|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale
Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 26 April 2008.
One of the most common versions of Sherman to see action in World War II, modelers have a choice of several different companies producing this tank. The three mainstream plastic companies are Dragon, Eduard, and this kit from Trumpeter. HäT makes a fairly decent wargame version, though it's not comparable to these display kits. The best resin version is from MR Models, and Al.By and CPL Overby's Motorpool both had versions at one time, which I believe are now out of production.
Trumpeter's kits can be confusing at times. You never know what quality to expect until you actually open the box. While their Shermans aren't the worst kits that Trumpeter has released, they also don't match the quality of their FAMO or Elefant/Ferdinand kits. Generally speaking, this kit is a little bit simplified, with closed crew hatches on the hull, thin rubber band tracks, details molded onto the hull such as pioneer tools, lift rings and tail lights. But then they have to confound us by putting very nice detail elsewhere, such as open crew hatches on the turret, pre-drilled gun barrel (did Dragon think they invented slide-molding?), and highly detailed wheels. So basically we have a kit that isn't really up to competing with the Dragon Shermans, but can certainly be turned into a very nice replica if a little bit of effort is put into improving some of the kit details.
This first sprue shows the upper hull, some sprocket wheels, and the hull's rear armored plate with exhaust parts. The hull measures out to be almost dead-on for 1/72nd scale. All of the hull details are appropriately located, though as I mentioned above, much is molded onto the hull that I wish would have been provided as separate parts. Although the crew hatches are closed, they're molded in pretty decent relief, and will look great when painted. The sprocket wheels look very nice, and have the later solid sprocket plate. The exhaust parts are also very well done, though the storage rack for the rear hull plate is a little crude, as are the wooden boxes included for stowage. The gas cans, however, are really well done for a plastic kit, needing only replacement handles.
Two turret sprues are included in the kit, for both the early and late versions of the T23 turret, and I commend Trumpeter for giving us this option. Dragon should take notice of this unique concept of giving modelers options. These scans show the big flaw of this kit: the crew hatches are far too large. The base of the commander's vision cupola itself is about a mm too large in diameter, but the hatch opening is even worse, at a full 2mm too large in diameter (that's 30% too large, for those of you who think that 2mm is not a big deal). The visual effect can be lessened by gluing the commander's hatch closed, but when sitting next to another, more accurate kit, it will still probably be noticable. Solutions? The Extratech Sherman kits, which all use the 75mm M4 turret, also include a cupola and hatch as spare parts that could be used on these Trumpeter kits instead. As for the loader's hatch, the early T23 turret with the circular, split loader's hatch has the same problem as the commander's hatch. The the oval loader's hatch on the later T23 turret is far more accurate in size than the commander's cupola, being only a little bit too long. A spare split hatch ring can be found in Dragon's M4A2 (76)W kit, or in the Eduard M4A3 (105) kit, if you choose to mount the vision cupola on that turret instead of the split hatch.
Two gun barrels are included (either M1A1C or M1A2 guns), one with the thread protector end cap, and one with the muzzle brake. They have open tips thanks to slide-molding. The gun with the thread protector is fairly accurate, being perhaps a millimeter too long, but the gun with the muzzle brake is 2mm too short. Luckily aftermarket gun barrels are available for replacements. The rotor shield looks a little plain, but is mostly accurate in size, being about 1.5mm too short (left to right). I'll replace the lift rings on mine. The .50cal machinegun is well done and will look really good when the hand grips are carved open. The .30cal looks nice, though is a little small, and the ammunition box, which is molded onto the side of the gun (opposite the scan) is turned sideways for some inexplicable reason.
The surface detail on the turret parts is actually pretty decent. Though not as fine as on the Dragon kits, it's probably better than the Eduard turret, and if you replace the lift rings and add a few etched details, these turrets will look really good.
The main wheel sprue is standard in all of Trumpeter's VVSS kits. The bogie trucks are molded in halves, not allowing any articulation of the wheels, though at least the wheels are molded as separate parts. The return roller arm is the early horizontal style, which would probably be more appropriate for an early-war Sherman. Another set of outer sprocket wheels is included on this sprue: the middle style with cutouts and dimples in the sprocket plate. Two styles of idler wheels are included: solid stamped and open spoked. The main set of wheels are of the stamped 6-spoke variety, and look OK, if not great, but they have no detail molded on their reverse side. They measure perfect in size. The additional set of wheels included with this kit are the solid dish variety, which is currently the only source of this uncommon wheel style and I am really glad to have them. They look very nice, though again, lack detail on the back sides.
There is an additional sprue of wheel parts for quick-build projects. These parts have the entire bogie assemblies molded as complete units. Suprisingly enough, they actually look pretty decent and while I wouldn't use them on competition kits, they may come in handy for emergencies. The wheels on these sets are the pressed solid dish style. The detail on the quick-build suspension arms is actually better than that on the assembly-required parts.
I seem to have some confusion as to which tracks came in this kit. The box top and instructions show the T-54E1 steel chevron style, but I found T-48 rubber chevron tracks in the box. It's entirely possible that I mixed up the tracks from this kit with the tracks from Trumpeter's M4A3 Medium Tank kit, which I am reviewing at the same time. However, I have heard from others that it's almost random as to which tracks come in which kit. Regardless which ones came with the kit, they are molded with very fine detail. Unfortunately, the plastic is very thin and extremely flexible, and I am doubtful that they will look good once attached to the model. Being so thin, they simply won't bend in the right places in order to look real. If the model shown on the box top is any indication, I think they'll look quite poor.
This kit includes three marking schemes, only one of which is depicted in the instructions, though not identified. I have looked through my reference books to find these markings, and have come to the following conclusions:
So in conclusion, I like the Trumpeter Shermans a lot. They are better than all other plastic Sherman kits out there, except for Dragon's, and using a little elbow grease will result in some very fine models. There are a few flaws, though nothing insurmountable; the biggest problems in my eyes being the too large turret hatches, and the relatively scarce aftermarket tracks to replace the poor vinyl ones included in the kits.
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale