Tag Archives: 1/72

Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) Build Review

I start with lower hull construction, and it isn’t too tricky, though you do have to be careful to get the sloped sides at the right angle – checking the fit with the upper hull is a good idea. There is a small gap where the front armour plate attaches to the lower hull, but this will be filled and won’t be visible on the finished model.

I’m planning to build this by assembling and painting the running gear and lower hull and then adding the tracks before I attach and paint the upper hull, so I start by test-assembling the running gear, and that wasn’t a great deal of fun. Spindles on the suspension assemblies locate into holes in the roads wheels and spindles on the idlers and sprockets locate into holes on the hull. The problem is that all the spindles are a very tight fit in the locating holes, so much so that I was concerned that I’d snap something, so I drilled out the holes.

At that point I discovered that the sprockets, idlers and roadwheels just don’t line up – the roadwheels and idlers are closer to the hull than the sprockets. That’s going to be a major problem when trying to assemble the link-and-length tracks, so I installed plastic-card spacers to move these around 1mm further from the hull. It looks messy here, but hopefully all of this will be hidden by the roadwheels and idlers.

Then, I painted the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets and glued them in place. Normally, I leave the sprockets loose when I’m doing this type of track, but before drilling, they were too tight and now they’re a little loose, so I get everything in place, lined up and painted before I begin work on the tracks. I have decided that I want to model this as a beaten-up and well-used Hetzer finished only in dunklegelb, so no camo colours are added. There are just four fairly large roadwheels per side here, and you’d imagine that getting these, the sprockets and idlers aligned would be simple, but you’d be mistaken. The suspension units on to which the roadwheels fit aren’t perfectly straight and it takes a lot of fiddling on both sides to get running gear that looks even close to straight and aligned. Painting the roadwheel tyres is also a challenge because they are very thin and there isn’t a clearly defined lip between the wheels and tyres. That’s accurate, but it does cause some frustration while painting.

The tracks themselves are fairly standard link-and-length type, and the only issues are the tiny size of the individual links and the fact that there is no positive engagement between links or sections of track – all are simply butt-jointed to the next piece, making it challenging to get straight runs and giving a very fragile end result. I started with assembling and fixing in place the top run of three sections, then I added the nine single links to the sprocket and nine links on the idler (though the instructions say eleven).

Finally, I added the lower run comprising three sections and three individual links. A few spare individual links are provided, which is a good thing because these are fairly brittle and I lost two or three that cracked in half as I was cutting them off the sprue. By the time I had finished, I had just one spare link left over…

It takes way longer than you’d expect to get the running gear and tracks completed, and the finished result is pretty rough – the problem is getting those tiny individual links lined up and with regular spacing. Then, when it’s finally complete, it’s time to start work on the other side…

With both sets of tracks finally done apart from touching-up the paint, it’s time to move on to the rest of construction. I begin with joining the muzzle to the barrel of the main gun. At least that’s bound to be easy, after all, it just involves joining two bits of plastic. Well… The muzzle section seems to be of a slightly larger diameter than the barrel, which means it’s tricky to get it on straight and that sanding and filling is needed to smooth everything out. It was only when I looked closely at the image below that I spotted that there is still a gap on the underside at the join and that the top of the muzzle needs more sanding. I swear that if my eyes were capable of the same resolution as my camera, I’d probably just pack in model building altogether..

After more filling sanding and squinting, I get something approaching a barrel of uniform diameter and install it and the mantlet in the upper hull.

Then I join the upper and lower hull. Happily, fit is pretty good and only a tiny amount of filler is required on the join of the front and rear hull plates.

As you can see, I’m building this with hatches closed, mainly because I don’t care for the supplied crew figures. I add most of the bits and pieces to the upper and rear hull, leaving off the exhaust, machine gun, tools and spare track links which will be painted separately and added later. The side armour plates are rather thick, and this might look better with these replaced by thinner parts, but I want to see how this will look built out of the box so I leave them as they are.

It’s time to begin painting the hull. First it gets a coat of Vallejo Dark Yellow, then some dry-brushed highlights and areas of paint chipping are added.

Then I add the decals. Given that there are just three, it doesn’t take long. I have also added the spare track links, exhaust, shovel and machine gun. I also added one part that isn’t provided here – the radio antenna base. A mounting hole is provided on the right rear hull in the correct place, just above the blade of the shovel and this part is shown on the box art and on the colour scheme views, but for some reason, it isn’t included in the kit. The instructions simply suggest placing a “stripped sprue” antenna into the hole in the hull. Instead, I add an antenna base from the spares box.

Next I add a brown oil wash to dirty everything up and deepen shadows and then add a stretched sprue antenna, that’s this tiny Hetzer done.

After Action Report

This isn’t a straightforward kit to recommend. There are certainly a number of problems. The running gear and tracks are really, really fiddly to do, fit isn’t always great and there are things missing including the radio antenna base and ammunition drums for the MG 34. The side armour is too thick, the shovel handle is too fat, the decals are printed slightly out of register and getting the muzzle on to the main gun barrel without a visible join takes way more time and effort than you’d expect.

But, there’s the thing: despite these issues, this does build up into a pretty reasonable small-scale representation of the Hetzer. It captures perfectly the squat, purposeful look of the original and, if you don’t look too closely, the finished tracks look OK and probably better than rubber-band style tracks. The main surprise here is just how tiny the completed kit is. Here it is next to a 1/72 Jagdpanther and as you can see, it’s barely as tall as the engine deck on the Jagdpanther!.

If you’re willing to put in the effort and to accept the limitations of a 1974 kit, you may enjoy this a great deal and you should end up with a reasonable representation of the Hetzer in 1/72. Just make sure you adopt the correct Zen mindset before tackling those tracks!

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Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) In-Box Review and History

Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) In-Box Review and History

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.

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Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer (7057) Build Review

Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) Build Review

I start with the cockpit, and that’s a little different, mainly because the Typhoon cockpit didn’t have a cockpit floor. What you have here is a combination of detail inside the fuselage halves, the seat and rear armour plate section, the instrument panel, footboards, control stick and rudder pedals on the floor above the upper side of the wheel wells.

I paint everything in something resembling RAF interior green (a sort of green-grey), add a wash in dark green oil and some masking tape harness straps and the instrument panel decal. I haven’t spent a great deal of time on the cockpit because the opening in the fuselage is very small and at this scale, you will be able to see very little of the interior on the finished model.

 I next join the fuselage halves, being careful to get all the internal parts aligned. Fit is good and no filler is needed.

I then add the lower wings and drill these out to accept the rocket rails. Again, fit is fine and no filler is needed.

However, a quick dry fit of the upper wings shows that there are pronounced gaps at the wing  roots.

I add the cannon and bays (though I have decided to show these closed) and the tailplanes and rudder. There  are also gaps where the tailplanes meet the vertical stabiliser.

Then I add the upper wings and use some filler to fill the gaps at the wing roots and on the tailplanes. I also add the rocket rails at this stage.

That’s main construction of this Typhoon pretty much done, and there really aren’t any major problems – everything goes together nicely and reasonably accurately. Now it’s time to begin painting. I start with Vallejo Light Sea Grey for the underside. And I have to say that I really appreciate the use of light grey plastic here – it makes painting the light underside colour much less of a chore than it might have been if this was moulded in a darker plastic. It only takes a couple of thin coats to get a reasonable finish. You’ll also see that I have painted the wheel-wells in interior green. I’m not certain this is correct – some sources suggest that they should be aluminium, but I don’t think green would have been impossible and I like the contrast between the light grey and dark green.

Then, I mask that off and add the camo scheme of Ocean Grey and Dark Green on the upper surfaces.

Next, decals. I have decided to go for an aircraft in the markings of 245 Squadron, mainly because every other build review I have seen of this kit has used the markings for 121 Wing which include invasion stripes and I’d like to try something different. I was concerned about fitting the chequered band on the tail, which comes in four pieces, but it fits perfectly and with no problems. Almost all of the other decals, including the shark’s teeth also fit nicely and easily. All the decals are dense but not too thick. The only real problem was the four yellow strips that go on the leading edges of the wings. I found these fiendishly, horribly difficult to bend over the leading edges while keeping them lined up, despite copious use of decal softener. I did finally get them on, but it certainly wasn’t fun and the process involved a measure of cat-startling.

Then, I add the gear, gear doors, retractable pilot step and rockets.

Then, the whole thing gets a coat of matt varnish followed by a wash in dark grey oil to bring out the panel lines. This works well where you have deeply engraved panel lines like these and it’s particularly noticeable on the light grey undersides.

And finally, the canopy, windscreen, spinner and propellor are added. The windscreen fits well into the socket in the fuselage and the framing on this and the canopy are simple, so I freehand painted all the framing. On reflection, the blue that I used for the spinner and the inside of the outer gear doors is perhaps a little dark (it should be a closer match for the blue on the chequered tail band), but I’m not going to re-do it at this stage so I’ll just have to live with it.  And that’s it finished.

After Action Report

Like most new-tool Airfix kits, this was an entirely straightforward build. Fit is generally pretty good, construction was simple and filler was only needed at the wing roots and where the horizontal stabilisers join the tail. In terms of construction there is nothing here that would challenge even an inexperienced kit-builder and the finished result looks to me to be a pretty good small-scale representation of the chunky Typhoon. And for what it’s worth, I don’t feel that the panel lines look too obtrusive on the finished model.

If I was being picky, I’d mention that the main gear legs are a little flimsy and aren’t an especially good fit in the sockets in the gear bays – you’ll want to let these set completely before risking standing the model upright. And I really didn’t enjoy applying those yellow leading edge decals, but when they’re on, they look OK and they do save some awkward masking which has to be a good thing.

Given the small cockpit opening in the fuselage, you can really see very little of the interior, so I’m not certain it’s worth spending a great deal of time on adding detail there. I do appreciate having the option of showing the cannon bay doors on the upper wings open, though I chose not to do that. Overall, and apart from those irritating leading-edge decals, this was a stress-free and enjoyable build. If you want to model a 1/72 Typhoon, I feel that you could do a lot worse than this inexpensive Airix offering.

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Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) In-Box Review and History

I recall building an Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon when I was a kid (the original Airfix Typhoon was released the same year that I was, 1959!). I thought it was pretty good at the time and that kit was still being produced all the way up to 2009 but in 2013 Airfix released a new-tool kit of the same aircraft. The version I’m reviewing here is a re-box released in 2019.

The release of this kit followed the buy-out of Airfix by Hornby Hobbies, and it was created, like most of the other new kits during that period, in India. The new kits were certainly a long way ahead of the originals in terms of accuracy, fit and detail, but some modellers didn’t care for what they saw as over-emphasised surface detail, particularly heavily engraved panel lines.

I brush paint all my kits and I have just completed an Eduard kit that features exquisitely subtle surface detail (you’ll find a link at the end of this review). That was a little frustrating, because my brush-painting covered up some of that detail. So, I’m keen to try one of these Airfix new-tool kits to find out whether it really does feature “trenches,” or if this approach might actually work better for those of us using a hairy stick to apply paint. But before we take a look at the kit, let’s take a brief look at the history of the “Tiffy.”  Or as it was in the early days, the “Terrible Tiffy…”  


Some aircraft are clearly wonderful from the moment the first prototype leaves the ground. Some have such dreadful flaws that you have to wonder how they ever remained in service. The Hawker Typhoon belongs firmly in the latter category. It was designed in the late 1930s as a replacement for the Hawker Hurricane. The new fighter was intended to have superior performance in every respect, but when the first prototypes were tested, while they proved to have great speed at low level,  performance at higher altitude was disappointing.

Early Typhoons had a complex canopy with “car door” access. The first versions also had a solid rear fuselage behind the cockpit which reduced rearward visibility. This image shows the second version of the canopy, with a glazed rear section. Early versions also had a three-blade propellor, changed in later models to a four-blade design.

At the heart of the Typhoon was the Napier Sabre, a new water-cooled engine with 24 cylinders arranged in an “H” pattern. This was found to be capable of producing almost 2,000 hp compared to around 1,100 hp from the Merlin used in the Hurricane. The engines used in the prototypes performed well, but they were hand-built by Napier craftsmen. Mass produced examples had a range of problems including faulty sleeve vales and inaccurately cast components.

Napier Sabre engine in a Typhoon. Lots of power but lots of problems…

When operational RAF squadrons received Typhoons for the first time in September 1941, these engines proved catastrophically unreliable, with an average of one aircraft being lost on every single mission not to enemy action but to engine fires and failures. The engine also made the Typhoon cockpit stiflingly hot whatever the weather and leaking exhausts let fumes into the cockpit – some unexplained early losses were probably due to pilots being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from the exhaust. It became mandatory for Typhoon pilots to use oxygen at all times as soon as the engine was started.

The Typhoon Ia was armed with 12 machine guns in the wings, but relatively few were built. This aircraft has the first version of the canopy with solid fuselage behind.

Engine failures weren’t always a problem because in cold weather the Sabre simply wouldn’t start. In winter, mechanics had to stay up all night, starting the engine every two hours to ensure that it would fire-up in the morning, and in a failed attempt to start, it was common for unburned fuel in the air intake to catch fire. Even if a pilot did get a Typhoon into the air and avoided engine fire, failure or asphyxiation, there were other major worries.

The more common Typhoon Ib was armed with four 20mm cannon in the wings.

A number of Typhoons suffered from catastrophic structural failure in flight, often involving the complete tail section breaking away. At low level, this was invariably fatal for the pilot. In one early mission, a flight of Typhoons dived on a flight of Fw 190s over France. Three of the German aircraft were badly damaged but two of the Typhoons suffered structural failures and crashed. It is believed that during its first year of service, the Typhoon may have accounted for the loss of more RAF pilots than enemy personnel and it was very nearly withdrawn from service.

Later versions of the Mk Ib featured the “clear-view” canopy, one of the first bubble canopies fitted to any Allied aircraft in World War Two.

Instead, gradually, the Typhoon was improved. Better quality control in engine manufacturing made the Sabre more reliable. A redesign of the elevator trim tabs and strengthening of the rear fuselage reduced (but never completely eliminated) the structural problems. A new bubble canopy gave outstanding situational awareness. The Mk Ib, armed with four 20mm cannon (there was also a Mk Ia, armed with 12 machine guns, but it was produced only in limited numbers) was also modified to carry eight 3-inch rockets or two, 1,000lb bombs, and finally the Typhoon found its niche as a superlative ground-attack aircraft.  

The subject of this kit, a Typhoon Ib of 245 Squadron RAF with bubble canopy and four-blade propellor. Even while carrying rockets or bombs, the Typhoon was capable of over 400mph at low level!

Over 3,000 Typhoons were produced in total and these aircraft remained in service with the RAF until the end of the war. There were plans for an improved Mk II, but this proved to be so different that instead it became the excellent Hawker Tempest, introduced into RAF service in early 1944.

What’s in the Box?

This kit depicts a late model Typhoon Ib with bubble canopy, four-blade propellor and strengthened rear fuselage. The top-opening box contains four sprues moulded in light grey plastic, one clear sprue, decals and instructions.

The mouldings look sharp, clean (there isn’t much flash at all) and reasonably detailed, though perhaps the detail isn’t as fine as you’ll find on some kits – “chunky” is the word that springs to mind and the connections to the sprues look very thick in places. Underwing racks and eight 3-inch rockets are provided as well as a pair of 1,000lb bombs, but you’ll have to drill out mounting holes if you want to use these. At least that gives the option of modelling this Typhoon “clean” without the need to fill mounting holes. But what about the surface detail, something that I have seen criticized in other reviews?

All I can say is that to me, it looks perfectly acceptable. Is it overdone? Perhaps a little. But then, I brush paint my kits, and that always involves the filling-in of surface detail to a degree. So, I’m happy to see fairly deep panel lines. If you use an air brush, I suppose you may feel differently. Incidentally, those rhomboidal plates just ahead of the horizontal stabilizer mounting on the image above are the strengthening fishplates added to the Typhoon to stop the tail separating in-flight at the transport joint.

Internal detail is provided for the 20mm cannon and bays and there are separate armament bay doors which can be shown open though if you decide to use these you’ll have to cut out part of the upper wing mouldings.

Internal cockpit detail looks adequate and includes some detail on the inside of the fuselage halves.

One nice touch is that the mainwheel tyres are moulded with bulges and flat spots to make them look right with the gear down. I assume they’ll also fit in the bays if you choose to show the gear up?

The decal sheet looks fairly comprehensive, though it doesn’t include harness straps. It does include an instrument panel, a few stencil markings, the black anti-slip panels for the top of the wings and the yellow markings for the wing leading edges. It also provides markings for two aircraft: one from 245 Squadron (shown on the box-art) and an aircraft of 121 Wing which includes invasion stripes, though if you don’t fancy these I suppose you can always leave them off to show the aircraft in pre-D-Day markings.

The colour schemes are clear though, as seems standard for newer Airfix kits, the colours noted are only for Humbrol paints.

The instructions use standard Airfix 3-D views and appear to be easy to follow.

Would You Want One?

Looking inside the box, I don’t see anything that should put you off this kit. Considering that this is a fairly low-cost kit, detail looks adequate and all the mouldings look reasonably sharp. To me, the surface detail looks fine, especially given that I’ll be brush-painting which will inevitably fill-in the panel lines. However, if you do fancy something different, there isn’t as much choice in 1/72 as you might expect.

There’s the old Airfix kit (A01027), but trust me, you probably don’t want to spend time on a kit that’s as old as I am! Frog released a couple of versions of the Typhoon Ib in the 1960s, including one with the car door canopy, but even if you can find one, these aren’t great by current standards. Academy released a 1/72 Typhoon Ib in 1998. This models a late Ib with bubble canopy but a three-blade propellor. This kit is OK, but the fuselage shape doesn’t look quite right and it has raised panel-lines which will put many people off. 

Czech manufacturer Brengun released several kits of the Typhoon Ia and Ib in 2013 covering versions with bubble and car door canopies and three and four-blade “proppelers.” These all appear to be outstanding kits in terms of detail and accuracy, if not spelling, and all versions include a small PE fret. Some reviews suggest that these kit are a little tricky to build, they’re not as widely available as the Airfix version and they cost around twice as much. The only other current alternative I’m aware of is a kit by Pavia Models, another Czech manufacturer. This was released in 2003 and it’s a short-run kit that includes plastic, resin and vacuum-form parts. It said to be very accurate and nicely detailed, but it may not be easy to find and if you do locate one, expect to pay anything from two to three times the price of the Airfix kit.

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Airfix 1/72 Hawker Typhoon IB (A02041) Build Review – coming soon

Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), Build Review

Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), Build Review

The build starts, as with most aircraft kits, with the cockpit. This isn’t particularly complex, comprising just eight parts, and I chose to use the flat instrument panel with decals rather than trying to paint the 3-D panel. When assembled, painted and with the decals for harness straps and instruments in place, it looks pretty good.

The fuselage halves join cleanly and with no fit issues. No filler is required, just some gentle work with wet-and-dry paper to smooth the seam.

The engine and cowl also fit together very nicely and again, no filler is needed. The engine isn’t as detailed as you’ll find on some F6F kits, but IMHO, it’s perfectly satisfactory given that it’s mostly hidden by the cowl. A quick dry-fit of the cowl shows that this also fits very nicely indeed on to the fuselage.

I’m leaving off the wings and tailplanes at this point to make painting simpler and to reduce the need for masking. Of course, you can only use this approach where you don’t need filler on the join between wings and fuselage. A quick dry-fit show that the fit of the wings and tailplanes into the sockets in the fuselage is pretty close to perfect. No filler will be needed – you’ll barely need glue here! Top marks Eduard.

However, while dry-fitting the tailplanes, I did notice a something that initially puzzled me. The tailplanes have a series of four circular panels on one side. The instructions show that these should be fitted with the circular panels facing down. But both supplied tailplanes are identical.

So, when you put them in place, they look like this.

That looks wrong and it certainly isn’t what the instructions show. I contacted Eduard support (who, incidentally, answered my questions promptly and were very polite and extremely helpful) who explained that the instructions are wrong but the kit parts are correct – they even provided a wartime image of an F6F that clearly shows those four circular plates only on the top of the left-hand tailplane. With that clarified, I go on to paint the interior of the cowl and intakes in medium grey while the engine cylinders are finished in a darker grey with gunmetal highlights.

I then add the cowl to the fuselage. Fit is very good.

One nice touch is that the exhausts are moulded as part of the fuselage, and these are visible once the cowl is fitted.

I’m now ready to begin painting the three-colour scheme. I have decided to leave off the large under-fuselage fuel tank, as many wartime images show F6F-3s without this tank, and I like the clean look without it. The first challenge is the Ensign White used on the underside of the wings, tailplanes and fuselage. This is a very light grey, virtually an off-white, and the plastic used here is quite dark, so it takes several coats to get an even finish. I’m careful to use very thin coats in order not to fill in all the lovely surface detail. Here it is after three coats…

It finally takes seven coats (seven coats!) to get to a fairly streak-free finish. Look, I like brush painting, but I can’t help but feel that this might be one kit better tackled with an airbrush!

I also paint the undersides of the tailplanes wings, and wheel-bays in Ensign White. I have seen some kits of the F6F-3 with these finished in Interior Green, but my research seems to indicate that when the three-colour camo scheme was used, the gear bays, legs, doors (inside and out) and wheel centres were generally painted in the same Ensign White as the undersides of the wings.    

