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How to build an Israeli M-51 Sherman in 1/35th scale

By Thomas Antonsen, 2001.
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The M-51
The M-51 was developed in the early 60'ties as a successor to the M-50, as it was no longer felt adequate against the influx of new Soviet armor in the Arab inventories. The main difference between the M-50 and the M-51 was the French 105mm gun, developed from the gun of the AMX-30 MBT. 
Hull types:
The M-51 was build on only two hull types, the late, cast hull as on the M4A1 (late) which was the most numerous variant, and the late (47°) welded hull, as on the M4A3 (wet). This is contrary to the M-50, which was build on virtually any Sherman hull type produced. A reliable source states, the welded hulls actually came from M4A3s, which had previously been re-engined in France with the Continental engine of the M4/M4A1 before entering service with the IDF.

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This pictures shows a M-51 build on a welded, late hull.

Stowage configurations:
The M-51 was build with two different external stowage configurations. 

The first configuration was similar to the one found on the M-50. This means it had track links on the hull side in front of a stowage box, and a gun lock made from steel profiles rather than tubes. 

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Picture of the first stowage configuration (Copyright Bobber Møller 1998)

The second stowage configuration is unique to the M-51. This differs from the first, as the track links are mounted on the turret, in front of the smoke grenade dischargers. Also there are two stowage boxes on either of the hull sides, and the gun lock is made from tubes rather than steel profiles. Note that the stowage boxes are not the same size. On the M-51 type stowage, the front box is similar in size to the box on the M-50 type, but the rear box on the M-51 type is shorter than the front box.

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Picture of the second stowage configuration

The stowage configurations appear from photos to be consistent trough the entire life of the vehicle, meaning the tanks were never changed from one type to another. There is a photo in the Gannon book showing the two types side by side during the Six-Day War, indicating the two types were build at different plants at the same time, or at the same plant right after each other. This is unlikely however, as the production of the M-51 spanned several years.

All M-51s build on welded hulls appear to have the M51 type stowage configuration. At least I have never seen any pictures, either from museums, or during active service of welded hull M-51s with the M-50 type stowage. 

Some stowage details are common to both the M-50 and the M-51 type stowage configurations.
- two smoke dischargers on each side of the turret.
- two road wheels on the left rear hull side, above the idler wheel.
- brackets for holding a coil of barbed wire on the front.

Engine deck configurations:

The M-51 engine decks were modified 4 times during the service with the IDF. These engine deck configurations were produced in "batches". The engine deck consists of a "lower" and an "upper" part. The upper part is the part where the two distinct hatches for the air filters are. The "lower" part is the engine deck below these hatches. 

Batch 1 (ca. 1962-1970) is the first configuration of the M-51 with the Cummins diesel engine as mounted in the M-50. The lower part of the engine deck is plain, meaning it has no louvers as seen on the later batches. The exhaust pipe is similar to the one seen on M4A3s, with the difference, that there is just one pipe on the left side of the doors on the lower rear hull - left side when standing at the rear of vehicle looking towards the front of the vehicle.
Copyright of these pictures belongs to Barry Marriot
There is also a picture of this engine deck on page 22 in the Verlinden book mentioned below - yes I know it shows the M4 Crab, but the engine deck is the same.
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Pictures of batch 1 engine deck

Batch 2: (Ca. 1970-1975) The lower part of the engine deck is now equipped with three louvers. The exhaust pipe is similar to the one seen on batch 1 vehicles.
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Picture of batch 2 engine deck
Batch 3: (Ca. 1975-198?) The lower part of the engine deck is similar to batch 2 vehicles in the sense that it still has the 3 louvers. However, the exhaust pipe of the two first batches is now gone, and plated over. The exhaust is now placed on the top of the engine deck, in front of the gun cradle.
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(Picture of batch 3 engine deck)
This picture also offers an excellent view of the gun lock of the M-51 type stowage arrangement.
Batch 4: (ca. 198?-199?) The lower part of the engine deck is as on batch 3, as is the exhaust. The upper rear hull has been cut off, and repositioned with a spacer, so the angle of the rear hull is less steep when compared to the original hull. The reason for this change, was probably the need to increase the airflow in the engine room, so that the engine was better cooled.
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Picture of batch 4 engine deck
In fact there is a fifth configuration as pictures in the Gannon book show a column of M-51s with the original M4A1 engine deck and HVSS. These tanks have track links on the hull side, and one stowage box, as found on the M-50 type stowage described above. However there are no road wheels on the left hull, no jerry can holders and no smoke dischargers on the turrets. The column of tanks are heavily loaded with all the gear normally associated with tanks "in action", so it seems plausible that the M-51 was in service for a (brief?) period in this configuration. See page 100-101 in the Gannon book.
Other minor changes:
Vehicles of the 4th batch are normally seen with some other exterior changes in equipment. These changes are not exclusively applied to batch 4 vehicles however, meaning some features mentioned below will also appear on vehicles of the other earlier batches. 
- M2 .50 cal MG mounted on the main gun mantlet (as seen on M-48, M-60 and M-109 etc.). 
- M1919 .30 cal MG on a scissors mount on the commanders cupola (as on the Urdan cupola of the M-48/M-60).
- a large bin on the upper rear hull.
- a 60mm mortar located between the commanders and loaders hatch.
- infrared periscopes on drivers, co-drivers and commanders hatches.
- infrared projector on hull front.

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This picture shows the turret top of a batch 4 M-51. Note the attachments for the 60mm mortar between the commanders and loaders hatch.  This pictures shows the infrared projector of the late batches of the M-51. This is also seen on Chilean M-51s. This book shall henceforth be known as "the book" to all IDF Sherman fans. See recommendation below.
Thomas Gannon: Israeli Sherman, Darlington Productions, 2000. (Advice from G*d, BUY this book - not only is it good, I also contributed pictures to it :-)

John Myezka: Israeli Military Vehicles 1948-1998, 1998. 

Verlinden Warmachines no. 4: Israeli M4 Sherman and derivatives, 1990.

Some other pictures of the M-51, at my website.

Available kits:
Academy M-51, kit no. 1373

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DML/Dragon M-51, kit no. ????

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Available extra parts:
ABER M-50 detail etch parts, set no. 35-034.
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Eduard M-51 detail etch parts for the Academy kit, set no. 35-182
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Accurate Armour, kit no. A41, detail parts for the M-51, aimed at the Dragon kit. Outstanding product, same recommendation as the Gannon book, BUY it!

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To see more, click here
The kit gives all the parts needed by the modeler to build a M-51 of all 4 batches as mentioned above. The quality is very good, this is really a kit not to be missed by the IDF M-51 fan.

Elefant: I'm aware Elefant is considering doing some update kits for the M-50 and the M-51, to see more on their web-site
Reviews of M-51 related kits: Track-Link DML M-51 kit
Track-Link Accurate Armour M-51 update kit 

 Comments, questions? You're welcome to write me at

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