Tamiya Sherman M4A3 105mm *English text*

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Martin Dogger
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Tamiya Sherman M4A3 105mm *English text*

Berichtdoor Martin Dogger » 26 mei, 2006 23:20

he 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.

Problems 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 kit.

Tamiya's 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 gun.
The Hull

Construction 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.

Road 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.

The 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.

The 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 later.

All 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 stowage.

The 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.

Tracks 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.
The Turret

The 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.

The 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 Academy's machine gun set.
Accessories and Figures

Accessories 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.

There are nice three infantry figures included: two riflemen with M1 Garands and a BAR gunner, shown in the box art running alongside the tank.

Rifleman 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.

His 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.

The 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.
Decals

Markings 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.

Second tank is from H Co., 756th Tank Bttn, 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.

Third option is an unnamed tank from 48th Tank Bttn., 14th AD in France, 1945. Simple markings are comprised of a serial number and a set of stars.
Summary

Well, 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. 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 kit.

I also 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.

Had 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.

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