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James H

1:35 “China Clipper” U.S. Medium Tank M4 Composite Sherman

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1:35 “China Clipper” U.S. Medium Tank M4 Composite Sherman
Asuka Model

Catalogue # 35-034

 

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The M4 Sherman, officially Medium Tank, M4, was the most widely used medium tank by the United States and Western Allies in World War II. The M4 Sherman proved to be reliable, relatively cheap to produce, and available in great numbers. Thousands were distributed through the Lend-Lease program to the British Commonwealth and Soviet Union. The tank was named by the British for the American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman. The M4 Sherman evolved from the M3 Medium Tank which had its main armament in a side sponson mount. The M4 retained much of the previous mechanical design but put the main 75 mm gun in a fully traversing turret. One feature, a one-axis gyrostabilizer, was not precise enough to allow firing when moving but did help keep the reticule on target, so that when the tank did stop to fire, the gun would be aimed in roughly the right direction. The designers stressed mechanical reliability, ease of production and maintenance, durability, standardization of parts and ammunition in a limited number of variants, and moderate size and weight. These factors, combined with the Sherman's then-superior armour and armament, outclassed German light and medium tanks fielded in 1939–42. The M4 went on to be produced in large numbers. It spearheaded many offensives by the Western Allies after 1942.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcVR61Xg8SM

The relative ease of production allowed large numbers of the M4 to be manufactured, and significant investment in tank recovery and repair units allowed disabled vehicles to be repaired and returned to service quickly. These factors combined to give the Allies numerical superiority in most battles, and many infantry divisions were provided with M4s and tank destroyers. After World War II, the Sherman, particularly the many improved and upgraded versions, continued to see combat service in many conflicts around the world, including the UN forces in the Korean War, with Israel in the Arab–Israeli Wars, briefly with South Vietnam in the Vietnam War, and on both sides of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Paraguay retired three Shermans from the Regimiento Escolta Presidencial (REP, Presidential Escort Regiment) in 2018, which marked the end of service of the final Sherman tanks in use anywhere in the world.
Extract courtesy of Wikipedia

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China Clipper

The kit
Asuka Model (formerly Tasca) are probably the undisputed kings when it comes to the M4 Sherman. In fact, this particular 2016 kit has almost SIXTY re-pops to date, from six different companies. There’s little doubt that the kit, in its many incarnations is quite a gem, and this particular release is that of a Sherman Composite with a welded rear hull. China Clipper served with the 68th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division and this specific machine has been recreated down to the stowage that is seen to adorn it in some photos of her. Asuka Model has provided this as a set of resin pieces that I’ll look at later. I can’t comment on kit accuracy, but many dozens of reviews of the sprues in various releases tend to lean towards this being possibly the best range of Sherman kits on the market. This release is packaged into a surprisingly shallow but very full box of styrene, with an overhead view of China Clipper on the lid, providing a great reference for the aforementioned stowage parts that are included. Lifting the tight lid reviews 19 sprues of dark green styrene which are generally packed into separate, stapled clear sleeves, except for where multiples of the same exist, and these are packed together.

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Two clear sprues are also provided as are four lengths of vinyl track, set of flexible polycaps, a piece of black rubber material, one fret of PE, a single decal sheet, bag of Value Gear Detailsresin parts and two sets of instructions. One thing that is obvious from this release is that Asuka Model/Tasca possibly had no idea about how many different variants of the Sherman would be released, as some sprues, whilst different, have the same nomenclature. It’s quite normal to see every letter of the alphabet used on different sprues over different releases, with no real conflict between the various kits (with exceptions to the rule). The instructions do explain about the inclusion of two Sprue J in the box, and to check that you indeed do use the correct parts from each. I think the overlap here is very small and those parts with the same number are actually entirely different, so you shouldn’t encounter any issues.

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I’m fairly new to armour and was surprised in the first instance to see vinyl tracks in this release as I’m led to believe that these are the things which most incense armour modellers. I do admit to seeing them recently in a 1/16 Takom kit but thought that it was more common for separate track links, the likes that we are now seeing in Rye Field Models and Takom 1/35 releases. Nonetheless, the moulding of these is excellent with sharp details. Each side is split into two pieces (for some reason) and they appear to assemble easily with CA. Instructions suggest priming them with Tamiya primer. Be careful what you do use in case it attacks this more fragile material.

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Five of the sprues are given over the drive and idler wheels, roadwheels and the three bogie units on each side of the hull. You will need to mix and match the polycaps with these during construction as these will grip the wheels to the bogies when fitted. As the tracks need to be made to sag slightly, I’m pretty sure the polycaps aren’t there so the wheels can rotate. Being able to rotate them before fitting the tracks will make painting easier though. To set the suspension height of the individual bogies, some rubber material is provided which you can use to custom load-out the individual units and set the height of these. This is all full explained in the manual,

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You will notice that the typical bathtub style lower hull isn’t present in this kit. This section is built up from a number of plates and an internal former. Two slightly different forward differential covers are supplied in this kit, on Sprue J, and you will need to identify the one you need from construction Stage 7. 

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I absolutely love the depiction of the upper hull with its rough forward casting which looks entirely organic and non-contrived. Of course, the rear hull is welded plate, as are the forward mudguard section. Weld seam detail is also very fine. I’m no aficionado as to which angle of arc this is supposed to be, that seems to be so important to some factions of this hobby, but as someone who can weld themselves, I think the depiction looks excellent. The rear engine deck is a separate entity, and the two forward crew hatches are also separate parts and can be posed open, despite there being no interior to the kit.

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Realistic textures also stretch to the cast effect of the turret, although they aren’t as pronounced here. I don’t know whether that’s through design or omission. No internal details are supplied here, and the lower ring is a separate part on the same sprue. The gun and mantlet of course designed to be able to elevate and the barrel is a two-part affair that you may consider replacing with a metal, rifled alternative. Inside the turret, there is no gun detail, as befitting a model with no interior included.

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MG detail for the mantlet is excellent, as is the cupola-mounted gun, but you may also choose to replace this with a brass version for more authenticity. I note that a section of rigid styrene ammunition is included for the MGs. To be able to use this, you’ll probably need to dip this in just-boiled water for a minute or so to be able to properly manipulate it. The commanders/cupola hatch can also be displayed in an open position, but as with the other posable hatches, you’d be best sticking a figure in there to disguise the murky, dark and empty interior.

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Clear parts are included for the periscope and the clarity is excellent. 

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A single PE fret is included that contains parts for engine grilles, Grouser boxes, air cleaners, etc. Quality is excellent, and the removal tags are small enough so as not to cause any difficulty in removing and preparing the parts. 

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As this model focuses on China Clipper, you won’t be too surprised to know that this is the only decal scheme in the box. After all, that’s what you bought this for, right? I imagine that the decals will be printed locally, and they are simple in execution, all being white markings for this one machine. Printing is sharp and thin, with minimal carrier film. Of course, registration is irrelevant here. 

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I do admit that when it comes to instruction manuals, I would prefer a regular book-format production that sits easy on the workbench, but this is one of those multi-folded, panoramic things that tend to get one confused when you dart between various sequences…very much like the Bandai instructions on some of their kits. Whilst there’s a lot of Japanese on this paper, this is also translated into a very reasonable level of English that is easy to understand. Illustrations are in line drawing format, but the instructions themselves look a little cluttered. Tamiya paint references are supplied throughout the assembly sequences, with a simple extra default options that states using Olive Drab where a paint reference isn’t supplied. 

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Extras
Of course, this is China Clipper, and the resin extras are also what help to push this kit. These consist of some superbly cast parts, including tent and tarp rolls, deck stowage 75mm crates, packs and helmets, wooden storage boxes and a stowage board. With the exception of the latter that is cast in brown resin, the rest of cast from light grey resin and look superb. Details are sharp and the mastering of these is first rate, and clean-up minimal before use. Adding these to your model will certainly create a visually interesting and authentic-looking miniature of China Clipper. A separate sheet of instructions is included with a full side printed in English. 

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Conclusion
Being an aircraft guy, this is the first time I’ve seen an Asuka Model kit, and it’s been an education in reading through the reviews of the Sherman series on various reputable websites. Apart from the specifics that pertain to this specific release, there’s not really too much more can be said with regards to accuracy except to state that these kits are respected for exactly that. For your money, you get a box that’s crammed with plastic, and with plenty for your spares box, plus the added resin parts to boot. This is a fantastic release of this specific machine and should look superb when finished, even with the vinyl tracks supplied. I look forward to building this as the darker months approach later this year.

Highly recommended.

My sincere thanks to Asuka Model for the review sample seen here.

 

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