The M41 was the last US tank designated as a light tank, though by the
time it had entered service the Army's designation system had changed, and it was officially referred to as a 76 mm gun tank. Rushed into production
as a result of the Korean War, the M41 saw relatively little use in US hands, but was exported extensively. The M41 was for many years the main tank
in the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN). Upgraded M41s continued in service until the '80s.
There were four production variants of the M41. The original M41 and M41A1 differed only in the control systems for the turret and gun, as well as the
internal ammunition stowage. The M41A2 and M41A3 were rebuilt M41 and M41A1 tanks, respectively, with the addition of fuel injection to improve range.
Essentially, all the variants looked the same externally. There were a number of features that changed during the course of production, but were not
associated with a particular variant, including:
- Very early production vehicles featured side skirts, these were omitted from most M41s.
- Early production fenders were squared off front and rear, later vehicles had the fenders cut away at an angle.
- The M41 featured an auxiliary generator to provide power for the turret traverse when the engine was not running. Early production vehicles had no
muffler for the auxiliary generator. Mid production vehicles had a small auxiliary muffler mounted on top of the left exhaust heat shield, while late
production vehicles had a larger auxiliary muffler mounted on the right front fender.
- Stowage of on-vehicle-mounted equipment varied greatly between early and late vehicles. In particular, the pioneer tool rack was relocated from the
bow plate to the right front fender.
- Initial vehicles featured all-steel idlers and return rollers. The idlers were later replaced by rubber tired versions, identical to the road wheels.
There was also a third type of idler, with a 'contoured' rubber tire. The return rollers also switched to contoured rubber tires during production.
- Early vehicles lacked a mantlet dust cover, this was added later in production.
- Very early vehicles had a cast muzzle brake, this was replaced by a tubular T-shaped brake early in production.
The kit comes packed in a surprisingly small but sturdy cardboard box, with only a description on the label. Inside, there is a single bag of resin parts,
along with a one piece hull and one piece turret. My initial impression is that the casting quality is some of the best I've seen. Detail is very crisp,
though there is some resin buildup around the exhaust pipes. The underside of the hull has a small resin pour stub, and there are several pinholes around
the bottom of the hull and suspension parts. The only breakage I noted was on the two large lifting rings at the rear of the hull, both of which were missing
on my kit, and part of the rim of one idler wheel.
The kit is broken down into only 34 parts. There are 10 paired road wheels, 6 return rollers, idlers and sprockets with track sections moulded on, and 2 short
and 2 long lengths of track for each side of the suspension. Other than the suspension parts, there is a travel lock for the main gun, the main gun barrel,
and a .50 calibre machine gun and separate ammo box.
All the hatches are moulded closed. There is a lot of cast-in detail including lifting eyes (which are flashed over but easily opened with a knife or drill)
and grab handles on the turret.
The suspension, wheels and tracks are very well done. The tracks are probably the nicest I've seen in resin, and look pretty close to the T91 steel tracks
with rubber pads employed on the M41. The lengths of tracks are straight and flash-free The wheels are well cast, though the hub detail is incorrect for the
M41. Because the track links are cast onto the idler and sprocket, it would be difficult to substitute a rubber tired idler to model a late production
variant (though photos show all types of idler in service at the same time). The return rollers are provided as single wheels, but they should be dual
wheels, like the road wheels and idlers.
The instruction sheet includes a 4-view drawing and general assembly tips (in English only), but no exploded view drawing or list of kit parts. Fortunately,
the kit is simple enough that assembly should be a breeze. There are no decals provided, and the only painting information is a single sentence suggesting
olive drab overall with black tires.
The kit looks to represent an early-production M41 version. The fenders are squared off, the idlers are the all-steel versions, and there is no auxiliary
muffler or mantlet dust cover. The 76mm gun is equipped with the tubular muzzle brake. There are no pioneer tools or other stowage provided. Brush guards
for the headlights will have to be scratchbuilt, but fortunately they are pretty simple in shape.
To my eyes, the only real problem with the kit is the turret. The casting is beautiful, but the turret seems to be 1-2 mm too short in height. This would
be very difficult to correct without scratchbuilding a new turret, so most modellers will simply live with the error. Missing from the turret are the
jerry cans normally stowed on the bustle. It would have been nice to have the complex mantlet dust cover included as well. The loader's hatch has a
raised lip around it, which I can't find evidence of on the real turret. The resin barrel is moulded dead straight, and might be a hair too short.
The .50 cal is pretty nice, but could easily be replaced by a superior part from a Dragon Sherman.
Without assembling the kit, it's difficult to assess accuracy, but the hull width scales out to within 2 inches, while the road wheels and idler are
within an inch in diameter, and scale out to just over an inch too wide. The track links are 2 scale inches narrow, and very close in pitch. Other
than the turret height, the shapes and sizes compare well with scaled-down drawings from the Hunnicutt Sheridan book.
Overall, I'm hugely impressed with this kit. The turret shape is the only real letdown here, and with the addition of some stowage and a dust cover,
I think the error could be easily overlooked. Favorit Kit have a small selection of post-war French AFVs and armoured cars - I would love to see them
tackle some additional US cold-war era subjects (such as the M41-derived M42 Duster, a subject I'll return too in a subsequent preview...)
 Sheridan - A History of the American Light Tank, Volume 2, R.P. Hunnicutt, Presidio Press, 1995 ISBN: 089141570X.