Modeling the Sherman Header Image

So you’ve decided that you’re going to build a 1/35th scale model of a Sherman tank, but you’re not sure which kit meets your needs.  It’s not like you don’t have enough choices, although, for the certified “Shermanaholic” we are not even close to reaching a saturation point.  Currently, there are three companies that function as the main source for injection molded kits: Dragon, Tamiya, and Tasca (the order is strictly alphabetical).  I will be looking at Italeri in a limited way.  I have chosen not to include other manufacturers as their inventory of Sherman kits is generally quite small and they have not been active in producing any new Sherman kits.  Tamiya has been dormant for some time, relying on their M4/ M4A3 series that has been a popular standard for quite some time.  However they have returned with several new offerings.  The Tasca line has changed ownership to Asuka and production seems to have resumed.  The kits from Dragon, Tamiya, and Tasca have unique design, engineering, and manufacturing characteristics that distinguish each.

My goal with this page is to provide the would-be Sherman modeler enough information to make the best choice for their starting point.  Before the superdetailing begins, we need to have the best basic model to build upon.  While my focus will be on the kits that most faithfully reproduce the basic features of the different prototypes, I will also point out some of the advantages and disadvantages of each manufacturer’s approach along with tips and suggestions for construction.  I have created separate pages with some of my favorite construction tips for the Dragon kits (here), Tamiya kits (here) and the Tasca kits (here).  As best I can, I will attempt to update these pages to keep them timely.

Good reference materials are a must to sort out the unique WWII concurrent production of numerous Sherman types and these three books make my list of absolutely essential.  The Sherman, Design and Development by Patrick Stansell and Kurt Laughlin is an extremely complete guide to all the Sherman details.  Armored Thunderbolt by Steven Zaloga is a terrific reference combining the development of the Sherman against an operational background.  Sherman by R.P. Hunnicutt has long been considered a definitive guide to the design and development of the Sherman.

sherman reference material Image
Kits

Dragon’s boxes are always bigger.  Indeed, when you first open the box, you are taken aback with the thought that, “How could it take this many parts, it’s a bloody tank.”  In fact, I think there is a contest, somewhere on the net, offering a prize to anyone who can repack a Dragon box in under 2 hours.  If you check the instructions, you soon realize that you will only use a portion of what is in the kit.  Some of the sprues are included in most all of the Dragon kits.  Some of the parts on the different trees look very similar.  Also, when comparing different kits, you might see a “revision” of a tree that otherwise looks similar.  The difficulty with Dragon’s method lies in the instructions, which for the most part, are a stumbling block.  The combination of poorly designed instructions along with an abundance of optional or seemingly duplicated parts can leave the novice very frustrated.  The quality of the moldings is generally very good although, at times, hampered by an abundance of poorly placed sprue attachment points.  A number of the parts in Dragon’s more current kits are some of the most technically well done moldings I’ve seen.  Dragon kits typically include a sheet of photo etch.  A sample of a Dragon instruction sheet can be found here.

Dragon Sherman Sprues
Tamiya Sherman Kit Sprues

Tamiya kits are the polar opposite of Dragon.  Side-by-side comparison would lead you to believe one of two things, depending on your preference: either that styrene is a valuable resource in Japan; or that this is a proper tank kit.  All joking aside, these kits build up nicely with some engineering features that I actually prefer.  After all, simplicity can also be a good thing.  With their Sherman kits, Tamiya adopted the philosophy of, “If you don’t see it, you don’t need it.”  That translates into, “Don’t look underneath.”  Typically, Tamiya provides no sponson floor or inside covers for the solid bogie wheels.  Happily, Tamiya has remedied the sponson floor issue with their new M1 Super Sherman kit.  A sample of a Tamiya instruction sheet can be found here.

This is the layout of a typical Tasca kit.  Right off, two things are obvious: There is no one-piece lower hull and the tracks are in four sections.  These are the result of Tasca’s limited molding capability.  Despite this limitation, Tasca has turned their lower hull construction into a very well designed advantage.  I have found Tasca’s sprue attachment points are usually quite fine and better placed than either Dragon or Tamiya.  A sample of a Tasca instruction sheet can be found here.

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Tasca Sherman Kit Sprues
Lower Hull

Each company has a characteristic approach to the lower hull which is consistent among all their Sherman models.  The Dragon lower hull is molded in one complete piece, Fig. 4.  The cast detail on the bottom is version specific.  The Tamiya lower hull is also cast in one piece, Fig. 5.   The bogie mounting plate detail as well as the stub axles for the idler and drive sprocket are cast in place.  Tamiya does not alter underside detail for the different versions nor do they provide a floor for the sponsons in any kits produced prior to their latest M1 Super Sherman.  Tasca has chosen to use individual pieces to make up their lower hull, Fig. 6.  This method of construction, while requiring more care, is a very elegant way of creating a square lower hull with complete detail on all surfaces.  Details are version specific.  Tasca includes a central bulkhead dividing the engine and fighting compartments.  The bulkheads fit the upper hull quite well and provide a nice basis for interior detailing.

Dragon Lower Hull
Tamiya Lower Hull
Tasca Lower Hull
Final Drive and Differential Housing

Dragon produces two 3 piece housings broken down differently.  The earlier style 3 piece without bullet splash guard, Figs. 7 - 8 is only found in their M4A1 DV kit.

Dragon M4A1 DV 3 Piece
Dragonon M4A1 DV 3 Piece

The later style 3 piece housing, Figs. 9 - 10, features different side plates, bullet splash guard with machined bolt strip, and nifty one piece main housing casting.  This housing is supplied in all their other kits utilizing the 3 piece housing.  Of all the 3 piece differential housings, this is the easiest to assemble because there are far less seams to deal with.

on M4 3 Piece
on M4 3 Piece

Tasca’s version of the 3 piece differential housing, Figs 11 - 12, uses the most parts.  It is supplied without bullet splash guard in the DV kits and with bullet splash guard in the non-DV kits.  Four pieces are provided to represent the flanges that join the three main housing pieces.  If carefully assembled, this will result in a proper joint between the flanges.  The angle of the top of the final drive assembly and the correctly sized bolt strip make the Tasca the most accurate representation.

Tasca 3-Piece Differential
Tasca 3-Piece Differential

The Tamiya version, Figs 13 - 14, represents the later 3 piece housing with bullet splash guard.  It is unique in that it has to be assembled around the stub axle on the lower hull

Tamiya 3-Piece Differential
Tamiya 3-Piece Differential

Dragon currently has three iterations of the late model 1 piece differential and final drive housing.  The first, fig. 15 - 16, has been a fixture of sprue “A” for a long time.  It has been recently revised by modifying the endplate.

Dragon one piece differential
Dragon one piece differential

Dragon tried doing a completely new effort when they did the PTO composite kit, Fig. 17 - 18.  All of Dragon’s late model differential and final drive housing suffer from dimensional issues.  For a further explanation, go here.

Dragon one piece differential
Dragon one piece differential

Again, the Tasca version uses a few extra parts, but yields the most accurate rendition.

Tasca one-piece differential
Tasca one-piece differential

The Tamiya differential and final drive housing assembles around the lower hull in the same fashion as their 3-piece.  The difference here is that from the side, it looks quite cobbled together.  I would suggest adding some sheet styrene to the hull and reducing it to fit before the front casting is cemented to place.  When the sides are flush, remove the dog-ear on the cover and cement to place.  I have illustrated this fix here.

Tamiya one piece differential
Tamiya one piece differential