Model: M36/M36B2 'Battle of the Bulge'
Reviewed by: Eric Christianson, IPMS # 42218
Product/Stock #: 13501
Product Web Page: View
Product provided by: Academy and Stevens International
Academy is back again with another version of the venerable M36 Jackson, proving they are still the go-to source for models of late war U.S. tank destroyers in 1/35th scale. This kit contains parts for the post-war M36B-2 as well, and can be built into either version. The shared M10 hull sports a redesigned turret equipped with a 90mm main gun. As with all of their tank destroyers, Academy provides a lot of detail inside the open turret, as well as hatches that can be posed in the open position, with interior (hatch) detail. In addition, there is a complete hull interior provided, with the only exception being the engine and fuel tanks.
The M36 Jackson, formally ‘90 mm Gun Motor Carriage, M36’, was an American tank destroyer used during World War II and was well liked by its crews. American soldiers usually referred to them as TDs for 'tank destroyers'. The M36 first served in combat in Europe in September 1944, and continued until the end of the war. It also served during the Korean War, and in the armies of several other countries during the subsequent Cold War.
With the advent of heavy German armor such as the Panther and Tiger, the standard U.S. tank destroyer, the 3in Gun Motor Carriage, M10, was rapidly becoming obsolete. Its main armament, the 3in M7 gun, had difficulty engaging these new tanks past 500 yards. Like all US tank destroyers, the turret was open-topped to save weight and provide better observation, with a large bustle at the rear of its turret which provided a counterweight for the main gun. Eleven additional rounds of ammunition were stored inside the counterweight.
The slightly thick decals are printed by a company out of Korea, and are in perfect register. Six two-view drawings (front and port side) are included, representing a single (dark green) color scheme, and markings are provided for the following units:
Paint product callouts include Humbrol Enamel, GSI Creos Acrylic, GSI Mr. Color Lacquer, Life Color, Testor/Model Master Acrylic and Enamel, Revell Acrylic and Enamel, and Vallejo Model Color and Model Aire.
Academy provides several wheel options, including optional drive sprockets and return rollers. I suggest you separate what you want to use and move everything else far away. Things can quickly get confusing otherwise!
Academy thoughtfully provides the rubber portion of the wheels as separate parts to help with painting and finishing. If you choose to paint them separately, however, you will need to consider several painting steps before assembly, and then mask the bogies before painting the rest of the vehicle (or leave them off until the end). I did not paint the wheels and tires separately in this build.
In Step 6, you will need to widen the M4A3 turret ring to accept the larger M36 turret. What seems like a lot of work goes by quickly since Academy does half the job for you by providing a deep cut-line on the inside of the turret. I suggest you do this first thing out of the box to get it out of the way.
Academy is generally pretty good with their instructions. As usual, the single-sheet, 8-page foldouts come in two parts, which is awkward, but workable. I separated all the pages and stapled them together to compose a coherent assembly sequence. On the good side, there is an excellent parts map, a list of unused parts, and a comprehensive set of paint callouts.
There are six different versions, numbered 1-6, identified in the instructions that relate to the schemes listed above (see ‘What’s in the Box’), so it’s easy to figure out what options and parts go with the particular vehicle you’re modeling.
Construction begins with the lower hull and suspension. Academy includes two options for the wheels (both early ‘wagon wheel’ types and later, solid types), and two options for the return rollers and drive sprockets as well. No surprises here; each bogie comes together well and the fit is perfect. The bogies assemble and attach in a way that allows them to be articulated for uneven surfaces.
In Steps 5-7 you assemble a rudimentary transmission that sits between the driver and radio operator and a decently detailed forward compartment – plenty of detail if you choose just to open a hatch or two. The M36 has no hull-mounted machine gun. Continuing on, the rest of the interior comes together, including two (double) ammunition racks composed of 32 encased rounds that need to be carefully aligned between two sets of three plates, one set on each side. It’s complicated to describe and tricky to assemble. Since I chose to create a ‘deconstructed’ M36, it was important that I got these right. In the end, however, I give myself a C. Next time I’ll try going slower.
