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Built Review
135
US M551 Sheridan
US M551 Sheridan
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by: Ken Abrams [ CDK ]


_ORGINPUB:
Armorama

Introduction

Before getting into the review of this kit I would first like to apologize to Jim, Tamiya and the readers here at Armorama. I received the kit in January and within two months the kit was about 90% complete when life decided to hand me a series of situations that I wasn’t in any way prepared to deal with. I’m certainly not trying to make excuses but I am hoping that those I’ve mentioned will forgive me for not living up to my end of the agreement in a timely fashion as promised.

Review

In this build review I won’t be focusing on the accuracy of the kit because I’m not knowledgeable enough on the subject matter to have such an opinion, I will however be reporting on the ease or difficulty of the assembly, the fit of the parts and the corresponding instruction sheet. As with anything model related, these views are based solely on my experience with the kit, others will have to judge their experiences by their own standards, which may be different then my own.

Step one of the instruction sheets covers the start of the lower hull assembly and was the first of a few surprises for me considering this was a Tamiya kit. I’ve built many Tamiya kits over the years and I cannot recall having to assemble a lower hull as all of the models I remember had the fairly common one piece tub lower hull. The parts go together quite easily and fit as well as one might expect from the king of ‘shake and bake’ kits. If you want to scratch build an interior, the separate parts and the resulting inner detail will be a plus. There is a call out to drill two small 1mm holes in the bottom of part D8, this will become locating holes for a later part.

Step two continues with the lower hull and another call out to remove some small raised fasteners on the bottom of part D12. This step also covers adding some suspension related parts as well as a slew of what look to be tie down points on the real vehicle. They are a little fiddly to clean up due to their small size and shape but add another level of detail to the lower hull.

Steps three and four cover adding several some small details to the lower hull as well as attaching and detailing the rear panel, there is a call out for the orientation of parts A3 in the third step and a callout for the removal of some tabs on part D11 in step four.

Step five covers the suspension, and even has a small drawing to accompany it showing the alignment of all the suspension arms in a lower hull side view. I chose to do one at a time allowing the first side to fully harden before tackling the second to avoid ham-fistedly knock one out while assembling the other. The first Tamiya Poly Cap usage makes its appearance here for the mounting of the rear sprocket with a small warning of ‘do not cement’ pointed out with text and a graphic. Unlike my Tamiya kits of the past, this poly cap won’t allow me to run them across the ground but merely pop the sprocket on or off, since the rest of the suspension assembly is glued rigid.

Step six covers assembly of the road wheels, return idlers and drive sprockets. There are no poly caps used in this step and everything is glued solid.

Step seven calls out for the attachment of all of the running gear parts in the previous step. I chose to ignore this step myself as I prefer to be able to paint and weather items like this prior to final installation, and to be honest the road wheels didn’t fit so great on the corresponding suspensions arms. This wasn’t a big deal to me as they will all be held straight and true by the tracks later but if one were to choose adding them now, great care should be used to get them all to be on the same plane since there is nothing to help them remain straight and true.

Step eight covers the assembly and layout of one side of the link and length tracks. Has Tamiya ever done this in 1/35 before? I seem to remember nothing but vinyl ‘rubber band’ tracks from Tamiya in all my experiences but I haven’t seen them all. As with everything, there are fans of both styles but for me, these were absolutely wonderful. I assembled mine in complete runs and can put them on the vehicle and take them off with little effort, (with thanks to that rear sprocket poly cap).

Step nine the other side of the link and length tracks are assembled. There are call outs for paint colors at this stage and the tracks are glued in place onto the running gear from step seven. As I mentioned then, I left this all off for later painting and weathering prior to adding them.

Step ten begins the upper hull assembly and is the second usage of the Poly Cap. A small drivers’ compartment tub is glued in place onto the upper hull. A prior call out shows cutting of the poly caps down the length of them before inserting them into the holes on the tub. This serves to lessen their grip on the plastic pegs of the corresponding part for ease of removal to add or remove the driver figure.

Step eleven is simply the gluing in place of the sponson covers. That’s right, sponson covers, or plates, or whatever the correct term is in this case, but this kit has them. This is the first Tamiya kit I can remember building that did this. Now I’m not saying I’m right, perhaps they’ve done it before but I’ve never seen it and more importantly, these just fell into place.

Step twelve covers the drivers ‘hatch’ which can be made workable with very little glue applied extremely sparingly. I struggled with this slightly and had to pull it apart and let it sit before redoing it. I did get it workable in the end but great care is needed as there isn’t a whole lot of contact surface. The three drivers’ periscopes however fit with no issue at all.

Step thirteen is about the driver figure, or half figure I should say but it doesn’t so much cover his assembly. He is shown fully assembled with color call outs. He goes together fairly well but is more detailed than any previous Tamiya figure I’ve ever dealt with. For example the helmet is in two parts, allowing it to be assembled over the figures head and giving a true three dimensional look. The Poly Cap makes another appearance here, this time added to the small stem on the bottom of the driver figure to allow adding and removing him at will.

Step fourteen starts with the assembly of the headlights as well as the trim vane, (at least I believe that’s what part D2 is), and it also calls out drilling two .8mm holes where two raised bolts are located. There is a shaded box with a capital A in it noting that these holes should be drilled only if you are choosing version A from the decal sheet. I didn’t pay attention to this and drilled them out, even though I planned on making version B so I will have to fill these in and replace the bolts with some resin ones. Don’t be like me, plan ahead and pay attention at this stage. I did leave out clear part G4 and wont glue the trim vane in place until after I’ve painted the model but this is again, personal preference.

Step fifteen covers attaching the trim vane, which I didn’t do at this point as well as attaching the headlights and assembling the headlight guards. These were a little finicky to clean up and slightly annoying to attach correctly, never mind how small tubular parts like to ‘ping’ from the tweezers.

Step sixteen covers the rear hull detail starting with the mesh screens. This black cross hatch plastic mesh definitely brought me back to old school Tamiya kits like that 70’s era 222 kit. There is a guide for the shapes and it makes cutting the mesh to size pretty straight forward. Just make sure you plan ahead when you lay out how you will cut as you will have to use them same mesh for the front screen in version A of the kit if you choose that one. The tow rope and pickaxe handle are attached here as well, with color call outs for both.

Step 17 continues the detailing of the rear hull with more pioneer tools, rear lights, towing/lifting eyes etc. Color call outs for the tools and tail lights as well as call outs for the removal of small nubs from parts are also found here.

Step eighteen joins the upper and lower hulls and shows the attachment of mud flaps and their color call outs. The mud flaps are a little tricky with such close proximity to the tracks and care should be used in their placement and orientation.

Step nineteen covers the front chain link screen and its frame used in version A. Again the only clue you have to this being version specific is a lone shaded square box with a capital A, this is clear and obvious as long as you pay attention with each new step but get caught up in the fun and you can breeze right past this warning. There is a pattern to use to cut out the screen from the kit supplied mesh and it works quite well in getting the mesh to fit to the frame exact. There is also a small callout to use the kit supplied copper wire to tie the mesh to the frame using tweezers.

Step twenty is the start of the turret, which consists of adding platforms for figures and a stand-in for the breech to the bottom half of the turret shell. This step contains callouts for both the drilling of .8mm holes and no glue on the pivots of the main gun. Clean up and assembly of these parts is rather straight forward and simple enough.

Step twenty one covers a rather gimmicky linkage for the main gun elevation. There is a nice metal rod with an almost framing nail head to it that gets carefully sandwiched between to plastic parts. Both of these parts, as well as another set of parts sandwiched on not one but two poly caps contain a C shaped protrusion that clips onto corresponding rods on the breech and the turret half. In theory, this would allow the gun to be workable while maintaining whatever elevation it was left at without drooping. After careful assembly and a full night to dry I found it to have been a complete waste of my time. Under the necessary pressure to slide the metal rod through the two poly caps was greater than the strength of the two c shaped protruding ‘clips’ to remain attached, simply spreading one or the other open enough for the rod it was attached to simply pop free. While this wasn’t that much of a big deal with an unassembled turret, once buttoned up it will be much harder to clip the parts back on. It was a great idea and maybe others will have better luck but I just elevated the gun to the position I wanted and glued those ‘C’ shaped clips in place to keep them from ever popping off again.

Step twenty two starts with drilling many holes into the turrets top half. Careful attention should be paid here as there are four different diameter drills needed for this collection of holes. Another small call out to remove some small raised points to the front of the turret with a knife is found in the second half of the step as well as a few turret fittings and the joining of the two turret halves. Both parts matched up well for me and I assembled the turret halves with no issues.

Step twenty three covers assembling the main gun and mounting it to the turret as well as a few small fittings as well. There are some attachment points to be removed that are called out in this step on two separate parts and this step was fairly straight forward and the parts were assembled with no trouble. The one piece plastic barrel complete with rifling is pretty impressive to be honest.

Step twenty four covers the ammunition boxes and their assembly. Besides there being 30 cal and fifty cal boxes represented, there are also two versions of the fifty cal boxes. The only difference between the two being which side of the box faced outwards and which end of the box had the latch. The instructions call for one box of one version and five of the other, I didn’t follow this to the letter and made a more even representation of the versions just to mix it up a bit.

Step twenty five assembles the searchlight mount and the jerry cans. There are two callouts in this step for the drilling on the holes for the searchlight and the removal of a small tab on the jerry cans’ lid.

Step twenty six mounts the ammunition boxes to the turret in the holes drilled in step twenty two as well as the searchlight mount and one other small fitting.

Step twenty seven covers the cupola and the rack at the turret rear. There is one callout to remove several small tabs on the cupola. The clear glass portions are shown glued in at this step but I chose to test fit and see if I could slip them in after the cupola was attached to the turret top. It wasn’t the easiest of tasks but I could manage, so I chose not to glue the clear parts in to save me masking them at the painting stage. Time will tell how this works out for me.

Step twenty eight assembles one more fifty cal box for the other side of the turret and starts on one of the hatches as well as some lifting eyes. One callout of now glue at the mounting pins on the hatch to allow it to remain workable.

Step twenty nine covers the smoke dischargers for the right side. The small mounting parts are attached to larger round tabs to hold onto while assembling. These small tabs contain not only an R for right side, but a number representing the assembly order in which they are attached. Each small part is slightly different allowing the dischargers positions to change subtly at each station, hence the numerical assembly order to keep the builder on track. It’s a brilliant set up and I loved the idea very much as I cut parts from the sprue and planned my attack and attached the numbered parts to their corrospending lettered tube.

Step thirty mounts some small parts under the discharger’s locations as well as the entire right side of the just assembled smoke discharger parts. This is where the brilliance of the previous step fell a little short. The way each discharger mounted to the turret was the least ‘shake and bake’ aspect of this kit and I found the small parts and their somewhat vague and sloppy locations difficult to align correctly. Reference photos are a must at this stage to get each on the dischargers in the right position, at least for me they were. I didn’t find these parts to fall into place with a solid feel to the proper location, they seemed to slide and pivot around in a shallow depression with no real indication of the exact position. It wasn’t the end of the world or anything but I was surprised at what seemed to be a sloppy fit here.

Step thirty one covers the assembling of the left side of the smoke dischargers and then attaches them to the turret. I recommend letting the first side sit for a good while to set up before taking on the other side.

Step thirty two is divided into A and B choices for the cupola mounted weapon station. Here we find a completely divided top half of the page with choices A and B each taking a side, call outs for removing various tabs and posts depending on the chosen mounting positions of some of the parts. For the purpose of this review I assembled some of the parts with Elmers’ glue allowing me to disassemble after photos.

