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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) Build Review

First chore on the Zvesda T-34/76 is drilling out the main gun and with that done, it’s time to start on the hull. There is actually very little construction involved. The headlight and antenna base are added as are the toolboxes. I’ll be leaving off the tow cables to paint separately. The exhausts must be fitted to the rear of the upper hull and, just as on the Zvesda SU-85, there is a small but noticable gap on either side that needs to be filled. 

After complaining that the fit between the upper and lower hull on the SU-85 wasn’t great, here it’s very good indeed. No filler needed and only a quick swipe with a sanding stick though unlike the SU-85, the exhausts aren’t moulded open here.

Then, it’s on to the turret. There are no fit problems with the mantlet, main gun or turret base, and no filler is needed but the hatches have a moulding seam and some distortion once they’re cut off the sprue and they do need a fair bit of sanding to make them flat.

It’s only when I try fitting the turret in place that I realise I have made a mistake in construction. I glued the turret base in place in the upper hull. Then, the turret snaps on to that part. However, it won’t rotate because I have glued the base in place. If I had just pushed this into place from the inside and then snapped the turret on from the top, it would have then revolved. Note to self: read the instructions! At least by glueing the base in position I can keep the turret separate for painting and snap it in place at the end.

I also fit all the roadwheels and the inner halves of the sprockets and idlers – the outer halves will have to wait until the tracks are fitted and I’ll be painting these separately. These wheels fit much better than the same parts on the SU-85 which were a very tight fit.  

It all then gets a base coat of flat white, and then it’s time for the main colour. When building the SU-85, I confidently said that just about any colour of green will do for a Russian tank from World War Two. Protective Green 4BO, the standard green used on Russian AFVs, certainly varied in colour both as it was applied and due to weathering and fading. However, I felt that the SU-85 ended up just too dark, so this time, I’m mixing my own base colour for brush-painting.

After a great deal of experimentation, I come up with something I’m fairly happy with. It’s very light at this stage, but I know that adding varnish and oil washes will darken it quite a bit. One problem quickly becomes apparent – once the two hatches on the turret roof are sanded to make them flat, they fit so closely and flush with the roof that they virtually disappear under the paint. I distress the finish with a scourer to highlight worn areas.

Then I add the decals to the turret and paint on some light chipping and then it all gets a coat of matt varnish.

Then, it gets a dark grey oil wash to bring out shadows and some white oil streaking to give some visual interest to flat panels. 

Then I paint the roadwheel tyres and exhaust and the tracks get the usual dark grey undercoat, with highlights added with a soft pencil, then a coat of clear varnish and some brown acrylic wash on the tracks and roadwheels to simulate mud. Assembly of the tracks is a little fiddly, and might have been better done before joining the upper and lower hull halves. I didn’t do it that way because I want to paint the tracks separately and I was concerned that the upper/lower hull join might need filling and sanding. In the event, this join was fine and I could probably have painted the upper and lower hull separately and then joined them once the tracks had been added. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

The upper and lower runs are anchored on to pegs on the inner halves of the idlers and sprockets as are the curved end sections. Getting these all neatly in place with the upper and lower hulls joined is tricky, but the end result isn’t bad at all. Overall, I rather like this method of creating the tracks. It’s also nice to see that the upper run isn’t completely straight – it does incorporate a little sag.

All that then remains is to add the tow cables and a radio antenna and the Zvesda T-34 is finished.

After-Action Report

I’m still struggling to get a good representation of Protective Green 4BO. I think this is better than the darker green I used on the SU-85, but my brush painting is still far from perfect.

The kit itself isn’t bad. Fit is generally very good and I do like the tracks. The snap-together nature of this kit doesn’t really affect construction and the fact that I ended up with a non-rotating turret was entirely up to my failing to follow the instructions. I also managed to snap off and lose the headlight to the carpet monster and I was forced to make a replacement.

However, as a kit, this is pretty good. Perhaps the surface detail isn’t quite as sharp as some newer kits, the turret hatches could be better defined and maybe this would have looked good with some tools, spare track links and other bits and pieces of outside storage, but in general this is a good representation of a T-34/76 early Model 1934.

These little Zvesda 1/72 armour kits are good value and simple to build, which makes a nice change from some more complex 1/35 kits I have built. I don’t feel that this T-34 is quite up to the standard of the same manufacturer’s SU-85, especially in terms of the sharpness of the detail, but it certainly isn’t terrible. This makes a pleasant and relaxing way to while away some lockdown hours and there isn’t anything here that would challenge most kit-builders.

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

Zvesda 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 Zvesda. 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 Zvesda 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 Zvesda 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 Zvesda 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 Zvesda 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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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) Build Review

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

Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of Zvesda’s 1/72 SU-85 and, given that this kit is “Snap together – no glue required” I obviously won’t be needing any glue. Except, that’s not quite how it turned out…

The first job, as usual on most 1/72 kits, is drilling out the bore of the main gun. I don’t enjoy this – it’s just too easy to drill a fraction off-centre, but in this case, it all goes well.

Construction begins with the upper hull. The parts required to assemble the gun, mounting and mantlet fit fairly cleanly and are indeed designed to snap together leaving the gun free to traverse and elevate. However, you will be wanting to use glue to hold things like the rain cover and mantlet securely in place. Likewise the small vents on the roof and the rear part of the upper hull. These do all have mounting pegs and corresponding holes, but IMHO, glue is needed for a secure fix.

Just two parts (the handrails on either side of the hull) have no means of fixing other than glue. In general, the whole snap-together approach actually works very well in as much as it provides clear locations for all parts but really, you’ll be wanting to use glue too. Things like the rear fuel tanks are very nicely made – construction is idiot proof (they will only assemble in the correct orientation) and fit on these is superb.

However, I was less happy with the fit in other places. In particular, there is a notable gap on the right side and top of the main gun mounting. This is sufficiently wide on the right that you can see inside the hull, so filler is required. The rear plate of the upper hull also has fit issues and it took some sanding, filling and re-scribing panel lines to get something that looks right.

Both the exhausts fit into cut-outs in the rear hull that are a fraction wider than the exhausts, so again, filler is required to fill these gaps. The upper and lower hull halves also snap together, but again, glue is required for a secure fit. Both front and rear joins required sanding and filling. The rear join in particular needs a fair amount of sanding to get something that looks right.

The lower hull incorporates part of the track guards that fit into holes in the upper hull. I was concerned that these would be visible from above, but the joins are generally covered by toolboxes and other equipment, so these aren’t really a problem.

I have left off the tracks, sprockets, idlers, roadwheels, tools and tow cables at this stage simply because I want to paint these separately. I find that painting tyres on roadwheels in particular is much easier while these are loose and they can be mounted on a match or cocktail stick and rotated.

With the sanding and filling done, it’s time for something completely different. Rather than using a black or dark base for the main coat, I am going to use white. The reason is simple – I’ll follow this with a coat of varnish and then a coat of olive green. I will then buff the surface, hoping that the white will show through the green on high spots to replicate, wear, fading and highlights. That’s the plan, anyway…

I begin with a coat of matt white from an aerosol can. This is followed by a coat of clear, matt varnish. This also gives me a chance to check that my attempts at sanding have blended in the worst of the gaps. You’ll have to take my word for it because I forgot to take any photos of the kit at this stage. Just visualise an all-white SU-85…

Then I spray a top coat of Vallejo Olive Drab, also from a can. OK, I know, there is great deal of debate about precisely the shade of green used on Soviet tanks in World War Two. There seem to have been several different shades of green depending on where the paint was mixed and the tank painted. Some paints seem to have reacted to exposure to sunlight by becoming darker while others faded to a lighter colour. Then, you have to take into account colour scaling… For what it’s worth and in my view, just about anything resembling olive green is acceptable for a WW2 Russian AFV.

Then I buff with the abrasive side of an ordinary household scourer to create lighter areas on high spots by revealing the white undercoat. Then, it gets a coat of clear varnish mixed with a little olive drab to tone down the highlights a little.

