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Asuka Models- U.S. Medium Tank M4 Composite Sherman Late "Last Chance"

Kit Number:
35-049
Scale:
1:35
Published:
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Manufacturer:
Asuka Models
Retail Price:
$59.49
Reviewed By:
Joseph McDaniel

U.S. Medium Tank M4 Composite Sherman Late "Last Chance"

As stated in the First Look Review (https://www.amps-armor.org/SiteReviews/ShowReview.aspx?id=14952), this is a nice looking kit, but it was not going to be an easy build, mainly because of the kit instructions and Asuka's use of duplicate sprues with the same letter designation, but slightly different parts. I did run into some problems while building it, some due to oversight on my part, some due to the kit instructions. Although the kit calls out Tamiya and GSI Mr. Color paints, I used Lifecolor Olive Drab for the overall vehicle color, and Tamiya for roadwheel rubber, track teeth, tools, bow, co-axial, and turret machine guns.

Step 1 is gluing the two-part rubber band tracks together using CA glue, per the kit instructions. This was a little tricky, getting the tracks to actually stick together, but that may have been due to the CA glue being old? Eventually, they did stick together.

Step 2 is building up the sprockets with a polycap. They require careful clean-up of the sprue nub after cutting them off the tree, and some sanding stick work, but looked good after painting. Sorry for the dark photo.

Step 3 is gluing together the idler wheels with polycaps, and step 4 is gluing together the 12 solid spoke type roadwheels.

Step 5 is suspension arm assembly, pay attention to the direction of the roadwheels.

Step 6 consists of four sub-steps: the first one is deciding if you want the suspension arms to move up and down - if so, then insert three rubber sheets cut to the specified size. Attach (Don't glue!) parts B9 and B2, then move on to sub-step 2 and attach the other half of the suspension which will trap the rubber sheets and return roller. This was almost funny, because the rubber sheets would move around or even fall out, so it took me a little longer than perhaps a more experienced builder. The builder has the option to fix the height of the suspension by not using the rubber sheets, but using styrene spacers and gluing the B2 parts into the lowest position. In hindsight, I should have done some that way so I could report on that, but I did them all with the rubber sheets. Sub-step 3 is attaching without cement the suspension arm assemblies from Step 5 to the suspension. Sub-step 4 is just a caution to not move the assembly until the glue dries.

Step 7 is choosing the correct differential cover, both numbered J16 (the left hand one in the picture above) for Last Chance from one of two J sprues, and then attaching the armored final drives, upper and lower bolt strips, front tow points which also have small steps to be glued on. I attached small length of railroad chains to the tow pins at the end of the build.

Step 8 is attaching a firewall to the flat panel hull bottom, followed by the left and right lower hull sides, then the lower hull rear plate, and then the two sponsons. Then attach six small bolt plates to the hull bottom at the suspension stations, rear tow points, rear engine access doors, and idler wheel arms (Don't glue!). Also, putty closed two small slots in the lower hull plate next to the tow points (see above).

Step 9 is assembling the two three-part air cleaners, and attaching four thin PE10 rods to the air cleaner body. One of the PE10 rods has its top cut off and attached per the drawing. The bottom of the air cleaner must be oriented in a specific way for the PE10 rod to attach properly, again shown in the drawing. In Step 10, plates E2 and E3 are attached to the rear hull plate, and the air cleaners attached to the plates. For ease of attachment, I would recommend attaching the air cleaners to the plates, and then the plates to the hull.

Step 11 is attaching two small PE9 screens to the left and right grouser box covers.

Step 12 is the first of six assembly steps involving the hull top. In this step, attach the hinges for the driver and co-driver hatches from the inside, along with front and rear lifting rings, ball mount and hull MG, the thin U-shaped ring around the ball mount, the grouser box covers, and fuel and other fluid caps. I recommend building up the driver and co-driver hatches as shown in Step 15 first, and when attaching the hatch hinges, make sure they are properly positioned when attaching the hatches. Somehow, the driver's hinge did not stay in place properly and the driver's hatch will not lay flat now. There are no installation guides for the ring around the ball mount, so I guessed at the positioning.

Step 13 is attaching PE1 air outlet screen to a frame. Although there is a drawing showing the installation position into the lower hull, that actually happens in Step 14.

Step 14 - Pay close attention to the small balloon instructions on the upper left side of this step on page 4, which says "Make hole before build refer page 5 step 16", with three lines pointing to where the holes go on the front hull for the gun travel lock. I saw that warning when I first read the instructions, and again as I was proceeding with the build, and I still forgot to the drill the holes before gluing the top hull to the bottom hull. Fortunately, I have a small flashlight and directing the beam into the hull showed the thin plastic where the two lower holes were which I was able to drill out for the travel lock attachment points. I couldn't see the upper hole, so glued the small retaining hook to the inside of the travel lock and then attached the travel lock to the holes. Crisis averted. The actual order of the build was to attach the front differential cover to the lower hull first, followed by the upper hull to the differential cover and lower hull, followed by the rear upper hull plate. Sub-step 4 is attaching the air outlet screen from Step 13 and sub-step 5 is attaching either part K16 or E16 to the rear hull. The not very good directions say to "choose type", with a small box below with an arrow pointing at E16 which says "Not using for Last Chance marking". I chose K16, which is a large grating that extends almost the width of the rear hull, mainly because it is shown in the photos accompanying the directions. Finally, attach two parts J1 and J2, small triangular plates, to the inner front fenders.

Step 15 - driver's and co-driver's hatch assembly. Pretty straight forward assembly, but there are two raised mold marks on both hatches that need to be sanded down. The clear periscopes look good; trying to bend the legs of the protective wire cages for the periscopes (PE6) so that all four hit the correct spots on the driver hatches with very small amounts of CA glue was almost funny. Ha ha. Anyway, as mentioned earlier, I recommend building up the hatches before attaching the hinges to the hatch openings, so that if some adjustments are needed the hinges can be fitted correctly. Since there is no interior detail or driver figure provided, the hatches should be glued closed. You have to provide your own wire to make the handles; the instructions recommend 0.3mm diameter brass wire 3.5mm long. I added those at the end of the build.

Step 16 - attach the driver and co-driver hatches, two headlights, headlight protective guards together with a small tube on the inner side, horn and protective guard. I left the clear plastic headlight lens off the lights until after the hull painting is done. This is also where the detailed instructions for installing the gun travel lock are.

Step 17 - engine deck assembly consists of sandwiching PE7 screen between parts F8 and F20, attaching two armored fuel caps to F8, followed by building up the muffler assembly and attaching that to the underneath of engine deck plate part E11.

 

Step 18 - Engine deck installation consists of installing first part E11 with the mufflers to the rear engine deck opening, making sure the mufflers fit into the opening of the PE screen installed in Step 14. Then install parts F28 and F8 into the engine deck opening. There is a side note to look at Page 8 (this step is on page 5) to shave off the molded on handles on part F28 and replace them with plastic sprue in an orientation parallel to the hull. I used small lengths of brass wire. Install left and right rear taillights and protective guards, and all the tools, referred to as American hull accessories, olive drab. I went ahead and painted the wood parts with Tamiya Buff XF-57 and metal parts with Metallic Gray XF-56. I deviated from the directions regarding the long tanker bar, part C26, which the directions show installed on the left rear hull. There are no holes for C26 on that side, but there are two corresponding holes on the right rear hull, which is where I attached it, next to the mattock handle. Also, and THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT - DO NOT ATTACH THE SLEDGEHAMMER AND IDLER WHEEL ADJUSTMENT TOOL ON THE REAR ENGINE DECK UNTIL YOU PLACE THE LARGE WHITE STAR DECAL ON THE REAR ENGINE DECK! The directions do not point this out.

Step 19 - VVSS suspension. Install in the order shown the outer final drive and three suspensions on each side, followed by placing the sprocket and idler wheel into the rubber tracks, and then attaching the tracks over the suspension while pushing NOT GLUING the sprockets and idlers onto their respective axles. You are directed to turn the idler base (part C25) to adjust the track tension.

Step 20 - Sand shield mounting assembly. This was another bit of head scratching over the instructions. There are three thin delicate sand shield mounts to be glued somewhere on the hull sides. I say "somewhere" because there are no attachment holes, pins, or other guides to show where they go, so using the drawings and photos, to include the box art, I think that I put them in the right place. There is a 0.1mm gap called out in the 1:1 drawings between the middle and rear sand shield mounts. Note that the rear (parts E13) sand shield mounts appear to butt up to an overlap of the rear sand shield mount. Also note that there is a small note to "Install C71, C72 on the rear end as per diagram", but the line is drawn to parts E13, and those two parts actually look like the two rear side sand shield mounts, but without the notch, so absolutely incorrect parts call-out and placement. After attaching the sand shield mounts, attach one armor plate E14 on the left hull side and two armor plates, parts E15 and J22, on the right hull side. Again, no holes, pins, or other guides to show where the plates go, so dry fit and compare to the drawings, photos, and box top.

Step 21 - there is no step 21.

 

Step 22 - Gun assembly consists of attaching two polycaps P2 into parts L8, sticking the L8/polycaps onto part J29, as well as the co-axial machine gun onto J29. Glue the two-part gun barrel together and putty and sand down the resulting seam, then insert into outer gun mantlet L9 which is attached to inner gun mantlet L6, and attached to part J29 with the co-ax MG barrel sticking through the appropriate hole. I left the gun barrel unglued and will replace with a one piece metal barrel once it is restocked. I totally forgot to take a photo of the gun assembly.

Step 23 - commander's hatch assembly. Sand down the raised sprue marks on both hatches, attach the periscope and cover to the right hatch and inner and outer handles to the left hatch, and attach the two hatches to the cupola J21.

