Tag Archives: Review

Scooby Doo Haunted House

Zoinks gang! It’s time for a very different bit of modelling to start off 2022. I mentioned in my last post (a review of a set of 1/35 German infantry from 1914) that I was getting a bit jaded in my kit building. My jadedness (is that even a word?) was increased when I messed up a shadow wash while painting those figures and ended up dumping the all-black figures in the bin. Sigh…

So, I’m now going to attempt something very different indeed. It’s a kind of, sort of, vignette in approximately 1/24 scale featuring Scooby Doo and friends. No tanks, no military stuff at all, and not a kit in sight… This is just about nostalgia-fuelled fun. I hope!

OK, now that most of my regulars have gone elsewhere for their fix of regular military-themed kit-building, what’s this new project all about?

Background

Way back in July 1969, man first walked on the Moon. Which I, as a ten-year-old, regarded as surpassingly cool and exciting. But just two months later, something else happened that had a huge effect on my pre-teen self: the very first episode of a new kid’s cartoon series, Scooby Doo: Where Are You? launched on CBS. Produced by  Hanna-Barbera, the show featured a truly Gothic aesthetic supported by wonderful painted backgrounds (even if some of the foreground animations were a little creaky).

How can you not love this? Like most of the art from Series 1, this painting was created by Walt Peregoy, a background artist who had previously worked for Disney.

The show was produced in an attempt to create a non-violent kid’s show that would avoid the criticism that many existing superhero series were attracting from parent’s and media groups. The outcome was utterly formulaic: in each of the 17 episodes of the first series, the four teenage protagonists (Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Fred) plus their Great Dane Scooby Doo would turn up at a new location in the Mystery Machine.

When the Mystery Machine arrives in town, bad things are going to happen…

They would encounter some sort of paranormal (ghosts, zombies, etc.) or cryptid (Yeti, sea monster, etc.) problem. The gang would uncover clues and set a fiendishly complicated trap (that usually failed) before finally discovering that the ghost/monster was really a baddie in disguise. Nothing startling really, but the atmosphere (at least until the final unmasking) was rather dark and scary for a kid’s show.

Another of Walt Peregoy’s wonderful backgrounds

There were jump scares, a brooding atmosphere of menace and lots of scary establishing shots. As a ten-year-old, I found some of the episodes genuinely scary. But here’s the thing: I love the horror genre, whether it’s books, movies or television. I’m certain that my enthusiasm for this began with Scooby Doo and I still retain fond feelings for the original couple of series (but not anything that features Scrappy Doo, OK?). You could argue, if you were so inclined, that these cartoons introduced a new generation (including yours truly) to the tropes of Gothic horror – from a creepy house on a remote island to an abandoned airfield, all were laden with dread and the unspoken promise of very bad things.

If you want to remind yourself about just how great the early episodes were, the YouTube video below provides the first five minutes of the very first episode of Scooby Doo: Where Are You? from 1969, What a night for a Knight.

The Plan

Jump forward over fifty years and I was in a toyshop in a large town. I was hoping they might stock model kits (they didn’t) and instead I found myself captivated by a new range from Playmobil featuring the characters from the original series of Scooby Doo. I grew to love Playmobil when my kids were growing up – the sheer quality and diverse design of everything they make really impressed me. The combination of Playmobil and Scooby Doo was almost irresistible, but my kids are now rather too grown up to appreciate these as presents and as yet, there is no sign of grandchildren to allow me to indulge my joy in train sets and Scalextric.

My latest kit failure made me think about this again. Of course, I could simply buy the Playmobil Scooby Doo Haunted Mansion, but where’s the challenge in that? Would it be possible instead to use the Playmobil characters in a home-made haunted house that reflected the cartoon aesthetic of the original? Could this then be used as the basis for a series of photographs that can be presented as a comic-strip or even a video? Essentially, can I make a new episode of Scooby Doo using these models?

That’s a lot of questions and I really don’t know the answer to any of them. I’m not even sure whether this represents revisiting my childhood or the first signs of approaching dementia. And I don’t really care, I am looking forward to something that’s a little more light-hearted than my usual modelling subject. There’s a fair bit of work involved, so I’ll be updating progress in several parts. If I ever get the comic strip/video done, I’ll post that here too. Let’s start by looking at the cast for my new episode.

The Cast

Playmobil offer all the main characters from the original Scooby Doo as well as most of the monsters/ghosts from the early series. The monsters are particularly nicely done, because all can be revealed as being other characters in disguise…

I want to keep it as simple as possible, so I went for set 70287, Scooby and Shaggy with Ghost. This provides the figures fof Scooby Doo and Shaggy as well as a third character who can wear a glow-in-the-dark ghost outfit. I would have liked to have the other members of the gang, but they are only available as a large set that includes the Mystery Machine.

Scooby and Shaggy are presented in the traditional Playmobil semi-cartoon style and the ghost is particularly nicely done with a separate hood (complete with eye-holes) that can be removed to reveal the person underneath. It really does glow in the dark too, and how many 1/72 tanks can you say that about…

There are also some accessories including a bag of Scooby Snacks, a flashlight, a burger and a lead (though I can’t remember Scooby ever being on a lead in the series).

The next step will be to start to create the haunted house set and I’m looking forward to it. What do you think? Am I losing my mind or would you also like to try something completely different in terms of model-building? Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment…  

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Scooby Doo Haunted House – Part 2

ICM 1/35 WW I German Infantry (1914) (35679) In-Box Review

It’s been a while since the last post, mainly because real life has managed to get in the way of my kit-building, as it has a nasty habit of doing. I also took a break because I was getting a little jaded. I had been focusing on 1/72 armour, and I came to realise that, while I really enjoy painting and finishing my kits, I really can’t be bothered with fiddly construction that involves lots of tiny parts (IBG Renault FT17, I’m looking at you…).

So, I wanted to try something a little different that involves simple construction but lots of painting. That’ll be figures, then. I did enjoy building a diorama from a Tamiya 1/35 Pak35 which came with figures, but that kit dates from the early 1970s and the quality of the included figures wasn’t great. So, I wanted to try something more modern to see how quality has improved. I also fancy a change from the World War Two period and I was therefore happy to find this 1/35 kit of figures from World War One at a local stockist for less than €10. 

This is one of a number of 1/35 scale figure kits released by Ukrainian manufacturer ICM in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One. Other sets in the series include infantry of a number of other nations and from various periods during that conflict, tank crews and machine guns. This appears to be one of the most comprehensive collections of World War One figures currently available and it’s refreshing to find a manufacturer covering something other than ubiquitous subjects from World War Two.

I haven’t tried an ICM kit before, so I’m keen to find out if this offering is worth having or one to avoid. Let’s take a look…   

History

The Imperial German Army in 1914, like the armies of many other nations, was going through a period of transition in terms of equipment and uniforms.

A colourised contemporary image showing troops of the 106th Reserve Infantry Regiment in 1914.

Most infantry units used the 1910 Feldgrau uniform incorporating a grey tunic with red piping on the collar, front, rear and cuffs and exposed silver or gold buttons. The grey trousers also featured red piping on the outside of each leg. Soldiers were provided with a Model 1895 Tornister, a wooden-framed backpack faced in hair-covered cow or horse-skin and usually surrounded by a folded greatcoat and blanket.

A 1914 German uniform on display at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO. The helmet cover at bottom left has the later green regimental number.

Boots were hobnailed, calf-length jackboots, usually in black for officers and brown for other ranks. The standard helmet was the Model 1895 Pickelhaube, a leather or enamelled tin helmet featuring a distinctive spike that also provided ventilation. In the field, the shiny helmet was usually covered with an Überzug, a close-fitting cloth cover. The regimental number was shown on the front of the cover for most units. Initially this took the form of red, felt numbers stitched on to the cover but from later in 1914 these were replaced with green numerals.

A modern recreation of the 1914 German uniform.

The standard infantry weapon was the Gewehr 98 rifle manufactured by Mauser. This is a very, very brief overview of standard German unform in 1914. Even to use the term “standard” is a little misleading: certain units (Guards Regiments, for example) had detail differences in unform and even some infantry regiments from various parts of Germany used different types of uniform and weapons at the outbreak of war.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains just three sprues, and two of those are identical! There is no PE here and no decals, which I for one find rather refreshing.

The main sprue contains the parts for four figures: one officer and three other ranks.

Detail is good and all the figures wear a pretty good representation of the 1914 uniform. There appears to be almost no flash at all. There are some moulding seams, but these seem to be minimal and often on areas that won’t be visible when the figures are completed. On each figure, the arms, legs, and head and neck are separate from the torso. Even each Pickelhaube helmet and spike are provided as separate parts.

The faces look good to me. They aren’t particularly expressive, but each is distinct and different with two displaying appropriate period moustaches. It’s interesting to compare these to the Tamiya figures from the 1970s which were the last 1/35 figures I attempted. These are just much, much better, particularly in terms of having detailed and appropriately sized hands – no bunches of banaas here! Overall, these figures look very good.

The other two identical sprues contain a wealth of weapons and equipment, though most aren’t appropriate for figures representing soldiers from 1914. On these sprues, for example, you’ll find eight examples of the later M1916 steel helmet as well as a heavy machine gun, an anti-tank gun, a selection of grenades and pistols and even an early submachine gun, but most of these just don’t apply to these early-war figures.

What you do get is sufficient numbers of the Gewehr 98 rifle to equip each of the three other-ranks with a rifle either with or without a bayonet. Though if you choose to show rifles with bayonets attached, you’ll have to remember to remove the handle of the bayonet from its scabbard. The bolts of the rifles are moulded as tiny separate parts though no slings are provided.

Some items display real artistry. On each backpack, for example, the folded greatcoat and blanket are moulded integrally. But each of the three is subtly different in how the creases and folds are shown. Nice touch!

The painting instructions are detailed but, in at least one respect, wrong! Model Master colour references are provided and correctly identify German Uniform Feldgrau for the tunic and Medium Gray for the trousers. However, the colour for the cover of the Pickelhaube helmet, blanket and bread bag are given  as “Pale Green”.

In truth, these items were light brown and washing and exposure to the elements usually rendered them as a light tan colour. That’s an important factor in the look of these early war German infantrymen and it does seem to be wrongly stated here. The box art doesn’t help either as it shows the figures only from the front and with tunic, trousers and helmet cover all in a similar shade of dark grey.     

Would You Want One?                                                                                                   

Overall, these figures look very good. There is nice detail here and it all seems appropriate and plausible. The only thing that I can see which isn’t included are slings for the rifles. I quite like having a kit where I don’t have to worry about decals, but having said that, I can’t help but think that decals for the regimental numbers on the helmet covers might have been nice,

Of course, part of how the finished figures look depends on how natural and lifelike (or otherwise) their poses look, and that’s something that won’t be apparent until these are assembled. However, my first impression is that this would be a good place to start if you’re planning a collection of early war figures from 1914.

It’s lucky that these are good because surprisingly (at least, it was to me) there isn’t actually a great deal of choice if you want to make German infantry in 1/35 from 1914. Revell offer a set of German, French and British infantry from 1914, but these are actually just a re-box of these ICM figures. Emhar and others produce sets that include German infantry from World War One, but all appear to be from later periods.

MasterBox did a set of resin 1/35 early war German infantry, but those do not seem to be currently available. M-Model also offer several sets of resin figures from World War One that include German infantry, but all appear to be from later periods. So, as far as I’m aware, this appears to be your only option if you want a mass-produced, injection-moulded 1/35 kit of early war German infantry.  

