Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale

M4A3E8(76)W HVSS
Kit #7302

Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 8 April 2008.

One of the first of the new plastic kits released with the HVS suspension, this Dragon kit is also pretty much the best. The kit represents a fairly unusual combination of hull and turret, with the hull mounting the late suspension units, but the turret being the early T23 version with the split loader's hatch. This vehicle is also unusual in that it sports field-installed applique armor plates on the front hull.

(Many people have fun trying to predict future kit releases based on current kit boxart. While I think their predictions generally are about as accurate as those of a street-corner psychic, in this case, it sure would be nice if they were right for a change.)

I took several different measurements of the hull, and find that it scales pretty well to 1/72nd, though it may be just a little bit short, which is a flaw shared by Dragon's M4A1 (76)W as well. That being said, however, the hull is a very nice part, with outstanding detail and open crew hatches. I don't like the tools molded onto the engine deck, and it would have been nice to have an open engine bay, but since nobody makes an aftermarket engine yet, I guess that's no great loss.

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), which 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. Again, this sprue demonstrates Dragon's trademark model-making: very high level of detail, with really stupid shortcuts. The rear wheels are molded onto the bogie frames, and I really have no clue why they would do such a stupid thing. Thankfully it's not the outer wheels. Once assembled, the bogies look great, though assembly takes a really long time because some of the parts are very small. I guess we should be thankful they molded half the wheels to the frame, because that will save us about 3% of the overall time it takes to assemble these units.

All sarcasm aside, these are the best looking HVSS units in this scale, so this kit would be useful to use for several of the resin conversion kits available of Israeli HVSS Shermans.

The tracks are the early, T-66 style. Extremely well molded and detailed, they will look like crap once mounted because of how flexible this plastic is for such wide tracks. The tracks don't bend realistically (at the hinges between links), and they flex in the center of the links where they wrap around the sprocket wheel, so some sort of reinforcement will need to be devised behind the tracks to prevent this from happening.

The above sprue provides the applique armor plates for this specific kit, as well as the fenders and other details applicable to all of Dragon's HVSS kits. I'm not sure why I scanned a close-up of the rear hull plate, but I found it in the graphics folder. I must have scanned it for a reason that now eludes me, so I'll post it anyway and hope you enjoy it :-)

The final sprue includes the turret parts, as well as some hull parts unique to the M4A3, 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.

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 and fenders in particular will likely look much better using the brass pieces.

Decals are included for four marking schemes:

  • 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Germany, 1945 (tank of Creighton Abrams)
  • 4th Armored Division, Germany, 1945
  • 35th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne, 1945
  • 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division, Germany, 1945

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. Replacement markings are included to correct the right-side markings for Abrams' Thunderbolt VII, and the Flat-Foot Floogie saying on the original decal sheet. I don't know if this is a later release of the kit, or if these flaws were identified before the kit was released, so that all kits have the correct markings.

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Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale