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1/76 Sherman Crab Airfix/Matchbox/Dragon/S&Smodels kit bash conversion

Ron Bell

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When I decided on doing a Sherman Crab, I looked at my options. The Airfix Sherman Crab is based on their ancient Sherman I kit, which is very very basic and some say dimensionally incorrect. However, the Crab mechanism, while also a bit basic, is useful, but being in 1/76 it limited other kits that could be used with it. Enter the Matchbox Firefly kit, which is in 1/76 scale. It's based on a Sherman V, the A4 version with the Chrysler multibank engine. It just so happens that this was also one of the more numerous of the Sherman types supplied to the UK (mainly because the US didn't want them) and was quite often adapted to mine clearance duties via the Crab conversion. A quick check showed that the Airfix Crab unit fit nicely onto the Matchbox hull. However, there are a few changes that needed to be made to change it from it's Firefly configuration to a "normal" A4. The square loaders hatch on the turret top and the bustle radio compartment were removed as was the gun cradle on the engine deck. I didn't need to reinstall the hull MG, which was removed from Fireflies to provide for additional storage of the large 17 pdr. rounds, as it was also removed from the Crabs. I substituted a normal 75mm barrel for the 17 pdr. of the kit as well.  The Airfix Crab arms were missing the guard on the left side, so I added that from sheet stock. Then I added assorted other detail parts from other Dragon and ESCI kits, which while 1/72 scale, fit and looked fine and I added track return guides to the bogey units out of left over PE fret material. The flail rotor and chains provided in the Airfix kit look silly, like they are starched out straight, so I substituted a piece of styrene tubing for the rotor and used scale chains for the flails. Along the way, I decided to do a D-Day Crab, so I needed deep wading trunks. S&S models makes white metal ones for all Sherman types. I had to modify mine as most photos I found showed the rear one not having the deflector head, so I cut it off and added the ribbing on the top. There was also a water/dust proof covering over the mantlet and hull MG position, so this was made out of tissue soaked in white glue. Final touches were tools and stowage from the spares box, lane markers, extra chain holders and hull periscope extensions from an SandS models Crab conversion kit I didn't use and wading trunk braces and antennae made from stretched sprue. I noticed in the photos that the serial number decals on the hull side look cloudy. They aren't in reality. They do, however, have a slightly different surface that apparently photographs this way. 









Edited by Ron Bell
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Ron, that is outstanding! I've been trying to find a way to do this on a 1/72 scale Sherman; I even bought the chains to use. Still haven't figured it out as all attempts and scratchbuilding parts of the flail to 'upsize' it have failed.


Congrats on making such a masterpiece!

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