The M4A1 was the first Sherman model to reach production and was supplied to the British to use in the battle of El Alamein. The first M4A1 produced had a side entry hatch, a riveted lower hull, direct vision ports in front of the driver and co-driver hatches, and bogies all from the M3 Lee production lineage. Two fixed forward firing 30 Cal machine guns in the glacis, these were quickly deleted from production as was the side entry hatch. "Michael" is such a surviving M4A1 found in Bovington. When the US Army entered North Africa in 1942 it fielded a later version of the M4A1, one that is depicted in this kit. It featured a re-designed front hull, the direct vision ports where dropped and periscope housing where cast into the hull in front of the hull hatches. A newer cast transmission housing was used on some of these tanks too. Most other details were the same.
The US Army, Free French Forces, and USMC all used this M4A1 middle production variant. These tanks had received the heavy duty VVSS as depicted in the kit. The kit does contain a riveted lower hull tub which was not in production very long with the heavy duty VVSS but this is easy to modify. Although the British received the M4A1 early tanks with the direct vision hulls by the time the British received their "mid" version tanks, the turret was a later type. It had the M34A1 mantlet, the shell ejection port was omitted and the cheek armour was built in. Furthermore British tanks typically were rebuilt and received the hull appliqué armour. The British further modified their Shermans to suit their needs based on experience in Desert warfare. These were first deployed on D-Day by the British.
This is Tasca's second Sherman kit, it follows the release of their Firefly VC about a year ago. There was much discussion as to the subject of this new release. A few "hints" where given in the form of their Browning M2 Machine and U.S. Jerry Can kits earlier this year. The M4A1 (mid) has been release previously by Dragon and was one of the more sought after kits. So Tasca has shown some good sense in releasing a state of the art kit of this important subject.
Inside the box, the parts are separately bagged with 21 sprues, two of which are in clear plastic, and vinyl grommets as well as rubber material for the suspension. A decal sheet and a small photo-etched brass fret are also included and separately bagged while the instructions are loose within the box. The kit supplies several options such as two sets of road wheels, two sets of idlers, three choices of sprockets, two transmission armour covers, early and late M34 mantlet, appliqué armour for the hull and turret, and both square and cylindrical oil bath air cleaners. So a few welcome and useful spare parts will be left over.
Overall the moulding quality is very high, perfect in fact. The styrene is a medium olive colour, not too dark, which is nice. The styrene is a very high quality, it glues well with both Testors Liquid cement which I used for attaching detail parts, and Tenax-7R, which I used for assembling the larger components like the lower hull.
- The box top.
- Sprue "H". Upper hull and turret.
- Sprue "E". Lower hull panels.
- Sprue "J". Hull and turret parts.
- Sprue "C", front. Three-piece transmission and details parts.
- Sprue "C", back.
- Sprue "F". Engine deck parts. Commander figure.
- Sprues "D" and "G", front and back. Detail parts.
- Sprue "A" (×2), front and back. Running gear.
- Sprue "B" (×3), front and back. Running gear.
- MG and Jerry cans.
- Photo-etched parts.
- Clear parts.
Included are Tasca's M4 Sherman VVSS Suspension Set A (Early). Having now built a couple of these sets I can pass on some assembly information. The stamped bogie wheels need 24 bolts added (12 per face -- two on each side of the rib on the rim), this is a pain to get lined up correctly. So I have cheated and used a set from Formations on one set and another set I used a set of wheels from TMD. The open rib wheels need a pair of grease nipples added to their hubs, this is a lot easier to do. Clean up and assembly of the rest of the bogie is a lot tedious so I assemble one at a time as I progress on the project. The completed bogie assembly is fully articulated just like the real units. I haven't tried fitting the loop tracks to the completed tank yet but fear that the tension may pull the front most and rearmost bogie arms up. I use Kasten tracks so I don't have this problem. I can't test it on my assembled Firefly hull since I've given away my tracks. Can anyone comment on this? Formations now make a set of resin inserts to replace the rubber pads that Tasca use, (Ride Height Spacers for Tasca Sherman Suspension - F086).
The bogie units are missing a few bolts and holes. See my topic on the subject in the forum for more information. I have now made a little template that helps me line up my pin vice to drill the holes correctly.
The rear idlers have solid rims, the real rims where more "dainty". I have never seen this depicted correctly in any injection moulded kit and only once in a resin kit. The ABM Lee upgrade has them correct, see photo in forum). The idler mounts are well done and accurate, they are position-able too, which is a great advantage to fitting Sherman tracks. It is best to leave these loose and only glue them in place after the track has been tensioned correctly. Sherman tracks had essentially no "sag".
