M4a2 75 mm early (direct vision)
Conversion for Dragon

Kit #: MT 72343 Review by Dave Showell - showell1(at)rogers(dot)com

Not long ago I got my hands on some of the new decal sheets that are currently available for Sherman tanks. I was particularly interested in the Sherman III (M4a2) offerings, with one new (limited edition) sheet from Bison (see Dave's British Sherman Mk III in North Africa preview) that covers North Africa specifically and a more wide ranging sheet from ARMO that has a wider selection of markings from NA, Italy, North West Europe, etc..

The tank that really caught my eye was "COCKY", a Sherman III that started out with the 41st Royal Tank Regiment, 24th Armoured Brigade, 10th Armoured Division, in Libya in October 1942 and later served with the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons), 4th Armoured Brigade. According to Dennis Oliver's book British Sherman Tanks, COCKY was one of 41st RTR's first casualties at El Alamein. It couldn't have been seriously damaged, since it was recovered and re-issued to the Scots Greys by December with only changes to the markings. Bison offers both markings while ARMO only includes the 41st RTR version.

The Bison decal shows COCKY without direct vision ports and with later "heavy" style vertical volute suspension. ARMO shows the DV ports but makes no comment on the suspension. Oliver on the other hand shows the tank with both direct vision ports and early "M3" style bogies. Given the early date, I side with Oliver on this. Cyberhobby seems to agree, since they issued their 1/35th scale Sherman III DV with markings for COCKY in both its iterations.

Okay, so to do COCKY, you need an early Sherman III with DV ports. Recently Peter Paul Przybylka of Modell Trans Modellbau in Essen Germany released a resin upgrade version of this hull for use with the Dragon Sherman III kit (7288).

The kit has one piece only, and comes in a plastic bag with a medium weight paper backing folded over and stapled to close the bag. Unfortunately this was insufficient to protect the kit on its journey to North America and you will notice I lost a piece off the front port fender. The broken piece was still in the bag however and I don't think I will have any problem re-attaching it.

The moulding has a significant pour-block on the back, which will require some cutting to remove. Once it is off, it will be necessary to add eleven bolts across the back of the rear plate just along the top edge, four bolts running vertically just slightly offset to the left of the centre-line and a hollow ring to attach the track tensioning tool (unless you are going to mount the tool in place).

Moving to the rear deck, Peter-Paul has redone the engine grates. You will recollect that Dragon fudged the grates, giving them 14 vertical bars. This kit has a more respectable 26 bars - I don't know if that number is accurate but it certainly looks better. I have used a black wash to make the details show in the photo below, and included the Dragon version for comparison (note that the wash is still wet in the photos and the glare undermines the delicacy of the moulding somewhat).
The key part for me, of course, is the driver and co-driver hoods. Peter-Paul has done an excellent job of replicating the direct vision ports, including the rounded angle of the hoods.

The above picture also shows the two possible issues with the kit. The first is the weld seams for the seven part glacis. Hunnicut notes specifically that the early M4a2s all had the seven part glacis so the overall idea is correct. The question is how prominent would the seams be? As shown above, Dragon does not include any seams. In checking the book Military Vehicles Workshop Series, "M4A2 (75mm) Sherman", volume MV-21, pictures of early M4a2s definitely have seams showing, although they are much more subtle than these appear to be. I will likely scrape them off a bit before painting.

The second issue is the antenna pot (the round thingy on the starboard side of the glacis). Peter-Paul has left it the way Dragon moulded it - with the lifted rear edge (more commonly seen on the Sherman V although in that case it would have a collar around the base). Photo evidence shows that it would more likely be flat across on a Sherman III. This should be easily fixed with some Exacto-work.

As mentioned above, building COCKY requires a set of M3 bogeys and T51 rubber block tracks. While Modelltrans offers a set of early bogeys, another option is to use the running gear and tracks that come with the Mirage M3. Fortunately I have a spare copy of this kit so I won't have to go to the extra expense of another resin set!

Other Sherman III DVs definitely did use the later suspension, but they also often had the one piece transmission cover. A good example is "Charmer" - a Sherman III DV tank of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars that went ashore at Normandy. Some modellers have run into difficulties using the one-piece transmission cover with the Sherman III kit, however.

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Article Last Updated: 07 September 2009