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Ryefield Sheridan

Build review of the 1/35 scale armor kit with terrific detail but small PE parts
RELATED TOPICS: ARMOR
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The M551 Sheridan first appeared on the battlefields of Vietnam in 1969. Years later, the light tank fought in Panama as part of Operation Just Cause and in the Gulf War with Operation Desert Storm. Ryefield’s new Sheridan can be built as an 82nd Airborne tank during those later combat missions. 

The kit features well-molded tan plastic as well as a clear sprue for lights and periscopes, gray vinyl polycaps and light cables, a spring to simulate the gun’s recoil, and a photo-etched metal (PE) fret. Nicely printed decals and a 36-page instruction manual round out the box; pay attention to the enclosed errata sheet.

Options include posable crew hatches with good detail on the inner faces and some interior stuff for the turret, notably seats and a sharply detailed main gun breech and machine gun. Up front, there’s a driver’s seat and floor escape hatch; on the hull rear, the battery, air cleaner, and infantry telephone compartments are detailed and their doors are posable. Early and late smoke launchers are also included. 

Optional parts allow the Sheridan to be built as either an M551A1 or an M551A1 TTS with thermal sights. Steps unique to the basic M551A1 are printed in green, but black is used for both the specific TTS steps and those required for both and can be confusing. However, the instructional drawings are uncluttered and easy to follow. 

I deviated from the instructions almost immediately as they called for small, delicate parts to be attached to the unassembled body and turret parts, generally a recipe for disaster. So, I assembled the major components before adding small parts; to make it easier to remember the parts I skipped over, I marked them with a highlighter on the instructions. 

Starting with the hull and suspension, the link-and-length tracks fit together well and ejector-pin marks on the links were small enough to be eliminated with a smear of Vallejo Plastic Putty. I assembled and attached the suspension and tracks to the lower hull before painting. 

The upper hull went together without issue. I left the rear hull compartments closed but the detail inside is outstanding. The PE doors (parts Y32 and Y33) with plastic hinges (C50) concerned me, but they look great. The engine screens required careful bending at the edges but fit well.

Small gaps showed up when I joined the turret’s multipart upper section, but they may have resulted from my exuberance rather than the kit’s engineering; Vallejo putty took care of them.

The turret basket went together quickly and easily and was sturdy once the glue dried. The PE mesh for the basket impressed me and fit well, but be sure you glue the bottom screen before attaching the basket to the turret. I didn’t and struggled to get it in place with the basket attached. 

Several ammo boxes and a jerry can also may be attached to the turret sides and feature beautifully molded straps. Similar attention to detail is evident in the footman’s loops molded on the turret. The jerry can builds from four plastic parts with PE for the cap latch and mounting bracket. Unfortunately, the bottom seam will be visible and takes effort to fill. 

The gunner’s hatch is designed to be movable, but a guide (Part D66) prevents it from opening so I glued it shut.

The searchlight looks great, but the mount is fragile so handle it with care. The instructions call for Part F4 to be used for the searchlight’s cable, but Part F1 matched my references. The vinyl responded well to superglue. Small PE parts and bolt heads sliced from Sprue A finished the turret.

Finally, I assembled the commander’s cupola which features thin, near scale-thin armor plates. The vision blocks are molded as a single clear part, but one lens needs to be removed to fit the laser range finder. The M2 machine gun is probably the best looking I have seen in plastic and includes the option of open or closed ammo box and barrel with or without flash hider. Molding limitations mean the holes in the cooling jacket don’t go all the way through; drilling these out will quickly and easily improve the gun.

Ryefield provides callouts for Ammo by Mig Jimenez colors, but I painted my model in NATO colors from Tamiya, lightening each with a little buff. 

I used the drawings in M551 Sheridan In Action by David Doyle (Squadron/Signal, ISBN 978-0-89747-582-2) for the camouflage as they appeared more accurate than the kit instructions, plus they show it from five angles. The decals went on perfectly. 

I weathered it to match a photo of an Operation Just Cause Sheridan. Remember, the Sheridan was mostly made of aluminum so chipping on the hull should be in aluminum but the turret is steel.   

I spent about 45 hours assembling this kit — a little longer than most tank models for me largely due to the number of small parts and PE — plus another 10 painting and weathering. 

Ryefield has done a great job with its M551. The dimensions match published numbers, the complex shape of the turret is captured well, the detail is stunning, and the finished model just looks right. By using some of the optional parts in the kit, new markings, and scratchbuilding a turret rack, it would be easy to backdate this for Vietnam service.


Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2020 issue.

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