In a relatively short period of time Tasca Models out of Japan has carved a niche for themselves as the pre-eminent worldwide manufacturer of scale models of the Sherman tank. Now Tasca has begun to make a move on some of the variants of the ubiquitous Sherman that move beyond the standardized versions of the gun tank. The first down the pipe is the M32B1 armored tank recovery vehicle. Shermanaholics the world over are ripe with anticipation for both this kit and other Sherman variants sure to come in the future.
The M32 was developed as a replacement for the M31 recovery vehicle, which had been built on the same chassis as the M3 Lee. The Ordinance Committee noted a looming shortage of the discontinued Lee in April, 1943 precipitating the development of a Sherman-based recovery vehicle which came to fruition by early June. The problem clearly had been anticipated long before the official memo, as the development of the T5 (the pilot model designation of the M32) actually began in January of 1943. Eventually, something in the neighborhood of 1,500 M32s were delivered into service, with roughly two-thirds of those being the M32B1 version.
Tasca has packaged the kit in a standard style top opening box that is about half an inch thicker than the average box for a 1/35 scale vehicle. It’s a good thing it is a bit more beefy than normal because they have loaded this kit with just a few more parts than normal. I can’t find a definitive count of parts either in the instructions or on the Tasca website, at least not one in English, but a quick estimate gives me something in the neighborhood of 720 parts (my scientific method is 40 parts for a small tree, 60 for a medium, and 80 for a large, not counting the biggies like the hull, now the secret is out!). [Not a bad method – counting actual parts on sprues gives 730 in green styrene! Ed.] Now mind you that many of the more recent Dragon kits have a parts count very similar but that generally includes about 200 pieces for the track, Tasca has only 4 pieces that make up both track runs, so that should give you a general idea on what the parts count looks like with this kit. Beyond just a simple parts count however, what is really important is what they have done with the parts. All molded in a dark green plastic the standard of molding is superb, and is easily among the highest in the industry.
The parts are divided up into 21 different trees, a few repeats of course, 4 lengths of T-48 track, two small clear trees with the periscopes, lights, and whatnot, a small PE sheet, a set of the rubber baby buggy bumpers (okay, the poly caps), and a beautiful decal sheet in perfect register. The decals provide marking options for two different vehicles, one in Bastogne with the 609th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the other operating in Czechoslovakia with the 612th TD Battalion. Also, a small piece of the foam rubber type material for the suspension springs that Tasca adds to all the Sherman tank kits, and a length of braided string in the most god awful yellow green color you can imagine (If you’ve ever fished with Powerbait, it is kind of like that, but without the glitter...or the smell!), and finally a two part set of instructions.
The instructions are laid out in a very Tamiya like style with a lot of arrows that indicate ‘stick this piece here’ but any obscured location is always accompanied with another viewpoint to insure correct location. As with any set of instructions, always check your references, proceed with caution, dry fit, and don’t forget your side mirrors.
The suspension is first rate; the T-48 tracks are molded in glueable vinyl (the instructions recommend cyanoacrylate type glue) and have very nice detail on both sides, you will need to remove three pour nodes from the inside face of each section. You are given three different styles of drive sprocket, as well as the lifting drum assembly. The lifting drum is molded onto a new flat style sprocket, which is unfortunate because it appears that some of the vehicles had the fancy style sprockets fitted. I have seen mixed road wheels but never mixed sprockets, so the builder may be stuck with the one style until some aftermarket company makes a replacement. The road wheels come in two flavors, solid spoke pressed steel and open spoke style, both were used although it appears the pressed steel type were most common, once again, check your references. The wheels come with the grease nipple and the instructions caution the builder about making sure they are on the outer facing. The builder is given the rather tedious task of adding the 12 pop rivets to the inner rim of the solid spoke wheels; okay, that is 144 rivets. I can’t figure out why Tasca didn’t just mold them in place, it would have made everyone’s life a bit easier. Tasca does include them molded onto the trees with the wheels but you may have a method that works for you with this type of thing - salami sliced stretched sprue, fabric paint, or maybe even just following the instructions, slicing those little dudes off and dropping them into place (the Force is strong in you!) - let your personal fun index be your guide! Most of the bogies assemblies have been seen before in earlier Tasca kits, the very nice VVS style with the ability to add the foam rubber pads for a working look. The front and rear bogies do have new arms that include the hardware for the suspension chocks fitted to M32s. The removable chocks, which help to keep the springs from compressing during heavy lifting, are also included. It is not necessary to install the suspension chocks unless you will be displaying the model with the boom in the raised position; all in all a very nice foundation.
The lower hull is the now somewhat common flat pack style with four parts, plus the internal bulkhead for the firewall, and the sponsons for the underside of the upper hull. All of the parts for the lower hull have made previous appearances in earlier M4A1 kits from Tasca with the exception of the firewall. The construction shouldn’t be any problem for anyone that has constructed one of these before; just be sure to keep everything square. With the open turret top the interior needs a bit of detail and to meet that need Tasca has added a new firewall with a bit of general detail, I will get to the rest of the interior in just a moment. The front and rear of the lower hull are also nicely detailed in typical Tasca fashion; the back end provides your choice of the cylindrical or box type air cleaners, separate rear access doors and nicely rendered idler axles and mountings. Be careful not to apply glue to the idler axle parts as you want them loose for proper track tensioning. The back end is finished off with a beautiful five-piece tow hook assembly. The front transmission finishes off the lower hull nicely; finely molded cast texture and separate bolt strips for the top and the bottom are the highlights here.
