M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance / Airborne Assault Vehicle
"Hard Core 7"

Jaguar Models #JA63903

Copyright 2001, 2011 & 2015 Jim Lewis/GunTruck Studios
All Rights Reserved Worldwide

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The M551 Sheridan is the last member of the American Light Tank family started with the M3 Stuart 37mm Gun Tank of pre-WW II vintage. At the time of this writing, the Sheridan has not been replaced in the American inventory, and still serves with US Airborne Forces. It is an unusual vehicle, and sadly not well represented in injection-molded plastic. Both Tamiya and Academy have produced 1:35th scale plastic models of the Sheridan, but none do justice to the real vehicle. For a modeler wishing to add the Sheridan to their miniature collection, the uphill battle is still a laborious one. This article will not address the most recent Sheridan offerings from Academy, but I did opt to use decal markings provided by Academy for my project here.

The mediocre 1970's vintage plastic Sheridan miniatures were joined by an all-resin effort from HobbyFan and Team Jaguar. Frankly, there is no comparison between the Jaguar effort and the early Tamiya and Academy model kits in terms of detailing and scale. Although pricey, I quickly shelved my in-progress Tamiya based project and turned to working with the Jaguar Models kit. To supplement this effort, I'd also use the Sheridan Technical Manual series TM 9-2350 during the modeling effort. R.P. Hunnicutt's SHERIDAN reference book proved just as valuable in gaining an understanding of how this vehicle came about and what the features and detail on it actually mean.

Over the years, I had unrestricted access and opportunity to crawl around on the M551 Sheridan in Jacques Littlefield's Military Vehicle Technology Foundation collection. Jacques loved all the vehicles he had, but this Sheridan was his favorite. Though it is marked up more akin to a vehicle of Operation: Desert Storm service, "Deathstalker" is a good reference source for modelers wanting to detail-up a Vietnam era Sheridan. The Sheridan's flat engine deck can accommodate a shipping platform of sorts, as displayed in the Technical Manuals covering the vehicle, and after Jacques Littlefield's death in January 2009, his restoration crew rigged a carriage in similar vein to transport Jacques' casket to his final resting place on his property. I could not think of a finer way for him to go to his final resting place than to be carried by his favorite tank. Though not quite right for this model project, I think one day soon I'll model "Deathstalker" in his memory.




Jaguar Models markets two Sheridans - in confusing packaging. One model is intended to be the M551 as fielded in the Vietnam War. The other is meant to represent the M551A1 as fielded in the Persian Gulf War - though just labeled "M551A". It seems the outer package wrapper labels one as the other - mine came that way. No bother, however, as the experienced modeler knows how to handle that one. Easy recognition features that delineates the early and Vietnam-era M551 and the later M551A1 are the Laser Rangefinder mounted on the Commander's Cupola and Searchlight fitted. Other smaller details muddy the waters somewhat.

The photos above are high-contrast to get some of the detail to show on the bright Jaguar Models resin. It just seemed to glow at normal exposures.

Shown at left is the Sheridan model cleaned up and assembled - midway through detailing. The basic kit is phenomenally detailed in comparison to earlier efforts from Tamiya and the Academy copy. All bolt, rivet, and tie-down detail is there to satisfy the most finicky of modelers. Noteworthy to mention here at the outset is that this is an all-resin kit, with all associated problems that come with such medium. I tried not to belabor issues I encountered, but this is not a kit for beginners.

The Hull is cast in two large pieces - upper and lower halves - and both were warped (in opposite directions) in my example. I tried to straighten them out with hot water, but they quickly returned to their warped state. I had to clamp them together and used copious amounts of thick superglue and accelerator to get them to mate properly and reasonably straight. The Turret didn't sit properly into its socket on the upper hull either - probably a symptom of the warpage. It wouldn't sit squarely on the Hull, and there was too much slop around the Turret Ring.

To compensate, I cut out a .010" styrene ring to bridge the gap between the Turret bottom and the Turret Race on the upper Hull. I took .010" styrene strip and glued it around the plug on the Turret bottom which allowed the Turret to fit snugly on the Hull. The Commander's Cupola didn't sit squarely on the Turret roof either, but I didn't shim it.

The Headlight Guards weren't usable in my kit, so I replaced this detail with styrene rod. I also replaced the Headlight Units with examples from Grief meant for the M48 / M60 Medium Tanks. The Grief parts as they come were better than drilling out the Jaguar resin parts. I used selected parts from Eduard' stainless steel detail set to dress-up areas of the resin model for the sake of speed more than necessity.

The Suspension Arms in my kit example called for a lot of cleanup and some dipping in hot water to adjustment in a few cases.

A view of the front left Idler Wheel mount and Road Wheel Stations 1 & 2. Note the cutouts in the Sheridan's Hull - a feature not even attempted by the Tamiya and Academy model kits - but not often seen on the vehicles in service. Usually, these areas are covered by plates.

The rivet detail on the upper hull as cast by Jaguar Models is nice, but there are a lot more rivets on the real Sheridan than they molded here. They nearly touch each other - like you could add nearly two more rivets between the ones present here.

The titanium armor plate added to the underside of the forward portion of the hull during the Vietnam War is molded in here, however the protective plates added underneath the sponson floors above the first two road wheels is missing.

Note the gap between the lower hull and upper hull junction. This called for some filling and sanding with superglue and accelerator - both to fill the gap and to add strength to the joint.

The Turret is cast as a single, asymmetrical saucer-shaped, piece onto which you'll add the Mantlet, Commander's Cupola, and smaller fittings. It's pretty nice as presented and needs little in the way of additions. I spent a fair amount of time cleaning-up the Smoke Grenade launchers, but the effort was worth it.

My kit example did not come with a Turret Bustle Stowage Rack of any vintage. I'd have to scrape this up later on to add to the miniature.

By far the worst experience I had with the Jaguar Models Sheridan kit is working with the Road Wheels and Tracks. They are made out of some odd kind of plastic-vinyl with resists bonding using normal liquid or tube cement and resists even superglue. While I was able to rough-up the mating surfaces and get a strong bond assembling the Road Wheels, Idler and Drive Wheels - it proved not to be so with the individual Track Links. They contributed to me shelving this project for several years, admittedly, until I decided to buy an expensive set of Fruilmodelismo white metal track links to complete the miniature. My big concern here was that you get 200 Fruil track links per set - but the actual Sheridan has 102 track links per side. This will prove to be a fun, and expensive, exercise indeed...


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