The tracks represent the non-reversible T-51. They are moulded in two lengths per run (four lengths supplied) in synthetic rubber. This material can be glued with regular model cement, I have used Testors Liquid Cement on the previous Firefly tracks. These have to be the best flexible band tracks available for Shermans and it would be good to see Tasca offer them (and their T62 VC tracks) as separate kits.
The lower hull consists of separate panels including a bottom plate, both left and right side panels, and a rear plate. There is also an internal firewall, this mostly acts as a strengthening brace and is not really part of a detailed interior (not yet at least). As far as accuracy goes moulding compound curves is the most difficult thing to model but Tasca appear to have done a good job. Comparing the kit to various photographs the curves appear pretty good.
I have assembled the lower hull and attached the transmission housing and upper hull, all in one sitting. The assembly was without any problem. I used Tenax-7R, which bonds this type of styrene almost instantly, I was actually amazed at how well it works. I followed Tasca's recommended assembly sequence with one exception, I added the sponson floors last. Care must be taken not to squeeze the side walls into the middle brace too hard, as the walls may bow in and consequently the sponson floors won't fit well. I didn't have this problem on my M4A1 but it's a lesson I learned from assembling my Firefly (Tasca), which has the exact same parts breakdown.
The transmission housing was assembled with Testors Liquid Cement. I chose this because I wanted to apply a lot of glue so that "liquid plastic" would be formed and fill up the join between the main piece and each of its sides. This was actually a one-piece casting so there should not be any join line left over. When this was set (over night) the joins were cleaned up and the two bolt strips added, these where also part of the main casting. Fitting the assembled drive housing to the hull was pretty neat, it sort of slots into place. This is the best, surest fitting, transmission housing I've seen on an M3/M4 kit (see photo in forum). I glued the completed transmission housing to the hull with Testors.
A subtle casting texture is moulded into the hull (and turret) it is a little on the soft side. Casting texture is a personal thing, I prefer little but some modellers will want to apply more than what is depicted on the kit. Casting marks are also another area where a modeller may want to add their own touch as they only appear on the bogies and the three piece transmission housing. Those on the housing are on the delicate side and some may want to replace them. Archer Fine Transfers now make a set of casting mark decals, these are "thick" decals using resin in place of ink that are applied directly to either the unpainted model or after priming but surely before painting camouflage.
The engine deck features a separate engine hatch, separate engine access doors on the rear panel and separate grouser storage vents. These vent housings also have small photo-etched screens. Both early cylindrical and later rectangular air cleaners are included, each have little clasps as separate items too. Exhausts are included and these are to be glued inside the upper hull. The air intake cover at the top of the engine deck consists of a separate base plate with a photo-etched screen and moulded cover. The armoured fuel covers are separate too and there is a detailed cap moulded into the hull for each.
The turret correctly depicts a low bustle turret with a slide moulded open signal port with a separate cover. There are two small sprue attachment points and a light seam around the slide moulded area. A light sanding will easily eliminate it. These turrets could have some casting marks on the right side which includes three lines. The last line would be the serial -- e.g. 2578 while the first and second would include one digit on one line and the draw number (D50878) followed by the foundry mark on the other. Some turrets had the draw number, then the digit while others had the digit and then the draw number.
Assembly of the turret is straight forward. When the base and top are glues together there is a rather heavy joint line around the lower part of the bustle. This can be scraped and sanded back but a casting seam is there on the real item. The bottom of the turret needed a little more sanding to get a level appearance too. When assembled I check the profile against a few photographs and it compared well.
The various fittings on the turret include the M34 mantlet, this in nicely done and there are options for two types. The 75mm barrel is in two halves, this will require some careful assembly. It is accurate though, compared to Kurt Laughlin's 75mm barrel reviews. Being lazy I will be using the LionMarc replacement barrel, which is the best and generally cheapest available.
The pioneer tools are pretty good, they come with moulded on mounting straps. There are no mounting pins and corresponding holes on the hull (which is good) and are to be directly glued to the hull surface. There are little tie-downs simulated for this. These tie-downs are pretty flat looking. I would prefer to make new ones, clean the straps off the tools and make new ones from paper, the buckles can come from Aber.
All hatches are separate as are the cushions and periscopes that fit into them. The commander's hatch is well detailed and features the little cushions that fit around the inside. Periscopes in clear styrene are provided. They are well detailed. The periscope guards are not included, although I am not sure if this version of the Sherman had them, if so then they could be made from stretched sprue. The springs are moulded separately in styrene too, they could be replaced with coiled wire for more detail.