Overall, this is close to what I was looking for. I then add the decals, though I put these on the right side only as that seems to accord with the vehicle in the museum in Moscow. I add paint chipping around hatches and other areas using dark grey and then it gets another coat of clear varnish and then it’s on to the oil washes.

I use a dark grey oil for shadows and to highlight things like the grilles on the rear deck and I add some white streaking and highlights to larger panels. I’m not too unhappy with the overall result, though it has turned out a darker green that I had hoped. If I’m doing another Russian WW2 AFV in this scale, I may use a different, lighter green as the base colour.

Then, it’s time to start on the tracks. You must follow the sequence of construction noted in the instructions here. First, the inner halves of the roadwheels, idler and sprocket are added. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. I really struggled at this stage. The problem is that all are a very tight fit on the spindles or sockets to which they attach. I guess this is to make them snap together, but it took so much force to get things like the sprocket inner half in place that I was concerned that it would snap. So, it took quite a bit of sanding, fitting and re-fitting to get to this point.  

Then, the tracks are added. The inner roadwheel with the pegs on it goes in the centre, and this locates the tracks in place.

I did a fairly simple paint-job on the tracks before fitting, just a coat of dark gunmetal followed by dry-brushed lighter gunmetal highlights and some brown for rust and dirt.

Finally, the outer halves of the wheels are added. Again, this isn’t easy and it takes more force than I was happy with. If I was doing this again (and I will be, soon…) I’d fix the inner halves in place during hull construction, dry-fit the outer halves and sand as required and then and paint the inner halves in-situ rather than trying to add them after painting the hull.

With the tracks done, all that’s left is to add the tools, tow cables and other bits and pieces. And here I found that, once again, the snap together construction means that I might have better to follow the sequence of construction in the instructions. If, as I did, you assemble the toolboxes on the hull, for example, before you try to fit things like the tow cable and saw, they don’t snap into place. To get these to fit, I had to cut off the locating pegs and glue them into position.

All that remains is to add a stretched-sprue radio antenna, and that’s the Zvesda SU-85 done…  

After-Action Report

I have been building mainly 1/35 kits recently, and I had almost forgotten how quick and fun these little 1/72 kits can be. Most construction was done in a single, short session and even the painting took much less time than usual. I also rather like the fact that these smaller scale kits are cheaper and take up less display space than their larger counterparts.

Overall, I was very impressed with this, my first Zvesda kit. Detail is crisp, accurate and complete, there was a total absence of flash and the only mould-release marks are placed inside, where they can’t be seen. As far as I can tell, this builds into a good representation of the SU-85 with no major inaccuracies or problems.

I’m not so sure about the whole “snap together – no glue required” thing. A couple of parts must be glued in place and I am not at all certain that some of the smaller parts could be fitted securely without the use of glue. On some small parts such as the sprockets, the amount of force needed to snap these into place is so great that I was concerned that I’d break them and I ended up sanding these and gluing them into position. It’s not a major problem, but I suggest you do have glue and sandpaper to hand if you’re building one of these.

This approach also means that you must either follow the recommended steps for construction or be prepared to glue some small parts into place. For example, I left things like the tow cables and tools until I had finished constructing and painting the hull, and that meant that some of these parts couldn’t be easily snapped into place.

Fit was, well, all right. Some filing and sanding was needed in a few places but no worse than I have experienced on several other kits. I do like the semi-hard plastic tracks provided on this kit. They look much more to scale than most rubber-band style tracks, they’re less fiddly than link-and-length tracks, especially in this small scale, and they bend round the sprocket and idler convincingly. These do mean that you must follow the recommended steps for assembly, but this isn’t difficult, just different.

I suppose the most important question is: having built this one, would I buy another Zvesda 1/72 kit? And the answer is an emphatic: Yes! In fact, I think I can feel a T-34 sort of mood approaching…

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

Zvesda 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 Zvesda, 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 Zvesda 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. Zvesda 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.

Zvesda 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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Zvesda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) Build Review – coming soon

Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of the StuG IV. I’m looking forward to this one because, in my limited experience, these older Tamiya kits are simple to build and fit is generally very good indeed. Because they were originally designed as motorised kits, the upper and lower hull are separate assemblies that can be joined later in the construction process, and that can make painting things like the roadwheels, sprocket idler and suspension a little simpler. I have decided to use the kit decals to model a StuG of Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 237 (formerly Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 237). This unit was formed in February 1944 and took part in action on the Eastern Front in defence against the Soviet offensive known as Operation Bagration.

I’ll be going for an overall dunklegelb (dark yellow) finish without any additional camouflage. As ever, I’ll be brush painting just about everything and I hope to create a slightly battered looking StuG from the early Summer of 1944.

I begin with assembling the various part of the upper and lower hull and the main gun. And it’s immediately obvious that fit is simply superb. Everything assembles with no gaps; the placement of parts is generally clear and there is no need for filler anywhere.

I assemble the upper hull with the loader’s hatch open (I’ll be placing the figure from the kit in this hatch) but with the Commander’s hatch closed. In retrospect, I might have been better to leave the Commander’s hatch open because the kit includes a rather nice representation of the periscopic Commander’s sight.

I also work on the Schurzen side armour at this point. In the kit, all five panels on each side are modelled as a single piece. However, in reality these were separate plates so I carefully cut the armour into five pieces on each side. Each panel is provided with its own mounting points and I’m hoping that cutting out the individual panels will be enough to suggest that these are separate parts without bending the individual panels as I have seen done on some kits. This also gives me the option of leaving out one or more panels, something that was frequently seen on well-used vehicles.

I then spray everything with a base coat of Tamiya TS-68 from an aerosol can, simply because I have a little left in a can and at least it gives me a consistent base to work on.

I’ll be using MIG Jimenez acrylic paint for the main colour, with Dunklegelb Base and Dunklegelb Shine for highlights. One thing I do like about these paints is that they’re translucent, so I apply the Shine first to areas that would reflect more light…

Then I add a top coat of the Base colour, leaving the highlighted areas still just visible.

Next, I carefully paint chipped areas on the upper and lower hull as well as on the gun and mantlet. I use a dark grey to suggest an exposed undercoat and I try to keep it logical – raised areas and places where there would be likely to get wear show more chipping.  

Then, I paint the tyres on the roadwheels and return rollers – not one of my favourite jobs! I also paint the tools, tow cable, jack and MG34 at this stage, and I’m trying a different technique here. I paint all these items dark grey and then highlighted edges and worn areas with a soft pencil.

I’m fairly happy with the result and these are added to the hull and the decals are applied using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. The decals are fine, though they do feel a little thick.

Then, and I fix the gun and mantlet in position – a nice touch is that the gun can both traverse and elevate when it’s in place. Everything then gets a coat of clear matte varnish before I start on the oil wash to bring out shadows. I use Abteilung oils dark mud, a fairly dark brown which contrasts nicely with the dark yellow finish. The fine panel detail makes highlighting recessed lines fairly simple.

Then I join the upper and lower hull parts. Hey, it’s starting to look like a StuG!

I assemble the exhaust and give it a coat of Tamiya white putty to simulate a rusty texture and then paint it orange before overpainting with a thick layer of the same oil paint I used for the shadow wash. I then use thinner to rub off some of the oil paint and this gives a blotchy finish that kind of looks like rust. I’m also happy with the effect of the pencil highlights on the tow cable.

Then the tracks get the same treatment as the tools – after a base coat of dark gunmetal and a coat of clear varnish, I use a pencil to add a soft metallic shine to raised areas. When they’re in place I’ll add some brown acrylic wash to suggest rust and dirt.

Wrestling the vinyl tracks into position is fairly simple. They aren’t too tight, though it would be difficult to simulate any sort of sag. However, on this kit the top run of the tracks will be hidden by the Schurzen plates, so this isn’t a major issue.

The figure is next and, once again, I’m really not sure about the information provided by Tamiya. The painting guide on the box. This shows the figure wearing a camouflaged jacket and a green cap and trousers.

