|KIT:||Tamiya 1/48 M4A1 Sherman|
|PRICE:||$26.00 ($20.00 at WingsnTreads)|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Diecast lower hull|
(Taken from the kit instructions) "In 1941, with German forces sweeping across Europe, American efforts to design a new generation battle tank reached a fever pitch. These efforts culminated in the M4 Sherman, which would go on to serve as one of the driving forces behind the Allied victory. The previous generation M3 medium tank featured the reliable VVSS suspension and a powerful aircraft engine, but had serious drawbacks such as a main gun with limited traverse. In order to speed production, the prototype M4 utilized a modified M3 chassis with standardized production beginning in October 1941. Production soon kicked into high gear with a number of versions being produced concurrently by different manufacturers. The first production model was the M4A1 and possessed a distinctly rounded cast hull. A total of 6,281 M4A1 tanks were produced between Feb 1942 and December 1943.
Armed with a 75 mm cannon and powered by a 350 hp Continental R-975 air-cooled radial engine, the M4A1 could attain speeds of 38 kph. Early versions used the M34 gun mount with a narrow shield while the three piece gear housing was changed to a single piece in later production runs. Applique armor was often added to the upper hull and turret in order to enhance protection. The first combat use of the Sherman was with the British 8th Army at El Alamein in North Africa, where it contributed to the victory over German forces.
If you have read any of the recent articles on these new Tamiya 1/48 armor kits, you know that these are pretty hot sellers. The reasons are obvious when one opens the box and sees the quality of the castings. Tamiya has been at or near the head of the plastic modeling industry for the last decade or so and there is a reason for this.
First of all the quality of their moldings is top rate. The parts are free of molding glitches such as sink areas, flash and what few ejector pin marks there are have been designed in such a way to be invisible on the finished product. This is due to the excellent engineering put into each kit. Fit of their kits has become superlative and definitely makes for a speedy construction.
On these kits, Tamiya has molded much of the detail into the various parts, where on their 1/35 kits these would be separate items. While the real enthusiast may find this to be a step back in terms of fidelity to the prototype, most of us who have discovered this scale of armor find it to be a plus as it means one less thing to goof up! Interestingly, this particular kit has many of those bits as separate pieces so perhaps they 'got the word' from the real enthusiasts. The kit also includes 'piece and run' tracks. This means that for the bits that go around corners, the tracks are single or dual pieces. For the longer, straighter runs, they are together so one has much of the flexibility of individual links where needed and less time spent assembling tracks. Another feature of these kits is the cast metal hull. Now many of us wonder why they'd bother to do this. I makes no difference to most of us if this is metal or plastic and it does require the use of different glues to attach parts. Perhaps it is the heft of the finished model that has done this or just the desire to be a bit different.
The kit does provide a number of options. First is the choice between three piece and single piece transmission housing. Next are options on what seems to be the exhaust (or maybe they are air filters, I don't know) on the rear of the vehicle. One can install appliqué armor if one so wishes. Then there is the option of different gun mantlets. These optional bits are keyed to a specific camouflage/marking scheme so one needs to pick that at the beginning of the build. The last thing in the instructions is attaching the upper body to the lower hull using plastic plates and self tapping screws. Other kits have used plastic inserts to hold stuff together and it seems to have worked well.
Instructions are Tamiya's usual excellent product and continues to provide only Tamiya color references. Fortunately, the colors are pretty basic and so we can all figure out substitutes without any real problems. Markings are provided for three tanks. The first two are early builds; one with the 5th Army in Italy during late 1944, the other with 1st AD in summer of 1944. This second tank has large areas of red-brown painted on it in a disruptive scheme. The third option is a later build with the 7th AD in France during the summer of 1944. The small decal sheet is well printed and provides the typically minimal markings carried by these tanks.
I really can't see how this will not be a very popular model. The scale is right, the quality of the kit is superb and the subject is one that just about everyone with any interest in military subjects will have heard of. I can highly recommend this one to you.
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