Dragon 1/35 M4 Sherman (75mm Normandy)

KIT #:

6511

PRICE:

$65 MSRP

DECALS:

3 options

REVIEWER:

Blair Stewart

NOTES:

Another great Dragon kit!

 

HISTORY

The M4 Sherman tank was the most produced armored vehicle in World War II, with over 50,000 units rolling off the lines by the end of the war (compare this with Germany’s total tank production of some 19,900 vehicles).  Combine this number with the fact that the M4 chassis served as the basis for many other armored vehicles, including tank destroyers, tank retrieval vehicles, and self-propelled artillery, and one can begin to get an appreciation for the magnitude of the production effort involved.

The US Army Ordnance Department designed the M4 as a replacement for the M3 Lee. The Lee was an up-gunned development of the M2 Medium Tank, a derivative of the M2 Light Tank. The M3, which had been developed as a stopgap vehicle, suffered from a high silhouette because of the top turret which mounted the 37mm gun, and the inflexibility of its side sponson main gun mounting.

The Ordnance Department submitted its detailed design characteristics for the M4 on 31 August 1940, but development of a prototype had to be delayed so final production designs for the M3 could be finished, and the tank put into full-scale production.

On 18 April, 1941 The U.S. Armored Force Board chose the simplest of five designs. Known as the T6, the design combined a modern turret with the Lee's main gun and a modified M3 hull and chassis. The Sherman's reliability would be enhanced by many design features first developed in U.S. light tanks during the 1930s, including a vertical volute spring suspension, rubber-bushed tracks, and a rear-mounted radial engine with drive sprockets in the vehicle’s front. The stated goal was to produce a fast, dependable medium tank that was capable of defeating any other tank currently in use by the Axis nations.

The pilot model of the M4 was completed on 2 September 1941. Like later M3s, the hull was welded. It had a side hatch which was eliminated from production models. The T6 became standardized as the M4, and production began in October 1941.

Early Shermans mounted a 75mm medium-velocity general-purpose gun. Although Ordnance started working on the Medium Tank T20 as a Sherman replacement, ultimately the Army decided to minimize production disruption by incorporating elements of other tank designs into Sherman production. Later M4A1, M4A2, and M4A3 models received the larger T23 turret, with a high-velocity 76 mm gun, which reduced the number of HE and smoke rounds carried for an increase in the number of anti-tank rounds. The British offered the Americans their 17-pounder (76.2 mm) anti-tank gun, with its significantly better armor penetration, but the U.S. Ordnance Department was working on a 90 mm tank gun and declined. As a stopgap in their tank development, the British developed their own up-gunned "Firefly" variant using the 17-pounder.

Later, the M4 and M4A3 were factory-produced with a 105 mm howitzer and a new distinctive mantlet in the original turret. The first standard-production 76mm-gun Sherman was an M4A1 in January 1944, and the first standard-production 105 mm-howitzer Sherman was an M4 in February 1944.

While the M4 Sherman was very reliable, it had several problems, especially when compared to the German tanks it fought. It was inferior to them in several key areas: It had relatively thin armor; an inferior 75mm or 76mm gun which could not penetrate the front armor of the German Tiger tanks even from short range, while they could easily destroy the Sherman from long ranges; and the Sherman was very tall, 3.43m, which is taller than the German Tigers, and one meter taller than the Russian T-34. This limited the Sherman’s ability to hide as well as other tanks. All of these deficiencies translated into one-on-one vulnerabilities when matched against German tanks. These vulnerabilities obviously contributed to the Sherman’s reputation for suddenly bursting into flames (“brewing up”) when hit, a propensity that led it’s crews to dub them “Ronsons” (after the famous cigarette lighter of the time) or, in the case of the British, “Tommy-cookers.” Various explanations have been offered for the cause of this condition, including the explosion of the gasoline tanks and the cordite flashing of the on-board ammunition, but there appears not to be a consensus as to the overall cause. At any rate, crews attempted to mitigate this condition by applying additional armor plate on the tank’s side, but the effectiveness of these appliqué armor plates is questionable. In fact, some historians have surmised these plates may have worsened the situation by serving as aiming points for German tank gunners!

THE KIT

Having built the Tamiya early production Sherman (Kit # 35190) some years ago, I was anxious to see how this latest Sherman from Dragon compared. Suffice it to say, Dragon has once again done an outstanding job of reproducing a highly detailed, relatively easily-assembled replica of the M4. One advantage to the Tamiya kit, however, is that it includes a number of equipment stowage items that can be placed on the tank’s exterior to replicate that common look of most allied Shermans, i.e., carrying everything but the kitchen sink on the tank. The Tamiya kit also includes a crew.

The included photoetch set is just about right for my particular taste: just enough pieces and not too many very small ones (although there are still some very tiny parts in the PE set).  My biggest joy, however, was the flexible one piece tracks as opposed to the individual link “magic tracks.” These flex tracks save a lot of assembly time and the molding on them is outstanding, plus they glue together as opposed to the old “heated knife” approach. The molded in weld seams and the molded in texturing for the cast turret also add realism to the finished product. The kit contains optional parts for three different transmission covers, and the suspension system is highly detailed. The mere “330” pieces is also a welcomed momentary reprieve from some of the latest Dragon kits that have contain over 500 parts!

Finally, I can say this is my second consecutive DML kit in which I have found NO mislabeled parts in the assembly instructions, so that is additional proof that Dragon is listening to its customer base.  I did, however, discover one possible omission, and that deals with what I believe is the turret-mounted spot light (part # B25): there is no instruction for including a lens in the light, if that is really what is (on the other hand, if this is not a spot light, then I guess there is no omission. Armor experts; please enlighten me on this issue).  Suffice it to say that in numerous Sherman photos, this assembly is not present.

CONSTRUCTION

I followed the assembly instructions to the letter, and, like all Dragon kits these days with optional parts (and lots of them), I kept a pencil handy to mark off each completed step to avoid later confusion and aid in returning to uncompleted stages if I chose to move forward to another subassembly.  

The first subassembly I completed was the lower hull with its suspension system. Unlike most German armor, there are only 6 road wheels on either side of the Sherman, so these are not quite the labor involved with building a Panther or a Tiger tank.

I then moved to the upper hull, and assembled all of the parts that comprise that subassembly, including the hull-mounted tools (which I like to glue to the vehicle and then hand-paint later). This included the various tools that are mounted on the rear deck lid. Several of these had PE straps associated with them.

The next subassembly was the turret. This involved the main gun as well as the various components for the hull. The well-rendered .50 cal machine gun includes 8 different parts.

The final assembly process was to mount the turret to the hull, and then to mate the upper hull with the lower hull, after the tracks have been installed on the lower hull assembly.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Once the kit was fully assembled, I shot the entire model with Testors Model Master olive drab (I kept the lower and upper hulls separated so I could make sure I got paint into all the nooks and crannies). While this was drying, I painted the flex tracks with Testors flat black and set them aside to dry.

I then set out to brush-paint all the tools and items such as the .50 caliber machineguns that are not OD. I painted most of the tools with Testors steel and used tan for the wooden axe, pick and shovel handles. I also hand-painted the rubber return rollers and the road wheels with Testors flat black. Once everything was dry, I placed the upper hull on the lower hull and gave the entire model several good coats of Testors Glosscote. Once dried, I applied the excellent decals, which snuggled down nicely with a liberal dose of Solvaset.

I drilled out the radio antenna and super-glued a length of guitar wire to represent an aerial. I wanted to represent the typical allied tank, so I needed topside equipment (ruck sacks, sleeping bags, tarps, jerry cans, etc.) so I opted to purchase the excellent Tamiya Allied Vehicle Accessories set (#35229). I painted various packs, sleeping bags, etc. with Testors Khaki paint and others with OD. I also assembled and painted two of the jerry cans out of the set. I used white glue to attach these items to the tank turret and hull once they were dry. I then took some pieces of Kleenex and soaked them in diluted white glue, then rolled them up like vehicle tarps. I placed these on the tank’s hull so they would dry in a shape that would conform to their positioning on the tank. Once these dried, I hand-painted them with Testors OD. I then assembled the tow cable, using the steel wire supplied in the kit, attached it to the front towing hook, and then draped it over the tank hull.  I used superglue to snug it down to the hull. As a final touch, I ran some tan thread over the equipment on the rear deck to simulate the tank crew’s attempt to secure all of this stuff.

At this stage, I was ready to do some weathering. I first applied a brown acrylic wash to the lower hull and tracks. I used a black acrylic wash on the upper hull, and then highlighted places on the tank with Floquil orange to simulate some rust. I then used a paint brush to dust areas of the tank with tan artist’s chalk that I had ground fine with a piece of sandpaper. The final step was to shoot the entire model with Testors Dullcote.

CONCLUSIONS

Another home run by Dragon, and a real pleasure to build!  This Sherman will add some zip to your modeling displays, and should be excellent for dioramas. I highly recommend it to any and all who want to model a variant of the most produced tank of World War II.

REFERENCES


“M4 Sherman,” Wikipedia, 2009.

      “M4 Sherman Tank,” World War II Website, 2009.

3.    Buckley, John, “British Armour in the Normandy Campaign, 1944,” Internet Modeler, Taylor & Francis, Inc., October 2004, pp. 126-128.

4.    Culver, Bruce, “Sherman in Action,” Squadron/Signal Publications, 1977.

      Blair Stewart

      April 2009

T    Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit. Get this and other fine Dragon kits at your favorite shop.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly , please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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