Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale
M12 GMC Comparison UM/ESCI
Article by Stephen Brezinski; last updated 20 June 2015
Kit Compare & Contrast
US Army M12 Gun Motor Carriage kits in 1/72 scale
ESCI M12 Kit 8362
UM M12 GMC kit no. 211
UM M30 Cargo Carrier kit no. 226
Based on the M3 Medium tank chassis, the M12 GMC provided the WW1 era 155-mm gun with mobility. The 155-mm M1917 gun was a US built version of the French 155 mm GPF gun. Before being shipped to Europe the M12 and M30 vehicles were upgraded with the heavy duty VVSS bogies with trailing return roller. The M12 is often lauded for its use in direct fire bunker busting in France and the Siegfried Line, 1944. Because of a limited ammunition storage the M12s were accompanied by the M30 Cargo (ammunition) Carrier. A moniker for this AFV was King Kong which seems very appropriate to me. The closest Axis equivalent of this self propelled artillery may be the German 15cm Sd.Kfz. 165 Hummel.

A Look At The Box Art

I like to look at the kit box art as it is supposed to give you a good idea of what is in the box, it should portray exactly what is in the box. At times the box art may also help with kit assembly and painting and markings, but do not always trust it. More than once I have bought a model based on the name and box picture to find it was not what was actually in the box. There were three variants of the 155-mm M1917 gun used on this chassis so there may be slight detail variations between the model and the reference photos.

This ESCI M12 model is a fairly old 1/72-scale model kit, I think from the 1980's, I know I have had my kit for almost 20 years. At this time I have not yet found this kit to have been re-released by Italeri, but there are still many available in collections and on line.

The old ESCI M12 kit portrays the vehicle in travel mode with the large gun in the travel lock. On the left side of the gun is a small shield that provides the gunner with a little protection while he is firing in direct fire mode. The differential cover at the nose is the 3-part bolted together type common to the M3 Medium tank and the early M4 Sherman. On the glacis, below the gun travel lock is a ventilation dome similar to that on the roof of the M4 tank hull. Though based on the M3 medium tank chassis, I've read that in preparation for the invasion of France it had been upgraded to the heavier duty VVSS suspension with the trailing return rollers like that found on the M4 Sherman.

The track looks to me to be rubber block based on the color but the chevron tread looks more like the steel track chevron. The yellow track impression at the lower left corner indicates this model comes with the hard plastic link & length tracks. The roadwheels look to be the open 5-spoke type which is not what is included in the actual model kit. In the actual model the headlights are very simplified compared to this depiction.

The vehicle in the boxart is painted in olive green and with simple white stars, a vehicle serial number, and a unit number. Except for the portrayal of delicate parts I feel this is a pretty good representation of what is in the model kit, and it’s a pretty good representation of the M12 GMC.

The box art for UM's M12 shows the same basic orientation of the vehicle except in firing mode. I recommend we do not use this painting as a diorama reference: the concussion of the firing gun to the rear could seriously incapacitate the crew in front, but this does make for a dramatic painting. Odd, the gun is firing but does not seem to be recoiling?

This M12 painting appears to have the same features as that depicted on the ESCI box art though with fewer markings, and the driver and commander's hatches are open (the hatches are molded closed on the model kit). In the rear we see the recoil spade down and dug into the ground.

In my opinion, based on my references, this artwork is a pretty good representation of an M12 GMC. The kit parts appear to match my M12 references and the box art but without assembly we won't yet know how well the boxart matches what is in the box.

Here is an old government photo of the M12 dug in for firing with the gun elevated. We don't see a lot of fine details but we get a good idea of what it looks like in action. There is no ammunition in the racks or any equipment. The sheet steel for the ammunition bins is a lot thinner than that rendered in the plastic kits from ESCI and UM.

The box art for the UM M30 kit shows the cargo (ammunition) carrier for the M12 GMC with an M12 in firing position in the background. The superstructure looks very similar to that of the M12 except the rear area has tall storage bins and an AA machine gun ring similar to that found on US Army cargo trucks and the M3A1 halftrack. The tracks portrayed on the UM boxart and the ESCI M12 boxart are the T48 rubber block with chevron pattern though the historical photos I have show them with the flat T51 rubber block style track.

This US Army photo is a great photo for detailing the M30. I have seen the M30 made by converting the M12 kit but keep in mind this is a lot more challenging than just removing the gun and mount. For example, the superstructure is lengthened and no longer has the rear mudguards.

The Kit Parts

The ESCI model kit number 8362, has 112 tan colored injection molded styrene plastic parts on two sprues, not including the track. Three crew figures of 11 parts are included. There are no resin or etched brass parts. Molding quality is very good though details are simplified compared to contemporary kits from the likes of Heller, Revell and Dragon. Depending on the period your ESCI kit was made, it could come with reasonably good hard plastic link & length tracks, or the infamous stiff polyethylene band track that resists glue. There are no significant sink holes or other defects. Parts are a little thick such as the vertical braces around the gun pedestal base (part 28) and the ammunition bin walls.

Above and below are a top and bottom view of one of the two sprue in the ESCI kit. The gun barrel is broken into two major parts (1 & 2). At the bottom corner are ten 155-mm projectiles. One of the three figures with separate arms is also on this sprue. I prefer how ESCI did the 3-piece bolted differential cover (parts 51, 52, 53).

The 2nd ESCI sprue pictured below contains the VVSS suspension and lower hull parts. The VVSS bogies are the same as that in other ESCI Sherman models but the lower hull parts are different and particular to this model kit.

The UM M12 GMC kit no. 211 model consists of 169 green colored injection-molded styrene plastic parts on eight individual sprues, and one etched metal Fret-F of 30 parts. The M12 kit has three sprues common to the other UM Sherman family kits (sprues A, B and sometimes E) and six sprues common with M30 kit (two sprue A, and sprues B, E, and two sprue D). There are no crew figures. There are a about 38 extra parts, the result of UM making modular kits, using common sprues for multiple variants of the M4 Sherman tank.

The two sprue-A with the VVSS bogies, wheels and track have been reviewed in other UM Sherman kit reviews (such as at and so I will not go into it again here other than to reassure that the problem with the roadwheels (parts 5A) have been corrected and they have the correct five spokes.

The UM M30 kit 226 has about 180 green injection molded styrene parts with a small fret-F of etched metal parts, the same fret as that in the M12 kit. The molding features and quality is the same as for the M12 kit and other UM Sherman kits. Like the M12 and other UM Sherman kits there are many unused and extra parts left over.

Sprue-H here is for the M30 model and holds the superstructure and some ammunition parts. This M30 superstructure (part H12) is a little different from UM's M12 hull in being longer and with a high storage bin on the port side. A minor thing is that due to this way of molding, the superstructure is missing a line of rivets along the upper side. The driver's visors (parts H1) for the front of the superstructure are well done and can be portrayed open if we cut an opening in the superstructure. We can see some sinkholes on the back of the air cleaner parts-H9 & H24 but worry not, when they are glued together they should look fine.

A compare and contrast of the hulls shows that they are fairly similar in dimensions but unassembled I will not comment on the details, since many of UM's details are separate. ESCI's driver's hatches and front visors (parts 34, 35, 36, 37) are separate and so can be modeled open which is a big plus). The line of holes along the floor of the ESCI kit's deck (part-28) are for the ammunition (parts 3-10) stored up on end. On the glacis ESCI molded the vent dome into the upper hull while UM has it as a separate part (part-49B).

This sprue-E and the two little sprues-D above are common with both the UM M12 and M30 kits and other UM Sherman kits such as their M4A4 model. The two sprue-D at right holds small parts for the M12 and M30 such as grab handles and a spiffy fire extinguisher.

Besides the rear lower hull plate (part-E13) this sprue holds the parts for UM's 3-piece differential cover (parts E15, E64, E65, E202, and E203). Be aware that in the assembly instructions the parts 202 and 203 on sprue-E are mislabeled as parts 104E and 105E. When I assembled the UM M4A4 kit (kit 385) last year I had a devil of a time assembling this differential cover. The parts E64 and E65 appear much too thick to mate with the parts 203 and 202 and required considerable shaving to thin it down so it would fit together.

Above is a comparison of how two other 1/72 Sherman makers do their their 3-piece dfferential cover. Heller at left is in five parts of pale gray plastic and fits together logically and with a tight fit. In center is a resin part from Wee Friends cut off a hull bottom.

At far right is the assembled 5-part UM differential housing after much shaving and sanding to make the parts fit; a rotor tool would be handy here. When I build one of these UM kits I will try and substitute the resin part in the middle. There is no reason for UM to have done their differential housing this way when they could have just as easily done it as like ESCI or Heller did their parts.

Here is a comparison of the assembly instructions for the UM differential cover (at top) and the ESCI differential cover (at bottom). I have highlighted in yellow areas on the UM parts that will need thinning and repeated test fitting. The UM part numbers have also been corrected in the UM instructions.

Sprue C is only in the M12 model Kit 211, and holds the 155-mm M1917 gun parts. The gun is broken down into more parts than the ESCI model. What is disappointing is the number of sink holes that will need filling, sanding and shaping. I have found sink holes on the gun pedestal parts C16 & C17, and the gun barrel parts C39 & C40. The 155-mm projectiles, parts C1, I think are very well done; I like how the lifting rings atop the projectiles are portrayed. Part C7 in the center appears to be the gun sight; I did not see a gun sight in the ESCI model kit.

