T-51 Non-Reversible Rubber Block Track for M4 Sherman Tank. 1/35th-scale styrene individual link, semi-workable track links. Contains 520 styrene parts and instruction leaflet. Price: $21.95 USD, plus shipping.
Those of us who became used to being able to add various styles of individual-link tracks to their US M3- and M4-based models welcomed the arrival of RHPS to the marketplace back in the late 1990s. Recently, as interest apparently waned, the company went dormant and the molds went up for sale. Mr. Paul Decker, of Northbrook, Illinois USA, has recently acquired the molds and has now begun to market these tracks again under the Panda Plastics brand name. Modelers should note that this company is not associated with any other corporate entity of that name.
The first items sent for review included this track type, the T-51 non-reversible rubber block. This type is close enough in appearance to substitute for the earlier T-41 reversible rubber block track, which was widely used by US- and some British/Commonwealth-manned M3/M4 variants, particularly in the early stages of the war.
The parts consist of 174 links and 348 end connectors, with six of the former and twelve of the latter per sprue. When each part is cut from the sprue, if care is used with the knife, very little extra clean-up will be required. The end connectors press fit to each link, joining them together in a very sturdy yet flexible fashion. This is essentially why they are described as being semi-workable; the modeler wont be able to run his tank across the rug with these guys! Naturally, since there are many parts and the assembly requires continual repetition, a jig will be of great help, such as the one Steve Zaloga uses. It is made of Evergreen stock and a description can be found in some of his books and articles related to the Sherman tank.
Molding of the medium grey styrene parts are quite crisp; clever design of the sprues eliminates any ejector pin marks such as are seen on similar products from manufacturers like AFV Club. The track shoes are rather thick, yet my sample set showed only the faintest hint of shrinkage and that only on the occasional link. This indicates that quality control is quite good.
Styrene drive sprockets from left to right: Tasca, Italeri, DML, Tamiya and Academy. The tracks are wrapped around a Tasca drive sprocket.
I have fitted a length of this track to drive sprockets from Tasca, DML, Tamiya, Italeri and Academy kits; only the Academy unit will not fit unless it is modified. Naturally, the modeler is encouraged to test fit the parts and the instruction leaflet provides information on how to modify drive sprockets for proper fit.
With the emergence of many new M3 and M4-based kits over the past couple of years, the re-release of these tracks is quite timely. Personally, this reviewer is delighted to see Panda Plastics take the plunge. Now, if modelers want to see these things made more easily available and for the line to continue AND to expand (especially in this highly-competitive market), theres only one way to do it: go out there and buy a few sets.
Frank V. Curly Stooge De Sisto
Panda Plastics can be contacted at: P.O. Box 2371, Northbrook, Illinois 60065-2371, USA. Phone: 847-205-9573. E-mail Paul Decker at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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