U.S. Medium Tank M4 Composite Sherman Late "Last Chance"
First Impressions: Wow! This is a really nice Sherman kit, but it isn't going to be easy to build. Part of that is due to the crowded instruction step drawings - there is a lot going on in both English and Japanese, and it will take careful reading and re-reading to prevent mistakes.
The kit sprues are olive drab color, with exception of the white poly cap sprue and clear sprue. All the sprues are bagged, some have two to three sprue trees in each bag, but I did not see anything broken or missing, and parts are flash-free without noticeable knockout holes. The detail on parts is sharp and there is no warping or other defects.
"Last Chance" was a composite hull M4 assigned to B Company, 762nd Tank Battalion, supporting the Army's 27th Infantry Division during the invasion and battle of Saipan in 1944. I have not been able to find any explanation for the tank's name "Last Chance" - seems like a rather pessimistic name for someone in combat to use.
Notice the Japanese and English instructions, and the small drawings, as compared to another famous Japanese armor modeling company. Of special interest is the presence of two J sprues (see left side of instructions above), that contain some of the same parts, but two very different front hull/transmission covers. Per the drawing, if a part has an odd looking asterisk next to it, as shown in the left hand drawing, use that sprue, otherwise, use the other sprue, so pay close attention to those funny asterisks.
There are plenty of cautions in the instructions - see above in just about every step, marked either by an exclamation mark, as in Steps 5 -8, or sometimes it's like in Step 8 where a balloon says to use putty to fill one of two slots on either side of the lower rear hull. Step 6 offers at least three options on building up the suspension - fixing the height using spacers, or allowing some movement using small rubber sheets. Take a look at Step 11, where there are several bullet comments, all in Japanese, with no English explanation. I think it has to do with cutting out PE shaped to fit in the Grouser Box cover shown above the writing.
In Step 14, note which option is for "Last Chance", and the order of installing front hull/transmission cover and then upper hull to lower hull - be sure to drill the holes for the main gun travel lock before that. There is nice PE for the engine deck and the metal guards over the periscopes in the driver and co-driver hatches. Oddly enough, you have to source your own metal for the hatch handles, but at least the instructions .3mm brass wire that is 3.5mm long. Notice order of installation in Step 18 during engine deck installation.
Glue the final drive and three suspension assemblies to the hull, and after letting the glue dry, attach the tracks along with the sprocket and idler wheels, which the instructions caution not to glue, so as to adjust track tension. In Step 22 build up the two-part main gun and mantlet assembly, co-axial .30cal MG. That is followed by Turret Assembly 1, which includes attaching the gun assembly, commander and loader hatches, periscopes, lifting rings, and other small parts, as well as the lower turret ring to the turret.
Step 25 is sourcing 140mm of wire or string for a tow cable, using the kit cable heads, and then attaching the turret to the hull. Step 26 is paint call-outs for the figure. Next to that is an expanded view of some detail work to be done on part of the engine deck, but again, mostly in Japanese, so will have to puzzle that out. Page 9 of the instructions have two options for a different "Late" tank, and not to be used for "Last Chance".
Page 10 is the five-step directions for assembling the commander's .50cal MG and attaching it to the cupola. Page 11 shows decal locations for "Last Chance" and Tamiya and GSI paints call-out. Note the color name is only in Japanese.
Views of the finished model
Two "A" sprues with the final drive, idler wheel, and three sprocket wheels (two are the same)
Three "B" sprues with road wheels, suspension arms, bogies
Sprue "C" has cupola and hatches, tools, hull and co-axial .30cal MG, lots of small fragile parts
Two "D" sprues have fuel filler caps, headlight guards, spare track links, more small parts
"E" Sprue has the hull bottom, sides, rear, as well as the extra armor panels welded to the hull sides to protect ammunition
"F" Sprue has the engine hatches, exhausts, air filters, and crewman
Two "G" Sprues have the clear lenses for headlights and taillights, and periscopes for hatches
Sprue "H" upper hull and sides
Sprue "H" Turret halves
Two Sprue "J" - notice the differences, as well as the two-part gun barrel
Two Sprue "K" - grate and rear panel with some detail parts for each
Sprue "L" has mantlet parts, gun travel lock, front fender armor, more detail parts
Sprue "S" has the loader's hatch, springs, detail parts
Two "Z" Sprues have the parts for the .50 cal MG, ammo boxes, and mount
On the left, two unmarked sprues with three different spacers (A, B, and C). On the right, the small rubber sheet to cut out the even smaller rubber sheets for the suspension, if desired to have it moveable
Poly cap sprue for wheels and gun elevation
Photo etch sheet for engine grill, periscope guards, air filter detail, and grouser box assembly
A not very good picture of both sides of the rubber track
Pros: Looks to be a very detailed kit of the composite hull M4, and should be welcomed by Shermanholics everywhere. Other than the two-part main gun barrel, it does not look like a lot of aftermarket parts are necessary, and even that should not be a problem for most modelers. Has a nice crewman figure, and a very well done .50 cal MG. The photo etch looks to be scale thickness.
Cons: Very busy instructions with a couple of steps in Japanese, so some potential for mistakes. No interior details, and some parts, like the tow cable and driver hatch handles, have to be sourced by the builder. Two-part rubber tracks. Two-part main gun barrel. Decal carrier film looks thick.
Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders, pending full build.
Thanks goes out to Asuka Models for this review kit.
Reviewed by Joseph "Mac" McDaniel
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