After building a couple of aircraft kits, I’m really looking forward to a small-scale AFV. The nice thing about these is that they generally involve a fairly low parts count and require no masking during painting. Let me just repeat that – NO MASKING! That’s a joyful thing if you struggle with masking the way that I do.
The kit I have chosen is the Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38 (t), a successful late-war German tank destroyer based on the chassis, engine and running gear of an improved version of the Panzer 38(t). To me at least, the Hetzer is a great looking AFV – squat, angular and purposeful. Which makes me wonder if something is wrong with the box art for this kit. In a previous life, I was a technical illustrator and I can’t help but think that something isn’t quite right with the perspective in this image – it makes the Hetzer look as if it tapers to the rear, which isn’t correct. Let’s hope that the plastic is closer to the original…
This Italeri Hetzer was released in 2014, but don’t be fooled – this is a re-box of an original Esci kit first released in 1974. Can a kit that’s getting on for 50 years old be any good? Let’s take a look, but first, we’ll have a brief look at the history of the Jagdpanzer 38 (t).
The first thing to note about this AFV is that it was never officially known as the Hetzer during the war. That’s one of those German words that doesn’t really have a direct English equivalent. It means something like Hunter, but also Chaser and possibly Baiter. It does seem that this vehicle may have been known unofficially as Hetzer by some of its crews, but officially, it was the Jagdpanzer 38 (t), with the “t” standing for tschechisch (Czech). It was only after the end of the war that this AFV became universally known as the Hetzer.
A PzKpfw 38(t) Ausf. A in German service during the invasion of Poland in 1939.
After the occupation of Czechesolakia in 1938, Nazi Germany inherited that country’s considerable arms industry including the ability to manufacture tanks. The existing Czech LT vz. 38 light tank was adopted for German service as the PzKpfw 38(t) and these tanks served with German units during the invasion of Poland and subsequent operations in western Europe. In those early campaigns, this tank proved useful, but after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and when faced with Russian T-34s and KV-1s, the PzKpfw 38(t) was completely outclassed and largely retired from front-line service.
A PzKpfw 38(t) neue Ausführung prototype. Externally, the main difference in the running gear from the previous version are larger roadwheels and a single return roller.
The chassis, engine and running gear from the PzKpfw 38(t) were used as the basis for the successful Marder III tank destroyer and the Hummel self-propelled gun, but both featured open fighting compartments and both were relatively tall, making them easy targets. The PzKpfw 38(t) was also redesigned with a new engine and running gear as the neue Ausführung (NA – new model), a light reconnaissance tank, but this was never produced in quantity.
A very early Hetzer without side armour. The armoured superstructure is simply built on top of the PzKpfw 38(t) NA chassis.
However, in late 1943, production of the StuG III was severely disrupted by Allied bombing. Germany urgently needed a new tank destroyer. The PzKpfw 38(t) NA chassis, running gear and engine were mated with a sloped, armoured superstructure housing a crew of four and armed with a 75mm Pak 39 L/48 main gun and a remotely operated 7.92mm M.G.34 machine gun on the hull top. The new model was given the designation Jagdpanzer 38 (t) and rushed into production.
A production Jagdpanzer 38 (t) in ambush camouflage.
Although the interior was cramped, the new AFV was lightweight (16 tons), low (under 7 feet tall) and ideal for ambush tactics. The lightly armoured Hetzer was never intended to slug it out with enemy tanks, but to fire from concealment (and a hit from its main gun could disable or destroy most enemy tanks) and then withdraw to safety. The Hetzer proved to be an effective and low-cost tank destroyer and almost 3,000 were manufactured before the war ended. These AFVs were used on both Eastern and Western fronts and in Italy and remained in German service up to the end of the war. The Swiss army also used a modified version of this tank destroyer, identified as the G13. The last of the Swiss G13s were finally retired in 1970.
What’s in the Box?
Inside the side-opening box you’ll find just three sprues, two moulded in brown plastic and one (for the link-and-length tracks) in grey/silver. This kit depicts a late model Hetzer with a wider mantlet, a vertical exhaust at the rear and a hood over the driver’s visor.
Surface detail looks reasonable, but this really is a tiny AFV – the hull here is just 2½” long.
Detail on most parts is adequate (though there is some flash), and probably what you’d expect from a 1970s kit. No slide moulding is used but the main gun is provided with a separate muzzle so at least you won’t have to drill out the barrel. Mind you, previous experience suggests that you may struggle to get an undetectable join between barrel and muzzle!
Two crew figures are provided, but neither looks particularly impressive.
This kit also betrays its age in the way in which parts are attached to the sprues. Getting these sprockets off while leaving something resembling a full set of teeth will be a challenge!
The link-and-length tracks look adequately detailed and fairly accurate but man, those individual links are tiny! At least the links are joined to the sprue at their edges, which should make joining them together simpler and more accurate.
Decals are provided for Hetzers from four units, including a captured Hetzer used by Polish insurgents during the Warsaw uprising in 1944. It’s not obvious from the image below, but the decals aren’t, quite, printed in-register, which is disappointing.
Four colour schemes are suggested, all using a standard base of dunklegelb (dark yellow) overlaid with a camo scheme of olive green and dark brown. Three of these schemes are depicted on the back of the box in colour.
The fourth scheme is shown in the instructions in black and white.
The instructions themselves seem straightforward and include a brief history of the Hetzer.
Would You Want One?
Probably. Considering how old this kit is, detail seems pretty reasonable. Look, this just isn’t up to the standard of more modern kits, but it isn’t terrible either and it does have things like hatches and tools moulded as separate parts. The biggest surprise here is the tracks. I had expected nasty, 70s rubber-band style tracks (and I know that some versions of the original Esci kit were provided with rather nasty vinyl tracks) but instead, you get here what look like decent link-and-length tracks. Mind you, those individual links are very small so some care will be needed to avoid wonky tracks.
This certainly isn’t perfect – things like grab-handles are moulded integrally with the hull and those side armour plates look way too thick but overall, there is nothing in the box that should particularly make you wince. It’s said that the hull here is a little narrow, and that may be true, but overall, the proportions look plausible to me. And if you don’t fancy this one, I’m afraid there just aren’t many alternatives in 1/72. Ukrainian manufacturer UniModels (UM) released a series of Hetzer kits starting in 2004. These include both early and late variants and all versions have link-and-length tracks and a PE fret that includes the side armour. Overall, the UM Hetzer kits seem to be accurate and nicely done.
Czech manufacturer Attack Hobby released a 1/72 Hetzer in 1998 and offer several variants including early and late versions. These appear to be accurate and include link-and-length tracks though they do not appear to be easy to find. Revell and Hasegawa did offer 1/72 Hetzers in the 1970s and 1980s though, like this Italeri offering, these were just re-boxes of the original Esci kit. Oddly, it doesn’t seem that Dragon, Trumpeter or any other major kit manufacturers have covered the Hetzer in recent small-scale kits, though there are plenty of versions available in 1/48 and 1/35.
One thought on “Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) In-Box Review and History”
Its a great little tank! I have made a UM kir of the hetzer which was excellent but interested to see how you go with this vintage one!