ARM: Review - Tamiya 1/35 scale M4A3E8 "Easy Eight" Sherman

Kit Review: Tamiya 1/35 Scale Military Miniatures Kit No. 35346; M4A3E8 She
rman "Easy Eight"; 308 parts (290 in olive drab styrene, 10 clear styrene,
2 vinyl track runs, 6 vinyl caps); retail price US$53.99
Advantages: clean, fast-building "Tamiya-Quality" version of the early prod
uction E8 suspension tank with 76mm gun
Disadvantages: no etched brass options; very limited decal sheet selection
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all "Shermaholics" and modelers who do not like kits wi
th lots and lots of parts!
One of the most iconic vehicles ever built was the late war version of the
US M4 Medium tank with all of the improvements and options now put in one
place. This vehicle, the M4A3 (76W) HVSS, had the 500 HP Ford GAA V-8 engin
e, the 47 degree "Wet Stowage" hull, the T23 style turret with commander's
vision cupola and loader's oval hatch, a 76mm M1A1C gun with muzzle brake,
and the horizontal volute spring suspension system with T66 one-piece track
link tracks. Some final improvements followed, such as the later T80 steel
and T84 rubber pad connector-hinged tracks, but this was pretty much the f
inal model.
It has been surprisingly hard until the last 15 years to find an accurate
model of one in 1/35 scale. The first kit, Tamiya's No. 3018/MT118, came ou
t in the 1960s and was either motorized or unmotorized, but was truly a poo
r kit. It had around 200 parts but was around 1/33 scale, had one-sided whe
els and tracks with no details, and generally a bad kit (markings were take
n from the 1951 movie "Here Come the Tanks" and not actual vehicles).
DML's first attempt was No. 9009, Korean War with "Rice's Red Devils" mar
kings. This kit had over 700 parts with a small fret of etched brass and si
ngle link T66 tracks, but had some "soft" molding and a few of the parts we
re scrimped on. This kit was circa the early 1990s but at that time was a V
AST improvement on the Tamiya one. Several other variations followed on thi
s kit but probably their best one of the lot was their No. 6183 "Thunderbol
t VII" with a lot of changes to the molds and details, such as the turret s
hapes and weld beads.
In the early 2000s a new company appeared, Tasca (now Asuka) which concent
rated nearly completely on M4 medium tank variants. Their comparable versio
n included kits like No. 35-023, M4A3E8 Sherman "Easy Eight" (Korean War).
But this kit went to enormous lengths of details and had 1,163 parts, many
of which were the tracks with separate guide teeth and pads (572 of the par
ts were the tracks alone). The details were very nicely done, but the kit w
as "fiddly" with nearly 20 parts per bogie assembly and semi-working suspen
sion.
Now - after more than 47 years - Tamiya has finally stepped up and done a
proper M4A3E8 kit worthy of their marque. They have gone for the early prod
uction (e.g. ETO variant) of the tank and the kit is a nicely done version
of that vehicle.
For ONCE Tamiya has actually changed their molds and kit layout, and now t
he lower hull comes in six parts with a firewall and SPONSONS and fenders a
ttach to it! Why it took them this long to come to the conclusion that the
area over the tracks is not open is beyond me!
All of the parts except for the M2HB are new moldings from what I can tell
. The parts layout screams that Tamiya has a number of other new versions o
f the M4 family in the works so expect to see them make their own offerings
of things like M4A3 late models, 105mm howitzer tanks, and the like. Some
of the moldings may be shared with their earlier Israeli M50 and M51 kits (
I suspect that is where the bogie assemblies came from but do not have eith
er kit).
Options are at a premium but one thing it does offer is a moveable exhaust
deflector assembly, as well as all hatches and the gun may be elevated. Tr
acks may be left to move due to the use of poly caps (oddly missing from th
is kit!) in the old Tamiya style. Bogies consist of eight parts each.
The hull halves fit together in a new and rather unique method: two pillar
s are used to attach to the sponsors/fenders and a mount is in place at the
rear for another pin to fit it. The front of the hull slides into place un
der the bolt strip of the transmission cover. From the looks of things it l
ooks suspiciously like a motorized version of the kit will be offered as mo
tor mounts and fittings are present inside the hull, and this "snap togethe
r" feature is not needed for a static model.
The gun is nicely done (one piece barrel) with a three part muzzle brake w
ith separate center deflector. The commander's cupola has clear styrene ins
erts and also a pair of clear styrene goggles is provided for the commander
half figure. A very nicely done set of details is include such as styrene
periscope guards and the complete stowage rack and clips for the M2HB machi
ne gun.
Finishing options are very spartan, which was a surprise: olive drab with
all white stars (5th AD, Germany 1945) or olive drab with white hull stars
and blacked out turret stars (4th AD, Germany 1945). No bumper codes, names
or other markings are provided.
Overall this kit is a nice option for many modelers; while it is not as go
od on some of the details as the Tasca/Asuka or DML ones, it has half the p
arts of the DML kit and one-fourth the number from the Asuka one. This make
s it a great "weekend" kit (which will take most upgrades for those that wi
sh to find and fit them) but most modelers will want to track down after ma
rket markings to replace the bland ones in the kit.
Cookie Sewell
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AMPSOne
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