Next, it’s time to add the band of Intermediate Blue on the fuselage sides, vertical stabilizer and rudder. I purchased Vallejo paint “Azul Americano/Intermediate Blue” 70.903 specifically for this kit. It looked good in colour charts, but when it arrived, it’s a fairly dark grey without even a hint of blue, which is kind of frustrating. So, I have to mix up my own version of USN Intermediate Blue. I mask the edge where this colour adjoins the Ensign White. Wartime images seem to show that this was a soft edge, probably achieved through spraying. However, brush-painting makes this very difficult to achieve, so I have to settle for a hard edge.

Then, I add Sea Blue on the top of the fuselage, wings and tailplanes. And I am cheating a little here. The USN “tri-color scheme” is actually four colours because, while the most of the wings and tailplanes should be glossy Sea Blue, the fuselage and leading edges should be matte Sea Blue. But I’m just going to give the whole thing a coat of matte varnish.

Next, I add the undercarriage and the decals (though I’m afraid I don’t bother with the tiny stencil markings). And as you can see, there’s an odd problem – the Intermediate Blue paint that I mixed up changes colour to a darker blue in patches round the all decals.

This look pretty awful, but I have no idea what caused it – was it a reaction to the Vallejo Decal Fix, the Decal Softener or to the decals themselves? Whatever, some careful touching up is required to get to this point.

That just leaves the propellor, canopy, windscreen and radio mast to add. I freehand paint the canopy and windscreen framing, and it doesn’t look too bad – certainly no worse than I get when masking.

With those parts in place, it all gets a light wash of grey oil paint to highlight the surface detail. While that’s usually effective in highlighting panel lines, here the many coats of paint have filled these in to such an extent that they don’t really show much at all. But that’s it done!

After-Action Report

The construction of this kit was an absolute pleasure. Fit is close to perfect and no filler was required at all. And the completed model captures perfectly the squat, purposeful look of the F6F. This really is a cracking little kit and I certainly didn’t feel that a lack of PE parts from the Profipack Edition made it notably worse (though I would like to try the canopy masks). The decals are sharp, in-register and nicely dense and you do have the option to add all those stencil markings if you choose.

For a number of reasons, I didn’t enjoy painting this kit at all. Painting the undersides in Ensign White took far too many coats to get a consistent finish, and every coat covered up a little more of that lovely, subtle surface detail. The Vallejo Intermediate Blue that I bought specifically for this kit turned out to look nothing like the colour I was expecting, and the problems with the decals reacting with my mix for this colour required yet more coats, covering up even more surface detail.

Given my experience here, I’d have to say that this is one kit that might benefit from painting with an airbrush rather than a hairy stick. I don’t have an airbrush so I did my best with brush painting and I’m not too unhappy with the end result, though I can’t help feel that with better painting, you could end up with a superb result from what is an outstanding kit.  Overall, I’d heartily recommend this to anyone who fancies building a small-scale F6F and, for what it’s worth, I think that this Weekend Edition is a great kit in itself for very little cash. Now, if only Eduard would start a range of 1/72 AFVs… 

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Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), In-Box Review and History

Eduard 1/72 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, Weekend Edition (7457), In-Box Review and History

Czech company Eduard began producing kits back in 1995, though they’re probably best-known for their photo-etch and detail add-ons for existing kits. They now offer a range of injection moulded 1/72 aircraft kits covering subjects from World War One and Two as well as post-war jets. Many of their kits come in two editions, Profipack and Weekend.

The Profipack Edition kits include lots of PE parts (often coloured) as well as cockpit masks. The Weekend Edition kits (which are notably cheaper) contain the same injection moulded parts but lack the PE and masks and often have more limited decal options. From the late 1990s, the company switched to using a computer controlled high pressure injection moulding approach called LTM which ensures that their kits have surface detail that’s said to be right up there with the best.

This kit was released in 2011 in both Weekend and Profipack editions (though even if you go for the Weekend Edition, you can still buy the PE and cockpit masks separately). As regular readers will know, I do like a bargain and when I saw the Weekend Edition of this kit on sale for just over €8, well, how could I resist?

But it wasn’t just my natural Scottish parsimony that prompted this purchase (well, not entirely…). I don’t really care for tiny PE parts and the F6F canopy looks pretty simple to paint, so I was very happy to go for this edition just to find out whether Eduard mouldings really are as good as people say. I’ll take a look at the kit in a moment, but first, let’s briefly remind ourselves of the history of the pretty wonderful F6F.


When the United States found itself at war with the Japanese Empire in December 1941, it’s main navy fighter was the Grumman F4F Wildcat. The F4F was pretty good, but it had a major problem: the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. The A6M proved to be a better aircraft than the Americans (or anyone else) had anticipated, and it was clear that US Navy pilots would need something faster, able to climb more quickly and more manouvrable if they were to be able to fight the Zero on equal terms.

F4F-4 Wildcats on Guadalcanal in 1942.

Chance Vought were already working on just such a fighter, the mighty F4U Corsair. But development of the F4U was taking longer than expected due to a number of issues including limited visibility and awkward spin recovery. Grumman were also already working on a successor to the Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat. This was similar to the Wildcat in general appearance, but replaced that aircraft’s narrow, hand-cranked undercarriage with wider, twin-leg hydraulically operated gear that rotated through 90˚ before retracting to the rear.

A rather battered F6F-3 in an unusual variant of the three-colour scheme on the Solomon Islands in 1943.

In the first prototype, the F6F-1, this aircraft was fitted with the 1,700hp Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone 14-cylinder radial engine. It wasn’t bad, but then someone had the bright idea of installing the 2,000hp, 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine that was also used in the F4U and the P-47 Thunderbolt. In this form, as the F6F-3, the Hellcat had the performance and the manouvrability to take on the Zero.

A colour wartime image showing a pair of F6F-3s in the three-colour scheme introduced in 1943.

The F6F-3 was formally adopted by the US Navy in 1942, though it was still regarded as an interim solution only to be used until the F4U was available in numbers. It entered service with the USN in early 1943 and over 12,000 were built. In total, F6Fs destroyed over 5,000 enemy aircraft, achieving a 19:1 kill ratio and accounting for 75% of all enemy aircraft destroyed by the USN in World War Two – not bad for an interim design! Late model F6F-3s were adapted to carry rockets and bombs and the only major variant, the F6F-5, differed only in having a slightly more powerful engine, more armour and a strengthened airframe. This was truly the fighter that won the Pacific Air War. 

What’s in the Box?

In the top-opening box, you’ll find three spues moulded in fairly dark grey plastic, one transparent sprue, two decal sheets and a full-colour booklet with instructions and painting guides.

On  examining the main sprues, one thing that stands out is the sheer quality of the surface detail. The outer skin of the F6F fuselage was constructed from lapped panels, and these are very nicely replicated here.

The engraved panel lines and rivets are also beautifully done without being overdone. My only concern is that brush painting may tend to fill this detail in – very thin coats will be required.

Cockpit interior detail also looks very nicely done. The instrument panel is supplied in two versions – one with flat surfaces for use with the supplied decals and one in 3-D if you prefer to paint the panels.

Even the mainwheel tyres come in two versions – one with tread and one without.

The single, circular transparent sprue also looks good.

Two alternate windscreens are provided (though I believe the one on the right is probably appropriate for an F6F-3).

There are also two versions of the separate sliding portion of the canopy, with a thinner alternate that can be shown in the open position.

There are two decal sheets. One includes national markings, other main external markings, harnesses and instrument panel decals. The anti-slip panels used on the wings on two of the colour schemes are also included.

