Tamiya M4 Sherman "Early Production"

This was a commission project.  Normally I would have picked a different kit for a Sherman but the Tamiya M4 Sherman (Early Production) was specified so that is what I used.  This kit is somewhat dated (first issued in 1995), but still has some nice features and with a little TLC and aftermarket help builds into a decent Sherman.

Tamiya bills the kit as an “early” M4 but this is misleading.  While it does have some early M4 characteristics it also has many mid and late features as well.  This can be confusing but not always inaccurate.  In the European Theater many US tanks were refurnished at some point in their career.  As improvements were instituted by the Ordinance Department they were added to vehicles as they came through depots for maintenance.  This is still practice in the US Army today.  During my time in Iraq when we took our M1114 Humvees in for scheduled maintenance several times we came away with different armor packages, upgraded cupolas, heavier strut assemblies and one time (which was wonderful) upgraded cushy seats.  So, what Tamiya has here would more accurately be described as an M4 Sherman (Refurbished) or (Mid-Production).

Since this is a Tamiya kit it has many of the problems that ALL Tamiya Shermans seem to have, i.e. molded on hatch handles, recessed hull welds and the inexplicable open bottom sponsons.  All of this is fixable though with a moderate amount of time and effort.  Despite this there are some nifty bits on this kit.  There is a convincing turret radio, periscope opening covers and a nice assortment of spare parts and storage.  The best part of the kit is the texture molded into the turret and hull.  Its about the most convincing rendition of casting and machining texture I’ve seen on an injection molded kit.  Tamiya should be proud of that.

With the exception of fitting sheet styrene on the floorless sponsors, I didn’t do any huge conversions on the kit.  I did however substitute a number of components from my extensive spares bin (I have one devoted specifically to Sherman parts).  I added photo etch brush guards on the periscopes, hatch handles, tools, an M2 machine gun and a complete DML bogie set.  The Tamiya tracks that came with the kit are actually pretty good for rubber band tracks.  They suffer from one fatal flaw however; they are rubber band tracks.  So I added a set of workable individual link tracks from AFV Club.

Painting was as straight forward as it gets.  I painted and masked the white stars ahead of time and painted the whole tank with Tamiya acrylic XF-62 Olive Drab, shaded to scale with a little of XF-60 Dark Yellow.  I then post shaded with XF-62 heavily diluted with XF-57 Buff.  The gear on the front glacis and rear deck are all from the spares bin.  Now it was time to start work on the base.

The future owner wanted a late war looking vehicle so I reasoned that Siegfried Line dragons teeth would convey that.  I built a master from Evergreen styrene sheet plastic and covered it with bass wood, leaving gaps and imperfections so the structures would look like they were cast in a wooden concrete form.  With the casting master done I made a simple one piece mold from Alumilite Mold Putty.  It set in about an hour and I was in business.  I molded the teeth with hobby plaster.  When they came out of the mold I chipped them a little and added a loading eye on the top from brass wire.  The whole process only took about two hours.

The base is a Wal Mart picture frame.  I took out the glass and sealed the fiberboard backing, then contoured the road out of Elmer’s Wood Putty.  Once it was dry I airbrushed it all with XF-52 Flat Earth.  The grass is Woodland Scenics static grass.  Once that was set I added tufts from Scenic Express.  I wanted the grass to look like dormant winter grass so I airbrushed it a with a mixture of XF-49 Khaki and XF-26 Deep Green.  Once all was set I dry brushed the grass with XF-4 Yellow Green.

The barbed wire is a double strand of copper electrical wire from a household extension cord.  I tied the individual barbs just like real barbed wire.  It was pretty tedious.  Never again!
To make the road seem like fresh mud I mixed a concoction of Liquitex acrylic gel and ground pastel chalk.  I glued the tank to the road in the track marks I had already created when the putty was wet, then applied the Liquitex to the road and the suspension.  Once all was dry I airbrushed a light coat of Future Floor wax on the road and the suspension to give it a fresh, wet look.

During this process I weathered the tank first with a wash of black artist oils.  I followed this with a dry brush of ground buff pastel chalk.

I added the yellow mine warning signs for two reasons; first to place the scene in Germany or eastern France and second, to add some color in an otherwise drab scenic base.  Once this was done it created a problem in my mind.  Why would the tank be driving though an area that was obviously mined?  To solve this I added the white engineer tape showing that the combat engineers had cleared the road at least of mines.

The figure is a composite from the Verlinden resin US Tank Crew set.  I had to tweak an arm slightly to make it posed with a radio mic in one hand.  Other than that and some headset wires it’s stock.  I painted it with Vallejo acrylics.

Since this build was going on a living room shelf and it would be a nightmare to dust, I finished off the build with a custom acrylic cover to fit the base.  I measured the dimensions carefully and ordered the pieces pre-cut from a local acrylic supplier.  It’s actually very simple to construct but tricky to get assembled without getting acrylic cement imperfections here and there.  I’m still learning.

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