Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/72 Scale Armor Pro Kit No. 7302; M4A3E8 (76) HVSS; 189 parts (160 in grey styrene, 27 etched brass, 2 tan DS plastic track runs); price US$14.95
Advantages: very nicely done kit with both general options and specific options for "Thunderbolt VII"
Disadvantages: "Not German"
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Shermaholics and US armor fans
DML continues to rock with their small-scale Sherman line, and in this case it appears they have done a very commendable job of it. The model builds up as an early production M4A3 with the "Wet" stowage hull, a 76mm M1A1C gun with muzzle brake, the "split ring" loader's hatch, HVSS suspension, and T66 single pin cast track. It also comes with a sprue of additional parts to correctly represent Colonel Creighton Abrams' "Thunderbolt VII" command tank when he was commanding Combat Command B of the 4th Armored Division in early1945.
The model is of the normal "mix and match" sprue provision of most DML kits, and in this case provides the early T23 type turret sprue, an apparently updated HVSS suspension sprue with a great deal of details present, a generic Sherman detail sprue, the aforementioned supplemental parts sprue, a small fret of etched brass, and the two DS glueable plastic track runs.
The hull and turret details look very good, and as it is a generic sprue it also has the M1 gun barrel (no muzzle brake) and M1A1 with thread protector on it. The .50 caliber now has a set of spade grips but they come on another sprue; at least DML has been listening to complaints about such details being missing on early members of the "family."
The suspension consists of the six bogies for the HVSS suspension with each bogie requiring eight parts - a "bicycle" formed by two wheels and the bogie frame, two outer wheels, two spring sections, a joiner for the articulated sections of the bogie, and a mounting to attach them to the hull. Wheels are detailed on both sides - this is quite a nice touch in 1/72 as it was only recently those features made it to 1/35 scale kits! Ditto for the idlers.
The tracks are very nicely done T66 tracks with acceptable levels of detail; they may be a bit thin but once installed and painted it should not be too noticeable.
The supplemental parts sprue provides a matched armor array for "Thunderbolt VII" of applique panels for the bow and turret, but as is too often the case DML's directions don't highlight which parts are for which tank and show all four offerings for finishing with the same parts. The parts are all marked with the ambigious "optional" blue arrow favored by DML so the modeler is left up in the air unless he has good reference. (For "Thunderbolt" use all of them.) Note this also includes a .30 caliber in front of the commander's station.
The brass parts cover new front fender tips, the luggage rack at the rear of the hull, and headlight guards. Also note that before cementing the hull together you have to drill out several holes to mount the OVM on the rear of the hull and this is shown in Step 4. The drawing isn't too clear but it is from the inside of the hull and you can see the indentations to drill when inverted.
As noted, there are four finishing options, all in plain olive drab:37th Tank Battalion, 4th Tank Division, Germany 1945 (as already noted it was CCB 4th Armored); generic 4th Armored Division, Germany 1945; 35th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne 1945; and 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division, Germany 1945. The latter is the well-known "Flat Foot Floogie" and it is rendered correctly (it's from a song of the period - "Flat foot floogie with the floy joy...")
Overall this is a much better kit than the unfortunate 105mm howitzer version whose gun and mantelet let it down, but I wish DML would use better instructions and keyed references when there are possible variations.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.