|1/35 El Alamein Sherman II M4A1|
|Kit Number: 6447|
|Reviewed by Andrew Birkbeck, IPMS# 27087|
For the past many years, DML/Dragon has been churning out 1/35th scale kits of the ubiquitous M4 Sherman tank. Initially they started with the original Italeri M4A1 76mm kit and started adding in their own newly-tooled parts where appropriate to create the version they were trying to kit. As the years went by, fewer and fewer of the original Italeri parts were being used, replaced by more and more DML/Dragon parts. Then they started to improve on their own parts as well, adding subtle details here and there to correct/improve the original parts. Today, little of the original Italeri kit is used, although you still get many of the parts in the box, to be added if desired to the "spares box".
In this kit, one gets parts to produce a British Army "El Alamein Sherman", which is an early production M4A1 or, in British military parlance, a Sherman II. This therefore has the early style "Direct Vision" ports for the driver and machine gunner, together with the very early style M3 VVSS suspension, a cast three-piece transmission cover, sand shields, and T41 rubber block tracks. The one noticeable item missing from the kit is a commanderís external turret machinegun and its mount.
All the plastic parts in this kit are first rate, and the fidelity of detail and fit is excellent for the most part. I didnít spot sink marks on any of the parts, nor any ejector pin marks that were visible after the kit was assembled, which is excellent. The main hull and turret parts have a very nice and well-rendered cast effect to them, and there are many parts with appropriate foundry casting numbers in the correct places: bogies, transmission cover, turret, main hull. Slide mold technology has been employed in this kit: the detail is very crisply rendered and such items as the main gun and co-axial machine gun and hull machine gun have appropriately hollowed-out bores. They are all one-piece, making clean up a breeze compared to how things would be if the main gun came in two halves, or if you had to drill out the machine guns. On kits that donít offer this feature, I always seem to drill them out off center, so thank you DML! Detail on the one-piece T41 tracks is excellent, the tracks are very flexible, and glue together with standard modeling glue.
As far as construction went, there were only a couple of areas to pay added attention. In Section 3, note the parts D11, horseshoe in shape. Note that, according to DML, these go only on the front and rear bogie units, not the center one. DML also seem to indicate that they can be installed facing upwards or downwards. Check your references carefully as not every vehicle had these, although according to a careful reading of the DML instructions, all but one of the decal options did (??).
Section 5, parts F11 have photo-etched brass screens (two types: MA21 or MA22) installed. On my kit, the PE parts required filing down a bit, as they stood too tall. For the headlight guards, DML offers the modeler a choice between plastic parts and PE parts, providing a handy-dandy jig to help you if you wish to use the PE parts. I personally like plastic parts for these, but ended up using the PE parts, as I wasnít happy with the quality of the plastic parts, which appear to be one of the few leftovers from the old Italeri kit.
Finally, and the area that caused me the most trouble, is Section 11, where the modeler is required to install the photo-etched front and rear mud guards, sand shields and the mounting racks for the sunshields (a system to disguise tanks to look like trucks). On the one hand, providing these parts in PE brass certainly improves on their scale appearance but, on the other hand, the origami-like nature of the assembly of these parts and the need to use superglue to attach them to the plastic hull parts is bound to frustrate many modelers. The most challenging parts were the front mudguards, parts MA3/15/16/1718/19/25. I had a bear of a job keeping them intact, and ended up soldering the parts together for added strength, and LOTS of test fitting was required to get them to glue in place to the hull. The rear mudguards were a snap by comparison, as were the sand shields and sunshield attachment brackets.
The decals allow the modeler 9 color and marking options, and are printed by Cartograf of Italy, so are of the very best quality: very well printed, with excellent color saturation, and commendably thin. They went down well with my standard decal-setting solutions. I experienced a problem in only one area: the British roundel aerial recognition symbols. The one on the turret is too big, according to my references as well as DMLís placement instructions, as it spills over the edge of the turret somewhat. The one for the rear also appears too large for the space provided. Test fit before you apply these decals and see if you agree. Other than that, the decals are first rate. I built mine as "Maryland", part of "B" Squadron, Warwickshire Yeomanry, 9th Armoured Brigade, El Alamein 1942. I have a cousin who lives in Warwickshire, and this unit was part of the New Zealand 2nd Division (fern emblem on black background), and my Mother is a Kiwi, so thereís quite the family ties in this model!
For an excellent historical primer for building this model, I suggest you check out the recently released book, The New Breed, Part 1: North African Colour and Markings Series published by The Factory Publishing, and written by Dennis Oliver and Michael Starmer, two noted experts on this area. The book was reviewed right here on the IPMS/USA website and has excellent color and markings information, including numerous color plates, one of which is for "Maryland"!
I painted my model using White Ensign Model enamel paints. Research indicates that the lower hull regions such as the bottom of the hull, and the bogey units and areas behind the bogies were left in the US Olive Drab that the vehicles were delivered to the British in and all other parts of the vehicle were then painted in-theatre by the British in light stone color. It worked for me, anyway!
To conclude: this is a superb model that fits together very well with the possible exception of all the photo-etched parts in Section 11. With care, these too can be dealt with and certainly allow for an excellent scale appearance. If you have any interest in the North African Theater of operations in WW2 or Sherman tanks in general, then I highly recommend this kit to you. My sincere thanks to Dragon USA for providing this kit to IPMS/USA for review.