|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale
|Article by Stephen Brezinski; last updated: 29 November 2014
|Yes, this is
another long review, please excuse me if I ramble.
The M4 Medium is the gasoline radial engine powered Sherman with the all welded hull. This model represents an early to middle production M4 with the protruding driver's hoods in a 57 degree angled glacis plate, VVSS suspension and the 75-mm gun. The kit is titled M4 SHERMAN "D-DAY" which I interpret to mean that this kit is a commemoration to the Normandy "D-DAY" invasion of June 1944.
In addition to a fine model, my copy of the kit came with four small vials of acrylic paint, a paint brush and a small tube of model cement in a plastic tray. The paint, brush and the glue imply to me that Heller is marketing this kit as a beginners model, but the level of detail and number of parts in the kit is beyond a simple beginner's model.
The Box Art, What is Supposed To Be Inside
From the title it is obvious that this model is portrayed at the Normandy landings of June 1944: D-Day. The Sherman is next to a "hedgehog" beach obstacle and looks to have just come off an LST (which stands for Landing Ship Tank, or to the crew also as Large Slow Target).
Starting from the top we have a low bustle turret with the 75-mm gun and M34A1 gun mount. The split hatch commander cupola is open as are the driver and co-driver hatches. On the turret side is the pistol port, but I see a problem the pistol port is portrayed upside down, the hinge should be on the top, oops. The pistol port is separate so do not use this box art as a guide to assemble this part. The periscopes have the wire brush guards on them, items not in the kit but available in etched brass frets. Odd, there are no periscopes portrayed in the underside of the open hatches.
The hull is called a "small-hatch" hull because of the smaller driver hatches on the driver's hoods. These particular hoods are cast style welded into the 57 degree glacis. There are appliqué armor plates welded onto the driver's hoods and the hull side so I presume there are appliqué plates on the right side of the turret and hull as well. The appliqué armor, 75mm M3 gun, and the glacis define this as a Sherman with dry ammunition storage and is commonly referred to as an "M4(75) dry".
An interesting feature is the vehicle horn mounted in the center of the glacis under a brush guard, this is not a typical location for the horn I am used to, and which was more commonly found on the left fender or corner of the glacis. But doing a photo search I have found the horn in this location on a good number of small hatch M4 Shermans made by Baldwin Locomotive Works and serving in France and Italy. This is the first time I have see the horn portrayed here in a 1/72-scale kit.
For the lover of fine detail, the radio antenna bracket (a.k.a. antenna pot) seen on the right side of the glacis appears to be the one commonly seen on an M4 produced by American Locomotive Works (ALCO) and by Pressed Steel Car (PSC) company. My references list about eight different styles of antenna bracket.
The final drive assembly is the three-piece bolted assembly like that found on the M3 Medium tanks and the M4A4. The track blocks appear to be T48 type rubber chevron track over vertical volute spring suspension (VVSS) bogies. The roadwheels look to be a mix of the stamped six-spoke roadwheels and open five-spoke roadwheels.
The kit comes in a shrink-wrapped cardboard box with fold down lid. There are no plastic bags holding the parts. I counted about 145 pale gray injection-molded, styrene plastic parts and two black colored soft plastic band tracks. The parts are very well molded and comparable to Revell and DML for quality. Sprue A, B and C are the same as in Heller's kit 79894, M4A2 Sherman "Division Leclerc". There are no figures, cast resin, etched parts included.
Sprue C holds the upper hull and turret parts such as the 3-piece final drive assembly parts 5 & 7, and M34 gun mount and the appliqué armor plates. Parts 8 & 9 are two of the three optional radio brackets for the front left side of the glacis. The cupola hatch and the driver's hatches have no periscopes on the underside but these can be scratchbuilt with some thick sheet styrene. If we model the Sherman in combat with hatches closed we'll have to scratchbuild some open periscopes.
Here is a side by side comparison of Heller's upper hull for their M4 and M4A2 kits, next to the Dragon M4 hull from their Deep Wading M4 Sherman kit No. 7367. They are comparable in size so the two kits should be compatible for swapping parts between the two. I see in this scan that the Heller hull looks a tad shorter than the Dragon hull but I suspect this is because the rear armor plate on the Heller model is molded separately, when we add the rear plate I think the two hulls will be pretty close in length.
The two kits have some other differences, interpretations, in minor details, such as the ventilator hoods one either side of the driver's hoods, and the splash guard around the turret ring. Both kits are missing the rear section of the splash guard, but perhaps this is meant to be covered by the wading stack. A plus for the Heller M4 is that the handtools are molded separately; even with the superb quality of the Dragon M4, Dragon still molded many of their tools to the hull.
Heller is nice in offering choices of engine decks and glacis plates with different driver's hoods. I dry-fitted the engine deck parts and the glacis plates and they fit nice an snug into the hull with no model putty or trimming apparently needed. My only complaint is that the engine vent cover on Part-D3 is molded onto the engine deck, however if we use the wading stack and part-D9 we do not have to worry about this.
Sprue B holds the lower hull, two optional one-piece final drive assemblies and the individual tools, several nice US Army helmets for hanging on the tank exterior, and an M34A1 gun mount for the 75-mm M3 gun. The Heller hull bottom is missing some details such as engine access panels and the bottom escape hatch, see the Dragon M4 lower hull at the bottom for comparison. I am surmising that Heller left these features off so they could use this hull bottom for different Sherman kits and allow us to detail it as needed?
Sprue D is the lone sprue particular to this model kit and holds the two optional glacis plates (parts 1 and 2), the optional engine deck covers (parts 3 & 9), and optional wading stacks (parts 10, 11, 12 and 13). Years ago there was no Sherman with 1/72-scale wading stacks available anywhere, now we are very fortunate to have them also available from Heller, Dragon, UM and in resin conversion.
Looking at the hull comparison several photos above, we can make out little differences between the Dragon and the Heller hulls, such as in the ventilator domes, the hand tools, and separate antenna brackets, etc. The separate glacis plates (parts D1 and D2) fit well and have prominent weld seams. The glacis plates for the small-hatch M4 and M4A2 were made up of 5 or more separate armor plates plus the cast hood/hatch sections. My opinion is that the weld seams are a little too prominent and could use being scraped down a little with a sharp blade. The weld seams on the direct vision glacis (part D1) do not look quite correct, the weld seam should go around the edges of the hood/hatch sections.
On this sprue, parts D9 through D14 are used for the Deep wading version. Not portrayed or given are the guy-wires that help steady the stacks. You may want to simulate the waterproof tape and sealant applied around hatches and other leak sources.
Sprue A here is common with Heller's M4A2 kit and features the VVSS bogies and two types of roadwheels, 5-spoke open type and the closed, stamped 6-spoke roadwheels. We are also offered choices of idler wheels and sprocket wheels: nice extras for the parts box!
In the center is the black colored Heller M4 kit soft band tracks. Heller gives us only one set of track in this kit, unlike their M4A2 kit which includes two sets of two types of Sherman track. For comparison, at top are the tracks from a Dragon M4 kit and at bottom is a set of longer tracks from Dragon's M4A4 Sherman kit. The Heller and the Dragon M4 tracks compare well in length. The M4A4 tracks are appropriately longer.
Here is a close-up comparison of the Dragon and Heller M4 track, both appear to be T48 rubber block chevron track blocks. The tread pattern on the Dragon rubber blocks better matches my reference photos for T48, but the end-connectors of the Dragon track blocks look too close together which may interfere with the kit's sprocket teeth.
The instructions come on two large paper sheets and have 22 steps, not including the painting guide. The instructions look clear and accurate. An interesting feature is that parts featured in the assembly instructions are colored as they are to be painted.
Parts like the gun barrel (B9) are not slide-molded with an open muzzle so in Step-15 part B8 goes on the end of the gun barrel to make an open muzzle. I also like that the coaxial machine gun is molded with the 75-mm gun barrel so they are accurately portrayed at the same elevation.
There are five or six full color profiles for the three sets of water-slide decal markings that come with the model. Each decal is numbered and matches a numbered placement on the profiles.
These profiles with measurements in inches will help us determine scale when we finish our model.
Review of Heller's new M4 Sherman kit by Peter Van Kempen for another opinion at: http://www.onthewaymodels.com/reviews/Heller/PVan Kempen_Heller_M4_preview.htm
The Sherman Design & Development, Son of Sherman, Volume 1, The Ampersand Group Inc. (2013)
Sherman Medium Tank 1942-45, by Steven Zaloga, Osprey Publishing New Vanguard (1993)
Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale website, http://www.172shermans.com
Sherman Minutia website http://the.shadock.free.fr/sherman_minutia/index.html
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale