U.S. Medium Tank M4A3E8 Sherman “Easy Eight” European Theatre
Tamiya 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
B a c k g r o u n d
The M4A3 was the first Sherman variant to feature HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension) as factory fitted equipment. HVSS suspension was equipped with wider tracks to distribute weight more evenly. These wider tracks allowed more armour to be fitted and offered a more comfortable ride for the crew, but also required narrow track guards to be fitted to the sides of the hull.
With its experimental E8 designation, the smooth ride of the HVSS led to the nickname Easy Eight for this Sherman variant. The M4A3E8 first entered service in Northern Europe during December 1944, and the variant continued on the front lines post-war, including service in Korea.
F i r s t L o o k
Tamiya has expanded its WWII Allied catalogue with a new 1:35 scale M4A3E8 Easy Eight Sherman. This kit has nothing at all in common with the Tamiya Easy Eight released around 1970.
Tamiya’s brand new 1:35 scale M4A3E8 Easy Eight Sherman comprises 278 parts in olive coloured plastic, ten parts in clear and two black full-length flexible tracks.
The kit is almost all new. The running gear sprues are taken from Tamiya’s 2011 Israeli M51 release. I built this kit at the time and found the HVSS to be well detailed but delightfully simple to assemble, with only eight parts per unit including the wheels.
The only other recycled sprue is the .50 cal machine gun, which dates from 1998.
The kit features subtle caset texture and casting marks where appropriate.
The kit features the T23 turret with the oval loader’s hatch and subtle cast texture wherever appropriate. The running gear includes the later Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS) suspension units, and full-length flexible T66 tracks.
All of the other key features of the M4A3E8 are depicted too, including the 47° glacis hull with the enlarged hatches, the correct rear deck configuration and 76mm gun barrel with muzzle brake. Appliqué armour is not provided.
The lower hull is made up from a “flat pack” arrangement of separate floor, sides and engine firewall. The track guards and sponsons are cleverly moulded as one piece per side. The diagonal supports are supplied as separate parts.
Detail on the tracks is very good. They look thin, but comparison with reference photos suggests that Tamiya has got this right. The guide horns are moulded onto the tracks with an indentation front and rear to suggest the hollow nature of the real thing. There is one raised pip on the inside of every 16th link, but these will hardly be visible once the tracks are fitted. The tracks may be fixed with regular plastic glue.
Note that the idler wheel mounts are also workable track tensioners. Do not glue these parts in place initially, as you may want to swing the arms to tighten the vinyl track when it is installed.
The Commander’s cupola features separate clear vision blocks fitted from the inside.
All hull and turret crew hatches may be posed either open or closed. A pillar-mounted .50 cal machine gun is also supplied. Although the instructions show it fitted to the pillar, the machine gun may also be stowed at the rear of the turret.
Two Jerry cans plus six spare individual track links with separate hollow guide horns are offered as stowage.
The small decal sheet mainly offers a selection of Allied stars for the two simple schemes.
The package is rounded out with is a nicely moulded and animated Commander figure.
Tasca has set the standard for Sherman kits for nearly ten years, so comparisons between Tasca’s 2010-released 1:35 scale Easy Eight and Tamiya’s new kit will be inevitable. Both will look great when complete, but the approach of the two kits is markedly different. Whereas Tasca’s kit comprises more than 800 parts, Tamiya’s is less than 300.
A good example of the different design philosophies is the running gear. Tasca’s suspension units are made up from 17 pieces, and will be articulated when assembled. Tamiya’s are made up from eight pieces, including the road wheels. The only compromise is lack of articulation – the running gear can be posed any way you want as long as it is flat on the ground. For most modellers, this will not be an issue.
C o n c l u s i o n
Tamiya has certainly snatched the crown of “Easiest Easy Eight in 1:35 scale”, with excellent detail and a very buildable parts breakdown.
Detail aficionados may want to replace the plastic brush guards, and perhaps the .50 cal machine gun, but even without these enhancements Tamiya’s new 1:35 scale M4A3E8 will look great straight from the box.
I can’t wait to start mine.
Thanks to Tamiya Japan for the sample
Tamiya kits are distributed in the UK by The Hobby Company Limited for the sample.
Text and Images by Brett Green