Step 24 - Turret assembly. Attach the commander's hatch assembly to the turret top - there is a note that "because it is a free mount, install at any angle". Glue handle and springs to the outside of the loader's hatch, and latch and protective pad to the inside, attach hinge S16 and hatch to the loader's hatch position. Insert periscopes G1 and G2 into the designated slots and attach the respective covers S3 for commander's and D11 (which is not called out in the instructions) to the gunner's. Attach lifting rings to the rear turret side and front turret top, along with the shell ejection port hatch on the left turret side. Since the directions show a lifting arm attached to the inside of the ejection port, I attached it even though it was glued shut. It looks nice, but pointless, unless you're adding detail inside the turret. Glue the support arm to the searchlight, and the two-part protective extension on the light. The instructions show the arm on the left side of the light, but the photos and box art show the arm on the right side - your choice, I guess. Glue small seat to turret ring support for the commander figure to stand on. Before gluing the bottom turret ring to the turret, drill a 0.5mm hole where shown for the commander's fixed iron sight, part L17. I drilled out the top of the antenna base, part J12, and glued in a thin wire for an antenna. Glue the turret ring to the upper turret. Attach the gun assembly to the turret. I thought that I had taken photos of the completed turret build, but not until after painting and adding decals.

Step 25 - push the turret down into place on the upper hull. There are no notches and tabs like on other kits to slot the turret into place on the hull. Next to this step is directions to use 160mm of 0.5mm diameter string or wire for the tow cable using cable heads part D10. I used an aftermarket kit because the kit cable head parts were too small for the wire I had.

Step 26 - Soldier figure. Goes together without problem, but has some obvious seams to be sanded down. Painted per the instructions with Tamiya colors. Right next to the drawing for the figure is a drawing showing how to remove the molded on plastic handles on the engine deck hatch and replacing them with plastic sprue oriented 90 degrees to the vertical, giving specific lengths and placement on the hatch.

Page 9 has two option steps displayed. Although both options are marked as "Not using for Last chance marking", the first one is pictured in the photos in the directions, so I did use those parts, which I believe are used for stowing the commander's M2 .50 caliber machine gun when not mounted on his cupola. I did not use any of the parts in the second option, which is for a stowage rack on the rear hull plate.

Page 10 is the five-part construction steps for the M2 machine gun. Be careful sanding off sprue attachment points, as the parts are very nicely done and fragile at this scale. In sub-step D, cradle assembly, you're told to install Z19 before Z21, which is correct, but the drawing reverses the order of installation. There are two options for ammo boxes, but only ammo box B is shown being attached. There is an ammo belt and spare barrel shown in the last step, but they aren't shown attached to the turret or machine gun, so not sure where they should go. The attached ammo box doesn't leave any room for the ammo belt.

Page 11 shows where the Last Chance decals go, as well as a chart of colors and parts not used below the photos. The decals turned out to be not too thick and actually went down very nicely, although I slightly tore one of the points on two stars. I was able to push them together without the tears showing. I airbrushed a coat of 50-50 Pledge clear floor wax and water, and after that dried 24 hours, brushed on spot coats of 100% Pledge floor wax where the decals would be placed. After that dried 24 hours, I then applied Microset for each decal, placed the decal, and after that dried for 24 hours, applied three coats of Microsol, waiting about two hours between coats. After 24 hours, I airbrushed Vallejo Clear Gloss Coat in preparation for weathering, which I will begin after posting this review. I don't like to weather the review builds since that might obscure some details of the kit.

Page 12 shows six more photos of the completed model to help with details and decals.

Pros: Overall, an excellent model of the U.S. Medium Late M4 Composite gun tank, especially at this MSRP. The VVSS suspension looks like photos in my reference books, except for the four holes on the front which require drilling out; with the use of the rubber sheets, the diorama or vignette modeler can easily show the suspension rolling over rough terrain instead of on a level surface. No multi-part individual tracks requiring hours of clean-up and assembly. Nicely rendered ball mount, co-axial, and M2 .50 caliber machine guns. Photo-etch parts, mainly the screens, are nicely rendered and fit is spot on. Clear parts look good in place. Tools look accurate and in scale.

Cons: Directions are poorly done, with confusing layout, such as a small note within a build step to look at a partial step 2 or 3 pages away before finishing the step. It would be more logical to put that sub-step on the same page with the step it is part of. There are too many mistakes in part call-outs, part placement, and conflicting and confusing instructions when compared to the drawings or photos, and the Japanese text along with the often poorly written and misspelled English text is a hindrance to the build. I don't know if this is a problem with other Asuka kits - I sure hope not. Two-part rubber tracks instead of link and length. Two-part main gun barrel requiring careful sanding instead of a slide-molded or metal gun barrel. No molded on straps for tools, which will require aftermarket or scratch-building straps. No interior details for turret or hull.

Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders, as per the above reasons.

Thanks goes out to Asuka Models for this review kit.

Reviewed by Joseph "Mac" McDaniel

 

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