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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review

The way in which the tracks are provided in this kit means that I will be painting and assembling the tracks, roadwheels, idlers, sprockets and lower hull before I start painting the upper hull. As usual, I’ll be brush painting everything.

The lower hull comprises seven parts and assembles without any problems and without the need for any filler.

I attach the upper hull and add all the other bits and pieces to that, other than for the rear mudguards and the side-pieces for the track guards, which I’ll leave off until the tracks are complete and in place. Fit is great with one exception: the part on the rear hull arrowed below. This part has two pegs that are supposed to fit into two holes in the upper hull. But the holes are too small (or the pegs are too big) and I had to use a 1mm drill to enlarge the holes before this part would fit properly.

I then added the inner halves of the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets to the lower hull. The tracks fit over these and are retained in place by the outer halves which are fixed in place after the tracks. Some care is needed when fitting the sprockets as these must mesh with the gaps between treads on the tracks, so dry-fitting and adjustment is needed before the inner halves of the sprockets are fixed in place.

With the inner wheels in place, I try a dry fit of the tracks, and they look pretty good. 

Then, it’s on to the turret. The armour plates on the sides and rear are separate parts, but fit is generally very good. The only issue is where the mantlet and front plate join the turret. Here, there’s a distinct gap.

This is odd, mainly because fit everywhere else is very good, but I don’t think I messed up construction, so some filler will be required.

The completed turret sits nicely on the hull once it’s done. The last bit of construction before I start painting is the main gun. And it’s a bit of a faff. The barrel and one half of the muzzle come as a single part with the other (and very tiny) half of the muzzle as a separate part. This means that the muzzle opening is open without the need for slide moulding, but fit and location of the half of the muzzle isn’t great.

Careful sanding is required to get something that looks even approximately right. Once the muzzle half is added, I notice that the opening at the front is too small and clearly not circular, so I end up having to drill it out anyway!

Time to start painting. First, the tracks get a coat of Vallejo dark grey, followed by dry-brushing with gunmetal and a wash of acrylic brown. I also paint the lower hull as well as the inner and outer halves of the sprockets, roadwheels and idlers. I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform as the base colour. This is initially a little light, but previous experience suggests that once it gets a coat of varnish and a dark grey wash, it should look all right.

Then the tracks are pushed into place and the outer halves of the wheels are glued into place – this also holds the tracks in position.

I did find painting the roadwheel tyres difficult here. Hell, I always find painting 1/76 roadwheel tyres challenging, but these were even more fiendishly difficult than usual. The main problem is that the small outer lip of the wheels is barely defined at all, making it hard to follow with a brush. It takes several attempts before I get something I’m moderately happy with. I also highlight the hubs and bolts with a lighter version of the base colour.

Overall, I like this method of track construction. It’s easy and straightforward and even I find it difficult to get it wrong. OK, so I still feel that the tracks could have had more detail, but in general, this isn’t bad. With the tracks in place, I add the small side-pieces at the front and rear of each track guard. There is no clearance at all between these and the tracks and on one side at the front, I had to sand down the outer edge of the track to get this part to fit properly. Fortunately, this isn’t visible once the side piece is in place.

Then, the upper hull is painted with several thinned coats of the base colour and some dry-brushed highlights are added using a lightened version of this colour.

Finally, the decals are added (but not the white stars – as noted in in-box review, I don’t think these were used on the tank from 7th Armoured Division for which decals are provided) and I add some chipping in Vallejo German Grey on exposed edges and around hatches. I also paint the tools on the rear hull and the hull and turret machine-guns and then give everything a coat of clear varnish.

Finally, it gets a wash with dark grey oil paint to bring out shadows and make everything look a bit grubby and well-used. And that’s it done.

After Action Report

This was a straightforward build with no major problems. Fit is generally good, the instructions are clear and I do like this method of representing tracks. Detail is generally very good and this ends up looking like a Cromwell, which is about all you can ask for at this scale.

Getting rid of the join where the tip of the muzzle is attached to the gun is fiddly and filler was needed at the front of the turret roof, but otherwise this was a relaxing and enjoyable build. If you want to build a 1/76 Cromwell, this is the only choice, so it’s lucky that it’s a decent kit.

I would have liked to see some more detail on the tracks and perhaps a few items of stowage for the rear hull and a commander figure might have been nice, especially as the turret hatch can be shown open. But overall, these are pretty minor niggles. It’s nice to see an Airfix tank kit that’s up there in most respects with modern kits compared to the older 1/76 offerings from this company which are looking rather tired now. I just wish other small-scale armour kit manufacturers would adopt this method of producing tracks and add more detail…

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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) In-Box Review and History

In 1961 Airfix released the first of their military vehicles in 1/76 with the Churchill, Panther and Sherman (though they were initially sold as “OO Scale”). For the next 13 years, these 1/76 vehicles became a mainstay of the Airfix range. In 1974, they released three new kits: the Type 97 Chi-Ha, SAM-2 Guideline missile and German Reconnaissance Set. Then suddenly, and just when it seemed that there was going to be a never-ending stream of small-scale Airfix tanks, that was it. There were no more 1/76 military vehicle kits from Airfix.

Airfix Panzer IV packaging from 1997. A decent kit, but it was 1/76, not 1/72 as this box suggested.

There were additions to the existing range, with things like the Churchill AVRE bridge layer, Matilda Hedgehog and the Sherman Crab, but these were based on additions to the original kits rather than new moulds. Some kits were released in the 1990s with new packaging that described them as “1/72,” but they were still the same old 1/76 kits inside. In 2008, Airfix released re-boxed versions of a number of 1/76 kits by JB Models, but for more than thirty-five years, there were no truly new Airfix 1/76 military vehicles. Then, in 2011, Airfix released a new 1/76 tank: The Cromwell IV and this was a genuine new moulding rather than a re-release.

I wonder why that was? Why, after such a long break did Airfix seem to suddenly decide that the kit world needed a new 1/76 tank? The release of the Cromwell was followed by one more 1/76 tank, the King Tiger in 2014, and then it all stopped again. The latest Airfix small-scale tank kits (the Tiger I and Sherman Firefly) released in 2020 were both in 1/72, so it looks as though these may have been the last of the Airfix 1/76 tanks.

Airfix tank kits were some of my favourite builds as a young modeller, but many of the earliest kits now look pretty ropy. How does this (relatively) new release stack-up? Is it worth your time or one to avoid? Let’s take a look…

History

The Cromwell was one of the best British tanks of World War Two. However, given that many British tanks of that period were pretty dreadful, that wasn’t especially difficult. For example, by the time that the Cromwell came into service in early 1944, many German, Russian and American tanks and tank-destroyers were being designed around the use of sloped armour, which gave greatly increased resistance against penetration. However on the Cromwell (as on all other British tanks of World War Two) there was no attempt to use this approach.

The design and development of what became the Cromwell was typically complex and confusing. In 1940, the British Directorate of Tanks and Transport specified several new tanks that were to be developed around the QF 6 Pdr gun. Proposed designs included the A23, a scaled down version of the A22 Churchill, and the A24, designed as a replacement for the existing Crusader and using elements from that tank.

The A24 Cavalier

However, none were completely satisfactory and design work continued on another, similar tank designated the A27. This was originally intended to be fitted with the American 410hp Liberty engine first produced during World War One. However, the new engine didn’t perform as required and another version of the tank was designed using the then-new Rolls-Royce Meteor, a development of the Merlin aero-engine. Initially, the A24, A27L and A27M were all called “Cromwell” and all looked very similar. However, later these were redesignated as, respectively the Cavalier and Centaur with only the Meteor-engined A27M retaining the Cromwell name. The official designation for this tank was Cruiser Tank Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M) although it was also sometimes known as the Cromwell IV to distinguish it from the earlier tanks that had used the same name.

A Cromwell of the 11th Armoured Division in France, 1944

Main armament on the A27M was the  Ordnance QF 75 mm, an adaptation of the British QF 6 Pdr gun able to fire US 75 mm ammunition also used by the Sherman. The Sherman was also used by many British units, and using a common shell greatly simplified ammunition supply. The anti-armour capability of this gun was limited, but it was able to fire a more effective high-explosive round than the 6 Pdr. Some Cromwells were completed as Close Support (CS) tanks provided with a 95 mm howitzer in the turret.

Frontal armour on the Cromwell was around three inches thick and in early tests, the Meteor engine was found to be capable of pushing the tank to a top speed close to 50mph. However, the Christie suspension wasn’t capable of dealing with this speed and the engine was governed to keep top speed down to under 40mph, still notably faster than most other British cruiser and infantry tanks of the time. Even that speed proved too much for the suspension, and on later versions, the engine governor was used to limit the top speed to 32mph. Speed was the Cromwell’s greatest asset. During one encounter with German tanks in Holland in 1944, a troop of three Cromwells were able to escape by vaulting over a 20-foot-wide canal!  

A Cromwell of the Welsh Guards in 1944

The Cromwell was used during the invasion of Europe following Operation Overlord. Although its speed was useful, it proved vulnerable to the powerful guns fitted to some German AFVs. Like the Sherman, its main gun also lacked the power to penetrate the frontal armour of many German tanks. Early problems meant that later versions of the Cromwell featured wider tracks for better off-road capability and a few of the last Cromwells featured welded (rather than bolted) hulls and additional turret armour. Almost 2,000 Cromwells were built and they continued to serve with British and Free Polish forces for the remainder of the war. Recognising the deficiencies in the Cromwell’s armament, the turret was redesigned to create the A34 Comet, which was otherwise very similar to the Cromwell but featured the more powerful 17 Pdr HV (High Velocity) gun.   

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just two sprues moulded in light grey plastic, decals and instructions.

Surface detail on most parts seems good with nicely engraved panel-lines.

The commander’s hatch can be open or closed, but there is no interior detail and no figure is included.

Airfix haven’t used slide moulding here, and to get round this, they have provided one half of the muzzle of the main gun as a separate part. In theory, this means you won’t have to drill it out, but past expereince suggest that you’ll need to be very careful when sandind these parts to conceal the join so that you don’t end up with an oddly shaped muzzle. The sprues include optional parts for a deep-wading trunk for the rear hull, a splash-guard round the commander’s hatch and a Cullen hedge-cutter for the front hull.

There are some thoughtful touches here, like the way that the sprockets are attached to the sprue. On most tank kits, you have to be very careful not to damage the sprocket teeth when removing these parts from the sprue. Here the sprues attach beneath the teeth, which should make it easier to remove the sprockets without damage.

Probably the most interesting aspect of this kit is the way in which the tracks are modelled. These are provided as a single moulding for the complete run of tracks on each side, but separate from the idlers, sprockets and roadwheels. If you’re regular reader, you’ll know that I spend a lot of time being disappointed, or frustrated, or sometimes both, by the tracks provided with many small-scale tank kits. This is, as far as I know, a unique approach and it certainly looks like a simple and effective way to model tracks in this scale.

The instructions look commendably clear. At one point they do show both wading trunking and hedge-cutters fitted, which is obviously rather unlikely (one or the other, but not both).

The decals are printed nicely in-register and cover two tanks, one from the 7th Armoured Division and generic markings for a Cromwell from the 11th Armoured Division. A bit of research suggests that the tank from the 7th Armoured is actually a Royal Artillery OP Tank that was attached to 4th County of London Yeomanry. This tank was one of several destroyed when the British encountered Tiger I tanks of the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion at Villers-Bocage on 13th June 1944.

T187796 is one of the tanks for which Airfix provide decals with this kit. Here, it is pictured after being knocked-out and abandoned at Villers- Bocage. But in this photograph, it doesn’t seem to have the white star on the turret top and covering the ventilator.

However, although the instructions show both tanks having the turret-top white star, I’m not sure that’s correct. Wartime photos show that several tanks of 4CLY didn’t have these stars, and a photograph of the tank to which the decals apply seems to show it without. Only one colour scheme is suggested for both tanks, with the tank finished in overall “Khaki Drab.”

Would you want one?

In many ways, this looks like a great kit. It’s sharply moulded, it has good detail and it seems to be an accurate representation of the Cromwell. I like the option of including the deep wading gear and the hedge cutter. However, very few British tanks were fitted with the hedge-cutters – I have been able to find only a single wartime photograph of a Centaur fitted with this device, and that was a prototype used only for testing. It’s certainly possible that some Cromwells were modified in the field to have these devices, but they seem to have been very uncommon.

I love the idea of tracks moulded in a single part in hard plastic but separate from the roadwheels, idlers and sprocket. But, I’d like to have seen more detail, especially on the outside of the tracks. If you compare these to, for example, the hard plastic tracks provided with some Zvezda 1/72 kits, those are just much better detailed. The tracks below are from the Zvezda Jagdpanther.

It seems like this approach should give the possibility of very accurate tracks indeed, but these tracks aren’t really any more detailed than most vinyl tracks. In fact, they aren’t particularly detailed at all. The main gun also looks a little thin and the light-guards seem rather thick. So, some good elements here, but perhaps also some missed opportunities?

If you would prefer something different, I’m afraid that, like many World War Two British tanks, there just aren’t as many kits of the Cromwell as there are of its German, Russian and American counterparts. If you prefer 1/76, this is your only option, though Revell have re-released the 1973 Matchbox 1/76 kit of the very similar A34 Comet. Even in 1/72, there are only a couple of possibilities. Revell released a 1/72 Cromwell IV back in 2001, and fortunately it’s a pretty decent kit featuring link-and-length tracks. Like the Airfix kit, it includes the Cullen Hedge-Cutter, but not the deep wading gear.

The Plastic Soldier Company also offer a pack of three 1/72 Cromwells. Each can be constructed as the base Cromwell or as the Close Support version fitted with a 95mm howitzer in the turret and each includes a commander figure and a Cullen hedge-cutter. Like most of this company’s products, these are really intended for wargaming and are a little simplified in terms of detail – for example, the tracks and running gear are moulded as a single part on each side. But they do build into a reasonable representation of the Cromwell.

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Airfix 1/76 Cromwell IV Tank (A02338) Build Review

Minairons Miniatures 1/72 IGC Sandurni Tank (20GEV001) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

If you are anything like me, your first reaction on reading the title of this review is probably something along the lines of “Who are Minairons?” quickly followed by “and what the heck is an IDC Sandurni anyway”? Fear not, dear reader, these and other questions will all be answered…

Actually, the first one is pretty easy. Minairons Miniatures is a company based in the Catalonia region of Spain, near the city of Barcelona, that produces a small range of kits and figures. The company was started around ten years ago with the intention of covering subjects from the Spanish Civil War in 1/72 and 1/100 scales with emphasis on the region of Catalonia (the company name recalls the minairó, mythical, fairy-like creatures that live in the valleys of the Pyrenees). The range has now expanded to cover figures from the War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714), a range of 1/600 ships from the age of sail and 1/72 racing cars from 1938.

In terms of kits, Minairons produce both resin cast models and simplified injection moulded plastic kits. What surprised me about the company is that it is essentially a one-man operation! Lluís Vilalta founded the company and runs it himself. Digital design, sculpting, resin casting and white metal tooling are all subcontracted to other small companies in the area – this is truly kit and figure production as a cottage industry.

Minairons’ kit output is focussed on wargaming, which calls for completed kits that are sturdy and fairly simple, so in some ways it is unfair to compare their kits to those of dedicated 1/72 model manufacturers. However, the Minairons range of 1/72 AFVs includes several vehicles not covered by (as far as I know) any other manufacturer. For example, in addition to the IGC Sandurni, they also produce 1/72 kits of the Trubia A4 tank, the Trubia-Naval tank and the Hispano-Suiza MC-36 armoured car.

Before I stumbled across the Minairons website (you’ll find a link at the end of this review) I confess that I had never heard of this company or many of the Spanish Civil War AFVs they cover. I have also never attempted a resin-based kit so, when the company kindly offered to provide a kit for review, I was delighted to take a look. Can a simple resin kit produce a decent model?

History

To many people (myself included) the Spanish Civil War can seem a baffling conflict. Spain had already endured decades of political turmoil when in 1936, the Popular Front, a bewilderingly complex coalition of left-wing groups, won the majority in the election. As a direct result, a military coup was attempted in June 1936 under the leadership of General José Sanjurjo. The coup was only partially successful, with the rebels taking control of just one major city, Seville and the port of Cadiz in the south and areas of the north and centre including the city of Corunna on the Atlantic coast. Most of the country, including the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, remained under the control of the government. Spain was divided into two groups that became known as the Nationalists (the Army-led rebels) and the Republicans (the elected government). For the next three years these two opposing forces battled for control of Spain.

Republican soldiers and T-26 tanks at the Battle of Brunete in July 1937.

Image: George Brown via the George Brown memorial website: https://www.g-brown-brigadista.com/

When General Sanjurjo died in an air crash a few days after the beginning of the coup, control of rebel forces fell to General Francisco Franco. Under Franco’s control, the Nationalists became centralist and authoritarian and formed associations with the fascist regimes in Italy and Germany which provided weapons, aircraft, tanks, vehicles and volunteers. The Republicans purchased tanks, aircraft and weapons from the Soviet Union which also supplied a small number of trainers and advisors.

A Republican T-26 somewhere near the Ebro River

Image: The Robert Capa and Cornell Capa Archive at the ICP museum

The limited number of tanks used in the conflict were mainly German and Italian on the Nationalist side and Russian on the Republican side – the most effective and feared tank of the war was the Russian T-26 armed with the 45mm gun which proved much more effective than the German Panzer I or the Italian L3/35 tankette. Both sides also used improvised AFVs and there was some indigenous design and production of tanks during the conflict. On the Republican side a few industrial works in Catalonia began designing tanks.

Fabrication of the personnel carrier version of the IGC Sadurni in the Benach Works in San Sadurní de Noya.

Image: Unknown

One of these was Maquinaria Moderna para Construcciones y Obras Publicas S.A.E., a company based in the town of San Sadurní de Noya that produced the tracked Benach agricultural tractor. The Industria de Guerra Cataluña (War Council for Catalonia – IGC) commissioned the company to build a small tank based on the Benach caterpillar tractor that they had already manufactured. The result was the Carro IGC Sadurni – most Republican tanks were named after the place in which they were manufactured.

The Carro IGC Sandurni tank.

Image: Unknown

This small, lightly armoured tank was powered by a four-cylinder, 60hp Hispano-Suiza petrol engine, housed a crew of two and was planned to be armed with a single 7.5 mm Mle 1914 Hotchkiss machine gun in a ball mount. The hull was constructed from rivetted panels of light steel, possibly 7.5mm thick with a double layer on the glacis plate and front hull. Prototypes of two other versions were also produced – an artillery tractor and an open-topped personnel carrier similar to the British Universal Carrier (Minairons produce kits of all three versions of the IGC Sandurni). No-one is certain how many were produced, but it seems likely that only a handful of the tank version were actually manufactured.

Another IGC Sandurni. This is not the same tank shown in the previous image – this one has a bulge on the glacis plate, vertical louvres on the sides of the rear engine compartment and it lacks a flap over the driver’s vision slot. The markings shown here are provided with this kit.

Image: Unknown

I have been able to find out nothing at all about the operational use of the IGC Sadurni during the civil war, nor what it was finally armed with. Several were seen at a military parade in Madrid in the early summer of 1937 but they were unarmed and I have been unable to find any photograph of this tank with a machine gun fitted. Conflict between Communist and Anarchist factions in Barcelona in May of that year seems to have ended plans for mass-production of this tank. I have found suggestions, but no definitive evidence, that at least one IGC Sadurni was captured by Nationalist forces and used by them as late as November 1938.

A dramatic image of an IGC Sandurni in the field.

Image: Unknown

What’s in the Box

This is a resin cast kit with just three basic components. The tracks, suspension, roadwheels, sprockets, etc. for each side are modelled as a single part as is the main hull. All arrive nicely packed in a small packet of protective material.

No instructions are provided – the assembly instructions and painting scheme are shown on the rear of the box.

This is my first resin kit and I was expecting relatively poor surface detail, but the detail here really isn’t bad at all with the roadwheels and tyres clearly separate and things like the rivets on the suspension cover plates being very well done.

This detail isn’t as sharp as you’d find on, for example, a quality injection-moulded kit, but it’s better than I expected and you have to remember here that you are dealing with a low-volume kit of a very rare tank.

As to dimensional accuracy, well, that is something that is the subject of some dispute. The few websites that mention this tank generally specify a length of 2.8m and a width of 1.56m. The same sites also often mention that this tank was powered by a 43hp CEFA engine. However, this information seems to originate in a couple of Spanish language books about the Civil War by Javier de Mazarrasa. No blueprints for this tank have been discovered and after studying photographs, Lluís Vilalta, the man who runs Minairons, disagrees – he believes that the actual overall size of the IGC Sandurni was 3.30m long and 1.80m wide and that it was powered by a 60hp Hispano-Suiza engine, the same type that was used in the Benach tractor. The kit is based on this larger estimate of size. Creating an accurate kit of such a little-known tank must be extremely difficult compared to the better documented AFVs of World War Two.

The barrel for the machine gun is finely moulded in white metal. Early versions of this kit (and the boxtop art) show a Hotchkiss machine gun, which this clearly isn’t. I spoke to Lluís Vilalta and he explained that while early versions of the kit were provided with a plastic version of the Hotchkiss barrel, these were not aesthetically great – they certainly look a little oversize. This is a more detailed and scaled generic machine gun barrel and, given that we don’t know how the original was armed, I guess that’s entirely reasonable.

The decal sheet is very comprehensive. It includes specific decals for one of the few IGC Sadurnis photographed, with white lettering. There are also more generic decals for Republican units so you can pretty much decide how to use them.

As you can see, it even includes Scottish markings! Apparently this is for use in A Very British Civil War, an alternative history wargame published by Solway Crafts and Miniatures – you’ll find a link at the end of this review. Despite the appeal of the Scottish markings, I think I’ll be using the decals that match the one of the few known photographs. The only paint scheme suggested is overall Vallejo Military Green but you are free to let your imagination and your Google skills run wild – both in Republican service and as a captured Nationalist tank, there are a large number of possible colour schemes for this tank.

Image: Tank Encyclopedia via Wikimedia Commons

Would You Want One?

If you fancy building a model of the IGC Sandurni in any scale, there simply aren’t any alternatives. As far as I am aware, Minairons are the only company currently offering a kit of this tank. Instead, what about another version of the IGC Sandurni provided by Minairons – this is the personnel carrier which comes with a white-metal driver and five soldiers.

This is a small and simple kit. But then, the IGC Sandurni was a small and simple tank that never really got beyond the prototype stage. If you’re bored with the usual Tigers, Shermans and T-34s, here is something truly different, produced by a very small company that seems passionate about what they do.

If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that I don’t enjoy building kits with bazillions of tiny parts so you can probably guess that I am looking forward to building and painting this tiny kit and I can’t wait to see how it looks next to models of larger tanks in the same scale. 

Thanks to Minairons Miniatures for providing this kit for review.

Related Posts

Minairons Miniatures 1/72 IGC Sandurni Tank (20GEV001) Build Review

Links

Minairons Miniatures web site.

Solway Crafts and Miniatures A Very British Civil War page.

Zvezda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I recently built a 1/72 SU-85 kit by Russian kit-maker Zvezda. I thoroughly enjoyed that one, so I thought I’d try another offering by the same company, a Model 1943 version of the iconic T-34. Like the SU-85 this is a “Snap-Fit. No Glue Required” kit. I was originally put off these small Zvezda kits because I felt that a snap-together kit sounded like something aimed at kids (and this was at one time marked on the box as “My first model kit”) but the SU-85 went together well with some sanding and filling and I’m now looking forward to building another small-scale Zvezda kit.

I had assumed (always a dangerous thing to do) that this would be very similar to the SU-85 kit, which is basically a T-34 chassis and running gear with an 85mm main gun in a fixed mount, but I was wrong. This is an older kit, first released in 2011 (the SU-85 was released in 2020) and in terms of, for example, track construction, this is quite different though the quality of moulding looks just as good.

I have already built a T-34 in 1/72, the Revell version of the later T-34/85, and that was very nice indeed. Can this snap-together kit be as good? Let’s take a look…

History

Much of my working life has been spent in engineering, and I find a comparison of German and Russian approaches to tank design and construction during World War Two fascinating. German designers generally aimed for technical excellence and that involved almost continual change and improvement of initial designs. The T-34 represents a very different approach. The T-34/76 tank that invading German forces met in the Summer of 1941 was good, but it was far from perfect. A major problem was the cramped, two-man turret that provided poor outside vision and required the commander to issue orders to the crew while maintaining situational awareness and identifying targets as well as aiming and firing the main gun.

A Model 1941 T-34 in the Victory Park Museum, Moscow.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Russians were well aware of these problems and as early as the Summer of 1941 plans were well advanced for the T-34M (also known as the T-43) which would have included torsion bar suspension and a three-man turret mounting a more powerful main gun. However, the invasion changed all that and a decision was taken to retain the T-34/76 as it was to ensure the highest possible rate of production. The GABTU (Main Auto-Armoured Technical Directorate) permitted no changes to the basic design that might slow the rate at which T-34s rolled out of factories.

One of the principal locations producing the T-34 was Factory 183 in Kharkov. However, in late 1941 the city was evacuated as the Germans approached and the factory was disassembled and shipped east. Factory 183 was merged with the Dzerzhinsky Ural Railroad Car Factory and re-established in the Ural city of Nizhny Tagil to create the Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 which soon became the world’s single largest producer of tanks.

Finishing a cast Gaika T-34 turret in Factory 183.

One of the few changes allowed was the creation in 1942 at Factory 183 of a new, cast Gaika (hex-nut) turret that was a little wider and less cramped than the original, though it was still a two-man turret with two circular hatches in the roof rather than a single, large hatch. The final modification to the T-34/76 before the introduction of the T-34/85 in early 1944 was the addition of a turret cupola for the commander that was introduced in the second half of 1943.

However, also in 1943 a shortage of rubber forced another change. Instead of the road wheels being covered with rubber tyres, a small rubber shock-absorber was placed in the centre of a steel roadwheel which became known as a “locomotive wheel”. This saved rubber, but the sound it produced was so loud that it was difficult for the crew to communicate and Germans were given ample warning of any approaching T-34. A compromise was developed in which only the middle three roadwheels were steel and this was found to reduce noise notably while still saving rubber.

The T-34 production line in Factory 183. If you look closely, you will see that the tank on the right has rubber-tyred roadwheels at front and rear with steel locomotive wheels between.

The Russian focus on maintaining production paid off. More than one thousand, five hundred T-34s were produced in the month of December 1942 alone. Despite suffering massive tank losses in actions throughout 1942, the Red Army had almost twelve thousand more tanks in its inventory in January 1943 compared to one year earlier. The T-34/76 certainly wasn’t perfect, but enough of them were available that they caused major problems for German forces or, as Stalin is reputed to have said, “quantity has a quality of its own.”  

What’s in the Box?

This kit represents a T-34 produced in the first half of 1943 at Factory 183 in Nizhny Tagil and features a Gaika cast turret with two “Mickey Mouse ear” hatches but no cupola and steel locomotive roadwheels in the middle three positions. This T-34 is modelled without rear external fuel tanks, spare track links, a horn or tools. The box contains less than eighty parts comprising a single sprue and the lower hull moulded in light grey plastic and the tracks moulded in two separate sprues in black plastic. There are also decals and assembly instructions that include suggested paint schemes.

The single main sprue contains everything but the lower hull.

The upper hull is a single part with the driver’s hatch included. Surface detail looks reasonably good, though perhaps not quite as well-defined and crisp as the detail on the SU-85. There is virtually no flash and I can’t see any visible mould release marks. The main gun is moulded as a single part and is solid so it will need to be drilled out as will the exhausts. Two tow-cables are provided as separate parts but no tools or other items are provided for external stowage.

Roadwheels are nicely detailed and all lightening holes are moulded as open, so no drilling is required. The two types of roadwheel are clearly different and appear to be correctly modelled.  

The turret hatches are moulded as separate parts but there is little interior detail, no crew and no simple way to model these open as extended legs on the inside of the hatches help to snap the turret into place.

The tracks themselves are different to the single-piece, semi-flexible tracks provided with, for example, the more recent Zvezda 1/72 SU-85. Each track comprises four separate parts – a top and bottom run and two curved end-pieces to fit over the sprocket and idler. The curved end pieces fit into pegs inside the sprocket and idler. Interior and exterior detail on the tracks looks acceptable and they appear to be to scale.  

The instructions look clear with 3D views of all steps.

Decals and colour schemes are provided for two tanks.

One, all in Protective Green 4BO, is for a tank from the 22nd Heavy tank Brigade in the Summer of 1943 and the other, with a tan camouflage pattern over the green base, is for the 8th Heavy Tank Brigade in the same period.

I have not been able to find details of either of these units, but the main action on the Eastern Front in the Summer of 1943 was the massive Battle of Kursk in July/August and it is certainly possible that either unit may have been involved there.

Would You Want One?

This looks like a fairly simple little kit. Overall detail and accuracy look good and I like the fact that this represents a very specific point in the minor modification of the T-34/76. I also like the fact that this is a “bare” T-34 without fuel tanks, tools or spare track links which does make it look a little different. My previous experience with a Zvezda snap-together kit suggests that some sanding and filling may be required to get things like the upper and lower hull and exhausts to join without gaps, but I’m hopeful that this will create a reasonably detailed and accurate early T-34/76 Model 1943.

Kit builders are well-served with a plethora of T-34/76 kits in a range of scales. If you are looking specifically for a Model 1943, DML do one in 1/72, though this is a slightly later version with the commander’s cupola and, though it also features three locomotive wheels on either side, the holes in these are not moulded as open so you had better be prepared for an extended drilling session.  The DML kit does include external fuel tanks and stowage items. Italeri also do a very similar kit in 1/72 depicting a T-34/76 Model 1943 with cupola which was first released in 2020.

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Revell 1/72 T-34/85 (03302) Build Review

Zvezda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I recently purchased a 1/72 kit by Russian kit-maker Zvezda, the first time I have tried one of this company’s products. I confess that I have been rather put off by “Snap-Fit. No Glue Required” proudly emblazoned across Zvezda tank kit boxes. That sounds, well, a bit toy-like. Surely a snap together kit can’t be much good. Can it?

However, having read various reviews, it seems that this isn’t necessarily so. Zvezda tank kits in both 1/72 and 1/35 seem to be well regarded and the images I have seen of completed kits look rather good. So, I bit the bullet and ordered this kit from a local stockist here in Spain. I was slightly stunned when I did some initial research and discovered that this is a new-tool kit released in 2020. I’m more used to kits that are forty or even fifty year sold but hey, even us oldies can be persuaded to take a trip into the future now and again.

And I even have a tenuous personal connection with the vehicle depicted in this kit. In 2010 during a trip to Moscow I was able to visit the Central Armed Forces Museum on Ulitsa Sovetskoy Armii. It’s a fantastic museum with (as you’d expect) lots of Soviet hardware from World War Two and one of the exhibits I noted was an SU-85 – until then, I had never seen one in real life. Back then in 2010, it looked a little sad, with faded and chipped paintwork, but it has now been refurbished and repainted and, I strongly suspect, used as the basis for this little kit – the decals provided with the kit certainly match the current paint scheme of the SU-85 in the museum.

Zvezda themselves (the word means “Star,” by the way) were established in 1990 and are based in Lobnya, a town twenty miles north-west of Moscow. They produce a range of kits covering civil and military aircraft, ships and figures as well as an extensive range of AFV kits in 1/72 and 1/35 covering subjects from the inter-war period, to World War Two and later.

So, let’s take a look. Can a snap-together kit really provide a satisfactory modelling experience?     

History

The creation of the SU-85 was, like many other wartime developments, a short-term and expedient solution to a particular problem. By the summer of 1943, it was becoming clear that the T-34/76 had some major problems. Most significantly, it’s 76mm main gun was not capable of penetrating the frontal armour of the latest German tanks including the Tiger and Panther. In addition, it was recognised that its two-man turret, with the Commander being required to operate the gun, was partly responsible for inefficiency in combat. The solution was the T-34/85 with a more powerful main gun, upgraded armour and a three-man turret, but the new tank would not be ready until early 1944. What was needed in the meantime was a new vehicle mounting the 85mm main gun that could be produced quickly until the new tank reached frontline units.

By the late summer of 1943, the T-34 was becoming vulnerable to new German tanks and upgunned existing versions.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

In response to this requirement, the SU-85 (SU simply means Samohodnaya ustanovka, self-propelled vehicle) was proposed. The Soviet Army had been considering plans for a medium tank destroyer since 1940, but no prototypes had been built. The Ural’s’kiy Mashinostroitelnyy Zavod (the Ural Heavy Machinery Plant, UZTM) near the city of Sverdlovsk had been producing the SU-122 heavy howitzer based on the T-34 chassis since mid-1942, and so it seemed logical that the same factory could quickly produce a vehicle using the T-34/76 chassis but mounting an 85mm main gun. Nevertheless, development of what became the SU-85 happened in a staggeringly short space of time.  

The SU-122 was also produced at the UZTM factory

A decree ordering UZTM to begin development of an SPG based on the T-34 was issued on August 8th 1943. The design used the chassis, lower hull, running gear, suspension, engine and transmission of the existing T-34/76 with a fixed superstructure holding four crew and an 85mm main gun. Production had to start by 25th August with no less than once hundred examples being produced by the end of the same month. Compared to protracted Allied and German AFV development, this is little short of incredible, but somehow UZTM produced the first SU-85s within the deadline and the first examples reached front-line units before the end of September.

Given this rush to produce, unsurprisingly the SU-85 design was refined and improved throughout its production history, though this was mostly done on an ad-hoc basis with no clearly defined sub-types. For example, the first SU-85s had a gun shield attached with four bolts. This was found to be insufficient and was soon increased to six. Changes were also made to armour, hatches, visors, pistol ports and other elements throughout production. There are a great many detail differences between vehicles simply designated as SU-85. Only two changes were sufficiently important to warrant formal recognition. SU-85s were produced in two factories at UZTM, #8 and #9. The SU-85 was designed for the D-5S85 gun, a development of an existing 85mm towed anti-tank weapon. However, Factory #8 also produced 85mm anti-aircraft guns, and on SU-85s produced at that factory, the barrel and breech from these were used. This gun was identified as the D-5S85A and SU-85s fitted with this gun are generally referred to as SU-85As, though they are externally identical to other models.

The SU-85A at the Central Armed Forces Museum, Moscow

Image: Yuri Pasholok athttps://www.facebook.com/yuripasholok

The need for the SU-85 declined sharply when the T-34/85 entered service in the first quarter of 1944. It was decided that a new SPG, the SU-100 would be produced using a more powerful 100 mm D-10S main gun and equipped with a full commander’s cupola. However, shortages of the new gun led to interim production of the SU-85M, essentially an SU-100 fitted with the D-5S85A gun.

In total, around two thousand SU-85s were produced from August 1943 to November 1944. The SU-85 remained in service with the Red Army throughout World War Two and after and was also used by armies around the world including Vietnam, North Korea, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. This kit appears to be based on an SU-85A manufactured in June 1944 and currently on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.      

What’s in the Box?

The box contains a total of just eighty-one parts comprising a single sprue, the lower hull moulded in light grey plastic and the tracks moulded in a black, semi-soft plastic. There are also decals, instructions and suggested paint schemes.

The single sprue contains everything but the lower hull.

Surface detail looks very good indeed, with sharp panel lines, weld beads and even tyre treads on the tiny roadwheels. I do note that there are two completely different tread patterns on the tyres of the roadwheels. However, an examination of photographs of the SU-85 in the museum in Moscow confirms that it too has this assortment of tyres. I have no idea if this reflects wartime practice or just the use of an assortment of tyres by the museum. The main gun is moulded as a single part and is solid so it will need to be drilled out.

The tracks themselves are quite interesting, being moulded in a black plastic that isn’t as flexible as vinyl but seems notably softer and less brittle than the plastic from which other parts are formed. Assembling the tracks looks a little different too, due to the method of construction. First the inner roadwheels and the inner halves of the idler and sprocket are attached to the hull. Then, the tracks are assembled and added, being anchored in cut-outs in the centre roadwheel. Then the outer half of all the roadwheels , idler and sprocket are added. It certainly sounds different but at least the tracks are nicely detailed.

A look at the instructions also reveals that “no glue required” is not entirely true. While most main parts do seem to be designed to snap together, some tiny parts like the handrails on the sides of the hull must be glued in place. The instructions note that “you can fix some additional parts with the help of glue.

Decals are provided for two vehicles, one from the 1047th Kalinkovichi SPG regiment with a suitably warlike slogan, Смерть немецкого оккупанта (Death to the German occupier) and the other from the 251st Guards SPG regiment which includes the text советский разведчик (Soviet prospector) for the hull side. The second option is the vehicle displayed in the Armed Forces Museum though it’s notable that the SU-85 in the museum only has the slogan “Cоветский разведчик” on the right side, not on both sides as the colour scheme and decals suggest. The overall colour for both schemes is Protective Green 4BO (though the instructions simply refer to it as “protective, which is a little confusing) , the standard green used on virtually all Russian AFVs during World War Two.

Would You Want One?

This looks like an interesting little kit. The overall detail and accuracy look very good indeed in the box but I’ll have to reserve judgement on the whole snap-together thing until I actually build this, something I’m really looking forward to. It’s always good to see things like the tools and tow cables being provided as separate parts as this does simplify painting. All the hatches are moulded as integral parts of the hull and can’t be constructed open, but that’s not unusual at this scale.  

The SU-85 isn’t a particularly popular subject in 1/72 – up to 2000, there wasn’t a single example available. AER were the first to release a 1/72 SU-85 back in 2000 and Unimodel followed soon after with their version. DML also do both an SU-85 and an SU-85M in 1/72, both nicely detailed kits first released in 2011. Armourfast also do a snap-together SU-85 in 1/72. All of these are perfectly acceptable kits with no huge problems.

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Italeri 1/35 SdKfz 139 Panzerjäger Marder III (6210) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

It’s been some time since the last post here on Model Kit World, but then as most of you probably know, real life has a way of getting in the way of the really important stuff like building old model kits. But now it’s winter again, the nights are getting distinctly chilly and I have managed to find some time for kit-building again – hurrah! Anyway, time for another review, and this time it’s the 1/35 Marder III from Italian manufacturers Italeri. 

Italeri was founded in 1962 by two young Italian friends, Giuliano Malservisi and  Gian Pietro Parmeggiani. Both loved building kits of aircraft and military vehicles and they decided to start their own company to produce high-quality plastic kits. They founded the company near the city of Bologna and their first kit, a 1/72 Fiat G-55, was released in 1968 under the brand name Airplast, but the company soon rebranded itself, first as Italaerei and then in the 1980s as Italeri using the colours of the Italian flag for its distinctive logo.

Early Italaeri box-art

This kit was originally released way back in 1972 and I’d guess it must be one of the company’s earliest 1/35 AFVs. I was very much aware of Italeri kits when I was a model-mad kid back in the early seventies. They were attractively priced compared to Tamiya kits of the period and they seemed to cover lots of odd tanks and other vehicles I had never heard of though I didn’t get round to building many of them. So, when I saw this on Ebay for very little cash indeed, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

Although this kit has been re-boxed many times since its initial release, as far as I know the tooling hasn’t changed though it does appear that there are two different versions; one with flexible, rubberised tracks and the other with hard, track-and-link tracks. I bought mine on Ebay from a private seller and it’s the track-and-link version.

As ever here on MKW, let’s take a look at this venerable, almost fifty-year-old kit and see if it’s any good…

History

The Marder was created as a make-shift, temporary solution to the inability of German armour to deal with tanks such as the T-34 encountered on the Eastern Front and the British Matilda in North Africa. It was clear that there was an urgent need for a self-propelled vehicle carrying a gun capable of destroying enemy armour. To save time, a new vehicle was designed to use captured or obsolete tank chassis to mount an effective anti-tank weapon.  

The first version of the Marder, the Marder I, used a 75 mm PaK-40 anti-tank gun, initially mounted on the chassis of a French  Tracteur Blindé 37L (Lorraine), an armoured personnel carrier of which hundreds of examples were captured during the invasion of France in 1940. Later Marder Is used the chassis from both the Hotchkiss H39 and FCM 36 light tanks, also captured in 1940. Around one hundred and seventy Marder Is were produced during 1942.

A Marder I

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

However, as numbers of captured French vehicles dwindled, a new version of the Marder was produced, the Marder II which used the chassis from the obsolete Panzer II and mounted either a captured Russian 7.62 cm F-22 Model 1936 field gun modified to accept German anti-tank ammunition or, in later models, a standard 7.5 cm Pak 40. 

However, even Panzer II chassis became scarce and a final version of the Marder, the Marder III, was produced using the chassis from the obsolete Czech designed Panzer 38(t). Early versions (SdKfz 139) used the same captured Soviet 22 Model 1936 field gun as the Marder II, redesignated as the 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) in German use, but the later SdKfz 138 Ausf. H and Ausf. M used the  7.5 cm PaK 40. This is claimed to represent an early Marder III SdKfz 139 with the Russian 7.62 cm gun and a Czech 7.92mm machine gun (but, it isn’t). Almost three hundred and fifty examples of this model of the Marder were produced during 1942.

A Marder III in Russia in 1943

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

All versions of the Marder featured an open-topped fighting compartment and a high silhouette which made them difficult to conceal on the battlefield. They also had relatively thin side and front armour which made them extremely vulnerable. Despite these issues, Marders served in Russia, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Tunisia before being largely replaced by the superior Stug. III. However, Marders remained in service throughout the war on all fronts. 

Marder IIIs in Belgium, 1944

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

What’s in the Box?

This box contains four sprues moulded in brown plastic, instructions and a small decal sheet.

Two of the four sprues are identical, with each providing the suspension, tracks and running gear for one side. The tracks seem to use the same track and link approach as I came across on a couple of Revell 1/72 kits, with single links and several complete lengths of varying length. This worked well on those smaller-scale kits and I’m hoping for similar results here.

Interestingly, there seem to be other versions of this kit with the same product number (6210) but that come with flexible, rubberised tracks and the wheels and suspension on a single sprue. I prefer these hard plastic tracks, so I’m happy, but if you find one of these, you may want to check which version you are buying. The Italeri website shows the version with rubberised tracks, but it also shows this kit as being discontinued, so, I’m not certain if mine is an older or a newer version.

There isn’t any obvious flash and not too many prominent seams or other moulding marks. Surface detail seems reasonable and the engraved panel lines and other detail doesn’t seem to be too overdone.

Two crew figures are provided and, at first glance, these don’t seem great. In particular, the creasing on their uniforms looks way overdone and rather clumsy and the head on the commander figure looks much too large for his body. The Marder is a tiny vehicle and it would have been nice to have figures to give it scale, but I don’t think I’ll bother with these.

The instructions look pretty straightforward and provide two colour schemes – one for a Marder of an Sp. AT Gun Co. of (I think) 2nd Panzer Division in Russia in 1942 and the other for a Marder of a unit in Normandy in 1944 (the decals seem to be for 23rd Panzer Division, but as that unit was not in France in 1944, I may be wrong).

The Russian Marder is shown in an overall finish of “Sandgelb” and the Normandy version also in Sandgelb overlaid with a camouflage pattern of Dunklegrun and Schokoladenbraun.    

Would You Want One?

First of all, there seems to be some doubt about what this kit actually represents. The most recent box described it as an “SdKfz 139 Panzerjäger Marder III,” which would mean it would have the Russian Model 1936 field gun. However, the pervious box, which used the same art, identified it as “Marder III Ausf. H.” which would make it a later SdKfz 138 equipped with the German 7.5 cm PaK 40. Looking at the kit, I think the gun modelled is the Pak 40, which makes this an SdKfz 138 Ausf. H, not an SdKfz139.  

Then there are the decals. These appear to include the markings of 23rd Panzer Division, though all the instructions say is that the tank to which these markings are to be applied is from “France – 1944,” but 23rd Panzer Division took no part in the fighting in the west and remained on the Eastern Front until it surrendered in 1945. If you care about such things, it looks as though these markings are wrong. The other decals, for a tank of 2nd Panzer Division in Russia in 1942, look OK.

The colours specified in the instructions are also, perhaps, suspect. From 1940, German tanks were painted in a base grey (dunkelgrau). From February 1943 this was replaced with a base of dark yellow (dunkelgelb), usually overlaid in the field with camoulage of brown and dark green. So, the colour scheme of overall Sandgelb (which I assume is the Italeri version of dunkelgelb) would not apply to a vehicle in Russia in 1942 which would have actually been finished in overall dunkelgrau. Perhaps I’m being a bit pedantic here, though I may use a dark grey paint when I build this kit representing a Marder in Russia in 1942.

There are only around 110 parts in this kit (excluding the crew figures) which means that interior detail is going to be very limited and there are no external stowage items at all – compare this to the DML Super Kit version which has five times as many parts and you’ll understand just how simplified this is! These things can be rectified with a bit or work but, compared to other 1/35 Marder III kits, this does look a little light on the kind of details we have come to expect from more recent kits in this scale.   

So, this isn’t the most detailed or complete Marder in 1/35 but, despite that, I’m rather looking forward to the build. As you probably know if you have read other posts here, I like older kits and kits that are fairly easy to build, and this fits the bill on both counts. I know what I’ll be doing in the evenings over the Festive break!

Alternatives

Tamiya do a rather nice 1/35 Marder III, first released in 2001. This kit seems to have gone through a number of iterations and the latest version is a Marder III Ausf. M Normandy Front. This is an upgraded version of this kit with over 260 parts including additional interior detail, link-and-track lengths and four rather nicely detailed figures.  

https://www.tamiya.com/english/products/35364/index.htm

DML also do a 1/35 Marder III Ausf. M. The basic kit is very nice indeed and it’s also available as a Smart Kit with PE parts and DMLs “magic-track.” The Smart Kit version has over 600 parts and, as you’d guess, the interior is nicely detailed and there are lots of bits and pieces included for stowage.

http://www.dragon-models.com/d-m-item.asp?pid=DRA6464

Links

Marder III on the Italeri web site

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Italeri 1/35 SdKfz 139 Panzerjäger Marder III (6210) Build Review

Tamiya 1/35 3.7cm Antitank Gun PaK 35/36 (35035) Build Review

Construction of the PaK 35/36 itself is very straightforward and the instructions show clearly what’s needed. Fit of, for example, the main parts of the loading section and breech is not great and some filler is need to avoid a visible seam on the top. Getting the forward part of the barrel absolutely straight also takes a little bit of care.

The wheels, chassis and stabilising legs are all added. I am leaving off the shield until I have finished basic painting.

I then do a basic assembly of the main parts of the figures. Quite a lot of filler is needed, particularly at the shoulders and where the legs join on to the torsos. At least the poses don’t look too bad. The shell that the loader is clutching in his right hand really does look a little silly – it’s just too small, so I cut it off and I will replace it later with one of the loose shells from the kit.

I have made a small base out of an old picture frame and I try placing the gun and figures on this, just to see how everything will fit. I am aiming for a muddy lane, somewhere in Russia in the Autumn of 1941, and I have used some strips of plastic card to suggest the basic layout.

Then, it’s back to the gun. First, everything gets a lightened coat of Vallejo German Grey (I find the base colour too dark).

Then some light chipping is added and the tyres get a coat of dark grey.

Then, the shield is added and everything gets a wash of dark oil paint. And that’s pretty much the PaK finished.

Next, it’s on to painting the figures. The faces and hands are done in an approximate flesh colour and then a wash of dark brown oil paint is added. Then tunics are painted in green and belts, collars and epaulettes are added in black – the Tamiya paint scheme suggest bottle-green for the collars, but by the time of the Russian Campaign most German Army uniforms featured black collars. I use a fairly light green for the tunics because I intend to add a wash of dark green oil paint which will darken the overall colour and provide some shadow detail in folds and creases.

I’m going for grey rather than green for trousers as this seems to have been fairly common. Again, I use a light grey acrylic paint and then add a darker grey oil wash to darken things down and add shadows.

Finally, boots are painted dark grey and helmets and pieces of equipment are added. Here’s the finished commander figure.

I try the loader and gunner next to the gun. Neither relates particularly well to the PaK, and I still think the hands on the gunner look like bunches of bananas!

Nest, the base. I make the muddy ground out of exterior filler and add some small stones and debris from my wife’s cactus garden (don’t tell her!). I press the gun and figures into the filler before it’s completely dry so that all will appear to sit in rather than on the muddy surface.

Then it gets painted with several shades of brown – it looks very dark in this photo for some reason and the overall effect is actually much lighter.

Then, I make some “mud” out of a mix of brown paint, coffee grounds and PVA glue and add this to the tyres of the gun and the boots of the figures.

Then the figures and gun are placed on the base, ammo boxes are added and a few empty shell-casings scattered around. And it’s done…

After Action Report

This was straightforward and simple build, something I really appreciate. As far as I can tell, the PaK 35/36 is a reasonable representation of the actual weapon.

The figures aren’t as bad as I had expected, but they’re not up to current standards either. The poses are OK, but there is nothing dynamic or interesting and the lack of facial expressions is disappointing. It took a fair bit of filler to get reasonable joins and even then, they aren’t perfect.

That said, I’m not too unhappy with the finished result. The poses mean that the faces are mostly in shadow and/or hidden, which, given my lack of skill at painting faces, is probably a good thing. And given that this kit is just so cheap, it’s a great way of practising if, like me, you aren’t sure of your ability to paint 1/35 figures.

If you simply want to build a kit of the Pak 35/36, or if you’re going for a diorama and you can accept the limitations of early 1970s figures, I can heartily recommend this as a quick and satisfying build.

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Tamiya 1/35 3.7cm Antitank Gun PaK 35/36 (35035) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

This time, a review of another Tamiya 1/35 kit from the early 1970s; the PaK 35/36 first released in 1974 as number 35 in the Military Miniatures series. I find myself increasingly drawn to these older kits, though I’m not entirely certain why. Nostalgia, certainly, but I also appreciate the simplicity of these old kits. This one doesn’t seem to have changed at all since its first release, though it was re-boxed in 1988.

This kit was available silly-cheap here in Spain and, as ever, I was unable to resist a bargain. However, there is one thing that does worry me slightly about this kit; it comes with a crew of four. Now, building a tank or armoured vehicle buttoned-up and without figures is fine, but I don’t see how I can avoid using figures here. Are old Tamiya figures really as bad as some reviews seem to suggest? Will my less than perfect eyesight allow me to paint figures in any level of detail? Is this elderly, cheap kit worth spending time on?

Let’s take a look and find out…

History

The PanzerAbwehrKanone (PaK) 35/36 was developed by Rheinmetall as a crew-served anti-tank weapon light enough to be manouvred into position by its crew of three and capable of being towed behind a vehicle or pack animal. It began to enter service with the German Army in 1935 and it fitted well with the armoured tactics being developed at that time.

The German army was experimenting with panzer formations that used tanks supported by motorised infantry. Part of the doctrine inviolved the aggressive use of anti-tank weapons. While most nations still viewed these as mainly defensive weapons, in the German Army there were plans to use anti-tank weapons to support tank-led assaults. To be effective in this role the weapons had to be easily manouvrable and capable of being brought into action rapidly. The PaK 35/36 fitted this role well.

A PaK 35/36 on the Eastern Front

Fitted with an L45 barrel, the Pak 35/36 was capable of firing a variety of rounds including HE and armour-piercing. This weapon first saw service with German and Spanish troops fighting on the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) where it proved very effective in use against Soviet-supplied light tanks such as the BT-5 and T-26.

By the beginning of World War Two, large numbers of PaK 35/36 were in use but, for the first time they came up against tanks such as the French Char B1 and the British Matilda which both had frontal armour that this weapon was unable to penetrate. When the German Army invaded Russia in 1941, the PaK 35/36 was still effective against Russian light tanks, but completely ineffective against the T-34 and KV series. By 1942 it had gained the contemptuous nickname Heeresanklopfgerat (Army Door Knocker) in the German Army.

A PaK 35/36 ready to fire a Stielgranate 41

An attempt was made to provide the PaK 35/35 with additional anti-armour capability with the introduction of the Stielgranate 41, a hollow-charge projectile with stabilising tail-fins that could be launched from the barrel of the gun. However, this proved inaccurate and required the gun to be dangerously close to its target. Production of the PaK 35/36 ended in 1942 though this weapon remained in German Army service until the end of World War Two. It was also fitted to some vehicles including the SdKfz 251 half-track in an attempt to provide a light, mobile, anti-armour weapon.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just two sprues, one moulded in dark grey plastic and the other in a green/grey. There are also the usual Tamiya instructions in Japanese and English giving some detail of the history of the PaK 35/36, and that’s it. There are no decals here but then most of these guns carried no markings.

The grey sprue contains all the parts required to construct the gun itself. Mouldings are generally clean and fairly sharp and there is very little flash.

A nice surprise is the gun barrel itself – I had expected that I would have to drill this out, but it is moulded open. The wheels and tyres are nicely done with the correct five-bolt mounting, a hole in the wheel where the tyre valve would be accessed and “Continental” markings on the tyres.

Detail on the front of gun shield is good, but the reverse shows four fairly obvious sink-marks that will have to be cleaned-up. Parts are also provided to build a single Stielgranate 41 as well as three ammunition boxes and shell casings and un-fired shells.

Three parts are also provided to allow the PaK 35/36 to be mounted on the Tamiya 1/35 SdKfz 251 half-track.  

The other sprue contains parts for the four crew-members; the PaK 35/36 was generally served by a crew of three – commander, gunner and loader, but the kit also contains a fourth soldier, dragging up an additional ammunition box.

Detail on the figures looks sort of OK, but not nearly as sharp as you will see on modern 1/35 figures. The uniforms look reasonable for the early part of the war but things like hands are not particularly well done (the gunner notably seems to have a bunch of bananas attached to each wrist) and the faces are devoid of expression. It is difficult to tell if the poses are good until I actually start construction.

Would You Want One?

In terms of accuracy, what you get in the box isn’t bad and the addition of things like the ammunition boxes and Stielgranate 41 are nice touches. However, the supplied 3.7cm ammunition does not look particularly convincing and the shell that the loader is holding in his hand looks notably smaller than the others.

I simply don’t know enough about the PaK 35/36 to know if the parts modelled are accurate. Looking at photographs, the gun shield, wheels and towing/stabilising legs look reasonable but other parts seem to have been simplified or even left out entirely.

Overall, there is nothing here that makes me wince. The gun itself looks fairly simple to construct but I’m more than a little nervous about my ability to paint the figures effectively and I suppose that I will really have to think about constructing some sort of diorama base to display the gun and crew. Overall I’m looking forward to building this and, if it all goes wrong, at little more than the price of a couple of beers, I won’t have lost much.

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Tamiya 1/35 Walker Bulldog (MM155) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

When I recently bought the Tamiya Panzer II, I was amazed to discover that it dates from all the way back to 1971. The Panzer II is number nine in the Military Miniatures series and this kit, the M41 Walker Bulldog, is number fifty-five. Seeing that, I assumed that this was from the mid-1970s, but a bit of research reveals that this kit actually first appeared in 1964! It was re-boxed as part of the MM series in 1975, but this kit is heading for sixty-years old.

This must be one of the earliest Tamiya 1/35 tanks – their very first, a Panther, was introduced in 1962. This was originally produced as a motorised kit and this shows in several places – there are several openings in the lower hull intended for switches and connections, the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets are attached using polycap retainers so they can revolve and the rubber bands style tracks are designed as much for operation as for looks.   

I really enjoy building early kits – I don’t really care for a box full of tiny parts or lots of PE and older kits tend to be simpler in terms of construction and much lower in cost. I am still very much at the stage of re-learning my kit-building and painting skills so older kits are ideal. However, on some, detail can be missing or simplified and kits produced on fifty-plus year-old moulds can be less than perfect. Is this kit still worth your attention?

History

In 1947 work began in the US on the design of a light tank to replace the M24 Chaffee which had seen limited use in the later stages of World War Two. The main problem with the Chaffee was its 75mm main gun. Light tanks were traditionally not expected to fight other tanks, being more concerned with reconnaissance and infantry support, but experience with the M24 and the earlier M5 Stuart suggested that it was sensible for any light tank to be able to defend itself against enemy armour.

The intention was to create a tank that was sufficiently light to be air-transportable, faster than the M24, reasonably well-armoured and capable of mounting the powerful M32 76mm main gun. The sheer size of the breech block on the M32 meant that that the new tank was much larger and heavier than the M24. Although the M41 had similar armour thickness to the M24, the finished tank was five tons heavier, which made air-transport generally impracticable.

Suspension was provided by torsion bars with five road wheels on each side, the sprocket at the rear and idler at the front. The Continental AOS 895-3 6-cylinder gasoline engine gave good top speed at 45mph but range was limited to one hundred miles and the interior of the tank was cramped and noisy. The main gun was supplemented by a co-axial .30 cal Browning Machine-gun and a .50 cal Browning machine-gun mounted on a pintle close to the commander’s cupola.  

Production of the M41 began in 1952 at Cadillac’s Cleveland Tank Plant. This tank was initially identified as the Little Bulldog, but it was re-named the Walker Bulldog following the death of US General Walton Walker in a jeep accident in Korea on 1950. The M41 arrived too late to see combat in the Korean War, though some were shipped to US forces in Korea for evaluation. The original M41A1 was upgraded to become the A2 and then A3, but these changes were mainly to the engine and fuel injection systems and externally, all three variants are identical.

An M41 of the AVRN in Saigon, 1968

The M41 first saw combat in 1961 during the Bay of Pigs invasion. The CIA obtained five M41s and supplied these to Cuban exiles opposed to the regime of Fidel Castro. The M41s destroyed a number of Cuban T-34/85s before all were captured. The M41 was also used by US forces in Vietnam, but none saw combat against North-Vietnamese tanks. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (AVRN) was supplied with large numbers of M41s by the US and this became the main tank used by that army. In Operation Lam Son 719 in 1971, M41s of the AVRN saw combat against North-Vietnamese T-54 and PT-76 tanks. Seven T-54s and sixteen PT-76s were destroyed by M41s during this action.

M41s of the Bundeswehr’s 3rd Panzer Division, 1957

The M41 was also used by several NATO countries and over one hundred M41s were supplied to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), the new Japanese Army created in 1954. The M41 saw combat with the JGSDF, but only against Godzilla; spoiler alert – the powerful 76mm main gun proved surprisingly ineffective in the anti-giant stompy monster role.

Production of the M41 ended in the 1950s and in early 1969 the M41 began to be replaced by the M551 Sheridan in US Army service.

What’s in the Box?

This box contains four sprues and the upper and lower hull sections, all moulded in dark green plastic. Items such as the roadwheels are nicely moulded but with prominent seams on the tyres. There are also two black, rubber-band style tracks, soft plastic polycap retainers for the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets, a set of decals and instructions.

There are a total of 125 parts here, but one whole sprue contains only parts and accessories for the three figures provided. The commander figure is just about useable, but the two infantrymen are not – both are wearing World War Two style uniforms and are therefore not appropriate for use with the post-war M41.

The upper hull is reasonably detailed and the moulding is very crisp indeed considering how old this kit is.

The torsion rod arms and other parts are all moulded integral with the lower hull, not something you would expect to see on a current 1/35 kit. There are also several holes in the lower hull that are there to accommodate switches and other items on the motorised version.

The polycap collars are used to mount the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets. The tracks have good detail on the outer surface but no detail at all on the inner surface other than the track horns. This is presumably a legacy from this kit’s motorised origins.

There are two things that are notably missing here; there is no tow cable, and these were fitted to all US tanks of this period, and the canvas blast-shroud over the mantlet is not included. The instructions go into a fair amount of detail on how to make a blast-shroud out of one of the plastic bags in which the kit parts are packed, but I suspect that there are better ways of doing this.

The instructions are generally clear with good, three-dimensional views of all steps of construction. The text is somewhat clumsy in terms of English usage, but there is nothing here that should cause any major problems. The instructions also provide a fairly detailed history of the M41 and here there is a strong clue to this kit’s age; the M41 is described as a current US tank and it is noted that it may be replaced by the M551 Sheridan at some point in the future – that actually happened in 1969.

Three sets of decals are provided, one for a US Army tank of an unidentified unit and two for tanks of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF).  

Would You Want One?

Look, this is a kit that’s heading for sixty years old, so don’t expect current levels of detail or accuracy! That said, this is available very cheap, it certainly doesn’t look terrible in the box and it is a good way to practise those painting and weathering skills.

Be aware that you are going to have to fabricate at least the canvas blast shield on the mantlet – this is characteristic of virtually all M41s and the finished kit is going to look very odd without it. Some detail is also simplified or missing entirely – the bracing struts on the outside of the hull storage bins, for example, are missing and the radio antenna are too short and too fat. The good news is that the missing detail is fairly simple to add and the overall size and proportions of the main parts look right. The M41 was used by armies around the world, so with alternative decals and paint this kit could be built to represent a tank in another service.

There are relatively few other 1/35 scale M41s out there; the only one that I am aware of is the AFV Club M41A3 released in 2002. This is a very nicely detailed kit that includes a turned aluminium barrel, though you will still have to fabricate your own canvas blast screen. However, the AFV Club M41 is quite hard to find and it is three or more times the price of the Tamiya version. Is it three times as good? For me, the answer is; probably not.

What you get here is a kit that was state-of-the-art in the 1960s. It may not be in that league now, but it is still actually a pretty decent kit for not much money. I like kits that are simple to build and I’m willing to sacrifice a little detail for that, but you may feel differently. For me, I’m looking forward to building this one more than, for example, the more complex HobbyBoss T-37A I built recently. Old school can still be cool.    

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Tamiya 1/35 Walker Bulldog (MM155) Build Review