Tasca have done a good depiction of the headlights which separate clear styrene inserts. The tail lights are also good. The guards are depicted in styrene and could do with a little thinning out.
Included is one sprue from Tasca's WW2 U.S. Jerry can Set, two each of fuel and water cans. The Browning M2 Machine Gun Set B with Cradle is included too. A commander figure is included. He is wearing overall typical of the North Africa and Italian theatres which fits most of the markings included in the kit. Overall he's well moulded.
Painting and marking information are provided for four US Army tanks:
- :Henry III" - HQ Company, 2nd Battalion, 13th Armoured Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, Spring 1943.
- "Major Jim" - HQ Company, 2nd Battalion, 13th Armoured Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, Spring 1943.
- 3rd Battalion HQ, 67th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Armoured Division, Sicily, July 1943.
- "Comic" - Tank No.9, C Company, 751st Tank Battalion, 5th Army, Italy, April 1945.
The two-colour printed Cartograf decals are very thin and opaque. The inclusion of the blue numbers is a nice touch but is not indicated in the markings. In any case, one must assemble them in to create a particular vehicle. Additional schemes and markings can be found by consulting the reference list provided.
The lower hull can be adapted for a Ram, M3, or early M7 Priest. For the latter two, the escape hatch may need some attention. The complete kit could be made into an early Grizzly with a bit of work. As for the CDP tracks and sprockets, I think only S-Models of Poland have them. Adding early M3 style VVSS can widen a few more markings options and add more Commonwealth users. Again, I refer you to the reference section for inspiration. Another way of widening the options are to remove the rivets from the hull tub to allow for a later production M4A1 mid.
For those wishing to build a British Sherman II in Normandy, which is my intent, the project will be more involved. The turret will have to be rebuilt as a later type. Formations do make one, but it is designed for the Tamiya M4 and is too wide. The M34A1 mantlet will need to be added, the spent shell port will have to be removed and the cheek armour bulge added. The hull side appliqué armour will have to be added. British fittings such as the turret bin and also T62 tracks have to be added. The 4th Armoured Brigade used these tanks in number and there are many photographs of them in Normandy. There are some interesting feature specific to these tanks too, including the forward sand shields used as stowage racks on the engine deck, deep wading stacks and the Cullen prong device on a few tanks. It will be a great conversion project and one that I am looking forward to.
There are many after-market accessories that could be used on this kit, those made for the old DML M4A1 kit specifically but fit may be a minor issue. Although in general the kit is well detailed and doesn't need much "help". A couple of the more "necessary" items include:
- Formations: Ride Height Spacers for Tasca Sherman Suspension (no.F086). These replace the rubber pads in the Tasca kit.
- LionMarc: 1/35 Sherman 75mm Barrel (Early).
This is an excellent kit, featuring the best production standards in an injection moulded styrene kit I've seen. The attention to detail and accuracy is unsurpassed... a cliché but it's true. Assembly is thus far is without any problem. Beginner modellers will appreciate the kit's ease of assembly and accuracy straight from the box. More advanced modellers will also appreciate the kit's detailing and accuracy. The "Shermaholic" will appreciate the kit as an important part of their arsenal.
Tasca are obviously intend to release at least two more Shermans. The Firefly VC's photo-etched fret was marked as "M4A4/M4A4 VC", this is known. This kit's photo-etched fret is labeled "M4/M4A1"... so hopefully the M4 will follow next. In fact with if their M4 includes a later turret and M34 Mantlet Tasca will have enough parts to produce the M4A4 too... keep your fingers crossed. I am also wondering what kit Tasca's "late" M4 bogie kit will appear in.
I recommend this kit without any hesitation. This kit was supplied by Tasca to Track-Link as a review sample. Background information was provided by Saúl García.
- British and American Tanks In WWII by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis
- British Eighth Army M4A1, FineScale Modeler -- International Color & Camouflage
- Color n’ Camouflage: British M4A1 in Normandy, AFV G2: Vol.4, No.3
- The M4 Sherman at War by Steven J. Zaloga
- Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank by Richard P. Hunnicutt
- Sherman in Action by Bruce Culver
- M4 Sherman Walkaround by Jim Mesko
- M3 Grant & M4 Sherman by Wojciech J. Gawrych
- Canadian Armour in Detail by Wojciech J. Gawrych
- Modeler’s Guide to the Sherman by Pete Harlem
- Sherman Early and Late, Allied-Axis Issue 13 by Jim Hensley
- M4A1 (75mm) Sherman - Exterior: Military Vehicle Workshop Series (Allied Command Publication
- TM 9-731A, Easy 1 Productions CD
- Sherman Firefly by Mark Hayward