Tag Archives: 1/72

IBG Models 1/72 A9 British Cruiser Tank Mk.I with 2 pdr Gun (WAW011) In-Box Review

I have been aware of IBG Models for some time, but I haven’t tried one of their kits, partly because I’m a little daunted by the complexity of some of these. However, I recently saw this kit for sale, and a quick check seems to indicate that while it’s a fair representation of a little-known British tank, it’s not quite as complex as some offerings from this manufacturer.

Polish IBG Models is based in Warsaw and produce a range of over 150 plastic kits including aircraft in 1/72 and 1/32, vehicles in 1/72 and 1/35 and ships in 1/700. Many IBG kits represent little-known subjects – what about a Strdvagn M/38 Swedish light tank for example, or the Hungarian Toldi? Some IBG kits have lots of detail and a high part-count including PE parts. A number of their 1/72 AFVs even feature link-and-length tracks, something that I think I’d find very challenging on small AFVs, like for example, the IBG British Universal Carrier at this scale.

However, IBG also currently produce a range of thirteen kits in their World at War series. In these, a short magazine is provided describing the vehicle with a (slightly) simplified fast-build kit. This A9 was first launched in 2020 and is one of three British tanks in this series with the A9 CS and A10 being the other two. All the other World at War kits represent variants of the German Panzer II, III and IV plus a very early StuG III.

I purchased this kit from a Polish distributer (https://www.super-hobby.com/) for a very reasonable €8, though the whole range of 1/72 IBG tank kits only cost around €10-12, which makes them an attractive buy compared to some current Asian kits in the same scale. So, these are cheap, but are they any good? Let’s take a look at the IBG A9…

History

Up to the mid-1930s, the British War Office designated tanks according to overall weight as Light, Medium or Heavy. After 1936, new designations were introduced: Light Tanks were retained and intended for reconnaissance, Infantry Tanks were heavily armoured, slow-moving and intended to provide direct support to advancing infantry while a completely new class of Cruiser Tanks were to be developed. Cruisers were intended for the roles previously undertaken by cavalry of reconnaissance and exploiting breakthroughs and they were armed to combat enemy tanks (these were also sometimes referred to as “Cavalry Tanks”).

In 1936, the War Office was looking for a replacement for the ageing Vickers Medium Mark II tanks then in service. The engineering conglomerate of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Was approached and asked to produce a design for a “reasonably cheap” Cruiser tank. The new design had to be significantly faster than the Medium Mark II, though as that tank had a top speed in the region of 12mph, that didn’t represent much of a challenge, and it should have a main gun capable of destroying enemy tanks in a revolving, three-man turret.

An A9 Cruiser Mk I

An initial design proposal was submitted in 1936. This was for a twelve-ton tank using Vickers’ own “slow motion” suspension and powered by a 150hp AEC bus engine. The three-man, hydraulically-powered turret housed what was at that time one of the best available anti-tank weapons, the QF 2-pounder. One odd feature was the provision of two secondary machine gun turrets on the front hull on either side of the driver’s position. These were intended to be permanently manned, giving the new tank a crew of six – three in the main turret, a driver and one gunner for each machine gun turret.

A captured A9 CS version with a QF 3.7-inch howitzer in the turret being inspected by German troops, France, 1940.

To keep weight down and top speed up, armour thickness was limited to a maximum of 14mm of rivetted plate. The new tank was given the war office designation Cruiser Tank Mk I, A9. An order for 125 was placed in late 1937 and the first examples were delivered to the British Army in January 1939. Around 40 were the CS (Close Support) variant which was identical other than that the QF 2-Pounder turret gun was replaced with a QF 3.7-inch howitzer. When the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to France following the outbreak of was in September 1939, the 1st Armoured Division was equipped with more than twenty A9s. These proved less than satisfactory in service. The interior of the tank was very cramped, the engine struggled to provide adequate speed, thrown tracks were a frequent issue and, when they met German armour in combat, the machine gun turrets were found to provide a lethal shot-trap. 

An A9 in the Western desert, 1941. This is also the CS version.

Following the fall of France in May 1940, 70 A9s were shipped to Egypt where they took part in fighting against Italian and later German forces in North Africa. Some of those A9s were sent to Greece to take part in the British attempt to halt the German invasion of that country, but all were lost. By the end of 1941, the A9 had been replaced by newer designs and the few remaining in service were relegated to a training role. The lower hull and suspension of the A9 was used for the Valentine Infantry Tank Mk III which entered service in 1940.   

What’s in the Box?

This comes as a magazine with the model kit attached. The magazine itself is fairly brief, with just 12 pages presented in two languages (English and German). There is good background information on the development of the A9, its equipment and the use of this tank in combat in France and North Africa (though there is no mention of the use of the A9 in Greece) including photographs and colour drawings. A section on markings and colour schemes is helpful and accurate, though it might have been useful to include a drawing of the “Caunter” scheme described in the text. No scale is mentioned on the front of the box or in the magazine, but this appears to be a fairly accurate 1/72 representation of the A9. The box identifies this as an A9 with a “ZPDR” gun, but this is a typo – this kit represents the initial version of the A9 with the QF 2-Pounder gun.

The kit box contains five sprues containing 52 parts moulded in light grey plastic plus decals. No instructions are provided, but a simplified construction guide is provided in the magazine.

First impressions are that surface detail looks very good. There are lots of rivets here and they are nicely done without being overscale. The use of slide moulding means that the muzzle of the 2-pounder gun and the exhaust are open – no drilling required! The main turret hatch is a separate part and the shovel and crowbar on the right are also moulded separately. One notable thing is that the plastic used seems quite soft and the attachment points are fairly thick, so some care will be required when removing small parts from the sprues. 

The tracks, roadwheels, idlers, return rollers and sprockets are moulded as a single part for each side, though the suspension bogies are separate parts. The tracks themselves are the only place where detail is a little disappointing. The A9 had rectangular openings in the external faces of the track plates which aren’t shown here, there is a distinct moulding seam on the outside of the tracks and on the inside, the track horns are moulded as solid blocks where they are visible between the roadwheels. The radio antenna also looks rather overscale, but otherwise everything looks nicely detailed and accurate. No figures or stowage items are included.

Oddly, the decal sheet does not provide markings for the tank of A Squadron 3rd Royal Tank Regiment as depicted on the front of the box and magazine. Instead, one set of markings are provided for an HQ tank of 5th Royal Tank Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, in France in 1940. A suggested colour scheme for this tank is included in the magazine and on the rear of the kit box. However, this appears to show a green base with a brown camouflage pattern. I would guess that this is a printing issue and the usual colour scheme for the tanks of the BEF was a base of Khaki Green G3 overlaid with a hard-edged disrupter camouflage pattern of Dark Green No.4. This is correctly described in the magazine.

The magazine also includes a view of an A9 in overall “Light Stone,” as applied to British tanks in North Africa. No decals are provided to go with this scheme, but as many British tanks used in the early stages of fighting in North Africa seem to have lacked markings, this isn’t a major issue. If you do choose to model an A9 in North Africa, the distinctive three-colour “Caunter” scheme was also used on British tanks in 1940-41. This uses a base of Light Stone with a hard-edged pattern in Silver Grey and Slate. If my masking skills were better, I think I’d be tempted to try this scheme on this kit. But they aren’t, so I’ll probably stick with the simpler khaki/dark green camouflage as used by the BEF in France.   

Would You Want One?                                                                                                   

This looks like a reasonably detailed and accurate representation of the A9 even if the track detail is rather simplified. As far as I am aware, there are no replacement tracks available in 1/72, and even if there were, you’d have to somehow separate the sprockets, idlers, roadwheels and return rollers from the existing tracks. One (expensive) option would be to use the running gear and very detailed and accurate link-and-length tracks from the Italeri (ex-Esci) Valentine Mk I to improve this kit, though as that Italeri kit is now discontinued, it won’t be easy to find. 

If you do want to build a small-scale A9, your choices are very limited. IBG also offer the CS version of the A9 as part of their World at War series. This is essentially identical to the kit reviewed here other than for the provision of a QF 3.7-inch howitzer in the turret. IBG also offer an A10, essentially an A9 without the machine gun turrets, in desert configuration.

The only other option is the Plastic Soldier Company who offer the A9 in 1/72 as a pack of three tanks with alternate parts to build the A9, A9 CS and the A9 with desert sand-shields. Like this kit, the PSC kits include simplified tracks moulded as a single part with the sprockets, roadwheels, return rollers and idlers. Detail on the PSC kits is fair, though not perhaps quite as refined as this IBG kit, though it does also include stowage items and commander figures appropriate for both European and African theatres, but no decals are provided.

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IBG Models 1/72 A9 British Cruiser Tank Mk.I with 2 pdr Gun (WAW011) Build Review – coming soon

Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) Build Review

I begin with hull construction, and I won’t quite be following the instructions. I’m going to join the upper and lower hull before adding the tracks – the instructions suggest that the tracks should be added first. I want to paint the tracks separately and add them when hull painting is complete, so I also leave off the sprockets to make fitting the tracks simpler.

Main hull construction is simple as there are just five parts – the top, bottom, sides and rear. I begin by filling the hole for the MG port on the left side and adding the gun and mantlet. Joining the main gun barrel to the hollow tip is easy, but fit isn’t great and it takes so much sanding to get rid of the join that I’m concerned about ending up with a tapered gun. Personally, I’d rather just drill out the barrel.

The other parts of the hull go together well with no need for filler but I do notice something odd that has me scratching my head. When the rear plate is added, the hubs for the idlers and what I take to be the inner part of the hub don’t line up.

It looks to me as if the hubs and mounting pins for the idlers, which are attached to the hull sides, are around 3-4mm too low. It would be possible to cut these off and re-attach them higher, but I’m concerned that this might not be strong enough to resist being broken by the vinyl tracks. So, I leave it as-is. I just don’t know enough to be sure, but looking at photographs of Panzer IVs and Jagdpanzer IVs, this looks wrong to me.

The rest of hull construction is straightforward and everything fits well. The only minor problem is when I come to fit the small schürzen mountings, I discover that one is missing from the sprue. Initially, I assumed that this must have broken off while I was handling this sprue, but checking the photographs I took for the In-Box review (which I took as soon as I opened the package) shows that it was missing then. The missing part isn’t in the box or the plastic bag in which the sprues were packed, so I guess it just wasn’t supplied.

I can’t say I’m too perturbed. I’ll just use four mountings per side rather than five, but in over a year since I re-started model building, this is the fist time I have received a kit with a missing part. Incidentally, these are really tiny parts and the mounting positions are more a guide than a help. I didn’t quite enter full cat-startling-tantrum mode, but I didn’t enjoy this fiddly part of the build at all.  

With these parts added, that’s construction virtually done.  Or, at least I thought it was until I actually looked at the photo above. When I did, I could see that I had got the fitting of the plates on either side of the rear hull completely wrong! Why do I only notice these things in photos! I had fitted the rear plates so that they matched the angle of the rear hull behind them, but that’s clearly wrong. Instead, they should follow the angle of the hull side plates. I have to cut them off and re-fix before they look right.

I’m also leaving off the roadwheels, jack, exhaust,  spare track links and other bits and pieces at this stage to make painting a little easier. Now, it’s time to think about painting, and I’m keen to try something different. In late August 1944, some German tanks were painted with a new colour scheme – the Hinterhalt (ambush) scheme. This was applied at the factory rather than in the field and there were two versions. Both began with a base coat of Dunklegelb (dark yellow) overlaid with large irregular patches of Olivgrün (Olive Green) and Rotbraun (Red Brown). On one version of the scheme, a stencil of irregular circles was then created and dunklegelb was oversprayed through this on top of the green and brown areas. On the other scheme, small circles or triangles of dunklegelb were added to the brown and green areas and circles or triangles of green were added to the dunklegelb areas. Below you can see a Jagdpanzer IV L/70 in the Hinterhalt scheme.

This scheme was discontinued after less than three months, simply because it took more time to get vehicles out of the factory. I have not been able to find photographic evidence of a late Jagdpanzer IV L/48 with this scheme, but it is certainly possible and it’s a different and challenging paint scheme. It starts with several base coats of well-thinned Vallejo dunklegelb.

Then, I add some dry-brushed highlights.

 Then, it gets a simple scheme of lightened rotbraun and olivegrun with appropriate dots added. I can’t say that I’m entirely happy with the result, the dots look rather clumsy. I added them using a sharpened matchstick and I wonder if I did too many and made them too large? Oh well, I’ll continue anyway.

The next step is painting the tools on the rear hull and the roadwheel tyres. I hate painting roadwheel tyres and, with eight small wheels per side, the Panzer IV chassis is particularly challenging in 1/72. I finally get them done and add them to the hull. When attaching the painted roadwheels, and it’s notable that the individual wheels are a loose fit on the spindles, so some care is required to ensure all eight line up. I also add some fairly generic decals: a balkenkreuz on the rear hull plates,  a three-digit unit number on the hull sides, kill rings on the gun and a Panzer Lehr Divisional marking on the front.

Even the decals were a problem on this kit. Usually, I find that a minute or so of soaking in warm water is enough to release these from their backing. Here, each decal had to be left for at least ten minutes before it would move and even then, some of them cracked (that’s why there are fewer kill rings than provided). I can’t imagine why that is – the backing sheet does seem thicker than usual, but even so, loosening these took much longer than normal.

Then I add the spare track links on the rear and add a brown detail wash over everything. I also add some mud and staining to the hull close to the roadwheels and return rollers. There is nice detail here, and the wash helps to highlight things like the joints in the armour plate on the front on the hull.

The tracks get a simple finish – dark grey base, gunmetal highlights on the treads and a brown acrylic wash overall. These tracks really are lacking detail.

Then I add the tracks and sprockets to the hull, which fortunately isn’t too difficult. The tracks aren’t at all tight, which helps. Then, all I have to do is add the exhaust and tools, and it’s done.

After Action Report

This isn’t a terrible kit by any means. But I don’t feel it’s a great kit either, mainly due to some niggling issues. It takes quite a while to fill the left side MG port on the front hull so that it’s invisible on the finished model. The fit of the tip of the gun and the main part of the barrel isn’t great and also requires lots of sanding, which inevitably leads to a slightly tapered main gun. I think that the idlers and their hubs are set too low, and that looks a little odd from the side as well as meaning that these parts don’t line up with the inner hubs on the hull rear plate. The roadwheels are a loose fit on the mounting spindles, making it very difficult to get them to line up accurately. Accurately fitting the tiny middle schurzen mountings is tricky. The decals take way too long to separate from the backing sheet and the tracks are really poor.

Set against those things, surface detail isn’t bad, and this does look like a fairly accurate representation of the Jagdpanzer IV. It’s probably true to say that my biggest problem with this kit is the Hasegawa Churchill I built previously. Although that kit dates from 1974, fit was as close to perfect as you will find in 1/72 scale, the build was simple and straightforward and the whole kit just seemed sharper than this one. I probably expected this to be as good as that Churchill and, IMHO, it isn’t

So, would you be disappointed with one of these? Probably not if, unlike me, your expectations weren’t set unrealistically high. Though I’m afraid those tracks really aren’t up to modern standards…

Happy kit-building

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Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) In-Box Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) Build Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) In-Box Review

I recently finished a Hasegawa 1/72 Churchill tank, and I was highly impressed with that kit. In fact I was so impressed that I was immediately keen to try another Hasegawa AFV kit, and the same supplier that had the Churchill on special offer also had this kit for under €10.

However, this is a much more recent release, dating from 2001 (the Churchill was first released in 1975). Is it as good as that kit? There’s only one way to find out…

History

By the middle of World War Two, the German armed forces seemed to have become more than a little obsessed with the notion of assault guns designed as anti-tank weapons. Most featured a large-calibre main gun in a fixed superstructure mounted on the chassis of an existing tank. By mid-1943, Germany already had the StuG III and IV, the Marder I, II and III, the Nashorn and the Elefant in service and the Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger were in the final stages of design and being prepared for production. You might imagine that the last thing the Werhrmacht needed was another tank destroyer, but you’d be mistaken.

During 1943 work began on designing an improved version of the existing StuG III, with a new vehicle featuring heavier frontal armour and the same 75mm Pak 42 L/70 fitted to the Panther tank. Initially given the name Panzerjäger IV, this was later changed to Jagdpanzer IV. The new tank destroyer was be based on the Panzer IV  Ausf. H chassis but with modified, sloping frontal armour. A shortage of the PAK 42 meant that the first production versions, which began to appear in early 1944, were armed instead with a development of the shorter 75mm Pak 39 L/48.

An early production Jagdpanzer IV L/48 with a muzzle-brake and zimmerit

On early versions, this gun was fitted with a muzzle brake but experience in the field showed that, because the muzzle was relatively close to the ground, a huge cloud of dust was kicked up every time the gun was fired, giving away the vehicle’s position. On later versions equipped with the L/48 gun, the muzzle brake was omitted. The final version of the Jagdpanzer IV, the Panzer IV/70 (V), was provided with the much longer L/70 main gun for which this vehicle was originally designed.

A later Jagdpanzer IV L/48 – no zimmerit and no muzzle-brake.

One issue with the new design was that it was very front-heavy, which caused wear and failures to the front suspension units. To counterbalance this, spare wheels, spare track links, tools and crew stowage were all moved to a platform on the rear of the hull. Early versions were provided with the zimmerit anti-magnetic coating, though this was dropped in September 1944. Many Jagdpanzer IV were also fitted with additional schürzen side armour though this was often removed as it became easily clogged in muddy conditions.

A final model Jagdpanzer IV/70 (V).

Unlike previous assault guns which had been manned by crews from artillery units, the Jagdpanzer IV was issued direct to panzer and panzer grenadier units and manned by panzer crews. The Jagdpanzer IV served on both eastern and western fronts from its introduction in early 1944 until the end of the war. Somewhere between 800 – 1,000 Jagdpanzer IVs of all types were produced in total.

What’s in the box?

The box contains six sprues in grey plastic (two, containing the roadwheels, sprockets, etc., are identical), a set of vinyl tracks, instructions and a decal sheet.

Overall, detail looks more than reasonable, the mouldings are fairly sharp and I can’t see any flash or visible sink-marks. However, I’d also have to say that my initial reaction is that this just isn’t quite as sharp as the Hasegawa Churchill.

Most of the tools are moulded integrally with the rear hull. All the hull hatches are separate parts than can be shown open or closed. However, there is no internal detail and the hatches are fairly large, so, without figures, showing the hatches open is going to reveal a large internal void. One nice touch is that the small hatch forward of the commander’s hatch is also separate and this can be shown open with the commander’s periscope extended.

Another nice touch is that the conical cover over the MG port on the right side of the hull front is a separate part and can be shown either open or closed. However, there is also a second MG port on the left side of the hull – this was not provided on this version of the Jagdpanzer IV, so it will have to be filled. No zimmerit is provided, which is acceptable for a late model L/48, and no schürzen, which is probably also OK. The main gun barrel is solid, but it does have a separate end-piece that is moulded open.

Although the instructions don’t mention it, you can build this kit with either three or four return rollers (the holes for the centre rollers must be drilled out). Some late model L/48s seem to have had just three rollers, as does the later IV/70. However, most contemporary photos show this version with four return rollers, so that’s what I’ll be going for. 

The tracks really aren’t great. I would guess that these probably date back to the original Hasegawa Panzer IV from 1974. External detail is just about OK, but there is nothing at all on the inside. I normally like to build my kits out of the box, but it there was any option here in Spain, I’d consider buying some better aftermarket tracks for what looks otherwise like a well-detailed kit.

The instructions are straightforward and seem to show what’s needed.

Only one suggested colour scheme is provided, for a Jagdpanzer of 3rd Panzer Division on the eastern front with an interesting three-colour scheme partially covered in whitewash. However, the decals provide plenty of options so it should be possible to depict a Jagdpanzer on any front.

Would you want one?

Overall, this looks like a really nice kit, accurate, sharply moulded and well detailed. Except for the tracks, which are crap. I don’t really understand the thinking behind that – why go to the time and expense of producing the moulds for a kit that features great plastic parts and then provide it with tracks that were more than thirty years out of date? Hasegawa produce several other versions of the Jagdpanzer IV in 1/72. In addition to this L/48 (late), there is an L/48 (early) version (31149), an L/70 late model (31150) and even an early L/48 with zimmerit and photo-etch parts (30027). Fortunately, if you don’t fancy a Hasegawa Jagdpanzer (and I’m guessing that all these other kits feature the same nasty tracks), there are a number of other options.

Italeri do an early L/48, though this is a re-release of an Esci kit from 1974. It isn’t a bad kit and can be built with or without the muzzle-brake and it features link-and-length tracks, a couple of figures and some stowage items for the rear hull. Trumpeter do a Jagdpanzer IV that comes with both L/48 and L/70 barrels. This comes with vinyl tracks, but they appear to be well detailed inside and out. Dragon do kits of several versions of the Jagdpanzer IV in 1/72 and all are very nicely detailed and include Dragon’s “DS” tracks.   

If you prefer 1/76, Revell do a very nice Panzer IV L/70 which is a re-release of the Matchbox kit from 1978. It’s a pretty good kit, and though the  vinyl tracks aren’t perhaps up to current standards, it does come with a rather nice diorama base and an infantryman figure. 

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Hasegawa 1/72 Sd.Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Late Version (31151) Build Review

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) Build Review

I have decided to build this kit as a Churchill Mk I of the 9th Royal Tank Regiment in 1942.

I start with drilling out both gun barrels and then move on to construction of the central section of the hull. Something that immediately becomes obvious is the superb fit of all the parts that make up the lower hull. This is as good as it gets and certainly as good if not better than the fit on any other small-scale AFV I have built.

No filler is required at all and everything lines up as it should. I construct the outer boxes that support the tracks separately, mainly because I want to paint some internal details such as the suspension springs before assembly. I also paint the inside of the front and rear hull plates and the sprockets and idlers in a slightly darkened version of the base colour.

When I finish painting, I assemble the outer boxes that contain the suspension – each comprises three parts: the outer plate including the outer faces of the rollers, a central part that includes the suspension springs and the roller axles and a small inner plate that includes the inner faces of the rollers. Fit is again great with one exception – the roller axles line up perfectly with the inner and outer faces of the rollers on nine out of the eleven rollers, but on the raised front and rear rollers, they don’t line up at all. This isn’t a massive problem – the suspension springs can be bent into the right position, but it’s odd considering how well everything else fits.

With that done, I join the boxes to the hull. The suspension springs are clearly visible, so I’m happy that I took the time to paint them before assembly.

The only parts left to fit off the hull are the exhausts, which I’ll paint separately. I do leave the idlers and sprockets free to rotate, because they engage with the tracks and I’ll need to have them in just the right position to get the tracks to sit correctly. There is nice detail on the sprockets at the rear, but unfortunately when these are in position, they can’t be seen at all. At this stage I also check the fit of the tracks and I’m delighted to report that they’re just right in terms of length, neither too tight nor too loose, so I’m hoping that fitting these won’t be too much of a chore.

Next, the turret. Again, fit is very good indeed with only a tiny amount of filler needed at the front on the join between the upper and lower parts of the turret. The inner mantlet is free to elevate.

I check the fit of the turret on the hull, and it’s fine. And that is essentially construction done. There are no problems here and nothing that is at all difficult.

Now, it’s time to begin painting. Finding the precise colour to use is not especially easy. From 1941-42, British tanks were painted in a base colour of Khaki Green No.3, which is a bit lighter than US Olive Drab. After a bit of research, I have decided to use Vallejo Model Color Russian Uniform Green 70.924, which seems at least close to the correct colour. It may be a bit light, but I’m hoping that oil washes will darken it a bit.  

I have used Vallejo acrylics before, but I do note a couple of odd things about this paint. First, it separates really quickly when you put some on a palette. To avoid streaks, you must mix it carefully each time you load the brush. Second, it rubs off really easily. Just gently handling the model results in patches of bare plastic that must be touched-up. I haven’t experienced this with any other Vallejo paints. Once I have an even coat, I give it a quick protective coat of clear varnish before adding some highlights by dry brushing with a slightly lightened version of the base green and I paint the tools on the rear hull and the jacks on the sides.

Then I add the decals. This doesn’t take long as only six are provided for the Mk I – three each of the identification numbers and the red squares denoting this as a tank of “B” squadron.  

After another coat of varnish, I use a heavily thinned wash of black oil paint. This gives me the density of shadow I want in nooks and crannies and also darkens the green and adds streaks and grubby areas to the hull and turret.

Overall, I’m not too unhappy with the final colour. It’s close to what I was hoping for and, I think, a reasonable colour for a British tank in 1942.

Next, the tracks. I give these a very simple finish of dark grey, light gunmetal highlighting for the treads and then a wash with a dark brown acrylic to finish. I glue them together using a two-pack epoxy resin, and this holds well given that they hardly need to be stretched at all to fit in place. All that’s left to add are the two exhausts on the rear hull, and it’s done.

After Action Report

This was simply a joy to build. Everything went together perfectly and with no problems. If you were looking for a first small-scale AFV kit, this would be a great place to start. OK, so the decal sheet is a little sparse, you’ll need to drill out both guns, the commander figure isn’t the best and tracks aren’t great, but they do at least fit and that’s more than I can say for many 1/72 and 1/76 kits!

Despite these minor drawbacks and other than the tracks, detail here is sharp and entirely adequate. Everything appears to be where it should and the proportions and sizes of everything look good.  

Other than drilling out both guns and adding some rough texture to represent rust on the exhausts, this is built straight out of the box. I enjoyed building this and I’m happy with the result. And I don’t suppose you can ask much more from a kit that cost less than €10!

This 1975 kit is highly recommended. And I’m rather looking forward to my next Hasegawa 1/72 kit. Come on, at that price, I wasn’t going to buy just one, now was I?

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Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) In-Box Review and History

Hasegawa 1/72 Infantry Tank Churchill Mk. I (31127) In-Box Review and History

Hasegawa is another name I remember well from my early modelling days, though I don’t think I ever built a Hasegawa kit back then. Hasegawa is a Japanese manufacturer based in Shizuoka in the Chūbu region of Honshu. The Hasegawa Corporation was (and is) a direct competitor to Tamiya. Like Tamiya, Hasegawa began as a manufacturer of wooden toys, puzzles and kits. In 1962 the company released their first plastic kit, a 1/450 scale model of the Japanese battleship Yamato. Within a couple of years, Hasegawa had switched entirely to plastic kits.

While Tamiya focused exclusively on 1/35 scale for its early AFV kits, Hasegawa produced a large line of 1/72 armoured vehicles from the late 1960s. This particular kit was launched in 1975. The Mk. I Churchill is still underrepresented in kit form and most kits of the Churchill kits available in all scales are based on later models.

I also have a personal connection with this tank. My father served in the Scots Guards during World War Two, initially as a driver and later as a gunner in Churchill tanks. I recall wanting to build a model of one of his tanks when I was young, and being surprised and more than a little disappointed to discover that he had no idea in which model(s) of Churchill he had served as crew member. I guess that fascination with marks and models is a luxury us modellers have that the men who served in these tanks didn’t care about – they simply used whatever they were given.

Recently, I found a supplier here in Spain offering some of these old Hasegawa 1/72 kits for just €9. How could I resist? Opinions vary as to the quality of these early Hasegawa kits. Some seem to be OK while others look pretty dreadful. Which is this? Let’s take a look…    

History

Perhaps nothing illustrates the deficiencies in British tank design more graphically than the specification that led to what became the Churchill tank. In September 1939, two days before the declaration of war, a meeting of the General Staff of the British army discussed the need for a new infantry tank. They decided that it should be able to operate on ground churned-up by heavy shelling, it must have good trench-crossing capability and it should have sufficient armour to protect it against German anti-tank weapons. To facilitate these things, they envisaged a tank with tracks that ran all the way round the hull and with weapons mounted on sponsons on the sides. They also noted that it’s top speed need be no more than ten miles-per-hour and that it needed a range of no more than fifty miles.

A11 Infantry Tank Mark I, the original Matilda. It was named after a popular cartoon duck due to a tendency to waddle on its fairly soft suspension.

This would have been a perfectly respectable specification for a tank to be used on the battlefields of the Somme or Passchendaele in 1916. It was wholly unsuitable for a tank intended to oppose the German Blitzkrieg of World War Two. It seems that the General Staff envisaged an attack on the German Siegfried Line and wanted a tank capable of undertaking that mission. One year later, the Germans had graphically illustrated the importance of mobility in armoured operations. Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France were all occupied by Nazi forces and it was clear that British tanks would not be assaulting the Siegfried line any time soon. However, Britain desperately needed a new tank to counter the threat of a German invasion. The initial specification had led to the construction of a prototype, the A20. A new specification was raised for an infantry tank but, in order to produce tanks quickly, it had to use many of the features of the existing A20. This led to a new prototype, the A22, which would eventually become the Churchill tank.

An A12 Infantry Tank Mark II, the Matilda II, in North Africa

The British designation for tanks is confusing, so it’s probably worth spending a moment talking about that. In the inter-war years, the British Army recognised three distinct types of tank. The light tank was fast and lightly armed and armoured and used exclusively for reconnaissance. The cruiser tank was intended for the roles previously undertaken by cavalry of reconnaissance and exploiting breakthroughs. Cruisers were relatively fast and usually armed with weapons intended for anti-tank combat. Finally, there was the infantry tank. This was intended to be used in support of advancing infantry and to counter fixed defences such as blockhouses or trenches. It had no need for high speed and it was heavily armoured to protect it against anti-tank weapons.

The War Office classified all British tanks as one of these three types and most, but not all, were also identified by a War Office designation comprising the letter “A” (“Armoured”) followed by a number. When the war began, Britain already had three infantry tanks in service. The A11 Infantry Tank Mark I (often informally known as the Matilda), the A12 Infantry Tank Mark II (often informally known as the Matilda II) and the Infantry Tank Mark III, formally known as the Valentine (which, for some reason, never seems to have been given a War Office “A” designation). So, the new tank would be known as both the A22 and the Infantry Tank Mark IV, and sometimes as both. However, it was also later given a formal name: Churchill. To save excessive wear on my typing finger, I’ll refer to it here simply as the Churchill, with each major upgrade or change being further identified by a Mk number.

The A22 prototype. This was elongated for improved trench-crossing ability. The production version was shorter, with just 11 rollers on each side instead of the 14 seen here.

The finalised design was slightly archaic in appearance, with a central crew, weapon and engine compartment flanked by large side-pods with tracks running all round the circumference. Where other tanks used rubber for roadwheels and return rollers, the Churchill used eleven steel rollers mounted on individual bogies and steel “bumps” to support the upper run of the track. As a result, all marks of Churchill were extremely noisy when they were moving. The notion of mounting guns in sponsons was dropped for the A22 and all production Churchills had a fully rotating turret. The tank housed a standard crew of five, two in the forward hull and three in the turret.

A Churchill Mk I. This tank, “Indus” of the 9th Royal Tank Regiment, is shown during a training exercise at Tilshead on Salisbury Plain in 1942 and is one of the tanks for which (some) decals are provided with this kit. The red squares on the turret and hull front identify this tank as belonging to “B” Squadron.

The Churchill was designed for the then-new 6 Pounder gun but a shortage of this weapon meant that on the initial Mk I, armament comprised a QF 2-pounder main gun and a co-axial 7.92mm Besa machine-gun in a cast turret plus a hull-mounted QF 3-inch howitzer. On the otherwise identical Mk II, the hull howitzer was replaced by a second 7.92mm Besa machine-gun. The Mk III had the more powerful Ordnance QF 6-pounder gun in a squared-off, welded turret and the top run of the tracks was covered, something that continued for all subsequent models. The most numerous Churchill was the Mk IV, which was identical to the Mk III except that the turret was cast, though it retained the same squared-off look.

The Mk V was produced in small numbers and featured a QF 95 mm howitzer in a cast turret. The Mk VI was also only produced in limited numbers, and featured a 75 mm Mark V gun. The second most numerous Churchill was the Mk VII which had a wider hull and heavier armour in addition to the 75 mm Mark V gun in a cast turret. The Mk VIII mounted a 95 mm howitzer in a modified cast turret. Mks IX – XI were earlier versions upgraded with additional armour.

Holland, November 1944. Churchill Mk IVs of 3rd Battalion Scots Guards, the unit in which my father served, carrying infantry of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

The Churchill was also used as the basis for a number of specialist vehicles including the AVRE bridge layer and the Crocodile flame tank. Churchills served In North Africa, Tunisia, Italy and western Europe as well as being used for the first time in combat during the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. Although early models were inadequately armed, unreliable due to rushed production and slow (the top speed of the Mk IV was just 15mph), all Churchills were massively armoured. The Mk VII, for example, had six inches of frontal armour, 50% thicker than the frontal armour on the German Tiger. It may have originated with a wholly inadequate specification, but the Churchill gradually evolved during the war into a formidable tank. For example, the final wartime derivation of the Churchill, the fifty-ton Black Prince, was too late to see combat, but it was very heavily armoured and armed with the powerful QF 17-pounder gun.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains three sprues moulded in fairly brittle, grey plastic, a set of vinyl tracks, decals and instructions. Despite what it says on the box, parts are provided for both a Mk I (with a 2-pounder in the turret and a three-inch howitzer in the hull) and a Mk II (with the hull howitzer replaced with a Besa machine-gun). Some people who know more about Churchills than I do have suggested that this doesn’t really work as the frontal armour plates on the two types were different, but to me, it looks just about right. If you are feeling bold, you could probably also make this into a Mk II (CS) in which the hull and turret guns were swapped round so that the howitzer was in the turret and the 2-pounder in the hull.

First impressions on looking at the sprues is that the mouldings are very nicely done. They’re quite delicate and much better than I expected for a kit that’s heading for fifty years old. There is some flash and a few sink-marks, but these all seem to be on the inside of parts where they won’t be seen on the finished model.

Both turret hatches are separate parts that can be shown open or closed. The tools on the rear hull and jacks on the sides of the sponsons are moulded in place.

All the tiny rollers are moulded as integral parts of internal and external hull sides, though this is actually quite well done and I think they should look all right on the finished model.

The only part that is showing its age is the commander figure. The moulding here is rather vague and I don’t think I’ll be using the figure when I build this kit. If you want to place the figure inside the turret, you’ll have to chop off his legs. However, a base is also provided if you want him free-standing.

The tracks are vinyl and while they’re not wonderful, they’re not quite as bad as I was expecting. I have read some reviews which suggest that the tracks provided with this kit are so bad that they’re unusable. I disagree. They certainly aren’t as good as link-and-length tracks or even as good as some current vinyl tracks, but they do sort of resemble early Churchill tracks, at least from the outside. Here are the Hasegawa tracks next to a detail of the tracks on a Mk I Churchill at The Tank Museum in Bovington in the UK.

There is no detail on the inside of the tracks at all and I was initially disconcerted to find that they lacked internal horns. However, early Churchill tracks didn’t have such horns – they just had a raised area on the inside of each link and that’s missing here. Pitch is a little short – the original had 58 links per side while these have 66. So, wonderful tracks? No. Just about acceptable for 1/72? I think so, and I do prefer to build these old kits straight out of the box. The real test will be whether these tracks are long enough, and I won’t discover that until I start the build!

The instructions comprise a series of old-school 3D drawings that seem to show the sequence of assembly fairly well. The text is written in wonderful “Jinglish” the like of which I haven’t seen for many years. The history of the Churchill begins: “After a terrible in France, the Royal Army…”

Two colour schemes are shown. Both show standard green Churchills, a Mk I in the markings of “British Home Forces, 1942” (the markings are actually for a tank of “B” Squadron, 9th Royal Tank Regiment) and the other as a Mk II of the Calgary Regiment of the Canadian Army. The decals are printed in register, but aren’t particularly complete for either vehicle.

The decal sheet also provides insignia for both the 2nd Armoured Brigade and the 6th Armoured Division. However, I note that this decal sheet is for both the Churchill kit and Hasegawa’s Crusader Mk II, so I assume the spare decals are intended for the Crusader? If you were so inclined, I suppose you could use them for the Churchill and perhaps even for a Churchill in North African colours?

Would you want one?

Overall, the quality of the mouldings here surprised me. They’re good. Not perhaps up to the best current standards, but much, much better than many AFV kits from the 1970s. Overall, this looks like a reasonable representation of an early Churchill. And if you want to build a 1/72 scale Churchill Mk I or Mk II, this is your only option. As far As I am aware, no other manufacturer produces a small-scale kit of these early models of this tank.

Hasegawa do offer a slightly different version of this kit as the Dieppe Raid Limited edition. This includes a Daimler Mk II Armoured Car and a Mk II Churchill modified with wading gear. Dragon produce several versions of both the Churchill Mk III and IV in 1/72 as part of their Armor Pro series, and all are nice kits featuring Dragon’s DS vinyl tracks. Italeri do a Churchill Mk III in 1/72 – it’s a re-release of an old Esci kit from the 1970s, and it’s pretty good and comes with length and link tracks. The only other alternative in 1/72 comes from the Plastic Soldier Company who do a pair of “Churchill Tanks,” no Mk is specified, but these appear to be Mk IV or VI. Like all PSC products, these are really intended for wargaming and they are fairly simplified models.

If you don’t mind working in 1/76, the Airfix Churchill Mk VII from 1961 isn’t a bad kit and it’s still available as part of the Vintage Classics line. It was also re-released in 2006 as a Crocodile flamethrower variant and in 2009 in AVRE bridge layer mode, though both feature the same rather basic 1960s parts and tracks. Revell also do a Churchill in 1/76, though it’s only available as the AVRE model and it’s a re-box of the Matchbox kit from the 1980s.

Sadly, British Armour just doesn’t seem to receive the same attention from manufacturers (or modellers) as US or German AFVs, so it’s good to see what appears to be a reasonable kit of a little-covered British tank.

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Zvezda 1/72 Jagdpanther (5042) Build Review

I decided to build this kit in a slightly different sequence to usual, mainly because of the tracks. On the last two Zvezda kits I built, I was able to happily ignore the track construction until the hull was done and painted. However, the arrangement of roadwheels on the Jagdpanther is quite complex, so I have decided to follow the instructions and built the wheels and tracks on to the lower hull before working on anything else.

First, I completed construction of the lower hull by adding the suspension arms and other parts. This is all fairly simple and fit is good. There is good detail here, though none of it will be visible on the finished model. Then, I painted the roadwheels, sprockets and idlers. I also painted the tracks at this stage – nothing fancy, just an overall coat of dark grey, some dry-brushing with light gunmetal and some acrylic brown wash for rust and dirt.

Then, I began to assemble the wheels and tracks on the lower hull, and man, was that a pain! The first problem was when I tried to attach one of the rear idlers. This was the result.

I didn’t feel that I was using excessive force, but somehow I snapped off a corner of the lower rear hull including the idler mounting. I glued it back in place with a piece of plastic card for reinforcement and carried on. The next step was to add the inner blocks of eight roadwheels. That, happily is fairly simple. So is adding the next block of four roadwheels.

Then, you use one hand to hold the lower hull, your other hand to fit the tracks on to the tiny plastic pins on the inner roadwheels and your other, other hand to carefully bend the rest of the stiff plastic track into position. You see the problem! Both the previous Zvezda kits I worked on were of Russian tanks (a t-34 and an SU-85). These have just a row of double roadwheels with sturdy plastic pegs between the two sets to hold the tracks in place. That worked well.

Here, the complex arrangement of roadwheels means that the mounting pegs are tiny, and you are trying to locate the tracks on these while threading the lugs on the inner side of the tracks between three rows of wheels. Then, when you have finally managed that, and while holding everything in place, you must add the final row of four separate roadwheels, three of which also have tiny pegs that must locate into the tracks. But, as you are pressing these into place, you can’t see the pegs on the inner face of the wheels. And if you get them even a miniscule amount out of alignment, they snap off. Or at least, mine did. It took my thirty minutes of wrestling and almost my entire stock of swear-words to get the first side done, and even then, there was still a tiny gap where the tracks join on the bottom of the run. I finally sorted that out and retired for the evening.

The second side was just as challenging, but somehow I did end up with a lower hull with two sets of tracks that look sort of all right. But this was not a process I enjoyed in the least!

With the tracks and lower hull done, it’s time to move on to upper hull construction. Happily, this is very simple. Fit is generally very good and in a couple of places, on the rear plate of the upper hull and the inner mantlet, for example, it’s pretty close to perfect. No filler is needed at all. The gun and outer mantlet attach to an arm fixed inside the hull and this allows the gun to both elevate and traverse.

Then, you need to snap the upper and lower hulls together, and this is a one-time process. There is no test assembly here, once the parts are snapped together, they stay that way! Happily and once again, fit is good. There is a small visible gap at the front where the upper and lower hulls join which needs a line of filler and I needed a little more when I added the lower rear hull plate, but that may be because I snapped off a corner of the lower hull during track construction. The schurzen side plates also fit very nicely indeed. I’m leaving off the tools, tow-cables etc., at this stage to make basic painting easier.  

This kit does nicely replicate the squat, purposeful look of the Jagdpanther. With the bulk of construction done, it’s time to start main hull painting. First, it gets several thinned coats of Mig Jiminez Dunklegelb.

Then I add everything but the spare track-links, tow-cables and machine gun and add some fairly subtle highlights using a lightened version of the base dunklegelb.

Then, I add a fairly simple camouflage scheme.  I have had lots of problems with these in the past, especially with the contrast between the green and brown and the base dark yellow. I have tried filters to try to tone this contrast down, but they haven’t turned out too well, so here I’m simply using lightened versions of the basic dark brown and green, applied with a stippling brush. And it doesn’t look too bad, in fact, I’m happier with this than with most of my previous attempts at German camo schemes and I’m hoping that the final oil wash will tome things down even more. Before that, I add the decals and give everything a quick coat of matt varnish.

Then, it gets a pin-wash with dark grey oil, I add the last few parts, and that’s the Zvezda Jagdpanther done.

After Action Report

Having said previously how much I loved Zvezda tracks, I found the tracks on this kit an utter pain to assemble. This job was fiddly, time consuming and the amount of force needed to get things like the final set of outer wheels in place graphically illustrates just how fragile the lower hull assembly is at this stage of construction. Maybe I’m just clumsy, but it would be much too easy at this stage to break something critical. Having said all that, the finished tracks have more detail and probably do look better than vinyl versions in this scale.

Other than that, assembly was simple and straightforward and fit was very good everywhere. I do like the fact that the tools, tow-cables and other parts are provided separately, and this certainly makes them easier to paint and they look so much better than moulded-in-place parts. I did note on this kit that every part can be snapped into place without the need for glue – on previous Zvezda kits, some small parts did need to be glued in place.

Overall, this is certainly one of the most accurate and complete small-scale Jagdpanthers available. Perhaps it’s even the best? For me, the main question is, having built this, my third Zvezda 1/72 kit, would I tackle another? And the answer is,,, probably. The arrangement of roadwheels and tracks made this a challenging build for me, so I’m not sure I’d be rushing to buy, for example, a Panther or Tiger by the same manufacturer. However, I do still feel that these hard plastic tracks represent the best detailed 1/72 tanks tracks that I have come across to date. So, another Zvezda 1/72 kit? Yes, but perhaps something with a simpler arrangement of roadwheels…

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Zvezda 1/72 Jagdpanther (5042) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I have wanted to build a small-scale Jagdpanther for some time. This must be one of the most iconic of all the German AFVs of World War Two and there are several versions available in 1/72 and 1/76. Having enjoyed a couple of Revell (ex-Matchbox) 1/76 kits recently, I was tempted by the Revell 1/76 Jagdpanther. Like most of the re-issued Matchbox kits, that one comes with a rather nice diorama base, but it is missing track-guards and its proportions just don’t look quite right to me.

There are lots of 1/72 Jadgpanthers available, but many of those have dimensional issues too. At least one (also produced by Revell) is actually closer to 1/76 than 1/72! However, for me, the greatest issue with most small-scale Jagdpanthers (as well as Panthers and Tigers) is the tracks. The large, broad, heavy tracks fitted to this vehicle have characteristic sag from the front sprocket. Visually, this is a very distinctive feature of this vehicle, and one that I’m not certain can be portrayed accurately by vinyl tracks.

Of course, there are also kits with link-and-length tracks available, but I do find it challenging to assemble these believably where they are assembled from individual links and pass over the sprocket and idler. However, there is one manufacturer whose 1/72 tracks I have found to be simply outstanding: Zvezda. This Russian manufacturer provides hard plastic tracks that are nicely detailed and moulded in one piece – they’re simply bent over the sprocket and idler and joined by pegs hidden within the roadwheels.

I have built two Zvezda 1/72 kits and on both, I was very impressed by their track design. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that these are the best tracks I have come across on any small-scale armour kits. I want to build a Jagdpanther, and I want the tracks to look right. So, the logical choice is Zvesda’s Jagdpanther which was first released in 2017. Will I end up happy or suffering from more 1/72 track-angst? Let’s take a look…     

History

The Pak 43 developed by Krupp was the most powerful German anti-tank gun in service during World War Two. It was intended to compete with the existing Rheinmetall 8.8 cm and it comfortably exceeded the penetrating ability and range of even the dreaded “eighty-eight.” The Pak 43 could penetrate the frontal armour of even the heaviest Soviet and Allied tanks at ranges of over 12km and it was accurate up to 3km. However, this fearsome weapon had one major drawback – it was so heavy and unwieldy that it made a less than perfect towed gun. 

A pair of Jagdpanthers somewhere in France, 1944

A study in 1942 by the Heereswaffenamt (the R&D arm of the German army) developed what looked like an ideal solution. The new gun would be installed on a self-propelled chassis based on the then-new Panzer V Panther tank (a version was also used as the main gun for the Tiger II). Various delays meant that the new vehicle did not enter mass production until November 1943 at which time it was given the designation Sd.Kfz.173 and the name Jagdpanther (hunting Panther).

The new tank-killer housed a crew of five behind a solid slab of frontal armour that was 80mm thick and sloped at an angle of 55˚. This made the front armour impervious to most Soviet and Allied anti-tank weapons. With power provided by a 23 litre Maybach V12 petrol engine, the Jagdpanther was fast too, with a top speed of almost 30mph.

A Jagdpanther with the early one-piece main gun

However, Allied bombing raids and shortages of skilled workers and materials meant that by June 1944, fewer than fifty Jagdpanthers had been manufactured. Production accelerated after that, but only just over four hundred Jagdpanthers were produced in total. There were a number of detail changes to the Jagdpanther during production with the most obvious including a change from a one-piece to a two-piece barrel for the main gun and from a welded to a bolted mantlet. There were just two formal model designations: The first Ausf. G1 was based on a Panther Ausf. A engine deck. From around January 1945, the Ausf. G2 used a Panther Ausf. G engine deck. Many Jagdpanthers were fitted with Schürzen side-armour, though this often does not seem to have been fitted.

A Jagdpanther with Schürzen side-armour and the two-part main gun.

The earliest Jagdpanthers were also provided with the Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating. However, this was discontinued from September 1944 to speed production and because magnetic anti-tank weapons were becoming rare on the battlefield. Jagdpanthers were used on both the eastern and western fronts. Most Jadgpanthers produced during 1944 were sent to western Europe or to the Italian front. Later models served in both the east and west.    

What’s in the Box?

This kit represents a Jagdpanther Ausf. G1 incorporating the later bolted mantlet and two-part main gun. It lacks Zimmerit which identifies it as a vehicle produced between September 1944 and January 1945. All 96 parts for this kit, other than for the lower hull which is provided separately, are on two sprues and moulded in fairly soft, light brown plastic.

Surface detail looks very good indeed, though all hatches are moulded in place and this doesn’t use slide-moulding so the main gun and exhaust are solid.

This is a snap-together kit, though from my previous experience, I would assume that glue will also be needed. The roadwheels are interesting, with the inner blocks of wheels being moulded as complete assemblies and only the four outer wheels provided as individual parts.

Spare track links, tow cables, tools and other small parts are provided separately rather than moulded on, which is always good to see. There are even a couple of cooling fans that will be placed inside the rear hull under the circular openings in the engine deck.

The tracks look very good indeed. Detail on both inside and outside is impressive and from my previous experience with kits from this manufacturer, I’m hopeful that they will build to a good recreation of Jagdpanther tracks.

The instructions are clear and look easy to follow. The description of how to build the tracks is worth paying attention to because this is a little different to most kits that come with vinyl or link-and-length tracks. It’s notable that the instructions state that the join in the tracks is on the top run on one side, and on the bottom run on the other.

A generic colour scheme is shown though this, like the decals, doesn’t show a Jagdpanther from a particular unit or even from a front – it’s up to you to choose which (if any) of the unit numbers you use. The decals do look sharp and they are printed in-register.

Overall, and like the other Zvezda kits I have built, this looks very good. Detail is sharp, adequate and everything seems to be in the right place for a late-production Jagdpanther Ausf. G1. Dimensionally this looks pretty close and it certainly seems to be one of the better Jagdpanther kits out there.    

Would you want one?

The last two Zvezda 1/72 kits I built were impressive and I’m hopeful that this one will be just as good. If you do fancy something different, there are plenty of alternatives, though all of them seem to have particular issues.

The Revell (ex-Matchbox) 1/76 Jagdpanther from 1974 has a number of problems. It’s completely missing track-guards (though these are shown on the box art), the sprocket appears to be located too far forward compared to the upper hull and the gap between the tracks and upper hull looks too large. Ironically, the Revell 1/72 Jagdpanther released in 2010 also has dimensional issues that mean it’s actually very close to 1/76. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good kit with link-and-length tracks.

The Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanther is a reboxing of an Esci kit from 1975. Dimensionally it’s not bad (though it’s a little large in some respects), but it has parts from both early and late production models and the placement for things like the tools is very odd. This kit comes with either vinyl or link-and-length tracks, but both versions are poor, with no internal detail at all. Both S-Model and HaT do 1/72 Jagdpanthers, and both are dimensionally accurate. However, these kits are intended for wargamers rather than modellers and both are somewhat light on detail.

Dragon do a 1/72 Jagdpanther early production model in their Armor Pro series. This is a very nice kit featuring PE parts and Zimmerit on the hull. However, it features a Panther Ausf. G rear engine deck, and this would only be appropriate to an Ausf. G2 late model Jagdpanther, and none of those were provided with Zimmerit! Some people suggest that combining the early engine deck from the Esci/Italeri kit with this Dragon offering would produce a respectable model of an early Jagdpanther, but that would be a relatively expensive approach given the current high cost of Dragon kits – here is Spain, buying both these kits cost over €35!.

Trumpeter also do a 1/72 Jagdpanther, but it comes with vinyl tracks and, given that on the last Trumpeter kit I built the tracks were rather too short, it’s not a kit I’d be rushing to buy.   

So, lots of choice, but it does seem that the Zvezda 1/72 Jagdpanther is one of the most accurate in terms of both dimensions and parts. It’s also fairly cheap and it does come with those lovely plastic tracks!

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Forces of Valor 1/72 Panzer III Ausf. N (87011) Build Review

If you have read the in-box review of this kit, you’ll know that it’s not the highest quality of kits. You may therefore be wondering why I’m even bothering to build it? The answer is: I learn something from every kit I build and in this case, there is something particular I want to test. Specifically, I haven’t been happy with the two small-scale kits of German tanks I have built and attempted to paint with a camouflage pattern. The colours just look  too stark in terms of contrast and I want to try experimenting with filters to try to reduce that contrast. And that’s really what I will be focusing on here. But, to get something to paint, I first have to finish the build…

I will be attempting to make a couple of small improvements to the kit. First, I separate the conjoined blocks of roadwheels into separate pairs of roadwheels. The blocks look really nasty to me, and it only takes ten minutes or so to go from this…

To this.

The I fabricate some replacement schürzen for the hull using thin plastic card. These are still a little thick, but they are better than what was provided with the kit.

Then, it’s on to construction. The hull goes together with no problems at all and no filler required. Fit is good, in fact, many parts snap into place with no need of glue.

The turret isn’t quite so good and some filler is required for a couple of gaps at the bottom front and at the front of the rear stowage box. There is also a minor issue with the hatches – these are only designed to be open. If you want them closed, some trimming and filler is needed to get a good fit.

Now that it’s done, the upper schürzen mountings do look very thick. So, I quickly make some new ones out of thin plastic card.

With basic construction done, I decide to do a quick check of the tracks. These are vinyl tracks, but they’re thicker and less elastic than most I have come across. I add a couple of roadwheels for a dry fit (I’m leaving them off to paint the tyres more easily) and I add the tracks, just to check that they’re long enough. And here’s the result:

As you can see, the tracks are about 10mm too short! Initially, I was tempted just to stop here. Two out of the last three tank kits I have worked on have had too-short vinyl tracks, and I’m getting rather bored with it. These are even worse – they’re relatively thick and strong and so short that there’s a good chance that the joint will break or the rather flimsy rear idlers would snap if they are joined and then stretched to fit. After some rumination, I decide to go ahead with the rest of the build without even trying to join the tracks. I’ll leave the open section on the top run where, hopefully, it will be hidden by the schürzen.   

Next, the painting. I begin with an undercoat of Mig Jiminez Dunklegelb base, then I highlight using Dunklegelb shine and give it all a final thinned coat of the base shade. Then I apply a basic camouflage scheme using Mig Olivegrun and Shokobraun. There is no standard scheme – these camouflage colours were applied in the field and they range from carefully thought out and meticulously applied schemes to something that looks as though it has been done by tossing buckets of paint at the vehicle.

However, the contrast between the camo and base colours is too great. I want to try to use a filter to tone this down. The question is, what colour do I want to use? I have painted a scrap of card in the same colours as the kit and I use this for testing. I try very dilute mixes of oil paint and thinners with dark brown, ochre and a mix of brown and titanium white, but none give particularly satisfactory results, mainly because they all pool badly. Eventually, I use a dilute mix of acrylic white and clear varnish to tone everything down and make it look dusty. Then, I overpaint with a filter of very dilute dark brown oil to emphasize shadows.

Frankly, the result isn’t great. The brown wash works well enough, but I clearly I still have work to do on the filter. It has toned-down the camo contrast but at the expense of a blotchy overall finish. I may consider buying a ready-mixed filter and trying that in future.

All that then remains is to paint the roadwheel tyres , the tools and some other small bits and pieces. I also paint the tracks and discover an odd thing that I have seen on other vinyl tracks – they accept paint, but strangely the original colour of the vinyl seems to show through when the paint dries. I painted the tracks a dark gunmetal with lighter gunmetal highlights but when dry, they look black with lighter highlights. On another kit I might have tried again but on this one, I’m just keen to get finished and move on.

So, here is the completed Forces of Valor Panzer III. At least with the hull schürzen in place, you can’t see the gaps in the tracks!

After Action Report

I didn’t enjoy this build and the principal reason can be summed-up in one word: Tracks! I think you know what I mean! With the provided tracks, this kit is basically unbuildable. When I discovered that, I was tempted to abandon this build without finishing it. I persevered only because I want to use this as a test-bed for new painting techniques. The paint job turned out pretty badly, and that certainly isn’t the fault of this kit. However, while otherwise this might be a good kit for a beginner, the fact that the vinyl tracks are just way too short could only cause disappointment and frustration.

I can’t say I’m especially happy with the finished model. The mouldings are a mix of very good and not so good. Some of the fine detail is nicely done but the odd and overscale hull schürzen and the very thick turret schürzen mountings, for example, look very strange. Construction is generally straightforward and fit isn’t bad at all in most places.

I didn’t notice until I parked it next to some other 1/72 kits that this kit is also too large. On the original Panzer III, the hull was 2.9m wide, excluding schürzen. That should equal a whisker over 40mm wide in 1/72. However, this kit is actually almost 46mm wide – its hull is close to the width of a Tiger tank in the same scale and it’s noticeably larger than a T-34. On its own, this isn’t too noticeable but next to other kits in the same scale, it just looks wrong.

This isn’t a dreadful kit, but neither is it particularly good. With so much choice covering the Panzer III in this scale, it’s just very difficult to see why you’d choose this one. There are cheaper and easier to construct small-scale tank kits for beginners and there are much more accurate and detailed kits for not a lot more money for more advanced builders. Sorry Waltersons, but for me, this is probably one kit to avoid.    

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Forces of Valor 1/72 Panzer III Ausf. N (87011) In-Box Review and History

Forces of Valor 1/72 Panzer III Ausf. N (87011) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

Now that shops here in Spain are beginning to re-open after COVID lockdown, I recently found myself strolling past a toy and model shop I had never noticed before. And there in the window was a 1/72 tank kit by a manufacturer I had never heard of for a reduced price somewhere south of €5. Well, how could I resist that?

So, here is a slightly unexpected review of a Panzer III Ausf. N kit produced by a company that may, or may not, be called Waltersons. The only information about these kits I can find on-line references “Forces of Valor” as a trade name and emphasizes that these kits are simple, robust and price-friendly (the full price of this Panzer III kit was under €10). The website also notes that all kits are “injected with pigment” in the appropriate final colour so that they don’t need painting. These sound like simplified kits so, I guess we are not dealing with DML levels of accuracy and completeness here.

This kit first appeared in 2011 as a product from Unimax Toys, a Hong-Kong based manufacturer. In its original incarnation, the box identified the manufacturer as Unimax and the kit as depicting a Panzer III of Panzer Brigade “Norwegen” in May 1945. The version I found is branded “Waltersons – Enthusiasm Beyond Compare” and cites Kursk 1943, though the box also mentions Panzer Brigade Norwegen. The box also notes that the kit is moulded in plastic coloured to match RAL 7028, which, according to my sources, is Dunklegelb (dark yellow), which was the base colour used on mid to late war German tanks.

So, this kit presents a different kind of challenge. A quick look inside the box suggests something that in some ways is more toy-like than most of the tank kits covered on this site. Will it be possible to use this as the basis for a reasonable model of the Panzer III? 

History

The Panzer III and Panzer IV were designed in the mid-1930s as Germany’s main tanks. The Panzer IV was intended as an infantry support tank and initially armed with a 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 main gun. The smaller and lighter Panzer III was to be a tank-killer and was armed with a 3.7 cm KwK L/46.5 main gun, a development of the Pak 36 anti-tank gun.

Panzer IIIs with 3.7cm main guns in Yugoslavia in 1941

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia commons

During the early war, in combat in Poland and during the invasion of France and Belgium, the Panzer III proved just about adequate but, when German forces invaded Russia in 1941 and found themselves facing T-34s and KV-1s, it was clear that a more powerful main gun was required. The Panzer III was upgraded with the 5cm KwK 38 L/42 main gun. However, even that proved less than effective in the tank-killing role and due to the limited size of its turret ring, the Panzer III could not be equipped with a larger main gun.

At that point, the Panzer III and IV underwent a role reversal. The Panzer IV was equipped with a modified version of the Pak 40 75mm anti-tank gun to become an effective tank-killer. The Panzer III Ausf. N was equipped with the same short 75mm main gun originally fitted to the Panzer IV and became used as an infantry support tank. A number of these later Panzer IIIs were also assigned to heavy tank companies to provide close-support for Tiger tanks – the full company compliment was nine Tigers and ten Panzer III Ausf. N. The Ausf. N was the second most numerous version of the Panzer III with more than six hundred produced in 1942 and 1943.

Panzer III with 5cm main gun and schürzen hull and turret armour in Russia.

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia commons

The subject of this particular kit is a Panzer III Ausf. N of Panzer Brigade “Norwegen”. This unit was formed in July 1944 at the Trandum military training camp near Oslo. Although identified as a brigade, the only units involved were a battalion of Panzer IIIs and Panzergrenadier battalion “Norwegen”. In early 1945, the brigade was transferred to Narvik to face a potential Russian attack on Northern Norway. This attack never materialised and the brigade saw no combat before surrendering to British forces on 10th May 1945. I had never heard of Panzer Brigade “Norwegen” before buying this kit and kudos to Forces of Valor for choosing such a little-known unit as the subject for a kit.

Panzer IIIs of Panzer Brigade “Norwegen” after their surrender. The three tanks in the first row are all Ausf. N. None of the tanks in this photo seem to show any markings at all.

What’s in the box?

This feels like a kit with a bit of an identity crisis and the box contains several surprises, some pleasant, some less so.

Inside, you’ll find several sprues and individual parts, all separately sealed in plastic bags. These parts are moulded in a pale brown plastic that does, sort of, look like Dunklegelb. There is also a black vinyl sprue containing both the tracks and the commander figure, a set of decals and instructions.  

Let’s start with the plastic parts. There are three sprues plus the turret and upper and lower hull.

The biggest surprise for me was the high quality of many of the mouldings here. These are sharp and almost entirely without flash or any visible mould release marks. Detail is actually very good, with things like the roadwheels being provided with open lightening holes and even the mesh on the upper side of the track-guards being included.

Judging by the fact that the bore of the main gun is moulded open, I’d guess that these are produced using some form of slide-moulding technology. You can see in the picture below that there is even some attempt to show weld detail on the mantlet.

The down side is that some mouldings are clearly intended to make building the kit simple. For example, all the roadwheels are conjoined to form four blocks (two inner and two outer) of six wheels.

The tools and lower halves of the spare roadwheels are moulded in place on the hull and the gun mount looks simplified. The box art shows Nebelwurfgerät, turret mounted launchers for smoke grenades, but these aren’t included with the kit. However the turret hatches and exhaust, for example, are nicely moulded as separate parts.

However, my biggest disappointment is the schürzen side armour. This is not only much too thick, it’s provided in a strange overlapping design that looks really odd.

The soft vinyl tracks have reasonable detail on the inside and outside and the commander figure is made from the same material – good luck fixing his arm in place securely! 

The decal sheet provides just three decals – a single cross and two unit markings that portray a double-headed eagle with a red panel and yellow cross in the centre. I believe this is the coat of arms of 2nd Panzer Division and I have seen schemes that show this marking on vehicles used during Operation Citadel, the Battle of Kursk, though most of these also show a three-digit tactical  number on the rear of the turret armour and other smaller markings that aren’t provided here.

The instructions are straightforward exploded views.

The suggested colour scheme is a perfectly sensible Dunklegelb base with brown and green camouflage.

The instructions provide just a single short paragraph on the history of the Panzer III, written in something that only approximates English. You certainly aren’t going to learn anything new here.

Would you want one?

That’s tricky. If you find one of these for very little cash, then possibly, yes. However, the schürzen plates and mountings are way too thick, the tools are moulded in place and the roadwheels come as single blocks. All of these things can be fixed, of course, and the basic kit seems fairly accurate, cleanly moulded and it looks like a fair representation of the Panzer III. However, it does seem like a simplified kit aimed at an inexperienced kit-builder who wants to create a finished model as quickly as possible.

I’m kind of intrigued by this one. If I’m honest, the contents of the box are better than I had expected in terms of moulding quality and accuracy, but then I build lots of Airfix kits from the 1960s, so perhaps I’m not the best person to judge? I’m sure if you compared it to many modern 1/72 armour kits, this would look very toy-like. But, I think it will still nevertheless be possible to create a reasonable model of a Panzer III. And there is a sort of perverse satisfaction to be found in the process of making a kit better…

If you don’t fancy one of these, there are plenty of other Panzer III kits in 1/72 to choose from. Dragon do two versions of the Ausf. N, one from the DAK and another, with schürzen, of 2nd Panzer Division at the Battle of Kursk.

Italeri do a 1/72 Panzer III that can be completed as either Ausf. M or N and Revell do a rather nice Ausf. L kit which includes their link-and-length tracks.

Given all this choice of very decent small-scale kits, why would you choose the flawed Forces of Valor Panzer III? For me, the answer was simply that I stumbled across it at a price too good to pass up and I’m keen to use it to experiment with new techniques for painting German camouflage that may (or may not) work out. I would guess that this kit is really aimed at younger modellers who don’t want to spend lots of time on construction and may not be interested in painting the finished kit. However, that also presents a more mature (ahem!) kit-builder with an interesting challenge. Stand by for a build review…

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Heller 1/72 M4A2 Sherman Division Leclerc (79894) Build Review

This is a longer build review than usual for the simple reason that this is a complex and detailed kit. So, sit back, relax and fortify yourself with your chosen beverage and let’s see how the Heller M4A2 turned out.

The first step with this particular kit is deciding which of the three tanks for which decals are provided to model? That will then allow me to decide which of the alternative parts to use. After some research, I decide to build Brive la Gaillarde, an M4A2 of 3ème Escadron, 12ème Régiment de Cuirassiers. This tank was used by Division Leclerc from its initial landing in Normandy on Utah Beach on 1st August 1944 through to the end of the war. After some Googling, I find a wartime photograph of this particular tank:

This photograph clearly shows which glacis plate, transmission cover and tracks to use. I haven’t found a clear photo of this tank that shows the running gear, so I’ll go with what the instructions in terms of which roadwheels, idlers and sprockets to use. With that decided, I can confidently begin the build. 

I start as per the instructions by assembling the lower hull and the suspension, sprockets, idlers and roadwheels. No problems with assembly and fit and location of all parts is very good.

Then, it’s on to the upper hull. Again, I follow the instructions and add things like the rear lights and brush-guards. I notice that Heller helpfully provide a painting guide for the rear lights.

However, there is a problem. Each rear light is approximately the size of a gnat’s eyeball. Here they are next to the head of a match:

I have a feeling I’ll be skipping this part of painting… Anyway, assembly of the rear hull proceeds without any major hitches. The fit on the rear deck and rear hull plates is wonderful. You will need to drill out a few holes in various places, depending on which tank you are building, but these are clearly shown in the instructions. The instructions note that You must also carefully cut away half of the bolts on the upper edge of the rear hull plate. It’s only when I have done this that I realise that you can’t actually see these on the finished model because they’re hidden by the rear stowage box.

The fit of the glacis plate is less impressive and there is a distinct gap on either side. A little Tamiya white putty is used to fill these.

The instructions suggest leaving joining the upper and lower hull halves separate until the tracks are in place. However, a quick dry assembly shows that there is also a distinct gap between the front edge of the glacis plate and the upper rear edge of the transmission cover.

This will also need to be filled before painting, so I think I may assemble the hull before painting and add the tracks later. Fortunately, there seems to be sufficient clearance between the track-guards and return rollers and sprockets to allow this.

I join the upper and lower hull halves and then fill the gap between glacis plate and transmission cover using more Tamiya white putty . This isn’t easy – you need to get a very thin line of filler into the gap but without covering the bolt detail on the transmission cover. I finally get something that just about looks acceptable and move on to completing the upper hull assembly.

The rest of the bits and pieces are added to the hull. Everything fits well and, as you can see, I have decided to go for open hatches. I leave off the tools and other accessories at the moment to paint these separately.

Then, It’s on to the gun and mount. The barrel comprises two parts, with the hollow tip moulded separately.

When it’s glued in place, it’s obvious that some sanding and filling will be needed conceal the join.

With  some careful sanding and the use of a tiny amount of Tamiya putty, I get something that looks fairly smooth if slightly tapered.

Then, the turret. Fit is great with no filler required anywhere. Some parts, such as the antenna base and the lifting rings are tiny and need careful handling and placement, but overall, no complaints.

The finished turret looks very good indeed. It’s a mini work of art in itself and, as you can see, I have gone for open hatches here too.

And that’s pretty much construction done. One thing I did notice that isn’t included here are the towing shackles on the front of the hull. I was thinking of adding a tow cable when I noticed that there is nowhere to connect it to! This does seem a little odd on a kit that is otherwise so detailed, and I improvise something out of the spares box – they look a little oversize, but I can live with that.

With that job done, it’s time to start painting. First, the hull and turret get a light base coat of white, followed by dark olive drab in areas of deep shadow under the track guards and on the rear hull. The inside of the hull and turret get a coat of black, to make sure that nothing of the interior will be visible through the open hatches and then it all gets a coat of clear varnish.  

It gets a top coat of Tamiya TS-28, Olive Drab 2. Then, I distress the finish with a scourer to bring up the highlights and then give it a coat of clear varnish mixed with a little Mig Olivegrun.

Next task is to add the decals using Vallejo decal fix and decal softener, and that’s not a five-minute job. French tanks had lots of markings and they are all replicated here – there are twenty decals on the hull alone! I was disappointed to note that some of the decals are badly out of register – that’s a surprise on a kit that otherwise exudes quality. Otherwise, the decals go on well with no silvering or other issues. I also paint the inside of the hatches, the turret and hull machine guns and the roadwheel tyres before giving everything another coat of clear varnish.

Then, it’s on to an oil pin wash using dark grey to bring up the shadows.

Then, I join and paint the tracks. I keep it simple – a dark grey for the rubber blocks, lighter gunmetal for the metal  parts with soft pencil highlighting and then an acrylic brown wash for rust and dust. Then, I put them in place and I discover that they’re so short that one of the joins immediately pulls apart.

OK, in the hope that someone from Heller (or any other tank kit manufacturer) is reading this, I have a message for you: if you must provide your otherwise finely engineered plastic kit with crappy, unglueable, vinyl tracks, MAKE THEM LONG ENOUGH! Please! Because, if you don’t then the fragile joints break when you try to stretch them into position. And that makes me cross, which makes me shout at my cat, and he’s a sensitive soul. This is just so frustrating – I mean, this is generally a very fine kit indeed, so, why spoil it with too-short vinyl tracks? OK, rant over. I’m calm now. Really. Almost.

With the tracks finally wrestled into position (and the cat off in a sulk) all that remains to complete this kit is to add a stretched-sprue radio antenna the tools and other bits and pieces to the hull and turret. And there are lots of these including jerrycans and kitbags.

And that’s the Heller M4A2 (finally!) finished.

After Action Report

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. Some of the decals with this kit were badly out of register, which is disappointing. The vinyl tracks are, as usual, resistant to every known form of glue and they’re too short. Which is very irritating indeed. No tow cable or shackles are provided. Things like the brush-guards over the lights are too thick.

Other than these drawbacks, this is just an outstanding kit. It’s well-engineered, accurate and complete. In fact, I really don’t see how you could have a better representation of an M4A2 in 1/72. This very completeness provides its own problems – you will be dealing with very tiny parts, and these aren’t always easy to paint or to position accurately. I never did paint the tail lights and I was delighted to note that you can’t actually see these on the finished model because they’re covered by the jerrycans stowed on the rear hull. There are lots of options too, and it takes some research to be certain which to use. But at least you’ll have a good stock of unused parts for your spares box when you’re done.

For myself, I found the complexity here a little daunting. Dealing with things like accessories is simple in 1/35, but it’s more of a challenge in 1/72. The last tank kit I built in this scale was the tiny IGC Sandurni from Minairons, which has just three main parts. You could make many arguments that this is a better kit. It’s certainly a much more detailed kit yet, overall, I enjoyed the experience of building the IGC Sandurni more than this one. But that’s purely my own personal reaction. Overall, I think the finished kit here looks all right. But for my next 1/72 tank, I’ll be looking for something a little simpler!    

And here’s my cat, Clarence, wondering whether my next kit will involve too-tight vinyl tracks. He likes to watch me kit-building, but he doesn’t like shouting. And no, it isn’t an optical illusion – he really is cross-eyed. Readers who remember kid’s TV shows of the 1960s may even be able to guess why he’s called Clarence.

So, Heller, Airfix, Trumpeter, et al. Enough already with the too-tight vinyl tracks. For Clarence’s sake, please, give us something better.

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