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Hobby Boss 1/35 M4 High Speed Tractor Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Images by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2008 Manufacturer Hobby Boss
Subject M4 High Speed Tractor Scale 1/35
Kit Number 82408 Primary Media 333 parts (269 in grey styrene, 44 etched brass, 16 clear styrene, 2 black vinyl track runs, 1 length of nylon string, 1 section of brass chain)
Pros FINALLY a decent kit of this popular tractor; nicely done details and accurate suspension Cons Some details simplified (see text)
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $36.95

First Look

M4 Kit
M4 Kit
M4 Kit
M4 Kit
M4 Kit
M4 Kit
M4 Kit
M4 Kit

Back in 1957, when I was nine the only good way to make money was off my report card, as I had a wonderful grandmother who believed that "bribery works wonders." As such, other than birthdays, Christmas, and a stray generous uncle or two it was the only time I could get enough money together to buy "expensive" model kits. In the fall of 1957, for my first good report card, I made enough to afford a good spree and went to my local model shop. The first thing I saw there for the princely sum of $1.98 and no tax was the brand new Revell Kit No. H-532, the "Long Tom" artillery piece set. For a 9-year-old, this came with a "tank," a big gun, a wheeled thing, and five little men – how cool is that?!

I loved that model and really had a good time with it, but eventually it bought the farm as did many others (a problem which was exacerbated the year I got a Daisy Model 111 BB gun.) But I never forgot it and when I grew up wanted to do one in 1/35 scale.

Alas, there were two major problems: number one was no 1/35 scale 155mm gun kits, and only one really crummy model of the M4 18-ton High Speed Tractor (the "tank" of my youth) from Nitto of Japan. This was merely a pantographed version of the old Revell/Adams kit with a motor added and rubber band tracks. Eventually, when AFV Club came out with their great kit of the M2 (AKA M59 in its postwar MAP version) I tried to tackle converting that kit to an accurate M4 HST. I gave up as it would have to be totally scratchbuilt. I also passed on the resin one which came out about three years later as it was too much for my budget.

Now, after two years of anticipation and waiting, Hobby Boss of China has released the second of two kits of the HST. The original vehicles were called the 18-ton High Speed Tractor M4 (90mm) and the 18-ton High Speed Tractor M4 (155mm and 240mm). That is straight out of the handbook, TM 9-785 dated April 1952, but apparently the WWII ones were called either Type A or Type B. The first Hobby Boss kit was of the Type A variant, with a "box" on the back that was optimized for ammunition stowage for the 3" and 90mm AA guns. The Type B variant, of which this is the kit, was designed to carry heavy artillery ammunition and could carry either 155mm, 8 inch (203mm) or 240mm ammunition in its "box."

The latter one is the more interesting one of the two, as it has an open compartment at the rear which has an ammunition handling crane and interchangeable plates for use with any of three types of ammunition – 155mm gun, 8 inch howitzer, or 240mm howitzer. These require racks that snap into the floor of the compartment and hold-down plates which lock into place to keep the ammunition stored vertically. The racks all nested to store on the floor of the compartment when not in use and to ensure the vehicles would be interchangeable as needed. Stowage was not great, as normally the stowage was for no more than 30 155mm rounds, 20 8 inch rounds, and 12 240mm rounds (the vehicle also had to carry their separate propellant canisters as well as the ammunition.) Handling was via a manual winch and erectable crane that used the nose plugs of the projectiles as shipped for pickup (a ring was normal).

Hobby Boss' models cover both vehicles, but as this one is the more involved – and the only one with artillery pieces available for it – it has been the one more in demand. The model provides a nice selection of features and a complete engine bay, as well as the basic racks for the rear and two 155mm rounds with transfer plugs in place.

The lower hull is a nice replication of the original, and using etched brass gives the modeler the options to have two vents at the front of the hull either open or closed. The idler wheel consists of three parts (center and two rims) to capture the welded structure accurately. (Note that while the suspension LOOKS like that of the American M3/M5 light tanks, it is more closely related to that of the M4 medium and has most of its parts interchangeable with them.) The bogies are nicely done with good wide wheels and a heavy VVSS spring assembly.

The tracks are somewhat thin versions of the T48 Sherman track (rubber chevron) but most M4 HST 155mm prime movers tended to use the T49 three-bar cleat type for extra traction. I suggest checking on them and if doing a WWII version replacing the kit's tracks with suitable single-link ones from RHPS, Model Kasten, or Fruil.

The rear section of the hull is provided with a wealth of interior details, such as the winch, the big Waukesha gasoline engine, and all of the engine systems. Since the bay is painted white and the vehicle has large side grilles, this helps show them off once completed. The side grilles are someone simplified to get them to turn out as etched brass (the real ones have at least two layers from photographic evidence) but this should not look too bad on the finished model.

The model also gives the modeler the option to either leave it open or "button it up" with a full set of canvas doors and panels. They also provide masks for painting so the windows may be installed prior to finishing, a nice touch.

The hardest steps in the model's construction will be the forming of the headlight (front) and floodlight (rear) lens guards from etched brass, as the originals are domed. I suggest seeking out something about the size of a pencil eraser and using it to shape the guards before installation.

The model comes with only one finishing option: A Battery, 987th Field Artillery, 1st Army. This was a non-divisional 155mm gun unit that fought in the ETO from July 1944 to V-E Day, but it is listed as an SP 155mm unit (e.g. M12) and not a 155mm tracked drayage unit, which is what the M4 units were. I suggest checking more thoroughly into WWII order of battle or good photographs for correct markings.

Overall, this is a great kit and answers the mail. The only question I have is – why didn't AFV Club do one when they did their 155mm?

Sprue breakout:

  • A 38x2 Suspension, seats, exterior details
  • B 54 Cab components, engine
  • C 67 Cab components, engine and suspension details
  • D 16 Clear styrene
  • F 70 Ammo plates, details, drivers and idlers
  • 1 Lower hull
  • 1 Cab assembly
  • 44 Etched brass
  • 2 Black vinyl track runs
  • 1 Nylon string
  • 1 Brass chain