|Part 1: First Look|
MSRP: $99.95 (approx $60 online)
Tasca's M4A1 Medium Tank #35-010 shares some suspension and small fixture components with their earlier Firefly model kit, but is mostly a new casting. Out of the box, it builds into a highly accurate representation of the US M4A1 Medium Tank. As with all things "Sherman", photo reference is recommended when it comes to selecting marking options - as particular tanks did not always share the same features and small fixtures during wartime. It also includes their excellent Cal.50 Machine Gun and Jerry Can set with option to model water or gasoline containers, sold separately.
The Tasca model kit represents a unit produced by Pressed Steel Car Company.
M4A1 Medium Tanks built by Pressed Steel Car Company, Serial Numbers 1 through 164 correspond with Registration Numbers 3014757 through 3014820. After #164, Pressed Steel produced both M4 and M4A1 Medium Tanks, with Serial Numbers assigned as the tanks rolled off the assembly line. There was no fixed serial number run for either type afterwards. This mixed production run of M4 and M4A1 tanks ran from Serial Number 165 through 1408 - Registration Numbers 3014820 through 3016265.
Inside the Model Kit
Along with the expected Instruction Booklet, Decal Sheet and separate Marking Sheet, this Tasca model kit provides a length of rubber padding, polyvinyl caps, photoetched fret, a set of polyvinyl Tracks and sprue-trees holding 379 parts. For the most part, flash is virtually non-existent and ejector pin marks are easy to handle. None of the parts in my model kit were marred by sinkholes or short-shot. None of the more delicate items were damaged during shipment and handling.
Tasca's ten-page Instruction Booklet is busy, but clear and easy to follow. Exploded view diagrams aid the modeler in assembling the parts into simple subassemblies, and for the experienced Sherman Tank modeler, child's play to execute. Along with the expected parts number callouts, Tasca provides painting instructions using Tamiya and Gunze Sangyo colors, a couple of small photos of a real vehicle to aid in illustrating subassemblies, a finished model shot for positioning the Figure and diagrams for trimming out Tow Cable and Stowage Board. Translation to English is clear and concise in covering special notes during the assembly sequence.
The Decal Sheet carries markings for four M4A1 Medium Tanks, though photo documentation is recommended for modeling any particular vehicle accurately. If you aren't into that level of accuracy, then I think you will find the Decals easy to use, thin and in register. They compare well to photos of the vehicles published in reference books and on the Internet.
Parts & Some Highlights
Tasca's T-51 Rubber Block track runs are two-piece affairs, with 80-links per run. They are flexible, can be stretched slightly if need be, and daylight can be seen between the Track Pads. The detailing is fine and they are the glueable types, designed so that the joint will disappear once joined. There are three points on the inside Track Pads requiring the modeler to cleanup, but a sharp X-Acto Knife should take care of these without problems. Advanced Sherman modelers might opt to replace these parts with their favorite aftermarket track sets, but the Tasca parts might look pretty good assembled and fitted to the miniature. I will see when I build the kit.
Tasca provided three types of Drive Sprockets with a polycap trapped inside after assembly for fitting to your miniature. None of them have option to add bolthead or stiffener details to the backside of the plates, but this doesn't detract from the kit.
Not surprisingly for a kit of this level of detail and engineering, Tasca's twelve Stamped Road Wheels (Parts #B7) and Stamped Idler Wheel (Parts #A8) come with backside inserts. Downside here, though, is that they do not come cast with the rivets on the Rim - a noticeable feature of these types of wheels. Tasca, however, provides the modeler with the necessary rivets (24 each x 12 Road Wheels) to add to their model parts. Having gone through this exercise in building a Dragon Models M4A1(76) Operation Cobra Sherman, I can't say I'm excited about undertaking the exercise again so soon.
In assembling the six Bogie Units, Tasca provides a "gimmicky" feature in which they instruct the modeler to trim out three lengths of the provided rubber pad to insert above the Vertical Volute Springs (Parts #B2) before assembling the rest of the subassembly, giving the suspension a sense of articulation. Though interesting, I believe I might not use this feature when building the kit, and will replace them with lengths of styrene strip. If you don't want to go this route, Formations Models sells a resin fix for this feature as well. Tasca provides two types of Track Skids for affixing to your Bogie Units, but Parts #B17 in my kit example are missing the innermost Bolt head on each part. Also, a common chore for the Sherman modeler, the front faces of the Bogie Units are missing the four boltholes for the Return Roller Mounts, and call to be drilled out.
Tasca's Lower Hull represents the Pressed Steel Car Company riveted version nicely. It is made up of five parts, with separate Sponson Floors complete with Drain Plugs and weld beads were appropriate. Test fitting the parts together caused no concern, and the subassembly appears that it will glue and set without need for additional bracing. What I liked in the subassembly is the Engine Bulkhead (Part #E5) - as this looks quite like the real version in examples of Shermans undergoing restoration - and is prime for modelers aspiring to add an Engine Compartment to their miniature. To further facilitate this desire, Tasca offers the Rear Wall (Part #E3) with separate access Doors (Parts #F17 & #F18).
Continuing in this area, the modeler is given both square and round Air Cleaners and nicely done Idler Wheel Mounts. You also get a photoetched Engine Screen to insert in this area that Sherman modelers have had to traditionally add themselves prior.
The three-piece Transmission Cover is nice, and has Ordnance Numbers D4151 and D50308 stamped on the part. If you want to replace or otherwise dress up this detailing, Archer Fine Transfers #AR88007 Surface Details #7 will come in handy here. The single-piece Transmission Cover, as well as the Upper Hull and Turret, have very subtle cast texture present. So subtle, perhaps, that it might go unnoticed with heavy paint application.
The modeler gets refined and nicely executed fixtures found all around the M4A1 Medium Tank in this model kit, perfectly acceptable for out of the box modeling efforts. Options for clear plastic Periscopes instead of the solid plastic versions, pre-drilled Headlights and Headlight Guards with Stowage Plugs molded in-place are nice inclusions in this kit. I did not get the traditional length of nylon string for rendering the Tow Cable in my kit example, however.
Hailed as one of the best Cal.50 Machine Guns currently available, Tasca's represents the later version seen in WW II. Tasca does not provide the earlier #D40731 Ammunition Tray Assembly and #D69820 Pintle seen on early M4 and M4A1 Medium Tanks, but there is an aftermarket option available. I have used the excellent Formations Models #F019 parts and recommend them for modelers wanting to model an early machine gun fit.
Upon initial inspection, I found no major issues with the kit, and expect a trouble-free build. Though expensive, I would recommend the Tasca model kit to any level modeler, and it is a great choice for someone who has never built a miniature Sherman Tank prior. Out of the box, I expect it to build into an accurate M4A1 Medium Tank. For advanced modelers, it provides features and room for customization plenty. Thanks to Tasca for providing the review sample.
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