by: Vinnie Branigan [ ]
introductionThe Sherman is considered by many to have been the best Allied tank in service during WWII. It's story is complex, involving many different model types and variants, and many different armaments. The M4A3 itself was produced with both Vertical and Horizontal Volute suspension, this version from Dragon represents the HVSS model.
Please consider this as more of a preview than a review, since I'm no Allied expert, although I will attempt to point out one or two areas that don't seem to agree with references.
First, what you actually get in the box. As well as the 'Dragon card' containing a small transparent sprue, a set of Cartograf decals, wire tow rope, road wheel tyres, a large photo etched sheet and a pair of tracks, you also get eight sprues of light grey styrene and a separate hull. There is also a small black vac-formed tray containing an aluminium barrel and metal components for the suspension system.
Sprue A is the same one as given in the recently released Sherman Mk.III kit, minus the hull of course, since a new one is provided separately. Sprue B is new, containing the main turret, cupola etc., whilst sprues H & G are I think, new, but largely unused in this version. Sprue H interestingly has an unused two hatch turret on it, but I couldn't tell you if this is for a future kit or a past one since I don't get to see many Shermans!
The main interest in this kit will centre around the suspension naturally enough. I have absolutely no idea if this is the first representation by Dragon of HVSS, and therefore, although it's an in box review I decided to build one of the units and then people can make up their own mind. Be warned! They are extremely fiddly to make! I ended up winding the springs up more tightly, as it's the only way I could stop them coming out of the housing. They do work very nicely once made though, in exactly the same manner as the real suspension. The finished unit also matches references extremely well, apart from the brass tube (as seen in the photo) being too long.
There are other really nice features included, such as the newly-tooled T80 track, which is of course moulded in Dragon's cementable styrene, the raised welds all around the hull, the multlpart exhaust grating, fully-detailed hatches, inside and out, choice of drive sprockets (check your references!), and many other nice touches. As well as the aluminium barrel supplied, there is also a styrene one with rifling, it's just a shame that you can't have this if you choose to use the metal one. I would have also liked to have seen a choice of tools, with or without moulded on clamps, similar to what we're offered with the Axis kits.
I was concerned about the travel lock when the kit first arrived, since the box art illustration has it wrong, with the top of the lock sitting far too high, well above the hull deck in fact. I needn't have worried, since the one in the kit sits at the correct height.
The photo etch included in the kit offers the two front fenders, which will have to be bent to the correct curve, periscope guards, headlight guards, and a couple of small brackets, a lot less in fact, that was offered in the Sherman Mk.III, but still nice. As mentioned earlier, there is a transparent sprue that supplies periscopes which can just be masked off, and headlight lenses, should you choose to use them, and added to all this is a plethora of parts for the spares box, which should keep all Sherman fans happy!
marking optionsThere are four options provided for in the kit;
713th Tank Battalion, Okinawa 1945
67th Armoured Infantry Battalion, 13th Armoured Division., Austria 1945
20th Armoured Infantry Battalion, 10th Armoured Div., Germany 1945
752nd Tank Battalion, Italy 1945.
in conclusionWell............ it makes me want to do another Allied vehicle! Seriously, there are some very nice touches indeed to this kit, and it deserves to be a popular kit, as I'm sure it will be! Highly recommended.