|CPL Overby's Motor Pool||M50 Israeli Sherman|
|Kit #MP043||Review by Jorit Wintjes - joritwintjes(at)yahoo.co.uk|
As the armies of most of Israel's neighbours were reequipped with Soviet weaponry during the early 1950s, the Sherman tanks then in use by the IDF were rapidly outclassed, being insufficiently armed for dealing with T 34/85s or JS-3 heavy tanks. Thus urgent need to improve the main armament of the Sherman arose, a situation quite comparable to that which led to the development of the Firefly tank during the latter part of WWII. In short, a gun capable of defeating most if not any enemy armour was needed. The solution to the problem of defeating most Soviet armour then in use proved the French CN 75-50 gun that had its roots with a German WWII weapon, the 75mm KwK 42 L/70 gun that had been fitted to the Panther. It was considered to be the one of the best tank gun at the time and fitted e.g. to the AMX-13 light tank. From 1955 onwards Israeli Shermans were equipped with this gun, which made a number of changes to the turret necessary. A new bustle was welded to the front of the turret, housing the gun trunnions, and the rear bustle was enlarged to house the radio equipment and act as a counterweight. The upgunned Sherman was known as M-50. Without going into too much detail (which can be very confusing...) it's sufficient to say that most Sherman types were converted to M-50s, with various engine deck layouts. To this day, there has been - to the best of my knowledge - no complete kit of the M-50, though Modell Trans of Germany apparently offers a M-50 conversion set for the Italeri/Esci M4A1.
What's in the box?
The kit comes in a very sturdy box, with parts packed in two zip-locks. Opening the box revealed 31 resin parts in two slightly different shades of medium-to-dark grey. There's little flash, and in most cases only small casting blocks as well. The main components are the turret, a one-piece hull and two one-piece suspension units. The rest of the kit is made up by smaller parts like the gun barrel, searchlight, smoke dischargers, turret hatches (which yours truly already managed to lose...) and a generous helping of stowage items. There is no gun travel lock, but I was unable to ascertain whether these were standard issue with early M-50s.
Quality of the parts
The hull has very few casting imperfections and these - at least on my model - were all on the bottom, which doesn't really bother me as it's invisible once the kit is assembled. There are small scratch marks on the side of the hull to indicate where all the stowage should be placed; while that's no doubt a great help to the modeller, I'm slightly ambiguous about it, because if you want to use the hull for other purposes, you have to smooth it (which, however should be no great deal, I have to add). Crew hatches are closed, and as it's a solid casting, opening them up isn't worth the effort. However, both turret hatches are open, and the "tubs" are big enough to put some crew figures into them. The turret itself is of similar quality, as are the suspension (VVSS) units, which have some very thin flash that can easily be trimmed away; the same can be said of the smaller parts. The overall level of detail is impressive; everything is quite sharp, with the weld seams on the turret being a particular high point of the kit. Purists will probably want to remove the cast-on pioneer tools and replace them with items from the spares box, but again I find them more than acceptable. Another possible improvement which is even easier than removing the pioneer tools is cutting off the rail that runs round the rear turret bustle; it's cast on as well and might be replaced with a suitable piece of wire or stretched sprue. Comparison to other Sherman models suggests the kit is based on the Italeri M4A1, which - setting the thorny question whether the Italeri version existed aside - means it scales out very nicely to 1/72.
As has just been mentioned, the kit is based on the M4A1 late (47 degree, wet stowage, large hatch) VVSS Italeri kit with unmodified engine deck. It was already mentioned in the introduction that almost all Sherman types ("type" here meaning hull type) were converted to M-50s, and photographic evidence shows that a late M4A1 VVSS M-50 is perfectly fine. However, the kit hull comes with wide fenders already cast on, and these I couldn't verify in combination with VVSS, and indeed they look too wide in comparison to the suspension units. The obvious solution here is to carefully cut them away, which shouldn't be too difficult. As it is, the hull/fender combination is perfectly suitable for a later HVSS M-50 (incidentally, the stowage plan is also fitting for a late vehicle), so one could also mate a new suspension to the hull - which unfortunately isn't existing in 1/72 at the moment.
Apart from this point which can be easily corrected, the only other - very minor - accuracy issue I could find was the weld seam on the rear of the turret; it goes all the way round the turret bustle, yet in reality the original bustle was only partly removed, leaving a shelf upon which the new extended bustle sits, so the weld seam shouldn't be on all four sides of it. Again that's simply a matter of scraping things away, and it's not very noticeable in the first place.
Putting it together
I haven't built the kit yet, but test-fitting showed the main components go together very well, and the fact that the suspension doesn't consist of a myriad of parts helps to speed up construction.
Overall I think it's a very good kit, both for the quality of the parts and for the versatility of the kit. With the fenders removed it builds straight away into a nice early M-50; with a suitable HVSS (or the Hasegawa one if one doesn't mind the scale inaccuracy) you can build a late M-50; with a T23 turret and HVSS one could even do a very late M 1 Super Sherman, which were still in use in 1967. The M-50 turret could then be used to convert another Sherman (eg an M4A3 into an Chilenian M50/60...).
Many thanks to CPL Overby for providing the review example.