A comparison of the 155-mm GPF (US M1917) guns shows that they appear all about the same size though the UM has a greater muzzle diameter. My personal assessment is that the UM M12 gun parts are better detailed and more accurate than the ESCI kit gun, and the UM M12 gun has more parts which is good. To get the ESCI gun accurate we'll need some scratchbuilding. The UM has multiple, annoying sink holes to fill and sand. At bottom are several parts from the RPM 155-mm GPF gun kit which in my opinion appears to be the best of the three. All gun barrels assemble in two halves and there is no need to drill out the muzzle, just a glue seam to worry about. When put together I found the ESCI and UM gun barrels to be satisfactorily round and not oval, which is good.

Above is sprue-C for the UM M30 Cargo Carrier kit no. 226, different and not to be confused with sprue-C for the M12 model kit above. This sprue contains the superstructure parts, AA machine gun ring mount, and ammunition for the 155-mm gun.

Assembly Instructions

Both UM and ESCI give the exploded-view type of instructions standard to other ESCI and UM model kits, and most other model manufacturers.

This version of the ESCI kit shows assembly of the link & length track parts. Another kit I have of the ESCI M12 comes with the stiff polyethylene band track resistant to glue. The hard plastic track was great, top notch for its day but in 2015 is mediocre compared with other Sherman track now available. These assembly instructions appear straightforward. The suspension assembles just like that on the ESCI M4A1 kit.

The ESCI M12 kit painting guide shows markings for one M12 in Europe 1944-1945. On the small decal sheet are markings for four vehicles. This decal sheet is over 10 years old, some of my old ESCI decals are stiff and cracked.

The instructions from the UM M12 kit 211, below, start with a diagram of the sprues and kit parts. The unused parts are shaded in gray, based on this we have a lot of unused Sherman parts like with other UM Sherman kits. The last drawings in the instructions below show deployment with the recoil spade down for firing and up for travel.

On the last page of UM's M12 instructions, below, shows final assembly of the gun either in the firing position or in the travel mode with the gun secured in the travel lock. At the bottom are painting and marking instructions for four M12 vehicles and the sheet of water slide decal markings for this vehicle.

The 20-plus step assembly instructions for the UM M30 Ammunition Carrier kit 226 are the same as for the UM M12 kit until we get to the upper superstructure for ammunition storage which is a different superstructure from the M12. I used to think that the M30 could be easily modified to take the 155mm gun if necessary, but after studying the vehicles I realize that was not so. The floor was different and did not have the gun mount, the M30 had higher ammunition bins for greater storage, and the M30 lacks the recoil spade on the rear.

In the last page of the M30 cargo carrier assembly instructions below we have a painting and marking guide and a small water slide decal sheet for one M30 model. At lower left is the etched metal fret-F that is included with the M30 kit. This fret differs from the etched metal in the UM Sherman kits in having two engine ventilation screen parts. The UM M12 etched metal fret is similar but has etched tread plate pieces (F1, F2, and F3) for the rear spade. (ESCI molded their tread plate pattern into the plastic parts.)

Painting and Markings

ESCI's painting and marking guide consists of the box art and black & white drawings on the last page of the instructions above. The painting & markings instructions are adequate but unfortunately only a guide for one M12 and no unit information, though it looks like there are decal markings for four different M12s.

Above is the back of box for UM's M30 kit showing a full color painting guide which in combination with the front box art and the instruction sheet show us their recommendations for all four sets of decal markings. These painting & markings instructions are typical of UM kits.

The silhouette profiles below will help in determining scale of the kit. Based on the comparison of the gun and the hulls above, it appears to me that ESCI and the UM M12 models are comparable in size. Looking at the ESCI and UM Sherman kits I understand that they are reasonably close to 1/72 in scale and I presume that means the M12 and M30 models are a reasonable 1/72-scale as well?


Taking into consideration that I have not yet built any of these models, if I were to build a contest and display quality model I would substitute an RPM model's GPF gun and use the ESCI hull along with some selected UM parts. I would not use either the ESCI or UM VVSS bogies, wheels or tracks, but substitute some aftermarket, Heller or Dragon suspension parts. My biggest problem with the UM kit is the way the company did the 3-piece bolted differential.

In my opinion both manufacturers appear to make an accurate small scale representation of the M12 self propelled gun. ESCI did not produce an M30 kit like UM does but with some scratchbuilding the ESCI M12 can be converted to an M30 cargo carrier. The UM kits share a lot of parts assembly with the UM Sherman kits. UM Shermans do not have the, what I call finesse, delicate and crisp molding, of Revell and Trumpeter small scale kits, but I am thankful of their M4 kit releases. UM offers a wide selection of Sherman variants and other vehicles unavailable from others except in more expensive resin, They make a good wargame model and with some work make a fine display model.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale