Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale Modern AFV Series Kit No.3539; M51 Isherman - Premium Edition; 831 parts (671 in grey styrene, 117 in etched brass, 22 clear styrene,12 steel springs, 6 brass tubes, 2 DS plastic track runs in tan, 1 turned aluminum barrel); price US $44.98
Advantages: upgrades the running gear and details from this older DML kit with contemporary levels of detail; replaces disliked two-piece single link tracks with DS plastic and "slide molded" center guides
Disadvantages: Some lingering problems, but attention to the etched brass fret and supplementary sprues show others have been fixed; directions not correct (again)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Israeli and Sherman fans
When DML released their highly anticipated M50 and M51 Israeli Sherman kits over 10 years ago (Nos. 3528 and 3529 respectively) they landed with something of a thud. While DML had many of the details right, and at the time the best 1/35 scale HVSS suspension, the kits suffered from a lot of sloppy details (such as water can holders that did not fit) and poor research on others, such as the signature muzzle brake on the M51 which was at least 20% underscale. The directions also were murky, as they did not cite the right parts during assembly. Needless to say, disappointed modelers were not happy nor kind with their comments about the kits, especially when Academy released an M51 which was better in many areas, had a simpler suspension to assemble, and vinyl tracks.
Fast forward to 2007. DML has now revamped their M51 kit, and are re-releasing it in the Premium Edition series. The kit has received a lot of TLC, etched brass, and some corrections, and while far more expensive than the originals (some which can still be found at shows or flea markets for single-digit prices) it is a much more substantial kit and more in line with the acceptable norms for kits today.
First off, the model retains about 200 parts in mix-and-match sprues from the M50 and M51 kits, with some updating and corrections, and then adds in the 439 parts of DML's excellent new HVSS suspension from its M4A3E8 and M4A3 (105mm) kits. Since the Israelis eschewed rubber pad tracks, this works well as those kits came with the T80 steel faced tracks and that is provided here with the two DS plastic runs with separate guide teeth. For simplicity's sake (e.g. simpler cross- kitting) A slide molded lower hull is provided.
Turret and hull details from the M4A2/A3 kits are also added in, such as the vision cupola, the fuel filler caps, and either the M2HB machine gun or a .30 caliber Browning.
One of the big slams against the original kit was the fact that the signature of the big French 105mm smoothbore gun stuffed into the turret, its fancy muzzle brake, was at least some 20% underscale, and many modelers were upset over this failing. A close examination of the sprues in this kit shows a more accurate one with more correct proportions tucked away on the M51 sprues, so DML has at least responded to its critics by fixing that glaring error. The new muzzle brake copies the shapes from the original; in his great book "Israeli Sherman" Tom Gannon noted that DML had the shapes right but was way underscale, whereas Academy had the right size but was too flat and missed the character of the muzzle brake. This kit would appear to have fixed that problem.
However, there is a big problem with the directions (par for the course.) The CORRECT parts for the accurized muzzle brake are H-6, 7, and 9. The ones which are INCORRECT as they are too small are J-30,31, and 32; both sets appear to attach to muzzle cap J-33.
Surprisingly, while the kit now comes with extensive etched brass upgrades, an etched brass muzzle brake is not one of them. (It would actually be too thin in scale if they did make one that way, so not a big loss.) The kit does come with etched brass water can carriers, fenders and braces, and other "standard" Sherman bits like periscope guards and headlight guards. It also has clear styrene parts from other Sherman kits, such as headlights and periscopes, as well as one item missing from the original kit - a clear lens for the searchlight.
The kit comes with a nice set of Cartograf decals, but only one finishing option; the "Zippori" Brigade, IDF, Sinai 1967.
Overall, DML has fixed most of the "gigs" with the original kit, and anyone who did not get one the first time around will want to pick this one up, as this time it really requires no additional items to create a really good model of the vehicle. But I suggest you get good references as Israeli vehicles are subject to changes from vehicle to vehicle.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.