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First to Fight 1/72 PzKpfw I Ausf. A (PL1939-002) Build Review


I’m planning to build this pretty much out of the box, but I want to finish it as a Nationalist tank from the Spanish Civil War rather than a tank in Wehrmacht service in 1939.

From the time of its first introduction into German service until July 1937, all Panzer Is were painted in the Buntfarbenanstrich (multi-coloured-camouflage) scheme, a three-colour camouflage pattern consisting of earth-yellow, green and brown. The first batch of Panzer I Ausf. A tanks sent to Nationalist Spain left Germany in September and October 1936 and all would have been painted in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme. So, I’ll be painting this in the three-colour camo scheme, which may be a challenge on such a tiny kit.

This image from Vallejo paints shows a Panzer I Ausf. A in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme.

Panzer Is in Spain also had their turret hatches (or sometimes the whole turret top) painted white with a black diagonal cross as an air recognition symbol. On the front hull (and sometimes the rear of the turret too) they had the Nationalist red/yellow/red flash and on the lower front hull a three-digit identification code in white. That’s it. Everything needed to turn this into a Nationalist tank will be done during painting and by using some decals from my spares box.

The Build

Before I begin construction, I work on a pronounced moulding seam that runs all round the tracks. This takes some careful sanding – the plastic here is fairly soft and it’s all too easy to lose what little detail is provided on the outside of the tracks.

I briefly also consider drilling out the machine guns until sanity prevails. A 7.92mm opening in 1/72 scale is just over .1mm! I don’t have a suitable drill or eyesight for that so these will remain solid. I also consider adding a jack and fire extinguisher to the track guards, but I decide instead to build this straight out-of-the box.

Hull construction is simple: the upper and lower halves snap together and there are no problems adding the few bits and pieces. Fit is pretty good and no filler was required.

The upper and lower halves of the turret also snap together and again, fit is good.

And, after about ten minutes or so, that’s pretty much it for construction – the tracks and running gear are also a snap fit, but I’m leaving them off for the moment to make painting easier.

The main issue here is that this is just so hilariously small. How small? Well, here it is parked next to a 1/72 Jagdpanther…

Now it’s time to begin painting. And that will take rather longer. On the original, the base colour was earth-yellow with the other two colours being applied on top of that, so I’ll start with a few thinned coats of the base colour. I’m using a lightened mix of Vallejo Dark Yellow and US Field Drab to represent earth-yellow (which was a fairly light, yellow-brown). I have also added the white hatch with black cross to the turret.

Now it’s time to think about the camo scheme. On the original, this was sprayed, giving feathered edges to the different colours but, given that I’m using a brush, I’m going for a hard-edged finish and hoping that on a tank this small it won’t look too odd.

I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform and a mix based on US Field Drab for the camo colours. These are both considerably lighter than the original colours used, but at this scale I think they give a reasonable representation of the colours in the Buntfarbenanstrich scheme. I add dry-brushed highlights to all three colours. 

Then it’s time the paint the running gear, and this is fiddly because this and the tracks are just one part for each side. After adding the camo colours, I use grey for the roadwheel and return roller tyres, and then a darker grey as a base colour for the tracks. I drybrush gunmetal highlights and then give the tracks an overall acrylic brown wash.

The last bits of painting involve the exhausts, the shovel on the track-guard and the machine guns. The perforated shrouds for the machine guns are nicely done, so I begin with a black base colour, then I carefully add dark grey, leaving the holes in black and finally I give both some gunmetal dry-brushed highlights. It’s a lot of mucking about on very tiny parts, but I do feel that this adds to the visual appeal of the finished model.

Finally, I add a light-brown acrylic wash on the lower hull and running gear to represent dust. And that’s painting done.

Then, decals. These are fairly simple – a rectangular red/yellow/red Nationalist flash on the glacis plate, a thinner, longer version of this flash on the turret rear and a white three-digit unit code on the front hull. The hull numbers seem to have been hand-painted rather than stencilled and were often not quite straight. All decals used here are created by using left-overs from the spares box cut to size.

The, I give everything a coat of clear, matte varnish followed by a grey oil wash to bring out the shadows. The exhaust heat-shields get a separate dark brown wash to try to make the indentations on the plastic look like holes with the rusty exhaust beneath showing through. Perhaps this is overkill, but I do feel that it helps to make these look like thin metal shields with holes in them rather than solid parts.

And that’s it for construction and painting on this tiny kit.

After Action Report

The main problems here are related to the tiny size of this kit and its simplified construction. It’s a very quick build and there aren’t any problems with fit. Most of the work here is in painting, and that is a little more challenging. I generally don’t look forward, for example, to painting roadwheel tyres, but then they’re this small, and moulded as a single part with the tracks and suspension, it’s even more difficult.

It’s the same with the camo scheme. This isn’t particularly complex, but getting something convincing on this tiny hull and turret does require some planning and some care. The decals were also an issue, because I didn’t use those supplied with the kit. Cutting out and joining tiny fragments of decal to make the Nationalist flash on the turret and hull was not something to tackle until I’d had my first coffee of the day.

Providing a size comparison, here is this Nationalist Panzer I with two other 1/72 kits: a Republican IGC Sandurni by Minairons Miniatures (foreground left) and behind, a Zvezda Jagdpanther. You can see just how tiny these Spanish Civil War tanks were.

However, I’m fairly happy with the finished result. There is a particular challenge to building something this small, and a great deal of satisfaction if it turns out reasonably. Overall, there is little wrong with this kit, though I think it could do with more detail on things like items usually stowed on the track-guards, the tracks and the exhausts. However, given how scarce small-scale kits of the Panzer I are, your choice is very limited and I think you could do much worse.  

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