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Italeri 1/35 scale U.S. Marines M4 Sherman

Manufacturer: Italeri, available from Testor, 620 Buckbee St., Rockford, IL 61104-4891, 815-962-6654,
Kit: No. 6389 Scale: 1/35
Price: $25
Comments: Injection-molded, 288 parts (3 vinyl), decals
Pros: Generally good kit of the Sherman, new rear deck, fording trunks, wood plank armor

Cons: Some version-specific characteristics missing, some sink holes, no interior detail

The M4 Sherman was originally designed to be powered by a radial aircraft engine, much like its predecessor, the M3 Grant. Even before production on the new design began, it was clear that another powerplant would be required due to the demand for the radials by the aircraft industry. While development of a specially designed gas engine was progressing, plans were made to install a 12-cylinder General Motors diesel engine. The resulting vehicle was the M4A2, and it was the first production model of the Sherman to feature a fully welded hull. Over 11,000 M4A2s were built by the end of the war. It was the main version shipped to the Soviet Union, and was also used by the British (as the Sherman III) and the Marines in the Pacific theater.

If you just looked at the box of Italeri's U.S. Marines M4 Sherman, you would never know that something special is inside. The basic hull of the kit is the old M4A3 kit from years ago. The turret parts are on the same ones from the Sherman Calliope kit issued a couple of years ago that also includes the pressed-type spoked road wheels and idlers. But there is also a new sprue that has an M4A2 engine deck.

The parts derived from the older kits show their age, and some flash and sink marks are present. The kit features one-piece vinyl T54-style tracks. The hull is an all-welded, late, wet-stowage type, with a 47-degree front plate appropriate for either the M4A2 or A3 version. Also included with the older parts are the open-spoke road wheels and idlers.

A first for an injection-molded Sherman is the pair of fording trunks. They were added to the vehicle so it could be driven off a landing craft onto the beachhead. A Sherman equipped with the fording trunks could operate in water up to 6 feet deep, and they were a common sight on Pacific Shermans.

Both hull and turret hatches can be positioned open or closed, although no interior components or figures are provided. Markings are included for an M4A2 and an M4A3.

Italeri has been making the most out of its older kits by including alternate parts that replace molded-in items. This was the case with the new rear deck. I started carefully cutting the hull on the inside where indicated by scribed lines. Cutting through the hull was easy, and within a minute I had removed the M4A3 engine deck, and the new M4A2 deck was installed. You can't tell that the hull was ever cut! Nice job, Italeri. Unfortunately, there are some other differences between the A2 and A3 not addressed by the kit. The rear plate on the A2 was angled at 10 degrees rather than the 15 degrees of the A3 version. While 5 degrees may not seem like much, the difference is noticeable when the two hulls are side by side. Also, the rear plate of the lower hull is much different on an A2, but you get only the A3-style plate in the kit. If you are careful assembling the hull, no filler will be needed.

On the suspension, the pressed, closed-spoke wheels were the ones usually seen on Pacific Shermans. Italeri's wheels are molded well, showing the depressions for the grease fittings and the proper pattern on the rear face, but they are missing the grease nipples and rim bolts. Italeri's bogie assemblies allow the wheels to pivot, but not accurately, and you need to glue them in a fixed position or they will deflect incorrectly when the tracks are installed. Don't fill the small circular depressions on the return rollers. They are not ejector pin marks, but are on the real thing and should be positioned facing outwards.

The drive sprockets had bad sink marks in their centers, which I covered with circles of thin styrene punched out with a Waldron punch-and-die set. Two styles of drive sprockets are provided in the kit, and either can be used. I left off the drive sprockets and idlers until later to make it easier to add the tracks after painting.

The spare track pieces for the front of the hull were marred by sink marks, so I left them off my model. The kit instructions show a closed-spoke spare road wheel attached to the front of the hull, but no extra wheel is provided in the kit. The part number on the instructions is for an open-spoke wheel. Typical of all injection-molded kits, the brush guards for the lights and the guards for the periscopes are too heavy for the scale. The wood plank side armor is well molded and was easy to add.

The turret assembly was quick and easy. There were some gaps where the upper and lower turret halves meet, especially at the back around the bustle. I filled the gaps with super glue mixed with talcum powder, and used a motor tool with a medium burr to smooth the seam. While the motor tool was running, I used it to rough up the turret to improve the cast effect. I glued together the spare-track "armor" for the turret (also common on Pacific Shermans) but just taped the links to the turret so they would maintain the correct curvature while they dried. They were removed when set so they could be painted separately.

Assembly of the wading trunks was easy, but the template for the intake screen was too small. Fortunately, plenty of screen was provided so I could try again, this time using my own measurements. The one-piece vinyl tracks were well-molded and easy to install, but a bit stiff, causing them to float above the return rollers. Nearly all the photos I've seen of Pacific Shermans show "duckbill" grousers added to the track, but they weren't included in the kit.

With the basic assembly finished, I airbrushed everything with Testors Acryl olive drab. The rubber road wheel tires and idler tires were accented with PollyScale grimy black.

I brushed on a coat of Future floor polish where the decals were to go, and made the decals snuggle down with Micro Sol. After a coat of PollyScale clear flat, I weathered the lower hull using thin Tamiya buff and deck tan. I applied a burnt-umber oil-paint wash, and when it was dry, I dry-brushed with lightened versions of the base color.

The finished model matches the dimensions given in the ultimate Sherman reference, Hunnicutt's Sherman, A History of the American Medium Tank. It took about 18 hours to build my M4A2, and I was especially impressed with how easy the conversion was. Still, I wish Italeri had molded a brand-new hull to address the differences in this version. Despite the age of some of the parts, the kit still builds into a fine Sherman. If you are willing to live with some inaccuracies, Italeri's "new" Sherman is a good value. You'll also have quite a few spare parts left over for your Sherman parts collection.


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