|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale|
|Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 16 September 2016|
is Heller's second Sherman release in the past year, the
first one being an M4 Sherman, which I have not yet had
the pleasure to see in hand (they're as rare as blue
diamonds over here in the US). My understanding is that
these two kits share most of their parts in common, with
only a single sprue providing the parts unique to each
version. So I imagine that most of my comments for this
M4A2 kit will likely be equally applicable to their
earlier M4 kit as well.
It is a rare and pleasant thing to open a new model kit and say "Wow", which is exactly what I did with this new Sherman from Heller. I'll get right to the point: this kit is very accurate and extremely detailed, providing multiple options for building almost any version of the M4A2 that the builder would wish.
The obvious comparisons need to be made with its prime competitor: the Dragon M4A2 kits. I would summarize my thoughts by saying that neither manufacturer is clearly superior to the other. Each has many pros, and few cons, such as:
Modularity: Heller is superior. Dragon took two kits to do what Heller was able to do in one. Specifically, Heller provides three different front hulls (including a direct vision piece, which Dragon still does not offer), and three different nose pieces, as well as an open engine deck and detached rear hull plate. While the latter two don't really give multiple options when modeling the M4A2, they do provide a manufacturing shortcut to Heller for marketing different versions of the early, welded hull Sherman.
Flexibility: Again, Heller is superior. On the Heller kit, the pioneer tools are molded as separate parts; the wheels are molded separate from the bogie arms; the turret has an optional pistol port; and the modular nature of the hull makes this model a kit-basher's dream. Heller also provides three different antenna brackets, both the M34 and M34A1 gun mounts, optional applique armor, two styles of track, and two styles of wheels (including idlers and sprockets). Most of the Dragon Sherman kits only come with a single track style and a single wheel style.
Accuracy: Tie. Both Dragon and Heller have some very minor errors (as described within their respective reviews), but for the most part, both are highly accurate kits.
Details: Dragon is superior. Although the Heller kit is superbly detailed, Dragon is a very hard act to follow in this regard. Dragon's surface detail is exceptional, as far as a cast metal texture on the turret armor, the much more scale-accurate weld beads between the armor plates, and the overall fineness of the moldings.
Ease of construction: I cannot comment on this as I have not yet built the Heller kit. The Dragon kits I have built have been overall easy builds with generally good-fitting parts, although the bogie assemblies are troublesome. I have not yet heard complaints about the Heller kit from those who have built it.
Now, on to the details of the Heller kit. For those of you who care about such particular details, this kit, as built according to instructions, appears to represent a Sherman tank built by the Pullman Standard Car company (PSCC), which were very common in the French armored divisions. That makes a difference when considering such details as the drivers' armored hoods, the welds on the front glacis plate, the style of antenna bracket, etc.
(The scan on the left shows the hull bottom and two nose pieces; the scan on the right had those parts removed so that the sprue could lay flat on the scanner to better show the detail of the other parts.)
(The scan on the left shows the hull top and turret; the scan on the right had those parts removed so that the sprue could lay flat on the scanner to better show the detail of the other parts.) Note that the grouser box covers are molded onto the rear hull corners, and the instructions tell you to remove them. The instructions are correct of course, but I would have preferred that these parts had been molded as separate pieces to have been glued on for the M4.
Notice on the rear hull armored plate, the vertical line of bolts is not centered, but a bit to the left of the centerline. This is absolutely correct, and I'm impressed that Heller noticed such a mundane detail.
Wheels & Chassis
Two complete sets of wheels are included: the open spoke variety, and the later stamped variety. Both styles of idler are also included, as well as two styles of sprockets. Unfortunately, only one set of bogie trucks is included, with the horizontal return roller arm.
Two sets of tracks come with the kit: the T51 rubber block, and T54E1 steel chevron. The thickness and stiffness of the track material is reminiscent of the Dragon DS100 material (not thin and flexible like the Trumpeter tracks), and should work very well. But there are horrible molding nubs on the inside of every fourth track shoe. Some of them can be hidden beneath wheels, but it will be difficult to remove the others. An interesting note is that each track run includes only 77 track shoes, when each side should have 79. Since the sprockets have the correct number of teeth, I don't think the size of the individual track shoes is incorrect, so perhaps the completed chassis length might be a little short? I'll try to remember to measure that when I build the kit.
I think the easiest thing to do would be to list the minor errors I have found, since there are so few of them. Most everything else in this kit is exceptional.
