Hobby Boss
U.S M4A1 (76)W Sherman
Medium Tank

Hobby Boss 1:48 Scale - Kit No.84801
Review by Terry Ashley

Hobby Boss
1:48 fans have waited for what seems like forever on these new kits from new company Hobby Boss and the first kits should be available around August.

To get things going is the first of five Shermans listed for release with this kit being of the M4A1(76)W and as a long time Shermaholic it’s good to see someone starting off a new series with an Allied vehicle with the T-34s to follow.

Without wanting to pre-empt the findings of this review the one word that comes to mind on this release is “frustration”. There must be more preserved Shermans of all types around than any other WWII (and beyond) vehicle yet still manufacturers can’t get things right in many areas but this is mixed with some fine and well done detail.

The kit consist of 232 parts in light grey plastic, a small etched fret with 14 parts and a set of vinyl tracks plus the decal and instruction sheets.

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Overall the detail level is quite good with well defined detail relief and some very delicate parts such as the barrel travel lock, lifting eyes, the tools and bogie detail but unfortunately the fit of some parts compromises the detail while there is a fair bit of flash evident of many parts plus a few pin marks to be dealt with.

An example of this is the hatches that have very fine casting numbers on the inside but a large pin ejector mark right amongst the raised numbers which means most of the detail will be gone after filling the ejector marks.

Dimensionally the kit measures out very well against the 1:48 plans in Hunnicutt’s Sherman bible for items like the hull length, turret height and diameter and the bogies and most of the smaller components but unfortunately a few major areas such as the hull side angles, mantlet profile and the tracks are a problem as well as some of the detail within the parts that are dimensionally okay as well as some fit problems.

Lower Hull:
This is a conventional plastic tub with detail included on the bottom and side panels with a separate rear panel, front transmission cover and sponson fillers. Also included on the hull sides are return roller locating tabs for HVSS Sherman versions to come and these are to be cut off as per instructions.

The transmission cover is the later single piece sharp nosed type and the contours look good but have some flash to be trimmed from the top and some minor gaps to be filled at the sides after fitting with the final drive housings covering some of these. The upper bolted flange has two locating lugs included but you should cut these off as they don’t do anything and there are some fit issues with the hull but more on this later.

The hull side final drive housings sit at the wrong angle if you fit as indicated but it is a simple matter of cutting of the locating pin and fit at the correct angle so no big deal.

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The fit of the rear hull panel will need the inner locating lugs reduced in thickness by about half to fit between the hull sides while the sponson fillers have small notches to ensue you glue them in the right place but there are some gaps between these and upper hull after they are joined together later.

Added to the rear plate are the hull side and rear idler mountings plus a couple of two part round air cleaners and the central towing pintle and two lower tow shackles with the two engine doors moulded closed. There is also the large radiator grill that fits under the hull overhang which has quite nice grillwork included.

The kit includes two types on bogies, one with straight arm return rollers and the other with raised rollers but there is a bit of flash to be removed about the place. The later type with raised rollers also includes the three lower bolts on the bogie housings but strangely the earlier straight arm type does not?

The upper track skids include three different types with the early curved type, the intermediate type and the final type with extended skid but all have a fairly prominent mould seam down the middle which is easy to remove and you may want to thin the skids a little while you are at it.

Detail on the bogies housings is very good with delicate details including small casting numbers and well defined detail on the suspension arms but the separate return roller is a little too small in diameter and in depth with the roller being quite loose on it’s mounting.

Two types of road wheels are included, the open spoked welded type and the solid spoke type which has separate rear inserts to eliminate the hollow look. While the road wheels are the correct diameter there are a few detail issues with the openings in the welded wheels being slightly too big and the wrong shape, this is only minor and may only be problem for the dedicated. The solid spoke wheels also have issues where the six raised ribs are far too small, the rear inserts have the ribs larger than the full wheel but still undersized with the wheels in the Tamiya M4 kits being far more accurate.

There are also corresponding open spoke and solid spoke idler wheels but the open spoke idlers have the centre hub too small and the wrong shape openings while the solid spoke idlers have the six hub bolts slightly too big but are probably the better represented of all the wheels.

Assembly of the bogies is straightforward with very good fit of the bogie parts although the inside springs don’t locate precisely and are a bit loose requiring care to get the sit right as the glue dries. The fit of the bogies to the hull is also good and actually hold in place without glue such is the good fit but of course you will glue them in place.

At the front are two styles of drive sprocket, the open ‘revised fancy smooth’ and solid ‘simple plate’ sprockets with the inner and outer sprockets separate and apart from rather large sprue attachments that needs care in removing have very nice details included and these locate neatly over the final drive axle mountings.

Upper Hull:
This is one large moulding much the same as the real cast hull with separate engine deck, front crew hatches and most of the smaller fittings but there is no cast texture included which would be minor in this scale anyways.

The main area of concern is the hull sides which on the real M4A1 have a slight angle to allow removal from the production moulds but this is only about 1 - 1/2 degrees according to Ordnance Department drawings with minor variances between different vehicles but the sides of the kit hull are angled at about 5 degrees which means the lower width is 2.5mm too wide and the top hull angle considerably out of position as are some of the hull front fittings as a consequence and this is very apparent from most angles and does give a strange look to the hull. Many kits of the M4A1 have slightly angled sides to allow the part to come out of the moulds but the angles here seem excessive indeed. (Thanks to Kurt Laughlin for the updated info, see US Army Models site for further info on the hull side angles)

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Images showing the incorrect hull angles.
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The contours of the glacis visor housings are also a little too harsh and should be more subtle but a little work with the wet and dry should remedy this.

The separate engine deck has nice details included with separate part for the forward intake and upper cover although the contours of this are a little “square” and can do with be rounded off a little. The fit of the engine deck to the hull required a little trimming of the panel sides and test fitting will determine what is needed.

Still at the back there are separate grouser covers but these have a distinct square profile and should be more rounded and a little sanding work would be in order while the “mesh” on the front is best not spoken of and we will probably be offered as replacement mesh in the inevitable etched sets.

The tail lights are nicely moulded for this scale with etched metal faces and bush guards that give a good scale appearance and the two lifting eyes are also separate parts with good scale appearance.

All the pioneer tools are separate parts with well done details but the moulded on tool brackets will probable also be in the etched sets to come and the rear hull mounted storage rack is a little chunky as are the hull mounting brackets.

Moving to the front the two separate crew hatches have basic periscope details on both sides with etched periscope guards as well as fine casting numbers on the inside as mentioned above but these are compromised by the large pin mark on each hatch. The fit of the hatches to the hull is not the best and some trimming will be needed for a better fit if you want to show these closed.

The head lights and siren are again nicely moulded for the scale and have etched guards to again give a good appearance and the two lifting eyes look good and the two right side ventilator covers are also separate parts. 

The separate barrel lock is very nicely done with very fine detail typified by the delicate eye under the barrel hook and looks very good.

Fitting the upper and lower hulls together proved quite troublesome as there is a large gap (about 1mm) at the front between the upper hull and the transmission housing bolted flange and one solution is to trim the back of the sponson fillers so the hull sits a little further forward to meet up with the transmission housing better. This will mean the rear hull overhang is about 1mm too short but will not be as noticeable as the gap at the front. I also added a lip of plastic card behind the bolted flange to support the upper hull to hold it at the right height better.

The tracks are continuous vinyl T48 rubber chevron track the same type as with the Tamiya Sherman kits but there is a problem in that the end connectors and guide teeth are not located centrally between each track link. Instead they are positioned at the edge of each link with one pin of the end connectors level with the division between each link and rectifying this on the soft vinyl is nigh on impossible so it either live with the issue or find alternate tracks. The instructions claim the tracks will glue together with normal plastic cement but not the cement I have and you best resort to using the small heated screwdriver head to melt the join pins together as with most vinyl tracks.

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Many kits have had problems with the subtle contours of the T23 turret and while there are a few issues here it does a fairly good fist of it. The turret size as mentioned earlier is very good but the upper edges forward of the hatches is a little narrow but it features very fine casting numbers between the hatches and an open Commander’s periscope with most details as separate parts.

The turret is the early type with large Loader’s split hatch and has the conventional upper shell and lower turret ring but the join between the two leave a little to be desired especially at the side of the rear bustle and the method used to include the separate pistol port leaves a couple of small deformities to be smoothed out on the lower port fairings and distinct gaps at the top hinge after fitting in place. There is no cast texture on the turret which is fortunate as this would be removed when dealing with the lower join line and you can add some “Mr Surfacer” after to simulate the case texture.

The Commander’s cupola has nicely depicted periscopes for this scale but some minor trimming will be needed to sit the cupola snugly into the hull top opening. The separate cupola hatch has the contours too square and should be more rounded and the fit of the hatch to the cupola will need some trimming for a better fit.

The early split Loader’s hatch rim is also too square in profile and again should be more rounded and some work with the wet and dry should fix this issue and this hatch also required some trimming to fit into the turret opening. The split hatches again have rudimentary detail on both sides and were not the best fit inside the hatch ring but are too loose if anything.

The front gun trunnion is a separate part to which is fitted to the mantlet but this again has some profile problems being far too rounded at the front with the actual T23 mantlet having an almost flat face to it and is wider at the top than at the bottom and The mantlet is also 1.5mm too narrow and some reshaping of the mantlet would be in order.

The early M1A1 76mm barrel without the thread protector is in one piece with the muzzle hollowed out using slide moulds but there is next to no taper in the barrel as there should be but this would be quite subtle in this scale but should be there. There was also a large moulding blemish part way down the barrel and quite a prominent moulding seam to be removed which will take a bit of vigorous sanding to eliminate and this is a case of an AM metal barrel being called for.

There is a rudimentary gun breech inside the turret which is designed to mate to the back of the mantlet over the gun trunnion allowing the gun to elevate but the way the join is designed around the trunnion pin making the barrel movable is all but impossible and gluing in the desired position is the far better option.

There is the optional later .50cal MG rack mounted on the ventilator cover at the rear of the turret and if this ventilator cover is required and you have to cut out the locating hole in the turret before gluing the two halves together.
A .50cal and .30cal machine gun are included but these are a little chunky especially the perforated cooling jackets but these are difficult to depict convincingly in this smaller scale.

Thrown in for good measure is a small sprue with twenty rucksacks which have quite good detail and will come up well with careful painting as well as a selection of jerry cans with strange looking embossing on the cans but with separate handles and a few wood boxes and small metal drums to add as stowage.

There are markings for one US WWII vehicle in two tone olive drab and dark earth but no information is given on the unit and the second has post war Israeli markings in overall olive drab.
A colour sheet is included with illustrations of the two marking options showing the decal placement.

Decal sheet
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The Sprues
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Detail images
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Well we get quite a mixed bag here with some very nice petite detailing but a bit of flash and other cleanup needed with the overall dimensions of the kit being good but it’s downhill from there unfortunately. There are numerous detail issues from the hull and mantlet contours, the track end connectors, to the road wheels details and others in between and the fit of parts leaves a bit to be desired. But the bogie units are very well done as are other parts and some may not be bothered with the smaller detail issues and be happy with the kit.

The overall impression is one of so close yet so far and obviously the suspension parts will be those included in the other Sherman kits announced but let’s hope some of the detail issues are addressed before then?

Recommended only because its a M4A1(76)W in 1:48.

SHERMAN A History of the
American Medium Tank

R.P.Hunnicutt. Presidio Books ISBN 0-89141-080-5
Modeler's Guide to the Sherman
MMIR Special. Ampersand Publishing Company, Inc

Page created July 10, 2006

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