Building an accurate M51 Isherman from the Tamiya RC kit 1/16 scale

by Mario Covalski © 2012

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There were many versions of the Sherman, however, the last modification the Israelis made on them, is to my liking, the most showy and the one that converted a WWII tank into one of the 60 and 70 decades. I’ll not extend in describing the history of the M51, there’s a lot of information in books and internet, just enough to say that, as well as the M50, there were so many variants, that it’s recommended to build one tank in particular if you look for historical accuracy. As is my custom….I didn’t do so and just made generic versions that could have really existed.


The aim of this article is to share with the reader the 250 hours of work to convert the erroneous Tamiya 1/16 RC kit into two acceptable M51. This is not an article for you to copy exactly what I did, but it may give you ideas of how to or get the basic things you need to build two versions of the M51.

The project

Everything started with a picture I saw in the Israeli Sherman book by Thomas Gannon. It shows two M51 patrolling a Jerusalem corner, both have the same configuration and I guess they belong to the same battalion. But what is curious with this picture, is that while one of them is based on the A1 cast hull, the other is a 47’( degree) welded hull. This surprised me since to my knowledge the M51 had been modified from a cast M4A1 hull with the HVSS suspension and adding a French 105 mm CN105 F1 56 gun which had to be shortened so that it could be installed in a Sherman turret, as it offered not enough recoil space.

By the time I saw the picture, Tamiya only had in 1/16 scale the M4 with HVSS suspension and 105mm howitzer. Since I did not have great modeling skills, building a complete turret like the M51 (based on the T23) meant a very difficult task and the project was left aside.



At the end of 2009, appeared the M51 wrongly called “Super Sherman” by Tamiya which refreshed my interest in the project.


The kit

Contrary to the 1/35, the 1/16 ( #56032) does not represent any M51 that has existed, or at least not seen in pictures or book references. Besides the accessories and storage boxes configuration is wrong or inexistent for some items. Nevertheless, the turret is a faithful representation of the real thing and needs just a few minor additions.

Kit errors:

Here a list that shows why it is not possible to build a faithful representation of the M51 starting from the Tamiya kit without including major modifications:

The upper hull is A3 and is correct for a welded M51. The HVSS (Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension ) suspension is correct, but the engine of the M51 was changed and all the engine deck is wrong. I do not think that there has been a M51 with radial engine and the engine deck represented in the Tamiya kit is mistaken. Obviously, they only used the old M4 mold.


The so visible and big travel lock at the back in the M51, is not supplied with the kit.


The typical storage boxes used in the M50 and M51 have been poorly reproduced; they look like the wooden ration boxes the Americans M4 and M26 had, used in other kits.


The jerry can holder frames are not provided and only 3 jerry cans are included while the M51 used 7, besides they are different to the ones used in the American tanks.


All the rear panel even the engine access doors…etc are wrong or inexistent.


This is basically what is bad and is quite a lot, but still there are minor details I had to add as I went along.

Construction, stage 1

I started gathering all information I could, books, magazines and hundreds of pictures. My project would not be so ambitious regarding details and scratch but would undertake two tanks at the same time, one based on the A1 cast hull and the other on the A3 welded hull.

Having received from our sponsor, Hobbylink Japan both kits, what I only needed was to gather all the necessary material and scratchbuild what was not available. I have seen modelers spending hundreds of hours and I myself did, making parts from scratch, but if they are available, why to waste time on them?.

Basically, I needed a A1 cast hull and fortunately, several years ago, Nick Aguilar, a talented modeler in USA, had converted a Tamiya welded hull into a cast one and offered resin copies. At the end of the article you have the contact information.

On the other hand, I got an excellent aftermarket from Axels Modellbau Shop which would be useful for the stowage boxes, mounts for the spare tires, infantry comm….etc.

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