Sherman Variants
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

By Roy Chow

(all kit suggestions in 1/35 scale)

M4 with 75mm gun, radial engine
Had both hooded and direct vision driver/assistant driver's stations. Came with M3 suspension, and later horizontal arm VVS suspension (DML and Tamiya M4 early production kits or old MP Models conversion). Sparingly used as basis for 17pdr Firefly. Had later 47-degree hull and large hatches for M4 105mm howitzer tank (DML kit; also Tank Workshop, Formations, or Armoured Brigade Models).

M4 Composite (or Hybrid)
Radial engine hull that was hybrid of cast nose (almost all with large hatches) and welded rear body. Later war production. Was armed as 75mm gun tank and 17pdr Firefly. Usually upswept VVS suspension. DML has re-issued theirs. Formations and Chesapeake Model Designs have nice conversion hulls-avoid Verlinden composite hull. Formations has a small hatch resin hull.

M4A1, early
Small hatches, some M3 suspension, some VVS suspension. 75mm armed. Originally built with direct vision for driver/assistant, later dropped. Later ones had cast-in appliqué armor on sides. Radial engine. Tasca's line is superb; also, DML kit 6048 or various Formations and Tank Workshop offerings. Avoid old Verlinden resin hull.

M4A1, late
Large drivers' hatches. Up-gunned with T23 turret (76mm). No appliqué armor. The classic Italeri kit builds into this one but the recent DML kit is great and Tasca’s is supreme. Supposedly HVSS versions were used in WWII but no historical photos from that time have shown up.

Variations in frontal armor, weaponry (75mm and 76mm), dry (appliqué) or wet stowage (no appliqué). Twin diesel engine. Used mostly by Commonwealth allies and Soviets; some U.S.M.C. usage. Later ones (including all T23 76mm turreted ones) had the later 47-degree hull and large hatches. DML and Tasca have various 75mm versions. DML and Academy have late M4A2 available.

M4A3, early, dry stowage
Used mostly stateside for training but later some appear in NWE as replacement vehicles. Small hatch, appliqué armor, 75mm gun tanks. Horizontal VVS. (Get Formations or the MP Models out-of-production conversion hull.)

M4A3, late
Very common from fall 1944 to end of war. Tamiya depicts the 75mm gun tank and the 105mm howitzer tank. No appliqué on either (despite what the Tamiya directions imply). Both have upswept VVS. Has the later 47-degree hull and large hatches. Turret should have cheek bulge generally. Many also mounted later HVSS. Tasca and DML kits surpass the older Tamiya. DML and Academy have M4A3 (105) with HVSS kits.

M4A3 76mm, wet stowage
Same chassis as Tamiya kit but with the T23 turret (and 76mm gun) mounted. Has the later 47-degree hull and large hatches. HVSS an option, too. Tasca has several versions and is the most updated model for this version as well as a HVVS M4A3 76W. The newer DML “Thunderbolt” kit is a decent alternative.

M4A3E2, Jumbo Sherman
Heavy turret, additional side armor and thickened glacis and nose armor. Originally used 75mm gun, field upgunning to 76mm was common. Upswept VVS with open spoke wheels. Tasca is top of the heap over the very inadequate Tamiya kit. Several resin conversions exist as well.

Mostly used by Commonwealth allies, features Chrysler engine (Tasca and DML kits available, also Formations upgrade hull). Only photographed with three-piece transmission cover. 75mm and 17pdr Firefly were typical armaments. Stretched hull due to engine arrangement. Unaware of any hull fronts besides earlier 60-degree configuration. Horizontal return roller arm VSS, usually.

Needless to say, these are just general rules of thumb. There were considerable upgrades
in many systems on the Sherman: 75mm turret hatches and gun mantlets, T23 hatch and
muzzle brake variation, ammo stowage (dry vs. wet) and accompanying side hull appliqué, suspension variations (wheels, drive sprocket, M3 early), return roller arm (horizontal, upswept, or pillowed), and many types of tracks.

Other Major Sherman Variants in WWII:

M3 Lee/Grant
Interim design advanced from prewar M2 Medium. Precursor to M4 series. 75mm gun in right sponson, 37mm M6 in upper turret. Radial engine, riveted hull. British requested Grant turret. Models include ancient Tamiya kits, the decent Academy kit, and Armoured Brigade Models resin upgrades. DML has announced this as an upcoming release.

The Lee series had upgrades in the 75mm armament. Later hulls eliminated the characteristic side escape doors. "M4" style VVS sometimes seen on M3A4s.

The other Lee variants:
• M3A1: Cast hull Lee, mostly used stateside for training. (Cromwell Models)
• M3A3: Welded hull variant of M3
• M3A4: welded hull diesel
• M3A5: Diesel engine, riveted hull

M10/M10A1 Tank Destroyer
Significant part of U.S. tank doctrine. Mounted 3" anti-tank gun in open turret. A1 was the Ford GAA version. Also upgunned w/17 pdr by Commonwealth allies. Academy and AFV Club have various kits – both with dimensional issues.

M36 Gun Motor Carriage
Modification of the M10A1 with a new turret mounting the 90mm gun. Rare in WWII with TD units but still significant variant. Academy and AFV Club injection kit although AFV Club has wrong engine deck. Can build M36B1 (on Sherman M4A3 hull) with Tank Workshop conversion.

M12 Gun Motor Carriage
Using the M1917, M1917A, or M1918M1 155mm gun mounted atop M3 Lee chassis. Very effective punch. Not widely made. Used exclusively in NWE. Academy offers an excellent kit although barrel needs work.

M40 Gun Motor Carriage
Mounted 155mm M1 or M2 gun, built with M4 tank components and intended as a replacement for the M12 GMC. Used T66 tracks in WWII, T80 tracks in Korea. In kit form from AFV Club.

M43 Gun Motor Carriage
Similar to above, mounted 8 inch howitzer M1 or M2. Possible future release from AFV Club.

M31/T2 Armored Recovery Vehicle
Conversion of obsolete M3 tanks into recovery vehicle with winches, A-frame, and various fittings. Kit fitted to M3A3, M3A5s as well. Legends, Verlinden and Calibre35 conversions eclipse older Azimut and DES kits.

M32 Armored Recovery Vehicle
Modification of various M4 chasses. A-frame, winches and other fittings allowed it for battlefield recovery of tanks. Early turrets were slab-sided, later ones horseshoe shaped. Italeri has this as a kit (but beware that only a single photo of a large hatch M32B1 hull as provided in their kit has appeared).

• M32 -- M4, small hatch hull
• M32B1 -- M4A1 small hatch cast hull
• M32B2 -- M4A2, I've seen both small hatch and big hatch 47 degree hull
• M32B3 -- M4A3, both 47 and 60 degree hulls

Full track Prime Movers M33, M34, M35
These were modifications of the M31, M32, and M10A1 respectively. Designed to move 240mm Howitzer and 8" guns pending delivery of the M6 HST. The modifications were the removal of recovery equipment (M31, M32) and armament (M10A1 turret). They added air brake systems for their artillery loads. AFV Club produces an M35.

(revised July 2011)


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © Timothy S. Streeter