The other decal sheet includes a plethora of tiny stencils.

The instructions seem very clear and include colour images showing four different schemes. All feature variations on the three-colour scheme with Sea Blue on the upper fuselage and the tops of the wings and tail planes and Ensign White (an off-white/very light grey) on the undersides. These are separated by a band of Intermediate Blue. All the colour scheme images are well done, detailed and each includes a short history of the particular aircraft depicted.

Would You Want One?

Yes. If you want to build an F6F in 1/72 scale, I’m really not sure you could do better. This doesn’t cost a great deal (even when it’s not on special offer, you can generally find this Weekend Edition for south of €12), the surface detail is exquisite and the detail in areas like the cockpit, engine and undercarriage looks very good. I’m not aware of any accuracy issues (for example, the distinctive cowl and chin intake of the F6F, a problem in many other kits of this aircraft, is done very nicely here) and the decals and painting guides look very detailed. I’m not sure what else you could ask for from any aircraft kit in this scale. And, IMHO, don’t think that the Weekend Edition is somehow second-best – you still get the same outstanding moulding, I really don’t feel that cockpit masks are essential here and you don’t have to faff about with tiny bits of PE.

Is this the perfect F6F in 1/72? Well, you can’t show the wings folded as you can on some other F6F kits and the engine cowling cooling gills, flaps and all control surfaces are integral parts and can’t be shown deflected, so perhaps not. But what you do get looks very good indeed.    

If for some reason you don’t fancy this F6F kit (and honestly, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t choose this one…) there are, as you’d guess, plenty of 1/72 alternatives. Oldest of them all is the Airfix F6F-3/5, first released all the way back in 1967. It isn’t terrible but, unsurprisingly, it just isn’t up the standard of more recent kits in terms of detail. Matchbox released a 1/72 Hellcat in 1973, but I don’t know much about this kit and, as far as I’m aware, it’s no longer available and hasn’t been re-boxed by any other company. Hasegawa released a 1/72 F6F-3/5 back in 1980, and it’s a pretty decent kit though the cockpit is fairly simple and the Academy F6F-3/5 released in 1992 is either a re-box of or at least very similar to this Hasegawa offering.

Italeri released a 1/72 F6F-3 in 2001, and this has also been re-boxed by both Revell and Tamiya. This isn’t a bad kit, but it is said to have some minor accuracy issues. Cyber Hobby also released a 1/72 F6F-3 in 2011 and it seems to be a very nice and well-detailed kit and probably the closest in terms of detail and accuracy to this Eduard offering (and it has the option to show the wings folded and separate control surfaces). But it does generally cost more than twice as much as this Weekend Edition…

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Italeri 1/72 Autoblinda AB 43 (7052) Build Review

The build here begins with the lower hull, and that turns out to be fairly complicated. The lower hull (excluding the chassis) comprises 14 main and separate parts. There are two internal rods that act as crossmembers to set the spacing between the main hull sides, but unfortunately, the rear rod seems to be the wrong length. So, to get everything together, you’ll be juggling more than ten separate parts that don’t fit or locate particularly well. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also be needing some filler to hide the most obvious gaps.

Then, it’s on to the wheels and chassis. Each of the four main wheels has two square locating points inside, and these are supposed to fit on two corresponding square lugs on the upper and lower halves of the chassis.

However, if you do a dry fit with the tyres in place, you’ll discover that using these locating pegs positions the wheels in the wrong place – the front wheels are too far to the rear and the rear wheels too far to the front. If you assemble using the pegs and holes provided, you’ll end up with the tyres fouling the wheel arches. Instead, you have to cut the pegs carefully until you get the wheels where you want them. I did this with the tyres just push-fitted onto the wheels so that I could remove them for painting separately. However, I managed to get glue on both rear tyres so they are now fixed in position while the fronts and spares have been removed for painting.

I add the last bits and pieces, and that’s hull construction complete other than for the exhaust which I’ll add once painting is done.

Next, the turret. No problems here, everything fits nicely and no filler is required. The gun barrel is a little thin for drilling, so I’m going to leave it solid.

Then it’s on to painting. And I’m going to cheat… I really did consider trying to replicate the German scheme shown in the instructions and on the box, but it looks very challenging indeed. Instead, I found a couple of images of an abandoned AB 43 in German service. These appear show an example finished in one overall colour. It looks lighter than German dunklegelb (dark yellow) and I’m guessing it’s sand or something close. It also seems to have a small stowage bin added to the rear of the turret.

That’s what I have decided to go for here. I fabricate a simple turret stowage bin out of plastic card. It was only later that I realised I didn’t need to do this. There is an unused part on the sprue (part 46) that isn’t mentioned in the instructions or shown on any of the external views but which appears to be a turret stowage bin!

Then I  give the whole thing an overall coat of a fairly light sand colour.

I then add some dry brushed highlights, the tools, exhaust and tyres. It’s worth noting that the exhaust on the original had four distinct lobes but here, due I suspect to moulding limitations, it just has two, so I scribe an extra line on the front face to suggest four lobes. I also add some simple decals from the spares box – if you read my In-Box review for this kit, you’ll know that it came without decals. Italeri did offer to supply decals, but only if I paid for the privilege of receiving what should have been there in the first place…

Finally, it gets a coat of clear varnish and a dark brown oil wash and that’s it done.

After Action Report

Other than for the assembly of the lower hull, which I found a little fiddly, this was a simple and stress-free build. And, as far as I can tell, it builds into a reasonably accurate model of this small and little-known Italian armoured car. I’m still a little irritated that I built a new turret stowage bin when one already seems to be included, but it doesn’t get a mention in the instructions and I didn’t notice it until I was finished.

As you can see, I have left off the width indicators on the mudguards, because these often weren’t fitted and the Jerrycans, which were more often seen on vehicles used in North Africa. Other than that, this is built as provided (though using my own decals, of course…).

If you fancy a bit of fun kit building, you could do a lot worse than this offering from Italeri. And if you’re feeling bold or if you have some time on your hands, you could even try the suggested colour scheme!

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Takom 1/72 Chieftain Mk 5 and FV 432 2/1 (5008) – FV 432 Build Review

Because this kit includes two separate models, I’ll be covering each in its own build review. And I’m going to start with the tiny FV 432 personnel carrier.

I begin by constructing the lower hull, and it very quickly becomes obvious that this isn’t your average 1/72 kit. The lower hull assembly has generally taken just ten minutes or so to assemble in most of the small-scale armour kits I have built. Here, this step involves the assembly of around 50 parts, many of which are very tiny. Just getting to the point shown in the image below took me a couple of hours, some swearing and a fair amount of fighting with the carpet-monster.

Take, for example, the two small stowage boxes on either side of the rear hull door. Each comprises no less than five very small separate parts and getting them assembled and straight takes a bit of time. There is nothing intrinsically wrong here – fit is generally very good and the instructions do a reasonable job of showing where everything goes, but assembly here is notably more complex and fiddly than you’ll find on most small-scale armour kits. Overall, this feels like a scaled-down 1/35 kit rather than something purpose-designed for 1/72. That said, the end result does look nicely detailed!

Then, it’s on to the upper hull and more of the same. There are in excess of 40 parts, many of them very tiny. There are over 20 of those tiny cylinders at each corner and in the centre (I don’t know what they are), and each is a separate part, just 3mm long. I leave off the pintle-mounted machine gun and shovels for the moment, to make painting simpler. 

Next, I add the front hull panel, which includes lots more tiny parts, but at least the fit of the panel to the lower hull is very good.

Then I join the upper and lower hull, and fit is again very good indeed.

Then I work on the tracks. These are cleanly moulded and the top run has appropriate sag included. I fix the single links to the sprocket and idler and join the three bottom runs together. The main issue is the tiny size of the individual links and getting these even reasonably straight is a challenge, especially where the single links fit on the sprocket. I use the jig provided, and end up with a separate upper and lower run for each side.

Finally, I add the PE mudflaps and the PE shopping basket (though I’m sure that’s not what it’s really called…) on the upper hull, though I don’t glue this in place at the moment to make painting simpler.

And that, apart from adding the exhaust, tools and tow cables, is pretty much construction of this tiny FV 432 complete. Phew! If I’m honest, nothing is too horribly difficult and fit is generally very good, but there certainly are lots more tiny pieces here than you get on most 1/72 AFV kits! Generally, construction of an AFV kit is something I get out of the way fairly quickly so I can get started on painting, but here, construction takes a fair amount of time and effort. This isn’t an easy or quick build by any means but there is more crisp detail here than I have come across previously in this scale.

Anyway, now I can finally start painting. I have decided to finish this as a vehicle of the Royal Scots during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, so I begin with a coat of Vallejo Light Sand. It’s a little light (though the colour applied to British AFVs in that operation was fairly light, and it seemed to bleach quickly in the sun), but once it’s weathered with an oil wash, it should come closer to the look of the original.

Then I paint the small details and add dry-brushed highlights and add everything but the mesh basket on the upper hull. The tracks are quite fiddly to get in position and lined-up, but they look OK once they’re done.

Then I add the decals and give it a coat of clear varnish.

Then, it gets a dark brown oil wash to bring out the shadows, tone down the base colour and make the whole thing look grubby and streaked.

The final job is to add and some dust and dirt to the lower hull, tracks and running gears using pastels. And with that, this tiny FV 432 is finally done.

After Action Report

This wasn’t a relaxing or simple build. Fit is generally very good, but there are an awful lot of very tiny parts here. The link and length tracks were a bit of a pain to build, mainly because the single links are so tiny. Getting the roadwheels even close to straight and level is also a problem because of very small, delicate mountings. This is a kit where I’d quite like to build a second example, just because I feel like through doing this first one, I have learned how to do it right the second time!

However, there are no problems in terms of overall accuracy as far as I can see and the final result looks OK. It’s certainly difficult to see how you could have a more detailed 1/72 AFV kit. All the mouldings are sharp and that leads to a finished model where the detail really pops.

This certainly isn’t a kit for a beginner, but if you’re confident of your building skills, it can end up as a really nice finished model. Overall, I’d recommend this if you are interested in modern British armour and if you’re a confident kit-builder. Next, I’ll be working on the other half of this kit – the Chieftain tank. I’m hoping that will be a little easier to build, if only because it is slightly bigger and that should make things like the tracks easier to work with. 

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Takom 1/72 Chieftain Mk 5 and FV 432 2/1 (5008) In-Box Review and History

Takom 1/72 Chieftain Mk 5 and FV 432 2/1 (5008) In-Box Review and History

Takom are a name I don’t really know much about in terms of kit manufacturing. A quick burst of Googling suggests that they were formed in Hong Kong in 2013 and have now opened a manufacturing plant in Guangdong in China. Their 1/72 range is presently still quite small, consisting of less than 20 kits that includes amongst other subjects, turrets from the battleships Bismarck, Scharnhorst, Yamato and USS Missouri and just two tanks: the German Leopard 2A7 and various marks of the British Chieftain.

Several of their 1/72 kits are presented in “1+1” form, i.e. they include two separate subjects. One of their products offers kits of both the Chieftain Mk 10 and Mk 11 in one box while the subject of this review includes both the Chieftain Mk 5 and the FV 432 armoured personnel carrier used by the British Army.

I was particularly pleased to see this Chieftain available in 1/72 because, up to when this was released in 2020, there weren’t any other 1/72 kits available that covered this iconic British tank (as far as I know). That seems odd – there are plenty of small-scale kits of Russian and American armour from the 1960s – 1990s, but very few featuring British subjects so that does make this Chieftain kit very welcome. On their website, Takom claim that they produce kits that are not just accurate but created “with the modeler in mind by allowing for assembly within a reasonable amount of time.” Is that the case? We’ll take a look in the box in a moment, but first, let’s remind ourselves about the Chieftain tank and the FV 432 “Battle Taxi.”  


Although it wasn’t introduced into service with the British Army until 1967, the Chieftain was Britain’s first successful post-war tank design. The Centurion which preceded it was actually designed during World War Two (the first Centurions were delivered to British Army units during that war, though none saw combat). The enormous and unreliable Conqueror was introduced in the mid-1950s in an ill-advised effort to match the Soviet IS-3, but it never saw widespread service and was rapidly withdrawn. 

The Chieftain Gunnery prototype G1, produced in 1962 and now on display at The Tank Museum in Bovington in Dorset.

The Chieftain (FV4201) was designed by Leyland Motors in the mid-1950s and it was essentially a revised and lowered Centurion hull with a new sloped, cast, mantlet-free turret mounting the 120mm L11A5 main gun that had been originally been used in the Conqueror. The front hull was a single casting that was sloped by the expedient of placing the driver in a reclining position. The Chieftain was a unique design and, on paper, one of the most formidable tanks in the world when it was introduced, but it did have one major drawback: its engine.

A Chieftain Mk 2 of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in the BATUS (British Army Training Unit Suffield) scheme.

As demanded by NATO requirements of the period, this was a “Tri-Fuel” engine, capable of running on petrol, diesel or aviation fuel. The Leyland L60 engine was a vertically opposed, six-cylinder two-stroke diesel that was smoky, unreliable and, at 685hp, underpowered in a 50 ton tank. The subject of this kit, the Mk 5, generally regarded as the definitive version of this tank, incorporated an uprated version of this engine producing 720hp, but this still lacked power and was less than 100% reliable.

A Chieftain MK 5 maintained in running order at the Imperial War Museum collection in Duxford in Cambridgeshire.

The Chieftain was an export success, with over 1,300 examples being sold to Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and, most notably, Iran, which purchased more than 700 Mk 3s and Mk 5s in the 1970s. After the revolution, these saw combat in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) where they fared badly in combat with the Russian T-55s, T-62s and T-72s of the Iraqi Army. IN addition to limited crew training, the main issue was the Chieftain engine, which made this tank slow when manoeuvring in the difficult terrain that characterised this war and the additional stress made it even more unreliable. Allegedly, Britain attempted to sell Chieftains to the army of Iraq during this war, but were firmly told: “We don’t want your stupid tanks!”

An Iranian Chieftain Mk 5.

Over 900 Chieftains were delivered to the British Army and this type remained in service until 1995 when it was replaced by an upgraded and improved version, the Challenger I. The FV 432 armoured personnel carrier was first used in service by the British Army in 1962 and, despite the introduction of newer vehicles, many are still in service today, making this the longest-serving AFV in the British Army. It has been used in a number of roles including command vehicle, ambulance and recovery vehicle and versions of this AFV saw combat service with the British Army during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.    

A British Army FV 432.

What’s in the Box?

Quite a lot, as it happens. There are 8 sprues moulded in grey plastic (two identical sprues are provided for the tracks and running gear for the Chieftain and FV 432), the turret as a separate part, three PE frets, decals and a full-colour, 44-page instruction booklet.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see an astounding level of detail for a 1/72 kit and all provided in remarkably sharp, clean mouldings with no flash that I can see and no visible ejector-marks. Things like the tow cables are provided as separate parts and slide-moulding seems to have been used so that, for example, the muzzle of the Chieftain main gun is open.

The link-and-length tracks for both the Chieftain and the FV 432 appear to be accurate and are nicely detailed inside and out.

There is even evidence here that Takom have given some though to how to make this a more pleasant and satisfying modelling experience. For example, the sprue attachment points are smaller and more delicate than I have seen on any other kit (just take a look at the image of the tracks above!). Each sprue letter, which are referenced in the build instructions, are clearly identified by being cut-out of the plastic.

Now, that may not seem terribly impressive, but I know that on other kits I have spent time trying to find out which sprue is which because these letters are generally stamped or engraved on one side only. The approach here means you can quickly see which sprue you’re looking for no-matter which way up it is. I know, this isn’t a big thing and you may wonder why I’m even talking about it? Well, it’s entirely practical, I haven’t seen it on any other small-scale kit and it suggests that someone at Takom has really been thinking about the process of building this kit.

The three PE frets provide various grills and other small parts for the Chieftain and the FV 432 as well as side-skirts for the tank. 

Even the instruction booklet is pretty impressive. It runs to 44 pages (there is a lot of construction to be done here!) and it features clear, 3D views of all steps.

It also includes six colour plates showing colour schemes and decal placement, though it doesn’t provide any historical information on the Chieftain or the FV 432. In terms of suggested colour schemes, for the Chieftain you get a single British Army BATUS scheme used by units training in Canada but, sadly, nothing for a British Army Chieftain in Europe. The other two schemes and decals cover Iranian tanks involved in the Iran-Iraq War.

For the FV 432, you get one scheme for a vehicle used by the Royal Scots during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, one for a British Army unit in European markings and one for a unit in an OpFor (Opposing Force) scheme used during training exercises in Britain and Canada.  

The decal sheet itself, though small, seems to be printed in register and looks pretty good.  

Would You Want One?

Emphatically yes! I have opened quite a few model kit boxes since I got back into this hobby a few years back, but none have impressed me to quite this extent. It’s a combination of things, from the sheer number of parts to the level of detail and the quality and sharpness of the mouldings. Even the 44 page instruction booklet is printed in colour and on decent quality paper. In every way, this looks like a class act and it isn’t even particularly expensive; it sells for around the same price as other premium 1/72 AFV kits, but here you actually get two separate, different and very detailed kits. If you do choose one of these, I think your flabber will be gasted too.

Of course it isn’t perfect, but most of the things I see here are very minor. The sheer number of parts, some tiny, is a little daunting. The hatches are separate parts but there are no figures included, which is a pity. I’d have liked to see decals and a colour scheme for at least one British Army all-green tank and the inclusion of two virtually identical schemes for Iranian tanks seems a little redundant.  A few more external stowage items, especially for the FV 432, might have been nice too. However, despite these things, I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be absolutely delighted with this kit.

Which is kind of lucky because, if you want a 1/72 injection-moulded Chieftain kit, there simply aren’t any alternatives. There are die-cast and resin versions in 1/72 and Airfix released a small-scale Chieftain kit back in 1970. It’s a reasonable but fairly basic representation of a Mk 2 Chieftain (the first production model) and at various times the packaging has claimed 00, 1/76 and 1/72 scale. But it’s really 1/76, OK, and I’m not at all sure it’s still available now anyway. Trust me here; just go for this outstanding Takom kit – I really don’t think that you’ll find a better small-scale representation of the Chieftain tank.

I am really quite excited about this kit – It just looks so good in the box! Of course, I’ll have to see how the build goes, but already I’m hoping that Takom decide to extend their 1/72 range to include some of the World War One and Two AFVs which they already cover in 1/35.  

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Dragon 1/72 Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf. L Late production (7645) Armor Neo Pro In-Box Review and History

If you are a regular reader here, you’ll know that there is one thing that I have found more consistently disappointing and frustrating than any other aspect of tank model kits: tracks! I have lost count of the number of tank kits I have built that have been spoiled by over thick, too-tight, poorly detailed tracks made of unglueable vinyl. Even some of the hard plastic tracks I have come across simply look nothing like the original…

Which brings us to the subject of this review, the Dragon 1/72 Panzer Ausf. L in the Armor Neo-Pro series featuring “Neo-tracks.” Dragon have an enviable reputation for producing accurate kits with very high quality mouldings, so when I saw this as a Black Friday special offer, I couldn’t resist. The Dragon Panzer III Ausf. L was first released in 2011 and this Neo-Pro version in 2021. Dragon kits are comparatively expensive – here in Spain they generally retail for around €25 – 30, which seems a lot for a 1/72 tank kit but when I saw this one for under €15, I thought I’d take a punt.

Neo-tracks are simply length and link tracks which, at 1/72, can be a challenge. But I’m hoping that at least they’ll be accurate when they’re done. Are these the answer to my track woes? We’ll have a look inside the box in a moment, but first, let’s take a brief look at the Panzer III.


Design of what would be designated the Panzer III began somewhere around 1934. Although Germany was still formally banned from producing tracked AFVs under the terms of the Versailles treaty, the Nazis were soon to repudiate this and to begin open development and manufacture of tanks. Two tank designs were complete by 1935, for the Panzer I, a machine-fun armed light tank initially intended for training. and the Panzer II, another light tank armed with a 20mm autocannon and primarily intended for the reconnaissance role.

The first Panzer III, the Ausf. A. Only ten examples were produced, all provided with coil-spension and five roadwheels. Subsequent versions switched to first eight and then six smaller road wheels.

However, plans were developed to create Panzer Battalions comprising four Companies. One would be equipped with a tank provided with a large calibre, low-velocity main gun, ideal for firing high explosive shells and acting in the infantry support role (the Panzer IV). The other three companies would be equipped with tanks provided with high velocity main guns, and the primary role for these companies would killing enemy tanks. These were to be equipped with the new Panzer III.

A Panzer III Ausf. D during the German invasion of Poland, 1939. This was the first Panzer III produced in numbers, armed with a 37mm main gun and, as you can see, fitted with exposed leaf-spring suspension and eight small roadwheels. From the Ausf. E on, all models were provided with six roadwheels and more robust and better-protected torsion bar suspension.

Initial discussions on the Panzer III would centre on its main gun, and deficiencies in this choice would affect the Panzer III for most of its service life. It was agreed that this tank would be armed with a 37mm main gun derived from the PaK 35, the principal towed anti-tank weapon then entering service with the Wehrmacht. Arming the Panzer III with a similar gun would, the Heereswaffenamt (HWA – German Army Weapons Agency) pointed out, would greatly simplify ammunition supply. That was true, but many senior German Army commanders disagreed, asking for a 50mm main gun on the Panzer III and pointing out that British Cruiser tanks were already being designed that would be armed with 40mm (2-Pounder) main guns while the existing Russian T-26 had a 45mm main gun.

A Panzer III Ausf. E with torsion bar suspension and six roadwheels but still armed only with a 37mm main gun.

The HWA won the argument, but agreed that the turret ring on the Panzer III would be made large enough for the mounting of a 50mm main gun if that should prove necessary in future. All early models of this tank, essentially, the Ausf. A – E, were armed with a 37mm main gun, and in combat against British and French tanks in 1940 this proved to have serious limitations. The 37mm rounds simply bounced off the thick frontal armour of British Matildas and French Somua S35s and Char B1s. The new Ausf. F model appeared after the campaign in France was over and while the first of these were still armed with the 37mm main gun, most of this version were provided with the more powerful 50mm L42 main gun. All versions of the subsequent Ausf. G were also armed with the 50mm L42 gun.

A Panzer III Ausf. G in North Africa. Finally, it has a 50mm main gun, but it’s just L42, giving it relatively low velocity and while it was effective against British tanks in this theatre, it proved weak when used against Russian tanks on the Eastern Front.

However, when Germany invaded Russia in the Summer of 1941, even this new weapon proved ineffective against Russian T-34s and KV heavy tanks. The Panzer III was up-gunned again, this time with a KwK 39 50mm L60 main gun, a modified version of the towed PaK 38 anti-tank gun. This had higher muzzle velocity and more penetration compared to the L42 gun, but it still struggled to penetrate the frontal armour of the T-34 at most ranges. This new gun was first fitted to the Ausf. J which began to be delivered to front-line units on the Eastern Front in late 1941. However, it was also becoming apparent that the armour on the Panzer III was inadequate when facing the best Russian tanks. That led to the subject of this kit, the Ausf. L, armed with a 50mm L60 main gun and provided with additional armour on the mantlet and hull front.

A Panzer III Ausf. L on the Eastern Front and provided with a 50mm L60 main gun and added armour on the mantlet and hull front.

These began reaching front line units in mid-1942 and around 650 examples of the Ausf. L were manufactured during the second half of 1942. These tanks were used on the Eastern Front and in North Africa. This kit depicts a late production example, recognisable by the lack of pistol ports on the turret and escape hatches on the hull sides above the roadwheels.

What’s in the Box?

Inside the top-opening box you’ll find five sprues moulded in grey plastic, the lower hull, moulded as a single piece, decals and two small PE frets.

Detail looks very good and the mouldings appear to be commendably sharp even on tiny parts. Slide moulding is used, so the main gun bore is open, as are the optional smoke launchers for the turret sides. However, I was a little surprised to find that small details like the tools and tow cable are moulded in place. Painting these will be tricky.

Only the two-piece main turret hatch is moulded as a separate part and it includes some internal detail, though there are no figures included here and no internal detail for the turret itself. Apart from a couple of spare roadwheels, no stowage items are included.

And what about the link-and-length Neo Tracks? These are provided on two identical sprues, one for each side, providing one upper and one lower run and individual links to go round the sprocket and idler. The tracks seem to be nicely detailed inside and out and wholly accurate. Hurrah! However, there are jigs provided, including one that seems to model the sag on the upper run, but no clues in the instructions as to how to use these. 

One of the PE frets contains various grills for the rear hull and two tiny parts that I don’t recognise and that don’t seem to be mentioned in the instructions and the other provides an additional armour plate for the upper hull front.

The instructions are sort of OK, but not entirely helpful. As mentioned, they don’t really give any clues as to how to assemble the Neo Tracks or how to achieve sag on the top run using the provided jig. In some places, they seem to point in the general direction of where a particular part goes rather than showing the precise location. The instructions also show a pair of triple smoke launchers on the front top corners of the turret as optional parts (and all the colour scheme drawings show these as fitted), but I’m not convinced about that. These launchers were certainly added to the next model, the Ausf. M, but that also had a different exhaust system that isn’t modelled here. I haven’t been able to find a single wartime image of an Ausf. L fitted with these smoke launchers, so I feel these should probably be left off. Hull side escape hatches are also provided as optional parts, but again, I don’t think these should be used on an Ausf. L and they aren’t shown on the colour scheme drawings.

In terms of colour schemes, the instructions are confusing and, in some places, just plain wrong. Decals are provided and schemes shown for four tanks, all from Russia in 1942/1943. One scheme (the lower one on the image above) doesn’t give any clues as to the colours to use at all and on the only scheme where a base colour is indicated, this is identified as Dunklegelb (Dark Yellow). However, all Panzer III Ausf. L were manufactured from June – December 1942 and the introduction of Dunklegelb as a base colour on German armour didn’t begin until February 1943. So, all tanks of this model would actually have left the factory finished in overall Dunklegrau which doesn’t even get a mention here. I think that the box-art is correct (it shows a tank of  the 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion in overall Dunklegrau finish) and the instructions, where they provide any guidance on base colour at all, are wrong. Given that it must take a great deal of time and effort to produce the moulds to make a model kit, you’d think it might be worth expending just a little more time to provide useful information about the colours in which it should be painted!

The small decal sheet covers four tanks and seems to be accurately printed, though the tiny unit insignia for the Wiking Division tank are each split in into two halves, presumably because they incorporate swastikas. More of a problem is that the decals don’t match the colour scheme drawings! The turret numbers for two of the tanks shown on those drawings aren’t actually included here and you get one spare set of white turret numbers, 101, but no clue what the colour scheme for that tank might be or what unit it belonged to. Though it isn’t mentioned in the instructions at all, decals are also provided for a tank of the 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion which, although primarily equipped with Tiger tanks, initially also had a number of Panzer IIIs. This is the tank shown on the box art and though it isn’t particularly obvious, the larger of the two elephant decals (this was the insignia of the 502nd) goes on the rear of the turret bin and the smaller one on the front left track-guard. On their web site, Dragon claim that they produce “model kits that leave modelers with a jaw-dropping sense of awe!” That may be so, but they seem to produce instructions that leave this modeller with a baffled sense of “Eh?”

Would You Want One?

Detail here looks good in the box; all mouldings are sharp and there is very little flash and no obvious ejector marks. There are some tiny parts that appear to be the size of a gnat’s eyeball, but for those of you with less challenged eyesight that may not be an issue. The confusion between the decals provided and the markings shown on the colour scheme drawings is just stupid – decals are provided for just two of the four tanks shown and you have some spare decals, but no information about where they go or what unit they apply to. However, provided that you can work out how to assemble the Neo Tracks and that you ignore the colours suggested in the instructions, I can’t see any reason this won’t build into a respectable model of the Panzer III Ausf. L. However, there are a few (cheaper) alternatives if you do want to model this tank in 1/72.

The Revell 1/72 Ausf. L (02351) was released in 2003 and it’s a nice little kit that is generally accurate and includes link-and-length tracks. Revell also offer (or offered – I don’t know if it’s still around) a 1/76 Ausf. L and this is a re-release of the original Matchbox kit from 1974. It’s OK, though it does have rather thick vinyl tracks.

Ukrainian producer UM Models offer a 1/72 kit of the Ausf. L first released in 2016. This seems to be very nicely done with PE parts and link-and-length tracks. Plastic Soldier Company offer the Panzer III in 1/72 in a pack that provides three tanks that can be completed as the Ausf. J, L, M, or N though these are simplified, easy-assembly kits that are aimed more at wargamers than modellers.

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