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US Army M4A3 (17 pdr) Firefly

Hobby Boss, Tamiya & Scratch, 1/48 scale

by Steven J. Zaloga


The US Army considered a British offer to convert some Shermans to the 17 pdr. "Firefly" in the summer and autumn of 1944, but gave up the project for a variety of reasons.

Following the Battle of the Bulge and the continuing complaints of the poor anti-tank performance of the 75mm gun, the plan was revived. A total of 80 M4 and M4A3 tanks were converted in the UK and shipped to the ETO in April-May 1945, with 40 each allotted to US First and Ninth Armies.

Although there is a substantial amount of documentation on the conversion program, no photos of these tanks are known to exist. There was one photo on the cover of AFV News many years ago of a tank yard in England with a few converted M4 with composite hulls, but these were part of a batch of about 20 that were still in the pipeline when the US cancellation order was issued and they were turned over to the British Army even though built to US specs.

There is no information if any of these Fireflies were issued to US units in the ETO after arrival from the UK.


This modeling project is part of several 76mm Shermans I have recently completed for a forthcoming Osprey book which will follow my new "Modelling the US Army M4 (75mm) Sherman Medium Tank" which came out from Osprey in November 2006. Volume 2 will cover US 76mm tanks and will come out in late 2007.


This conversion project was an attempt to recreate the appearance of American Fireflies, or at least one of the configurations. I chose to convert a M4A3 with HVSS as this type was the most dissimilar to British Fireflies. About 550 M4A3 (75mm) were built with HVSS, and several of these were converted as part of the US 17 pdr program. The basic kit is the Hobby Boss M4A3E8.

The new 1/48 scale Hobby Boss Sherman kits are a major disappointment. They suffer from some significant dimensional and detail problems, and also have a fair share of assembly problems. This was basically a "lipstick on a pig" project: cosmetic improvements without tacking dimensional problems such as the engine deck and hull shape issues.

I decided to tackle the M4A3 as it is one of the better Hobby Boss Shermans. Before starting this project, I had already converted another Hobby Boss M4A3 (75mm) into one of the rare expedient 76mm versions modified in the ETO by local Ordnance units in February 1945. In the process, I had corrected some of the dimensional problems of the Hobby Boss high bustle 75mm turret such as the small loader's hatch, shape problems on the right side of the turret and various others glitches. Rather than repeat this process, I made a casting of the first turret and made a resin copy for the Firefly conversion.



Many of the Firefly bits on this model came from the Tamiya 1/48 Firefly. The barrel is from Quarter kit. I decided to cannabalize a Tamiya Pershing to obtain a decent commander's cupola as well as track, tools and the Browning .50 cal machine-gun. Details of the actual conversion were based on US Army documents from NARA describing the conversion program.

Model, Images and Text by Steven J. Zaloga
Page Created 06 December, 2006
Page Last Updated 05 December, 2006