Step thirty three is again split in half with an assembly choice on each side, either a covered searchlight or an uncovered searchlight. Both of these choices are fitted to option A according to the instructions.

Step thirty four is the final assembly of remaining turret fittings like the antenna and lifting eyes, as well as attaching the parts that coincide with you’re a or B choice. There is also a small vinyl tube that is attached to the uncovered version of the searchlight.

Step thirty five simply shows the turret being placed onto the hull be lining of the keys and rotated forward. A small callout for not gluing this part is found here.

Step thirty six is the assembly of the fifty caliber machine gun and the pintle mount. There are two separate mounts each accompanied by a choice of version A and B as well as a small callout to avoid gluing this part to the assembled machine gun.

Step thirty seven covers the final assembly of the figures, the three quarter figure in the weapons station as well as another figure seated on the outside of the turret. Like I mention previously in this review, these figures are so far and above any other Tamiya figure I have ever built. The torsos split in half as well as the separately molded and split in half helmets. While the two halves of the helmets have some very fine and delicate detail, as well as needing careful and clean application of the halves over the heads of these figures, this design is absolutely necessary to have the resulting depth upon final assembly. There is a choice of helmets for one of the figures, the ‘tank’ helmet versus and ‘infantry’ helmet. One of these is permanent while the other simply sits in whatever position you place it at. There are mostly color call outs in this step with a couple notes about having to fit the arms/hands on the figures around the weapons they hold etc.

Step thirty eight, the final step shows the final placement of the figures as well as the machine gun with or without the gun shield depending on version A or B.

Conclusion

In brief, this is a typical Tamiya kit in my experience; wonderful to assemble with very few issues that may or may not affect you depending on your experience and or skillset. The molding is sharp and clean and the vast majority of fit flawless. We still have some molded on handles and other details as well as some areas of heavy ejector pin marks but those are minor gripes for me personally when considering just how well this kit is engineered. Despite any of the small issues I may have had I still found this kit a joy to build.
SUMMARY
Ken Abrams Builds the Tamiya US M551 Sheridan in 1/35th scale.
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 35365
  Suggested Retail: £38.00
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Nov 13, 2019
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 0.00%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 83.24%

Our Thanks to Tamiya USA!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Ken Abrams (CDK)
FROM: MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES

Copyright ©2020 text by Ken Abrams [ CDK ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.



Comments

Oh yes, this was a joy to build. I really liked it. so accurate, everything fits together. The only things I added was the barrel and the webbing for the RPG "fence". Other than that, it's a fantastic kit. There's what Tamiya still can do better: their kits fit like a glove.
NOV 13, 2019 - 07:05 PM
A very informative review with really good photos to support the text. Thank you! Mario
NOV 13, 2019 - 07:25 PM
Tamiya have done link and length tracks (Valentine one example) and sponson plates for a while now, though some still have 'rubber band' tracks (M10 for eg.). No idea why they choose one over the other.
NOV 14, 2019 - 12:03 AM
Great review Ken! I'm a little disappointed in Tamiyas lack of detailing of the driver's compartment and the gimmicky internal barrel elevating mechanism. Rye Field has chosen simple compression polycaps for that, we'll see how that works out. I like this Tamiya Sheridan kit though, and it seems to have a lot of features to make it very attractive, with the detailing a good compromise for the simplicity of the kit. I like the idea of the track runs which can be assembled with the roadwheels/drivers & idlers which can come off for later painting. The figures are phenomenal. Thanks again for such a comprehensive review. VR, Russ
NOV 14, 2019 - 02:09 AM
Sounds like the Tamiya of old in terms of fun to build and no real issues that effect most builders. I only wish that other companies -notably Dragon- could follow the Tamiya example where instructions come in as cramming the maximum steps on the minimum paper really makes assembly a confusing chore on occasion when it shouldn't be. Great review, by the way!
NOV 14, 2019 - 05:58 AM
Thanks guys, happy to see this has been well received. Yeah, I added the PE and metal barrel after completing the review.
NOV 17, 2019 - 03:37 AM
   

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