As well as the cast hull with direct vision slots and early M3 style bogies this version also featured the early three piece transmission cover, low bustle turret incorporating the M34 gun mount with the 75mm gun M3 having the small flare at the muzzle and thin rotor shield with some having the armoured shield for the co-ax .30cal MG.
All these features except the suspension bogies are included in this new conversion set from Formations which is designed to be used with the Dragon M4A1 Early Version (kit #6048) but can be used with Italeri Sherman kits with a little extra work. If you are not fortunate enough to have some Dragon M4A1s lying about (I have two in my stash, but don’t tell anyone) these kits are due for re-release by Dragon shortly so this conversion is timely.
For the suspension bogies you could use those from the Tamiya M3 Lee (kit #35039) but the open spoked wheels will need replacing as they have six holes instead of the correct five, you can use the correct wheels available from Calibre35 (set #35013) or the Early Bogie set from Tiger Model Designs (set #353006) or the alternate wheels in the Tamiya M4 (kit #35190) can also be used.
So on to the conversion set, which is cast in the usual light cream resin from Formations with the 134 resin pieces, three MV lenses for the lights and a length of twine and thin wire plus a 7 page instruction sheet.
The quality of the casting is excellent as usual but there were a few air holes exposed when removing the casting blocks on some larger parts most notably at the front of the hull but these will be dealt with during construction so more on this later.
Many of the parts are quite small and there is some resin ‘film’ to be removed which isn’t a problem and this is easy to do while the parts are still on the “sprues” and then carefully cut off as needed.
The main part of the conversion is the large hull casting which is cast like the original with all detail items as separate parts, the contours are nicely done with separate openings for the engine deck, turret and crew hatches with the direct vision slots having the armoured flaps separate and internal slot details included.
Removing the excess resin from the openings is very easy with a sharp hobby blade and the engine deck casting slips precisely into the opening without the need to remove the casting block from the underside of the deck with the fit of the parts being excellent.
As mentioned all the details such as fuel filler armoured covers, ventilators, lifting eyes, head and tail lights, rear hull engine intakes and steel rope clips as well as the hull machine gun are separate parts and this adds to the overall detail definition of the assembled hull. You will have to provide the head and tail light guards from one of the many aftermarket etched sets available with this being about the only extra detail parts not provided in the set, also included is the excellent pioneer tool set (#F018) that includes the securing straps on the tools to again elevate the need for etched parts.
The hull casting had some very minor bowing but all the details and hull contours are perfectly cast and this bowing was completely eliminated when attaching the hull to the lower hull pan in the Dragon kit.
Extra exhaust parts are included for converting the Italeri Sherman kits to the early M4A1 configuration and will obviously require some modifications to the Italeri kits.
The early three piece transmission cover without bullet splash is again perfectly cast and includes the separation line between the two bolted flanges holding the three sections together as well as perfectly formed bolt head details on the flanges and top securing strip.
Other detail include casting numbers in five locations including the insides of the final drive housings and the drain plugs on the undersides of the FD housings and central cover as well as the two towing lugs with weld seams.
The large casting block on the back of the casting does not need to be removed if you aren’t building a kit with interior as this simply slips inside the front of the lower hull pan on the Dragon kit.
Included with the transmission cover are alternate front fenders and drive sprocket axles to allow the cover to be used on either the Academy, Italeri, Dragon or Tamiya Sherman kits with some minor modifications needed depending on which kit is chosen and a small instruction sheet describes the alterations needed for each kit with the set also being available separately as set #F032 if this is all you need at the time.
The early dry stowage low bustle turret is included in the set and consists of the main turret casting with all detail parts separate except for the pistol port which is cast in place as are the rear tie downs with details such as the roof casting numbers and foundry crest on the real bustle as well as nice weld seams around the bottom of the bustle and two drain holes in the ventilator splash guard. The lower turret ring is a separate part that fitted into the bottom of the turret with only minor trimming needed in the turret locating recess after removing the excess resin on the ring from the casting process which was all easily dealt with.
Details added to the turret are the early M34 gun mount with alternate narrow rotor shields with or without the collar extension but most of the early M4A1s with DV slots had the shields without these extensions.
The early 75mm gun tube with small flare at the muzzle is cast perfectly straight with a small indentation at the muzzle but this could do with being drilled out further for better appearance using the indentation as a guide for the correct diameter to drill.
The commanders hatch ring and split hatches are also provided and include details on both sides of the hatches and small casting numbers around the hatch ring as well as other items such as lifting eyes, antenna mount, periscopes (open or closed) and some very finely cast sights and rear .50cal MG stowage clip that will need care when handling.
These are in the form of seven letter sized sheets with text notes and diagrams that show the location of the parts called out by number for easy identification as the parts are all numbered on their casting blocks, so take note of these numbers for the smaller parts before removing from the blocks.
The notes and diagrams are easy to follow and make locating the parts easy but most Shermaholics with know the location of the main parts anyway.
Test fitting of the major components to the Dragon M4A1 hull sees the upper hull fit being almost perfect with only very minor trimming needed and the usual test fitting will indicate what this entails.
The front transmission cover also fitted well to the lower Dragon hull tub but you will need to trim the front lip from the resin hull to mate with the transmission cover and again test fitting often will determine the amount to be trimmed. Trimming the lip did remove most of the internal air bubbles mentioned above but some may still require filling if still exposed after trimming? I am assuming this lip is included on the hull casting to allow its use with the other Sherman kits available as it’s easier to remove some resin that having to add bits back on.
I didn’t test fit the parts to other Sherman kits as it is after all designed for the Dragon kit and there will be additional alterations needed to fit to the other kits.
Another excellent resin set from Rob at Formations with well cast and detailed parts that have a good fit of the resin to resin and resin to plastic parts.
A number of the parts aren’t used with this conversion and will add to the spares box with the set providing everything except the early suspension to build a nice looking direct vision M4A1 to add to your collection.
As with any major resin conversion some experience working with resin parts will be of assistance but there is nothing with this set that should pose any great problem as very little alterations are needed on the target kit to take the new parts.
Highly recommended.Check the Formations website for details of other update sets available and thanks to Rob for the review sample.
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Page created 19 September 2004