|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale|
|Allied Sherman M4A4
and Firefly Tank
|Article by Stephen Brezinski; last updated 15 March 2015|
|This kit represents
Plastic Soldier Company's (PSC) interpretation of the
M4A4 Sherman model. Actually the box contains sprues for
three full model kit and each sprue will build either a
complete M4A4 (known as the Sherman V to the British) or
three complete Firefly tanks (Sherman VC Firefly tanks),
with extra parts. About 7,500 M4A4 Shermans were produced
only by Chrysler Corporation and were powered the
Chrysler multibank gasoline engine. Because this engine
was so large the M4A4 tank is longer than the M4, M4A1,
M4A2 and M4A3 tanks. The Roman numeral "V" in
Sherman VC is the British designation for the M4A4. The
letter "C" designates the 17-Pounder gun
variant of the M4A4.
The M4A4 was used by the British, Free French, Polish, Nationalist Chinese, and by the US Army for training and post war modified by the French to have the Continental radial engine like that in the M4 and M4A1 variants. All the M4A4s were built with the small hatch hoods and 3-piece final drive assemblies.
Though the box is marked: "for the Gamer or Collector" in my opinion this is largely a kit for wargamers. Keeping in mind that since it is intended for the wargaming market, not primarily for display modelers, it cannot necessarily be judged with the same criteria as a dragon or Revell display model. Still we should expect some degree of historical accuracy despite simplification of construction. Since I am primarily a display modeler I will review this from that viewpoint.
First looking at the PSC box art we see a reasonable painting of a Firefly tank loaded with spare track and roadwheels, and kit (personal equipment, stowage). Not included in the kit is the soft stowage, the support bar across the differential cover, and the tow cable.
The differential cover is the three piece kind bolted together which is the only kind mounted on the factory M4A4 Shermans. The driver's small hatch hood is where I see a significant problem in the painting and the model: the periscope hatch hoods appear to be the welded fabricated hoods, with sharp corners, which are particular to M4A2 Shermans made and used by Fisher Tank Arsenal (FTA). The Chrysler made M4A4 Shermans should have either the small hatch direct vision (DV) hoods or cast small hatch periscope hoods (see references for further information).
Inside are six medium-gray injection molded, styrene plastic sprues for three Shermans, two sprue per tank. There are 42 parts overall on both sets of sprue, about 31 parts used for the M4A4(75) version and 37 parts used for the Firefly VC version, with leftover parts. The plastic seams a little softer that that used by Revell and DML for example.
There are no etched parts, cast resin parts or decal markings included. PSC does sell separate water slide decals sheets for their kits: see http://theplasticsoldiercompany.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=60_61_80_81. I have some leftover markings from a DML Firefly kit to use.
The first of the two sprues contains an upper hull for the M4A4(75) Sherman V at right (part 24), and a hull for Firefly VC (part 1) at left. Both hulls have appliqué armor molded on the sides of the hull, the Firefly hull has it crudely molded on to the driver's hoods. The Firefly hull has molded-on long gun cleaning rods, and a molded-on tow cable that is too short.
In the center are the turret parts: one turret base, and two turret tops. One upper turret for the Firefly version (part-3) and an upper turret for the M4A4(75) version (part-20). There is only one cupola tubs and hatch parts for one turret though (parts 7,12,13,14). Left and right of the turrets are storage boxes particular to British Shermans.
Lower down are the 75-mm gun barrel, the firefly gun barrel, and the three gun mantlet (rotor shield) parts. At lower right are parts for the turret roof 50-caliber machine gun (parts 21 & 22) that are typically not seen on British Shermans. At lower left is the lone crew half-figure in British uniform; if we want both turret hatches open on the Firefly we need a second figure.
A close-up of the PSC M4A4 hull with the Dragon (DML) M4A4 hull for comparison. I think DML makes the most accurate Shermans kits in small scale and this is the M4A4 kit to compare to. The hulls compare well in length though the PSC hull is about a mm wider. The PSC hull has driver's hatches molded closed. The engine deck is clearly that of an M4A4 but not as correct as portrayed by the DML kit, for example the ventilation grill immediately behind the turret is too coarse, and the idler wrench should be stored on the rear plate, not the deck.
