The ultimate Sherman, the M51 was a combination of a French 105mm gun and the American M4 Sherman that had become the standard tank of the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 1950s. Although it was sometimescalled the Super Sherman or Isherman, Israelis never used either term. The M51 served the IDF from the mid-1960s to the early-1980s.
Most modelers were surprised when Tamiya announced a new model of the tank. Molded in Tamiya’s usual tan plastic, the kit features all-new moldings; only the .50-caliber machine gun comes from earlier kits.
Tamiya chose to model an early Batch One M51, making it the only kit to accurately represent a Six-Day War vehicle. These tanks differed from later versions in a few minor ways. Most notable are the single hull stowage boxes on each side and the spare-track racks on the hull. More subtle differences are the lack of louvers and exhaust on the rear deck; the Batch One vehicles used a single fishtail exhaust on the rear plate. The kit provides two half figures for the turret and markings for three vehicles.
Assembly starts with the lower hull, which comprises several flat pieces that fit perfectly and form a strong, square box. Incredibly, Tamiya has molded the complex HVSS suspension in only four parts (not counting the wheels). A few small compromises were made to accomplish this. The backs of the shock-absorber reservoirs are hollow (you’ll never see them) and there are slots in the spring assemblies (parts A8). These are slightly noticeable if you are looking for them, and some modelers may wish to fill them in. There is no detail on the inside surfaces of the road wheels, but this, too, is not too noticeable.
The upper hull assembly is quick and easy. The upper hull and the turret have a lightly molded cast texture. While American armor was much less ruggedly cast than, say, Soviet tanks, some modelers might feel the texture is too subtle and will want to roughen it up a bit. Blanking plates are provided for the track overhang, and the fenders show a nice, thin edge at the sides, front, and rear. As usual, I left off the tools and some of the other details until painting was completed.
The main-gun barrel is injection molded, but it was glued together without any trace of warp and required only slight sanding to remove the seam. I liked the molded canvas mantlet cover. While it locks the gun in a fixed position, it fits perfectly and is a great representation of the real thing. The fit of the upper and lower turret halves was good, though I did use a motor tool to remove any trace of the seam, taking care to match the cast texture and preserve the subtle weld marks molded into the turret.
I painted my M51 with Tamiya acrylic desert tan darkened slightly with some khaki. I then lightened this mixture with some Tamiya buff and used it to highlight panels and add dimension to the model. The decals settled perfectly with the application of some Solvaset.
It took me only 16 hours to build my M51, thanks to the simple paint scheme and Tamiya’s excellent fit and engineering. The finished model really looks great, and the few compromises to make assembly easier are almost unnoticeable. Any modeler with just a little experience should be able to add this important vehicle to a collection of postwar armor.
Correction: In an earlier version of this review,
we incorrectly stated the main armament of the Israeli tank. The M51 mounted a
French 105mm cannon. It’s predecessor, the M50, was armed with a 75mm main gun.