Tank Workshop 1/48 Israeli M51 Super Sherman Conversion
“By the 1973 Yom Kippur War reserve units equipped with M50s and M51s fought on the Egyptian front. Ironically, thirty years later the Sherman tank was not very far from the place where it first saw combat at El Alamein.”
Thomas Gannon, Israeli Sherman p.60 [paraphrase]
BACKGROUND OF THE M51
Sourcing for Background: Thomas Gannon, Israeli Sherman, 2001
The M51 was developed specifically to meet the threat of Soviet and American armor being supplied to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the 1960s. At that time, the Israelis believed it was unlikely that they would be able to receive modern main battle tanks in substantial numbers. Like acquiring the M50 CN-75-50 gun for the M50, the Israelis once again turned to the France Bourges Arsenal to acquire a new gun. The engineers decided to adapt the 105mm gun developed for the AMX30 .
Test vehicles with the large T23 turret were still in France and the turret/mantle were adapted for use with the 105mm gun. A new heavier mantlet was designed to support the new gun—the D1504/L44 which was an AMX30 gun shortened by 1.5m and fitted with a huge muzzle brake. All of these features were necessary to cut the recoil enough for the gun to operate within the confines of the T23 turret. The turret still required a heavy rear counterweight which followed a similar design as was used on the M50 turret.
The first batch were delivered in July 1962 and retained the Continental radial engine. At some point (soon after but unknown), M51s were using the Cummings diesel engine. The M51 still could be found in IAC Reserve units into the early 1990s, and the M51 was also exported to Chile in the early 1980s. As of the publication of Gannon's book in 2001, the Chilean Army still maintained 100 M51s. and were not scheduled to retire them until at least 2002-- not bad for an AFV that first entered service in 1942.
The Tank Workshop conversion M51 best represents a “third batch” (circa 1975-198?, Antonsen) M51 based on two criteria: the exhaust mounted on top of the engine deck and the tubular-steel gun travel lock. The M51 was built on two hull types: the late, M4A1 cast hull which was the most numerous variant, and the late M4A3 (wet) welded hull. So, a builder could actually use the upper hull of the Hobby Boss M4A3E8 Korean War Sherman to represent the latter version.
Note: according to Thomas Gannon, the usage of the term “Super Sherman” for the M51 is incorrect. The Israelis only used the term M1 “Super Sherman” with the M4A1/M4A3s armed with the 76mm gun.
CONTENTS OF KIT
For this review, at times I felt as though I was review two kits at the same time. Still, other than construction comments required for the Hobby Boss M4A3E8, I will focus the review on the Tank Workshop Israel M51 Conversion kit.
The kit includes well cast grey resin parts designed to convert the Hobby Boss 1/48 M4A3E8 Korean War Sherman (Kit Number 84804) to the Israeli M51. Dry fitting of the parts indicate that the parts do fit together fairly well; of course as typical with many resin kits there will be some additional required shaping, filing, and application of putty. The pour blocks for the kit parts are very well placed to protect detail. Although some of the blocks are a little large; such as the block for the turret mantle and cover and care must be taken to remove the parts. The kit was very well packed, and none of the parts were damaged in the provided kit.
Interestingly, the instructions for the kit are included on a small CD-ROM/DVD disk. The instructions are included in an Adobe Acrobat file and the disk also includes multiple images of the build in progress to assist the builder and images of a completed model also for reference. Between the written text instructions and the provided images, these are the best resin kit instructions that I have ever encountered.
The timing of the assignment of this kit to me by the AMPS Review Crew Grand Poohba was perfect, as I was attending the Richmond IPMS Show as the e-mailed assignments came through (smartphones do have a purpose afterall…). At the show I was able to find a lonely and orphaned Hobby Boss 1/48 M4A3E8 Korean War Sherman necessary for the build.
I should also note, that I will also be using the Eduard Photoetch for the 1/48 Hobby Boss M4A3 76mm to further detail this kit. As I would only need a few parts (e.g., tool tiedown straps), I didn't bother with the full PE set for the M4A3E8-- the one I purchased was only $8.00. I will still be using all the Tank Workshop parts, but I want to give a little more to this gem of a kit.
