Legend Productions 1/35 Scale Conversion
Kit No. LF1101; Sherman M4 Early Conversion Set (Italeri M4A1)
by Cookie Sewell
84 parts (83 in cream resin, 1 turned aluminum gun barrel) price US
Advantages: "drop-fit" parts will convert the Italeri M4A1
to a very early production M4 suitable for North Africa.
Disadvantages: relatively high cost; somewhat odd finish on hull parts,
Recommendation: To all "Shermaholics"
While most manufacturers of late have fought over the later models of
the Sherman tank – the 76mm armed wet stowage models with either
VVSS or HVSS suspensions – there are still very few models of the
early Shermans around. The only ones which can be found with some regularity
are: the Tamiya M4 Early (a standard production dry stowage vehicle, not
a really early production one); the DML M4A1 Early (a relatively early
M4A1 with 75mm turret without loader's hatch – the so-called "low
bustle" model – but later model suspension); and the DML M4A4
kits (as there was no "late model" M4A4, this is pretty much
all there was.) The result is that the market is still wide open for the
after-market boys to fill in a LOT of gaps.
There are a lot of kits that have been produced over the last 30 years
to use the two most common and accepted Sherman kits as a basis –
the 24-year-old Tamiya M4A3 (which is a standard production wet stowage
version) and the 31-year-old Italeri M4A1 76mm wet stowage kit.
The latter is a true classic model, as it was the first really good Sherman
kit when it came out in 1974. But over the years, most modelers found
it to be wanting in a lot of areas: the turret had some shape problems
and fit problems, the gun had a bogus "step" in the barrel (caused
because the kit's designers mistook an unpainted section of the barrel
as a sleeve and not an unpainted section of the barrel), rocking bogies
that could not be firmly locked down, relatively inflexible tracks, and
truly wimpy tools. But it was pretty accurate in scale, looked better
than either the 1956 Revell kit or the Nichimo or Tamiya kits of its day,
and has survived to this day.
The upshot was that this kit turned out to be the basis for most of the
conversion kits, even after the Tamiya M4A3 kit showed up seven years
later. Both companies have made a number of conversions of their own kits,
with Italeri offering this kit with different parts as an "M4A2 Jumbo"
(actually an early M4A3 76mm), an M4A3 with T34 Calliope, an M32B1 tank
recovery vehicle, an M36B1 90mm GMC, and lately an M4A2 USMC version.
But under it all are the same basic detail and running gear parts that
came out in 1974.
Legend Productions of Korea now offers two conversion kits for creating
the very early model M4 tank – "direct vision" viewers
in the glacis, flat-back welded hull, three-piece bolted transmission
housing, M3 Medium type bogie assemblies, "low-bustle" turret
with M34 narrow mantelet gun mount, and a turned aluminum 75mm M3 gun
barrel. The first kit, LF1100, is designed to go on the Tamiya M4 Early
kit and as such uses many parts from it such as the kit's turret and transmission
cover. This kit, LF1101, is a complete kit for converting the Italeri
M4A1 to the earliest M4 variant.
The kit provides many of the parts that have to be replaced in the Italeri
kit to do just that: new hull with specific details such as hatches and
viewers, new transmission cover and bow section, new M2/M3 style bogie
units with the return rollers mounted on top, and a complete resin turret
assembly with all major components included.
I have seen some comments on the internet that show some reviewers can't
read: the directions show two sponson inserts for the LF1100 kit, which
is the Tamiya one and as most of us "old hands" know Tamiya
rarely includes sponson floors with any kit. Italeri and DML do, and as
such the 1101 kit only needs a replacement for the front section once
the lower hull is modified to accept the new bow section and rear sections
to meet the rectangular hull corners at the rear. On the other hand, at
least one reviewer of an LF1100 claimed the kit came without them, so
I have no idea if that was a goof or someone at the factory mixed up the
1100 and 1101 kits.
Most of the parts are a good fit, once cleaned up and removed from their
casting plugs. The bogies seem a bit soft on detail, which is odd considering
resin is usually better at capturing sharp details.
The turret is complete and comes with everything but hand grabs, for
which the directions recommend "0.3mm brass wire" (e.g. 0.010-0.015"
wire) but which is not provided.
The hull surface has an odd somewhat uneven finish to it as if the master
modeler who created the original thought it should be textured. It should
be dead smooth, as this hull was welded together from cold rolled steel
armor plate and not cast. One suggestion made by Peter Brown and Steve
Zaloga, and to which I agree, is that the researchers may have used a
museum example with several heavy coats of paint and weathering, which
creates the impression of dips or ripples in the surface. They are not
there on the original unless it has suffered heavy rusting, such as 50
rs in warm salt water. The turret shows a cast surface a bit rougher
than what is apparent on most clean examples or from factory photos, so
it probably suffered the same fate of multiple paint coats.
One thing I wish Legend had included was a better set of tools for the
Sherman as well as some wire and even minor photo etched sheet, as some
of the details on the original Italeri kit are poor and need to be replaced
with better items. For $73 one would have hoped they had included it,
but no such luck.
The directions are where this kit is let down, as they are rather perfunctory
and present color photos with a "stick here" type of arrow and
number presentation. While they are better than nothing, and at least
show where the bits go and have photos of how to recognize them on the
casting plugs, for the amount of money charged for this kit they are inexcusable.
There are many other companies that do it better, and Legend should buy
some of its competitors' products to see how to do this better. A good
case in point is Chesapeake Model Designs, who is probably the best overall
at the kits, their presentation, and their directions. Their directions
explain what the kit provides and the history of the actual vehicle, suggested
kits and parts needed to build an accurate replica, and photos showing
how their product goes together. A bit more on the Legend directions and
skipping the adverts for two Churchill conversion sets would have been
As it is, some quick research shows that only a handful of tanks were
built to this configuration, and from some comments in the historical
texts may have been part of the 2nd Armored Division when it went to North
Africa. 20 of them were transferred to the 1st Armored Division, which
otherwise seems to have been equipped with either M3 mediums or early
model M4A1 tanks. Steve Zaloga in his book on "The M4 Sherman at
War" from Concord (#7001) has a photo of two M4 Early Models from
F Company, 2nd Battalion 1st Armored Regiment, Combat Command C, 1st Armored
Division, matching the version which this kit provides knocked out near
Sidi Salem, Tunisia.
To create a model of these tanks you need the Italeri kit, the Legend
kit, a set of T51 irreversible rubber block track (such as RHPS) and a
set of yellow stars and stripes for marking the vehicles. Steve provides
a color broadside of one of these tanks on page 33 of that book, but coming
up with the weathered "mud and clay" over olive drab camouflage
coloring will be interesting at best!
Overall this is a pretty good and thorough kit, but the manufacturer
needs to take into consideration not everyone who buys it has a vast library
or is a Sherman fan with a wide variety of parts to pick and choose from
to complete the kit.