new Academy M4A3 105mm Sherman with M1 Dozer Blade kit arrived hot on the heels
of the new DML M4A3 105mm HVSS kit, so I can compare both of them as to their
off, Academy fudged on one factthe dozer blade provided for this tank should
have been the M1A1 dozer blade, which was designed to fit on the wider M4 series
tanks with HVSS suspension, not the M1 series blade. The difference was the earlier
blade had a width of 124 inches and the new one was 138 inches. That works out
to just about 100mm even in 1/35 scale, but the one in the kit is only 96mm assembled.
Reversed, that comes out to 132 inches, so Academy split the difference. The later
T7 installation used variable blades, but as it had no arms on the sides, this
could only have been meant to be the M1A1.
on to the kit proper, the details are not bad but some could have been better
done. One case in point is the fact that the upper hull still has the "trench"
type of weld beads used, and hopefully Academy can fix this bugaboo of Sherman
modelers with subsequent kits. Otherwise, the hull is nicely done with a separate
engine deck and access panels, fenders and braces, hatches with separate viewers,
viewer mounts, guards and cover flaps, gas filler caps, two styles of travel lock,
and a cast nose with separate tow shackles. The mounts are molded in place, which
could be awkward if the modeler chose to use them, but with the dozer blade in
place they are nearly impossible to see so it is probably a moot point.
the kit does not come with the correct bore cleaning rods for the 105mm howitzer,
giving the 75/76mm set instead, as well as not including the rather prominent
first aid kit for use outside the tank.
HVSS bogies comprise ten parts each, but all are fully detailed and the wheels
have details on both sides. The idlers do not, but they are detailed on the outsides
and the inner parts are hard to see so again not a major problem. The drivers
consist of six parts each (disks, track guides, and two drums) with a choice of
the "cast" or "plain" toothed disks. Note that you need to
pay attention to details, as if you use the dozer blade you have to not install
the front two bogie bearings (E3) on each side of the tank as the dozer frame
mounts (C25 and C26) fit in there.
tracks are one place where Academy took a shortcut. T80 and T84 series tracks
cause problems for manufacturers producing Sherman models, as the center guides
are basically hollow cubes with a hole for attaching them by bolt and nut to the
center track connector. DML's solution with its new series kit was to make the
track from its styrene cement compatible DS plastic, and provide 176 separate
slide molded guides for it. Academy basically cheated, combining the features
of the T80 tracks from the M4 series and the T80E1 series tracks from the M26/M46
series tanks by having a square guide open at the top with separate "teeth"
on the longitudinal ends. Most modelers who hate track will be happy, however,
as you only have to heat seal the ends and mount them.
turret is completely new and makes use of slide molding in the same fashion as
DML, namely to capture the pistol port detail accurately and also to hollow mold
the gun barrel for the howitzer. However, this turret does not come with the "cheek"
casting of the DML one nor does the kit provide the attachment fittings and "gutter"
for the mantlet cover used on many M4A3 howitzer tanks. Both of the subject tanks
of this kit had mantlet cover attachments, so you will have to come up with these
on your own.
the other hand, the turret has nicely done parts for the rest of the bits, and
it does come with both a .50 caliber and a .30 caliber machine gun for use on
the turret. The turret also has separate ventilators, so those into "mix
and match" can easily convert it to a good late-model "high bustle"
turret with a 75mm gun or even a MAP 76mm. (Think "Kelly's Heroes" and
the Yugoslavian Army tanks they used.) The turret sprue also comes with the late
model twin exhaust deflector grille for the rear of the hull.
kit comes with two finishing options, both Marine Corps and both from Korea. They
are B43 and D43 of 1st Tanks at Hagaru-ri, November 1950. Since there is a good
shot of both tanks on page 500 of Hunnicutt's Sherman book (among others,
as this shot gets around) that shows both tanks less their dozer blades, you can
see exactly how to finish them. B43 has the fenders removed and the spare tracks
mounted directly on the hull sides, the dozer blade piston attachment missing,
and its commander's machine gun either stored or removed. D43 is more complete,
with fenders and the piston, as well as mounting an M2HB and with the first aid
kit on the left side of the hull. Both tanks have twin whip antennas at the rear
of the turret.
directions show them in olive drab with white markings and stars, and it is hard
to tell from most photos as to the accuracy of the colors or not (e.g. Marine
Corps green, which has a bluish tinge, or real OD that has burnished out). The
large numbers (B43 and D43) appear to be yellow, as do the serial numbers.
this is not a bad kit but once again Academy cut a few corners that could easily
have been kept. It is an easier kit to assemble than the DML one, and modelers
who want a reasonably good kit that will not take a long time to assemble should
keep it in mind.
A 89 M4A3 47 series degree hull
B 99 M4A3 75/105mm high bustle
turret and detail parts
C 36 M1 dozer blade
E 59x2 HVSS bogies
M4 series details
1 M4A3 lower hull
2 T80 vinyl tracks
to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample.
Note: The 105mm howitzer appeared in both the ETO and PTO late in the war, so
you could use this kit, without the blade and with appropriate markings, in a