Volute Spring Suspension) and the road wheels have five spokes with lightening holes (spare parts include solid road wheels and alternative sprockets etc). The tracks are the T48 pattern and are the one-piece Dragon Styrene (DS) type which works well for the M3/M4 series tracks. They are packed flat in the box, so that they do not get bent in storage.
The M2A1 105mm howitzer comes complete with crisp hand wheels, sights, cog wheel, recuperator, spring and slide molded breech. The howitzer’s cradle has sharply defined bolt heads and captures the H profile of the trails (mounting bars). The howitzer has a drop fit metal barrel with a drilled out muzzle with internal rifling. The gun’s traverse and elevation mechanisms are realistic and feature crisp teeth on the arcs. The gun shield has detail on the inner face and includes the lower plates and the metal mounting rods.
The kit includes two Cartograf decal sheets and the painting guide outlines three HMCs which are painted solid olive drab and served with the US Army in WWII.
The first (box art) is gun 10 from 73rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Armored Division in Germany 1945. The second is from the 231st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6th Armored Division in Germany 1944 and has white markings “All American” and Crazy Helen”. The last is from 399th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Armored Division in Bohemia (Czech Republic) in 1945 and is named “Minnesota”.
One decal sheet contains the markings unique to this kit (flags, stars in several sizes, yellow warning stripes for the ammunition canisters etc) while the other contains generic white tactical and registration markings.
Dragon’s new M7 Priest will certainly please the many modellers who have been anticipating its release. The kit is designed to the latest standards and is the best available model of the Priest in 1/35. The kit will make an impressive model out of the box while also providing a solid basis for use in dioramas or super detailing. Highly recommended.
Review – Neville Lord