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M4A3E2 Jumbo US Assault Tank (TS-045) 1:35


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M4A3E2 Jumbo US Assault Tank (TS-045)

1:35 Meng Model




The Sherman tank is familiar to most armour modellers, and as such needs little introduction.  It bears a familial resemblance to the M3 Lee/Grant, especially from the waist down, but the new upper hull and turret did a lot to fix the shortcomings of the earlier tank, although it was by no means perfect.  Its main armament was good enough when it entered service, but became a little underwhelming toward the end of the war, as was her armour, which although sloped in places couldn’t resist the high velocity rounds from the Panther or Tiger tanks.  Her most appealing feature was that they were easy and cheap to build, so there were a lot of them available both to US forces, the British Army, and other combatants of WWII via the lend/lease programme.


The M4 progressed through subvariants as improvements were made with changes to the construction, armament, suspension and armour, which can be confusing to the uninitiated.  By the time the M4A3 was in service the tank had matured, reverting to a welded hull and replacing the bulky radial engine with a V-8 lump manufactured by Ford.  The main armament was upgraded to the more armour-focused M1 long barrelled high-velocity gun, which was more capable of penetrating the thicker armour of the later German tanks, especially if using the High-Velocity Armour Piercing (HVAP) round that could punch through almost 180mm of rolled-steel armour at 1km.  Another change made with some of the M4s was the addition of wet ammo storage that reduced the risk of a tank “brewing up” when hit by enemy fire, a reputation that had resulted in the cruel nickname of "Tommy Cooker" by the Germans.  The variants with this useful safety addition were suffixed with the letter W.  In an effort to reduce losses in frontal assaults, the M4A3E2 variant was upgraded with an additional inch of cast frontal armour protecting the running-gear low down, and a thicker 4” upper glacis plate with an extra 1.5” welded to the sides,  plus an over-thick mantlet with a 75mm gun (sometimes replaced with a 76mm) mounted on a vertical-sided cast turret.  It gained the nickname “Jumbo”, probably because of the mantlet or its weight, which made it slower than a standard M4A3, but it remained popular with crews and generals alike for its ability to take punishment and remain operational. 


The Kit

This is a revised tool from Meng adding a new sprue, hull and turret, and in their usual style it is a highly detailed kit.  It arrives in a satin themed box with a painting of a distempered machine parked up near another Sherman in the background.  Inside are twelve sprues in sand coloured styrene plus four larger parts off sprues, two clear sprues, a small box of springs, a coil of wire, a tiny bag of pre-cut track-pins, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a turned aluminium barrel, two trees of poly-caps and decal sheet, with the instruction booklet found at the bottom of the box, and a set of rubberband tracks.  This is an exterior kit with only breech, periscopes and some hatch details included inside.  There is a hint of a possible interior set in the future by the inclusion of a detailed firewall between the crew compartment and engine compartment, although at time of writing that’s still just speculation on my part.




















Construction begins the same way as the earlier boxing, with a few steps re-ordered for some reason.  The suspension units and twin-wheel bogies are made up, which includes one of my favourite parts of the kit because of the springs – yes, I’m still impressed.  To the top of the swing-arms you add these springs, which can be found inside a small box that also has some ration boxes printed on it, all safely cocooned in foam.  They’re real springs too, made from spring steel and compressible just like the real Vertical Volute Suspension System (VVSS), so your Sherman will have working suspension as long as you obey the little “don’t glue” icons along the way.  Each wheel is made up from a front part with moulded-in tyre and a rear part, which once added is trapped between the two axle-halves.  A pair of wheels and their axles are inserted into the bottom of the suspension unit with the springs and their swing-arms inserted into the top section, which is closed up after adding the return roller then joined by a return skid that has some slide-moulded rivets moulded into it.  You make three of these units up for each side and then set them aside while the hull is built up from main lower plus front drive housing and rear bulkhead, with final drive housings and poly-caps added to the sides at the front and idler mounts at the rear along with towing eyes.  At the rear the radiator vents are stacked up into a matrix and held together with their end-caps before being fitted under the rear valance with the two curved exhaust pipes.   The suspension units are all added on their mounts and the drive sprockets are pushed into the final drive housings, held in place by the aforementioned poly-caps, with more added to the idler wheels before they are fitted.






The tracks are styrene, and made up from four parts per link, held together with short pre-cut lengths of nickel-plated wire that’s in a small bag in the box.  A clear two-part jig is included that holds up to 10 links, and although you’re not advised on how to put them in the jig, I found that putting the track ends into their recesses first and then laying the pads between them was the easiest way.  I also taped the jig closed before I tried adding the pins.  The pins go straight through, and a dot of super glue (CA) into the ends helps to hold the pin in place, then I did the same on the other side.  The result is an incredibly flexible set of tracks that will look great under a coat of paint.  They take some time to clean up because of the part count, but it’s really worth the effort.  Each link is four parts as mentioned, and there are 10 sprue gates per link in total.  The pad links are easy to clean as they are flat, but the three on each horn have to be cleaned up carefully to preserve the detail.  It’s still worth the effort though, and I can’t stop playing with the section I made up.  There are 78 links per track run, and you are advised to make them up and fit them over the tracks, using the adjustment capability of the idler axle to get the correct tension, then glue little parts in place to wedge the tensioner in place.  Those that are phobic of individual links will be pleased to find a set of flexible rubberband-style tracks in the box, although these aren’t documented in the instructions.  Tensioning them in the same manner as the individual links will allow you to obtain a more accurate sag to them.


The up-armoured upper hull is next, and begins with the drilling out of a few flashed-over holes depending on which decal option you have elected to portray.  The main upper hull is fitted out with the additional armour panels to front and sides, which all have a crisp weld-line along the edges, then is prepped with hatch hinges, a movable bow machine gun, and engine deck comprising one main C-shaped part and a choice of two inserts depending on your decal choice.  This is dropped onto the hull with the engine bay bulkhead supporting the centre section, then the front is detailed with lifting eyes, small fenders, hatches with detailed periscope.  The rear cages are either made up from PE or plastic parts, so if the PE sounds daunting, rather than using the plastic parts, Meng have provided a multi-section jig that you can use to obtain the correct curve and shape, but it would be advisable to anneal them in a lighter flame for a few second first to soften them up.  The remainder of the engine deck is made up from left and right pyramidal sections that drop into the space left on the deck with little grab-handles for mechanics to remove them for maintenance.  At the rear the bulkhead is fitted out with two rows of three spare track links, rear lights with PE cages that are formed on the jig as already mentioned, barrel cleaning tools, pioneer tools, spare fuel cans and larger rear mudflaps.  A rack is made and attached to the rear and is filled with additional fuel containers, probably to make up for the extra thirst of the engine that was coping with the weight of the additional armour.


Along the edges of the tracks you have to apply (usually) winter-weather track grousers that give it extra traction in muddy conditions and to counter the extra weight, helping to decrease ground-pressure.  There is one for each track link, and as they project further than the side skirts would, which weren’t fitted due to the side armour panels.  The towing cable is also made up from the braided cable supplied with the length printed on the page, and two styrene eyes, one for each end.  On the glacis plate a four-piece bow-wave board is attached between the fenders, with a large British-style ammo box resting on it for one option.


Now for the turret, which begins with a pretty good rendition of the breech, with recoil mechanism, co-ax machine gun, breech guard and mounting gear attached to the back of the mantlet.  A clear periscope is fitted to the roof, and the lower turret and turret ring are attached to the slab-sided top, along with pivot pins for the mantlet, which don’t need gluing.  The blocky mantlet is fixed to the rear part, which has its lifting-eye “ears” removed from the top corners and moved to the sides using new parts, then being fitted to the pivoting part inside the turret.  The commander’s cupola with clear vision blocks inserted from below, plus the gunner’s hatch with clam-shell doors are both made up with clear periscopes and inserted into the turret roof along with various lifting eyes, search lights, aerial bases (straight and tied back), vents and other detail parts.  The turret’s casting texture is well depicted, and in addition Meng have supplied casting numbers in PE to apply to the turret depending on which decal option you have chosen.   At the rear of the bustle, an M2 Anti-Aircraft .50cal with hollow muzzle is provided that can be pintle-mounted on the gunner’s hatch, or stowed across the back of the turret along with a spare barrel.  The final task is to attach the barrel of the main gun, with the option of a longer, plastic barrel or a shorter turned aluminium one in the box, depending on which decal options you are making.  The turret is then twisted into place on the hull, thereby completing the build.  It doesn’t use a standard bayonet lug system, but has three sloped lugs that snap into place on the turret ring.  How often you can remove and install it again without it fatiguing is a question I still can’t answer at this stage, so take care.



There are four decal options in the box, and all of them predictably are based on an olive green finish and they all have some camouflage added on top to give them some individuality, which should make for some fun-looking models.  From the box you can build one of the following:


  • 37th Tank Battalion 4th Armoured Division, US Army, Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne, Belgium, Dec 1944.
  • 69th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Mar 1945.
  • 2nd Squadron, 2nd African Hunter Regiment, 5th Armoured Division, Free France, Summer-Autumn 1944, France.
  • 15th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Germany, Spring 1945 (OSF Turret, 76mm gun).






Decals are printed in China and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.




I’m still impressed with the springs, but when you add in all the detail and the subtle casting/rolling texture to the exterior of the hull, the extra-armour, the PE light cages, the turned barrel and those funky tracks, it makes for an impressive package.


Very highly recommended.




Review sample courtesy of


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  • 1 year later...

The workable track looks to be really good.  I'll have this kit.  I would have liked to have done one in Soviet markings, but sadly, I've since learned they did not receive the Jumbo.  Pity, it would have looked good with slogans and red stars.

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