Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

M4A1 (76)W VVSS
Kit #7304

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 22 January 2008.

Don't let the hideous boxart turn you off of this kit. It's probably the best M4A1 (76)W in this scale. We now have somewhere around seven or eight different manufacturers who have kitted up the late, big-hatch M4A1 hull, four of them in plastic: ESCI/Italeri (with a 75mm turret), Revell, Trumpeter and this Dragon kit. I think I need to make a side-side comparison scan, because I think it would show something surprising.

These first two scans show the heart of this kit: the two hull parts. The surprising thing is, this hull is underscale. For all of the raving that I and others have done over the past couple of years regarding these new Dragon Shermans, it was kind of eye-opening when I finally took a ruler to this kit. The upper hull measures to about 1.5-2mm too short, and is almost exactly the same size as the old ESCI kit, which most everyone has determined to be a little bit too short for 1/72nd scale. Of the three "decent" plastic M4A1s (Dragon, Trumpeter and ESCI), the Trumpeter kit is the only one that scales out well to 1/72nd. I tried to measure the distance between the front drive wheel's axle and the rear idler, but since the idler wheel's axle is a separate part, it was difficult to get an accurate measurement. However, it looks to be pretty close, perhaps just a little bit short.

OK, measurements aside, I have only one complaint about the hull which I am sure you all can guess, that being the molded-on tools. They are molded with pretty decent relief, but they would look better yet had they been cast as separate parts. We small scale modelers have been calling for separate tools for many, many years, so I am sure that if Dragon had any intention of ever listening to us in this regard, they would have already. I doubt that we'll ever see separate tools from this company. Other details are molded pretty much perfect. The hatches are open (and even come with separate periscope parts), the ventilator and fluid filler caps are sharply molded, and the shape of the hull looks to be spot-on. It would have been nice to have an open engine bay, as the 30-some year old Italeri (ex-ESCI) kit has, but I guess that's asking for too much.

The above sprue is included with all of Dragon's Sherman kits, and includes a plethora of detail parts, many of which will end up in your spare parts box (which is a good thing). All of these parts are perfectly molded. The .50cal MG is the best in this scale, though not all of its parts are on this sprue (hand grips for example), so for some kits where this machinegun was not a standard feature, you won't have all the parts you'll need for use of the MG on a spare kit. For this kit, those parts are included on the turret sprue. The headlight, tail light and periscope brush guards are provided in plastic and are amazingly delicate and well made for such small parts, which demonstrates that there is no technological reason that the pioneer tools could not have been molded separate from the hull as well. In fact, there are a couple included here, such as the shovel, which is extremely well made.

Next up is the bogie and wheel sprue. This is the revised sprue where the flaw on the bogie truck has been corrected from the early Sherman variants from Dragon. The return rollers are the raised style (not upswept). The wheels are the stamped, six-spoke variety, and for some ridiculous reason are molded onto the rear suspension arms. All wheels are molded in the same position, regarding spoke and grease plug orientation, which looks quite silly, and surgery will be required if one wants to change the style of wheel used on the model. What an absolutely moronic shortcut for Dragon to take. Although the bogie trucks don't give the modeler any options of articulating the wheels, and they have molded-on track return skids, they are very nicely molded with the casting numbers even molded on the front face. Very cool. The idler and sprocket wheels are very nicely molded as well with sharp details. Two sprocket designs are included: the early style with the cutouts in the sprocket plate behind each tooth, and the late style with the solid sprocket plate.

The above sprue gives many miscellaneous details for the hull, many of which are not used for this kit. The air cleaner boxes are the best ones I've seen.

The final sprue includes the turret parts, as well as some hull parts unique to this kit, such as a new final drive housing and the stowage rack for the rear hull. Again, more useful pieces for your spare parts box. The T23 turret is the early version with the split loader's hatch. The size and shape of the turret are pretty close to perfect for the scale. Details are exceptionally well-molded, with a separate armored cover for the gunner's periscope and open crew hatches with detailed inner faces of the hatch covers. All three styles of gun barrel are included: the M1A1 with no threading for a muzzle-brake, and the M1A1C or M1A2 with and without the muzzle brake. The gun barrels are just a hair too short, but not noticably so. This is pretty much the best T23 turret in this scale.

Tracks are the T-48 rubber chevron design. The detail is excellent, and even though they are molded in soft plastic, I think that the nature of the Sherman VVSS tracks (being thick and stumpy) lend themselves well to looking good in this medium, so my normal complaint about soft plastic tracks doesn't really apply here.

The etched brass parts are pretty much optional, since most of them are also provided in plastic if you prefer to not use the etched parts. But the brush guards in particular will likely look much better using the brass pieces (but why didn't they include the brush guards for the periscopes?).

A good selection of markings is included for the following vehicles:

  • 2nd Armored Division, France, 1944
  • 2nd Armored Regiment, Polish 1st Armored Division, Holland, 1944
  • F Company, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, Belgium, 1944
  • I Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, France, 1944
  • D Company, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, France, 1944

The decals are very nicely printed with sharp edges, opaque ink and good registration. My knowledge of Sherman markings is woefully lacking, so I can't comment on the accuracy of the markings included here, but they certainly look nice.

So to summarize, although I consider this kit to be pretty much the best M4A1 (76)W available to us, it still has several flaws and really dumb design choices.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale