by: Rick Cooper [ ]
There is not much that can be said about the Sherman tank that has not already been said. Of course, that doesnít stop most of us from adding our two cents worth! As I am no exception let me just say that the Sherman was undoubtedly the most important Allied tank of the war (and no, I donít want to hear from any fans of the T-34, because you are just wrong!) serving on battlefields in every theatre of the war, and according to Steve Zaloga in Armored Thunderbolt the Sherman, ďÖwas not the best tank of World War II, but it was good enoughĒ.
Besides being good enough to provide the needed punch and reliability it supplied Allied armies who desperately needed the assistance, in particular the British. British forces employed the Sherman as the backbone of their armored divisions beginning at Alamein and continuing until the end of the war. One of the earlier marks of the Sherman that Commonwealth troops used, was what they had christened the Sherman Mk. III, or in the US Army naming system, an M4A2. This particular version, powered by twin diesel engines, was deemed inadequate by the US Army, consequently this version ended up mostly in the hands of the US Marines and Commonwealth forces.
Dragon has now followed up a couple of earlier releases of the Mk III/M4A2 with a new early version of the same. As with all things Sherman it is never quite as easy as just Mk III version as there is early vs. late, M3 style VVSS suspension vs. early M4 style vs. later M4 style, M34 gun mount vs. M34A1 and on it goes. What you get in the box with this kit is what Dragon is calling the Sherman III DV early production version to give us three different versions of what is ostensibly the same vehicle, but like all things plastic, the more the merrier!
What you get with this Sherman III DV Early Production, stock #6573 is an impressive amount of plastic arrayed on ten light gray sprues that carry anywhere between two and nearly one hundred parts. Besides that you get two beautiful pieces of DS T41 track, a single length of braided wire for the tow cable, a clear sprue with the lights and periscopes, a nicely printed decal sheet with options for five different vehicles, an impressively large photo-etched sheet of brass parts, and a set of instructions that are divided into twelve easy steps. This all comes packed in a standard size Dragon slip top style box with a nice rendering of the vehicle on an Italian street done by the gifted Ron Volstad.
The first thing that you should be aware of is that the instructions were created by the irrepressible instruction team at Dragon, in other words be careful and remember your mileage may vary! While there are five choices of marking, and hence, five different vehicles, the instructions donít ever actually tell you which option is appropriate for which version. I have never quite understood the thinking behind this system; about all you can say is have a decent reference of picture close at hand. Besides that Dragon sometimes has been known to have errors of different magnitude in the instructions (I know you are shocked, just shocked, at this revelation). As a case in point, the first page of the instructions, marked with an impressive amount of blue Ďnot for useí parts actually call out for all of the large suspension bogie housings to go in the spare parts bin, both those with the upswept return rollers and the straight arm return rollers. (hint: keep the straight arm return bogie housings)
Letís take a quick run through the steps of the instructions shall we?
Step 1The suspension bogies, back end of the lower hull, and the transmission cover get taken care of here. The instructions provide two options for the road wheels, the five spokes early variety and the later presses steel version. The pressed steel type has separate inserts for the backs but should all be put into the parts bin (I would save them for use on a Tamiya Sherman which never provide the back of the wheels), the only style that match with the provided markings are the open spoked variety. The bogies themselves should have four bolt hole opening added to the front. The bogies were not handed and could be put on either side of the vehicle and then have the return roller arm bolted on; consequently the front side should have the holes added.
The transmission housing comes in two flavors, the three piece bolted affair or the one piece. Be aware that if you opt for the one piece you are limited to only one marking option; of course, if you have aftermarket decals you may have other choices. The front drive covers donít quite fit into the transmission cover quite like they are supposed to so be aware if you want a really nice fit you will need to add some plastic filler and reshape it to get the proper look. Most of the issue is hidden up under the sand shields but the direct front on view will reveal the quandary on the sides of the transmission cover. Or you could do what I did and just live with it, but it is something I wanted to point out. The lower rear hull is pretty standard fare for the M4A2/Sherman III with the six piece muffler set up, towing pintle and bracket, and rear idler axle housings.
Step 2This is a quick step, attach the bogie units to the hull add the adjustable idler wheels and the rear hull over hang and youíre done. I would hold off on gluing the idlers in place, you want them to move in order to put the proper tension on the tracks when they are installed.
Step 3This step attaches the transmission to the front of the hull. Besides that the only thing Dragon has you doing here is slipping the drive sprockets on to the axles. Thatís it. But a little about the upper hull; as far as I can see it is the only difference between this kit and the earlier Dragon Mk III (#6313) which did not have direct vision drivers and co-driverís hood. The new hull sports some very nice weld details on the front glacis plate as well as additional detailing on the edges of the armored plates that the original release left off.
