by: Stefan Halter [ ]
Introduction and History
Tamiya’s M4A3(75)W was one of the first models I ever built and it was the basis for all their later Shermans up to and including the recently released Israeli Sherman. Though it can still be turned into a nice replica and is certainly an easy build, an up to date model of this important version has long been overdue. For quite some time now there have been two companies who could have released this version simply by combining existing sprues from their previous releases and adding new decals – a release that could not get any cheaper. DML now are the ones to come first with this one (with Tasca being the other company who should have all the parts ready).
The A3(75)W version of the ubiquitous Sherman was chosen as the standard 75mm armed M4 version for the US Army in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) and slowly replaced the M4 and M4A1, though after the Battle of the Bulge the 76mm armed versions were clearly favored. The A3 came in two basic hull types, the early “dry” stowage with 60° glacis plate and the later “wet” stowage with 47° glacis. The 47° hull Shermans having wet ammunition stowage meant they did not have add on armor plates (as often wrongly depicted with the Tamiya kit). It also had the late turret with separate loader’s hatch and thickened cheek armor on the turret front right. In essence, this was the last development step of the 75mm armed Sherman and the final production batch had all the late features of the VVSS Sherman. This kit depicts one of those very late M4A3 and basically has the correct features for such a vehicle.
As was to be expected and sensible of course, DML did not reinvent the wheel with this kit but instead combined what was around into one kit and released it with new decals, instructions and box art. This of course carries the risk of carrying over mistakes from old releases. I will go through the sprues on by one, note where they were used before and any modifications to them.
Standard of molding is typical DML with mostly very fine detail. However, some of the sprues show there age and there was even some flash on some parts. However, nothing that could not be taken care of in a matter of seconds.
Sprue A is the well known basic Sherman Sprue that I found in all DML Sherman kits in my stash (I have at least 4 of them aside of this release). This one has been with us at least since kit no. 6255 (Battle of the Bulge M4A3(76)W VVSS) but has since seen the addition of weld seams on the upper hull. In this latest release however there have been some small parts added, in particular very finely molded handles that will have to be very carefully cut of the sprue or replaced entirely with wire (which in my opinion is probably the simpler and better looking solution anyway).
Sprue B is the M4 turret sprue that we have seen with the Composite Hull M4 PTO release (Kit No. 6441) and in a modified form in the M4DV release (kit no. 6579). However, the sprue does not contain the turret and turret ring, they have been cut out. This kit actually only uses the gun mantlet and gun related parts (5 parts in all). Quite a few parts for the spares box there.
The second sprue B is again a turret sprue we’ve seen before, at least as early as the same Composite hull Sherman release. It has the full turret as required on this release with reinforced right cheek armor. It also has the split commander’s hatch and the later one piece hatch (marked as not used, but correct for one of the marking options in the kit, see below) as well as the loader’s hatch and again a whole lot of parts for the spares box (more than half I would guess).
Sprue C is the well known clear sprue as seen in all Sherman releases at least since kit no. 6255 (Battle of the Bulge M4A3(76)W VVSS). Most of it is again marked as not used.
Sprue D is another old acquaintance that’s been around at least as long as sprue C. It’s the VVSS suspension bogies with swept up (later) return roller arm and open spoked wheels. Curiously, the idler wheel is not marked as unused and is indicated as an option in the instructions even though all marking options had the late closed spoked idler.
Sprue G has the M4A3 engine specific parts (engine deck, late exhaust cover, rear armor plate, etc.) and remains unchanged at least since kit no. 6255 (Battle of the Bulge M4A3(76)W VVSS). It shows its age on the exhaust cover but this is fortunately not used in the kit.
Sprue H is as old as Sprue G and has a better rendition of the exhaust cover. It is quite good, but some detail is still missing with the Formations after market resin item still the best around in my opinion.
Sprue J is a .50 cal. machine gun sprue that has been released with the M4DV release (kit no. 6579). It is quite good, though still not as good as the Tasca item mainly due to the cooling jacket holes which are very shallow and not to scale in depth. It has early and late ammo boxes with of course only the latter applicable to this release.
Sprue V is yet another very old acquaintance: It is the ancient suspension sprue with earlier straight return roller arm (again marked as optional though not applicable to any of the marking options in the kit) and the correct dish wheels appropriate for all marking options (even though one of them could have simple smooth dish wheels but it is unclear whether it is that or just a lot of accumulated mud). These sprues have been around and unchanged at least since kit no. 6255 (Battle of the Bulge M4A3(76)W VVSS) and are not as fine as the latest Tasca release. They should satisfy most tastes however.
Sprue Z is the lower hull which has the same floor features as in kit No.6183 (M4A3E8 Thunderbolt VII) and is the same as Composite Hull M4 PTO release (Kit No. 6441). To me it does not make sense that an M4 and an M4A3 with different engines would have the same floor but I am no expert on Sherman floors and most (me included) won’t bother with this unless they depict a Sherman upside down.
The PE fret seems to be the only part that was especially created for this release and contains the now standard headlight brush guards, sand guard mounting brackets, front fenders and other parts, as well as a special bonus, straps for the attachment of the tools. These will certainly come in handy and will improve the look of those tools.
T54E1 metal chevron DS tracks with duckbills and a metal tow cable complete the kit in terms of parts. The tracks are very nice and certainly a very good option for the live track of the Sherman.
The previously seen generic stencil decal sheet for the unit markings and registration numbers is complemented by a small decal sheet which contains (all in white) three stars, eight numbers and two small markings that look like little pigs.
There are 2, actually 3 marking options. Option 1 is from the 10th Armored Division in Trier, Germany 1945. A picture of this one can be found on page 59 of Concord’s “The M4 Sherman at War – The European Theater 1942 – 1945” by Steven Zaloga (No. 7001). The picture shows a rather well weathered example with most probably two piece commander’s hatch, the closed dish wheels and what seems to be T48 rubber chevron tracks with duck bill extended end connectors. Markings consist of said “pig” (?) on the turret and the registration number (as far as I can tell it’s U.S.A. 358?3764). In their instructions DML didn’t bother to even provide you with a suggestion for a registration number but instead just tells you to use whatever you like from the generic decal sheet. The box art doesn’t help either, it only shows the U.S.A. part… Not a strong performance by DML.
The second and third marking options are from 11th Armored Division near Andernach 1945 (west side of the Remagen Bridge; supposedly in March 1945). The markings are supposedly based on the picture on page 69 of Concord’s “The M4 Sherman at War – The US Army in the European Theater 1943 – 1945” by Steven Zaloga (No. 7036) showing the right side of the vehicles. The only marking difference between the two is that one has the number 113 on the side in large hand painted numbers and the other 114. One can faintly recognize the remains of large white stars in front of the numbers. No other markings are visible. The vehicles differ in that 114 has the later one piece commander’s hatch and possibly the simple dish wheels (or a lot of accumulated dirt) and 113 has the two part hatch. 113 has T54E1 tracks with duckbill extended end connectors and supposedly 114 has these too (not apparent in the picture). Both also have rails along the turret for stowage. Another picture of 113 can be found on page 64 of Concord’s “US Tank Battles in Germany 1944-45” by Steven Zaloga (No. 7064), this time in Bayreuth in April 1945. The picture shows the left side of the vehicle and there is a large white star in front of the number and no stowage rails on the turret. There are three options here: Either the left side differed from the right, or the star was added again later and the rails removed, or the tank is from another regiment with the same marking (which would be a huge coincidence that both vehicles would be of the exact same type).
The instructions are the typical DML affair with line drawings and quite crowded, though I have seen worse. It is not pointed out which options apply to which marking version and placement of some parts is a bit vague at best. As mentioned above, some of the options are not really applicable to the markings.
This kit is obviously an easy way for DML to make more money out of the same molds. This of course is not a bad thing per se, but it is very obvious that no love was lost on this kit. The box art is mediocre at best and the marking options seem to have been chosen for their simplicity. Whether the details pointed out in the instructions match the marking option obviously was of no concern to DML. This is especially true for the suspension options where there really is no option (raised return roller arm being the only choice for these marking options) or the commander’s cupola which in case of the third option should be the one piece hatch.
Nevertheless, the kit is worth its money and is certainly a vast improvement over the ancient Tamiya kit. The addition of a new PE fret is a nice bonus, especially with the tool straps. Pay attention to the details of the version you want to build and you will find all parts necessary on some sprue in this kit, even if the instructions say it’s not used. Maybe find a more interesting marking option and you’re good to go – even for the PTO of course. Recommended!