It goes without saying, particularly to readers of this website, that the Sherman tank in WWII was one of the most important and ubiquitous fighting machines to be found anywhere. The Sherman has an almost uncountable number of iterations available for modelers to sink their teeth into. Of the many different versions and variations that were put into use perhaps one of the more neglected areas of interest, at least to some degree, has been the Sherman’s service in the Pacific Theatre. To help alleviate that discrepancy MIG Productions has released a multi-media conversion kit for the American warhorse to be used with the Dragon release of the M-4 Sherman “Composite Hull” PTO kit #6441.
The path that MIG Productions has chosen for this kit is a bit singular in that it seems to me that you can only build one particular vehicle, “The 392nd Avenger”, what I think is a composite hull M-4 from the 713th (flame thrower) Tank Battalion on Okinawa. No less an expert than Ed Gilbert, one of the leading experts on Pacific Theatre Sherman tanks believes the vehicle was an experimental attempt to add supplemental armor that in the end proved too unwieldy and ultimately dropped due to overall ineffectiveness. In any event, MIG Productions has graced us with most of what you need to add to an M-4 Sherman Composite to build your own “392nd Avenger”.
The kit comes packaged in a very sturdy top loading box that even includes a ‘born on’ date stamped on the inside of the lid! (my example was born on April 5, 2011, the wife is planning a big party next spring!) Inside the beefy box you will find 11 resin pieces, one good sized fret of photo-etched material, one small length of wire, and a small sheet with some useful assembly directions.
The resin pieces depict cut up hull sections from other Sherman tanks that were used to provide the supplemental armor for the Avenger’s hull sides as well as the grousers over the nose and the smaller pieces for the edge of the front glacis plate. Also, three resin pieces make up the runs of T-49 three bar track that wrap around the turret. The photo-etch sheet provides the framework for the supplemental front armor as well as the removable rear engine deck plates that protected the weaker rear deck of the vehicle. A nice touch from MIG is the inclusion of a mask for painting on the vehicles prominent name.
The wire is for the grab handles of the extra rear hull cover plates. The only photo-etch sheet also includes the sand shield attachment strips which end up mostly hidden, it does not include any light brush guards or other brass pieces that you might find in other upgrade or conversion kits.
I really wanted to like this upgrade kit, it is a unique vehicle and it just looks like it means business. The resin supplemental armor pieces are well done with no warpage at all, not easy considering the length of the parts. I like the bolt holes and other details still evident on the parts, showing well there previous function. However, the upgrade set does have some shortcomings that bugged me just a bit. Some modelers don’t mind assembling a small pile of bits and bobs in order to make that one unique vehicle, and that’s okay when you are creating your own aftermarket kit so to speak. However, I think that when you purchase an upgrade kit to specifically build a one-of vehicle that the aftermarket company should include everything you need beyond the base donor kit. Here we don’t have that scenario; in order to actually build the kit as pictured you need not only the donor kit but also a set of different aftermarket tracks, the T-49 three bar cleat tracks that this particular vehicle was equipped with. I realize this is just me talking, but it is something of a letdown to find that after spending more than a few dollars for the upgrade set to add to your donor kit that you need to go out and buy an extra set of tracks as well.
The other drawback to the conversion set was the resin cast of the track section used to wrap around the turret as supplemental armor. They have been cast in resin as a solid piece and do a less than stellar job modeling that these are individual track links. In other words, they have no space between links making it appear almost like a continuous band track a la the M2/M3 halftrack family. What really bugs me about it is that it appears that the model on the box top by Adam Wilder uses aftermarket tracks for the turret supplemental armor and not the parts that are actually in the upgrade kit, something I find a bit disingenuous. When you look at the photo on the box lid or the instructions the turret armor clearly shows the spaces between the links, but the parts you get are clearly not quite the same.
Like the old commercial says, “Your mileage may vary”. There is a lot to like about the kit, warp free, cleanly molded, what looks like an easy upgrade for a unique vehicle, painting mask included, and a chance to take a whack at one of those cool rusty finishes. But, at the same time, you will need some new tracks to add to the donor kit and what you see is not quite what you get when it comes to the turret supplemental armor.
Highs: Cleanly cast resin pieces with no warpage at all. Nice touch with the painting template. Conversion to build a very unique vehicle.Lows: You still need to purchase a set of aftermarket tracks to build the vehicle. The turret supplemental armor is not as pictured and not as finely detailed as many modelers would like. Verdict: Not my favorite product form MIG Productions, but outside of the track issue it does include what you need to build this tank.
About Rick Cooper (clovis899) FROM: CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
I have been modeling for about 30 years now. Once upon a time in another century I owned my own hobby shop; way more work than it was worth. I tip my opti-visor to those who make a real living at it. Mainly build armor these days but I keep working at figures, planes and the occasional ship.