M4 Sherman 75mm gun (dry) Mid Production - Remanufactured

it had been a long time since I wanted to build a 1:16 scale M4, but no satisfying model was available at the moment of this project which is dating back to 1997. I gave a phone call to a US resin manufacturer who used to advertize in a US model magazine some years ago. Fortunately half an hour later he accepted to produce what was probably his very last model. This gave me the opportunity to build a M4 into one of its most widely spread version.

The historical context is the storming of the mythical objective which was Saint Lô in Normandy. The 29th U.S. Infantry Division was assigned to this task and Major Jones 1st Bn of the 115th Infantry Regiment was reinforced by a platoon of the 747th Tank Bn to form the “Task Force Cota”. This unit was one of the very first to enter into the ruined town at “La bascule” crossroads on the 18th of July 1944. This area is now where can be seen the monument erected in memory of Major Howie.

The kit moulded in an unusual white resin showed a very clever conception similar to a 1/35th scale Tamiya model. Though much lighter than Verlinden parts at the same scale, this conception allowed the parts to be strong enough for such a massive model. Another nice touch is that the front transmission cover, the turret and some other smaller parts perfectly reproduce the foundry aspect for every cast parts.

On the other hand, the model showed some other overwhelming weaknesses. As a matter of fact, too many details were overlooked and the quality of the moulding on many smaller parts was rather poor. Working with no instruction at all from the kit, an incredible amount of upgrading work was to be accomplished starting from a base of 250 parts to achieve a model almost reaching 1600 parts.

THE TRACKS of the T48 rubber chevrons type were awfully moulded and could not be used. I decided to build from scratch a master of one T51 track shoe to get it duplicated.

From the orginal part, I saved only the guiding teeth of the connector to adjust it to my new scratch built track shoe. The rounded part of the connector where the axis are tightened in has also been scratch built using a 0.3 mm metal sheet. The trapezoid wedgenut is obtained with plastic card while its upper part is a small length of a real brass screw. The latter being glued into a plastic punched nut. Then, this part had been duplicated and the final assembly process was identical to a 1/35 scale link by link track.

THE BOGIES, although of a great number of parts, were not that difficult to assemble.

Probably the most awesome work has been to mill the twelve road wheels back sides. All the wheels were plain with a hudge amount of resin at the back. This obliged me to recreate the five rear spokes per wheel. I also had to mill the two idler wheels back and reshape them the best I could with putty and half round plastric strips. Two bolts replaced the original ones at the bottom front of each bogie housing. The latters were detailed with Aber casting numbers.

As the upper track skids couldn’t be used due to poor moulding, I decided to scratch build new ones. I used a 0.3mm copper plate into which I cut six lengthes that I bent into the correct shape. Then two grease plugs were added just under these parts. Steel nuts were added at the end of each road wheel axis. The oil plugs and the relief valves were added on each idler wheel. KMC casting numbers were added on the idler wheel caps. The sprockets were detailed with steel nuts and bolts to replace the central ones. The smaller ones came from the Verlinden range. The upper track return roller brackets were detailed with their set of bolts. Four bolts were added where these brackets were attached to the bogie housings and two bolts were added where the roller axis were attached to the bracket.

THE LOWER HULL received a new scratch built escape hatch and engine visit cover on the belly. Verlinden screw heads were added to the latter but also to the side transmission covers and the idler wheel side supports. The very good looking sharp nose is caracteristic of a remanufactured vehicle. During the combats, many tanks even destroyed were rescued. As a quick way to get available and ready for combat vehicles, those that did not burned were rebuilt. At this moment, these vehicles were upgraded with improvements already incorporated on brand new vehicles. It has been detailed with Aber casting numbers and with steel nuts to replace the original ones. The threadings were filled with mastic once all the parts had been glued. The two engine access doors were scratch built and detailed with correct hinges. The two triangular stoppers that prevent the doors from damaging the air filters if opened too largely were not forgotten. The air filters were only detailed with two rods ending with Grandt Line butterfly screws. The nuts that made the idler wheel shafts to pivot were done thanks to two steel nuts per side glued together. The threadings and joints were filled before final assembly. The two exhaust pipes could be opened thanks to lead sheets added onto the original flat parts. The tiny bafflers that also strengthened these pipes were made with thin triangular lead sheets.

THE UPPER HULL as it can be seen, consisted of a single part. I just had to remove the A2 engine deck to  replace it by the specific Continental R-975 engine deck.

Three armor plates were added at the ammunition locations as well as in front of the pilot and co-pilot periscopes. The two hatches were heavily detailed with all the hinges and latches rebuilt or created. As it is often seen on real tanks, casting numbers were added to various locations. The front and rear light guards are the original parts though considerably slimmed down. The front lights were hollowed to put at the bottom the light bulbs. The two opticals were done by thermoforming a clear plastic sheet over a pen cap. The original horn, though of a late type, is preserved since I did not want to create the most common type because of its complexity. But its guard is a photo etched chute and a lead wire is added. All the pionner tools brackets and holders were also made using photo etched chutes. No modifications were brought to original tools except for the crowbar that was made in a thick lead wire.

The four hudge lifting eyes were made using that same thick lead wire. I prefer this material compared to copper because it is much easier to work with. Moreover, it is strong enough since the parts are put under no stress at all once glued in place. This allowed me to create the ring onto which the .30 cal. machine gun barrel cover could be snapped. Grant Line rivet heads were added to represent the snaps. The four tank armored covers were detailed by creating their two hinges with plastic rod lenghts and a Roco chain was added to each locking pin. Finally, a little hole was drilled to the two armored ventilator guards and the two tank cover guards so that any water or fuel surplus could get away. The front mud guards were created by using an aluminium sheet and the relief used to strengthen them is obtained by embossing the sheets over a steel rod.

THE TURRET cast as a single hollow part beautifully reproduces the foundry aspect. Though the angle of the neck on this particular turret could have been slightly more pronounced, I didn’t feel like modifying the shape of this aera so I left it as it is. The gun shield has been rebuilt to conform with the M34A1 gun mount. I used the original one as a support that I covered with an aluminium sheet. The gun mantlet has also been modified since the one supplied was of the English Firefly version. I had to change the location of the bolts. Finally, a plastic rod was glued in place and then sanded down to create the left asymetrical shape. Appliqué armor was added at the gunner’s station.

Because of the foundry process used at the time, the armor was thinner at this particular place before a new reinforced turret entered into production by mid 1944 with the M4A3/75mm (wet). This made one of the most hazardous station in the Sherman with the loader who did not benefit from an escape hatch on these early versions.

At this step, the turned aluminium gun barrel (not supplied in the kit) was put in place, giving the turret its definitive shape. The commander’s ring hatches were modified with as much details as possible. For instance, the periscope bases were created with their ten screws per side. The periscope's sleeve is a Tamiya part coming from the M26 Pershing. All the roof details had to be added except for the ventilator which is fair enough. Thin plastic rods were used to create the three “tie downs” on the turret neck so that the crew could load their extra gear. Once again, Aber and KMC foundry symbols were added on various locations. The Verlinden MP48 antenna base comes from the Jeep and has been modified so that the W128 wire could go through the two insulators. The 0.50 cal. machine gun is also coming from the Verlinden Jeep. The modifications only constisted in adding various Royal Models screw heads and the gun barrel handle done with an aluminium microtube and a cooper wire. Then two short sections of Peddinghaus spring were added to the ammunition box support.

THE CREW consists of Sol figurines. The commander is being given a more conventional attitude by changing his legs and arms. These were made in putty and both hands are coming from the Verlinden assorted hands set. The tanker helmets are Verlinden parts taken out from two old tank commanders. Their heads were milled and replaced with far more realistic Warriors heads. The commander’s TechStar belt is hung outside to provide easier movement inside but is kept close at hand. Its equipment is from the Kirin range except for the Colt .45 chest holder which is a Verlinden part. The T17 microphone is scratch built using plastic rods, Grandt Line rivet heads, a 1/35th part and a small length of Peddinghaus spring. The tank commander is wearing on his shoulder the specific badge of the independant armored forces. This badge was created on computer.

ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT was necessary to get a good looking Sherman as used by american tankers. Mainly added on the engine deck and on the turret neck, all the parts come from the Verlinden and Kirin ranges. The AP-50A (AL-140) aerial identification panel was made using a paper handkerchief. The size was obtained thanks to the information found in Steven Zaloga’s book "US Armor Camouflage and Markings 1917-45" published by Osprey in 1984. The color itself was inspired from the unit my father picked-up (along with many other little tricky things) when his town had been liberated by the 2nd French armored division near Paris on the 25th of August. Fortunately, I realized that the Vallejo 735 magenta fluo almost matches the neon red tone.

PAINTING the model has been a rather tough job because of its uncommon size and weight. The overall model is painted with XF62 green to hide the white resin. This also allowed to reveal all the small defects due to the moulding and to glue running that could not be seen otherwise. A second coat lighting the XF62 with XF49 is applied to obtain a more accurate olive drab color. A third even lighter very thin coat is sprayed on all the largest areas where the paint is the most likely to be worn out due to weather.

