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T49 Three-Bar Steel Tracks for M4 Series Tanks

RHPS Models 1/35 Scale Accessories

Catalogue No.: T49
Scale: 1/35
Media: Injected Styrene
Review Type: First Look
Rating: Highly Recommended

Reviewed by Cookie Sewell

S u m m a r y

540 parts in grey styrene
Price: $17.95 retail
Advantages: First kit of this type of track in stryene
Disadvantages: Three-piece assembly method tedious to some modelers
Recommendation: For use on any M3 or M4 series vehicle using this type of track


F i r s t   L o o k

Modelers ought to be careful of what they collectively wish for, for quite often they get it and then find room to complain. For many years modelers carped about the tracks offered with Sherman kits, from the awful rubber band days through the worthless Tamiya M3 series tracks to the better efforts offered with the Italeri and Tamiya kits. The major problems with the latter track sets was their use of only two versions – either the T51 reversible rubber block set found on all the early Italeri efforts (M4A1, M7B1, M32B1) or the T54E1 steel chevron with grousers used on the Tamiya M4A3. A later Italeri set for the M4A3 with T34 Calliope only offered a set of T54E1 tracks without the grousers, but Tamiya did offer the T48 rubber chevron tracks with their M4 Early. None of the sets was directly offered to the public (purchase via mail order from the factory representatives does not really constitute "open access" to most modelers.)

One complaint was that the kits needed separate link track to provide more options and better fit to the track sets. Italeri's sets were always very stiff and hard to attach (with the "working suspension on the Italeri kits, the tracks tended to bow the wheels off the ground at the ends) whereas Tamiya's were too thin and stretchy, tending to sink inwards when wrapped around the drive wheels. Resin sets were offered but were cumbersome for many modelers to use, requiring either hot water or a hair dryer to bend to shape.

Single link sets offered by Tyresmoke of the UK were very good, and in fact set the standard for single link US tracks with a center shoe and separate end connectors which cemented to pins on each link. However, the end connectors were of white metal, and tended to pop off the tracks if correctly installed. There was a slight separation between links (which is very accurate) and this caused them to break loose. The only solution to this was to sand off all the pins, cement the track links together, and then attach the end connectors. All of this was quite tedious.

Model Kasten of Japan followed this design and came out with a similar offering, but they suffered from sinkholes in the center of the track pads and very high prices -- up to twice the cost of a base Sherman kit! DML did offer some improvements when they came out with the UK steel chevron set for the M4A4 (Sherman V/Sherman VC Firefly) but for the drop in price ($11.95 for the combination UK steel chevron/T48 rubber chevron set) they also retained the sinkhole problem or added injection pin marks.

Now offered for sale on the market are a new product from a new manufacturer, RHPS Models. The offerings from RHPS are pretty much of the same pattern – one shoe and two end connectors per link – but with a few improvements (call them Sherman Single Link Track Kits Mark IIB, for want of a better description).

The links are very cleanly molded in sets of six per sprue, and by using "cage" type sprues the injection pin marks are kept to the sprues and not the shoes. End connectors are twelve to a sprue and are easier to get at and trim off than either the DML or Model Kasten versions. This translates into less cleanup when the parts are removed from the sprues, and that alone is a saving of about two hours in assembly.

180 links are provided in the kit, which means that you will have enough for any Sherman chassis and 14 to 22 links left over for stowage.

The directions indicate that you use a plastic sheet template to assemble the tracks, which is the only way to get a good fit. What that translates to is an assembly jig. Considering the type of tracks, there is a good way to do that and also make the links semi-workable. This is to the modeler's advantage, as it permits the installation of the tracks after painting the model and the tracks.

To do this, first cut off all the links and connectors from the sprues.

Cement one connector to each link only ensuring that you cement the connectors to the same pin on each link. Using a thick (.125"x .250") strip of Evergreen styrene strip place the links on the strip so that the pin behind the fixed connector on the next link fits into the free hole in the connector on the first link. Cement a second connector to the opposite side, with cement applied to the pin opposite where the connector was attached. The result is a "trapped" link which has some flexibility, and permits installation after the model is finished. The last link needed to complete the run (i.e. link 79 on an M4, M4A1, or M4A3 Sherman) is left loose so that the connector can be attached once the tracks and model are painted.

The only things here to consider in using this method are these. One, make sure that the track links fit inside the driver guide teeth, or you will have problems in final assembly. Two, there is a slight compromise on accuracy in that real tracks flex at both ends, and "wrap" tighter around the driver and idler than is possible in this system. For the most part it is not noticeable, and the overall result is better than the "rubber" kit tracks on many tank kits.

This is one of the first two sets of what RHPS plans to offer, including the WE210 "Double I Pattern" Commonwealth tracks and a set of extended end connectors (grousers) for US track sets. ((Personally I am hoping for the "Canadian Dry Pin" steel tracks and driver rings!)) This latter set can also be used on other US pattern tracks with double end connectors, such as the T80 pattern tracks used postwar by M4A3E8 and M26/M46/M47 tanks. Future releases are also noted for the M3/M5 light tanks, Cromwell series, Churchill series, a new VVSS Sherman suspension kit, and conversion sets for the M4A2, M10, and M36. We can only wish RHPS Models success in their efforts, for they are very well done and can be recommended.

RHPS Models accepts direct orders. Their address is PO Box 906, Massillon, Ohio, 44648 or telephone (330) 837-1031. Shipping is $4.50 per order for $10-50, $7.50 for $50 and up for UPS, or all orders can be sent via USPS postage paid (i.e. free shipping within the continental US). (Note: the only other product currently available is the T51 rubber block set at $17.95).

Review Copyright 1999 by Cookie Sewell
Page Created 28 March, 1999
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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