The style of the unform is certainly correct with the wrap jacket, but all the references I can find suggest that StuG crews (who were members of the artillery rather than panzer troops) wore grey uniforms throughout the war. So, I give my crewman a grey uniform, which also means I don’t have to attempt a complex camouflage pattern, something I think I’d find very challenging in 1/35 – I have to admit that my figure painting skills aren’t the best! A pistol holster is included in the kit but, as the figure doesn’t have a belt, there isn’t anywhere to hang this. The kit also includes headphones, but these fit so badly on the figure’s head that I leave them off.

The last jobs are to add the two radio antenna and hang the Schurzen plates on either side – they don’t have to be glued in place, so you can display the finished kit with one or more plates missing. And that is the StuG IV pretty much done… 

 After Action Report

Other than adding some rusty texture to the exhaust with Tamiya white putty (and that was the only occasion I needed to use any filler on this kit), cutting the Schurzen side armour into individual plates and adding the radio antenna, this build is straight out of the box. I’m very happy with the result and the kit itself is a sheer pleasure to build. There aren’t a great many tiny parts and what there is fits perfectly. The instructions are generally clear (though I did struggle to understand where to place the rear towing hooks) and there is nothing really challenging in this build.

As with the other old Taimya 1/35 kits I have built, this was just fun and relaxing to build and paint. Perhaps the tracks could be better and there is a gap between the upper hull and the top of the roadwheels that can be seen from some angles through the open loader’s hatch, though it would be simple to fill this with plastic card – I failed to notice until I had joined the upper and lower hull.  I’m sure that more recent kits of the StuG IV provide more detail and things like stowage items on the outside of the hull. Nevertheless, this builds into a reasonable representation of a StuG IV for very little money.

Two generations of German tank destroyer in 1/35

Italeri Marder III behind

Overall, this kit is highly recommended and it might be especially appropriate for someone coming to 1/35 armour kits for the first time.

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) In-Box Review and History

Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I thoroughly enjoyed building a couple of Tamiya 1/35 kits from the 60s and 70s (The Panzer II and M41 Walker Bulldog, as you ask…). So, when I saw another Tamiya kit from the 70s in the Special Offer section of a kit vendor’s website, I didn’t hesitate. What I liked about those other kits was their relative simplicity, as well as the fact that despite being fifty plus years old, they still fit perfectly together to make a reasonable representation of the original.  

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I don’t much care for lots of tiny parts or a pile of PE. Not only is my eyesight a whole lot worse than it was when I first built kits in the late 1960s, my fingers seem to have got clumsier too and I seem to spend more time than productive on my hands and knees trying to find tiny parts that I have dropped. That’s one of the reasons these old kit appeal to me, but of course there’s a downside in that they’re just not as detailed as some more recent kits.

The mould date on this kit is 1975, which makes it one of the earlier vehicles in the Military Miniatures series. Unsurprisingly, it shares the lower hull, suspension, running gear, Schurzen side armour and tracks from the Tamiya Panzer IV Ausf. H (35054) released in 1975. Like most other Tamiya kits of this period, it was originally produced as a motorised kit and you’ll find holes for switches and mounting places for batteries in the lower hull.  As ever here in Model Kit World, the question is: does this forty-five-year-old kit deserve your attention and your hard-earned cash?

History

The Sturmgeschütz (StuG) IV came about, like many other things in the chaos of wartime Nazi Germany, by accident and at the whim of Adolf Hitler. By early 1943, the value of the StuG III as an anti-tank weapon was very obvious and production of that vehicle increased until it outstripped that of most other German AFVs. However, the continuation of intense fighting on the Eastern Front and the Allied landings in North Africa meant that more still were needed. Krupp, manufacturers of the Panzer IV, submitted a design for a new StuG using modified superstructure from a StuG III Ausf. F mounted on a Panzer IV chassis in February 1943, but this was rejected. The StuG III was considered perfectly adequate and Krupp were directed instead to concentrate on development of the planned Panzerjäger IV, another assault gun that would be equipped with the same 7.5 cm L/70 main gun used on the Panther tank.

A Panzerjäger IV. A fine anti-tank weapon, but relatively few were built due to shortages of the L/70 gun.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

However, a shortage of the 7.5 cm L/70 guns delayed production of the Panzerjäger IV and in November 1943 an Allied bombing raid on Berlin severely damaged the Altmärkische Kettenwerk (Alkett) works where the StuG III was produced. At a conference in early December, Hitler agreed that a proposal from Krupp for creating a new assault gun by combining the superstructure of the StuG III Ausf. G with the chassis of the Panzer IV should go ahead immediately.

A StuG IV draped with lots of spare track links in Ebling, East Prussia in February 1945.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

Production of the StuG IV ran from December 1943 to March 1945 and totalled a little over eleven hundred vehicles. All were armed with the same 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 seen on the StuG III in a “Saukopf” (pig snout) mantlet and most were fitted with Schurzen side armour to protect against attack by hollow-charge projectiles and a rough, zimmerit anti-magnetic coating. By this stage of the war, most Sturmgeschütz (Assault Guns) were being as much used for their ability as tank-killers as for their original purpose of providing mobile fire support to infantry units.  No co-axial machine gun was fitted on the StuG IV but an MG34 on a shielded mount was provided on the upper hull. The StuG IV served on the Eastern front, in Italy and in Western Europe following the Allied landings in Normandy and it proved just as effective as the StuG III in the tank-killing role.

A StuG IV and crew

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

All German AFVs in World War Two were given an inventory number by the ordinance department. However and oddly, the StuG IV seems to have had two different numbers. This vehicle was classified as a Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Special Purpose Vehicle, usually abbreviated as Sd.Kfz.) and it appears on some versions of the ordinance department designation lists twice, as Sd.Kfz. 163, “Sturmgeschütz IV” and as Sd.Kfz. 167, “Sturmgeschütz IV mit 7,5 cm StuK 40”. I don’t really understand that as all StuG IVs were fitted with the same main gun but it probably explains why this kit is designated as “Sd.Kfz. 163” while almost all other StuG IV kits are shown as “Sd.Kfz. 167.” I suspect that Tamiya may have got it wrong here and the most common designation for this vehicle in Wermacht service seems to have been Sd.Kfz. 167.

What’s in the Box?

This box contains four sprues moulded in light brown plastic, the lower hull, two rubber-band style tracks, a set of soft plastic polycap retainers for the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets, a set of decals and the instructions.

The parts seem crisply moulded with good surface detail. A single figure in appropriate uniform is provided as well as Schurzen side armour and optional concrete block additional armour for the left and right sides of the hull front. No zimmerit finish is modelled.

Decals are provided for several units including 2nd Panzer Division, 9th Panzer Division, 116th Panzer Division and the Panzer-Lehr Division as well as three different Assault Gun Brigades. That covers vehicles serving on the Eastern Front and in Normandy, Belgium and Germany following the Allied landings. You can make up your own three-digit identification number because you are provided with several numerals in red with white outlines and a set of “kill” markings for the barrel are also included. The decal sheet actually references a different Tamiya kit – it’s from the Jagdpanzer IV kit (35088). But that kit doesn’t include side identification numbers, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here.  

The suggested colour scheme is overall “dark yellow” which sounds right as all German tanks after February 1943 were finished in overall dunkelgelb. The instructions also correctly note that in the field, tanks were often camouflaged with brown (rotbraun) and green (olivgrün) paint applied either by brush or by spraying.

There are a total of well over 200 parts here, and detail generally looks good though there is a complete lack of any items representing stowage on the rear hull.

The flexible vinyl tracks have reasonable detail on the external surfaces but rather less on the inside – presumably this is a legacy from this kit’s motorised origin.

The instructions are the usual Tamiya fare and 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 some very brief history of the StuG III and IV.

Would You Want One?

A quick look at the parts in the box suggests that this shares many good things with other early Tamiya kits: there aren’t too many tiny parts, what there is looks crisply moulded with decent surface detail and, going on my previous experience of similar kits, I’d expect everything to fit together nicely.

The lack of stowage bins and items for the rear hull is a little disappointing, but crafting these from scratch or the spares box shouldn’t be beyond the capacity of most modellers. The lack of a zimmerit finish is also notable as many, perhaps most, StuG IVs, carried this distinctive, wrinkled finish.

There are a number of alternatives if you fancy a kit of the StuG IV in 1/35 but you want something a little more modern and with additional detail. Dragon do a very nice early production StuG IV which is available both with and without zimmerit finish. Smart-Kit versions of this kit feature individual link tracks, PE parts in brass and nickel and a part-count of over nine hundred! Academy released a new-tool version of the StuG IV kit in 2018 to replace a previous version from 1986. This is another very nice kit featuring high detail, some slide-moulded parts and detailed vinyl tracks.

The thing is, this Tamiya kit, like many of the other early kits from the Military Miniatures series, is available for considerably less cash than either of those others. Does that matter? Well, the price isn’t a deal-breaker for most of us I guess, but this is available at somewhere between half and one third of the price of the others. I like that and I’m sure that this old kit can be turned into something decent. I’m really looking forward to this build!

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) Build Review

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

It’s time to start the build of the Marder, and I’m a little nervous. I don’t own an airbrush and on previous 1/35 kits I have used acrylic spray-cans for the base colour. Despite what the instructions recommend, I’m going for overall panzer grey here to model a Marder in Russia in late 1942. I don’t have a spray-can of the right colour and I plan to brush-paint everything. Which of course brings its own particular challenges…

I begin with assembling the hull and almost straight away, it is clear that this kit has some fit issues. The first problem is that the rear right side of the engine compartment is badly bent. Now, I don’t think this is an issue with the kit itself, more probably in the way that this example has been stored, but it’s very noticeable. The picture above shows the assembled rear hull after I tried to straighten it out, but it’s still not straight. The second issue becomes obvious on dry assembly – the overall fit here just isn’t great, particularly round the rear hull. Compared to, for example, some Tamiya kits from the same period, parts just don’t fit together positively and a great deal of care is needed to avoid lots of unsightly gaps.

With the addition of some filler to the worst gaps, the hull is largely complete and it’s clear that there isn’t much internal detail here other than a couple of seats and a shell storage rack. I may add some helmets, gas-mask cases and other bits and pieces from the spares box to add visual interest later though, to be honest, the interior is largely hidden by the gun, mount and armour. The anti-slip mesh on the floor is quite nicely done, but it’s marred by some very obvious sink-marks and these are impossible to remove without sanding away the mesh. I paint the interior off-white, then add a layer of clear varnish and a wash of dark grey oil paint. This does enhance the detail, but it also makes the sink-marks very obvious.

Then, it’s time to work on the rest of the hull, though I’ll be leaving the upper guards off until the tracks are complete. The suspension parts fit well and without any major drama. Actually, most parts added to the hull fit fairly well, which is a relief. With the main hull done, I give that and the armour a couple of coats of well-thinned (to avoid obvious brush marks) coat of Vallejo German Grey.

Then, I rub with a household scourer to remove paint from details, high spots and edges.

Then, everything gets a very thin, lightened coat of Vallejo German Grey which leaves the highlights still visible.

Then, I add the decals and it all gets a coat of clear, acrylic varnish and then a wash of thinned black oil paint to enhance the shadows and some white streaks to give some variation to main panels. For some reason, the camera makes these look much more intense than they really are – they’re barely noticeable lighter areas, not white stripes! 

Then it’s time to start work on the gun and mount. The barrel is moulded in two halves and, though they have locating pins, fit once again isn’t great and it takes quite a bit of sanding and the use of filler to get something approximately circular and smooth.  

Overall, detail on the gun is quite good, but the location for some parts isn’t very clear and the instructions aren’t a great help. Once it’s done, it gets a couple of coats of German Grey.

Then I rub off the high spots and give it a final coat of lightened German Grey. And then a wash of black oil paint and some white streaking. Then I highlight the control wheels in a light gunmetal and add the gun shield.

