Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/72 Scale Armor Pro Kit No. 7273; M4A1 Sherman Normandy; 171 parts (110 in grey stryene, 57 etched brass,4 tan DS plastic track runs); price estimated at US $13.98
Advantages: clearly best Sherman kit in this scale; detail rivals 1/35 scale kits; provides the modeler with the ability to make the model as detailed as possible
Disadvantages: brass details are now bordering on the ridiculous in regard to size and usability
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all "Shermaholics" and WWII US armor fans in small scale
Dragon continues to amaze with what they can do with their moldings, and this latest 1/72 scale effort is truly impressive. As many "Shermaholics" - die-hard US M4 Medium Tank fans - will note, it is a "mid-production" M4A1 cast hull Sherman, with 75mm M3 gun in the full-width M34A1 gun mount, with a "low bustle" turret without a loader's hatch and "split hatch" commander's cupola, "soft" cast hull transmission cover, VVSS suspension with flat-top return roller mounts and pillow blocks, pressed steel welded wheels with "solid" disk drive wheels and pressed steel welded idlers, and a choice of T48 rubber chevron or T49 "three bar cleat" tracks. Or, at least something close to that, as many modelers have different names for the various components. Suffice it to say it is very nice and very accurate.
The overall level of quality in this kit is truly amazing, as it is better than any of the current 1/35 or 1/48 scale kits in regard to its overall accuracy and amount of detail. Since DML has promised to redo many of their older Sherman kits, it is hoped that this level of detail will be put into those kits.
Take, for example, the turret. It comes with an large number of add-on parts, as well as a "slide molded" pistol port on the left side which does not have to be puttied into the side and is open, so the modeler may leave it that way or close it. All viewers and vision devices are separate items, and the modeler also has a choice of either styrene or etched brass covers and guards for the devices. The M34A1 mount comes with a correct base unit, screw-mounted frame, and mantelet, as well as a hollow-molded gun bore.
The hull has sponson floors molded in, as well as a large amount of extra details that are added on. If the etched brass is used, it is one of the most complete hulls around, as it comes with the little seen and seldom modeled screening that covers the exhaust pipe exits under the back edge of the hull top. All fine details such as light guards may be replaced with etched brass; only the fenders here are left as styrene parts.
The suspension is well done, using a bit of trickery where the bogie mounts are molded in two parts and the wheels are molded on as part of the rear suspension arms in one assembly. The vertical volute springs are separate (one unit) and the return roller is molded to the front half of the bogie unit. When assembled, the fiddly modeler may want to drill tiny holes in the front of the bogie unit to simulate its "reversible" feature but that is about all it needs (or perhaps an etched brass track return guide at the top.) The drivers come with two different "teeth" patterns, a "fancy" ring on the interior and the "solid" one on the outside, so future suspensions may come with different outside rings. Once installed, the inside cannot be seen so it is a moot point. The same is NOT true of the idler, which shares the failing of most 1/35 scale kits of not having a backing to it.
The model comes with TWO sets of tracks, a first. One is the very common T48 rubber chevron tracks, most commonly seen during this period on 3rd Armored and 4th Armored Division M3 and M4 chassis based vehicles. Until MG Harmon passed out an order late in the fall of 1944, most 2nd Armored Division tanks, for example, had T51 smooth rubber tracks. The other set, while lovely, is the much rarer T49 steel "three bar cleat" track, which was less common on tanks and found more often on support vehicles in US service.
All tools are separate parts, and the model comes with two essential options for this version of the Sherman: add-on applique armor panels for the hull and turret, and a very delicate "Culin" hedgerow cutter with five blades for the bow. The latter is all etched brass, but very nicely done; however, it will probably have to be soldered to get sufficient strength to the parts.
The etched brass here goes from the useful (such as the grouser vents and the aforementioned exhaust surround screening) to the ridiculous, such as lock hasps for the hatches that are very hard to even see on the fret. The main problem with parts this small is getting a sufficient "footprint" to attach them to the model without having them vanish into a blob of epoxy or ACC cement.
Four finishing options are covered: D-32 "Derby" from 2AD, Normandy 1944; "Aide de Camp", A Company 741st Tank BN, Omaha Beach, June 1944; "Battling Bitch", 7th Armored Division, France1944; and one unidentified vehicle, Southern France 1944. All except "Derby" are straight olive drab; the other is shown in brown over OD but I think it has been found to have been using the 1st Army Group black and OD scheme.
Overall this is a really good kit that bodes well for future releases in this scale, and basically "sunsets" most other M4 models.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.