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Ryefield Sherman Firefly + M4A3E8

Sherman Firefly “Velikiye Luki”

2020 was the year of deals and clearance sales for me, which meant I got to build some things a bit outside of my comfort zone but got to beef up my modeling muscles. So, frustrated with the glut of models of Michael Wittman’s Tiger and the commensurate fawning over and whitewashing of a Waffen SS member, I figured it was as good of an excuse as any to build the tank that Joe Ekins (most likely) used to put down a panzer ace.

Unfortunately, this buying strategy also meant I got to see WHY some kits were on deep discount.


In response to mounting demands for more detailed model kits, Ryefield played the troll’s gambit and made kits that are the pinnacle of detail and molding technology. They’re also the most joyless, fun-sapping experiences you will ever have aside from using power tools on AModel fiberglass.

You see, kit manufacturers got it into their heads that “MOAR PARTZ = BETTAR DETALE = BIGGUR SALEZ” and true to form, these kits DO have a bajillion more parts than comparable kits. But what does that mean?

It means that thing like grab-handles on the rear engine deck that collapse into their holes on the real thing are rendered as separate parts that stick out proudly from the surface when cemented in place, when a simple raised line would be more accurate.

It means that the track links have SIX parts per link (2x tread pads, 2x inner rubber pads, 1 guide horn and 1 connector pin) over 152 links, which nets you 912 pieces.

It means things like the interior baffles of the muzzle of the main gun being rendered in multiple layers of microscopic photoetch.

It means that, despite it being obvious that they possess the technology and ingenuity to render items in singular plastic pieces, they have YOU build them out of multiple tiny bits of styrene and photoetch.

The Firefly begins construction with the hull and Vertical Volute Spring Suspension (VVSS) system, while the E8’s HVSS running gear appears later in construction.

Do be careful with the VVSS suspension levers as they are subtly shaped and need to be installed correctly for the suspension to work.

And it does work! In fact, it works too well, because you will need to apply tension to the track via the rear idler wheel, you will invariably pull up the leading road wheel on the forward VVSS assemblies.

This leads to the tank having that weird “nose down” or “nose heavy” attitude sometimes seen.

Cement the front VVSS and/or HVSS in such a way that it’s rock solid and WON’T move, unless you’re doing a diorama.

Lots of horribly fiddly and miniscule detail is added the hull at this point, most of which will be obscured with a good slopping of mud and dirt, but at least YOU know it’s there, right?

Now we come to the tracks, which are, again, the most absurd and pointless things I’ve ever come across.

I cannot adequately express my frustration with these in a manner consistent with a family-friendly community like this, but rest assured that the non-verbal portion of this expression is violent. There is NO REASON, NONE, for a Sherman kit to be offered with ONLY individual track links.

Sherman tracks are “live” tracks and do not exhibit any sag. “Rubber band” style tracks? Yes. Link and length? Yes. Individual links? Maybe, if you’re doing a diorama. These links are an exercise in pointless cruelty.

I like the concept of leaving the idler off until the track runs are complete so you can tension it properly, but that’s the only good thing about this whole mess. Yuck!

Everything else with these kits is, despite being fiddly, pretty well engineered. The loader’s hatch on the E8 turret has its springs oddly detatched from the hull, but unless you were looking for that you’d never notice it.

If you love the Sherman and you’re building a diorama where you need to have everything hanging out, these are what you want.

Both kits were painted in the “zenithal” method with a black basecoat for shadows, a feathered gray coat shot at 45 degrees for mid-tones and a white coat shot straight down for the highlights; then multiple thin coats of green were built up. Tanks weathered with abteilung and mig weathering materials. Apparently the kit-supplied tracks are wrong for Paper Doll, so I got some appropriate rubber band-style tracks from AFV club instead.

Right around the point where I was in the middle of weathering the new tracks, a leak appeared in my brain all of my motivation poured out, and the glue on one of the rubber band tracks started to come apart. So I’ve finally got some Shermans in my collection, but I think that’s scratched the Sherman itch for the next five years.

7 responses to Ryefield Sherman Firefly + M4A3E8

  1. Well, regardless, they’re certainly monuments to the triumph of skill, persistence and just plain stubbornness over plastic. They look great and the weathering is superbly realistic. I like them a lot!

  2. I admire your outspoken comments regarding these kits, and enjoyed reading them, but you’ve still ended up with two beautifully finished Shermans, definitely liked.

  3. Echoing above Gents comments, Wes, let me say this is a triumph of excellence through a very challenging kit. I enjoyed your article a lot!

  4. Very nice Sherman, Wes. I agree that the tendency to include ever more parts in a kit is sometimes exaggerated. I only buy interior kits when planning a dio where it will matter. At the end of the spectrum you would sometimes think we are evolving towards a model kit consisting purely of styrene sheet and profiles. For that matter, one can directly turn to scratchbuilding, no need for a kit seller. Liked!

  5. The article reads as if “The end is near” and “careful what you wish for you might get it.”
    If you open the box and the tracks alone have 900 pieces its either a red flag or you batten down the hatches or perhaps look at another kit. Furthermore, staying with the red flag theme the Stars Wars series has a reoccurring line ” I have a bad feeling about this.”

    On the other hand the Rye Field kit looks like a triumph over tragedy and looks fantastic . Your comments are the lament of a lot of folks who model tanks when it comes to tracks. Some kit manufactures who cater to “Fan Boys” dreams in accuracy and precision offer a one-way ticket to Bell View hospital. Glad you survived Wes.

    Hitting the Like button.

  6. 🙂 … Greetings … 🙂 :
    In the end Wes … these both turned out VERY good , and your weathering is one
    that is very nice too see. Any chance we can see them playing a part on a diorama?
    Thank you for sharing these pictures.

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