ARM: Review - Italeri 1/35 Scale M4A3 76mm Sherman

Kit Review: Italeri 1/35 Scale Kit No. 6440; M4A3 76mm Sherman; 208
parts (206 in olive drab styrene, 2 black vinyl tracks); price not
known but estimated at US $33.50
Advantages: today, none
Disadvantages: older kit re-released with new number and decals but no
corrections to flaws in the original kit
Rating: Recommended with reservations
Recommendation: for all Sherman fans
The old saw about "time marches on" is quite true, and there is no
place to better illustrate that fact than the modeling industry. Some
manufacturers will put out the same kits, flaws and all, over and over
and over again with only increasing prices to show for their efforts.
Sometimes modelers don't mind as their kits are "the only game in
town" and any other option - mostly expensive resin kits or
scratchbuilding - just aren't viable. But in regard to others,
where the kit is obsolete or woefully wrong, it's not really a good
Take the case of the Italeri Sherman kits. The first one, an M4A1, was
their kit number 225 (all 1/35 scale kits now have a 6 added in front
of the old number, so mentally add that to see if the kit is still
offered) which came out in the mid 1970s. When it was released, it was
the best Sherman on the market (as it was the ONLY Sherman on the
market!) and only had the re-leases of the awful Tamiya 1/33+ scale kit
of an M4A3E8 or Revell "M4 Something" Sherman to contend with in
the market. Modelers snapped it up in droves and for years it was held
as the reference standard.
In short order Italeri used it as the basis for other kits, most
notably an M32B1 tank retriever (kit number 203), an M7 Priest (kit
number 206) and Priest "Kangaroo" (kit number 203). But in 1981
Tamiya released their kit of an M4A3 75mm Sherman which, while flawed
in its own right, soon became a much more popular kit. However, since
it was a 75mm and the Italeri kit was a 76mm a great deal of
cross-kitting was done. That kit was later used as a basis for an
M4A3E2 "Jumbo" and also an M4 Early Model and M4 105mm howitzer
tank kits.
But in the meantime one mandatory reference work for US Army armor
fans, and Sherman fans in particular, was released - "Sherman: A
History of the American Medium Tank" by R. P. Hunnicutt, first
printed in 1978 - which changed the knowledge base and view of
Sherman model kits. The Tamiya and Italeri kits were soon compared to
the details presented in this massive tome and found wanting.
In specific, the Italeri kit was found to have some shape errors with
its turret and a gun barrel with a totally erroneous sleeve where it
joined the mantelet. Over the years, and in comparison with the much
easier to built Tamiya kit, it was also dinged for its flimsy
suspension and stiff vinyl tracks which tended to pull the suspension
out of plumb and give the model a "rocking horse" profile.
Undaunted, Italeri proceeded to release other Sherman variants, with
so-so results and attention to detail. About 1989 they released their
kit number 253, which was called the "M4A2 Sherman 'Jumbo'"
which was totally wrong. This kit was actually an M4A3 hull top which
used the lower hull and turret from the original M4A1 76mm kit of
nearly 15 years earlier. As such, it was not too bad, other than the
previously mentioned errors and the fact that most M4A3 76mm Shermans
used the later production turret with an oval loader's hatch and not
the hip ring split hatch provided on this kit. This kit tended to
vanish from the market very quickly due to its labeling error.
Now, here in 2006, what should show up but this kit - which is
nothing more than the original kit number 253 "M4A2 Jumbo" in a new
box with a set of vinyl T54E1 tracks in place of the original's T51
tracks, donated to the cause from kit number 288, an M4A3 with T34
Calliope rocket launcher.
This is not such a bad kit, but alas many other Sherman kits have come
out from first Dragon and then Academy that eclipse it, as Italeri has
fixed NONE of the kit's errors.
First off, it retains the turret problems from the original M4A1 kit.
While the upper hull is not bad (so far it is the only one that makes
an attempt to show flush welding of the hull, and not the
"trenches" found in the DML and Academy kits). The suspension is
the original 30 year old Italeri one with the "rocking" bogies that
are unsuitable for use with the kit's tracks. The wheels are the
"solid spoke" type and do having backing details on them, but are
narrow and the detail is set back too far. This kit does not offer
fender skirts, although some components are provided for them.
To its credit, the kit is not hard to assemble, and with a new turret
does look the part. It also needs either a new suspension or new
single-link tracks to avoid that annoying "rocking horse" look.
A figure, the same one from the original 1975 release, is provided,
but is rather static, and better figures can be found.
The kit offers six finishing options; while it does have a new decal
sheet, as with too many recent Italeri efforts appears to be
incomplete. This is a shame, as one version is a French 2nd Armored
Division one named in honor of a second lieutenant killed in action.
The other choices are 11th Armored Division 1945, 752nd Tank Battalion
1945, 1st Armored Division 1945, 6th Armored Division 1945, and one
whitewashed one in the Colmar pocket, 1945.
Overall this kit is probably best used for learning how to upgrade
older kits with replacement "after market" parts - a great place
to start younger modelers or new fans who want to learn about these
skills. But at the increased prices for Italeri kits, it may not be a
bargain, and intermediate level modelers may wish to opt directly for
either a DML or Academy kit.
Photos and sprue shots of this model are available exclusively on
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Cookie Sewell
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