|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale
|Article by Stephen Brezinski; last updated: 29 November 2014
|I admit it, I
am a Shermaholic, a Sherman collector. Despite all the
small-scale Sherman kits released several years ago by
UM, Dragon, Extra Tech, Trumpeter and resin makers, I am
thrilled that Heller has released this brand new Sherman,
and made a really well detailed, quality model as well.
This kit is a long way from the Heller kits of the 1970s.
This kit is of the M4A2 Sherman with the diesel engine which differentiates it from the M4 Sherman (Heller kit 79892). For those unfamiliar with the Sherman family, the M4 and M4A2 share welded hulls and they can be difficult to tell apart from the front or side. Having a diesel engine, actually two diesel engines, the M4A2 has a different engine deck and prominent muffler at the rear, along with other minor features. The US Army did not use the M4A2 in combat, just for training in the states. The M4A2 was supplied to the US Marines but mainly to allies such as Poland, UK forces, France, and the USSR.
The Sherman terminology I use in this review is from the book The Sherman Design And Development, Son of Sherman Volume 1. You might be able to tell from my reviews that I am really into the historical and technical parts of armor modeling. I am not a rivet counter and usually do not measure the scale as long as it looks pretty right, sorry.
What is inside the box
I like to first examine the box art to see what we might have inside. Heller's box art shows an olive drab colored Sherman named VALSERINE. I am impressed in the plethora of colorful markings on many French Shermans, including the three sets of markings for this model.
Starting at the top we see a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on the split-hatch commander's cupola, this is the early cupola before the all-round vision-block cupola was introduced. The turret has the M34A1 rotor shield and wide shield (also known as a mantlet) which I have read was fitted to all Shermans landing in France, including being retrofitted to older Shermans. On the side of the turret and the hull we see welded on appliqué armor plates.
The glacis is the "small hatch" type with the 57 degree angle glacis and the protruding driver's hoods are the cast type. Though there is appliqué armor on the turret and hull sides there is none on the front of the hoods, though these parts are included in the kit (parts C14 and C15). Below the drivers' hoods is a one-piece cast differential cover, also known as a final drive housing.
It looks like to me that this Sherman has the solid spoke roadwheels and the initial style sprocket wheel I've heard called the fancy type (if it is important to you see your references for exact terminology). The track is the T-51 type with the flat rubber block pads.
The Kit Parts
The box cover states the model comes with 133 parts. I counted 152 pale gray injection-molded, styrene plastic parts plus four soft rubber band tracks, yes, two sets of track. I am guessing that the 19 extra parts that I counted include extra, unused parts like the two extra glacis plates with hoods, and twelve extra roadwheels, and other parts. Comparing the unbuilt Heller parts with Dragon and Trumpeter Sherman kit parts, this Heller kit looks to be equal in molding quality, and far surpasses the Trumpeter Sherman kits in accuracy and accurate detail.
The parts are delicate and crisply molded with superior surface detail, equal to Revell, Dragon and Trumpeter in my opinion. Like UM kits, Heller makes their kits, what I call modular. What I mean by modular is that the Heller Sherman kits have the potential choice of glacis plates and engine decks that drop into the hull, along with options of different wheels. I figured that with the extra parts this Heller M4A2 kit could build into more than six slightly different M4A2 vehicles.
No resin parts, etched brass, or figures are included.
On sprue-F at the top, part F3 is interesting, it appears to be the exhaust deflector for the rear of many mid and late production M4A2 Shermans. I do not see it on a lot of early M4A2's in photos.
Sprue A at bottom with the suspension parts is common to the Heller M4 kit 79892. Notice that we get two sets of roadwheels: open spoke wheels (parts A3) as found on the M3 Medium tank, and stamped spoke wheels (parts A4). There are also two styles of sprocket wheels: what I've seen referred to as the fancy or the economy sprocket (part A9 & A10), and the plain sprocket (parts A11 & A12).
Heller gives us the early to middle period VVSS (Vertical Volute Spring Suspension) bogies with level brackets (part A8). Trumpeter and it seems all other 1/72 kits supply this type of VVSS bogie; I have not noticed any 1/72 VVSS bogies with upswept arms.
