|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 todays 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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 AFVs.
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:
Any comments will be appreciated.