The rest of the interior is all new to this kit; including the heavy-duty 30ton Gar Wood winch which mounts in the center of the hull floor. The floor sports some well-done tread plate as well as the cover to the winch drum and separate access panels in the same tread plate material. For the sponson sides you get a pair of finely detailed tool boxes. That is all that Tasca has included in the interior, I don’t know how much of an issue this will be as I have not yet started on the kit I have in front of me, but the turret carries the large open hatchway so now might be a great time to check the “Buy and Sell” sections of the website as well as eBay for an old Panzer Concepts Sherman interior, or whatever your favorite flavor of aftermarket may happen to be, particularly if you plan on having some of the front hatches open. Or as an alternative any kit that has a bit of the interior should work with a bit of dry fitting - bottom line is anything with a bit of detail and the transmission should work.
One of the highlights of the kit, like every other Tasca kit I have seen, is the upper hull. It is a real gem, I love the cast texture, and it is first rate. The kit provides a whole host of goodies to fit onto the hull: separate engine deck access panels, photo-etched intake screen, separate grouser box covers also with photo-etch screens, lifting filler caps, front and rear lights, as well as the light guards. All this, and more, is becoming fairly standard as far as more recent vintage Sherman kits go and this kit is no exception. Where the fun really begins is with the additional equipment used for recovery operations. A great-looking set of three large toolboxes for the rear hull along with the pioneer tools set it off, but there are no retaining straps included for the tools so you might want to source those from your spares box or just make life easy and get a set of Formations pioneer tools. That is not all: a superb set of chocks and snatch blocks also reside on the rear hull, as well as the draw bar and spare road wheels and return rollers. All of this will help to give the model that busy look common to all engineering-type vehicles.
The front and hull sides are also festooned with equipment and spares. The sides mount the spare drive sprockets while the front sports a six-piece tow hook mount, a ten-piece front roller fairlead assembly, the small draw bar, as well as the mounting brackets for the large boom and the small hatch for the cable that threads through the front of the hull. Tasca didn’t neglect the basics either: separate front hull hatches with separate head pads, springs, and periscopes in both clear and the kit color. There are a couple of small pin marks on the inside of the hatch but these should be covered by the separate head pads. One oddity is no outer grab handle! Tasca gives you a template to make your own, and they even molded in dimples for placement, but provided no grab handle. The thing that makes this odd is that they have included other pieces that appear to be just as small and delicate as grab handles would be. For a bit of protection, you also get the ball mounted hull machine gun with a hint of a hollowed out barrel. The front end is finished off with a nice six-piece 81mm mortar with hollowed-out tube which juts out menacingly for just the right look.
The turret gets the full Tasca treatment as well. The turret is constructed with six basic pieces; front, rear, top, bottom, and the two sides. The front and the two sides were actually rolled as one long continuous piece, so you will need to eliminate what could prove to be a rather prominent seam here. The interior, which can be seen easily through the large open hatchway, has a good bit of detail to be added: pulleys, smoke rounds for the mortar, various other small boxes for the side walls, crew seats, and fire extinguisher. More could be added I am sure, but before you do you will want to fill in a couple of ejector pin marks, they may end up behind the smoke rounds but to be safe and make life easier I plan to fill them before I even begin turret construction. The top of the turret is nicely detailed with separate lids for the commander’s hatch. It has a separate race for the ever so tasty Tasca M2 .50 caliber machine gun. The outside walls of the turret are festooned with even more spare road wheels and spare track holders as well.
That just leaves the real star of the show, the large boom. My advice here is to go slow and slower as this is not for the inexperienced builder. You have pulleys, cables, support arms, brackets, pins, tiny bolts, and it looks like they go in three different directions all at once. If that is not enough the large A-frame boom sports twenty or so very tiny and delicate footsteps, Tasca has provided several spares for when you inadvertently break some of them off. This looks a bit like rigging a sailing ship in places so again, go slow to avoid any unnecessary mistakes that may be difficult to rectify later on. The molding is to a very high quality but there is a slight seam on the boom that will need to be carefully eliminated. Just to give you an idea of how complicated this part of the assembly is, even Tasca made a mistake. They have provided the incorrect length for one of the support cables; check out the correction from Tasca’s website here http://www.tasca-modellismo.com/seihin/m32b1trv/35026-p5-11correction.jpg
. (It should be 400mm when completed, not the 460mm incorrectly stated. Be sure to allow some extra for the loops!)
Wow, this kit looks like a show stopper. It is not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced builder, but if you have a few kits under your belt and would like to have something truly unique then it would be hard to go wrong with this kit. There are a few issues - no driver’s compartment or interior transmission housing, a few ejector pin marks here and there to fill and a couple of seams to deal with - but even with that this is an outstanding looking kit. My advice to anyone with even a passing interest in recovery vehicles or Sherman tanks in general is grab two of these, one for now and one for later. As for me, this one has shot to the very top of the build pile and is marked ‘immediate’!