The 75mm gun barrel is a little short. If you measure it from the collar molded around the base to the tip (including the tip piece that is molded as a separate part), it measures out to the correct length. However, about 2mm of the base of the barrel will be recessed in the gun mantlet collar, resulting in the overall length being about 2mm short.
The weld lines on the front hull glacis plate are not entirely correct. Although there was much variation in the layout of the individual armor plates that make up the glacis (based on the tank manufacturer), photographs of the three tanks included in the marking schemes for this kit indicate that the lines provided here are slightly incorrect. The vertical line beneath the tank driver's hood should be on the opposite side, next to the hull machinegun. And the two vertical welds on the outside edges of the front plate should not be perfectly vertical, but with a slight outward angle. I'll be honest that these slight discrepancies don't bother me in the least, and I likely would do nothing to correct them. What I do plan on doing, however, is taking a piece of sandpaper to the welds and sand them down to almost nothing. I think that the weld beads are very overdone, and they lack any sort of texture to indicate an uneven surface. Face it: these welds are almost invisible in photographs of the real tanks, and I think they should be much more subtle on a model kit. Perhaps the best solution would be to sand them off completely, and replace them with lines that are painted on with a thick paint, such as fabric paint, or perhaps some Mr Surfacer. Then paint over them with the tank's base color coat, and you should be left with weld lines that are just barely visible under the paint. Something to think about...
A [possible] mistake was made in the color of one of the markings, which will be described below.
Other than those three items, there's not much else to mention. The crew hatches on the front hull are just a little bit narrow, but that's something noticeable only with a ruler. The road wheels are a little narrow in width (outside surface to inner surface), but that likely won't be noticeable on the completed model (they are almost perfect in diameter). One of the crowbars is also a little long. Other than those things, I couldn't find any other dimensional errors, major or minor.
Three marking schemes are included:
I found three references to be of immense help in researching these three tanks, those being:
Camouflage and Markings of the French 2nd Armored Division, from Progres Publishing
CenturyTracks No. 1 - French Shermans of the Liberation, from Editions du Barbotin
and the website: M4 Sherman Francais
The markings are very comprehensive, and almost completely correct. The only [potential] error I could find is that the tank name and turret number for "CHAMPAUBERT" should be green instead of blue. The original edition of CenturyTracks No. 1 showed these markings in blue, but an errata sheet was included correcting the error.
Update: I recently received word from Martin Monné, a visitor to this site, that it is still under debate whether the CHAMPAUBERT markings should be blue or green. Regardless, Heller has since 'corrected' the decal sheet, and recent releases of this kit have these markings provided in green.
One of the things that most impresses me about this model is how Heller put a lot of effort in getting correct the details on the individual vehicles represented by the three marking schemes. Many other models include optional parts and multiple marking schemes. But rarely do they tell you which options to use for which marking scheme. So the first thing I did when I got this kit was to seek out as many photographs as I could for the three tanks included on this decal sheet, and take detailed notes on what type of wheels each had, what style of track, unique hull details, pistol port on the turret or not, and other similar details. Then I compared my notes to the kit instructions and was happily surprised to see that in almost all cases, Heller got those details correct, and instructs the model builder accordingly.
Here are some notes for each of the three tanks, many of which are shown in the instructions:
Type 51 track; open sprocket, stamped road wheels and stamped idler; this is the only one of the three tanks that mounted the gun cradle; the instructions do not tell you to add the pistol port to the turret, but the color painting guide shows the pistol port on this tank. The instructions are correct: NO pistol port. I saw one photo of VALSERINE that shows it with a hedgerow cutter. That would be a neat addition, but it's not included in the kit.
Solid sprocket, stamped idler, and open spoke road wheels; again, the painting guide shows this tank with a pistol port on the turret, but follow the instructions and do not add it. I've seen two photos of this tank, one shows the tank with the T51 track style (during the liberation of Paris), and the other shows it with the T48 rubber chevron track, not included in the kit.
BRIVE LA GAILLARDE:
Type 51 track; solid sprocket and stamped idler. Most of the road wheels are open spoke, but the front-most wheel on the right side of the tank had a stamped wheel, likely a field replacement. This is the only one of the three tanks here that had the pistol port on the turret. Note that the two German cross kill markings were likely added post-war.
This is a solid candidate for the best Sherman tank kit in our scale. I certainly hope that Heller continues their releases of more Shermans (and make them more readily available!). If I could make some suggestions for improvement: open up the engine deck panels (on the chance that some resin company may market an engine bay), and include some crew figures.
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale|