M4 Sherman VVSS Suspension System A (Early)
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII


This set presents the later war T2C-2 intermediate raised roller pattern vertical volute spring suspension. According to Pete Harlem in The Modeler's Guide to the Sherman, this type of bogie was used extensively on U.S. tanks from 1943 onward.

The strong point of this set is that you can create a functionally articulating suspension, which is most desirable if you are placing your AFV on uneven terrain. Of course, this works best if you also use individual track links as opposed to rubber band tracks, so be aware at the outset that you're going to have a pretty work-intensive project ahead of you. Tasca thoughtfully provides different back plates to attach the bogies to Tamiya, Italeri, or DML hulls. A new pair of final drive covers with axles is included to replace those that come with the Tamiya and Italeri kits. The bogies include casting serial numbers and the horizontal casting mark across the middle section of the front surface, features that varied from one manufacturer to another. The three bolts at the bottom of the gudgeon blocks (both front and rear) as well as the bolts securing the rubbing blocks to the levers are crisply rendered.

You also have a choice between an elliptical production skid style and the more familiar late war final version. The intermediate style is hard to identify in period photos, but was likely seen on 1943 production tanks.

On the down side, it's curious that, with such attention to detail, Tasca did not reproduce the four bolts that secured the roller arm to the bogie bracket. Nor did they add the open bolt holes on the side of the bracket opposite the roller arm. This is likely a limitation of the injection molding process, but a scale diagram to use for positioning and drilling the holes would have been a very helpful inclusion. As it is, the instructions are primarily in Japanese, which does little to clarify why one would choose the available options (such as the skids or the two different axle caps for the rear idler). The diagrams are helpful, although it did take me some time to see that the "T," "I," and "D" amid the accompanying Japanese characters in headers bars identified the particular Tamiya, Italeri, or DML hull illustrations.

Assembly of this kit begins with determining your style of idlers, either open spoked or solid spoked (and by extension, which type of these two styles you will use as road wheels). You have three options of sprockets: fancy smooth, revised fancy smooth, and solid. One nice aspect of the sprockets is that Tasca has cast them so the connection of each piece to the sprue is made through three thin slivers of plastic on the back side of the sprockets, rather than connecting directly to the tips as is often done. There is a small sprue of two sizes of poly rings, the larger size for use with the solid spoke idler and all three styles of sprockets. There is no indication as to what one should do with the smaller poly rings.
Both styles of road wheels have the grease plugs on the hubs. The solid spoke wheels have separate back sides that are inserted to complete the wheel, a welcome improvement over the open back Tamiya wheels. There are mold seams and some unevenness on the outside surfaces on the wheels and idlers that must be cleaned up.

Tasca includes on the sprues the miniscule rivets that secure the rubber tire to the rim on the road wheels. If you desire this level of detail, you need to carefully shave these rivet heads from the sprue and fasten them to the inner face of the rim. There are 12 rivets per wheel, times twelve wheels (only enough to do the outward facing sides of the wheels). If you want this detail without the eyestrain, Tiger Model Designs has a nice resin set of wheels that has the rivets molded onto the rims.

For this review I constructed a couple of the bogie units, each of which is comprised of fourteen pieces, including a pair of wheels and three pieces of rubber pad that you measure and cut from a small foam sheet. These pieces are stacked atop one another and sandwiched into one half of the bogie. The vertical volute springs rock against the pads, which compress as the road wheels moved over the terrain. Once the other half of the bogie is in place, the separately installed levers slide on the rubbing block, presumably just like a real suspension. Of course, care must be taken in assembly so as not to get any glue on moveable parts and defeat the whole purpose of this product.

You'll want to clean up the joint seams between the two bogie halves before installing your choice of skids, which are cast more thinly than the usual original kit parts. Unfortunately, the more common long skid is missing one of its four retaining bolts.

When attaching the sprockets and idlers to your tank's hull, you will need to alter the axle lengths to varying degrees, depending on the hull you are using. For the Tamiya hull, you'll need to cut out 0.5mm from the center of the rear axle and narrow the axle's diameter to 2.4mm, and remove 0.8mm from the tip of the front axle. The DML hull requires that you shave the diameter of the rear axle down to 2.4mm, and add a small length of 2.4mm diameter rod to the front axle. Only the Italeri hull escapes such surgery. I did not venture into this part of the project for my review since I haven't determined what tank I'll use with this set.

Overall, this is a pretty good set, nicely detailed and crisply molded. It's puzzling that, with the level of detail Tasca provides, key bolts are missing. At least they could have included them on the sprues, as they would likely be used much more frequently than the rivets for the road wheels. This fact and the less-than-helpful instructions keep this set from being a five-star product.

Ultimately, whether this kit is worth the high price (at approximately $33, it's as much or more than the cost of most complete Sherman kits) depends on how badly you need a fully articulated suspension. Consequently, when you take into account the assembly of link-to-link tracks to take full advantage of the Tasca suspension and the necessary modifications to the source kit, this product is geared more towards the experienced or advanced modeler.



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter