There is not much information floating around about this vehicle. It was a self-propelled gun that was designed for close infantry support in 1941 using a 75mm howitzer. The gun was built in using a gun mount adapted from the M3 Grant. Two mild steel prototypes were built on the M3 chassis, but they were not successful during their trial on the Aberdeen Proving Ground. They had a high profile, and they were nose-heavy, which meant their performance suffered considerably. These issues lead to the cancellation of the T18 project. The successor of the vehicle was the M8 where the howitzer was placed into a rotating turret.
While the SPG did fail its field tests, I think we all can agree it would have passed based on looks – it is probably one of the cutest armored vehicle I’ve seen (if you can use this word about a weapon of war). It used to be an extremely overpowered tank destroyer in World of Tanks, which was used extensively for seal-clubbing. Now they turned it into an artillery piece, with is historically more accurate.
The conversion set is marked as designed for the Stuart models by Mirage Hobby –but it does not specify which type of the many Stuarts from the line. I made a mistake -the first of several in the duration of this build-, and ordered the wrong one. This meant scratchbuilding the two mufflers and the boxes behind the mufflers which sit on the mudguards… not very successfully, I might add.
The kit comes in the usual Modelltrans blister pack. It consists of exactly two parts, so the conversion itself is not very difficult. We get the superstructure and the gun itself. The details are very nice on the parts, but the attachment point to the casting block on the main superstructure is at a very delicate place. The problem is that it’s very thick, and it’s right at the very delicate and fragile mudguards; extreme care needs to be taken when sawing it off. (And as usual: be very careful when working with resin. It’s best using a wet-sawing, wet-sanding technique to minimalize dust production, as the fine resin dust is quite bad for health.) There were some casting issues on the superstructure: at places the resin was flaking off, or were downright cracked. You can also see how the superstructure was cast: as if Modeltrans had used a strip of plastic to make the armor thicker, but did not bother enough to hide the outlines of this plastic strip. This can be easily dealt with some filling and sanding, though, unless you forget about it until you put on the camo already, at which point you decide to just ignore the issue. (As I did. As I said: long line of mistakes during the build of this small tank.)
The assembly is dead easy: the superstructure needs to be mated with the plastic lower hull, the gun needs to be attached, and various kit parts glued to the superstructure.
The superstructure’s fit onto the hull of a Mirage Hobby Stuart is not perfect; I needed to doctor the base kit a bit with a scalpel.
I could not find good scale drawings about the vehicle, so I used World of Tanks as a reference. It helped me to decide where to place the fuel tank caps onto the model, and it was useful for determining where to put the tools and other plastic parts coming from the Mirage Hobby kit. The machine guns barrels for the side-mounts can be adapted from the kit machine guns.
As I said I have chosen the “wrong” Stuart version: the M5A1 has the whole back of the chassis covered with armor plates, while the T18 was based on an earlier M3 chassis. The main difference for us is the mufflers were exposed, and there were two storage boxes mounted on the mudguards behind them. I’ve cobbled together some sort of replacement for these, but they are far from satisfactory.
The painting was quick. I wanted to replicate a camo scheme from World of Tanks: a very light green/grey base with darker green areas. I applied black primer, then covered it with neutral grey. I figured the green hue will be added by the subsequent filters. The green patches were added using an airbrush: with the paint flowing, I simply moved the parts of the model I wanted to paint into the way of the pait spray…
The details were painted with a thin brush and using Citadel’s paintsl; I’ve also glued the tracks on. As you can see they’re not the best fit; I find these rubber band tracks hard to install, unless I can hide the ends under a mudguard, where they cannot be seen.
I always liked the rubbed-off paint on metal effect on models (and real vehicles). Since I was less and less inspired to finish the model, I was ready to experiment. I simply -and carefully- rubbed the edges of the superstructure against a piece of cloth, until the black primer was exposed. This really made the tank look like it’s been through some tough times.
The next steps were the filters: green filters did make the grey look greenish… (No big surprise, but still: big relief here.)
Some light brown and blue filters further modified the colors, and I had to use some yellow as well, as the blue made everything look very cold.
Pin washes were used on the recessed details.
The last steps were to use Tamiya’s weathering set to add yellowish hues to the superstructure (I used the light sand colors, but only in a very light layers, as in this case I wanted to show discoloration, and not dust). I have to say, this last touch bought the model alive; suddenly it became realistic-looking.
I used mud to simulate dirt on the chassis and the suspension. The obligatory soft lead pencil was used to make the edges look metallic -which looks really convincing on the worn areas, where the black shows through.
I’ve tried AK Interactive’s fuel stains as well on the fuel caps; I’m sure you don’t get as much spilled fuel on any tank, but at least it makes it look more interesting.
All in all, apart from the mistakes I’ve made through this project, the result looks nice. I just have to make sure it’s not displayed showing its “bad” side.