The road and return wheels, idlers and sprockets get the same treatment and the tyres are painted in dark grey. Then it’s time to work on the tracks. I’ll be assembling these on the running gear and then removing them for painting. Assembly isn’t particularly difficult and the instructions are clear. However, I do note one odd thing – the instructions state that seven single track links should be used on the rear idler and six on the front sprocket, but if you do that, this is the result…

Happily, there are plenty of spare single track links provided, so it’s simple to add another on the sprocket on both sides. Then the tracks are removed and painted. I keep this pretty simple – a base coat of dark gunmetal, highlights picked out in a lighter gunmetal and then an acrylic brown wash to simulate rust and dirt.

Then, I add the painted tracks to the hull. I’m happy with the result and this wasn’t nearly as fiddly as some track-and-link kits I have built. Finishing the tracks is always a good moment during the construction of any AFV as it really starts to look like a tracked vehicle.

Then, I add the track-guards, the rear storage and some other bits and pieces. The deformation in the rear hull causes some issues when fitting the guards, but with a bit of fiddling, it doesn’t look too bad. There are also some very evident sink-marks on the upper surfaces of the guards, and I’ll try to cover these with spare track links. After some more varnishing and oil wash, the hull is pretty much done.

Then, the gun and mount are attached to the hull which is straightforward. Finally, it’s starting to look a bit like a Marder.

Then, the top and side armour panels are then added and that’s another frustrating experience. There is a complete absence of mounting guides on the armour panels or the hull to say where and how these fit. It’s just way too easy to get the whole armour construction too far forward (or back) or to find that it’s not straight – I managed all three at various points before arriving at something I could live with. It takes a fair amount of referring to photographs of real Marders to work out where everything goes and some care and attention to make sure things are the same on both sides.

And finally the last parts like the exhaust, tools, jack and spare tracks links are added. The final touch is the addition, from my spares box, of helmets, gas-mask containers and an MP40 in the rear stowage and the addition of a radio antenna. I left out the expended shell casings provided with the kit, partly because they look a little oversize and mostly because my attempt to mix a brass colour looked so horrible. Finally, everything gets a well-thinned coat of matt varnish mixed with a little Panzer Grey. This tones everything in and reduces highlights while still leaving them visible.

And that is the Marder done.  

After Action Report

Other than drilling out the exhaust and adding some rusty texture to the same part with Tamiya white putty and adding a couple of bits and pieces to the rear stowage, this build is straight out of the box. Like just about every other kit I have attempted, this has both positives and negatives. The biggest negative is poor or imprecise fitting, especially in the hull and upper armour though this also applies to many smaller parts – almost every time there is a part with pegs intended to fit in locating holes, they either don’t fit without sanding or the locating holes are not provided and must be drilled-out. The instructions aren’t always great either, and I had to refer to some pictures of actual Marder IIIs to be certain about where some parts fitted. That said, there is nothing here that’s a complete disaster.

Set against that, the suspension, running gear and tracks are well done, the gun is fairly detailed and simple to construct and I’m happy with how these parts of the kit look now that they’re finished. Brush painting any 1/35 kit is a challenge, but overall I’m fairly happy with how this looks now it’s finished. There aren’t too many obvious brush-marks and I feel that the highlighting of things like rivets, bolts and other high-spots adds to the overall effect. 

Compared to more modern kits, I’m aware that interior and exterior detail here is sparse and I do feel that this kit would benefit greatly from the inclusion of two or more nicely detailed, convincingly-posed figures (I know, it comes with two figures but frankly, you probably aren’t going to want to use either of them).

Overall, this was a pleasant kit to build. Fit frustrations mean that it wasn’t quite as relaxing as, for example, some Tamiya kits of a similar vintage, but I generally enjoyed building this Italeiri Marder and the finished model does look pretty much like the original. If you can find one (especially a version like this, with length-and-link tracks) I recommend this as a pleasant way to spend a few evenings. And that, after all, is why we do this…

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

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. The Marder is a tiny vehicle and it would have been nice to have figures to give it scale, but I’m not sure 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 II on the Italeri web site

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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

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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