Sherman M4A3 (76) W Battle of the Bulge
Academy has come a long way in a short time with producing a variety of Allied vehicles with very good quality and at a record pace. This kit, along with Academy's M4A3 Sherman with the T-34 Calliope rocket launchers and an M36 Jackson are advertised as being newly tooled kits for 2016. Looking at the parts and comparing them to older Academy kits, I would say they have clearly improved from their earlier kits and earn a second look from armor modelers.
Follow this link to the "First Look" for this kit along with a brief history of the real thing: http://www.amps-armor.org/SiteReviews/ReviewCrew/EditReview.aspx?id=3961
For the most part, I followed the construction steps per the instruction sheet, except for when it called out for attaching the bogey units early on. I tend to mount tracks as one of the last steps. The instructions were very clear with no head scratching moments.
Steps 1 - 2 Road wheels
Construction of the road wheels and bogie units were straight up with no issues. Detail is very good throughout with sharp details and non-existent flash on my review sample.
Although the detail is quite nice, there's always room for some improvement. Here I added the two bolts on top and two underneath out of view that hold the track skid in place. The bolt heads were supplied from Academy which has them, and other sized bolts, cast onto some of the kit's sprues. A total of 4 are needed for each bogie unit; two on top as shown and two on the other end of the track skid underneath on the far right. Though most admirers won't know it's there, you will.
Steps 3 - 4 Lower Hull Construction
In these construction steps, the instructions direct the modeler to add details to the rear hull plate like the engine access door and exhaust pipes.It also calls out for attaching the road wheel units and drive sprockets in place, but I left them off until after spraying a base coat to the lower hull. Again, no fit issues here, though the sprue attachment points on some parts is rather thick and annoying when trying to clean up, especially on a small part. If you look at the exhaust pipe on the right, you can see that I got a bit too anxious when cleaning up the top where there was an attachment point. This mistake can be fixed with a bit of putty and a little sanding. Next time I may not be so lucky!
Steps 5 - 10 Upper Hull Details
During these series of steps, front access hatches, periscope guards, hatch doors, lifting rings and fuel caps are attached. Nice fit for parts all around.
As these pics show, the weld lines around all four sides look good, but there is a very slight, noticeable indent (trench) all around. However, the short weld lines in front of the rear side fuel caps, is raised and looks great. Not sure why these weld lines couldn't be replicated for all four sides of the upper hull.
Academy molds small, raised lines into the upper hull that help the modeler properly line up the headlights and horn brush guards. If the modeler is going to use the photo-etched brush guards option, these raised guide lines can be easily removed with a little sanding from a fine grit sandpaper.
For this build, I decided to split 50/50 with the brush guards, so I used the kit supplied photo-etched headlight brush guards and went with the plastic horn guard. The photo-etched parts supplied by Academy are quite nice.
I added a little putty around the brush guard arms where they attach to the hull to replicate weld marks. Academy has done a very respectable job with attempting to make the periscope guards in scale.
The transmission housing is cast quite nice with subtle cast detail and the casting marks here on the upper left are clear and will show up great even after a coat of paint and some weathering.
I shaved off the solid molded engine access door handles and added on some kit-supplied handles which look much better.
Here, both the upper and lower hull are essentially complete.
Steps 11 - 16 Turret Construction and Details
Turret construction was straightforward with no fit issues, however the modeler may want to spend a bit more time blending the join points where the upper and lower turret halves meet. For this operation, I used Tenax 7r, a 'hot' glue to join these surfaces together which, when pushed together eliminated any seams and left me with a little melted excess plastic to scrape away. Once that was removed, I stippled in some Mr. Surface 500, then gave it a coat of Tamiya Extra Thin Surface Primer.
There is a subtle cast surface molded onto the turret shell that doesn't look overdone and will look nice when painted and weathered.
Academy's 50 cal. machine gun is quite a little gem.
Academy did a great job with the tools and the molded on clamps.
Pros: Well, the Academy M4 A3 Sherman looks the part and is very good value for the money. Academy has provided very good detail throughout, from on-vehicle tools to bolt heads on the upper hull engine door frame to the subtle texture on the turret and front transmission housing. This kit went together well with no fit problems and the instructions were clear and not overloaded with numerous, confusing sub-assemblies. Another bonus is Academy provides a well-detailed 50 cal. machine gun and photo-etched option for the front headlight, rear tail light and horn guards along with the typical plastic offering. The decal options provided are quite nice and, in my case the turret and hull stars went down like a charm, unlike the vehicle registration decals in the front (see Cons).
Cons: Although the tracks have some very nice detail for being a one-piece set up, when glued together, they are very tight, so your drive sprocket and idler wheels really need to be secured to the lower hull. A simpler solution would be to buy a set of aftermarket tracks. In hindsight, I probably should have painted the tracks, glued the ends together, then fit them around the drive sprocket and idler wheel. Most decals for this build went down great with the glaring exception of the vehicle registration and unit decals. All decals were treated the same way, both in prepping the model surface and products used to get smooth and clear adhesion.
All in all, I really liked the detail and ease of construction so much, I went out and bought the Academy M4A3 with Calliope and their M36 Jackson.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to MRC for this review kit.
Reviewed by Chuck Willis
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