Here is a close-up of three glacis plates with small-hatch drivers' hatches found on Sprue F. From left to right we have what is called a direct-vision hood used on initial production Shermans. In the center is a cast driver's hood seen on M4A2 Shermans other than those with direct vision or those produced by Fisher Tank Arsenal.
At far right is an angular welded hood produced by Fisher Tank Arsenal. I understand that if you see a Sherman with this welded driver's hood you are looking at an M4A2 small-hatch tank produced by Fisher Tank Arsenal.
All three glacis plates appear reasonably accurate based on my references and are well done. I particularly like the weld beads showing how the glacis was made of a somewhat complicated number a rolled armor plates and cast armor pieces. To be a detail stickler, the weld beads do not exactly match those in my references, particularly the welds around the direct vision hood.
At upper right is a nicely done M4A2 muffler. Scattered through the four sprues are small extras like US style infantry helmets, fuel cans, and a storage box to stow on the exterior.
Sprue B at top with hull parts and Sprue C at the bottom with turret parts are both common to the Heller M4 kit 79892. Features I particularly like are the optional pistol port (part C20) so we can feature a turret with or without the pistol port, and a choice of three final drive housings (parts B25, B26 and C5) At the bottom of Sprue B are some very well rendered individual tools. Too many Sherman kits have the tools molded onto the hull.
The hull features look pretty good to me, such as the fuel ports on the engine deck. Between these two sprues are the finely molded lifting rings for the turret and the hull, and brush guards for the headlights. A really nice touch for the model is the choice of three different radio antenna brackets (parts C8, C9, and F13), what I have also heard referred to as radio pots.
Like Dragon, Heller offers plastic brush guards for the headlights, which though nice will look better in etched brass.
The turret (part-C16) is the low bustle type without the loader's hatch. The nicely done pistol port (Part-C20) is optional and there are guide holes we have to finish drilling to make sure it is located correctly. Check your references to see if the tank you wish to model has the pistol port or not. Two types of gun mounts are supplied, the M34 and the later M34A1.
There are two sets, yes two sets, of soft plastic band tracks that come with the Heller Sherman kit. This close-up shows one type to be type T41 or T51 flat block at far left common to the M3 Medium tank and early M4 Medium tanks. In the center is what appears to be what I first thought to be type T-54E1 but now agree with Doug Chaltry is more like T54E2 steel block chevron track. Neither of these is the track type included in the Heller M4 "D-Day" model kit 79892.
Heller gives us two double-sided pages of exploded view assembly instructions. Unique is that the parts are depicted in the color we are advised to paint them: olive for the hull exterior, rust brown for the muffler, etc. The paint colors also have code numbers for what I think are Humbrol brand paints, four vials of which are included in the model (some releases don't include paints).
In Step-9 at lower right notice how we are instructed to cut off five of the 11 bolts on the rear plate to create a later M4A2 rear hull plate, which had six bolts here. This is among other little details that Heller is commended for.
At the end of the assembly instructions are three 5-view or 6-view drawings showing placement of the water slide decal markings. The instruction sheet is so big this is all that would show on a 8 1/2 by 11 inch scanner, just right for us 50+ year old modelers.
In the scan below is the decal sheet for the three Shermans of the French 2nd Armored Division (French: 2e Division Blindée, 2e DB), commanded by General Philippe Leclerc. The French Shermans were colorful with markings and names, Heller's kit offers eight to 18 separate decals per vehicle.
Being an in the box review I cannot attest to how well the decals apply, or about fit of the parts. Dry fitting some of the hull parts showed a good, tight fit.
This model kit was purchased by the reviewer, but don't tell my wife.
Review of Heller's new M4A2 Sherman kit by Elliott Winthrop for another good opinion: http://www.onthewaymodels.com/reviews/Heller/EWinthrop_Heller_M4A2_preview.htm
The Sherman Design & Development, Son of Sherman, Volume 1, The Ampersand Group Inc. (2013)
M4A2 Sherman Part 1, Woljciech J. Gawrych, Armor Photogallery #11.
Doug Chaltry's website Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale, http://www.172shermans.com/
Sherman Minutia website http://the.shadock.free.fr/sherman_minutia/index.html
The French 2nd Armored Division (French: 2e Division Blindée, 2e DB):
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale