M4A3(75) (small hatches) Sherman production variants
Most of the information on this page is courtesy of Joe DeMarco. Note: some of the information on this page was compiled using a technique informally referred to as "counting heads." It is based on the ongoing study of period documents and photographs, as well as surviving Shermans. Due to the limited nature of available reference sources, some of the information presented here must be considered as "educated guesswork."

First of all, you have to identify the tank as being an M4A3(75) small hatches Sherman tank. Please visit this page to do so.

M4A3(75)s with small hatches (officially, "Tank, Medium, M4A3, 75mm, Dry") were manufactured exclusively by the Ford Motor Company. 1690 units were made from June 1942 to September 1943.
 
There were two Ford M4A3 Production Orders:
 P.O. T-3034: 350 units produced June 1942 thru January 1943 : Serial Number 2655 / USA 3055615 thru SN 3004 / USA 3055964
 P.O. T-3334: 1340 units produced November 1942 thru September 1943 : SN 11460 / USA 3053615 thru SN 12799 / USA 3054954

Ford engine line
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Ford was contracted to manufacture Medium Tanks powered by an in house designed 500 HP V8 engine. Since the engine was new and untested, M4A3s served as training tanks in the US, giving Ford the opportunity to "iron out the bugs." In comparison tests, the Ford GAA engine was found to be superior to the other tank power plants, and in June 1943, it was declared "suitable for overseas supply." It was further decided that production of M4A3s would be reserved for US troops, both at home and abroad. While Ford left the Sherman program in September 1943, it continued to supply engines to Chrysler & Fisher Body for the 1944/45 production of M4A3s and M26s. During WW II, Ford's Lincoln plant produced 26,954 V8 tank engines (above). Most of the M4A3s that served in combat were of the 1944/45 production "large hatch" variety, but period photos and documents show that a small number of Ford built M4A3s fought in the final campaigns in Northwest Europe, as well as on Okinawa.


Ford pilot tank    Ford pilot tank

Ford pilot tank
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The photo on the top left shows the M4A3 pilot, rolled out on May 13, 1942. The M3 bogies were replaced with the M4 type about a week later, although, curiously, the rearmost units were mounted backwards. It's apparent that the first two units were built using M4A2 hulls. Note the odd "bump" on the glacis, a feature of some early Pullman and ALCO M4A2s. The "M4A2 angle" of the upper rear hull plate as seen on Ford #2 in the top right photo, was not as steep on the standard M4A3.
The overhead view shows the non standard engine deck doors of the pilot models. These units appear to be the only Fords that had M34 gun mounts in the initial configuration, along with turret lifting rings mounted in the "high" position.



Ford pilot tank    Ford pilot tank

Ford    Ford pilot tank
Click on the photos for larger size

The four photos above show Ford # 3, the first production unit, accepted August 1942. Note the standard engine deck configuration, and the standard angle of the upper rear hull plate. This tank has the later, typical Ford M34 gun mount configuration, which was replaced by the M34A1 in March, 1943. Ford made its own power trains and claimed to have designed the one piece differential housing, which it used throughout production. On this example, part of the lower glacis "plate" was actually a casting that included the bow mg socket. "Counting heads" evidence suggests that the first 50 to 100 units used variations of this, but by October 1942, Ford settled into a standard pattern that featured a lower glacis of armor plate into which was welded a small bow mg casting. The mg dust cover fitting was most likely retrofitted, as these don't appear to have been factory installed until September, 1942.


Wide hood construction    Narrow hood construction

Only Chrysler (M4A4) and Ford used "wide" drivers' hoods castings on their Shermans. Manufacturers of small hatch M4s and M4A2s made use of "narrow" drivers' hood castings. Note how the "wide" casting included a section of the glacis along with the driver's hood. On M4A3s and M4A4s, possibly because of the use of wide drivers' hoods castings, the antenna bracket was positioned very close to the edge of the glacis, whereas it was mounted further inboard on M4s and M4A2s. The lines in red on the pictures above show the weld patterns of the wide vs. narrow drivers hoods. Left-side photo courtesy of Paul Hannah.


Ford M4A3 hull antenna bracket    Ford M4A3 hull antenna bracket

The hull antenna bracket shown in the left side photo is typical of Ford-built M4A3s made from October, 1942 onward. The bracket shown on the right may have been used on the first 50 to 100 units. Both castings have the same part number - D50112. Our right side photo shows an "outlier" - the earlier casting on a December 1942 production M4A3 (S/N 11550) on display in Vermont. Perhaps it was a misplaced part that was used later when it was found?


M4A3    M4A3

The Direct Vision slots were found to be a ballistic weakness of the Sherman, so the drivers' hoods were redesigned to eliminate them. The hoods were elongated in the front, where an additional periscope was provided. Ford began to replace the old hoods in October 1942, and the transition to the new hoods was completed a month later. In general, the introduction of changes was "with obsolescence." As the new parts began to enter production, the manufacturer continued to use the old parts until the supply was exhausted. Left-side photo courtesy of Kurt Laughlin.


M4A3    M4A3

At the start of production, Ford M4A3s were equipped with "padded" hull lifting rings as seen above. They transitioned to the "final" type of lifting ring in January 1943. A few surviving examples built during the transition period have been noted to have the padded lifting rings on the front and the final types on the rear, or vice versa.


M4A3    M4A3

This is the "final" and most common type of Sherman lifting ring casting. It was installed on Ford M4A3s produced from January 1943 (SNs around 11620-11680) until the end of the production.


M4A3    M4A3

Ford M4A3s have grouser compartments with oval cover plates (circled in red). Overheating within the engine compartment was not an issue on M4A2s and M4A3s, so that they did not require the use of air scoops as did the M4, M4A1 and M4A4. While large hatch, 47 degree hull M4A2s continued to provide access to the grouser compartments, late production M4A3s did not. Right side photo courtesy of http://toadmanstankpictures.com/


M4A3    M4A3

The hull ventilator behind the right side of the turret has the asymmetrical bolt pattern typical of all welded hull Shermans with the exception of Pressed Steel Car M4s. Cast hull Shermans and PSC M4s used ventilators with symmetrical bolt patterns. The right side photo shows the armored fuel cap covers, with the locking pins intact. On many surviving tanks, the caps and/or locking pins are missing.


M4A3

Ford used a cast piece throughout for its headlamp sockets. On Shermans, headlamp plug holders were initially mounted parallel to the glacis. Our research indicates that Ford repositioned them to the "final," vertical position in November, 1942. Most likely this was done to keep the plugs from falling out of the holders. "Product Correction Reports" were submitted by units as they trained. PCRs often resulted in change orders, such as..."The present guard on all M4 welded hull tanks is being moved back to protect the taillight. Starting with Ford Motor Company tank Serial No. 11525, the guard will be properly placed." In the photos of 3055617 shown earlier, one can see that the initial position of the guard did not completely encompass the taillight. Photo Mark Corbett.


M4A3    M4A3

The side armor plates on Ford M4A3s had beveled top edges. On most Shermans, including all of the 47 degree welded hulls,  the top edges were not beveled. Note also that Ford did not provide engine deck door "stops" (circled in red), while they were standard on large hatch M4A3s.


M4A3    M4A3

M4A3

The lower rear hull configuration of Ford M4A3s and the later models is similar, with a single engine access door bracketed by a pair of heavy exhaust stacks. However, Ford used a rounded casting to join the lower rear hull plate to the belly plate.  Note the "GAD" caster's logo in the left side photo (circled in red) and a close up below.


M4A3    M4A3    M4A3

Ford had its own steel production facilities at its massive Rouge River complex. It made its own armor plate, as well as many of the cast parts for its Shermans. It also supplied these components to other manufacturers. Ford amor plate can be identified by a simple "F" stamping (above left). For some reason, Ford used "GAD" for its caster's logo rather than "Ford."
Note how the "GAD" bow MG casting is welded into the armor plate, the standard Ford configuration by October, 1942.


M4A3   
M4A3

Ford made its own power trains, which had one piece differential housings. They transitioned from the E4186 to the later, sharp nosed E8543 diff housing around August 1943. The above shows the most common type seen on Ford M4A3s. Note the cast in steps. It was found that the steps interfered with the working of the quick release towing shackles (above right) that had been introduced with the new diff. Consequently the cast steps were eliminated, and replaced with welded on steps. It would appear that only 10 or 20 of the diffs with welded on steps were installed before production ended at Ford. Left side photo courtesy of Alf Adams.


Ford sprocket

Ford made its own drive sprockets, which appear to have been used exclusively by Ford in production. They are "dimpled," which gives them an almost artistic appearance compared with other types of sprockets. Of course a high wear item such as this often required replacement, so that Ford sprockets can be seen on other Sherman models, and Ford M4A3s can be seen with other sprocket types.


M4A3    M4A3

Ford's main supplier of turret castings was General Steel. Note the very distinctive "G inside a shield" caster's logo. A lot of their turrets have dates on them, and from recording such data, we know that GS began to cast D50878 turrets without pistol ports in May, 1943. These found their way on to the assembly lines a month later. Ford used them to the end of production. This was a "with obsolecence" change, but with the proviso that the remaining supply of turrets with pistol ports have them welded shut (right side photo). See this page for more info about 75mm turrets. Left side photo courtesy of Paul and Lorén Hannah.


M4A3    M4A3

The photos above show the "as built" Ford M4A3 engine deck configuration. The forward section held armored filler covers for the left and right vertical fuel tanks, as well as a middle cover for the engine coolant expansion tank. The edges of the forward panel were built up with armor plates to protect the filler caps from bullet splash. A three piece splash guard was also positioned in front of the housing for the fire extinguisher pulls. The photos above are of S/N 12390 at the Saumur Tank Museum. By its appearance, the authors suspect that this M4A3 was one of the few Fords shipped to Europe during WW II, so may have a combat history.


M4A3    M4A3

The engine deck doors were extremely heavy. They included a "chute" on the underside that contained or directed any debris that came through the grating away from the engine (on the photos above, the door is shown upside down, so the "chute" is on the top). In November 1942, a request for a fix was submitted to the Manufacturing Branch of the Tank-Automotive Center. It was rejected... "It is thought that any mechanical assistance to facilitate door opening would only result in much complication, interference with cooling, and reduced accessibility to motor. Two men can easily raise and close these doors where on previous tank models a crane was required." Left side photo courtesy of Chris Hughes.


M4A3

Because most served as training vehicles in the US during WW II, Ford M4A3s have survived in greater numbers than other 1942-43 production Shermans (about 80 units). The M4A3s in the photo above appear to be "as built," which was usually the case with Shermans in the US. The "padded" hull lifting rings combined with the vertical headlamp plug holders, suggest a production date between November 1942 and January 1943. There was a critical shortage of rubber at the time, and Ford was contracted to produce the particular type of "three bar cleat" steel tracks that can be seen on these tanks. The above Signal Corps photo is part of a color series unfortunately captioned "desert maneuvers, USA, 1944." The fall foliage seems inappropriate for the desert, as does the year. Tracing their movements, we think it is more likely that this series shows units of the 10th and 81st Tank Battalions, 5th Armored Division at Pine Camp, New York in the Fall of 1943.


M4A3
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Many surviving Ford M4A3s show evidence of having been remanufactured once during WW II, and again in the early 1950s. The three Tank Depots and Montreal Locomotive remanufactured 681 M4A3s from August 1944 through April 1945. Most of these would not have been available for overseas shipment because of their late date of production. The above photos shows a trio of remanufactured M4A3s at Ford's Richmond Tank Depot in Fall 1944. These reflect the appearance of the few small hatch M4A3s seen overseas in period photos in 1945. Note how the sandshields were modified to accomodate extended end connectors. Only the leftmost tank has the late, sharp nosed differential housing and a gun travel lock. "Counting heads" evidence suggest that the late diff, gun travel lock and full suite of applique armor began to be factory installed at Ford at roughly the same time - August 1943. Thus, approximately the last 250 units would have been built with these features. The other two tanks probably required more modification work on the part of the remanufacturer. The absence of gun travel locks most likely indicates that RTD was not able to obtain them for the reman program. The absence of mg dust cover fittings is just curious. Unlike other Shermans, Ford continued to position the siren on the left front fender throughout production.


M4A3


"A tank of 1st Division, US First Army, destroyed on outskirts of Rottbitze, Germany...March 20, 1945." USA 3054295 (March, 1943 production) is thought to have belonged to the 745th Tank Battalion, since they were attached to the 1st Infantry Divion at the time. The installation of sand shields at factory or depot seems to have been a waste, since it is obvious they were not popular with combat troops. Here one can see how they were extended out from the hull to accomodate the extended end connectors. The blanket roll rack and the mg stowage on the turret bustle would have been other items added during remanufacture. The bogie wheels may have been replaced during remanufacture, but period photos suggest that Ford used either the "pressed spoke" type seen here, or welded spoke wheels during production. The sheet metal exhaust deflector was obviously flimsy, and was replaced with an armored type in early 1945, too late for much overseas service during WW II.


M4A3    M4A3
Click on the picture for larger size                                                                                                          

The disposition of Ford built M4A3s in the postwar years is a little murky. It is assumed that most were sealed and placed in storage lots throughout the US, such as Letterkenny Arsenal (above left). In 1946, they were declared "not acceptable" to Army Ground Forces, but the Government went back and forth for several years trying to decide if they should be retained or scrapped. OCM Item 32443, dated Oct. 28, 1948, approved obsoletion - "Scrap for Parts (Ford Engine)." It stated that there were 1413 units in the US inventory, including 120 in use by the National Guard. However, with the outbreak of the Korean War, OCM 33280 dated May 25 1950 reclassified them from "Obsolete to Limited Standard." The 1181 remaining units were to be retained for possible "emergency conversion." In January 1951, Bowen McLaughlin York received a contract to remanufacture 1493 M4A3(75) and M4A3E2(75)s. The "heavy door" problem was addressed this time, as the order included a provision "for installation of torsion bars on engine doors" (above right). Evidence on a few surviving examples indicates that Brown and Root of Houston also rebuilt some Ford units. One B & R dataplate for Serial Number 11755 is stamped 6/14/52. Right side photo courtesy of Gerry Chapek via http://toadmanstankpictures.com/


M4A3    M4A3
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Some of the 1950s remanufactured Fords were provided as Military Assistance, to Peru, for instance. Some were placed back into US Army service. Quite a few appeared in war movies of the 1950s. USA 3054468 above, was in "The Tanks Are Coming" filmed at Ft Knox in 1951. Note that this tank has the E9 modification, but lacks the extended end connectors that were to be added to each side of the tracks. The authors think that the E9 mod, as well as the M34 rotor shield mod (above right) seen on some surviving examples, were done during an earlier remanufacture in 1945 at Montreal Locomotive Works.


M4A3    M4A3

Most Shermans, including the Fords, were declared obsolete in 1956. Some were used as range targets, some were provided as tank monuments, but most were sold off as scrap. Popular Mechanics reported that, in 1958, a Chicago steel dealer, bought 536 Shermans from Rock Island Arsenal for $305,388.00. That is about what a single, fully restored Sherman might fetch today. It is thought that the M4A3E9 in Akron, Ohio (right) might have come from the RIA lot.
 
M4A3    M4A3

The authors would gladly receive reports from readers who encounter any Ford M4A3s. Fords are perhaps the easiest Shermans on which to find the tank serial number. It was stamped on "the four corners of the upper hull." It can be found just below both of the hull lifting rings on the front, and in the areas indicated by the red circles in the rear.


   M4A3    M4A3
 
We don't have the opportunity to get inside many Shermans, so dataplate information would be particularly welcome. An original dataplate will include the name of the manufacturer. These were often replaced with new plates during remanufacture. Since most surviving examples were rebuilt, we have yet to come across an original Ford dataplate. Did Ford use its great stylized company logo on the original plate? Photos, Steve Tyliszczak.

M4A3

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