This recent update kit from Formations depicts an early production Direct Vision M4 as built at the Baldwin Locomotive plant. It can be used along with Tamiya's M4, or Dragon's M4A1 75mm as donor kits as well as assembled with various Formations parts or other aftermarket items. Although it is an early hull many of these tanks were later remanufactured by welding up the DV doors adding appliqúe armor and other fittings and can be seen quite late in both Italy and NWE.
Baldwin continued to build Direct Vision hulls through the end of the M4 production with later tanks seen fitted with one piece cast transmission covers and later suspensions.
The set consists of 71 parts in light cream resin and a length of brass wire with the upper hull in one large casting and all additional items as separate parts for good definition and allowing variation depending on the model being built.
The quality of the casting is first class as we have come to expect from Formations with very few if any blemishes such as air holes or warping. This is especially noticeable on the large hull casting which is perfectly square with the only cleanup being some minor excess resin along the lower edges of the casting that are easily removed.
There are a few of what appear to be small air holes on some larger castings but these are all internal on my parts and will disappear when painted unless you go poking about with a sharp stick to expose them unnecessarily.
The usual casting blocks have to be removed but this is easily done and you should note that the large flat casting blocks on the undersides of the engine decks do not have to be removed. Once you have hollowed out the engine deck recess in the hull the casting blocks on the engine decks slip into the cut-out as they are.
The openings for the crew hatches, turret ring and engine desk have quite thick 'fillers' that will take a bit of effort to remove but this helps to keep the hull warp free during casting and transit so the extra effort in removing these is a small price to pay. Just note not to cut the resin in the engine deck opening right to the edges but leave a small step for the separate engine deck to sit when fitting in place.
The detail on the hull is excellent with fine weld seams included on the hull, front glacis and around the smaller detail such as the fuel filler guards and turret splash guards. There are also fine casting numbers included on the sides of the turret splash guard as well as the numerous drain holes partially included which can easily be fully drilled out for a better appearance. The hull top welds are depicted as more pitted style instead of the flowing style welds seen on most hulls but those on the glacis are the typical style seen here.
The front direct vision port covers are also separate parts allowing these to be positioned but there is no internal detail so fitting the closed would be the best option.
Fitting the engine deck did require a little trimming as it was slightly larger than the hull opening and using a long flat file to carefully file the edges while test fitting often will get the best results as the flat file will keep the edges nice and straight as you go.
The front crew hatches have nice detail on both sides and represent the early style hatch without the support spring and you can position these open or closed if you wish the fit to the hull opening very good if positioned closed. Note you have to cut off the small spring attachment points included on the outside of the hatch before fitting to the hull.
There is a large selection of generic type Sherman bits to add as required such as separate grouser box intakes although these don't are open and adding etched screen (not supplied) would improve the look along with ventilator covers, tow shackles, lifting eyes, tail lights, fire extinguisher handle, tow cable clips and fender extensions front and back. There is also various periscope parts included that allow you to depict the hatches with or without periscopes fitted as well as all the fuel filler caps as a separate parts with the wire supplied used for the locking pins
There are also a couple of cal.30 MG barrels provided which have nice cooling jacket detail but using any of the available metal cal.30 barrels would provide that extra level of detail definition.
This kit can be used with any number of Formations sets such as F055 Lower Hull, F024, F032, F088, and F091 three-piece transmissions, F003, F017, and F030 Turrets, as well as the F070 M3, or F080 VVSS Suspensions. The hull can also be used with our F093 Riveted Lower Hull to depict a tank assembled at Pressed Steel Car plant, although some hull details vary slightly. There are also examples of these tanks with single piece cast transmissions such as our F002 or F053 and checking references carefully for the proper combinations would be the best option.
Depending on the donor kit there will be different degrees of trimming and fitting required to attach the new hull but as most kits have basically the same dimensions thankfully this will be minor in most cases and nothing above the capabilities of anyone buying this conversion set in the first place.
Highly recommended 7.5/10
See the Sherman Subject Page for additional reviews of Sherman related kits and accessories.