by: Rick Cooper [ ]
introductionLike the athlete that wins the decathlon without placing first in any particular event, the Sherman tank may not be tops in any one area of tank design but taken as a whole the trusty M4 brings home the gold. Maybe that is the reason that Dragon Models has kitted out so many different iterations of the American-designed Sherman. Sherman tanks of nearly every version and those serving in locales worldwide have been molded and boxed by our Hong Kong friends, many of them more than once. Out of all those modeling possibilities perhaps the most potent WWII version of the ubiquitous Sherman is the British Firefly; a successful cross-cultural marriage of the American tank and the British 17 pounder anti-tank gun.
Give Dragon credit, this particular sample is the seventh time they have kitted out a Firefly; a pair of Orange Box selections, a Vc #9110 and a 1c Hybrid #9104, at least one older Imperial series, a Vc #9037, as well as two more in the regular line, a pair of Vc Fireflys, #6182 and #6121. In the Smart Kit series we have the 1c Hybrid #6228. I’m sure that even with that list that I have probably left one or two out of the mix; of course now added to this list should be this particular kit; a Firefly 1c with the welded hull. Suffice it to say that the Firefly has certainly been a popular subject for DML.
ContentsWhat you get for your hard-earned money is the normal Dragon slip cover box filled with the usual suspects. A goody card that holds two sprues of clear parts, one decent sized sheet of photo-etched material, a small coil of braided wire, and a small decal sheet. An eight panel sheet of instructions divided into twelve construction steps, a parts map with nearly as many blue marked parts for the spares box as there are parts for the actual kit, and a painting and marking guide for one vehicle (hence the small decal sheet). One set of T48 rubber chevron tracks molded in DS plastic. The hull tub and upper hull along with thirteen other sprues of various sizes all molded in typical Dragon light gray styrene. Of course everything inside is molded to Dragon’s high standards; slide molding throughout, no flash noted anywhere, and I couldn’t find an ejector pin mark anywhere that would be seen after construction.
For Dragon the beauty of having molded so many different versions of the Sherman means that lots of what ends up in this particular box has already been done, and most importantly for modelers it has been done well. What that means is that in this particular kit it appears that only three of the many sprues are actually newly molded pieces, all of the other sprues have seen the light of day before, but again, they are all state of the art molding.
reviewWorking through the steps of the instructions is often the easiest way to review a kit and that’s the path I will take here. The first thing you will want to do is check your references and determine which of the many options on the kit are appropriate for your build. One thing I wish that Dragon would do is point out which options in the kit are suitable for the different marking options they offer, and when they have only one option like this kit it seems even more fitting.
The options for this kit start right away, step one is the wheels and suspension; isn’t it always? You have the choice of either the upswept or the straight trailing arm with the pillow block for the VVSS suspension. I would guess that means that 1c’s with welded hulls appeared with both, but I would check your references rather than rely on my shaky logic. In either case the bogies have some very nice casting numbers molded into them. Continuing with my shaky logic you get to choose between the pressed steel wheels or the five spoke open wheels, again check your references to determine. According to my research, if you are using the included marking that straight trailing arms and the pressed spoke wheels are the correct options; of course my research consisted of looking at the box art so take it with a grain of salt! The rest of the bogie truck construction is pretty straightforward with no surprises particularly if you have already built one or two Dragon Sherman kits.
Step two takes you to the drive sprockets, again choices, choices. Fancy or smooth, you decide; it appears that the smooth style is best for the enclosed markings. You also get to work on the hull rear plate here for some odd reason. The rear plate offers separately molded engine access doors, a nice addition particularly if you are planning on tossing an engine into the empty compartment. At this stage you can also construct the air filters even though they kind of look like they are step four, but it is hard to say for sure and in the end I don’t think it matters one whit, and once again you get a choice, this time between the round or square style filters. Sorry, I can’t help here; the box art doesn’t show the tank at all from that unflattering angle. I will say that the round style appear on one of the new sprues for this kit and are very nicely done with very fine detail.
Step three is a quickie that builds up the superb one piece narrow transmission cover and attaches the aforementioned drive sprockets. Make sure you use the correct transmission cover as you don’t want to miss the very well done foundry casting marks that have been molded in.
Step five sees some real action; you get to attach the bogies, the rear hull plate, the air filters and the idler wheels. You also get to add the leaf-spring-looking towing bar assembly that the British used, don’t forget to open up the locating holes if you plan on adding this piece. You also get to finish off the rear plate with the other various fittings that would appear here, sponson extensions, tow shackles, and the like.
Step six moves you to the front upper hull and all of the goodies that you would find there. In particular the hull hatches with rotating periscopes and guards, the welded plates for the drivers hoods, lifting eyes, headlamps, brush guards in plastic or photo-etch and a photo-etched siren guard, but no siren.
Steps seven and eight keep you busy with the upper rear hull. You’ll find lots of bits and bobs here to add to your Firefly along with the vehicle’s pioneer tools. With the tools you get the blobbish molded-on straps that are not even really straps, I await anxiously the day when Dragon will provide two sets of pioneer tools; one with molded-on retaining hardware and another without in the same way that they do with some of the German Tigers for example, but there I go dreaming again. The tools are from the M4A2/A3 sprue that they have used for many years now, the positive in all this is that you do get nice photo-etched straps that go a long way to dressing up the tools. If you decide you like the locating holes you will have a few of those to drill out to mark the proper placement of the tools. In addition, the engine deck panels are molded as separate pieces so if you took advantage of the opportunity to open the rear hull engine access doors you might as well go all in and open the top access panel as well, an option Dragon makes easy for you. This is the step that also has you add the very well done appliqué armor plates that first were seen in Dragon’s M4 Normandy kit and the exhaust stacks.
Step nine provides a bit more of a British feel to the vehicle as you will get to work on the upper rear hull and add one of those unique storage boxes as well as the gun travel lock on the rear deck. Again, a choice is provided between two different styles of closures for the gun travel lock and again I have no idea which would be most appropriate. Here is where you also add the engine crank and what I believe is the radio telephone box for communication with the crew.
Step ten takes us into some new territory as well, the commander’s hatch and cupola. The kit gives you choices here as well, the US version of the hatch with the rotating periscope or the British low profile version with the periscopes mounted all around. What is nice about the British version is that Dragon has decided to mold the whole thing in clear plastic, even the hatch lids are clear. The detail on the British cupola is very nice with many small photo-etch bits to really dress it up; however I am not sure about the inside of the hatch lids which are completely devoid of any detail whatsoever. Adding a handle and/or a locking mechanism may not be a big deal for some but it seems something of an omission. Step ten also provides for the build-up of the new armored radio box for placement on back of the turret in a bit as well as the fire extinguishers and their photo etch bracket and the .50 cal machine gun (which can only be added to the US-style commander’s hatch otherwise it makes a lovely addition to the spares bin).
Step eleven gets up to the business end of the Firefly, the superbly molded low bustle turret, one of the new molded parts, and the 17 pounder gun. Add the vane sight, additional periscopes, loader’s hatch stop, proper antennae bases, appliqué armor, lifting rings, previously constructed assemblies for the commander’s hatch and the radio box and viola! Well, okay, maybe not yet, you do need to construct the turret which is in two pieces, lower ring section and the upper turret. The upper turret has such a nice cast texture to it that is painful to know that you have to attach the lower section and then eliminate the pesky seam requiring some work to restore the texture.
You also will add the gun, mantlet, and rotor shield as well. The gun is molded in one piece with the distinctive muzzle brake molded in two parts; one piece is molded already attached to the gun requiring you only to add the other half to the piece, a nice way to handle the arrangement. The mantlet and rotor shield are also a compliment to Dragon’s molding ability, very fine detail with foundry marks molded on although there are no foundry marks on the turret itself.
Finally, step twelve attaches the turret, the gun travel lock; tow cable, the DS tracks, and your choice of two styles of armored plate for the bow MG port. One final thing to add, the brass side skirt mounting strips and you will have yourself one nice looking firefly 1c with the welded hull. Now you will want to add your favorite flavor of olive drab and a few markings and you’re ready to weather! The only marking option the kit provides is for a 2nd Armoured regiment vehicle with the 1st Armoured Division in Normandy during 1944. I don’t know for sure what aftermarket marking options are available but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more than just one or two floating around.
ConclusionGo buy one today. This is a very nice kit, clearly up to Dragon’s high standards of engineering and molding. It uses a number of “off the shelf” sprues and adds a couple more that are new to this version to enable the modeler to end up with something to be proud of. The drawbacks are mainly confined to the “I wish they had included this, or had been clearer here or there” variety, with little in the way of real problems. So, to sum it all up I say again, go buy one, you’ll be glad you did.