Step 4A little busier than step 3, the glacis plate gets the treatment here. Lovely thirty caliber hull machine gun is added; six piece hull hatches are built up and installed along with the direct vision slots which can be posed open or closed. You also add the headlights, brush guards in either plastic or PE, and the front lifting points.
Step 5Upper rear hull gets some love in step five, seven filler caps are added. Did I count that right, seven? Tail lights, guards, lifting points, all the usual suspects as well as filler cap guards in PE for a really nice look. Also, this is where a map is provided for the location of the holes that will need to be opened to attach the pioneer tool suite. Sadly, Dragon has provided PE headlight brush guards but has neglected to add PE guards for the taillights. IF you want the front and rear to have more uniform appearance you will need to add your own from an aftermarket set or out of the spares bin.
Step 6The pioneer tools are added here, you are given the option of adding PE tie downs to the tools. I would recommend taking a bit of extra time and using the PE tie downs, they make the finished model look much nicer than the plastic. A couple of nicely molded engine access grates that are marred by some molded on locking hatch handles that should be shaved off and replaced and you are ready to fly onto step seven.
Step 7Hey where are my colored dots? This step is only to detail the rear hull overhang with a couple of the pioneer tools and either ten or fifteen tiny PE bolt heads. With earlier releases Dragon had used some slightly different spots of plastic to mark the location, that is no longer provided, instead you get two options for the pattern but for some reason it is provided as an inset but with an oblique aspect to the drawing just to make it a little bit more challenging; hey, thanks guys!
Step 8Moving up top to the commanderís hatch - beautifully done with great detail inside and out, no fewer than twelve parts to build up the whole shebang. Somewhere in here you also get the decal placement for the very large and very prominent air recognition roundels that the British used.
Step 9: This gets you through the meat of the turret, the early low bustle style that we have seen in a number of earlier Dragon Sherman kits. The pistol port does have a small seam that will need a bit of work. The gun mount is an option with the M34 or M34A, the marking drawings appear to all show the M34 but I wouldnít put much stock in that, I would hazard a guess that the M34 is probably most appropriate but I could be wrong. The main gun doesnít come with any kind of breech at all, not a problem if the turret is buttoned up; otherwise youíre on your own. Be careful with the swivel mount for the commanders spotlight, I wish someone would make this assembly in brass as I donít believe the plastic can handle much stress at all and is easily broken (this is experience talking here!) Other than that everything up top looks really nice, British style antennae mount, vane sight in PE, periscopes and covers and a very nice cast texture.
Step 10The bin for the turret rear and three PE straps with the tie-downs. This should be one of those quick steps!
Step 11The gorgeous Dragon .50 cal MG with the early style ammo can. You do have the option of the later ammo can and mount but why?
Step 12Sometimes the last step is as simple as Ďput the turret on the hullí, oh no, not here my friend. Build the sun shield brackets from PE; looks tricky, take a swallow of patience and have a good metric ruler at hand. Then when you finish that task fold up and install the PE sand shields after you install (and paint) the track. I donít know about you but I have the most trouble with long pieces of PE that always seem to have a mind of their own. One more piece of PE for the flimsy rack (wait, where are the flimsies?? Not in this box Iím afraid). Oh yeah, donít forget to add the turret!
After you have taken care of all this youíre ready to check out what Dragon has given us in terms of painting recommendations and markings. Dragon recommends a pattern of field gray over tan which can be fighting words for some; all I will say is that it looks right but it doesnít quite match with my copy of British Tank Markings and Names. However, if the Dragon recommendations are off I will reiterate that at least they look right; for greater accuracy you will want to check your references. And if you can figure out the Gordian knot of British colors and markings you are a better man then I, Gunga Din.
The decals do provide markings for five 1943 vehicles, four from Italy and Sicily and one from Tunisia. The Italian locale gives markings for a pair of 4th County of London Yeomanry (CLY) vehicles, the Sicilian vehicles are 3rd CLY and 44th Royal Tank Regiment. The Tunisian fellow is 26th Armoured Brigade. If you are a fan of the 7th Armoured Division the 3rd CLY vehicle is a Desert Rat while the 26th AB tank is part of the 6th Armoured Division. Those are the only two vehicles that carry divisional markings as a part of their livery. Or, you could just grab a set of aftermarket decals from Echelon or Bison and youíd really be set.
This is a nice kit. Is it a perfect kit; no, of course not. It appears, however, that it should be a fairly uncomplicated build that will replicate a Sherman Mk III fairly well. Having another version of the Sherman to work with is always good news, just take your time and remember the old adage to measure twice and cut once!