In Search of ... a decent Sherman HVSS by Doug Chaltry
15 August 2004 email: doug(at)
A lot has been happening these past couple years for those of us interested in modeling the Sherman tank in 1/72nd scale. What used to be a dearth of good kits has now become a fairly decent selection of the most common types, either in plastic or resin. This isn't to say that much more isn't needed, which it is, in order to give Sherman modelers the same broad selection of kits as those interested in German Panzers. But things certainly are improving.

One of the many gaps still remaining in Sherman availability however, are kits of the late war versions with the HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension). One of the oldest plastic kits on the market, the Hasegawa M4A3E8 Sherman, was equipped with this suspension, but like the rest of that kit, the wheels and bogies are over-scale. No other plastic manufacturer has yet provided a replacement.

Some resin companies have marketed a few HVSS Shermans, and they have all taken one of two routes in producing this suspension: they have either used modified Hasegawa kit parts, or they have used modified parts from the Matchbox 1/76th scale M40 (or M12?) HVSS kit. Unfortunately, neither of these solutions is appropriate for a good suspension in this scale.

Fine Scale Factory sells three versions of HVSS Shermans: an Israeli M-51, an M4A3 with winter tracks, and a late-WW II/Korean-era M4A3 HVSS. All three of these kits use a modified suspension from the old Hasegawa kit. In order to improve upon the over-scale Hasegawa wheels, FSF reduced the diameter of the wheels by thinning the tires. This has indeed brought the overall size of the wheels closer to correct for the scale, but they do, however, look a little strange with a large wheel but very thin rubber tire. Still, it is certainly an improvement over the Hasegawa parts. (They also improved the bogie suspension a bit and added nice bolt detail to the wheel rims).

Several companies have used Matchbox HVSS parts for their Sherman kits, including Modell Trans, Exokit, and Ca.Ma. Unfortunately, these wheels and suspension parts are far too small for 1/72nd scale.

This table shows some measurements to compare all of these parts (size in mm):

  Sprocket Wheel Idler Wheel Road wheel Large Return Roller Small Return Roller Suspension Unit Height Wheel Spacing (hub to hub)
Real Item 660.0 571.5 520.7 342.9 254.0 787.5 862.5
1/72nd Scale 9.2 7.9 7.2 4.8 3.5 11.0 12.0
Hasegawa Kit 10.5 10.0 8.0 5.6 3.4 12.0 12.0
Fine Scale Factory 9.4 10.0 7.8 5.6 3.9 11.8 12.0
Matchbox 8.9 7.2 6.5 3.9 3.9 10.4 12.0

This shows me that overall, the Fine Scale Factory suspension is the most accurate. The main, glaring exception to this, is the idler wheel, which is way over-scale. For those of you who have a spare Hasegawa Sherman in your "never-to-be-built" pile, an adequate solution will be to replace the FSF idler wheel with one of the road wheels from the Hasegawa kit, which is a pretty good match for size. Given this fix, I think that the FSF suspension overall looks the best of the three, but the tires need to be thicker and the road wheels smaller in order to look truly correct.

The Matchbox road wheels actually look very good, as far as relative sizes of the rims and the tires, but again, their overall size is too small.

A note about the sprocket wheels: both the Hasegawa and FSF sprocket wheels lack one sprocket tooth; they have 12 teeth, whereas they should have 13. The FSF sprocket is copied from the ESCI kit, hence this discrepancy. I imagine this will affect the size and number of track links to be used on each track run, but considering that the FSF kit hulls are modified from ESCI kit parts, which are also a little bit too short, I'm not sure what the overall effect will be.

So in conclusion, I want this article to serve as a call to manufactures to please come to our assistence with the Sherman HVSS. Although we have a workable solution with the FSF kits, they could be improved upon. Fine Scale Factory, Modell Trans and MR Models have all shown a great interest in Sherman kits in the past years, so let's hope that one of them (or someone else) will come out with an all new, and accurate, HVS suspension in 1/72nd scale.

HVSS measurements taken from: MMiR's Modeler's Guide to the Sherman, by Pete Harlem.

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