Mounting a bulldozer blade on the front of a tank is a practical thing to do. Clearing obstacles under fire is difficult – by giving the dozer armor and the ability to shoot back, the tankdozer became an invaluable tool on the battlefield.
Tankdozers served well in the hedgerows and in urban environments of Europe, as well as the beaches and jungles of the Pacific.
The M1 dozer blade can be seen in many historical photos mounted on a variety of Shermans, including the M4, the M4A1, the M4A3 and the M4A4. The 124-inch wide M1 was intended for Shermans with the vertical volute suspension system (VVSS) – the later, wider (138-inch) M1A1 dozer fit onto Shermans with the horizontal volute suspension system (HVSS).
Trakz recently released a 1/35 conversion kit to add an M1 “tank mounting bulldozer” to a Sherman tank. Trakz kit no. TX0114, Sherman M1 Dozer Blade Assembly, retails for about $25 USD. It consists of 17 parts cast in a cream colored resin and includes a double-sided instruction sheet with photos of the kit in progress, as well as pics of an actual Sherman tankdozer for reference and parts placement.
My example was virtually blemish-free, even after I trimmed off the casting blocks. A few small air bubbles were filled with gap-filling CA glue and I was ready to build. On the Trakz kit box it states: “This model of dozer blade was designed during WWII, to fit onto any M4Sherman medium tank fitted with the VVSS suspension and one piece transmission cover.”
This is not exactly true. I originally intended to put this on the front of an early dry-stowage M4A3 I have been building. The tank has a one-piece final drive housing, but it is the earlier round nose, not the later sharp nose. This conversion kit is intended for the sharp-nosed final drive, so I quickly cobbled together a Tamiya M4A3 hull and suspension with the proper nose so I could build this kit for review.
Once I had separated all the parts from the casting blocks, assembly went quickly using CA glue. The side rails, parts A1 and A2, fit squarely onto the large dozer blade piece. I also noted that they are keyed slightly differently, so you will have to try real hard to glue them onto the wrong sides or upside down.
The lower bracket, part 11, that attaches to the final drive fit snugly between the tow lugs on the Tamiya final drive housing and conformed well to its shape. The mounts that attach to the bogies, parts 7 and 8, also fit nicely, with parts 6 forming the angle iron attachment points. You may want to add the four missing bolt heads on each of parts 6 before going any further.
The large pyramid-shaped cover for the hydraulics went together easily and fit squarely on the back of the dozer blade. Take care when attaching the two inner “wings” to make sure they will clear the side of the lower bracket when the blade is in place.
Parts 4, 5 and 14 combine to make the hydraulic ram – the one overly complicated part of this build, in my opinion. Lining the three parts up and keeping everything centered and square was a challenge. Trakz should have molded this as a single part, or at least have keyed part 14 to accept the other two parts. Out of the box, the blade sits level on the ground. If you want to model the blade raised, you’ll have to lengthen the hydraulic ram with tubing.
Parts 9 and 10 complete the parts on the hull front, leading from the left headlight mount to the hydraulic ram. On the Tamiya hull, you need to trim the headlight base a bit to get a proper fit for part 10. Also note that it sits on top of the final drive’s bolt strip and, as seen in photos, does not sit flush – it kind of “floats” on top of the bolt strip.
There you have it – a nice dozer blade for your Sherman. Add a piece of hose coming from inside part 9 to the hydraulic ram for a bit of detail. Those with AMS might also want to add the blade jettisoning cable coming out of the bow machine gun mount and going to the blade attachments. I’m still looking for a good drawing or photo of this rig.
Overall, this is a nice, relatively easy to build conversion and adds a lot to my Sherman collection. It took me about an evening to build, once I had the M4A3 hull built and ready to accept it.
An added note on VLS/Trakz customer service: I bought this kit from a vendor at a model contest and when I got it home I discovered that it was missing a part. I sent an e-mail to VLS (distributor of Trakz) on Sunday night and received a reply from none other than Bob Letterman Monday morning telling me the missing part was on the way. UPS delivered the part Tuesday morning. With customer service like that, VLS and Trakz will continue to get my business.
Trakz kit no. TX0114, Sherman M1 Dozer Blade Assembly, consists of 17 parts cast in a cream colored resin and includes a double-sided instruction sheet with photos of the kit in progress, as well as pics of an actual Sherman tankdozer for reference and parts placement.
About Bob Kerr (Hollowpoint) FROM: KANSAS, UNITED STATES
My first memories of models is when I was a young kid living in Frankfurt, Germany, where my father was stationed with the U.S. Army. We built lots of little kits -- 1/72nd airplanes, spacecraft, cars -- it was something fun and easy to do. I continued modeling mostly cars until I was in my mid-teen...