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DRAGON MODELS LIMITED
6404, US M4A1 DV Smart Kit. 1/35th-scale styrene/multimedia kit containing 327 styrene parts (including 22 clear), two DS100 soft styrene track lengths, one length of braided metal wire, one etched brass fret, two water-slide decal marking schemes and six pages of instructions in 11 steps.
This specific variation is designed to represent the early-production version, which was characterized by direct-vision ports for the driver and bow gunner, cast three-piece differential cover and early M3 style Vertical Volute Suspension System (VVSS). In addition to new markings for US Army M4A1s, this release also has a modified photo-etched fret, minus the sand-shields seen in the El Alamein DV kit, item number 6447.
These are composed of two lengths DS100 material, molded in soft styrene, which can be fixed together using standard styrene cement. They represent T41 rubber block types and the detail is typical of tracks molded in this fashion: crisp and accurate. Prior to fixing with glue, ensure that the idler wheel axle (a separate part) is doing its job, so the tracks are properly tensioned.
This is essentially an all-new early D37893 VVSS suspension system, commonly referred to as the M3 type. The read-wheels are the welded D38501 types with five spokes, which feature properly-placed grease nipples and relief valves. The brackets consist of inner and outer halves; the parts go together quite easily.
One type of drive sprocket, of the open type, is provided. The idler wheels are welded with five spokes. The final components for the suspension are the completely-detailed final drive housings and the adjustable axles for the idler wheels; the latter fits into its bracket with a separate spindle. It is recommended that the idler wheel axles are not fixed in place until the tracks are fitted; these can be adjusted for proper tension and then glued in place.
The lower hull is provided as a single, slide-molded part and depicts the riveted type, which is proper for this early version up to a certain point in time, if I understand correctly. It features proper rivet, panel and rib details. The hull sides also have the mounting plates for the VVSS brackets molded in place.
Up front, there is an 11-part, E6480 three-piece cast transmission/final drive cover. This has subtle casting texture, foundry numbers and drain plug details. The bolted-together flanges used to assemble the cover come as one part per side; in reality, this is a two-part assembly, so the modeler should add a seam for the proper appearance. The final items are separate tow shackles and their mounts.
There is a choice of two rear plates as well as two styles of separate engine compartment access doors. Other items such as separate grab handles for the access doors and the usual tow shackles and their mounts are given; no tow hook or mount is provided. The multi-part carburetor air cleaners represent the square type, which was the seen on these variants at this point in time..
Upper Hull (Superstructure).
The cast upper hull is typical of early-production types that had direct vision ports and flaps. It is molded with some nice casting texture; again. The drivers hoods are properly-contoured for the direct-vision type and the ports are separate inserts for maximum detail fidelity; separate flaps can be installed in the opened or closed position. A bulge for the vent is in place, while the cover for it is a separate part with nice cast texture; a second cover is fitted aft of the turret ring on the starboard side. On each side of the hull, the lower edge has the small protrusions that were used on these early types to mount sand shields.
The drivers and radio operators hatch lids are each have separate grab handles, periscope heads, covers and rotating plates; the scope heads come as clear styrene items and they can be shown opened or closed. Separate clear styrene head-lamps are provided; they are protected by etched brush-guards, which can be shaped using a provided styrene form. The usual lifting hooks are also provided, but there is no horn given. The front fenders are made from etched brass parts for maximum scale fidelity. The bow .30 cal. Browning machine-gun is a complete assembly, which was made using a slide-mold; therefore it has a pre-bored muzzle with the characteristic slot, as well as proper cooling jacket detail.
Separate filler caps are fitted to three locations on the main superstructure molding, with another two going on the engine air inlet plate. That plate has a separate air inlet cover, which is complimented on the inside by etched brass screening. A separate rear engine bay access hatch lid is also provided. The small cut-outs seen on each corner of the engine bay are all provided with styrene plugs so that specific features can be modeled. All tools are separate and are delicately molded; they include straps made from etched brass. New fuel tank vent covers are given (with etched brass screens), for a total of two different types. Lifting rings and the tail-lamps are based on clear styrene parts and include separate elbow-shaped power conduits, making them the most accurate ones to date. Piping and exhaust fish-tails, which are open at their ends complete the rear deck.
The turret is a typical early low bustle D53018 type with M34 mantle. Two different rotor shields are given for the mantle: the D51288 type without the armored collar and the D68454 with the collar. They are both very well-textured as is the mantle. The smaller rotor shield seen over the co-axial .30 cal. Browning is provided, while the machine-gun itself is slide-molded with pre-drilled bore and proper cooling jacket details. There are two main gun types; one with a continuous taper, and another that flares at the muzzle end. Both are slide-molded in one piece. A complete M34A1 mantle is also given, so a retro-fitted survivor can be modeled.
The turrets upper shell comes from a slide-mold, so the pistol port opening is cast in place (the lid is separate and comes with an internal latch); some work will be needed to remove a mold seam and add texture to the area. The basic details for the type are molded in place, but there are no foundry numbers or symbols present. The lower part comprises the turret ring.
All periscope assemblies are separate and include clear scope heads, separate covers and rotator plates. The commanders early high-profile D69993 split-hatch cupola is made up of a total of 11 parts to include a clear periscope head. Separate detail parts are given for the turret to include US-style radio antennae bases, lift rings and commanders blade sight.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
Overall, I found no problems with the fit of any major or minor component. No sink marks were found, and there were no visible ejector pin marks.
Based on the cited references, I have no completely reliable 1/35th-scale plans to compare the kit parts to. Photographs indicate the kit is very accurate from a visual standpoint. In the area of omissions, this kit lacks a .50 cal. M2 heavy machine gun and mount; these were standard issue items for this tank. It continues to perplex this reviewer that DML brings out kits of US vehicles without this item in the box.
These are well-drawn and rather easy to follow.
Decals and Markings Information.
The decals are from Cartograf and are cleanly printed with excellent color saturation. Film is thin, matte and cut close to the edges of the designs. Markings are provided for the following two US-manned M4A1s:
This is a nice, quite un-complicated kit, done to very high standards. It has no major problems as far as is known and should please fans of these early Sherman tanks.
Frank V. Curly Stooge De Sisto
References consulted for this review included, but were not limited to:
1. Sherman: A History of the US Medium Tank, Taurus, by R.P. Hunnicutt.
2. Walk Around M4 Sherman, Squadron 5701, by J. Mesko.
3. The Sherman in Action; Squadron Armor No.16, by B. Culver.
4. Modelling the US Army M4 (75mm) Sherman Medium Tank, Osprey Modelling 35 (current series), by S. Zaloga.
5. The Sherman Tank in US and Allied Service; Osprey Vanguard 26, by S. Zaloga.
6. The M4 Sherman at War, the European Theater 1942-1945; Concord 7001, by S. Zaloga.
7. The Sherman at War, the US Army in the European Theater 1943-1945; Concord 7036, by S. Zaloga.
8. M4 Sherman, Osprey Modelling 14 (old series), by R.H. Cabos & J. Prigent.
9. M4 Medium (Sherman), AFV Weapons Profile 29, by P. Chamberlain & C. Ellis.
10. Modelers Guide to the Sherman, Ampersand, by P. Harlem.
11. M4A1 (75mm) Sherman Exterior, Allied Command Productions Military Vehicle Workshop Series MV-01, compiled by S. Arnold.
12. M4A1 (75mm) Sherman Interior, Allied Command Productions Military Vehicle Workshop Series MV-04, compiled by S. Arnold.
Reviewers note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reviews.
DML kits are available from retail and on-line shops; for details visit their web site at: www.dragonmodelsltd.com.