The kit provides suspension arms for the M4A3E8 which I found to be odd as the kit parts looked fine. However, in my research of the Hobby Boss M4A3E8 kit, I came across a review on Perth Military Modeling (PMMS) of the kit (PMMS M4A3E8 REVIEW LINK). The review indicated that the Hobby Boss suspension arms were scaled too tall. In measuring the Tank Workshop provided arms, I found that they are more to scale. I would like to thank Terry Ashley and PMMS for permission to include the following images from his review.
Hobby Boss Kit Part
Tank Workshop Kit Part
I proceeded to mount the transmission cover on the hull first—the Tank Workshop instructions give an option to the builder. The builder will also need to fill the top holes in the Hobby Boss M4A3E8 lower hull as they are not needed for mounting the HVSS suspension. The Hobby Boss M4A3E8 sponsons will also have to be cut to fit the Tank Workshop M4A1 upper hull part. Gaps were filled with Epoxy Sculpt.
As the final mountings for the suspension/wheels do not appear all that strong, I decided to hold off mounting those until the very end of the Lower/Upper Hull Build.
The Tank Workshop instructions correctly have the builder add covers over the standard M4A3 exhausts as those were plated over by the Israelis with the change to the Cummings Diesel engine and a different exhaust system. Also, for the rear hull plate, I made a small revision that should probably have been included in the Tank Workshop instructions: pushing out the engine hatch. According to Gannon’s Israeli Shermans, for short-hulled M4s converted to M51s, the engine hatch was pushed out four inches to provide clearance for the Cummings diesel engine fans belts. This was modeled by removing the kit engine hatch and adding .080” styrene as spacers (approximate scale depth of 4”). The Tank Workshop also have the builder include the Exhaust Deflector in the ‘up’ position which does represent the underside views of the M51.
The build has the option of having the hull hatches open or closed. Despite having great interior hatch detail, I decided to have the hatches closed (mostly because I could not find any 1/48 Israeli tanker figures). I also proceeded to add the modified engine deck and exhaust at the same time as the hatches. The builder will need to cut the engine deck part to fit the open gap; I recommend cutting carefully and filing as needed in order to get a good fit. I also had to sand the bottom of my engine deck piece to get a good level fit. After mounting the hatches and the engine deck, I proceeded to mount the upper hull to the lower hull.
FENDERS AND FENDER STOWAGE
The Fenders are next mounted. The Tank Workshop kit provides a ‘L’ Strip of Styrene that can be used for the Fender length, or the instructions indicate that the Fenders can be cut off the Hobby Boss Upper Hull. As the Front Fender was needed anyway, I decided to just use the Hobby Boss parts. Again, the Tank Workshop instructions are great for guiding the builder through all the steps; including further alterations.
Stowage: The Tank Workshop provided stowage are very well cast pieces and add some great detail to the sides. The kit even provides an external phone box which was not in the kit photos on the Tank Workshop website; a great addition as all M51s seem to have the phone box. While Tank Workshop instructions indicate that the layout of the stowage is optional and up to the builder, in reality there were only two stowage configurations found on the M51.
-- Earlier examples followed the pattern used on the M50—the easily notable pattern of one tool box on the side and the spare tracks mounted on the hull side.
-- The second was unique to the M51 with the spare tracks re-located to the turret in front of the smoke grenades and two stowage boxes on each side of the hull with the rear box being shorter than the front (which was the same size as found on the M50).
The option for stowage layout is actually further limited to just the latter by the kit engine deck exhaust manifold and the tubular gun track lock on the upper hull. The kit is short two Israeli water jerry cans for a fully accurate build as the M51 carried seven, but the kit only provides five. I think that the available space and mounting still makes a not quite accurate five look good, and there is really no need to become a "jerrycan counter...." The builder could very well add additional details to the stowage mounting-- such as the lugs for the spare wheels or the back brackets behind the jerry can racks-- but as this is a review build I just went with the well cast parts as provided. While mounting the Stowage, the Hobby Boss Fender Bracket parts were also cut as necessary and mounted. Any unused mounting holes in the Hobby Boss fenders were filled using Mr. Surfacer.
