Kit: No. 3529
Manufacturer: Dragon, distributed by Marco Polo Import, 532 S. Coralridge Pl., City of Industry, CA 91746
Comments: Injection molded, 684 parts (2 photoetched), decals.
With a 105mm gun almost as long as the hull, the M51 Isherman was the ultimate Sherman tank. It was developed by the Israeli army in the late 1960s to combat the heavy Soviet-built armor of its Arab foes. The M51 was active in the Six Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Any World War II GI tanker would have given his eye teeth for an M4 like this!
Dragon's M51 is the first injection kit of this interesting variant. It shares parts from two previous Dragon Shermans. The high number of parts is due mostly to the individual track links - each with a separate guide horn. The track alone comprises 352 parts! Because of the shared sprues, you end up with another 90 parts unused.
Dragon did well representing the rough-cast turret and hull, and it looks right under a coat of paint. My kit had minor flash and a few sinkholes on the parts.
The major components build up quickly and without problems, but the challenge comes in the suspension and tracks. Each bogie unit is a mini-kit with nine parts. Assembling the track is tedious, and it was difficult to cleanly remove the tiny guide horns from the sprues, adding frustration to the process. Each track block also has two ejector-pin marks on the outer surface that will add to assembly time if you clean them up.
One-third of the bogie wheels in my kit were marred by deep sinkholes; extensive filling and sanding was required to correct them. When you install the tracks, the open ends of the chevrons should face up, not down as shown on the box art. The instruction sheet shows them correctly.
Be careful when removing and cleaning the fragile muzzle brake baffles. The turret bottom (I10) is slightly smaller than the top. Pinching the two while applying glue will eliminate most of the problem, and filler will take care of the rest. The three-piece mantlet required filler and cleanup, too. You can't raise the gun, but a large spotlight is provided; it's optional and I left it off.
When assembling the drive sprocket (C12, C18) make sure the teeth align. You can shave the locking tab to allow the sprocket halves to twist to ease alignment.
The headlight brush guards in my sample had only one horizontal support. I scavenged the missing support from the extra guard on the "A" sprue.
I painted my model with Testor Model Master II Israeli armor sand/gray. My decals silvered a little, but I didn't apply a gloss coat for them. Otherwise, they look fine.
I completed my model in 32 hours, many of which were spent on the track and suspension. My primary reference was War Machines Number 4, Israeli M4 Sherman and Variants by F. Verlinden and W. Peeters. I found no major dimensional errors.
I highly recommend this kit to experienced armor modelers who can handle complex suspensions and time-consuming track assemblies.