A Sherman Rhapsody by Faustnik
16 November 2002 email: jmqtv(at)iol.pt
All this started as a discussion between me and Doug (our host), where we both are right (in some way). The question was about the validity and historical accuracy of the ESCI/ERTL (now re-released by Italeri) M4A1.

Doug argued that this version, as build right from the box, never existed, and as such it was an incorrect model (which is correct). He also states that even if slightly modified (mostly making it a dry-version), it was still a very rare vehicle, with very few wartime photos (and he is also correct in this statement). For my part, I stated that this model did exist, even if a few modifications were necessary to make it the correct version, and also that even if few vehicles were ever made/converted, it could be used as a valid model (for which I'm also correct).

The question was that he was looking at the forest, while for my part (being mostly a modeller/skirmish wargamer) I prefer to look first at the tree.

We both agree that this is a very good model (one of the best from ESCI) and at 1/72 scale, contrary to some lines written in some discussion forums stating a 1/76 connection. That incorrect statement is, without doubt, due to looking at some details too small in the ESCI kit (a normal scale problem from their part) and cross-referencing it with the Squadron/Signal publication Sherman in Action. While a good book, even by today’s standards (which didn't say a lot on publication matters for Allied vehicles), S/S never manage to publish their scale plans correctly, and as an example, the M4A1(76)W plan is really at 1/74,9 (using the graphic scale at the bottom). This is clearly a case of looking at the branches and taking them for the forest.

So, why this review, when Doug had already made a magnificent job, compiling all that 1/72 Sherman kit arcana?

Well, first I always try to defend my "lady", meaning that I will try to present not only an analysis of the ESCI/Italeri M4A1, mostly in terms of scale, but also on terms of what it really replicates, and after that, what uses a modeller can do of it.

Some of my suggestions are very easy to accomplish, meaning only a couple of pieces/elements to be added, while others, while still easy, could look a little daunting for the beginner.

First, we need to established some useful info:

A note on the case of the scale. While I measure the important items of the models here in analysis, one must be aware that:

  • I will gladly accept variations within a 5% of "official establish dimensions" (whatever this is), mostly due to the technology used on 1/72 kits, so some items which scale down as 1/73 or 1/71, will be, in my opinion, very acceptable;
  • Also, in the case of American industries during WW2, it's an established fact that variations exist concerning overall dimensions of mass-produced elements, due to the various factories producing the same elements. This way, the only concern, by the official entities, will be that this same elements shouldn't be 5% less in terms of dimension and the items shouldn't weight more than 5% their approved standard.
  • Measuring kits parts is always problematic, not only due to the technology used, but also due to the available scale plans. On the later, while good plans did exist, sometimes the technology used for their reproduction will consistently not print plans at the announced scale. This seems to be the case of the already mentioned Sherman in Action, from Squadron/Signal, so not having a total access to the "Hunnicutt bible", I'm using the excellent plans (in 1/35) from Mark Powell, presented in the "masterpiece" Sherman Firefly, from Mark Hayward.

In this analysis of the ESCI/Italeri M4A1 Sherman, I will go from the "specific" to the "general". This means that I will start treating the separate elements of the kit, and later making a global analysis.

In terms of scale:

Kit Part Kit Measurement Real Vehicle Actual Scale Should be
Hard Plastic Tracks width 5,75mm 406mm 1/71 5,6mm
Vinyl Tracks width 5,1mm 1/79
Hard Plastic Tracks pads width 3,85mm 296mm 1/77 4,1mm
Vinyl Tracks pads width 4,0mm 1/74
Bogie Wheels diameter 7,0mm 508mm 1/73 7,05mm
Bogie Suspension Unit height 10,6 721mm 1/68 10,0mm
Sprocket diameter 9,3 690mm 1/74 9,58mm
Idler diameter 7,6 565mm 1/74 7,85mm
Distance of centre of wheels in Bogie 11,6mm 842mm 1/73 11,69mm
Upper Hull length (less nose) 69,8mm 5072mm 1/73 70,4mm
Upper Hull width 36,85mm 2560mm 1/69 35,6mm
Total upper Hull height * 10,5mm 758mm 1/72 10,5mm
Turret diameter 27,55mm 2025mm 1/74 28,1mm

The Tracks

These, either in soft vinyl or hard plastic, as Italeri offers both in the same box, represent the T48 rubber block, with rubber chevron. This is a most common track from mid-1943 till the end, and as such at home in any front from that period onwards.

Tip: Making extending end connectors is just a case of using plastic-card, of 0,5mm thickness, cutting it in a 1,4mm width strip, and making a trapezoidal form, with 1,5mm width on the base and 1mm on the other side. After this, just glue it on the end connectors of the plastic tracks. It will help if with a small saw, you engrave lines where it will glue on the connectors.

Bogie Wheels

The ones presented in the kit try to represent the mid-production (1943) 6-spoke, with the holes welded shut, even if the ribs are little disproportionate.

You could use them right from the box, concealing some of the detail with some mud, as it happens on real world, or improve them. Do not forget that due to overhauls and repairs, sometimes different types of bogie wheels may be present in a particular vehicle.

Tip: Four different types of spokes were mostly used, with a 5th variation being very rare (the 5-spoke one). For the first, either adapt one from the M3 Lee/Grant from Hasegawa (scale?), or cut/drill the holes on the ESCI/Italeri ones, with the option of rebuilding the ribs. On 2nd just use the ones from the kit, with the option of rebuilding the ribs, and gluing small rectangles of plastic-card to simulate the welded holes. The 3rd is a problem, as major conversion is needed, or simply trick yourself, by using the wheels from the kit with the back (the part with lower deepness) to the front. For the 4th, the solid smooth type, just fill in with putty (look at photos).

The Bogie Suspension Units

These represent the basic, not-upswept return roller bogie, with the (normal) late track skid. As such, very at home from 1943 until the first production of 76mm armed Shermans. From October/November, the upswept bogie starts to made their presence seen in photos in the ETO.

The only improvement will be making the ribs on the return roller arms, and thinning the track skids a little to be more at scale.

The Sprocket Wheels

Representing the second variant with round cutouts, and central depress area. As such, used mostly on 75mm gun Shermans. From late 1943, another variation appears, the simplified version, the flat one, without the cutouts, most common on late 75mm armed vehicles and on 76mm Shermans.

Tip: For a flat sprocket, just fill in the round cutouts, with putty, but do not remove the bolts.

The Idler

Represents the open six-spoke idler wheel (here represented in low relief), and as such no problem here.

The Lower Hull

The nose (or differential/final drive housing) replicated in the model is the late one-piece, cast, sharp-pointed version. The only improvement to make is adding the reinforcing ribs on the sides of the lower towing eyes. For an early version of these cast one-piece noses, just sand a little on the tip of the nose to make it a little rounded.

The Upper Hull

Now this is the most conflicting area of the model. As represented in the kit, it has a 47º sloped front (really around 52º, but…) with protuberant bulges for the driver and radio operator. On the top of the front hull, two large hatches, opening to the side, permit the entering and exiting of the crew, and between them is the blower. The vent, normally mounted in the front slope, was slightly relocated, just aft of the radio operator hatch. On the sloped rear (10º as norm on M4 and M4A1) no cut out is visible, like on normal M4A1 hulls (the 1/76 Nitto/Fujimi M4A1 is just that type of Sherman).

On terms of detail, I only complain that some parts of it, like the rear fuel caps, and the vent cap, being too small for the scale, and this was perhaps the reason for some persons giving it a 1/76 scale …

As represented in the kit, without external side thickened armour outside the sponson ammo racks, this is a Wet-stowage hull, used, to my knowledge, during wartime in 76mm armed AFV’s.

The Turret

As a large-hatch hull demands, ESCI presented us with a late high-bustle turret, with M34A1 gun shield rotor assembly, side pistol port, two slip-hatches on the commander station, and an oval loader's hatch. An excellent replication of the late turret, with only a missing piece to make it perfect - it doesn't sport the reinforced left lower front cheek.

This was necessary because during production, this side of the turret was thinned down on the inside to accommodate the gun controls. Later, this was discovered as being a weak spot, and was covered with a slab of armour plate until this problem was rectified with later turrets, with the reinforced lower cheek.

The Hät Connection

The HäT kit depicts a middle-late rolled-steel, welded 56º hull, with one-piece round transmission cover, narrow long drivers hoods without front appliqué armour, but with side appliqué armour (more or less well depicted). On turret terms it has the middle-late low bustle version, without pistol/ejection port, and with right side appliqué armour (needing only removing a little, around 1mm, of the lower part just under the line of the ring splash), and the M34A1 gun rotor combination (good gun barrel).

On the lower part, it has the complete sand-shields combination, a very simplified and wrong rear hull plate (the access doors are too BIG), no more detail. The track assembly tries to replicate the T51 model, but over-scaled and most evident are the missing track guides.

The bogies are a reasonabe representation of the late six-stamped spokes, with a late flat front sprocket and a "normal" open idler wheel.

On the bogies assembly, while being a somewhat "crude" representation, it does the work reasonably well, with the only gross error being that this model depicts a late upswept return roller assembly, only common on vehicles produced from the 2nd quarter of 1944 onwards (mostly, if not only 47º hulls).

In terms of scale:

Kit Part Kit Measurement Real Vehicle Actual Scale Should Be
Tracks width 6,2mm 406mm 1/65 5,6mm
Tracks pads width 5,75mm 296mm 1/51 4,1mm
Bogie Wheels diameter 7,05mm 508mm 1/72 7,05mm
Bogie Suspension Unit height 9,9mm 721mm 1/73 10,0mm
Sprocket diameter 9,7mm 690mm 1/71 9,58mm
Idler diameter 8,05mm 565mm 1/70 7,85mm
Distance of centre of wheels in Bogie 11,7mm 842mm 1/72 11,69mm
Upper Hull length 78,85mm 5590mm 1/71 77,64mm
Upper Hull width 37,3mm 2560mm 1/68 35,6mm
Total upper Hull height * 9,8mm 649mm 1/66 9,0mm

Any comments will be appreciated.

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