British Army Sherman II Direct Vision Type (El Alamein 1942)
This is the latest offering in Tascas' superb range of M4 Sherman variants and is (to my knowledge) the first time a cast hull sherman with direct vision slots has ever been available in 1/35th scale plastic.
The kit comes packed in a sturdy box and the sprues are each in their own plastic bag. The sprues are as follows: sprue A x2, sprue B x3 , sprue C, D x2, E & F, sprue G x2 (attached to sprue D), sprue H, J and M.
There is also a sprue G in clear plastic as an alternative for the periscopes and headlight lenses, one sprue from Tascas 50cal Browning set plus another with an early 50cal mounting and small ammo box, two sprues from the US jerrycan set, a sprue of polycaps and four sections of plain rubber block track. A small set of etched brass grilles and straps, a sheet of foam rubber material for the suspension, two Cartograph decal sheets, a marking and painting guide and a ten page instruction booklet complete the contents.
G CLEAR & POLYCAPS
.50 cal Browning
Gas and Water cans
Suspension foam and tracks
Colour and marking guide
Looking at the sprues, one is immediately taken by the high quality of the finish, the hull, transmission cover and turret exhibiting a very restrained cast texture. I also noted a number of optional parts. There are three different patterns of sprocket, two types of mantlet (with and without 'wings'), two 75mm gun barrels, two styles of air cleaner, two types of .50 cal barrels (with or without handle) and a three part and one part cast transmission cover. Most of these alternative parts are specific to one of the featured vehicles and their use is indicated in the instructions but care will be needed to ensure you use the right combination for your specific subject. Whichever you decide, the spares box will benefit from all the extras.
There is no internal detail so open hatches need to be filled with crew figures or a lot of scratch building will have to be done.
Overall, the quality of the parts is outstanding. I haven't found any sinkmarks and the flash is minimal requiring very little clean up.The lightguards and other small parts are commendably thin and so far the only parts that I think could have been improved are the 'sunshield' supports on their side runners which are molded as blocks whereas they should really be open boxes but this is a minor thing and can easily be remedied.
The decals are matt finished, sharply printed and perfectly registered. They include stencils for the British style 'flimsy' water cans which are are also included in the kit.
The painting guide shows three different vehicles
C Squadron 9th Queens Royal Lancers 2nd Armoured Brigade 1st Armoured Division in sand and dark green
C Squadron 3rd Hussars 9th Armoured Brigade attached to 2nd New Zealand Division in plain sand
C Squadron Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry 9th Armoured Brigade attached to 2nd New Zealand Division in desert pink and dark grey/green
all of these vehicles appear in numerous books concerning the El Alamein battles so references shouldn't be hard to find.
The back page of the painting guide give ratios for mixing the required colours using Tamiya acrylics unfortunately most of the accompanying text is in Japanese so a lot of the information will be lost to the majority of us.
As I said in my initial review, this kit just oozes quality from the moment you open the box. There are numerous optional parts and the use of etched brass is kept to the minimum which I think says a lot for the skill of the kit makers.
Construction follows the normal routine for tank kits, i.e. starting with the suspension units, drive sprockets and idlers. Tasca has retained the 'rubber pad' system for an active suspension which I don't particularly like and I still have concerns about using solvent based paints or washes and their effect on the pads. Fortunately I prefer to use acrylics.
Assembling the suspension units is a little tricky involving a number of loose parts all having to be lined up at once but the result is a fully functioning suspension unit with exceptional detail including numerous casting numbers.
Care is needed to ensure the roadwheels are fitted the correct way round as they have grease nipples moulded on one side only and the idler wheels had some nasty sink holes around the hubs but a drop of liquid cement and a dab of squadron green filler took care of those.
The sprockets come with a choice of plain or fancy rings both of which have excellent detail. I checked the fit of a set of ModelKasten three bar cleat tracks and they sit perfectly, also, the idler comes with an eccentric mounting so those of you wishing to use aftermarket tracks should have no problems getting them to look right.
