Kit Preview : 1/76 Cromwell Combat Ready M4A3E2 Jumbo with 76mm Gun
About the manufacturer
Cromwell's Combat Ready range combines simplicity and an excellent level of detail. Unfortunately the individual models are a bit of hit and miss. If they are accurate they are near perfect, otherwise they are cast-offs as one piece hulls don't lend themselves well to modifications. The bad kits are not really bad just not to scale.
About the vehicle
The M4A3E2 was a more heavily armored version of the M4 Sherman tank, designed for the planned Normandy battles against the Tiger and Panther. They had extra armor welded to the front and side of the hull, a special turret with an 17.8cm thick mantlet. The resulting armor (10cm in front and 7.6cm on the sides) was thicker than on a Tiger. Most had track grousers permanently fitted to better distribute the greater weight. Few (254) were factory built, however Ordnance workshops of the US First and Third Armies successfully modified many M4s in the field to Jumbos (between January and March 1945 the Third Army alone produced 108 of these "ersatz Jumbos," it appears that about 100 additional were produced in 1944). Allocation of the Jumbo varied. Usually they were found in the armored divisions, although some First Army separate tank battalions also had them. Normally there was no more than one "Jumbo" per company, although some divisions organized them as a complete company within the battalion.
About the kit
The kit is a simple 5 pieces, a one piece hull, turret, commander's hatch cover and 2 identical guns. The model scales out correctly and has extremely fine detail: all the lifting eyes are there (some broken but easily repaired). There are however a few issues:
ther underside is a solid block of resin
the machine gun is missing
the guns are not circular in section and very rough. They are better replaced.
the suspension is too short both horizontally and vertically. The pictures show it compared to the MMS M4A3,the track of which is too short in length by a couple mm. As you see the 3 suspensions ont he Jumbo are too small. The last picture shows that the suspension is also too short in height. The Jumbo is level with the M4A3 but after inspection I noticed that the Jumbo had 1mm+ of resin under the track!
The lower hull is too narrow. The tracks with extended connectors barely stick out of the hull. Actually the kit is probably a bit narrow as the Jumbo should be wider than a standard Sherman.
The turret front looks too elongated compared to a Bradford drawing. The straight portion behind the mantlet should be more rounded. Some Jumbos were built in the field so turret variations may be acceptable.
If it weren't for the grousers, it would be best to remove the tracks and replace the whole track/suspension with that of a plastic kit (maybe keep the sprockets and use the rest from the old Airfix Sherman).
Despite all this the kit looks good so I think I'll keep it anyway. I have since acquired other Cromwell Shermans and apart from the early M4A1, they all look the part.