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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review

The way in which the tracks are provided in this kit means that I will be painting and assembling the tracks, roadwheels, idlers, sprockets and lower hull before I start painting the upper hull. As usual, I’ll be brush painting everything.

The lower hull comprises seven parts and assembles without any problems and without the need for any filler.

I attach the upper hull and add all the other bits and pieces to that, other than for the rear mudguards and the side-pieces for the track guards, which I’ll leave off until the tracks are complete and in place. Fit is great with one exception: Part ??, arrowed below. This part has two pegs that are supposed to fit into two holes in the upper hull. But the holes are too small (or the pegs are too big) and I had to use a 1mm drill to enlarge the holes before this part would fit properly.

I then added the inner halves of the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets to the lower hull. The tracks fit over these and are retained in place by the outer halves which are fixing in place after the tracks. Some care is needed when fitting the sprockets as these must mesh with the gaps between treads on the tracks, so dry-fitting and adjustment is needed before the inner halves of the sprockets are fixed in place.

With the inner wheels in place, I try a dry fit of the tracks, and they look pretty good. 

Then, it’s on to the turret. The armour plates on the sides and rear are separate parts, but fit is generally very good. The only issue is where the mantlet and front plate join the turret. Here, there’s a distinct gap.

This is odd, mainly because fit everywhere else is very good, but I don’t think I messed up construction, so some filler will be required.

The completed turret sits nicely on the hull once it’s done. The last bit of construction before I start painting is the main gun. And it’s a bit of a faff. The barrel and one half of the muzzle come as a single part with the other (and very tiny) half of the muzzle as a separate part. This means that the muzzle opening is open without the need for slide moulding, but fit and location of the half of the muzzle isn’t great.

Careful sanding is required to get something that looks even approximately right. Once the muzzle half is added, I notice that the opening at the front is too small and clearly not circular, so I end up having to drill it out anyway!

Time to start painting. First, the tracks get a coat of Vallejo dark grey, followed by dry-brushing with gunmetal and a wash of acrylic brown. I also paint the lower hull as well as the inner and outer halves of the sprockets, roadwheels and idlers. I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform as the base colour. This is initially a little light, but previous experience suggests that once it gets a coat of varnish and a dark grey wash, it should look all right.

Then the tracks are pushed into place and the outer halves of the wheels are glued into place – this also holds the tracks in position.

I did find painting the roadwheel tyres difficult here. Hell, I always find painting 1/76 roadwheel tyres challenging, but these were even more fiendishly difficult than usual. The main problem is that the small outer lip of the wheels is barely defined at all, making it hard to follow with a brush. It takes several attempts before I get something I’m moderately happy with. I also highlight the hubs and bolts with a lighter version of the base colour.

Overall, I like this method of track construction. It’s easy and straightforward and even I find it difficult to get it wrong. OK, so I still feel that the tracks could have had more detail, but in general, this isn’t bad. With the tracks in place, I add the small side-pieces at the front and rear of each track guard. There is no clearance at all between these and the tracks and on one side at the front, I had to sand down the outer edge of the track to get this part to fit properly. Fortunately, this isn’t visible once the side piece is in place.

Then, the upper hull is painted with several thinned coats of the base colour and some dry-brushed highlights are added using a lightened version of this colour.

Finally, the decals are added (but not the white stars – as noted in in-box review, I don’t think these were used on the tank from 7th Armoured Division for which decals are provided) and I add some chipping in Vallejo German Grey on exposed edges and around hatches. I also paint the tools on the rear hull and the hull and turret machine-guns and then give everything a coat of clear varnish.

Finally, it gets a wash with dark grey oil paint to bring out shadows and make everything look a bit grubby and well-used. And that’s it done.

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no major problems. Fit is generally good, the instructions are clear and I do like this method of representing tracks. Detail is generally very good and this ends up looking like a Cromwell, which is about all you can ask for at this scale.

Getting rid of the join where the tip of the muzzle is attached to the gun is fiddly and filler was needed at the front of the turret roof, but otherwise this was a relaxing and enjoyable build. If you want to build a 1/76 Cromwell, this is the only choice, so it’s lucky that it’s a decent kit.

I would have liked to see some more detail on the tracks and perhaps a few items of stowage for the rear hull and a commander figure might have been nice, especially as the turret hatch can be shown open. But overall, these are pretty minor niggles. It’s nice to see an Airfix tank kit that’s up there in most respects with modern kits compared to the older 1/76 offerings from this company which are looking rather tired now. I just wish other small-scale armour kit manufacturers would take this method of producing tracks and add more detail…

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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

In 1961 Airfix released the first of their military vehicles in 1/76 with the Churchill, Panther and Sherman (though they were initially sold as “OO Scale”). For the next 13 years, these 1/76 vehicles became a mainstay of the Airfix range. In 1974, they released three new kits: the Type 97 Chi-Ha, SAM-2 Guideline missile and German Reconnaissance Set. Then suddenly, and just when it seemed that there was going to be a never-ending stream of small-scale Airfix tanks, that was it. There were no more 1/76 military vehicle kits from Airfix.

Airfix Panzer IV packaging from 1997. A decent kit, but it was 1/76, not 1/72 as this box suggested.

There were additions to the existing range, with things like the Churchill AVRE bridge layer, Matilda Hedgehog and the Sherman Crab, but these were based on additions to the original kits rather than new moulds. Some kits were released in the 1990s with new packaging that described them as “1/72,” but they were still the same old 1/76 kits inside. In 2008, Airfix released re-boxed versions of a number of 1/76 kits by JB Models, but for more than thirty-five years, there were no truly new Airfix 1/76 military vehicles. Then, in 2011, Airfix released a new 1/76 tank: The Cromwell IV and this was a genuine new moulding rather than a re-release.

I wonder why that was? Why, after such a long break did Airfix seem to suddenly decide that the kit world needed a new 1/76 tank? The release of the Cromwell was followed by one more 1/76 tank, the King Tiger in 2014, and then it all stopped again. The latest Airfix small-scale tank kits (the Tiger I and Sherman Firefly) released in 2020 were both in 1/72, so it looks as though these may have been the last of the Airfix 1/76 tanks.

Airfix tank kits were some of my favourite builds as a young modeller, but many of the earliest kits now look pretty ropy. How does this (relatively) new release stack-up? Is it worth your time or one to avoid? Let’s take a look…

History

The Cromwell was one of the best British tanks of World War Two. However, given that many British tanks of that period were pretty dreadful, that wasn’t especially difficult. For example, by the time that the Cromwell came into service in early 1944, many German, Russian and American tanks and tank-destroyers were being designed around the use of sloped armour, which gave greatly increased resistance against penetration. However on the Cromwell (as on all other British tanks of World War Two) there was no attempt to use this approach.

The design and development of what became the Cromwell was typically complex and confusing. In 1940, the British Directorate of Tanks and Transport specified several new tanks that were to be developed around the QF 6 Pdr gun. Proposed designs included the A23, a scaled down version of the A22 Churchill, and the A24, designed as a replacement for the existing Crusader and using elements from that tank.

The A24 Cavalier

However, none were completely satisfactory and design work continued on another, similar tank designated the A27. This was originally intended to be fitted with the American 410hp Liberty engine first produced during World War One. However, the new engine didn’t perform as required and another version of the tank was designed using the then-new Rolls-Royce Meteor, a development of the Merlin aero-engine. Initially, the A24, A27L and A27M were all called “Cromwell” and all looked very similar. However, later these were redesignated as, respectively the Cavalier and Centaur with only the Meteor-engined A27M retaining the Cromwell name. The official designation for this tank was Cruiser Tank Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M) although it was also sometimes known as the Cromwell IV to distinguish it from the earlier tanks that had used the same name.

A Cromwell of the 11th Armoured Division in France, 1944

Main armament on the A27M was the  Ordnance QF 75 mm, an adaptation of the British QF 6 Pdr gun able to fire US 75 mm ammunition also used by the Sherman. The Sherman was also used by many British units, and using a common shell greatly simplified ammunition supply. The anti-armour capability of this gun was limited, but it was able to fire a more effective high-explosive round than the 6 Pdr. Some Cromwells were completed as Close Support (CS) tanks provided with a 95 mm howitzer in the turret.

Frontal armour on the Cromwell was around three inches thick and in early tests, the Meteor engine was found to be capable of pushing the tank to a top speed close to 50mph. However, the Christie suspension wasn’t capable of dealing with this speed and the engine was governed to keep top speed down to under 40mph, still notably faster than most other British cruiser and infantry tanks of the time. Even that speed proved too much for the suspension, and on later versions, the engine governor was used to limit the top speed to 32mph. Speed was the Cromwell’s greatest asset. During one encounter with German tanks in Holland in 1944, a troop of three Cromwells were able to escape by vaulting over a 20-foot-wide canal!  

A Cromwell of the Welsh Guards in 1944

The Cromwell was used during the invasion of Europe following Operation Overlord. Although its speed was useful, it proved vulnerable to the powerful guns fitted to some German AFVs. Like the Sherman, its main gun also lacked the power to penetrate the frontal armour of many German tanks. Early problems meant that later versions of the Cromwell featured wider tracks for better off-road capability and a few of the last Cromwells featured welded (rather than bolted) hulls and additional turret armour. Almost 2,000 Cromwells were built and they continued to serve with British and Free Polish forces for the remainder of the war. Recognising the deficiencies in the Cromwell’s armament, the turret was redesigned to create the A34 Comet, which was otherwise very similar to the Cromwell but featured the more powerful 17 Pdr HV (High Velocity) gun.   

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just two sprues moulded in light grey plastic, decals and instructions.

Surface detail on most parts seems good with nicely engraved panel-lines.

The commander’s hatch can be open or closed, but there is no interior detail and no figure is included.

Airfix haven’t used slide moulding here, and to get round this, they have provided one half of the muzzle of the main gun as a separate part. In theory, this means you won’t have to drill it out, but past expereince suggest that you’ll need to be very careful when sandind these parts to conceal the join so that you don’t end up with an oddly shaped muzzle. The sprues include optional parts for a deep-wading trunk for the rear hull, a splash-guard round the commander’s hatch and a Cullen hedge-cutter for the front hull.

There are some thoughtful touches here, like the way that the sprockets are attached to the sprue. On most tank kits, you have to be very careful not to damage the sprocket teeth when removing these parts from the sprue. Here the sprues attach beneath the teeth, which should make it easier to remove the sprockets without damage.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this kit is the way in which the tracks are modelled. These are provided as a single moulding for the complete run of tracks on each side, but separate from the idlers, sprockets and roadwheels. If you’re regular reader, you’ll know that I spend a lot of time being disappointed, or frustrated, or sometimes both, by the tracks provided with many small-scale tank kits. This is, as far as I know, a unique approach and it certainly looks like a simple and effective way to model tracks in this scale.

The instructions look commendably clear. At one point they do show both wading trunking and hedge-cutters fitted, which is obviously rather unlikely (one or the other, but not both).

The decals are printed nicely in-register and cover two tanks, one from the 7th Armoured Division and generic markings for a Cromwell from the 11th Armoured Division. A bit of research suggests that the tank from the 7th Armoured is actually a Royal Artillery OP Tank that was attached to 4th County of London Yeomanry. This tank was one of several destroyed when the British encountered Tiger I tanks of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion at Villers-Bocage on 13th June 1944.

T187796 is one of the tanks for which Airfix provide decals with this kit. Here, it is pictured after being knocked-out and abandoned at Villers- Bocage. But in this photograph, it doesn’t seem to have the white star on the turret top and covering the ventilator.

However, although the instructions show both tanks having the turret-top white star, I’m not sure that’s correct. Wartime photos show that several tanks of 4CLY didn’t have these stars, and a photograph of the tank to which the decals apply seems to show it without. Only one colour scheme is suggested for both tanks, with the tank finished in overall “Khaki Drab.”

Would you want one?

In many ways, this looks like a great kit. It’s sharply moulded, it has good detail and it seems to be an accurate representation of the Cromwell. I like the option of including the deep wading gear and the hedge cutter. However, very few British tanks were fitted with the hedge-cutters – I have been able to find only a single wartime photograph of a Centaur fitted with this device, and that was a prototype used only for testing. It’s certainly possible that some Cromwells were modified in the field to have these devices, but they seem to have been very uncommon.

I love the idea of tracks moulded in a single part in hard plastic but separate from the roadwheels, idlers and sprocket. But, I’d like to have seen more detail, especially on the outside of the tracks. If you compare these to, for example, the hard plastic tracks provided with some Zvezda 1/72 kits, those are just much better detailed. The tracks below are from the Zvezda Jagdpanther.

It seems like this approach should give the possibility of very accurate tracks indeed, but these tracks aren’t really any more detailed than most vinyl tracks. In fact, they aren’t particularly detailed at all. The main gun also looks a little thin and the light-guards seem rather thick. So, some good elements here, but perhaps also some missed opportunities?

If you would prefer something different, I’m afraid that, like many World War Two British tanks, there just aren’t as many kits of the Cromwell as there are of its German, Russian and American counterparts. If you prefer 1/76, this is your only option, though Revell have re-released the 1973 Matchbox 1/76 kit of the very similar A34 Comet. Even in 1/72, there are only a couple of possibilities. Revell released a 1/72 Cromwell IV back in 2001, and fortunately it’s a pretty decent kit featuring link-and-length tracks. Like the Airfix kit, it includes the Cullen Hedge-Cutter, but not the deep wading gear.

The Plastic Soldier Company also offer a pack of three 1/72 Cromwells. Each can be constructed as the base Cromwell or as the Close Support version fitted with a 95mm howitzer in the turret and each includes a commander figure and a Cullen hedge-cutter. Like most of this company’s products, these are really intended for wargaming and are a little simplified in terms of detail – for example, the tracks and running gear are moulded as a single part on each side. But they do build into a reasonable representation of the Cromwell.

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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) Build Review

I’m planning to build the tiny Revell 1/76 Panzer II pretty much out of the box, with a couple of minor changes. First, the main gun is just too long. A bit of checking suggests that at 1/76, the main gun on a Panzer II should project just over 11mm from the support ring on the mantlet. As provided, the gun is around 14mm long, and it looks wrong so, when preparing this part I’ll be making sure that I cut it to the correct length.

Second, this kit comes with a stowage box for the rear of the turret. Many Panzer IIs were provided with these bins, but most photographs of DAK tanks shows that they weren’t fitted. So, I won’t be using the parts for the stowage bin which also means that I’ll have to fill the mounting slot on the turret rear and fabricate a new pistol-port for this area.

OK, time to get started. I begin with hull construction and I immediately run into a problem. The hull comprises just five parts – the upper and lower hull, the sides and the rear plate. Fit is fine and I carefully follow the instructions which show the top of the rear plate being in-line with the top of the hull sides.

However, when I do a dry assembly to check fit, here’s what I get:

As you can see, there is a very noticeable 2-3mm gap between the top of the rear panel and the underside of the upper hull. This also means that the top of the box on the rear plate is too low – it should be level with the top of the rear hull. That can’t be right! It feels like I’m doing something wrong here, but I just can’t see what it is. The only simple solution is to mount the rear plate a few mm higher, so that it projects above the hull side plates. That makes it fit at the top though I lose the smooth transition to the lower hull plate.

With this fixed, I continue with hull construction and everything else fits well. I also make a new pistol-port out of plastic card so that I can use one of the ports provided with the kit for the rear of the turret.

Next, the turret. Fit of all parts is good with no need for filler. I use some Tamiya white putty to fill the mounting slot for the turret stowage bin, add an additional pistol port on the rear and cut the main gun down to a more reasonable length.

Then, I add the sprockets, idlers and return rollers to the hull (I’ll be painting the roadwheels before I add them) and glue the three parts of the diorama base together. And that’s pretty much construction finished! I can’t resist trying the completed hull and turret on the base, just to see how it looks…

Time to start painting. The hull and turret both get an overall coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by the painting of highlights with a lightened version of the same colour.

Then I add the decals and paint the tools and other bits and pieces.

Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish followed by a wash of dark brown to emphasise shadows and mute the highlights.

The tracks get a coat of dark grey followed by highlighting with a soft pencil.

The diorama base gets a base coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by a couple of brown oil washes. The building is finished in stone with a darker grey for damaged areas.

With the addition of the exhaust, and tarpaulin and the roadwheels, that’s it except for adding the tracks. It’s worth noting that the fit of the roadwheels on to the spindles on the hull isn’t great and some care is needed to avoid wonky wheels. There also isn’t much room to slide the tracks between the track-guards and the sprocket, but it can be done with a little wriggling.

I decide not to use the figures provided with the kit. They really are quite oddly proportioned when you look at them closely and I also leave off the decal for the building – I think it looks a little out of place on a ruined wall. And here’s the finished Panzer II:

After Action Report

This was another simple and satisfying build. The fit problem with the rear hull plate was strange – I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other review and I’m still wondering if I did something stupid (always a possibility) though I can’t see what it might be. Other than that, there were no problems at all here and once again, the Matchbox vinyl tracks are simple to join without the need for glue. They are also commendably thin compared to some vinyl tracks.

The diorama base is a nice addition that really adds to the finished model though I’m not so sure about the figures. OK, the quality of mouldings here probably isn’t up to the best modern standards, but I do think it’s possible to end up with a perfectly acceptable finished model of the Panzer II. The only possible issue is that this is a really tiny kit, which is a challenge if, like me, you have large, clumsy man-fingers. How small? Well, here it is hiding behind a 10p coin…

Overall, this is a pleasant way to while away a few idle hours and it’s always great to discover that another kit from my younger days really isn’t bad at all. For under €10, I don’t really see how you can go wrong with this kit.  

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) In-Box Review and History

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

As you will know if you read my review of the Revell 1/76 M24 Chaffee (and if you haven’t, you’ll find a link at the end of this review) I really enjoyed building that 1974 kit. It was as cheap as chips, fairly accurate, simple and it came with a rather nice diorama base. So, for my next project, I thought I’d go back to another kit that originated as a Matchbox product at around the same time.

Early Matchbox art for the Panzer II

Matchbox launched their new 1/76 armour range in 1974 with ten kits in their Purple range, all covering subjects from World War Two: Sherman Firefly, A-34 Mk I Comet, Panther, Jagdpanther, Panzer III, Humber armoured car, Puma armoured car, M16 half-track, Wespe SPG and M24 Chaffee. Each kit was moulded on two sprues and each was provided in a different colour. Each also included a diorama base and several featured figures. In 1976, three more kits were added to the Purple armour range: Hanomag half-track, T-34/76 and the subject of this review, the Panzer II Ausf. F.

Revell purchased the rights to these kits in 1991 and in 2005 began releasing then under the Revell name. Currently, eight of these original thirteen Matchbox 1:76 armour kits are offered by Revell: Jagdpanther, Puma, Comet, Humber Mk II, T-34, Chaffee, Wespe and the Panzer II. Revell also sell a later Matchbox 1:76 kit – the Char. B.1 bis & Renault FT.17, which was added as part of the larger Orange range in 1983, after the Matchbox kit range had been sold to Hong-Kong based Universal Toys in 1982. 

These Revell re-releases are identical to the original Matchbox kits other than that they are now provided in new boxes, they are manufactured in a single colour of plastic and decals and colour schemes for some have changed. When it was released back in 1976 there just weren’t many small-scale Panzer II kits available. This kit was well-received back then, but how does it look now?       

History

Like many other German weapon systems during World War Two, the Panzerkampfwagen II was introduced as a stop-gap solution to a short-term problem, but it remained in service for far longer than anyone could have anticipated. In 1934 the only German tank in service was the tiny Panzer I. The designs of both the Panzer III and IV were well advanced, but production delays meant that it was clear that these tanks would not enter service as quickly as hoped. As a temporary measure, it was decided to accelerate the production of a new light tank which was originally intended as a training vehicle and which was expected to be phased-out when the Panzer III and IV finally entered service.

A column of Panzer IIs in Poland, 1939

The result was the Panzer II, a ten-ton tank with a revolving turret housing a Rheinmetall KwK30 L55 20 mm quick-firing main gun, a weapon derived from the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun. This gun was capable of firing both high explosive and armour-piercing rounds at the rate of six hundred rounds per minute. The turret also housed a co-axial 7.92 mm MG 34. Motive power came from a six-cylinder Maybach petrol engine developing 140hp. Five roadwheels on each side were each controlled by separate leaf-spring suspension units. This tank held a crew of three: a driver, a commander who also fired and loaded the main gun and a radio operator who sat behind and below the commander.

US Army Ordnance Unit Recovers a captured DAK Panzer II Ausf. F in 1942

By the time that German forces invaded Poland in September 1939, almost twelve hundred Panzer IIs were involved, compared to less than one hundred Panzer III and under two hundred Panzer IV. By the time of the German invasion of Belgium and France in May 1940, the Panzer II was still the most numerous German tank in service.

Another Panzer II Ausf. F of the DAK. This one does look rather dark in colour – could it be finished in Dunklegrau (dark grey)?

The first main upgrade to the original Panzer II came with the Ausf. F model which incorporated thicker armour and a commander’s cupola. This was the final production version of the Panzer II and over five hundred were produced. The vehicle depicted in this kit is an Ausf. F of the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK). Panzer IIs served throughout North Africa and were still in use in Tunisia in 1943. 

What’s in the Box?

Like all the early Matchbox kits, this one is provided on just two small sprues, each originally provided in a different colour but now both moulded in a sand-coloured plastic. The kit includes two figures and a rather nice diorama base.

The tools are moulded in-place on the hull and only the commander’s hatch is a separate part. The level of detail and crispness of the mouldings is, well, variable. The upper hull and suspension, for example, are both nicely detailed.

However, some other things are less well done. Take a look at the main gun, for example, just to the left of the figure below. It lacks the characteristic bulged shape of the original, in fact, it’s little more than a blob of plastic and it’s much too long.

The co-axial machine gun is also a little vague. You can see it here, directly above the other figure.

Overall, the quality of moulding here just isn’t quite as good as the earlier M24 Chaffee which I reviewed earlier. It isn’t terrible, but it just isn’t as good as current small-scale kits.

The figures themselves are reasonably detailed and seem to be wearing appropriate uniforms though their heads and hands do seem a little large.

The tiny tracks are vinyl and not terribly well detailed, but at least they are fairly thin and they do use the same locking tab seen on the M24 kit, which does mean that they can be joined reliably and without glue.

The decals cover two vehicles of the DAK, one from 15th Panzer Division and one from 5th Light Division. Both sets of decals are fairly plain, but they do seem to be reasonably accurate. The instructions don’t mention it, but the red Arabic text is intended to be applied to the ruined building on the diorama base.

The instructions are black-and-white and provide acceptable 3D views of all steps of construction. The only anomaly is that the instructions seem to show the main gun being fitted back-to-front, with the bulged part, which should be near the muzzle, adjacent to the mantlet.

The instructions also provide three-view details of where the various decals go, but oddly, no information at all about paint colours. The box art features a dramatic action painting of a Panzer II in a desert setting, but it appears to be finished in Dunklegrau (dark grey). That might be appropriate for a Panzer II on the eastern front, but not, as far as I know, for a tank of the DAK. In the beginning, DAK vehicles were overpainted when they arrived in Africa with locally sourced Italian paints that gave something approximating an overall sand finish. Later, a two-tone, low-contrast camouflage scheme was used, though most photographs of DAK Panzer IIs seem to show tanks finished in a single, fairly light sand colour (though one of the photographs of a DAK Panzer II in the history section above does seem to show a tank finished in a dark colour, so perhaps a DAK Panzer II in dunklegrau finish isn’t impossible?). It isn’t difficult to find this out, but it does seem odd that the instructions don’t mention paint colours at all.

One other thing I will mention is the stowage box at the rear of the turret. That’s provided with this kit but, most wartime photos of DAK Panzer IIs show that they weren’t fitted with these stowage bins.   

Would you want one?

My initial reaction here is that this is sort of all right. It isn’t awful in any respect, but the sharpness of the mouldings just isn’t up to modern standards nor even as good as some other contemporary Matchbox kits. Having said that, this is cheap, readily available and it does come with a rather nice diorama and a couple of figures.

Back in 1976 when this kit was released, there were very few small-scale Panzer II kits available. Now, there are quite a few alternatives though as far as I know, none in 1/76. The Italeri 1/72 Panzer II Ausf. F is actually a re-box of an old Esci kit from 1974. It isn’t bad, though fit isn’t the best and the vinyl tracks are rather thick.

Polish manufacturer First to Fight produce the Panzer II in both Ausf. C and Ausf. D versions in 1/72, and these are nice little kits. They are aimed at the wargamer rather than the modeler (the tracks, roadwheels, return rollers, idlers and sprockets on each side are moulded as a single part, for example) but they’re accurate and build into very reasonable models. Ukranian manufacturer Ace Model do a 1/72 Panzer II Ausf. F that includes lots of detail and photo-etched parts (including tracks!). However, Ace Models tend to do short-run kits, and their otherwise reasonable products often include lots of flash and surface imperfections. Dragon used to produce a 1/72 Panzer II, but it no longer seems to be available and I know nothing about this kit.

Finally Chinese manufacturer S-Model produce a Panzer II Ausf. C in 1/72. This another “quick-build” kit aimed at wargamers, but it is reasonably detailed, includes some PE parts and a turned brass main gun barrel. It comes in a pack including two tanks and a pair of tripod-mounted MG 34 machine guns.

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) Build Review

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

I’m going to be building this elderly kit almost straight out of the box. I know, there is lots of additional detail that could be added to this kit, but I rather like the sheer simplicity of it. I will however be making two small changes: I’ll be drilling out the main gun and I’ll be removing the side-skirts that cover the upper return rollers and the tops of the tracks. The main reason for this second change is that I simply think that the M24 looks better like this, and most wartime photographs show these tanks without the side-skirts. Apparently they tended to clog with mud in the wet and snowy conditions found in Europe during the Winter and Spring of 1944/1945. The second reason is entirely practical – If you make this kit with the side-skirts in place, you will need to assemble and paint the tracks and running gear early in the build. Removing them means that I’ll be able to paint the hull before I add the running gear and tracks, which is my preferred style of assembly.

Anyway, on with the build. First, the turret. And this assembles with no problems and no need for filler at all. The main gun (which I carefully drilled out – there isn’t any room to spare!) is a slightly loose fit in the mantlet, so a little care is needed to get it straight. Otherwise, this is completely straightforward.

The main hull assembly consists of just four parts – two sides and the top and bottom and, once again, fit is very good. Only a tiny amount of filler is needed at the sides of the hull nose.

Next, I cut the side-skirts off the track-guards. This isn’t difficult, it just takes a little care and a very sharp craft knife. Here you can see one before and one after.

Then, the track guards and other bits and pieces are added to complete the hull. Again, fit is great, though the instructions are a little vague about things like the placement of the rear lights – an arrow points in the general direction of the rear hull but there aren’t any pictures of the completed rear hull.

All that remains is to assemble the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets (all will be painted separately) and that’s pretty much construction of this M24 done. I do like a simple build and it’s difficult to see how you could have a simpler kit than this!

To begin painting, I use white for highlights and black for areas of deeper shadow.

Then, it all get a coat of Vallejo Olive Drab. This is a little light for a US tank (I know it doesn’t look that way in this photo), but I’ll be using a dark wash later so that should bring it back to approximately the right colour.

When this is dry, I use a scourer to distress the paint to reveal the white highlights underneath. On such a small tank and at such a small scale, this has to be done carefully if it isn’t going to look overwhelming.

The decals are then applied using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. The decals are nicely dense, but they do seem a little thick. That gave a few problems on the white star on the rear hull which needs to conform to the grilles and other detail underneath. Even after several applications of decal softener, this still wasn’t perfect.

Then, the whole thing got a coat of clear acrylic varnish. When this was dry, I used a wash of heavily diluted black oil paint. This finds its way into tiny crevices and details and helps to give emphasis to shadows. The only thing you have to be careful about is not allowing this wash to form pools that will result in noticeable darker patches on large panels and on the decals.

Them it’s time to look at the tracks. This kit comes with vinyl tracks and, given some recent experiences, I wasn’t looking forward to this. Joining vinyl tracks is never easy and, if they’re short, stretching them into place can break the joint. However, the joining of these tracks is different. At one end there is a long locking tab and at the other, a slot. 

All you have to do is push the tab through the slot and, when tension is applied to the track, the joint closes up. It isn’t completely invisible but, if the joint is placed at the top of the track run, under the track-guards, I think it will barely show at all.

The result is a simple, elegant solution to the problem of joining tracks that needs no glue at all. Now, here’s my question: If Matchbox managed to get this right almost fifty years ago, why are we still faffing about with vinyl tracks that are almost impossible to join reliably? Other manufacturers please take note – if you must supply your kits with vinyl tracks, please make them join as simply and reliably as these!

I paint the tracks very simply – just a grey gunmetal base, light gunmetal highlights for the treads and a wash of acrylic brown for rust and dirt. Then, I add the running gear and install the tracks. And guess what – they’re long enough to fit without stretching! Top marks to Revell (and of course, to Matchbox) for providing useable vinyl tracks.

Finishing the M24 doesn’t take long, mainly because there are no accessories, tools or spare track links provided. So now, it’s on to the diorama base, and this is the only part of this kit where the fit is not so good. Here are the two halves of the base glued together.

A fair amount of filler is required to make the join less visible.

With this done, I give the base an undercoat of Tamiya Dark Yellow. I then use several oil and acrylic washes to give some colour contrast and visual interest to the base itself. I leave the edges in Dark Yellow, again to add visual interest.

With the addition of the sandbags, signpost and MG34 to the base and a stretched-sprue radio antenna to the tank, that’s this build finished.

After Action Report

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and stress-free build. This is a very nice little kit – everything fits well, the vinyl tracks are a delight to work with and I’m happy with the finished result. This M24 lacks some detail and finishing touches, but that certainly didn’t spoil it for me and you can of course add your own extras to turn this into something special. I like the diorama base. I think it adds to the finished model and, unlike some of the other early Matchbox kits, the base provided here is large enough to work well.

Going back to kits I enjoyed as a young man is always risky. What seemed like a great kit back in the early seventies can prove a bit of a disappointment when compared to current efforts. Memories of old kits can turn out to be more than a little rose-tinted. Not in this case! This was a tidy, well-moulded, well thought out kit back then and it still is now. This provided me with a great deal of enjoyment for very little money. If you enjoy building small-scale armour and you haven’t tried one of these old Matchbox kits, I thoroughly recommend the Revell M24.

The only question for me is: which one next? The Matchbox A34 Mk.1 Comet was a nice kit and it too has been reissued by Revell. But then I always liked the Panzer II Ausf. F and it too is available as a Revell offering as is the Wespe. And Revell have also recently re-released the Matchbox Humber Mk II armoured car…  I think I’m going to be busy for the next few weeks!  

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Revell 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323)  In-Box Review and History

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I began kit-building in the late 1960s, and I was a huge fan of Airfix products. However, in the early 1970s a new rival appeared to challenge Airfix’ iron grip on my pocket-money: Matchbox Kits.

Matchbox, a tradename owned by British toy manufacturer Lesney Products, decided to get into the growing plastic kit business back in 1972. They introduced a series of 1:72 aircraft kits moulded in two or three colour plastic. I was fairly impressed with these, but it was the release of the first Matchbox 1:76 armour kits in 1974 that really grabbed my attention.

Not only did the new range cover well-known tanks such as the Panther and Sherman Firefly, there were also more unusual subjects including the SdKfz. 234/2 Puma, the SdKfz. 124 Wespe and the M24 Chaffee. Even better, each kit came with a small diorama base and figures even though they were close in price to Airfix AFV kits. I was instantly hooked and I built several of these early Matchbox kits. 

Early box-art for the Matchbox M24 Chaffee

In the years following the initial launch of the armour range in 1974, Matchbox released a total of eighteen kits, all covering subjects from World War Two. Sadly, Matchbox kits suffered from the same UK recession that afflicted Airfix and this, combined with a general decline in interest in plastic model kits, led to the bankruptcy of Lesney and the sale of the Matchbox kit range to Hong-Kong based Universal Toys in 1982. Universal maintained the Matchbox trade name and even introduced new armour kits up to 1990 at which point the moulds for all these kits were purchased by Revell.

From 1991 – 2001 Revell re-issued many Matchbox kits, including the 1:76 armour range, with new packaging but still featuring the Matchbox name. After that, some of these armour kits were issued again by Revell under their own name as combined figure and kit packages, though many of these were wrongly identified as 1:72 scale – for example, Revell pack 3160, M4 Firefly & Infantry includes the original Matchbox Sherman Firefly plus Matchbox British Infantry from 1978.

However, from around 2005, Revell began releasing these ex-Matchbox kits as part of a separate 1:76 armour range. Revell now offer nine of these original Matchbox kits, rebranded as Revell. These are identical to the original releases other than that they are in new boxes and now provided in a single colour of plastic unlike the two-colour originals.

Same kit, different box – the Revell M24.

I was intrigued to note when I received this kit, that it states “New” on the box. I mean, this kit and its decals are near to fifty years old and this is the same box that Revell have been providing since 2005. So, what’s new here? I did send a message to the nice people at Revell Customer Support asking for clarification, but so far, they haven’t got around to replying.

I loved those old Matchbox kits and when I realised that these Revell kits are simply reissues, I had to try one if only for nostalgia reasons. I was also delighted to note that these are very cheap indeed – the MRP for most of these kits is just €8.49. The only way to get a cheaper fix of kit-building deja-vu is to go for some of the early Airfix 1:76 offerings. I have great memories of these old Matchbox kits but, how will they look almost fifty years later? Are these kits cheap fun or just cheap and nasty? Let’s take a look.

History

The M3 and M5 Stuart light tanks were built in vast numbers by the United States. They were designed as fast reconnaissance tanks and in this role they were fairly successful but, almost as soon as they first faced German armour in Tunisia in 1942, it was apparent that these tanks lacked the armour and armament to survive on the World War Two battlefield. In early 1943, the Ordinance Department began working with Cadillac, manufacturers of the M5, to design a replacement light tank for US forces. 

The T24 prototype

The first prototype of what became known as the T24 was delivered in October 1943. Powered by two Cadillac liquid-cooled engines mated to the successful hydramatic transmission from the M5 and torsion-bar suspension, the new tank was relatively fast with a top speed of 35mph. However, this was achieved partly by keeping weight down to 18 tons which meant relatively thin armour. Most armour protecting the five-man crew was no thicker than 25mm, though it was sloped to improve resistance to penetration. The main gun was a modified version of the 75mm T13E1 light weight cannon originally developed for use in the B-25H gunship version of the Mitchell bomber.  

The performance of the prototype was so impressive that the Ordnance Department  immediately ordered 1,000, later increased to 5,000. The new tank began to reach front-line units in November 1944 with the designation Light Tank M24. It was the British who gave it the name Chaffee, named after General Adna Chaffee Jr., a former commander of the 7th Cavalry Brigade who had helped to improve America’s armoured forces.

An M24 of the 1st Armored Division in Vergato, south of Bologna, Italy in April 1945

Almost 5,000 Chaffees were produced before the end of the war and this tank was used by both British and American forces in Europe. The Chaffee proved to be a robust and long-lasting design that saw service with US forces during the Korean War and in a number of other countries in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Major users included France, Belguim, Italy, Spain and Norway – the last Norwegian Chaffees were not retired util 1993.

During the 1960s and 1970s, M24s appeared in a number of movies, usually masquerading as German armour. Here are Chaffees of the Afrika Korps from Commandos (1968).

What’s in the Box?

I’m actually a little nervous when I open this box. I have such fond memories of the original Matchbox kits that I don’t want to discover that this is, you know, crap. As I have found when reviewing some other old kits (yes, Airfix Sherman, I’m looking at you…).

Happily, this time there are no nasty surprises. All 71 parts are provided in light grey plastic on two sprues.

Quality of moulding and detail look perfectly reasonable. This is a little simplified and it’s not up to the current highest standards perhaps, but it’s better than I expected given the age of this kit. It also looks like a simple build, something that I always appreciate.

The diorama base comprises six parts – the two halves of the base itself, a road sign, some sandbags and an abandoned MG34. It’s reasonably large. That’s good because on a couple of these early Matchbox kits, the vehicle ended up perched awkwardly on a tiny base, which looked rather odd. I guess these kits were designed to fit a box size and within just two sprues, which meant a smaller base on larger vehicles.  

The tracks are dark vinyl, but they’re actually quite delicately moulded, they aren’t too thick and they do just about represent the correct type of all-metal T72E1 track for a wartime M24. Detail on the outside of the tracks is basic and there is virtually nothing on the inside where there are also visible mould release marks. I will only find out if they’re long enough when I start the build! These tracks do feature an extended locking tab which I recall being rather easier to join than some vinyl tracks. Again, I’ll find out if this is true during the build.

The instructions are Revell’s customary rather nice colour efforts, with clear exploded views and three colour schemes, all claiming to be for tanks of the US 13th Armoured Division, 43rd Tank Battalion. However, all the sources I have consulted show that the 43rd Tank Battalion wasn’t part of the 13th Armored Division – this Battalion was part of the 12th Armored Division which first saw combat in Europe in December 1944. Something clearly isn’t quite right here, but I don’t suppose it’s terribly important as both the 12th and 13th Armoured Divisions used M24 tanks.

Two of the schemes are plain Olive Drab but a third has an interesting two-tone camo scheme with no markings. I think that what the instructions are suggesting is that markings are provided for two tanks, and that either can be finished in either overall Olive Drab or with a camo scheme, though that isn’t particularly clear. The box art certainly shows Skeeter, one of the tanks shown with an overall Olive Drab finish in the instructions, sporting a two-tone camo finish.

Decals are simple but perfectly reasonable and they even include appropriate text for the road sign. Well, almost appropriate – M24s saw action during the Battle of the Bulge and during the advance into Germany so, if you’re going to have a road sign, why not include Bastogne or some other location in the Ardennes or even Germany rather than a sign from Normandy? OK, I know, I’m nit-picking…

Overall, there is nothing here that looks too awful. Very fine detail, stuff like lifting eyes, hand-holds, towing shackles and brush guards over the lights, is not included at all. That’s actually a helpful approach if you want to add your own detail – some old kits represent things like lifting eyes as blobs, which then must be cut off before you can add something more appropriate. Here you mostly have a bare canvas that can be used as the basis for adding detail. The main gun is moulded solid, which is no surprise, and some of the attachment points to sprues look rather chunky, but overall, this looks like a simple, reasonably detailed and fairly accurate kit.

 I am really looking forward to this build! 

Would you want one?

There is nothing here that makes me think you wouldn’t want one of these. It scores high on nostalgia value and it actually looks like a reasonable kit. There isn’t a great deal of fine detail here but, there really isn’t a great deal of choice for kit builders who want to tackle a small-scale M24. For a very long time, the only options were this Matchbox/Revell version in 1:76 and a 1:72 offering from Hasegawa which was also released in 1974. The Hasegawa version isn’t bad at all and includes a couple of crew figures though it does have rather thick vinyl tracks of a type that are really only suitable for a post-war M24.

However, in 2018 Bulgarian company OKB Grigorov also released a 1:72 M24. This was the first injection-moulded plastic kit released by the company (they had previously focused on resin, metal and PE detail parts), and it’s very good indeed. It features nicely detailed link-and length tracks and is available in both the standard version and as the Mammoth Edition which includes the base kit plus all the detail parts that the company have produced for this tank. All versions provide alternate parts to model early and late models of the Chaffee.

I believe that there is also a 1:72 M24 from Chinese manufacturer Forces of Valor. However, having experienced their Panzer III, I would hesitate to recommend anything else from this manufacturer.

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Airfix 1/76 M4 Sherman Mk. I (A01303V) Build Review

I intend to go for a quick build pretty much OOB, but there are a couple of things I do want to do. The main gun provided with the kit just looks silly – it’s much too thin and I want to replace it. There are also two odd humps on the rear hull where the lifting rings should be – I’ll replace these things with something that looks a little more like the original.

I start with the gun. A piece of circular sprue of an appropriate diameter is cut, lightly tapered and drilled and I use this to replace the wimpy kit version. Not perfect, but an improvement.

I then start to assemble the hull. Fit isn’t great here – the hull sides seem to be slightly warped and even after using tape while the glue sets there are gaps between the hull sides and the front of the transmission cover at the front. A little filler is needed here. I also replace the humps on the hull rear with a couple of plastic-card plates and half-rings.

Assembling the cupola and hatches is a little tricky because location for the hatches isn’t great. It takes a bit of fiddling to get something without large gaps.

The lower hull sides are sanded to remove the sink-marks and part numbers. Then everything gets a coat of MIG Jiminez olive green. As has happened before with this paint, the result is a slightly glossy finish that’s darker than I was aiming for, but as I’ll be using a couple of coats of matt clear varnish, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.  

Then, I paint the roadwheel tyres, a fairly easy job because the rubber tyres are proud of the wheel centres. Assembling the suspension is tricky, mainly due to fit issues. In ten of the twelve roadwheels, the hole in the centre was too small to allow the wheels to be fitted over the spindles on the bogies. I had to drill them out with a 1mm drill. There are also ridges and moulding imperfections on the spindles that attach the bogies to the hull sides – these have to carefully trimmed to get the bogies to fit. Even the sprockets don’t fit well – on one side the fit was fine but on the other, the spindle of the sprocket was too large to fit in the hole in the hull side – I had to drill out the hole with a 2mm drill.

Once the suspension was done, I added some highlights on the hull, suspension and turret then used a final thinned coat of olive green to blend everything in.

Then the decals were applied using Vallejo decal fix and decal softener – I’m going for British 4th Armoured Brigade markings. After that, everything gets a coat of matt, clear varnish which reduces the shine and lightens the overall colour.

Then, the tracks. The T-41 tracks fitted to some Shermans, which is what I think these are supposed to be, comprised thick rubber blocks with steel bars inside fitted between metal retainers and end-pieces. I used black and grey for the blocks and gunmetal for the retainers and end pieces to try to replicate this.

Finally, I used Abteilung Oils Faded Green as a wash to make everything look a bit grubby and to give some detail to the hull, suspension bogies and turret. I also painted the tools on the rear hull – not an easy job as they are not very well defined. Then it got a radio antenna and a final coat of matt varnish and I added the tracks – these are the usual pain to join, but they are a good length and fit well over the sprockets, idlers and roadwheels. This is the end result.

After Action Report

Overall, this looks OK, but it has some problems that make it difficult to recommend. Most experienced modellers are going to want something that is more accurate to a particular model of Sherman and that has sharper mouldings. However, even as a cheap beginner’s kit, this has some drawbacks. Notably, ten of the twelve roadwheels just didn’t fit on the spindles on the bogies – I think that would be a massive frustration for a young modeller.

Other than the fit issues, this is a quick and simple build, and sometimes, that’s rather nice. The main gun provided with the kit is horrible, but it isn’t difficult to replace. Perhaps the best thing is to simply accept this as what it is; a kit from nearly sixty years ago when standards and expectations for small-scale models were lower. What you’ll end up with is a piece of Airfix nostalgia rather than an exemplary Sherman kit. If you are willing to accept that, or perhaps to use this as the basis for building something better, then this is inexpensive way to while-away a few hours.

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Airfix 1/76 M4 Sherman Mk. I (A01303V) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 M4 Sherman Mk. I (A01303V) In-Box Review and History

In 1961 The Guns of Navarone was one of the big movie success stories, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space and Bonanaza, one of the first television shows to be broadcast in colour, topped the ratings in the US. However, for model kit makers the big news was that Airfix were planning to launch a new series of tank kits. The first three, Churchill, Panther and Sherman were all released that year.

All were released in HO/00 scale. Today, that seems a little odd – it equates to around 1/76 and Airfix already produced several popular aircraft kits in 1/72, so, why didn’t they do the same with these tanks? No-one is entirely certain, but it seems most likely that this was related to the fact that in the late 1950s, a large proportion of Airfix kits were accessories for HO/00 model railways. The very first small figures the company released, Civilians, were intended for use on model railways and produced in the same scale. When Airfix started releasing sets of military figures in 1961, they kept to the same scale. So, it probably seemed to make sense to also make their tanks to the same scale which equates to around 1/76.

Nowadays, that makes Airfix tank kits oddballs amongst the majority of 1/72 AFVs. However, I am keen to see if one of the very first Airfix tanks, released almost sixty years ago is any good. This is the Vintage Classics edition released in 2019 and featuring artwork from 1963.

History

The M4 was one of the most important and widely produced of all tanks of World War Two; only the Russian T-34 was produced in greater numbers. A large proportion of early M4 production was sent to Britain where this tank was given the name Sherman. The name was later formally adopted by the US Army and led to the practice of naming US tanks after American Generals.

The success of the German Blitzkrieg in 1940 shocked the US military into accepting that the tanks they currently had were less than ideal for modern mechanized warfare. Although America was not at that time involved in the war, work immediately began on the design of a new tank. The outcome was the M3 (with variants known as Lee and Grant), a tall, cumbersome design with a one-man turret mounting a small calibre gun and the main armament, a 75mm cannon, mounted in a sponson in the hull. Suspension was derived from the previous M2 light tank, the VVSS (Vertical Volute Spring Suspension) type with three sets of bogies on each side, each with two rubber-tyred roadwheels. The M3 was a stopgap design and work immediately began on a tank using the same lower hull, engine, transmission, suspension and running gear but with a main gun mounted in a revolving turret.

An US M4A1 Sherman in Tunisia

The outcome was the M4, first produced in February 1942. The initial version was the M4A1, with a distinctive cast hull looking a little like an upturned bath-tub and a three-man turret mounting a 75mm main gun. Later versions were upgraded to the new M1 76mm main gun. The 400 hp petrol engine gave good performance but its fuel tanks provided a notable fire hazard.

This was followed by the M4A2, with a hull constructed from flat plates of welded steel and a GM diesel engine. The M4A3 was similar but equipped with a new liquid-cooled Ford V8 500 hp petrol engine. The M4A4 (which is what I think this kit portrays) was introduced in July 1942 and was equipped with the original 75mm main gun and the astonishing Chrysler A57 Multibank engine, essentially five Chrysler inline six-cylinder petrol car engines arranged round a central shaft. This massive and complex engine meant that the rear hull on this variant was slightly longer.

M4A4 Shermans being produced at the Chrysler Plant in 1942. The tank on the right is an M3.

Over 7,000 examples of the M4A4 were manufactured between July 1942 and November 1943 by the Chrysler Corporation. This version was supplied in large numbers to both Britain and Russia and smaller numbers were also used by the US Army. In addition to being used by Russian forces on the Eastern front, this type of Sherman saw action in Sicily and Italy as well as during the invasion of Normandy.

There are a bewildering number of Sherman variants and even within tanks of the same type there are significant differences in things like mantlets, hatches, the transmission cover at the front of the hull and the rear deck. This shouldn’t be surprising given that Sherman production was carried out at eleven separate plants in the United States and the rush to production meant that whatever components were to hand were used.

In many ways, the Sherman was a great tank – it was mechanically reliable, powerful engines gave it good performance, it was roomy inside and its relatively low weight (just over thirty tons) and narrow width made it easy to transport. It was also provided with a gyroscopically stabilised main gun, an innovation in World War Two that theoretically made firing on the move more accurate, though the system proved to be less than 100% reliable.

A British Sherman Mark V in operation in Sicily, 1943

The main problem was that, while this was a good design in 1941, it was no match for German tanks and tank destroyers that began to appear from late 1942. Its 75mm cannon was not capable of penetrating the frontal armour on tanks such as the Panther and Tiger while its own frontal armour was vulnerable to penetration by a range of late-war German tank and anti-tank weapons. As the war progressed, the Sherman was provided with more powerful main guns, improved armour and diesel engines until, by 1945 it had evolved into a formidable fighting vehicle.

What’s in the Box

Inside the box there are four sprues of fairly brittle, green plastic, a set of decals and a set of rubber-band type tracks.

Detail and sharpness of the mouldings isn’t too terrible given the age of this kit, but they are not up to modern standards. The tools moulded on the upper rear hull, for example, are not particularly sharply defined, which will make painting difficult. At least the turret and hull hatches are separate mouldings though there is no internal detail.

There are some obvious issues. Most notably the main gun looks much too thin and too tapered – the 75mm main gun was a chunky piece of kit and helps define the appearance of early Shermans and the part provided with the kit looks completely wrong.  The turret is a little too narrow and lacks detail, particularly on the rear. It also lacks the rear stowage box seen on many Shermans and no front mudguards are provided. Details on the hull are simplified and the moulding of the roadwheels is variable – some aren’t bad while others are very poor indeed and on many, the mounting hole obviously isn’t quite in the centre of the wheel.

The suspension, sprockets and idlers are all greatly simplified though this still just about looks like Sherman suspension. The suspension and running gear on the Airfix 1/76 Lee/Grant tank kit released in 1969, which should be identical to the Sherman, is actually better in all respects.

The tracks are the same type provided with other1/76 Airfix AFV kits, being moulded out of flexible, dark grey plastic that seems impervious to most glues. Detail on the outside of the tracks is a reasonable attempt to replicate the T-41 simple rubber-block type tracks fitted to some Shermans.

One thing that is notable is how much moulding techniques have improved in the last sixty years. There is a lot of flash (even on the tracks), some visible sink-marks (on the hull sides for example) and for some bizarre reason, both hull sides have their part numbers moulded on the outside, between suspension bogies where they will show if not sanded off.

The sprues also show their age – the attachment points to parts is very large in some cases and the way that, for example, the sprockets are attached to the sprues certainly wouldn’t be acceptable now. I generally remove items from sprue with a small craft-knife but some of these look better tackled with a chainsaw.  

Decals are provided for two Shermans; one for a British Army tank from 4th Armoured Brigade in June 1944 and one for an unidentified unit of the US Army. The colour scheme for the British tank is shown in the instructions (which are clear and fairly straightforward) and the US scheme is provided on the back of the box.

One problem here isn’t with the parts themselves, but rather with what they build into.

From around 2013 until the release of the Vintage Classics edition in 2019, the packaging described this kit as a “Sherman M4A2” (and the colour scheme in the instructions for this kit still says the same) but it doesn’t especially look like one of those. The original packaging and current Vintage Cassics box are correct – this is an M4 Sherman Mark I.

However, compared to modern kits that precisely model a specific variant of a particular model, it’s a bit vague in terms of accuracy. Many details are simplified and indifferent moulding quality may be due to the age of the mould, but it certainly isn’t impressive. The too-small main gun (the size and proportion of the main gun are correctly shown on the views on the back of the box, above) and lack of things like mudguards and turret stowage are also disappointing.

Overall, this a kit that is really showing its age, way more than, for example, the Airfix StuG III which I built recently and which dates to just two years later. I’m sorry to say it but, after nearly sixty years of production, this feels like a kit that is probably due for honourable retirement.

Alternatives

There aren’t, as far as I know, any other 1/76 Sherman kits still around. There used to be a 1/76 Matchbox Sherman Firefly, but that went out of production some time ago. Airfix have announced a new Sherman Firefly for release in 2020, but this is claimed to be 1/72 and not 1/76 scale. If you are happy with 1/72, there are several alternatives, but perhaps not as many as you might expect and nothing to compare with, for example, the number of different T-34 kits available, especially if you want to model an early version of the Sherman with the 75/76mm main gun.

Trumpeter do a fairly nice 1/72 US M4 Sherman Tank. This has well detailed suspension and tracks and can be built as an early Sherman though it does have issues with the front hull – it’s too steeply angled. Here it is on the Trumpeter website.

Probably the best 1/72 early Sherman comes from Dragon who do an exceptionally nice Sherman Mark III (M4A2) with decals and paint schemes for British use in the western desert. It is extremely well detailed and accurate and includes PE parts. It can be seen on the Dragon web site.

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