A year or two ago, when Tasca
(somewhat unexpectedly) brought out a series of suspension sets for the M4 it seemed to indicate that they were developing an interest in the Sherman. That was further confirmed when almost exactly a year ago, they announced that they would be doing a series of M4s in 1/35th scale. The first, the Sherman Vc Firefly, is widely accepted as being the best M4 variant available in plastic. Now, with the arrival of the M4a1 (75mm) the question, which I hope to answer in this review, is have they continued the momentum?
Tasca's New M4
35-010: U.S. Medium Tank M4A1 Sherman (Mid Production)
is an injection-moulded kit of the cast-hull variant which was armed with the 75mm gun and had dry ammunition stowage. The kit comes on a total of 19 sprues in dark-green plastic with two clear plastic and one in vinyl (which provides 'washers' for the sprockets) along with a small Photo-Etched sheet and four (vinyl) track sections. Also provided (and more of this later) is a rubber sheet... Of the 19 sprues, four originate from Tasca's
'After-Market' releases for U.S. Jerrycans and their excellent set for the .50 Cal MG. All the sprues come sealed inside plastic bags and after the kit's journey from Japan, no parts (despite the delicacy of some of the smaller components) no damage was found to any. Of course, no matter how good the product, first impressions are always important. With this in mind, the box-art is extremely well-executed and eye-catching featuring 'Henry III' of the 1st Armored Division in Tunisia 1943.
About this review
Although in an ideal world, all reviews would involve actually building the kit and commenting on its quality during this process, it isn't always possible. Therefore, as a compromise, i'll be looking at the various sections of the vehicle (suspension, turret, hull etc.) within seperate sub-sections. The last section consists of a 'mini-bibliography' of books that I own and found useful in the preparation phase of this review.
: Several key areas differentiate this variant from the earlier M4a1 (75) the first of these is the suspension. The model is provided with the intermediate, heavy-duty VVS with the pressed steel bogies and the roller mounted on an angled arm rather than the (earlier) version which had the roller mounted on the center. Also seperating early from mid-period, are the tracks. These are T51s rather than the original T41s...
: Each suspension unit consists of 11 parts along with three rectangles of rubber which are fitted inside to provide cushioning. Also provided, are alternative skids for both the 2nd productiion type (curved) and the more typically-seen skid which has a more angled appearance. Moving onto the sprockets, once again, two types are provided depending on the vehicle being built. These are excellent reproductions of the 'Fancy' and the 'Simple Plate' with, according to my references, the correct number of bolts and excellent definition. The idler wheels also have two types provided - the 'Solid Spoke' with it's two access points for lubrication and the 'Open Spoke'. Both of the idlers are '3-D' - in other words, they have detail on the back as well as the front. The bolted housing (part # A10, see photo) over the drive axle is supplied as a seperate part with the ratchet detail provided.
Lower Hull Tub
Perhaps Tasca have over-engineered this slightly as the lower hull consists of 9 (7) plus 2 alternative parts. Normally we are used to the single moulding of the 'tub' the sponsons moulded in. It's a pretty straightforward assembly though and the floor plate carries some nice and accurate detail. Sponsons ARE included which avoid those ludicrous 'open plan' M4s which we have become accustomed to over the years..
According to the plans I have, both dimensions and angles are correctly executed. I am however convinced that the finish, for a cast-hull, is far too smooth. Although U.S. casting was very sophisticated, there were (inevitably) some rougher areas on even the most carefully cast surfaces. This, in my opinion, is something that the modeler should rectify whether with Mr. Surfacer or thinned-down putty, some 'roughening-up' would be desirable. Items such as the grouser-box cover consist of seperate parts as do the fuel-filler caps. Head-light brackets are very delicately-moulded and in my opinion, wouldn't really look any better with AM items. The tools which are provided are nice and, once again, pretty close to scale. The angles of the front glacis and the hull sides seem to be correct also. One thing i'm definitely convinced by, is the use of the PE grilles on the lights - a really nice attention to detail on the part of the designers. I'm also unsure as to whether or not there should be casting numbers on the glacis or not - I have seen them on earlier cast-hull M4a1s if anyone out there cares to elaborate (thanks, Steve!)?
: Turret shape is very good portraying a DRY stowage turret. The mantlet is extremely well done (see photo) with the screwheads nicely reproduced. The 75mm gun is the mid-production which had a more 'conical' shape type which is moulded in plastic. As both LionMarc
have excellent replacements, it shouldn't be a problem. The periscopes are provided in both opaque and clear plastic. All the turret fittings are present - lifting eyes etc. along with the aerial mount for the fitting on the turret rear. Applique armor is provided for the right-hand side of the turret 'cheek'.
: As I mentioned before, the tracks are vinyl and portray the T51 model. Unusually, for tracks moulded in this material, each one comes in two sections with a simple, but effective, connector. As Sherman tracks were not 'Live', there is little (in my opinion) justification for seperate track links as there would be on a T34 for example. Moulding is good although there were some injection marks on the inside. The only point I will raise about the tracks, is that their 'depth' seems a little lacking. Although the pads on the original were not particularly pronounced, these do seem like examples in need of replacement - worn down perhaps?
: Four vehicles are portayed in the small, but well-printed sheet. These are:
'Henry III: HQ. Company, 2nd Battalion, 13th Armored Regt, 1st Armored Division, Tunisia, Spring 1943.
'Major Jim': HQ. Company, 2nd Battalion, 13th Armored Regt, 1st Armored Division, Tunisia, Spring 1943.
3rd Battalion, HQ, 67th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, Sicily, July 1943
Tank No. 9, 'C' Company, 5th Army Italy, April 1945
The second vehicle 'Major Jim' is pretty well-documented and features a rather 'garish' overpainting of sand strips over its usual OD.
The kt comes with a number of optional parts (depending on the version one is building). Most noticeable is the front transmission housing. Two versions are provided - the cast version and the earlier three-piece (bolted) one. Also provided as alternatives are two types of air-fiter (square and round).Using the (previously released) .50 Caliber MG also adds a good touch as these are the best guns of this type in plastic. Also included, is a fairly nice figure of a tank-commander with some very sharp detail.
: It may be, that as this was a Review sample, I received a kit destined for Tasca's home (Japanese) market, as most of the instruction were in Japanese. It isn't a major problem though and despite not being able to understand most of the sheet, they are very clear indeed. A useful inclusion, are photos of areas of the actual vehicle.
This is simply a superb kit of an excellent subject. While it is undoubtedly complex in certain areas (the road wheel assemblies for example), on the whole, it it should be a pretty accesible model for anyone with a bit of building experience. Quite obviously, it isn't in the 'Shake `N Bake' category, there again, few serious models are.. Personally, i'd rather see a company producing one or two models a year of THIS quality than half a dozen with a load of 'issues'. Obviously, Tasca
is a smaller company than many of its competitors, but with this kind of quality and attention to detail they have a very bright future ahead of them...
I used a variety of sources for this review, here are some of them - all of them should be easily obtainable:
The French Shermans of the Liberation 1943-45 (LINK)
Modelling the US Army M4 (75mm) Sherman Medium Tank (LINK)
British Sherman Tanks (LINK)
U.S. Armored Units in the North African & Italian Campaigns 1942-45.(LINK)
Modeler's Guide to the Sherman (Ampersand)
The M4 Sherman at War - The European Theatre, 1942-45 (Concord)
for another point of view on the kit, see Terry Ashley's Review on P.M.M.S.
: HERE (LINK)
would like to express its gratitude to Tasca
for providing the review sample.