The next phase of construction is the lower hull. The parts require very little cleanup and fit so well that I was able to dry fit them together and then run liquid cement around the joints. Everything goes together squarely and without any problems.
The three piece transmission cover is also constructed at this time and benefits from having the bolted flanges moulded in two parts thus ensuring the central seam is visible. The back edges of the cover side plates even have bolt holes which match the bolt heads on the lower hull sides, presumably in case you wish to model the vehicle with the cover removed. A superb cast texture is represented on the outer surface and again numerous casting numbers are present.
The rear plate and doors are also attached at this time but I decided to leave the exhaust stubs off and fit them later as it would make painting easier. Two styles of air filter are included and the instructions specify which type go with which vehicle. The square style filters required quite a bit of work to remove the joint seams and have very fine etched brass locking bars which I managed to mangle when removing them from the brass sheet. Oddly, the round air filter locking bars are moulded in plastic and I would have preferred this to the brass version.
Now comes the upper hull and this is where things get interesting. The main hull part has a beautifully subdued cast texture and very fine detail. Along the bottom edge of the hull sides are small 'nodules' as Tasca call them which need to be removed for two of the marking options and it was here that the first fit problem was encountered. As part of the moulding process these 'nodules' carry up into the inside of the hull and interfere with the fit of the upper and lower hull sides. It is not a huge problem to remove the offending plastic but it's something to be aware of before you start adding all the hull fittings.
The direct vision slots and their covers are very well done and leaving the covers open exposes the finely moulded vision blocks .
I had a few issues with the drivers/co drivers hatches. The instruction sheet shows a handhold which isn't supplied in the kit though dimensions for it are given. The problem is that the notation alongside the illustration is in Japanese only so I had to assume that this handle wasn't present on every vehicle. A close study of photos seemed to support this theory. The same goes for the pads which fit in the hatch recesses. They would seem to be optional but since I can't read Japanese, who knows? I opted to leave them off which left me to fill a rather awkward ejector pin mark in the curved part of the hatches. There are also a couple of tiny locator holes for fittings only seen on later vehicles to fill but that was not a problem. Tasca supply the periscopes in both clear and ordinary tan plastic which I really appreciated as I always have problems seeing mould joint lines on clear parts. With a little care, the hatches can be made to operate which is a great help as it gives you the option to add crew at a later date. The engine decks, filler caps and extractor fan covers all fit perfectly and I noticed that the .30 cal lap gun not only has the end of the barrel drilled out, it also has the crosscut moulded in, A feature I don't recall ever seeing in a kit before.
This stage wasn't all plain sailing. The headlight guards were a nightmare to fit and are my least favorite part of the model. It's not clear from the instructions how they are aligned with the tiny blocks moulded on to the hull. I had to glue one side of them, let that dry and then glue and tape the other side into position. Even then they are less than straight. The rear light guards also gave me grief, one breaking as I removed it from the sprue and the other breaking as I tried to thin it down.
I opted to use a set of Formations tools, mainly because I like the fact that the straps and tie downs are all moulded in place. The Tasca tools did not have detailed straps and I really feel that they could improve this area of the kit considerably. One word of caution on the Formation tool set. They appear to be designed for a welded hull vehicle so some sanding and filling will be required for a good fit.
The turret was a joy to build. The elevation system is simple, effective and results in a solid structure with good alignment of the main and co-ax guns. After a small amount of filling and sanding of the turret bustle joint I gave the entire area a couple of coats of liquid cement to restore the 'cast' texture and I made my own aerial base after ruining the kit one while trying to clean up the mould line. ( I really MUST get new glasses).
Drilling a couple of holes and using brass rod hinge pins allowed me to articulate the commanders hatches and the .50 cal is a masterpiece in itself, though, so far, I have managed to break the cocking handle off twice !!!
So thats the story so far. The side skirts will obviously have to wait until the tracks are fitted but from a trial fitting I can see that they go on perfectly and look really nice
Once I have some paint on, I will come back to the review and add some more pics. But from the building point of view, my first impressions were more than justified.
05/03/2009 Finally got the model painted
Very highly recommended
thanks to Tasca for the review sample