by: Keith Middleton [ ]
The M4A4 or Sherman V was built at the Detroit Tank Arsenal by Chrysler. 7,499 were produced and according to my research, most went to the United States’ allies in World War II. The distinctive feature of the M4A4 was the engine: the Chrysler A57 30 cylinder multibank gasoline engine. This engine consisted of five six cylinder automobile engines combined in a star shape to run as a single engine. It was this engine that made it necessary to lengthen the hull.
This is the second incarnation of the 75mm armed M4A4 from Dragon/Cyberhobby. The original kit was 6035 and the box art shows a Chinese crewed M4A4 from the 1st Chinese Provisional Tank Group serving in Burma in 1945. The new kit is part of Cyberhobby’s super value “Orange Box” series that takes an older kit, adds newer sprues and parts, throws in a bonus figure set, and sells it for a very reasonable price by current standards. The new kit comes in a large, sturdy box with impressive box art showing a profile view of a US M4A4 wearing the markings provided in the kit.
In the box you will find Dragon’s U.S. Tank Crew (NW Europe 1944) figure set, ten sprues of kit parts, a small photo-etch sheet, a small coil of quite stiff wire cable, DS T-48 tracks, and a small, glossy set of instructions. All sprues come wrapped in plastic. The box indicates the kit contains 250 parts, a much smaller number than your average Dragon kit due to the lack of single link tracks.
Let’s start with the instructions. They are in a much reduced size which I like because my model table is always crowded and finding a place to set the normal instruction sheets is always a problem. Despite the smaller size, the line drawing instructions are easy to read. The instructions indicate a very large number of the kit parts are not used in the construction of this kit, a result of the mix and match system Cyberhobby.com/Dragon has used to put this kit together. The instruction sheet also has a color painting and marking guide for the M4A4 which shows four views of the tank. Finally the instructions also have the assembly and color painting guide for the figures. The painting guide is given for Gunze Aqueous Hobby Color and Mr. Color paints as well as Model Master paints.
There are two A Sprues. The first Sprue A comes from the original M4A4 kit and contains the hull parts. The upper hull has noticeable casting texture and slightly recessed weld seams. The lower hull is a single tub and there is some detail on the bottom surface. The engine deck is also found on this sprue A and it has small casting numbers. The detail of these old parts is sharp and despite the age of the sprue, there is no visible flash on any of the parts. Also, there are no mold extraction marks in visible locations with the exception of the hull hatches. If the modeler chooses to assemble these in the open position, the extraction marks will have to be addressed as they are quite visible.
The second Sprue A comes from the M4A2(A3) line of kits. The instructions mark only the tools, fuel caps (?) and hull machine gun barrel as being used on this kit. The detail again is sharp, there is no flash and no visible extraction marks. The MG barrel has the barrel opening molded in.
Sprue B comes from the M4 Sherman kit. A small number of parts are marked on this sprue as not being used. The turret has a single commander’s hatch and pistol port, which can be modeled open. However, there is no interior detail provided at all. The turret comes in two parts and a quick test check of the fit is good. The turret has visible casting texture that appears scale appropriate. The hatch is in two halves, and both sides have casting texture and details, so it can easily be modeled open, but will require a commander figure due to the already mentioned lack of interior detail. Sprue B also contains the main gun barrel, which is molded in a single piece. There is a small bit of flash on the end of the barrel.
There are two C sprues. The first Sprue C comes from the original M4A4 kit. It contains the transmission cover which is the three part version. Again, despite the age of the mold, there is no flash visible on these parts.
The second Sprue C comes from the M4A2(A3) kits. It is the clear sprue and most of the parts are not used.
Sprue E is from the new M4 Normandy kit. The only parts used are the mantlet and appliqué armor. The mantlet has well done casting texture and numbers. There are also finely rendered screws.
Sprue H comes from the Firefly kit. Again the parts have good detail and no flash.
Sprue J contains the .50 caliber machine gun and it is also finely rendered.
There are two Sprue Vs, which contain the VVSS suspension system. Again, good detail with no flash.
As already mentioned, the tracks are DS T48 rubber chevron tracks. The tracks are well detailed and I look forward to using them rather than laboring over single links. While they came individually packaged, some of the guide horns were bent out of shape due to pressure from other sprues in the box.
The kit comes with a small metal cable which seems very springy and might be difficult to get it to properly sit on the model.
Finally, the decals. The kit comes with markings for only a single tank: Lucky Eleven serving with the 1st Provisional Tank Battalion in Burma, 1945. This is a curious choice to use with this kit as the M4A4 is probably best known for its use with Commonwealth forces in Europe. Also, while my Sherman reference library is not large by any stretch, the only photographs I could find of the M4A4 in action were in Europe serving with Commonwealth, Polish, or Free French forces, or in Burma with Nationalist Chinese crews.
Along the same lines, the inclusion of the US Tank Crew, with uniforms appropriate for the campaign in Northwest Europe in 1944-45, is curious as the uniforms would appear to be totally out of place for a tropical setting like Burma. I also find it strange that Cyberhobby/Dragon made the decision to include markings for only a single tank when the original M4A4 kit had markings for four: (1) 1st Provisional Tank Group [Chinese Crew], (2) 1st Motorized Artillery Regiment, Polish 1st Armored Division, Falaise Gap 1944, (3) RHG 13/18th Royal Hussars, Normandy 1944, and (4) Free French Army, Marseilles 1944).
With this kit, the modeler gets an M4A4 75mm kit composed of few parts from the old original M4A4 kit and many from Dragon's most recent Sherman offerings at a very reasonable price. Add to that the inclusion of the US Tank crew figure set and a ton of parts for the spares box and this is a remarkable bargain.