M-18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer

AFV Club Kit No. AF35015
1:35 Scale
Review by Terry Ashley

The Kit.
The kit comprises 294 parts in olive drab plastic, two lengths of flexible track, a brass cannon tube, decal sheet and a spring for the breech? (More on that later).
The details on the parts look good with some fine pieces requiring care when removing from the sprues. While the first impression is good the kit is not without it's problems and some detail is conspicuous by it's absence.

We will now step through the instruction sheet in a blow by blow build, identifying the problems and also highlighting the good bits.
Steps 1 to 4 cover the lower hull suspension parts. Unfortunately things don't start well, the locating holes for the idler wheel unit (parts B36,37), final drive housing (parts C24) and suspension dampeners (part C18) were all too small and I had to enlarge them with drill and x-acto blade (it is important to check fit everything before gluing).
Care must be taken in Step 2 with the shock absorber arms, each arm is moulded in a "T" shape with two link arms on each. You have to remove one of these depending if the arm is for the left or right sides of the hull.
In Step 3 the two support arms from the final drive housing to the first axle have their numbers transposed on the instructions. Part B38 should read B39 and conversely part B39 should read B38.
The remaining road wheel axles are attached in Step 4 and care is needed to align them correctly. After overcoming these small traps the resulting suspension assemblies are well detailed and look very good, with the detail on the lower hull part adding to the effect.
Step 5 is the road wheels, drive sprockets and idler wheels. The road wheels and return rollers are straight forward, I removed the sharp edges from the roadwheel tyres with light sanding. The inner and outer sections of the final drive and idler wheels are in two parts, when joined they form the lightening holes which are prominent in the real wheels. The fit of these is very good with only a small amount of filler needed to hide the join line on the outside of the wheels. A liberal serve of Tenax 7R on the inside seams melted them together quite well.
I attached the rear hull plate and road wheels in Steps 6 and 7 without problems although the road wheels were a little loose fitting and you should check the alignment as the glue dries.
Steps 8 to 10 cover the inside lower hull detail which comprises of lower floor, rear bulkhead, transmission, driver's instrument panel, main gun rounds and other small details. All these fitted with no problems, the interior colour should be flat white, but the instructions don't tell you this. One strange omission is the inside drive axles from the transmission to the front drive sprockets, if you have the hull hatches open you can see down into a bare inside. Obviously all the interior should be painted and weathered before attaching the hull top in the next step.
In Steps 11 to 14 you attach the top hull along with a myriad of small detail parts. The detail on the hull top is quite good with the correct pattern engine grills although there are a few weld seams missing. If you want to have the front hatches open you have to cut the parts into two sections, there is good detail on the insides if you do show them open. Again check the fit, I had to make the locating holes for the head lights and guards larger to fit. The join line between the upper and lower hull at the front was hidden by a weld seam added from white glue and I left the tools off until all painting was finished. The instructions call for you to attach the tracks after the hull top is attached to the lower hull, I found it almost impossible to fit the tracks here and recommend you attach these before the top hull is fitted, you should also paint the road wheels and lower hull sides at this stage as well.
Step 15 is the gun breech assembly, this is well detailed and fits together easily, but take care to align the parts correctly. A strange feature is a spring which is trapped inside the breech, supposedly to allow the barrel to recoil, I'll leave this to your own conclusions. The barrel is a brass tube, this has the advantage of the barrel being perfectly round but unfortunately the taper is incorrect, instead of an even taper the length of the barrel the edges are parallel for two thirds and then taper down for the last third, only the muzzle break version of the gun is provided. The turret front plate is then trapped between the breech assembly and gun mantlet with the barrel inserted into the mantlet, detail on the front plate and mantlet is very good including the cast production numbers.
The turret interior is assembled in Steps 16 and 17, this is well detailed with all the sub assemblies fitting together to form the turret seats and floor plate, follow the instructions and you shouldn't have a problem. It is best to paint the interior before attaching to turret top, the inside of the turret and other details are painted mostly olive drab including the gun assembly.
The turret exterior details are added in Step 18 and apart from careful cleaning of the seam lines on the numerous grab handles and storage racks there were no problems encountered, I left the spare track links off until painting was completed. The detail is quite good except for missing weld seams which are quite prominent on the real thing.
Step 19 is the .50cal Machine gun assembly and this would have to be the best .50cal I have seen in a kit as standard, even better than some specialist accessory items. The cocking lever has the mounting plate as a separate piece plus the thumb firing levers and the .50cal rounds feeding into the breech come up very well with careful painting.
The gun ring is well designed with the center section fitting into an outer ring which allows the ring to rotate, and it works.
The turret sub assemblies are fitted together in Step 20, again these all fit well with no filler needed and finally the side fenders and guards are added in Step 21 and these also fitted well.

Unfortunately the instructions give no clues at all as to the colours used during construction, they only list the colours by number for 4 different paint brands, if you don't know what these are or don't have paint charts they mean nothing, it would have been far better to state the colour required as well as the numbers.
Before painting mask off the tracks and road wheels, turret interior and turret opening in the hull plus the hatch openings if needed. I airbrushed the model using the new Humbrol Super Enamel No.155 Olive Drab, this gave a brilliant smooth finish and when dry, gloss was sprayed ready for the decals. The kit decals provide markings for 4 US and one French WWII vehicles, with post-war vehicles for Italian and two ROC units, these are very thin and well printed and by using the Super Set/Sol decal setting solution adhered very well to the details on the kit. When the decals had dried I airbrushed a final coat of clear matt and allowed this to dry for 48 hours before weathering. This was done by first applying a wash using black oil paint thinned with Humbrol thinner and then dry brushed with various earth colours to achieve the desired result.

Although there are a few fit problems during construction and some details missing which should be there, especially a number of weld seams, the kit in general is well detailed especially the turret interior and small fittings with little filler needed during construction, and builds into an excellent representation of the M18. Overall this is a good kit and I would recommend it, especially as the M18 is a very attractive vehicle and long overlooked by kit manufacturers. I enjoyed building this kit I will be building another with a lot more detail added.
The sample kit was provided by J.B.Wholesalers and should be available in good hobby shops now.


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