Working my way back towards the rear, the detail becomes a little more sparse, consisting of a row of canteens, a Thompson 50cal, and assorted boxes and bumps. The flooring is nicely detailed with simulated metal grate that will take a wash nicely. As before, however, most of this will not be seen unless you open the whole thing up. Inexplicably, in this particular kit, Academy chose to leave out the engine and fuel tanks, even though they supply the rest of the interior, including a transmission. If you choose to expose the interior like I did, you’ll need to find those items elsewhere. Luckily, both are included in Academy’s other M36 and M10 kits that have interiors. I cannibalized both from the M10 Duckbill kit (#1397), which I plan to turn into a closed-up “what-if” M10-based ‘Kangaroo’. I don’t understand the decision here to leave these items out – especially since there are even locator points to attach them in the hull interior.
Options abound as you work your way to the rear of the vehicle, and everything is called out by Version Number. I blacked out all but the Version I was going for (V2) to makes things less complicated.
In Steps 18 and 21 you can choose to use the four, over-scale plastic headlight protection baskets or photo-etch replacements. Because of the odd shape of the baskets, bending the PE versions was no simple affair. I went with the original plastic versions to save time but in the end, I wish I had gone with the PE; the plastic baskets are really thick and boxy and don’t look very good.
I added the spare track/grouser racks on each side of the main hull – Academy provides optional bolted plates for you to use here instead, if you choose. There are an abundance of large (optional) bolts that can be added all over the main hull. While these are tricky to clean up from the sprue, I think they give the vehicle a nice, rugged look, and hold washes well.
The two runs of track in this kit are made up of thick, black, rubber-band style plastic. Strangely, every 2 inches or so on the outside of the track there is a small rubber ‘bump’, or a clearly visible hole left behind by the bump – probably due to some manufacturing issue. Some modelers will want to replace the track with an aftermarket product simply for this reason alone, since filler is not practical with this material. My focus this time was the interior, so I left the track as is.
Academy track is the kind that you must melt rubber ‘pins’ with a hot knife or screwdriver to attach the two ends of the track together. The problem is, with the high track tension common to American tanks like the M36, the connection may invariably fail. If not when you first stretch the track around the drive sprocket, then later, when your model is sitting in the display case. I used a tiny stapler I keep around for just this type of repair and added two small staples to keep things together - which means this model won’t be entered into any competition no matter how good I am at hiding the staples. There are just too many options for track these days to continue to rely on this outdated design. In my opinion.
Academy includes some nice detail inside the open turret, and a good start for those who wish to super-detail it. There are two noticeable ammunition racks that have holes for the rounds (but no rounds are included). Likewise, there is a wire spool attached to the inside of the turret that comes empty in the kit. I wound some ‘hairless’ string from my spares box to the spool to simulate cable.
Two barrel options are provided; both are two-piece ‘split down the middle’ affairs, one with a flash suppressor (for the B2 versions) and one without.
There are several options for adding a turret cover, depending on what Version you are building. If you choose to add it, you can also choose to model it open or closed.
One thing I always like about Academy kits is that they include a variety of extras that are optional in the build, and this kit is no exception. Two pedestal machine guns are in the box (50cal and 30cal), four fuel cans, three water cans, two ammunition boxes, one crate, and a tow cable (made of twisted cotton string). The 50cal is very well represented, with a separate cooling jacket and a hollowed-out, multi-part barrel – the kind of detail you might find in much more expensive kits. Since I ws downplaying the outside of the hull to focus attention on the interior, I used the ‘Ma Deuce’ and threw everything else in the spare parts box.
This is my third Academy Tank Destroyer build, and I wanted to show off the interior that the company builds in to nearly all of their TD kits. The model naturally splits into three pieces (Lower Hull, Upper Hull and Turret). What’s more, and I’m not sure this was intentional on Academy’s part, but there are four slightly extended (female) circles of plastic on the inner portion of the upper hull that, curiously, exactly fit the most popular type of clear acrylic ‘lollipop’ sticks on the market. As a ‘deconstructed’ build, I didn’t want to take away from the interior by spending a lot of time and effort on the exterior paint job or weathering – keeping everything close to a factory-fresh look.
