by: Rick Cooper [ ]
The M4A3E2 ‘Jumbo’ Sherman was a quickly designed stopgap solution approved in early 1944 to fill the role of an assault tank that could lead the charge into Germany. The role was originally intended for the M-26, but delays in production meant another solution needed to be found. This new design would utilize the then standard M4A3 and feature a thickened transmission cover, glacis plate, turret, gun mount, and hull sides, in order to help fend off German anti-tank rounds. The gun mount, turret, and transmission cover were thickened through the casting process while the hull sides and glacis plate received extra armor pieces welded in place at the factory.
Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal’s Fischer Tank Division went to work on the design and built 254 of the new oversized Sherman. The increase in armor protection meant a concurrent increase in weight and ground pressure which reduced the speed of the vehicle to 22 MPH. The ground pressure issue was solved in the M4A3E2 with the addition of track extenders, or duckbills, which widened the track and reduced the ground pressure back to an acceptable range. The tank left the factory with the 75mm gun installed, which had superior HE capabilities in comparison to the 76mm gun, which was by then widely available. Many of the vehicles, however, were refitted with the 76mm gun in theatre due its greater AP capabilities.
Tasca Models has garnered a well earned reputation, particularly among Allied tank enthusiasts, for producing an amazing line of state-of-the-art Sherman tanks and variants in a relatively short amount of time. They now continue with their impressive run with yet another top notch offering, the Sherman M4A3E2. The M4A3E2, or Jumbo, has not previously been seen in kit form for nearly thirty years, and now Tasca has filled the void with a new, modern tooled, kit.
Tasca has molded the kit in a dark green plastic on no less than 18 sprues. Also included are 4 sections of glue-able vinyl track with the extended end connectors, or ‘duckbills’ attached, two clear sprues, one photo-etch sheet, one decal sheet, one set of vinyl poly-caps, one piece of sponge material, and one set of instructions.
Sprue and contents breakdown:
Two identical A sprues contain the drive sprockets and mounts, along with idlers wheels.
Three sets of this sprue contain everything you need for the rest of the suspension and running gear. They contain the parts to construct both the bogies with upswept return rollers as well as the earlier flat style and three types of road wheels; early open-spoke, solid spoke, and the new ‘big hub’ variety wheels seen on many Jumbos, of course check your references for the correct set you will need.
Aw shucks, just one of these. This sprue has all the pioneer tools plus the hull hatches along with many of the smaller hull fittings, ventilator covers, tail lights, guards, etc.
A couple of these small sized sprues with lifting hooks, periscopes, towing clevises, and just about the most delicate light brush guards I have ever seen; and which because they are not needed can be used on another project!
Gives you the parts to construct the lower hull which begins life as flat pieces rather that a single molding. The kit also provides a bulkhead to separate the engine compartment from the fighting compartment.
Lots of new stuff here that instantly makes this kit recognizable as a jumbo, the hull sides appliqué armor as well as the heavily armored gun mount. Also contained here are the new sand shields mounting strips.
Three of these little jewels, two molded in clear plastic and one in the standard green, mostly identical with clear and solid options for both periscopes as well as the commanders cupola, commonly seen now on the latest Tasca’s Shermans.
Beautifully rendered turret with very nice weld detail and relatively delicate cast surface. Visual observation alone tells you that this turret is beefier than other M4A3 turrets.
The other Sprue H:
Yes, there are two, completely different, both marked as H. This is the 47° hull that was previously released as part of the M4A3(76)w Sherman that Tasca released last year, but no problem as both vehicles used the same hull.
Supplies the 76mm gun and provides the beefier transmission cover, which again much like the turret, is molded noticeably thicker than other M4 transmission covers from other kits. Lots of extras for the spares box here.
Lots of goodies for the rear hull and exhaust suite included here, again all very nicely done.
Okay, really two sprues here, the magnificent M2 .50 caliber commander’s machine gun and cradle and pintle arrangement. Seen before in other Tasca kits but still can’t be beat.
Two of these to make up the 5 gallon gas and water cans, the attention to detail here is, once again, second to none.
Also included are a small photo-etch sheet with periscope guards and rear fender supports as well as some unused light brush guards. The decal sheet contains markings for 4 different vehicles, two armed with the 75mm and two with the 76mm versions.
First things first, Tasca has created a well-laid out 21 step construction process for the jumbo. Thankfully, the instructions are quite clear about optional parts for the 4 different vehicles that can be built so the modeler is never left wondering just which optional parts should be used for the version they’re building. Most of the guide is a simple parts call out along with arrows for the attendant location, but there are times when a different view would ease construction process and Tasca provides additional top, side, and oblique views when they are called for. There are some instances when simple arrows, or even different views, are just not enough and to help out the instructions give a verbal description of the actions needed.
As far as the actual kit, the parts for the jumbo's suspension have, for the most part, been previously released for their earlier Sherman kits with the exception of the new ‘big hub’ wheels. All the superlatives that have been tossed around regarding the running gear in the past still hold true. Some builders might find the bogie units to be a bit fiddly and there may be something to that as my count shows no less than thirteen parts for each. Tasca even provides an option for adding an additional twelve rivets to each of the pressed spoke wheels (while none of the kitted vehicles use this wheel, some jumbos were known to), which some modelers may think moving just a bit into the surreal (37 pieces per bogie unit, wow!). On the positive side, these are clearly the nicest bogie units I have ever seen, casting numbers, bolt detail, inserts for the back of the solid spoke wheels, track skids with detail, and the silver lining on the fiddly pieces means that the wheels can be articulated correctly.
As far as the tracks go, the kit comes with a set of T-48 rubber chevron track with a full set of extenders; they appear easy enough to work with, no noticeable ejector pin marks beyond two vinyl pimples to remove per section. However most jumbos did not sport a full set of the duckbills due to the ease with which they were broken off, so modelers may want to remove a few and add some bolt detail where they have been removed.
The upper hull, also from a previous release, has raised weld beads, delicate cast texture where required, and foundry casting marks as well. The new parts for the jumbo include the applique side and front armor, look very nice indeed, all delicate weld seams and beveled edges and what looks to be a superlative fit. The different fittings for the hull look good, although the pioneer tools are conspicuously missing retaining straps. I don’t know if the missing strap detail is something beyond the pale for modern mold cutting capabilities, but the major model producers have pushed the envelope in so many other ways it would be nice to see this as well someday soon. I think my favorite feature of the hull is the multi-directional exhaust deflector assembly, a real treat that is rarely seen in a Sherman kit.
The new turret looks like a real winner as well; the heavy armored gun mount with all its correctly rendered sharp angles gives the tank the look of a machine that really means ‘business’. The casting on the turret is first rate, subtle casting, first-rate weld detail and topped off with perhaps what must be the finest commanders .50 caliber machine gun available in plastic today. With all those well done components it can be easy to overlook one small drawback; none of the rather prominent foundry cast marks are present, which seems odd when you consider that they are evident on the hull and the bogies.
Tasca has produced a real winner here, the first accurate plastic kit of an M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo in the suddenly very competitive Allied model market. While the kit may not be for the beginner, a modeler with a little bit of experience and patience should have little problem thanks to the well laid out instructions. Simply put this is what a state-of-the-art model should look like; very well rendered, dimensionally accurate, precise easy to follow instructions, and superb detail throughout.