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M4A3 105mm HVSS

DML 1/35 M4A3 105mm HVSS Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review November 2006 Manufacturer DML
Subject M4A3 105mm HVSS Scale 1/35
Kit Number 6354 Primary Media 706 parts (639 in grey styrene, 27 etched brass, 18 clear styrene, 12 springs, 6 brass tubes, 2 tan DS plastic track runs, 1 turned aluminum barrel, 1 twisted steel wire)
Pros Totally new kit of this vehicle; many nice touches to make it either WWII or postwar versions; correct tracks for late-war HVSS tanks Cons Separate guide teeth for the tracks will not be popular with many modelers
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $41-45

First Look

There was an old saying I recall of "it never rains but what it pours." Right now that seems to be the case with Dragon, for after several year of exclusively German (with a few Russian) subjects now they are churning out one great American armored vehicle after another.

This kit is no different; hot on the heels of three brand new Sherman kits (their M4A3E8 "Thunderbolt VII", the USMC M4A2 "Tarawa" tank, and the Commonwealth Sherman III) comes another missing link, the M4A3 105mm self-propelled howitzer with HVSS suspension.

Created primarily to replace the M7 Priest as the close support weapon of choice in tank companies and armored infantry battalions (each one had two or three 105mm howitzers for close support missions) the 105mm howitzer tanks proved relatively popular with the forces as they were fully armored and thus able to face a pillbox or strong point at point blank range and level it.

Externally these tanks looked just like a normal Sherman with the exception of the different mantelet and rotor assembly and of course the thick, stubby gun barrel. Internally the tanks were rearranged, and while initial production models with the VVSS suspension did not have power traverse it was quickly reintroduced after complaints from the field. Also, early tanks had the old split-cover hatch for the commander with the new oval loader's hatch. Due to priority for the so-called "vision" cupola to go to the "gun" tanks, it was not until the summer of 1944 that the howitzer tanks began to receive them. Photographic evidence is hard to evaluate, as it appears in some cases either an early tank was updated or a later one swapped out the vision cupola for the split-hatch version as tanks with a variety of features can be seen in photos.

Later production tanks had the new HVSS suspension, and the last group to be built also added fittings for a canvas mantelet cover along with that cover. The Marine Corps in the Pacific also had a modified version that added a flamethrower, dubbed the POA-CWS-H5. In Korea, the USMC used both that vehicle and a regular M4A3 (105mm) but also fitted with an M1A1 dozer blade.

The US Army took delivery of 1,641 M4 (105mm) (800 with VVSS and 841 with HVSS) tanks and 3,039 M4A3 (105mm) tanks (500 with VVSS, 2,539 with HVSS). The UK received 593 M4 (105mm) tanks.

Previously these vehicles have been covered as the Tamiya M4 105mm VVSS kit and an early DML POA-CWS-H5 version with and without corrected hull, neither of which was very good or very accurate. But DML's new kit combines bits of their latest kits with several new or redone sprues and a totally new set of tracks. The model can be built as an early production HVSS tank with split-hatch cupola (or upgraded one) as a very nice one is provided in the kit, as well as the vision cupola with clear styrene blocks. It also provides the attachment gutters for the canvas mantelet cover as separate parts, so a WWII version without it or a postwar/late war one with it can be built from the kit.

The upper hull is the recent one with raised (!) weld bead and an M4A2 engine deck, with the A3 deck provided separately. An older T23 turret shell is provided, but it only is included in the kit for the early model (WWII) rear exhaust deflector. A new first-aid kit is now provided for the rear of the tank or side, based on time and version modeled. All of the periscopes and their mounts are separate parts as well.

The fantastic "E8" HVSS suspension from "Thunderbolt VII" is included, but this time DML has changed the tracks to the T80 type, and it may provide the one plus or minus with the kit based on modelers' preferences. DML realized with the VVSS tanks that Sherman tracks per se do not lend themselves to their concept of "Magic Track" snap-together links (other than the correct T66 tracks with "Thunderbolt VII") and thus have turned to their DS cementable vinyl-like plastic for the T80 tracks. But here they have used slide molding to accurately produce the center guide teeth – a hollow cube with a hole in the top so that it can be connected to the center hinge in the tracks by a bolt, and DML has nailed it. But as a result, the kit comes with 176 individual guide teeth in grey styrene that must be individually glued to the DS track runs. While this should work without any major problems (if you use styrene glues and not ACC or non-compatible adhesives) the concept of having to glue a large number of itty bitty guide teeth to the tracks may not be very popular. Given that adviso, the tracks are excellent with even the outside detail on the end connectors.

The turret is a "high bustle" type with oval loader's hatch and pistol port, and as noted the sprue provides both the vision cupola and the split-hatch cupola. The latter has been completely retooled with spring detail as well as the casting mounts for the machine gun clip and lock. Many turret detail parts can be selected from either styrene or metal, such as the barrel and vision device guards. Tiny styrene tie-downs are included, which makes better sense from the standpoint of good adhesion to the kit and not going "airborne" when you turn on an airbrush. The styrene barrel even comes with rifling!

The kit also now provides the correct bore brush/cleaning rods on the left rear of the hull and the panels over the grouser bins are now gone. The only thing which could have been added are the late-war/postwar split exhaust deflector grilles and a commander's M2HB machine gun, which is AWOL in this release of the kit.

The kit provides markings for four tanks: 713th Tank Battalion, Okinawa 1945; 67th Armored Infantry Battalion, 13th Armored Division, Austria 1945; the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Division, Germany 1945; and the 752nd Tank Battalion, Italy 1945. All but the first one are solid OD vehicles with white markings; the one from Okinawa is OD with what appears to be a greyish color mud daub over parts of the tank. No postwar markings are included, but with new markings postwar Marine tanks in Korea are easy to do.

Overall this is another super kit for those of us who are Sherman fans, and DML has done it up very nicely. I just wish they would have spaced them out!

Thanks to DML for the review sample.

Sprue Breakout:

  • A 96 M4A2/A3 Late upper hull with
  • A2 engine deck
  • B 76 High bustle 75/105 turret
  • C 18 clear styrene
  • G 24 M4A3 engine deck and VVSS details
  • H 24 Early T23 style turret
  • J 24 Road wheel tires
  • K 4 Idler tires
  • Q 35x2 Drive wheels
  • Q 48x3 HVSS road wheels and bogies
  • S 1 Twisted steel wire
  • T 44x4 Center Guide Teeth - T80 track
  • X 1 Lower hull pan
  • Y 2 DS plastic track runs
  • MA 27 Etched brass details and fenders
  • MB 12 steel springs
  • MB 6 brass tubes
  • MB 1 turned aluminum barrel