The tracks were, of course, painted before being put in place. As far as they are of the flat rubber chevron type, I decided to air bush them all black to save time. In a second step, the connectors were entirely brush painted in rust. Then a final steel grey coat is applied on the largest areas. At last, a mixture of white and light grey dry brush is gently passed over every ridges. I did exactely the same to paint the .50 cal. gun and the two 0.30 gun barrels except that I “carefully” omitted the rust step.

The REGISTRATION NUMBERS and the SHIPPING MARKINGS are applied at this moment and come from the Archer Transfers range. Though destined to 1/35th scale models, I found them large enough to suit my Sherman. To conform with the AR850-5 as closely as possible, Verlinden stars are applied on the hull sides. The one on the turret roof was stenciled thanks to the 1/16th scale Stencilit sheet. Once applied, I used sand paper and a scalpel to gently scratch them at several points. At this time, the final weathering can be done. A very light black wash was sprayed on the overall model to add some relief. Then two washes made of 90°C alcohol with two types of brown drops were applied onto the model. The first wash was a bit darker and was sprayed more at the bottom while the second one was more oriented towards the top of the vehicle.

Because of its large size and fragility, I decided to build the model a specific wood box to carry it safely. It features foam stuffed inner sides and bottom onto which the tank lays.

With building this model, I achieved one of the toughest model I’ve ever built at this scale along with the Verlinden MkIV I'm converting into the MkV. The Standard Nomenclature Lists for the M4/M4A1 and M4A3 or the M4A6 from 1943 were of a great help thanks to their many exploded views. Fortunately, I managed to find the three genuine books only a couple of months after having bought the kit. I also spent a lot of time studying real restored tanks or under restoration in museums and in rallies. Having some parts of the real thing was also an alternative source of help. Despite a low moulding quality (probably due to the fact that this unit was the very last one produced) and a level of details closer to 1/72 scale, the Maxtrax kit yet remains exceptionnal for its originality. It has been an excellent base to upgrade, moulded in a resin very easy to work with.

I don't pretend at all to have achieved something perfect but I eventually enjoyed doing the best I could taking into account my experience at that moment and what the kit enabled me to do. Is there anything better to expect from modeling ?

M4

Maxtrax, Verlinden, Royal Models, Grant-Line, Model Kasten, KMC, Aber, Roco, Peddinghaus, scratch.

Accessories

Verlinden, Kirin, Techstar, Schumo, scratch.

Figurines

Verlinden, Sol, Warrior, scratch.

Markings

Verlinden, Archer Fine Transfers, Stencilit, Hudson & Allen.

My thanks go to Mike McCaulay (Maxtrax), Eric Carpentier (turned aluminium gun barrel) and Maurice Dès (moulding of the tracks). Their invaluable contribution to this project was essential. Without both their help and knowledge, this project couldn't have come true.

29th U.S. Infantry Division MAIN References
    29 Let's go, US Army, 29th Infantry Division (1945)
    29 Let's go : The 29th Infantry Division in WWII, Joseph Ewing, The Infantry Journal Press (1948)
    Breakout and Pursuit, Martin Blumenson, US Army Center of Military History (1984)
    Beyond the Beachhead, Joseph Balkoski, Stackpole Books (1989)
    115th INFANTRY REGIMENT
    Les Pigeons d'Argile de Saint Lô, Glover S. Jones, Association "Saint Lô 1944" (1985)
    116th Infantry Regiment
    Other Clay : A Remembrance of the WWII Infantry, Charles R. Cawthon, Dell Publishing (1990)
    Témoin sur Omaha Beach, Harold Baumgarten, American D-Day Edition (2004)
    175th Infantry Regiment
    From Britain to Breakthrough, Robert B. Cochrane, The Baltimore Sun (April to May 1945)
    Hedgerow Hell, John S. Allsup, Editions Heimdal (1985)

M4 Sherman MAIN References
    Ordnance Department, TM 9-731A (reprint), Portayal Press (2001)
    Ordnance Department, M4 SNL G-104 Vol. VI, XI, XIV (February 1944)
    Ordnance Department, M4A3 SNL G-104 Vol. 8 (June 1944)
    Tanks are Mighty Fine Things, Wesley W. Stout, Chrysler Corporation (1946)
    Sherman, A History of the American Medium Tank, R.P. Hunnicut, Presidio Press (1994)
    Modeler’s Guide to the Sherman, Pete Harlem, Ampersand Publishing (1999)
    Armor Walk Around M4 Sherman, Jim Mesko, Squadron Signal Publications (2000)

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