Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

ESCI (Italeri)
M4A1 Sherman

Italeri #7003; ESCI #8028; Aurora/ESCI #6205; ESCI/Revell #H2324; ESCI/Ertl #8308; AMT/Ertl #8639; Humbrol #HK72203

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 31 October 2007.

Never has a model generated such controversy and differing opinions, more than this old kit has over the years. Recently re-released by Italeri, this has long been one of ESCI's most popular kits. It is a highly detailed model, with some interior detail, and open hatches. The tools are molded separate, the hull machinegun is positionable, there is a complete engine, and a commander figure is even included. Early versions of the kit included the single piece vinyl tracks, which are very poor, but the later releases, including the new Italeri versions, include the hard plastic, link-and-length variety, which are quite good. This is pretty much all that one could ask for in a kit.

Except for the fact that this vehicle likely never existed. This error was brought to my attention several years ago, and I had earlier written an article describing the problem. To summarize: according to all of my references, the late style, 47 degree, large hatch, wet-stowage hull, was never paired with a 75mm gun turret. The wet-stowage hulls made their appearance with the 76mm gun turrets.

The key feature here is wet-stowage. Early Shermans had their ammunition stowed in storage bins in the hull side sponsons. This was called dry-stowage, and due to the vulnerability of ammunition explosions from hits to the storage racks, applique armor was welded onto the outside of the hull over the stowage areas. In late M4A1's, this additional armor was actually incorporated in the main hull casting at the factory, and can be seen as distinct bulges in the hull sides. Wet-stowage made its appearance around the time of the 76mm gun turrets. In these vehicles, the ammunition was moved to storage racks in the floor, and flooded with a mixture of water and anti-freeze, which would reduce the likelihood of an ammunition explosion in the event of a fire inside the tank. The ESCI kit has a wet-stowage hull, not dry-stowage.

The rumors I have seen on the internet state that there were a small number of these tanks converted to this configuration for use as DD (Duplex Drive) tanks for the US invasion forces at Normandy. Many people have sent to me photographs, or directed me to books and/or websites with photographs, which supposedly show this particular vehicle represented by this kit, but in all those cases, the vehicles depicted are actually dry-stowage hulls, not wet.

How can this model be converted to accurately represent a more common Sherman variety? I can think of three ways:

  • The easiest way is to convert the hull to a dry-stowage style, by adding applique armor to the turret and hull sides, replicating the added cast-in armor. This was still a very rare vehicle, but there is photographic evidence that it did exist.
  • Replace the turret with a substitute 76mm turret, thereby making an accurate M4A1 (76)W.
  • Or, if convincing evidence can finally be found to prove that this vehicle existed as depicted out of the box, attach the DD apparatus and build it as a Normandy invasion vehicle.

An additional area of disagreement over this kit is its scale. There are still people who insist that this kit is 1/76th scale, but all of my sources show it to be pretty accurate for 1/72nd. The only measurement discrepancy I have found is that the length of the hull is about 2mm too short, which places the length of the kit to about 1/73-1/74. Everything else is almost perfect for 1/72nd, including the wheels, which have been often publicized as being too small. They are not.

The detail on this kit is a little old-fashioned in today's market. The tools are a little crude, but with some carving and sanding can be made to look good. The fluid-filler caps on the hull are too small, and the ventilator on the front right hull is recessed into a huge depression, which is not accurate. The wheels look to be a cross between the stamped and cast variety, but don't look correct for either one. The sprocket wheel has one too-few sprocket teeth. Although this kit was for a long time the best-detailed Sherman available, compared to the new Dragon kits, and even the Trumpeter Shermans, it does not compare very favorably.

There are a large number of resin conversion sets from a variety of manufacturers that use this ESCI (now Italeri) kit as the base kit to be converted. That is probably the only useful purpose this kit now serves, but if those resin conversion kits can be adapted to fit the newer Sherman kits on the market, I would suggest doing so.

The decals in this version of the kit by AMT/Ertl are very thin. Although the scan is poor, there are several stars, serial numbers, and a couple of slogans. The decal options vary depending on which company released the kit. The currently-available Italeri kit includes different markings.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale