Sherman was originally intended to carry a 75mm main gun. But the
turret design also incorporated features to allow a 105mm howitzer
to be fitted. Soon after Sherman production started, work also began
on developing a satisfactory mount for the M4 105.
with the design of the breech, turret balance, and other features
caused delays. In February 1944, the first two M4 105mm howitzer
tanks were assembled. In May 1944, the M4A3 with 105mm howitzer
was in production as well, and this version is the subject of this
product is a re-tooling of its original M4A3, released in the early
1980s. As such, the howitzer version has many of the same features
and flaws. The most useful updates would be a set of tools from
Formations or CMD, photoetch from ABER, and Academy's .50 M2 machine
starts with the lower tub and suspension. No real surprises here.
Tamiya gives you a choice of sprockets, the fancy smooth version
(also included in their M4 kit) and the simple plate sprockets.
The suspension is fair enough, though it misses a load of bolt detail.
Track skids are split between the separate bogey halves, so there's
a seam to fix, and they are also on the thick side. Simple and effective
replacements are available from Lionsmark.
wheels are the pressed spoke type. These are rather bland, with
hollow backsides, and no detail on the front face. The idler also
has no back detail. It's a pity Tamiya didn't include the smooth
roadwheels from the M4A3 75mm re-release.
upper hull has the traditional Tamiya recessed weld seams. Details
are fairly good, but you could improve on the usual suspects: tools,
front and rear brush guards, sand shield strips, fenders, etc. The
front hatches are rather plain, so you might want to get a set of
the good looking Tiger Model Designs hatches. Alternatively, Blast
Models has a M4A3 detail set, which includes about everything you'd
need except for PE brush guards.
engine deck is not a separate part, which would have been useful
if you wanted to convert the basic upper hull, but more on this
grab handles are molded on and could be replaced with wire. Also,
the bump stops for the engine deck that supported the open engine
doors are not included. These were simple metal slabs welded on
one end to the deck; you can make your own simple plastic card updates.
The rear stowage rack is a bit heavy handed. First try fitting a
tarp or blanket from putty over the rack, then add boxes etc. The
putty makes it easier to ensure a good fit, and the heavy details
of the kit parts will go unnoticed. Otherwise, ABER provides a PE
version in their set, but it's a bit of a waste should you add any
exhaust deflector is extremely thick and over-scale. Get a replacement
from Formations Models, or take a look at the article by Mike Canaday
on this site. This will also take care of the missing sand shield
strips, as without these fitted, the deflector seems to be floating
in mid air.
are the vinyl type, and represent the T48 tracks without duckbills
fitted. They look quite good for this medium, so most modelers will
probably be happy.
turret is all new, and this kit is the first to provide the 105mm
in plastic as a WW2 tank. It's a pity Tamiya only gives us the all
round vision cupola for the commander, and not the split hatch as
well. Early howitzer tanks have this feature. To me, it's especially
strange, as these are in their other Sherman kits. Nevertheless,
the turret is quite good, with nice details. The periscopes are
separate pieces, with the top flaps as well. All the other bits
are also separate, although you might want to add some details to
the turret hatches, such as wire handles.
turret pistol port is a separate piece, though it can't be assembled
in the open position. It needs some fairing in with the rest of
the turret to conceal the seams where the port and turret wall meet.
The Ma Deuce is passable, but better options are available, such
as the one in the aforementioned Blast kit or those from Academy
include ammunition boxes for the MGs, K-ration boxes, oil cans,
jerry cans, spare wheels, rucksacks, helmets, and a .30 cal MG tripod.
These all come from either the original M4A3 kit, or the M4 "early."
The tripod and K-rations boxes are new however.
are nice three infantry figures included: two riflemen with M1 Garands
and a BAR gunner, shown in the box art running alongside the tank.
A is slightly different from the one in the M4A3 75mm kit. Here,
he's taking a peek around the tank, perhaps checking if it's safe
to cross the street. He's dressed in an overcoat and has the late
war high buckle boots.
buddy wears a mackinaw, and a scarf around his neck. He's running,
hunched over, and also has the high buckle boots. The BAR gunner
wears a M1943 jacket and has the eralier boots with the webbing
round the ankles. He's carrying the BAR by its handle in his right
hand, while using his left hand to hold his helmet. Poses are quite
good, and it's nice to see some GI's in winter garb.
new commander is a simple figure, but he does the job, looking through
his binoculars. There are also some legacy M4/M4A3 figures. These
are not very good, but the torsos for the drivers will serve the
purpose as Hornet head holders quite well.
are included for three vehicles. One is from H Co., 69th Tank Bttn,
6th AD in the Ardennes. If I recall correctly, this one was based
on a picture in a Concord book. This tank is in whitewash, and has
large tactical numbers on the hull, as well as some geometrical
signs, commonly used in 6th AD.
tank is from H Co., 756th Tank Battalion, in Germany. The instruction
sheet has a typo, which says the tank was in service in February
1944 in Germany. The side box art has this one illustrated and correctly
dated February 1945. Named "Houston Kid II," this tank
appears in Hunnicut's Sherman book and it painted overall olive
drab, with the turret covered by a tarp. The lower hull configuration
as provided by Tamiya seems to be right for this tank.
option is an unnamed tank from 48th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored
Division in France, 1945. Simple markings are comprised of a serial
number and a set of stars.
what's the actual value of this kit? It's far from perfect, and
it still has the same flaws as in the earlier kits. The new turret
however is a good move, and the kit provides the basis for some
interesting vehicles. You could always mount an HVSS suspension
(or check out Academy's M4A3
Sherman 105mm Howitzer and M1 Dozer Blade). There were few vehicles
fitted with HVSS deployed to Europe, but there were some, so in
that regard the kit represents a culmination in Sherman development.
The best route would be to use the excellent AFV Club suspension
think it would be fairly straightforward to convert it to a M4 with
the 105mm howitzer fitted by using the Italeri M4A1 kit. This would
provide you with the proper rear plate, a suspension with some more
details, and the Italeri lower hull does include sponson plates.
The engine deck of the Tamiya needs to be cut away, so this means
some work, but nothing that is really difficult, and a good exercise
at scratch building. The Italeri hull would require the later square
air filters, but the sprues from Tamiya's M4 kit provide these as
spare parts, so you can do some "mix-and-match" if you
have these kits on hand.
Tamiya engineered the engine deck as a separate part it would have
been easier to chop the kit to various other configurations. It
could have indicated as well, that Mr. T is planning more Shermans.
I think it's a shame that Tamiya's hasn't done that. The kit is
good as it comes, although a bit overpriced compared to the Dragon
Shermans of 2005, which come with far more options and have better
detail overall (althought the DML hull weld seams are recessed as
well). That said, these kits were released at a later date, so the
progress would be natural. Hopefully, Dragon will keep on releasing
such good kits, and Tamiya will be tempted to re-tweak their molds
and give us an all-new Sherman.