|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale
Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 2 February 2008.
These two kits I think are currently my favorite Shermans from Dragon. The M4A2 was a very common version of the Sherman, in particular with the British and Commonwealth armored forces, and it's surpising that it has taken this long for a company to release this version in plastic. We've had a couple of choices in resin for several years: the MR Models kit is gorgeous, though expensive, and the ARMO kit is relatively inexpensive, but not that good. Thankfully, these plastic kits are great, though with a couple of design deficiencies.
The two kits are being treated to a joint review, because they are almost identical. I'll show in the review the few parts that are unique to each kit.
The two hulls are different between the kits. The primary difference between the two is the type of armored hood for the crew positions on the front hull. The M4A2 Tarawa kit has welded hoods, which I think is a later version of the hull, but it may perhaps have been due to a different manufacturer of the hulls. The Sherman III hull has the cast armored hoods, which are identifiable by their rounded corners. Other than that, the details on the hulls are the same, and are extremely well done. All the hatches, filler caps, ventilators, etc. are molded with extremely crisp detail. Some of the pioneer tools are molded onto the hull, which is a shame, but their relief is pretty decent. Some of my reference drawings show a fluid filler cap on the rear deck, just to the rear of the engine grates, but other drawings don't show it. Neither of these kits have that cap.
For some reason that will probably become apparent during construction, the M4A2 Tarawa upper hull has the overhanging rear armored plate molded as a separate part. Not sure why that is. There is an additional sprue of parts included in the Tarawa kit that is not included with the Sherman III kit, and it is shown below the Tarawa hull scans. This sprue contains the rear hull plate, plus a new differential housing of the single-piece rounded design. The Sherman III kit is meant to use the 3-piece bolted nose that is included with both kits. Both of the hulls scale out almost perfectly to 1/72nd.
The lower hulls have some minor differences between them, such as the detail around the front drive axle, as can be seen in the scan below:
Both kits have the same turret sprue. It represents a very early turret with the pistol port and no loader's hatch. The turret is gorgeous, with a subtle surface texture and very crisp detail. Applique cheek armor is provided as an optional part. All three gun rotor shields are included, the M34A1, and the M34 with and without the armored barrel protectors. It also includes the armored shield for the coaxial .30cal machinegun. These early M4A2s didn't typically mount the .50cal AA machinegun, and although that gun itself is included in these kits on another sprue, the MG mount and handgrips, which Dragon usually includes on the turret sprues, are lacking from these kits. So although it's nice to have the extra machineguns, they aren't complete.
The above sprue is unique to these M4A2 kits (including the Sherman III), and includes the parts that are unique to this version of the Sherman tank, such as the rear hull plate, exhaust parts, 3-piece nose, sand shields, and some other parts that were seen on British versions of the Sherman, such as a storage box for the rear of the turret, and brackets for the hull sides that were used to mount an awning that resembled a cargo truck for aerial deception.
The following sprue is common in all Dragon Sherman kits, and includes many smaller details, some of which are not used on these kits.
The wheel sprue is the revised sprue with the corrected bogie trucks. The return rollers are the raised style (not upswept). The wheels are the stamped, six-spoke variety, and for some ridiculous reason are molded onto the rear suspension arms. All wheels are molded in the same position, regarding spoke and grease plug orientation, which looks quite silly, and surgery will be required if one wants to change the style of wheel used on the model (an important factor for these kits). What an absolutely moronic shortcut for Dragon to take. Although the bogie trucks don't give the modeler any options of articulating the wheels, and they have molded-on track return skids that are a little heavy, they are very nicely molded with the casting numbers even molded on the front face. Very cool. The idler and sprocket wheels are very nicely molded with sharp details. Two sprocket designs are included: the early style with the cutouts in the sprocket plate behind each tooth, and the late style with the solid sprocket plate. According to the M4A2 Tarawa boxart and the instructions, you should use the open spoke sprockets, but in all the photos I've seen of Tarawa Shermans, they were actually equipped with the later sprockets with the solid sprocket plate, so those are the ones that should be used with that kit.
Regarding the wheels, the stamped wheels are not appropriate for early war Shermans such as the British Sherman III. The open, 5-spoke wheels would have been much more appropriate, and it's going to be fun slicing off all of the wheels on these kits in order to replace them with aftermarket wheels (Calibre72 makes a really nice set). Hell, even the boxart for the two kits show the cast 5-spoke wheels. Photos I have seen of the Marine Shermans, however, indicate that the stamped wheels were more common than cast wheels.
Both kits include the T54E1 track style, which I think is perfectly appropriate for both of these kits. It's definately the correct track for the Marine Shermans on Tarawa, and I've seen several photos of British Shermans in Africa and the Middle East with this track style. But whether or not it's appropriate for this particular unit at this particular place and time, requires further research. It's possible that the WE-210 tracks may also be a possibility. Regardless, I'm happy with these.
Etched Brass Parts
The brass frets in these two kits are not as extensive as those seen in some other Dragon kits, but they do include the most imporant parts, the brush guards for the head and tail lights, and the periscopes. The brass fret in the Sherman III also includes a storage rack that is to be mounted on the right front fender.
The M4A2 Tarawa kit includes markings for seven tanks, curiously enough, all of them Marine tanks in action on Tarawa in 1943. The first six tanks are all individuals of Company C, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps Tank Battalion. Their markings are identical with the exception of the tank names and registration numbers. Note that although six registration numbers are included, only one of the vehicles ("Cuddles") is known, and the other five vehicle registration numbers are just guesses. I recommend checking out the following website for photos and information on specific Tarawa Shermans: http://tarawaontheweb.org. The seventh vehicle is from Company D of the same unit.
For the Sherman III kit, markings are included for three vehicles:
I tried to find some photos or color drawings of this unit in my references to compare the kit markings, but I can't find anything that matches. The only photo of a Wiltshire Yeomanry Sherman in Syria that I found was of a Sherman II, and the vehicle name was a dark color, not yellow, and the circular 'C' Squadron sign had a very thin black border to it. I guess this was an earlier tank in that unit. I have read in reviews of 1/35th scale Wiltshire Yeomanry marking sets that these vehicles have been very well documented, so I assume that these Dragon decals are correct.
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale