by: Russ Amott [ ]
Way back in the beginning of my modeling days, I picked up my first Sherman tank, an Italeri M4A1 with the 76mm gun. The model kit was still a relatively new release and offered details that were ahead of the competition (which wasn't very much at the time). I was amazed and impressed and put it to good use with the other kits I had built. Over time I would add a few more Shermanís, both from Italeri and others. As molding technology improved, the Italeri kits became first an afterthought, and were then avoided as what was in the box was basically unchanged from their 1970s emergence.
When I saw this kit on the review list I offered to give it a look, more for nostalgia than anything else, and when the box arrived it was everything I expected and remembered. But when my son, Andrew, saw the kit, he immediately took interest, and asked if he could have it to build. His reaction caused me to take a better look at this kit and what it offers, as well as where it sits in comparison to the other kits on the market.
The box art is part of the showcasing that Italeri did through the 2015 year to celebrate VE day. The box subject, a Lend Lease M4A2 with the 76mm gun, is seen cruising past a knocked out jagdpanzer, top hatches open and a crew member standing up out of the loader's hatch, and text stating "figure not included". Inside the box the parts are all packaged in a single cellophane bag, molded in olive green styrene (not the dark blue-green I remember as a kid). I opened the bag and took a careful look at each of the sprues. When it was released this kit was cutting edge and still features some minor details that aren't included on other manufacturer's kits.
The hull appears to represent the later production style from Fisher steel. It includes weld lines that are mostly flush with the surface, which is more accurate than the recessed or raised beads currently seen. The lifting rings are located to the outside of the hull, and a fitting is represented by a small triangular bump for the rear view mirrors. The molded on engine deck is for an M4A3, and features open slats in the vents which does result in fewer slats in the doors than were present in real life. The rear plate is divided into two sections. All of this is to be cut out and replaced by a separate M4A2 deck, again with the slats opened up but reduced in number. Tool locations are indicated by faint, raised outlines. There are no grouser stowage lids. The top of the glacis in front of the periscopes has no bullet splash. The fenders and mounting strip for the sand guards are molded in place.
The lower hull tub is for the original M4A1 and is therefore not accurate for the kit. Unless someone is going to pick it up and handle it, it won't be noticed, and frankly anyone building this kit isn't likely to be concerned about that point. The transmission cover is the later, sharp nosed type with the bracket for the tow shackles molded in place. There is no cast texture on this (or any other) part, nor are casting numbers present (not a thing until recently). The transmission housing does have the bullet splash molded in place with a separate bolt strip for the hull attachment. The rear plate is for the M4A3, with a separate plate offered for the M4A1. The exhausts are molded with a slight recess but will be hidden behind the exhaust screen. Brush guards for the head lights, tail lights and siren are molded quite thin though there is a bit of flash present. The hull MG is a complete gun but doesn't move.
The suspension was truly revolutionary when it was first released, and was widely copied. The VVSS bogies feature the raised arm for the return roller, molded on skid plate, separate springs and suspension arms, and pressed spoke wheels. The bogies can be built up so that the suspension arms articulate to follow terrain, although there is no compression of the actual springs. What detail is present looks nice, but again there are no casting numbers on the bogies, and there are missing bolt heads at the base of the bogie and on the return brackets. The final drive covers appear to be the right size, or at least aren't undersized and the drive sprockets are the simple plate design, with bolt detail at the attachment point. Optional fancy sprockets are included. The idler adjuster has the hexagonal bolt detail. Tracks are single length vinyl, molded in a steel color, and represent the T54E1 style. The detail is quite good, with some separation between the track pads but the vinyl is very stiff and will require glue or similar tricks to get them around the idler and keep them from floating or bowing out around the suspension. They require the heated screwdriver technique to join them. There are also a number of ejector pin marks on the wheel contact side of the tracks.
The turret is the D82081 with split loader's hatch (thank you Sherman Minutia) and commander's vision cupola, which is molded in place. The sight vane is also molded in place, along with the stowage bracket for the M2 .50 cal at the rear of the turret. The 2" mortar is represented with a cap in place. Again, no cast texture or casting numbers are present on any parts. The mantlet fits directly over the gun and is open behind. A pistol port cover is provided but fits over the solid molding of the turret and so cannot be shown open. The gun features some breech detail (the only Sherman kit I have seen with any interior detail for the turret) but the barrel has an odd pair of steps at the base that need to be removed. The barrel is molded in two halves.
All the hatches can be shown open, but there is little interior detail and no periscopes are provided. The tools are lacking in detail and the axe head appears to be missing the blade portion. The tow cable is somewhat flexible and fits over the hull, but isn't shown in the instructions, although it is on the box art and the brackets at the front and rear are missing. The .50 cal is very basic in detail. Spare track brackets are included for the rear hull, and also have small wing nuts molded in place, which is a nice detail. One jerry can and a tarp are also provided.
One figure is included. It is the original figure of a US tanker standing with one hand raised, two fingers up. It doesn't really allow for much.
The instructions are provided in a fold out style, with construction shown in line drawings. The directions are fairly clear and easy to follow. A painting and decal guide is included, with markings for four vehicles. All are painted in olive drab. The four vehicles are as follows:
Soviet Army unknown unit Austria, 1945, white 913. The vehicle is actually with the 43rd Guards unit and does have the split loader's hatch, but also has steel bar cleat tracks and dished road wheels. http://the.shadock.free.fr/sherman_minutia/manufacturer/m4a2largehatches/m4a276_3.JPG
Soviet Army unknown unit, Germany 1945, 154 in triangle. 219th tank brigade, 1st mechanized corps, Berlin 1945. Tracks are right but the gun has a muzzle break and it has the oval loader's hatch. Road wheels appear to be welded spoke. http://www.o5m6.de/M4A2_76(W).html Images are halfway down the page.
Soviet Army Unknown unit, Germany 1945. White 79. I found an image online of a tank with similar markings but it is a lend lease 75mm gun tank.
Soviet Army, unknown unit, Poland, 1945. White 79. I couldn't find anything on this in my limited references.
There are some notable issues with the kit. First, it canít be built as an M4A2 accurately as it lacks the correct rear plate and exhaust. It can build a better M4A3, but for both, the grates lack the proper number of slats and appearance. Some details are very soft. Compared with newer, more modern releases this old kit can't really stand up. On the other hand, it offers a good challenge for those who like to see what they can do with an old kit and some aftermarket items. Although I am waiting for Andrew to put this together, I do recall from my previous efforts that there were some minor fit issues, some small gaps on the hull attachment points and the turret halves, and the placement outlines for the tools need to be shaved off or they will be visible.
The main question I have already heard and read online is why anyone would purchase this kit when there are better Shermanís available. The answer is simple. Based on Andrew's response, there are those who want something simpler, without so many parts. They want a starting point that will go together reasonably well without too much hassle. The subject is not as common, and considering how often Sherman kits go out of production it can be hard to find what you want. You can build either the M4A2 or M4A3.
The biggest downside with this kit is the price. The suggested retail was US $53.99. While it can be had for less, prices I saw online are still above what most will consider this kit to be worth in comparison to the newer, more detailed models. If you can find it at the right price it can make a good option.