Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale =9139-=9145 Kit Number 6447; Sherman El Alamein - Smart Kit; 393 parts (303 in grey styrene, 64 etched brass, 23 clear styrene, 2 DS plastic, 1 length of twisted steel wire); estimated price US$50
Advantages: virtually new kit with all but four sprues replaced; nicely done components augur more variants to come, including M3 series vehicles
Disadvantages: some minor quirks here and there
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Commonwealth armour and Sherman fans
Sherman modelers are a fanatical lot - proudly referring to themselves as =93Shermaholics=94 =96 and are very picky about failings they see in kits of the breed. But one missing entry into the family of the M4 Medium Tank up until the present time has been the Early Production or =93Direct Vision=94 =96 so called due to the slit viewers in front of th= e driver and radio operator =96 in the early cast and welded hull variants of the tank.
Some of the first production variants of this tank, dubbed the Sherman II by the British to track with its US M4A1 designator, were shipped to North Africa and served at the famous battle of El Alamein with the 8th Army. They were committed to combat about the same time their American counterparts with the 1st Armored Division were going ashore in Algeria at the other end of the Maghreb land mass in Africa.
DML has now released a kit of this tank, and it is virtually a new model in comparison with their previous Sherman kits which each built upon the other. Only four sprues remain - the basic detail sprue, the early model low bustle turret, the clear styrene and the two-piece British bustle bin.
The turret is familiar to most Shermaholics but for the record consists of the basic turret with several options, including a choice of M34 gun mount without =93ears=94, M34 mount with =93 ears=94, add-on armor protection for the coaxial machine gun with the M34 mount, or the M34A1 mount. This variant, however, uses either the straight M34 or M34 with =93ears=94 based on which one you select.
The hull is completely new top and bottom, and a =93slide molded=94 three- piece transmission cover is also new to the family. Specific details are provided to give two options to the grouser bin vents at the rear of the hull and either an open or closed set of engine access doors at the rear of the hull with two styles of =93locking door=94 (but no interior components). The kit comes with the early =93square=94 air cleaners as well.
Of greatest interest to modelers is the fact that the kit comes with a variation on the M3/Early M4 suspension with the return roller mounted on top of the bogie assembly. After checking my photo collection of these bogies, they are an exact match for some found on the preserved M3 Medium Tank with the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles, so while they may or may not be the most widely used variants they are correct and nicely done. The model also comes with a DS plastic set of the early T41 rubber pad tracks with non-reversible pads; while they appear to be a bit thin, this is apparently correct and one reason the reversible T51 links were adopted soon after the war began.
Since this kit covers the British version it comes with a full set of etched brass sand shields and fender racks, including one that appears to be for the British style petrol tins on the right front fender. New design headlight guards (e.g. easier to fold and install) complete with a folding jib as well as the commander=92s =93blade=94 sight are provided.
Finishing directions and markings are included for nine tanks: C Squadron, 9th Lancers, El Alamein 1942 (sand and black, three diffferent tanks covered); HQ 24th Armoured Brigade, El Alamein 1942 (sand and dark green); HQ 2nd Armoured Brigade, El Alamein 1942 (colors not given); C Squadron 3rd Hussars, 9th Armoured Brigade, El Alamein 1942 (sand overall); B Squadron Warwickshire Yeomanry, 9th Armoured Brigade, El Alamein 1942 (sand with dark colored lower hull, color not given); B Squadron 3rd RTR, El Alamein 1942 (sand over unknown color); C Squadron, 10th Hussars, 2nd Armoured Brigade, El Alamein 1942 (dark earth overall). A nice sheet of Cartograf decals are provided, but I do wish DML would pay closer attention to their finishing instructions as recent kits suffer from either a lack of directions or a lack of callouts which match the recommended colors list.
Technical assistance is credited to Pawel Krupowicz.
Overall, with a nice new set of fresh components and parts and the promise of more variations and a set of M3 kits, this will be very well received by the =93Shermaholics!=94
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.