One can put up a legitimate argument that the M4 Sherman series of tanks was the most important Allied tank of the Second World War. The initial Shermans that rolled off the production lines in large numbers had what was known as VVSS (Vertical Volute Suspension System) with two road wheels per bogie. These tanks (M4, M4A1, M4A2, M4A3, M4A4) also operated as their main armament a short-barreled 75mm gun. As WW2 progressed, and reports from the fields of battle suggested the need for various “upgrades”, the Sherman series underwent a number of small and major changes. Late in the war, there were two major changes: the introduction of HVSS (Horizontal Volute Suspension System) which incorporated four road wheels per bogie for a better vehicle ride, together with a larger turret needed to house a larger 76mm main gun. The new designation for Shermans sporting these two major changes added “E8” to the end of the Sherman nomenclature. Hence a Sherman with the Ford motor in its rear hull went from being an M4A3 when it had VVSS and a 75mm gun, to an M4A3E8 when it incorporated HVSS and the 76mm gun turret.
What’s in the Tamiya Box
- 5 sprues of injection molded dark green plastic parts
- A small bag of vinyl poly caps
- 1 piece of string (for tow cables)
- 4 cylindrical metal parts
- 1 sheet of waterslide decals with 2 marking options
- An instruction manual, with 8 pages of black and white assembly drawings covering 21 assembly steps plus a 1-page set of color and marking instructions
For anyone familiar with Tamiya’s excellent line of 1/48th scale military vehicles, this new Sherman kit won’t disappoint. The parts are well molded in olive drab colored plastic and are crisply detailed for the scale. Looking over the parts you won’t find any sink marks, and the ejection pin marks are nowhere to be found with one minor exception, which I will discuss later in the review. Parts fit is everything we have come to expect over the years from the masters of kit engineering, and the instructions are basically foolproof. Follow them precisely, and you shouldn’t have any issues whatsoever with the assembly of this kit.
Construction begins with the lower hull. Assembly Sections 1 – 4. Gone are the days of one-piece metal tubs that Tamiya launched this series with about 14 years ago. This kit has a three-piece lower hull: left, right and lower hull plates, which glue together very snuggly, supported by an interior hull cross brace part. Tamiya includes four metal weights shaped like AAA alkaline batteries which the modeler glues into the base of the hull interior with super glue to provide the kit with a little heft. A separate front transmission cover part fits nicely on the front of the hull, with two separate towing lugs. The rear hull plate has separate engine exhaust outlets, towing pintle and lugs, and there is a two-part engine exhaust deflector. The engine access door on the rear hull plate has its grab handle molded as a blob, rather than a separate part. The blob could do with removing, and replaced with a simple bent brass wire item. Study assembly diagrams carefully for trouble-free assembly enjoyment.
Sections 5 through 8 cover the assembly of the road wheels, drive sprockets and idler wheels, plus the four-part bogies. The drive sprockets are two-part affairs, with a nylon washer sandwiched in between to allow for free movement of the sprockets when installing on the model. It is important to keep the sprockets free-moving, as this aids with the installation of the tracks. For ease of painting, I left the road wheels and idler wheels separate from the bogies until after the lower hull assembly was completed. I then primed the lower hull and road wheels etc. with my favorite primer, Tamiya rattle can gray Fine Surface Primer (TAM 67064). I utilized the Mission Model acrylic brand of paints for this project, so airbrushed MMP-020 Olive Drab Faded, US Army FS 34088 for the base coat of all the lower hull parts, followed by painting the rubber road wheel rim area with Vallejo “Dark Rubber”. The wheels were then glued onto the bogies and carefully lined up with one another.
The tracks in this kit represent the T66 metal tracks, and they are very well detailed for the scale. The track parts were removed from their sprues and cleaned up. Tamiya provides the tracks with a long upper and lower length, together with shorter lengths and individual links for around the sprockets and idler wheels. These track links and lengths have ejector pin marks in various spots. For the most part, they are very faint, so can be easily cleaned up with a rounded X-acto blade and some sandpaper. One really only has to bother removing the pin marks on the lower length which contacts the ground (part P2), together with the shorter lengths (P4 and P3), plus the few individual links (P1) where the pin marks are visible. The P1 links that wrap around the drive sprockets and the idler wheels can be left as is because the ejection pin marks can’t be seen once glued in place. When I was finished cleaning up the track flaws, I then primed and painted, utilizing Vallejo “Track Color”. Make sure you follow the assembly sequence for the tracks that Tamiya recommends in their instructions. If you do, you shouldn’t have any issues whatsoever with the tracks.
With the lower hull assembled and preliminarily painted, it is time to move on to the upper hull. Interestingly Tamiya provides the upper hull as four individual pieces with an interior cross-member part for rigidity. So, you get the top hull and glacis plate as one part (B3), plus a left and right side hull part (B4 & B5), with a separate rear hull plate (R8). The driver and hull machine gun operator’s hatches are molded as part of the upper hull section. The hatch grab handles are once again reproduced as little blobs, easily remedied for those who wish to bend some brass wire. There are no hatch vision block guards provided, so if you want these you will have to wait for an appropriate PE set to come out, or scratch build them yourselves. The fenders are separate parts as well, and are engineered such that there is no “see through” issues as there used to be with Tamiya Sherman kits. The way that Tamiya provides a separate rear hull part as well as a separate rear upper engine access hatch part on a sprue “R” different from the other hull parts on “B” sprue, indicates that Tamiya might be planning different “E8” hulled kits in the future? Like the rear hull access door, the rear deck access door part (R9) has the grab handles molded as little blobs. Remove them, drill a few little holes, and replace with bent brass wire for a better look.
The rear hull on-board tools include separate pick head, sledgehammer, shovel, axe and track tensioning device. On the front glacis plate, there are separate headlight parts, horn, hull machine gun and horn/headlight guards. The guards are a tad overscale in terms of thickness, so while the parts were still attached to the sprues, I took a small file and filed them to a more scale thickness. The headlights could do with drilling out and the “glass” area replaced with either a suitable small MV lens or a dab of 5-minute two-part clear epoxy? On the rear hull plate there sits a rack, which Tamiya provides in three parts. The tail light guards, like their cousins on the glacis plate, are a tad thick, so once again were left on the sprues, and carefully thinned with a very small file. The “E8” Sherman fenders were supported by small bracing parts 11 to each side. Tamiya provides these individually, so they need to be lined up and glued in place carefully.
Finally comes the turret, which interestingly Tamiya molds in five main parts: turret ring and lower rear bustle plate, left and right turret sides, rear bustle horizontal plate, and upper turret plate. I have never seen this method of producing a Sherman turret in any previous kit in any scale, but if you are careful it all goes together nicely. There are some very shallow “trenches” where the upper hull part (C3) attaches to the rest of the turret. Once the parts are glued these slight depressions can be filled with some Mr. Surfacer 500 and sanded out. The loaders hatch is molded in the closed position, but there is a separate hatch for the commander’s all-around vision cupola. If one looks head on at the gun mantlet in place, it appears there is a gap at the bottom allowing one to see into the turret interior. It isn’t overly noticeable unless you look for it, but it might pay to take a piece of scrap Evergreen sheet and paint it black, and put it behind the mantle?
The 76mm main gun is a one-piece molding with a separate half muzzle brake part. Very carefully glue the two parts together and then after 24 hours, carefully sand the muzzle break area to remove the seam. Also take sandpaper and carefully remove the seam lines that run the length of the barrel. Finish up with some steel wool. I then primed the barrel with rattle can primer, and left it aside for three days so the primer was well cured. I then carefully inspected the barrel for any flaws. Finding none, I then painted the rear end of the barrel a silver color. The section of the barrel that moved in and out of the mantlet as the gun fired had the paint removed (through friction?). I then masked this area and sprayed the barrel Olive Drab.
There is a three-piece commander’s machinegun atop the turret of this kit. It is lacking in some detail, such as handles at the butt end of the gun. It needs its barrel end drilled out. Tamiya provides a nice half figure to sit inside the commander’s hatch. The figure is five-part, with separate arms, head, together with a helmet and goggles. The detail is good for the scale and should paint up nicely.
Tamiya supplies decals for two simple schemes:
- Vehicle from the 5th Armored Division, Germany, April 1945
- Vehicle from the 4th Armored Division, Bastogne, Belgium, January 1945
Neither vehicle has any markings other than white and green stars. Both vehicles are in the standard overall Olive Drab. The decals are nicely printed, and adhered well to my model which following an overall coat of Mission Models MMP-020 Olive Drab, was then treated to some panel highlighting with the lighter color of Mission Models MMP-022 Faded 3 Olive Drab. Tamiya X-22 Gloss Clear was then laid down over the OD before the decals were applied. Once the decals had sat on the model for about 15 minutes I applied a liberal coat of Tamiya “Mark Fit Strong” decal setting solution. The decals dried overnight and looked fine the next day. More X-22 Gloss was airbrushed over the decals to seal them.
The model was then treated to a panel line wash using Burnt Sienna oil paint and Mona Lisa brand mineral spirits to highlight the raised detail. This was allowed to dry overnight, followed by me removing excess wash using Q-tips dipped in mineral spirits. Two more days were allowed to elapse before I sealed the model with some Tamiya X-35 Semi-Gloss Clear mixed 50/50 with XF-86 Flat Clear. This gives a nice finish which is away from gloss, but not as matte as a true “flat coat”. I then painted the onboard tools in various Vallejo colors, along with the rear brake lights and the headlights. I then began to weather the vehicle with various “dusty colored” paints: acrylic washes (Lifecolor), oil paints (earth tones), and AK Interactive enamel earth tone washes. Be patient, and just keep layering the washes and paints on, and then dragging them about and down the vertical sides of the model. When I was happy with the “Dust” effect, I took some Tamiya XF-57 “Buff” paint, and airbrushed thin layers onto the lower hull and running gear. I wanted this model nice and dusty! I then painted the barrel of the hull machine gun Vallejo Dark Rubber, and then rubbed some graphite power on the raise areas.
As an out of the box kit, this Tamiya M4A3E8 is a delight. Well detailed and easy to assemble, it provides the modeler with a nice miniature of the real machine. It is so well engineered that it should pose few if any problems to any skill level. It does have a couple of areas that many modelers might wish to upgrade: remove the blob grab handles, and replace with bent brass wire. The periscope guards really were a prominent feature of such tanks, so you might like to scratch build or get PE items for this area. I can wholeheartedly give this model “Two Thumbs Up”, and I myself have purchased two additional kits for my collection. My sincere thanks to TamiyaUSA for providing IPMS/USA the opportunity to review this kit for its members.