|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale
|Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 11 January 2018
|UniModel (UM) has
recently released a number of kits of less common
variants of the Sherman tank. This is accomplished by
adding new plastic and resin parts to their existing
plastic kits. This M4A3E2 Jumbo Sherman is based upon
UM's earlier M4A3 kit and includes a number of plastic
sprues from that earlier kit. But in addition to the new
parts, there have been some changes made to one of the
old sprues as well, as described below.
The following two sprues are repeats, and include all the pertinent parts for the late M4A3 wet-stowage hull (along with a number of spare parts for other versions, which will help pad our spare parts boxes). The one disappointment here is the engine deck, which represents a very early design for the M4A3 deck, and as far as I know, was never seen on a Jumbo Sherman. But considering the modular nature of this hull, it should be easy enough to swap in an appropriate piece from a different kit, if you have one.
This next sprue is the wheel and track sprue that we've seen come in a couple different forms in previous Sherman kits from UM. It includes the revised wheels, which is nice, although neither of the wheel types included in the kit were common on the Jumbo. This time around, UM has also changed the track style for the first time in their extensive line of Sherman kits.
All previous UM Sherman kits included the T48 rubber chevron track, which has been changed in this kit to the T51 rubber block style. Part of me is thrilled with this change, as their earlier tracks suffered from a serious scale problem (the track shoes were much too narrow), which has been fixed with these new tracks. Additionally, T51 tracks are not very common in small scale Sherman kits, and this is the first time they've been made in hard plastic, link-and-length pieces. It should be noted, however, that this was a very uncommon track style for Jumbo Shermans. The Jumbos left the factory with the T48 rubber block tracks, and were sometimes retrofitted with other tracks when the orginals wore out. There are some photos of Jumbos with T51 tracks, but they are a very, very small fraction of photos of this tank. Additionally, most of them (but not all) had extended end connectors (EECs), which were quite prevalent on Jumbos due to the excessive weight of this tank. So be advised: building the kit with the T51 tracks and no EECs is perfectly valid, but it would have been a very rare beast indeed (as far as I know, only one of the specific tanks included on the decals for this kit had the T51 tracks). Replacement tracks with extended end connectors are available from several manufacturers.
One other note about the tracks, each track shoe appears to be marred with some lines and divots in them. I believe these are casting flaws, but they will actually look very good when painted, as they appear to simply be worn out track shoes. If this was done intentionally, kudos to UM. Bottom line is that if you end up putting other tracks on this kit instead if the included T51s, these T51s will look really good on another kit.
The following sprue holds the new plastic parts for this kit, which include the add-on armor for the hull and some fender bits. But check out the horrible ejection pin marks on the faces of the armor plates. These are the exterior faces, and because of the way the edges are beveled, you can't simply flip them over and use the reverse sides. Since these are smooth plates, it should be relatively easy to fill and smooth over these marks, but care will need to be taken to not damage the mounting points for the gun lock.
Shown below are the new resin bits for this kit. They include the turret and its associated parts, and the enlarged front nose piece. Notice the numerous flaws in the resin castings. Many air bubbles, some of which will be difficult to fill. The surface details on the turret actually look pretty nice, but the overall shape of the turret is not quite right, and I don't think it correctly depicts the true shape of this part. The problem is that on the real turret, the widest part of the turret base is further forward than the widest point on the turret roof. The widest point on the turret roof should be about even with where the hatches are in line. This gives the turret a fairly strange shape, which was not captured here. On this piece, the widest part of the turret roof is too far forward, in line with the widest part of the turret base. There's no real way to fix this. But honestly, I've seen only one other Jumbo turret that looks better than this one (from Black Dog), so I wouldn't have a problem using this turret.
The up-armored rotor shield looks to be nicely shaped; just be sure to mount it correctly, and don't put it on upside down as shown on the boxtop. And like every other Jumbo turret on the market, there is no opening for the smoke launcher on the front left corner of the turret roof.
According to the instructions, there is supposed to have been a metal gun barrel included with the kit (looks like a 75mm), but none was included in my box. I hope that I just got a bum kit, and that this is not a common mistake. Well, I have plenty of spares, and I could take the opportunity to upgrade it to a 76mm if I wanted to.
Like most UM kits, etched metal parts are included, with the track return skids being particularly appreciated.
Researching the markings for this kit was difficult because of the relative paucity of good photos of the Jumbo that are readily available in books and on-line. I have seen actual photos of only three of the vehicles depicted on the decal sheet. For the others I've found a couple of color profiles in a variety of books, and mostly just the instructions that come with aftermarket decal sets. So we have to make an assumption that those people did their research when developing their product, which may not be a safe assumption.
As for the decals themselves, they look to be very nicely printed as far as colors, registration, very thin carrier film and so on. But their accuracy is hit and miss. Below the scan I discuss each marking option in more detail.
2e Escadron, 2e Regiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique, 6th Army Group, Alsace, 1945
This is the only M4A3E2 that is known to have been provided to the French 2nd Armored Division. As shown in the instructions, the name of this tank is supposed to be Lt FALGAYRAC (named after a Lieutenant killed in action). Something happened with the printing of the name of this tank, and most of the name is missing, leaving only the letters R and C. As far as the other markings for this tank are concerned, it is difficult to say with certainty how they should appear, as there is only a single known photograph of this tank, but assumptions can be made based on what we know about how the other tanks in this armored regiment marked their vehicles. Given that, the squadron markings on the hull side (the blue "IC") are not complete. There should be two pips on the left side of the "I". Squadron markings for the front and rear hull are shaped correctly, but the colors are wrong. The tank's serial number on the hull side is likely conjectural but it is correctly located.
Regarding the running gear on this specific vehicle, it mounted the T48 rubber chevron tracks with EECs, and it should have the "economy" sprocket plates (kit parts #37), and the solid, concave road wheels, which are not an option included in this kit.
15th Tank Battalion, 6th Armored Division, Germany, March 1945
Based on the photo I've seen of "White 26", several markings appear to be missing. There should be two forms of a registration number on the hull sides: a large, handpainted white number forward of the White 26, and a smaller stenciled yellow serial number in the normal location towards the rear. It is missing the tank's name AQUINO to the left of the 26, above the white registration number. There should not be the large allied star on the hull front, but there could possibly have been some bumper codes. (It should be noted that the markings here match a color profile in the Concord book US Tank Battles in Germany, but that profile lacks the markings described above.)
A couple of other notes about this tank. It had been up-armed with a 76mm cannon (not included in the kit), and lacked the armored collar on the rotor shield around the base of the gun barrel. There was a single bar handrail welded to at least the left side of the turret, used to hang stowage from. This is the only one of the tanks on this decal sheet that had the T51 tracks without the EECs. It looks like it mounted the solid, concave road wheels.
69th Tank Battalion, 6th Armored Division, Germany, March 1945
Although "White 78" is a common marking scheme for Jumbo kits in many scales, and even appears in color profiles in some reference works, I have seen photographs of this tank which pretty conclusively show that this was actually a 105mm howitzer tank (either M4 or M4A3), and not a Jumbo. (A big Thank You to Dennis Elliott and Paul James for their help with researching this tank.)
68th Tank Battalion, 6th Armored Division, Germany, 1945
The markings for BLUE EYES are mostly correct. The only thing that may be missing is a yellow stencilled registration number partially over-painted by the white USA on the hull sides. But I have also seen photos of this vehicle that lack that additional marking, so it was likely an early marking that faded over time. Also, the vehicle number was B-56 not B-54.
This tank had a handrail welded to the left turret side (and likely right side as well), and mounted a .30cal machinegun on the turret roof instead of the .50cal. Tracks were T48 rubber chevron with EECs, and the road wheels were the open spoke variety, as provided in the kit.
37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne, Belgium, December 1944
This is probably the most famous marking scheme for Jumbo Shermans, and is quite common amongst kits and aftermarket decal sets. As far as I know, there are no wartime photos of the righthand side of the tank, so the markings on that side must be speculative. Based on what are the commonly accepted markings amongst the plethora of available sets (in multiple scales), it looks as though the side hull markings included here are mostly correct, but it is lacking many small-print stencils in both white and yellow. There should be bumper codes on the front and rear hull plates, and the star on the glacis should be much smaller than what is provided here.
This tank had T48 rubber chevron tracks with EECs, and the high-capacity closed-spoke road wheels (OKB Grigorov markets this wheel type). This tank was upgunned to 76mm in March-April of '45, so it still had the 75mm gun during the Battle of the Bulge. (Thank you to Ernest Foster for the wheel correction.)
While this kit is not perfect, its flaws can be overcome and it could build into a pretty decent Jumbo Sherman.
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale