I’ve always had a deep fascination with the German Afrika Korps, and had a tendency to build nothing but German tanks and vehicles based in North Africa.
But the one tank I’ve really wanted to build for a very long time now is the Sherman Mark II (the British version of the US M4A1 Sherman medium tank), as deployed during the Battle of El Alamein in 1942.
Although there hadn’t been any kits of early M4A1s with the early VVSS suspension similar to that of the M3 Lee and Grant tanks, recently we’ve seen great kits released by Tasca and Dragon of this early version. While the fantastic Tasca kit has gotten a lot of well-deserved positive coverage in the modeling press, I hadn’t seen very much at all written about the Dragon kit…so, wondering how the Dragon kit was, I decided to build it!
To sum it up, it’s a great kit! There aren’t too many parts, and it’s pretty easy to build. The one difficult part was working with the photo-etched metal fenders and sand shields, a characteristic of desert Shermans. To compare, the plastic sand shields of the Tasca kit are very easy to assemble. Keeping in mind I will use this model in a diorama later, I made all the hatches operable using brass rod in the hinges. The turret roof-mounted .50 caliber machine gun supplied in the Dragon kit is fine but a little simplified, and since that big gun sitting on top of the turret is a definite eye-catching element of the model, I decided to replace it with the excellent Tasca .50 cal gun…which I’ve had in my stash forever and could never find a use for, until now! (Photos 1-3)
Here’s a closeup shot of the top of the turret. I added the photo-etched metal straps to the turret bustle storage bin as per Dragon’s instructions, but checking reference photos it seems that most vehicles did not have those attached…so you could just leave them off with no problem. (Photo 4)
I attached all the hull-mounted tools using the supplied photo-etched metal parts for the tie-down straps. These straps are actually soft belts on the real tank, so I used my finger to bend them up a bit to impart a sense of that softness and flexibility. (Photo 5)
As mentioned, the most daunting aspect of building this otherwise easy-to-assemble Dragon kit is the bending and assembly of the photo-etched metal fenders and sand shields. I assembled the sand shields using Wave’s black CA glue, but the camouflage rails on the fenders didn’t present much of a mating surface, so I soldered them on.
The fender-mounted photo-etched metal oil can rack is a good bit oversized, so I scratchbuilt a new one using plastic strip and added a resin-cast oil can. (Photo 6)
Once it’s all together, it absolutely exudes the essence of a desert Sherman! Based on opinions I had read on the Internet about this kit, I really wasn’t expecting too much out of it…but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is really a very good kit. It would be an excellent kit if it included plastic fenders and sand shields rather than those tricky PE parts! (Photo 7)