As mentioned above, the PSC kit driver's hoods appear to be the welded fabricated hoods, with sharp corners, which are particular to M4A2 Shermans made and used by Fisher Tank Arsenal (FTA), not the Chrysler made M4A4. For a historically more accurate M4A4 replace these welded hoods with spare hatch hoods from a Heller or a UM Sherman kit. Or carve PSC hoods into the correct shape of a cast hood with a sharp knife, putty and files.
The PSC Antenna bracket on the glacis plate is the type used by FTA or Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW), not the type used by the Chrysler Defense Arsenal (CDA) as portrayed on the DML model. Both kits have some tools molded onto the engine deck. As expected for a wargaming kit, the hull lift rings and headlights are simplified.
The DML has slightly raised lines to represent the weld seams of the glacis plate. PSC goes the other way by representing the welds as grooves. I think a reasonable fix for this is to glue some thread into the grooves to represent the welds; I've done this with a few Sherman kits. The PSC hulls also need welds represented down the hull sides and other locations.
At right is one of the two PSC turret in the kit next to the DML M4A4 kit turret for a comparison. Overall, keeping in mind the PSC kit is designed for wargaming the detail is not as accurate. The two turrets compare reasonably well in length and width. Both are low bustle turrets for the 75-mm gun and split hatch commander's cupola and no oval loader's hatch. I like that PSC portrays the periscopes portrayed open. The PSC cupola rings looks a little too large.
There is appliqué armor molded on the PSC turret cheek while DML offers the cheek armor as a separate part. Like many smallscale Sherman kits, the lifting rings on the PSC kits are molded solid.
The second sprue holds the lower hull and the suspension parts.; and look, the lower hull has some detail including the escape hatch. At bottom is some spare track and spare roadwheel, and the hull differential cover (Part 31) with separate bolted sections (parts 28 & 29) to help simulate the three piece bolted differential cover.
At lower right are the two one-piece suspension and hull side parts (parts 26 & 27) similar to that in other gaming kits like Italeri and HaT, except the tracks are molded separately which is a nice feature. The track block looks to me to represent the steel chevron type.
The roadwheels and the idler wheel are the 6-spoke stamped type. The separate outer sprocket wheel (parts-35 & 36) are simplified and can use replacement by an extra from UM or Dragon.
Above is a comparison of the PSC olive green suspension piece for the PSC M4A1 kit at bottom, in the center the gray plastic PSC M4A4 suspension piece with track (part 26 & 27 and 37 & 38), and at bottom is a one-piece suspension part from an Italeri M4A3 kit. When I got this kit I feared that PSC would just add their suspension parts from their M4A1 to a new hull, but am pleased to report that PSC accounted for the 11-inch (24-cm) longer hull and made a longer suspension part for their M4A4 model. One serious flaw, however, look at how PSC molded the track return skids on this M4A4 kit. They will need to be sliced off with a sharp knife and relocated.
Molding their suspension and track as one part like Italeri and HaT gaming models did has the drawback in that the sprocket is one thick lump, and there are no track guide teeth. PSC solves this problem by molding the outer sprocket face separate (parts-35 & 36) and the tracks as an upper and lower long run. The PSC track are not perfect but considerably better than other wargame M4 kits.
The kit instructions are molded onto the inside of the box requiring ripping apart the box in order to read them. This instruction sheet and the page below I found online and I believe are for PSC's 15-mm scale kit of this Sherman which appears to be a scaled down version of the 1/72-scale model. Notice that the 50-calibre machine gun is not mounted on the turret roof.
The parts on the sprue are not numbered so this parts diagram I found online is very helpful. Some parts particular to the Firefly are highlighted in yellow.
As a wargaming kit this is a pretty good representation of an M4A4 Sherman V or Firefly VC, better than other gaming models. With some work this can be made in to a decent display model. I find this a great kit for a beginner and to practice detailing skills on. And there are three full kits to a box.
I do not understand the mistake in using the wrong front hull, the small-hatch periscope hoods and antenna bracket of a Fisher Tank Arsenal Sherman, rather than the Chrysler built Sherman. Though it may be geared toward the wargamer, PSC should have known better. I do give PSC credit for correctly lengthening the hull and suspension.
Sherman Minutia Website on the Firefly version http://the.shadock.free.fr//sherman_minutia/firefly_tank/index.html
Sherman Minutia Website on the M4A4 Sherman V http://the.shadock.free.fr/sherman_minutia/manufacturer/m4a4/m4a4_variants.html
The Sherman Design & Development, Son of Sherman, Volume 1, The Ampersand Group Inc. (2013)
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale|