by: Russ Amott [ ]
Traction for fully tracked vehicles is always a problem, particularly as conditions get wetter and muddier. For the M5A1 light tank and the M8 HMC variant, the T-16 rubber block tracks with their smooth face just weren't working well enough. Grousers were carried that could be mounted to the tracks, but late in WWII a new steel cleat track was developed. The T36E6 track offered the option of improved traction, but added 500 lbs to the overall weight of the tank. I don't know how much the grousers weighed, but they weren't necessary with the new tracks, which worked much better on muddy ground.
AFV Club came out with a set of individual link T36E6 tracks several years ago, along with the standard T16 tracks and suspension for the M3/5/8 vehicle series. It wasn't until last year that they came out with a decent kit of the late M5A1, and they have been advertising a "soon" to be released M8 HMC. As both of these vehicles could be seen with the steel cleat tracks, this is a handy set for the modeler to have.
The box is fairly simple, opening on the end and with the instructions presented on the back in two steps. No glue is required. Simply remove the track shoes and end connectors from the sprue, clean up the attachment points and slip the end connectors over the pins. Friction should hold everything in place. The steel cleats are arranged on each shoe with one cleat forward and two to the rear. Make sure you have all of them facing the right direction.
There are a total of 6 sprues in black plastic with 24 shoes and 48 end connectors on each one, for a total of 144 track links. 66 links are reportedly all that is needed for a full run, giving you a total of 12 spare links to mount on the vehicle, or to replace links in the event you should lose one (or more) to the carpet monster. Detail on the individual track faces is excellent, with details on both front and rear. I did not see any sink marks or ejector pin marks. The end connectors also have excellent detail. There is a small ejector pin mark on the inner surface which I don't think will be visible when completed. Assembly is somewhat tedious as the parts are small, but easy.
The track runs are fairly flexible, and as workable, allow you to assemble the run and put them in place. However, they aren't sturdy enough to put them on and run the tank around. It would be best once in place to run a little glue along them to hold everything in place.
I test fit the links around a drive sprocket from both AFV Club and Academy. They fit around both with no problem. Unfortunately, the Academy Stuart is an early variant that did not use these tracks. The instructions include directions on how to modify the Tamiya drive sprocket so that the track will fit around it.
Included in the AFV Club M5A1 kits is a single sprue of the T16 indy link tracks, also in the same black plastic, to use as spare links. They are the same quality and assemble just as easily, with the same fit as the T36E6 tracks. Some of the track shoes had what appeared to be a slight depression in the center of the shoe face.
If you are looking to detail a late variant of the M5A1 or the M8 HMC these tracks are an excellent choice. As individual track links, they are well detailed, although as mentioned, a little time consuming to assemble. I found mine online for about $14.00 US, including shipping. Prices varied considerably, as did availability. I think this is a great accessory kit for any late Stuart variant.