After the mounting of the Fenders and Fender Stowage, I proceeded to mount all the additional details on the Upper Hull: tool stowage, lights, the Hobby Boss light/horn PE, and various tow/lifting hooks, and gun track lock mount. The gun track lock would be added later after initial painting/weathering of the exhaust manifold. The Hull Work was now done, and the suspenion arms/wheels were mounted.
The turret pieces are very well cast, and include a great amount of detail. Like the hull hatches, the builder has the option of having the turret hatches open or closed. And, like the hull, I decided to have the hatches closed even though the hatches do have interior details.
The gun mantle was cast on a particularly large pour block and extra care is needed to remove the part from the block to protect the details. Also, I found that additional cutting is needed on the back of the gun mantle piece to get a good fit on the turret. Even still, additional epoxy putty was required to model canvas and fill in the gaps. Thereafter, other parts were added to the turret to finalize the detailing: the Smoke Dischargers and Spare Track Links provided by Tank Workshop and a few parts from the Hobby Boss M4A3E8 kit; including the .50cal M2 (with some added PE). The Hobby Boss M4A3E8 also includes a .30cal MG, which I clipped off the barrel and used that for the co-ax .30cal.
As all us treadheads know, that BIG 105MM GUN and HUGE MUZZLE BRAKE is what makes the M51. The kit has a well molded straight barrel piece and several other pieces to form the killer muzzle brake. The kit instructions provide excellent guidance and images for building the muzzle brake. Thereafter, the muzzle brake is correctly aligned and attached to the barrel end.
FINAL ASSEMBLYWith the completion of all the Lower/Upper Hull details and Turret details, I mounted the Suspension and test fitted the Track. Well, we finally have our malfunction on this mission.... The Hobby Boss kit tracks do not fit the suspension. This is an error on the part of Hobby Boss versus Tank Workshop.
For the most part, the Tank Workshop M51 Conversion is complete. Before proceeding with painting and weathering, I am going to add a few more PE parts, but here are the completed build images following the recommended instruction steps.
PAINTING AND WEATHERING
Because of the track fit error, my final painting and display schema is somewhat pre-dictated. This M51 will be painted/displayed in a muddy Golan Heights setting to hide the missing track links. I will post photos of the completed painted/weathered M51 mounted on a base later-- as well as some discussion on my techniques.
Tank Workshop recommends using decals from the Germany Company Pedderhaus Decals for this kit, and I decided to follow their advice and order a set. For CONUS customers, I would highly recommend not ordering through the Pedderhaus website, but ordering through the Pedderhaus eBay page. Trust me on this—I tried the website first and then discovered the eBay page. After ordering the decals, they arrived in just a few days and were very well packaged.
For now, and until painting/weathering and giving the beast a muddy base for a home, the build of the Tank Workshop M51 is done. Time to pull out the airbrush....
Painting and Weathering of the Tank Workshop M51 is completed. Check out PART II of this review at Tank Workshop M51 Conversion Review- PART II. Check out the review update on that page as well-- including new parts courtsey of Tank Workshop and the resolution of the Hobby Boss short track.
Israeli Sherman. Thomas Gannon. Darlington Publications, 2001.Boresight: Volume 19 No. 6. "IDF M51 Israel Sherman Walkaround". Robert Goldman, AMPS Israel."Modelers Notes: How to Build an Israeli M-51 Sherman in 1/35th scale". Thomas Antonsen, 2010 Web Article: LINK.
We’ve all had kits we have struggled with. This is not one of those kits. In fact this kit can best be described as a fun and entertaining build. With diligence and straight OOTB, the kit could probably be built over a long weekend; although as usual for this reviewer ‘Real Life’ gets in the way and I had to work on it a few minutes every day over several weeks. And, with the addition of PE, the kit was exposed to some AMS as well…. Tank Workshop has provided an excellent set of instructions and supporting images for the build. The end result is truly a good looking little gem that goes together really well. The only problem encountered was on the part of Hobby Boss not Tank Workshop.
Being a 1/48 scale version of a AFV most treadheads and especially Sherm-aholics admire, the Tank Workshop Israeli M51 Super Sherman Conversion makes for a great and unique addition to the completed built shelf.
Overall, this kit is Highly Recommended!
The AMPS Review Crew thanks Tank Workshop for providing the 1/48 Israeli M51 Super Sherman Conversion.