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M4A3 Kit

Italeri 1/35 M4A3 76mm Sherman Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Images by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2006 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject M4A3 76mm Sherman Scale 1/35
Kit Number 6440 Primary Media 208 parts (206 in olive drab styrene, 2 black vinyl tracks)
Pros Today, none Cons Older kit re-released with new number and decals but no corrections to flaws in the original kit
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $35.00

First Look

M4A3 Kit
M4A3 Kit
M4A3 Kit
M4A3 Kit
M4A3 Kit

The old saw about "time marches on" is quite true, and there is no place to better illustrate that fact than the modeling industry. Some manufacturers will put out the same kits, flaws and all, over and over and over again with only increasing prices to show for their efforts. Sometimes modelers don't mind as their kits are "the only game in town" and any other option – mostly expensive resin kits or scratchbuilding – just aren't viable. But in regard to others, where the kit is obsolete or woefully wrong, it's not really a good idea.

Take the case of the Italeri Sherman kits. The first one, an M4A1, was their kit number 225 (all 1/35 scale kits now have a 6 added in front of the old number, so mentally add that to see if the kit is still offered) which came out in the mid 1970s. When it was released, it was the best Sherman on the market (as it was the ONLY Sherman on the market!) and only had the re-leases of the awful Tamiya 1/33+ scale kit of an M4A3E8 or Revell "M4 Something" Sherman to contend with in the market. Modelers snapped it up in droves and for years it was held as the reference standard.

In short order Italeri used it as the basis for other kits, most notably an M32B1 tank retriever (kit number 203), an M7 Priest (kit number 206) and Priest "Kangaroo" (kit number 203). But in 1981 Tamiya released their kit of an M4A3 75mm Sherman which, while flawed in its own right, soon became a much more popular kit. However, since it was a 75mm and the Italeri kit was a 76mm a great deal of cross-kitting was done. That kit was later used as a basis for an M4A3E2 "Jumbo" and also an M4 Early Model and M4 105mm howitzer tank kits.

But in the meantime one mandatory reference work for US Army armor fans, and Sherman fans in particular, was released – "Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank" by R. P. Hunnicutt, first printed in 1978 – which changed the knowledge base and view of Sherman model kits. The Tamiya and Italeri kits were soon compared to the details presented in this massive tome and found wanting.

In specific, the Italeri kit was found to have some shape errors with its turret and a gun barrel with a totally erroneous sleeve where it joined the mantelet. Over the years, and in comparison with the much easier to built Tamiya kit, it was also dinged for its flimsy suspension and stiff vinyl tracks which tended to pull the suspension out of plumb and give the model a "rocking horse" profile.

Undaunted, Italeri proceeded to release other Sherman variants, with so-so results and attention to detail. About 1989 they released their kit number 253, which was called the "M4A2 Sherman ‘Jumbo'" which was totally wrong. This kit was actually an M4A3 hull top which used the lower hull and turret from the original M4A1 76mm kit of nearly 15 years earlier. As such, it was not too bad, other than the previously mentioned errors and the fact that most M4A3 76mm Shermans used the later production turret with an oval loader's hatch and not the hip ring split hatch provided on this kit. This kit tended to vanish from the market very quickly due to its labeling error.

Now, here in 2006, what should show up but this kit – which is nothing more than the original kit number 253 "M4A2 Jumbo" in a new box with a set of vinyl T54E1 tracks in place of the original's T51 tracks, donated to the cause from kit number 288, an M4A3 with T34 Calliope rocket launcher.

This is not such a bad kit, but alas many other Sherman kits have come out from first Dragon and then Academy that eclipse it, as Italeri has fixed NONE of the kit's errors.

First off, it retains the turret problems from the original M4A1 kit. While the upper hull is not bad (so far it is the only one that makes an attempt to show flush welding of the hull, and not the "trenches" found in the DML and Academy kits). The suspension is the original 30 year old Italeri one with the "rocking" bogies that are unsuitable for use with the kit's tracks. The wheels are the "solid spoke" type and do having backing details on them, but are narrow and the detail is set back too far. This kit does not offer fender skirts, although some components are provided for them.

To its credit, the kit is not hard to assemble, and with a new turret does look the part. It also needs either a new suspension or new single-link tracks to avoid that annoying "rocking horse" look.

A figure, the same one from the original 1975 release, is provided, but is rather static, and better figures can be found.

The kit offers six finishing options; while it does have a new decal sheet, as with too many recent Italeri efforts appears to be incomplete. This is a shame, as one version is a French 2nd Armored Division one named in honor of a second lieutenant killed in action. The other choices are 11th Armored Division 1945, 752nd Tank Battalion 1945, 1st Armored Division 1945, 6th Armored Division 1945, and one whitewashed one in the Colmar pocket, 1945.

Overall this kit is probably best used for learning how to upgrade older kits with replacement "after market" parts – a great place to start younger modelers or new fans who want to learn about these skills. But at the increased prices for Italeri kits, it may not be a bargain, and intermediate level modelers may wish to opt directly for either a DML or Academy kit.

My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!