I started by applying a primer coat using Krylon Color Master with Durable ColorMax Technology rattlecan (Flat Black) enamel paint. This excellent, inexpensive primer dries super thin and is very, very tough. Not to mention the fact that it goes on in about 60 seconds! I am a fan.
Once the enamel had a chance to de-gas overnight, I toned down the ‘very black’ tire portions of the wheels with Mission Models NATO Black.
I next applied a base coat of Mission Models US Army Olive Drab, followed by a post-shade coat of Mission Models US Army Olive Drab (Faded), working my way out from the center of the various panels. Mission Models Acrylic Paints spray on like lacquer yet do not have any of the drawbacks of using distillates. I am a big fan.
I let the olive drab dry for about 20 minutes and then masked off various areas so the Mission Models Elfinbein Interior White color I sprayed next didn’t overspray on to the green exterior.
Next, I hand-painted the 32 ammunition rounds using Vallejo US Grey, the transmission Vallejo Panzer Aces 338 Field Grau, the (spare parts) engine Alclad II Duraluminum over Alclad II Black, and the (spare parts) fuel tanks Vallejo Saddle Brown. I used Vallejo Panzer Aces Leather Belt for the seats, Tamiya Gloss Red for the fire extinguishers, and Vallejo Model Air USA Grey for the engine compartment.
Once the paint was dry, I airbrushed the areas that would receive decals with Future acrylic to give the decals a smooth surface to work with. I applied the decals using the Red and Blue Micro Sol/Set system without any issues. Once the decals were on, I painted the wooden portions of the various pioneer tools with Tamiya Buff or Desert Sand, and the steel parts with (first) Tamiya NATO Black and then a quick rub using Uschi Chrome pigment applied with a rubber-tipped artist’s blender. I used the same process for the machine gun up top.
I then airbrushed Future over the entire vehicle to seal the decals and to prepare the surfaces for washes, trying to avoid the track as much as possible.
Once the Future had dried overnight I started the weathering process. To give the wooden parts of the tools more depth, I brushed on a little Mig Wash Brown oil paint straight from the tube and let that set overnight. Since the surfaces were covered beforehand with Future, the oil paint will be easy to work with. In the morning I carefully removed most of the oil paint using a Q-tip, leaving the areas near the latches and metal parts darker than the center of the wooden shafts. I then let a little black wash puddle up on the horizontal surfaces of the metal axe and shovel heads. When dry, I think this gives them a convincing look of used steel.
With a glossy coat still on the model, I applied a pin wash to highlight the detail all over the entire vehicle using Mig Dark Wash (aka Raw Umber) mixed 10:2 (Mona Lisa thinner to Wash) applied with a small, long-bristled, red sable brush, concentrating on the panel lines, recesses, buckles, pioneer tools, etc.
Once satisfied, I gave the entire model a coat of Vallejo Matt Varnish, mixed 50/50 with Vallejo thinner and a couple drops of Liquitex Flow-Aid, and followed that with a light dusting of the tracks and bogies using Vallejo Model Air Light Brown. Off to the photobooth!
The M36 Jackson ‘Battle of the Bulge’ is a welcome addition to the excellent line of Academy American tank destroyers.
The assembly went together without any surprises and the fit was excellent. Academy kits are a hit with beginners because of the low part counts and the little extras, like providing very feint raised lines identifying part placement. By including a PE alternative to the thick, over-scale headlight covers, they are also targeting the more experienced modelers.
If there is one drawback to the kit, it is the use of old-style rubber-band track, which contained a number of manufacturing flaws, which, while minor, would be hard to rectify. Still – the kit looks great, goes together well, and was fun to build. I can recommend this kit to all levels of model builders.
I would like to thank Academy Models and Stevens International for providing this kit for review, and to Internet Modeler for giving me the opportunity to build it.