An example of kit-bashing, combining parts from different model kits to create a vehicle which is unavailable otherwise. The author used the chassis of an ESCI M4A3 Sherman tank, and the turret of Fujimi’s M36B2 Gun Motor Carriage to produce an earlier variant of the latter vehicle. Only 187 operational units of the M36B1 were built in 1944.
Kit-bashing is an easy way to generate a model of a lesser known vehicle. Kit-bashing often reflects the manner in which new vehicles were produced, placing newly designed turrets onto existing chassis designs. In this particular case, the components stem from two vehicle which are available in different scales, ESCI typically being considered 1:72 scale, whereas Fujimi vehicles are in 1:76 scale. However, in a book published by Military Modelling Magazine, called "Guide to Military Vehicles", Robin Buckland points out that ESCI’s M4A3 scales out more like 1:76 than 1:72. The M4A3 Sherman may be hard to find, it comes in a boxed set with US Paratroopers. Nitto/Fujimi’s M4A3E2 chassis may be more readily available. In order to backdate the M4A3E2 chassis to the M4A3 version, the running gear of the M36B2 kit would have to be used, although this has been criticized as being undersized.
The author now has three turrets which fit the ESCI M4A3 hull, the original turret, the M36 turret and a T23 turret with the 76 mm gun. All components were painted to match the chassis, and it is very easy to switch turrets, depending on which vehicle the author wants to display. Of course, only one of the three turret variants can match the vehicle registration number, and insignia displayed on the hull. In this case the original turret was chosen to conform to the vehicle registration number, it is the most common variant of the three.
- M4A3 Sherman Hull, 1:72 ESCI No. 8064
- M36 Turret and Crew, 1:76 Fujimi No. 76017
- Combat Stowage
A simple conversion project, Fujimi’s M36 turret fits ESCI’s M4A3 hull nicely.
Rarity, only 187 operational units of the M36B1 were produced in 1944.
The ESCI M4A3 is closer to 1:76 scale than the 1:72 scale advertised on the box.
The M4A3 chassis went together nicely. The author received a package with one-piece rubber tracks in addition to multi-piece plastic tracks, although the instructions only indicated the plastic tracks. The plastic tracks were used, because they age better, even if they require more assembly work. Some rubber tracks deteriorate over time, although this does not seem to have been a problem with ESCI tracks in the past.
The old Nitto kit (now manufactured by Fujimi) is not as good as the ESCI chassis. There are some problems with historic accuracy. The model has a bow MG on the front hull which the M36 never had. The mounting bolts on the hull are not molded very sharply. In order to use the hull for a British Achilles (M10 with 17-pdr gun) conversion, the bolts and the MG should be removed. Some Achilles tank destroyers did not have the bolts, and it is more convincing to take them off.
The M36 gun leaves to be desired. The kit is designed to have a moveable gun, but the fit is too tight to allow any movement. In addition, the muzzle brake seems to have the wrong shape, some trimming is required.
Unfortunately, without its turret, the M36B2 hull cannot be used for another kit-bash. One way around this dilemma is not to swap turrets permanently, but to keep them separate, and rotate the vehicles on display. Of course, if a separate turret for the British Achilles tank destroyer were available as a resin part, the kit-bashing cycle could be completed: The M4A3 would receive the M36 turret, and the M36 could be converted to an Achilles with the British 17 pdr gun and turret.
ESCI’s M4A3 may be hard to find. The vehicle is no longer available as a separate kit, only as a boxed set with US Paratroopers. This is very unfortunate, because the M4A3 hull is needed for the M4A3E2 Jumbo Assault Sherman conversion.
- NW Europe, 1944-45
- M4A3 with T23 turret and 76 mm gun (available from Vac-U-Cast).
- British Achilles IIC Tank Destroyer (M10 with British 17-pdr gun)
Kit-bashing requires a little detective work, figuring out which components from two or more existing vehicle kits can be used to create a rare hybrid. This modelling technique closely emulates history. Many famous vehicles were hybrid designs, sporting new turrets and superstructures on proven, readily available, or obsolete chassis. Kit-bashing is much easier than building a vehicle from scratch, often a simple turret swap can do the job.