Saturday, January 23, 2010

Project: 1/48 M4A1 Sherman

1/48 scale has always been a siren's call for me. In my opinion it is the "perfect" scale: capable of holding similar detail levels as 1/35 scale, with the added advantage of a more compact size. This makes it especially ideal for making dioramas and the like, with a realistic footprint for display purposes in the home.

That being said, 1/48 scale armor models are also not nearly as popular as their larger scale stablemates. The first forays into the scale came from the likes of Aurora, with a handful of 1/48 scale kits (including some very interesting subjects, like the never-realized MBT-70, or the Swedish "S" Tank). A major player stepped into the scale in the 1970's, in the form of Bandai. At the time, Bandai was going head-to-head with Tamiya, both companies virtually inventing their respective scales (Tamiya "invented" 1/35 scale as a "metric" alternative to 1/32). In the end, however, Bandai lost for a number of reasons, and today 1/35 is the king of armor modelling scales.

Things began to change, however, in the new millenia. In the '00s, Tamiya in an effort to reinvent itself, revisited the 1/48 scale, releasing a flood of kits in a short period of time. That flood has now dried to a trickle, but a new kit is released a couple times a year. While 1/48 may never rise to challenge 1/35 scale, it is here, and so far looks like its staying.

The Tamiya kit represents a fairly standard mid-production M4A1 Sherman with a cast hull, with a few options. The modeler can leave off the applique armor and/or use the 3-piece bolted transmission cover, along with the open spoked road wheels for a fairly early vehicle. Or on the other hand the modeler can use the one-piece transmission cover and stamped road wheels along with applique armor for a later version. Of course the Sherman was seen with a number of different features so one can mix and match too. Also included is the narrow M-34 gun mantlet, but the suspension is the later type with the off-set return rollers. Nor is there provisions for modeling direct vision slots in the hull, so a very early M4A1 cannot be modeled. That being said, there's lots of room in the kit and a lot of options.

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