Progres Model Centrum is a Polish publisher who continue to produce some of the best books on AFVs on the market. The format is well-established, with the books presenting a complete case study on one vehicle (or variant). This is acheived by giving a detailed walk-round using a preserved example (or examples) which concentrate on the 'essential' areas of interest for the modeler. Several pages of scale plans are also provided (in this case in 1/35th and 1/48th scales). Where available and appropriate, several pages of reproductions of the original workshop manuals are also presented. The latter part of the book concentrates on archive photos of the vehicle 'in-theater'.
The Book - the basics
APG016 - M4A2 Sherman / Part 2: 76 mm Gun Tank is a 72 page, soft-cover book in A4 format. The book is written by W. J. Gawrych, with the color photos of the preserved examples being done by someone who is a regular contributor to Armorama - Chris Hughes. The book contains 247 color photos of a preserved M4A2E8(76)W, 36 half-tone technical drawings reprinted from U.S Technical Manuals, 38 contemporary (B & W) photos of the vehicle in service and 5 pages of scale plans in 1/35th and 1/48th scale. For those who require it, the book's ISBN is 978-83-60672-01-3.
The color images were all taken at the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, Portola Valley, CA, USA - The 'Littlefield Collection'.
The Book - in detail
Owning a number of the books in this series, the format was very familiar. With this review, i'll give an overview of the various sections and conclude with a personal evaluation. The (color) Photos: This is the largest part of the book consisting of 44 pages. The images follow a logical order being seperated into sections - Front hull/Glacis, four pages of interior shots of the fighting compartment, the area above the sponsons, the rear deck arrangement, the engine compartment (including a FULL walkround of the powerplant, rear hull (including items such as the external intercom box and the distinctive folding stowage rack). Four pages are devoted to the HVSS suspension and the T84 tracks. The next section covers all aspects of the turret - gun tube, pistol port all hatches (from both sides) and all periscopes and antenna mounts. Interior arrangements get more coverage in the next sub-section , this time covering instruments, radios interior of the turret roof and the fire-control system. This section ends with a page covering the GM 6046 Engine - in this case one which is not inside a vehicle. Quality of the images is very good indeed and the coverage of every imaginable area (taken from every possible angle) will give the super-detailer invaluable references. The Illustrative Content: This begins with a useful page of 1/10th scale illustrations of both the ammunition types and the ammunition storage cases. As the M4A2E8(76) used no less than seven different types of ammunition (including two types of smoke round) this is valuable refence for the modeler. All the rounds are shown with the appropriate stencilling and markings on both the 'business-end' and on the casing. The other part of this page shows the two types of ammunition boxes (one four, the other two-round) along with all the appropriate shipping markings and stencilling.
From the ammunition, we move onto the scale drawings of the vehicle itself. Two pages are dedicated to five drawings of the vehicle in 1/48th scale - side view, front, rear, overhead (with turret), overhead (without turret), and a view of the underneath of the hull, The 1/35th scale plans cover the same areas. The plans are very well-done indeed and should provide invaluable to anyone who wishes to do the corrections on the Academy or DML kits of the M4a2(76).
Using extracts from the U.S. workshop manual, four pages are used to highlight particular areas. There are some interesing inclusions in this - particularly useful for the modeler, are areas such as the exploded view of the driver's hatch, the HVSS suspension bogies, the assembly of the muffler and exhaust deflector and the assembly of the driver's cupola. PhotoHistory: Sixteen pages are dedicated to both text and images of the developmental history and combat use of the vehicle. The majority of the latter images cover vehicles which were provided to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program. Also present are some Post-War images of the M4A2E8(76) in Canadian service. Many of the Soviet images have been seen previously - due in large part to the Russians not documenting as carefully as the other protagonists. What there is however is useful. The majority of the vehicles are of VVSS - suspension M4a2s with some useful ideas for both stowage and paint finish.
Overall, this really is an excellent and highly practical book. It's practical in the sense that anyone building an M4a2 will find an extraordinary level of detail within its 72 pages. As both the (1/35th scale) M4a2(76)s are essentially sound enough kits they do however need some work to bring them up to 'standard'. This book provides more than enough to do so. Those modellers contemplating a conversion of the (kittted) VVSS suspension M4a2 to the HVSS M4a2 should also find enough material to work with.
The text is very complete and goes well beyond the simple 'caption'. All the areas of the vehicle are covered with, where necessary, comments on why a particular modification was introduced and where it might differ from another variant.
The images are of very high quality and, as I mentioned earlier, are very much taken from a moler's point of view. When an area is of particular relevance, the image is a little bigger. The contemporary images are good quality although Soviet photos were rarely as good as the other participant's images and do, in many cases, suffer from a lack of definition and contrast.
On the 'debit' side, there are a few issues I have with this book. Firstly, although the design is eye-catching, I am NOT the world's greatest fan of white text on a black background. I find it does strain the eyes a bit. Secondly, although once you get used to it, the layout is a little confusing. Rather than more conventional subject sub-divisions (turret, suspension etc.) the book's designer has used a graphic at the top of each page of an M4a2 which highlights the area covered in that particular section. It's an interesting idea, but personally speaking, I prefer a more 'conventional' explanation of what section i'm looking at.. Finally, in 'Gripes 'r Us', a few comments about the subject. It would, have been, in my opinion, to have concentrated on the M4a2 with VVSS rather than HVSS. This for me would have increased its appeal. Not that we're short of good HVSS suspension but with two widely available kits of the M4a2 (76) VVSS it might have increased sales. However, I will counter that argument by saying that (with the exception of the suspension) the two vehicles have very few differences and the serious Shermanholic will find plenty to work with.
The niggles aside, this a great book. I like the combination of Preserved with Archive and using the workshop manuals in one book. Interesting though they undoubtedly are, coverage of preserved vehicles is not enough. The best approach in my opinion, is to mix the 'Modern' with the 'Contemporary' with informed comment. A great book within a superlative series.
Highs: The extremely complete coverage and mix of modern images with contemporary photos.Lows: The subject area - an HVSS vehicle won't have as much appeal as its VVSS counterpart.Verdict: An excellent addition to a superb series.
About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...