by: Pat McGrath [ ]
The Sherman Firefly was produced in 3 variants- The VC on the M4A4 hull, The Ic on the M4 Hukll and the Hybrid Ic base on the composite cast/welded hull. The composite hull has always been a favourite of mine because of the mixture of contours and angles in its manufacture so I was pleased to see Dragon produce this kit. The Hybrid Ic Firefly served in Polish, Czech, New Zealand, Canadian and British Armor Units in Europe. Dragon announced a number of years ago that they would be revisiting this kit, and they have certainly taken their time with it despite the urgent calls of modelers on different forums. Is it worth the wait? Let's see.
•A six page instruction leaflet
•12 grey plastic part sprues
•A photo etch fret with fenders
•A metal tow cable
•A set of T48 tracks in Dragon Styrene
•A clear plastic sprue with lights and periscopes
•A set of cartograf decals for 3 vehicles
Many of the sprues will be familiar to serial Sherman builders having come from other DML Sherman kits, however there are two sprues that are particular to this kit:
•Sprue K - low bustle turret with 17 pdr gun.
•Sprue L - air cleaners, tow bar, details
The instructions come in an 6 page leaflet of line drawings. The first page shows the box art again in black and white and the layout of the sprues with the parts not to be used highlighted in blue. Pawel Krupowicz is credited for technical assistance.
The assembly is shown in typical exploded view diagrams in only seven steps starting with the suspension followed by the lower hull, the upper hull and turret. The assembly seems fairly straightforward enough but there are a lot of optional parts offered in the kit with two different types of air cleaners, plastic or PE light guards, fenders etc, so choices will have to be made and while there only seven steps they are very crowded with lots of sub assemblies to be prepared. I can't make out any missing steps or misleading directions, though of course some mistakes only become obvious when the kit is being built.
The instructions finish with the painting and markings section showing two Polish vehicles in Italy 1945 and one Coldstream Guards Tank in Germany 1945.
Two types of suspension are provided, though the instructions call for the one with the raised return rollers to be used. You also get two types of wheels with full sets of the open 5 spoked version and the pressed six spoke version. From memory the suspension units are easy enough to build - each being made up of 11 parts. The bogies lack the four bolt holes on the opposite side to the return rollers as well as the bolts for the return roller skids.
Upper Hull: This piece shows the contrast between the cast glacis and welded rear hull very well. I don't have any empirical evidence for this, but the cast section has a slightly pinched look that I'm not convinced by, as well as the curves to the rear of the driver and co drivers hatches being slightly too pronounced. As I say it just looks slightly off to me, but I am open to correction.
The raised welds are good and not overdone and the cast front also has some well done casting symbols. The location points for the tools are marked on the inside so they have to be drilled through, I like this as it offers modelers the option of leaving off some of the tools and not having those annoying holes to fill. The periscopes to the front of the front hatches are now separate so they can be modeled opened or closed. Of course there was no co-driver on a Firefly, so that periscope would never be used and the cover should remain closed. The three pieces of Applique armor for the upper hull come with a good representation of the weld beads.
The lower hull has all the correct drain holes and hatches. Two triangular pieces must be cut off the sponson covers to conform to the shape of the Hybrid upper hull.
The tow bar and round air cleaners on the new sprue L are sharply cast. There is a choice of air cleaners as the box type is provided as well. The transmission cover is the correct sharp nosed version and the cast texture is not overdone- no orange peel effect here.
The tracks are the T 48 rubber chevron type in DS plastic. There were no kinks or bent teeth in my review kit. It would be nice to see a set of separate links included with duckbill end connectors included as many Fireflys are seen sporting these in the winter of 44-45.
The majority of hybrid Ic Fireflys were made with the low bustle turret without the pistol port and with the added rectangular loader's hatch. Some came with the late high bustle turret with the pistol port and loader's hatch. The turret provided with the kit is the low bustle one, and a very nice one at that. For a few months during 1943 the decision was taken to get rid of the pistol port on Sherman turrets, it was reintroduced later but all the Ic Hybrid Fireflies with the low bustle turret seem to lack the pistol port, at least according to the photographic evidence. I say "seem to lack" because it's hard to be definitive about Shermans and I don't want to tempt fate by saying they "never" had them.
The turret details and texture are nicely done. The gun tube comes in one piece with half of the muzzle brake cast in place, the other half will have to be added carefully and the tube should also be carefully removed from its four attachment points on the sprue. The radio box comes in four separate pieces, and the turret stowage box comes in two pieces with a separate PE attachment strip. Although most Fireflys didn't mount the turret .50 cal, one is provided. This is very well cast and comes with two types of ammo boxes.
The PE fret holds the sand shield attachment strips, turret tie downs and straps, engine grill, grouser cover grills, front fenders, headlight guards and some very small parts I have yet to figure out.
The Decals and Painting Guide:
Three options are provided in the Cartograf decals:
•ZADLO of the 3rd Squadron, 6th Armoured Regt, Dzieci Lwowskich, Italy 1945
•ZEMSTA II of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Krechowiecki Lancers Regt, Italy 1945
•A Squadron, Coldstream Guards, Germany 1945.
The big yellow Polish name decals should look great, but I would like to have seen more choice- perhaps a Canadian vehicle.
Dragon casting quality and attention to detail has really advanced in recent years and this is an excellent kit despite my slight misgivings about the cast front. Although this is billed as a Smart Kit there will be plenty of bits left over for the Sherman spares box.