This is an in-box review of the Dragon Model M4 Sherman "Composite Hull" PTO, part of the '39-'45 series, kit 6441, in 1/35 scale.
The M4 composite hull variant was the last variant of the M4 medium tank produced in WWII. The majority of these tanks produced were sent to the Pacific theater of operations with the remainder provided to US Allies and some sent to US forces in Europe.
The box art shows a composite hull M4 "Southern Cross" of the 44th tank battalion coming up onto shore. Various CAD images of the kit are provided on the sides and bottom of the box, along with four marking option views.
The actual kit is made up of 486 styrene parts on 12 sprues, 21 clear parts on one sprue, 57 photo etch parts on one sheet, two track runs of DS plastic, and one length of twisted wire for the tow cable. One decal sheet is included with marking options for four tanks.
In order, the sprues and other items included are as follows:
M4 A2/A3. Parts used from this sprue are the fuel cap covers, tools, hull mg and hull accessories. About half the parts on this sprue are not used. This is the oldest molding in the kit. Mine had some very minor mold alignment issues and seam lines.
M4 Sherman low bustle turret. This sprue has the low bustle turret ring, mantlet and mantlet cover and 75mm gun, periscopes and small accessories. Most of these parts are not used for this kit. Part 20, the inner ring for the gun mount to the turret, is listed as not used but is in fact used in step 6. It is not called out in the instructions but is shown in place.
M4, high bustle turret. This sprue has the high bustle turret but no turret ring, hatches, periscopes and guards and other turret accessories. Again, about half the parts are not used in this kit. Parts 36 and 37 are for the correct US style antenna and should be used in step 5.
M4A1 DV. This is the rear hull, air cleaners and exhaust. There is another 75mm gun on this sprue that is not used.
Clear parts. Periscopes, lights, horn and vision blocks for the late style cupola.
Sprue D X2
VVSS suspension with raised arms. It also has the five spoke open style wheels.
M4 75mm Normandy. Only two parts are used from this sprue, for the sponsons.
M4A1 DV. Parts for the upper engine deck.
M4 Composite. This is a new molding for this kit and includes the hull, hatches, tranmission covers and applique armor.
Sprue V X2
VVSS suspension. This has the straight return arm suspension, six spoke wheels with rear inserts and suspension arms. The swept style return blocks have four small bolts included which are called out as not used but can be used to detail the parts. There are also 12 small bolt heads molded to the sprue for added details.
This is the lower hull tub.
Length of woven metal wire.
Photo etch sheet MA
The fenders, strips for the sand skirts, light guards and a very nice addition, straps for the on board tools.
Two lengths of DS track, T48 rubber chevron style.
One decal sheet with markings for four tanks; "Southern Cross", 44th tank battalion, Limon, 1944; "Bushmaster", 763rd tank battalion, Leyte, 1944; "Battlin Basic", Co.B, 44th tank battalion, Manila, 1945 and "Ole Miss", Co. B, 44th tank battalion, Manila, 1945.
One instruction sheet with construction called out in 7 steps.
The sprues were all carefully packaged in plastic bags with the tracks, photo etch sheet and cable attached to a cardboard backer to protect them. The plastic is generally soft and easily cut with a hobby knife or cutters but the plastic can tear at the attachment points, especially with the smaller parts. There were no sink marks or problem ejector pin marks on any of the kit parts I could see. The two track runs did have small ejector marks on four of the track faces but these are easily removed with a sharp razor. There are minor mold seams, most noticeable on sprue A and the VVSS sprues and very minor mold alignment issues with the A sprue. Two parts of the suspension on the V sprue had been broken off of the sprue when I opened my box, but they were not damaged.
The quality of the molding is excellent, particularly with the new hull, which has excellent casting texture on the forward portion, transmission housing and covers. Both turrets are also very nicely textured. The welded portion of the hull had a slightly textured surface as well. There are a lot of very small parts which are sharply detailed. Casting numbers are present on the hull, both turrets, hatches and the VVSS suspension. Dry fit of the upper and lower hull halves was excellent. The transmission covers fit the housing, which has been an issue with other Dragon Shermans.
Overall, the quality of molding is good to excellent, with the new R sprue being the best.
There are some issues with the kit. First, the lack of the high bustle turret ring included with the kit. The instructions state the low bustle ring can be used for both, and it does fit, but it looks very awkward. The easiest way to fix this is to contact Dragon Care and request a high bustle turret ring. Provide them with a copy of the reciept and the location the kit was purchased from. The omission of this part (it had to be removed from the B sprue for the high bustle turret before the kit was prepared) doesn't make any sense.
Second, the hull provided is for the M4A3, not the M4. For most modelers this won't be a problem as the bottom won't be visible. For some, especially in competition, it may be. I have asked Dragon Care if they will replace the hull and am waiting for the response. For all the detail and effort put into this kit, to make an error like this is again senseless.
Third, the marking options for three of the tanks, "Southern Cross", "Battlin Basic", and "Ole Miss", are not correct for the options provided in this kit. From reference photos it appears they were from single hatch turrets with no pistol port. To fix this you will need to find a new turret or do significant surgery to the kit provided turret. The photos I looked at were from the Zaloga book "Tank Battles of the Pacific". Again, with the care and attention to detail in the kit, another senseless error. Aftermarket decals will have to be used to get the correct markings.
The instructions are crowded and placement of some parts is generalized. References will be needed to clarify. Also, the instructions show to place the accessories for stowing the .50 cal MG (not included in this kit) on the rear of the turret. Again, check references and photos I have do not show them placed, nor do they show a spotlight. Headlights and horn were frequently not used as well. The instructions call out the placement of a British style antenna in step 5 which is not correct.
Some Sherman kits from Dragon have a small jig for correctly shaping the light guards. This kit does not, but it would have been a nice addition. As mentioned the .50 cal is not included. Many tanks did not have them. Many did. Many carried the .30 cal on top.
This was almost the perfect kit. It is a shame to see Dragon come so close and stumble at the end by carelessness. I am currently doing an on line build of this kit here on Armorama. It is an enjoyable build and I like how it is turning out. Even with the issues, I would buy it again. I am sure aftermarket accessories and decals specific to this variant will be available soon.
A Build Log
has been started on the Forums to evaluate the kit construction.