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RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) Build Review

I’m not by nature a giver-upper, dear readers, in fact persistence is one of my few positive personality traits.  But I came very close to abandoning this build. In many ways, this is a horrible kit. There are lots of tiny parts, fit is variable, mouldings aren’t particularly sharp, the plastic used is brittle and attachment to the sprues is very clumsy indeed which makes it virtually certain that you are going to snap a fair number of parts just getting them off the sprue. This isn’t a happy story…

I began by building the turret and the hull. Neither are pleasant experiences. Several parts snapped as they were being removed from the sprue, fit was pretty dreadful with many parts needing to be sanded before they will fit and filler needed to cover the worst of the gaps. It took more than ten minutes with a circular file before I could even get the turret to fit in opening in the hull. The finished items are pretty rough and more sanding and filling will be required.

Some of the mouldings are also incomplete. The circled area above shows a part of the lower hull that is missing, and I used the better of the two hull halves here. The others were much worse. This area will be hidden by the suspension and running gear, but still, this isn’t good.

Then, I start on the suspension. Assembling this is no problem, provided that you have the eyesight of a falcon and the manual dexterity of a brain surgeon. I have neither and I struggled. Part of the issue is that many of the parts are just stupidly small. Here, for example is one of the upper return roller assemblies. There are 15 parts here and yes, that is a normal sized matchstick.

Several of the mouldings aren’t great. Here, for example is one of the lower running-gear side plates. As you can see, three of the nine holes that are used to mount the roadwheels aren’t there at all and two are only partly formed. All the other three plates were similar, and all need to be drilled out, even the holes that are there because they’re too small to fit the tiny axles on the roadwheels.

Here are the upper and lower assemblies complete. It took some time to get to this point, but there are still lots of parts to add. Several other mounting holes were not formed and had to be drilled, and the location of parts like the main support for the upper assembly is not clear.

Finally, I got the whole assembly done for both sides, and I tried one of the tracks in place, using a drill bit in place of the rear spindle. At least the tracks aren’t too tight, because the whole assembly is very fragile.

Then, I join the two completed assemblies to the hull, and even that isn’t easy. These units don’t attach direct to the hull, but are attached via a fragile spindle that projects from the hull at the rear and a single equally fragile suspension unit at the front that fixes to the top and bottom of the suspension. It’s extremely difficult to get both joined so that they are even approximately in the right place. On reflection, I would have been better to have left the suspension assemblies off until I had finished painting, but I just work round that.

And with that, main assembly is done. And what long and a frustrating task it was! Each running gear assembly contains almost fifty parts, most of them tiny. Getting small parts off the sprues intact is a challenge, and several important mounting holes just aren’t there. In total, there are close to 150 parts on the hull running gear and turret on a completed model that’s barely two inches long. This was not a fun build. But, at least it’s almost done. Only the exhaust and tools are left off for the moment and I can finally begin painting.

I’m aiming for a Polish tank from around 1933. I start with a base of several thin coats of Vallejo Dark Yellow, which seems a fairly close match for the light sand colour used on Polish tanks.

Then I add a simple green/brown camo scheme using Vallejo Russian Uniform and Tamiya Flat Earth. It seems that Polish tanks didn’t use standard, defined schemes, so I guess this is plausible.

Then I do some drybrushing in highlighted versions of the base colours. I also use a permanent marker to add a black line between the camo colours. This only seems to have been done on Polish AFVs for a couple of years, and they had reverted to a more standard three-colour scheme by the time that the war began. I just like this scheme and I wanted to see how using the marker worked. It’s far from perfect, but I’m quite happy with the overall look when it’s done.

I’m not using any of the provided decals. None are appropriate for a Polish tank from the 1930s, and most images seem to show that Polish tanks of that period didn’t carry any markings at all. It all gets a coat of varnish and a grey oil wash which helps to deepen the shadows and make the drybrushed highlights stand out.

The last parts to be added are the tools and the exhaust. And while cutting them off the sprue, the axe breaks into two parts and the shovel into three. Which rather sums this kit up. Ambition is high and separate tools are good, but not if they can’t be removed from the sprues without damage. I manage to repair the broken parts and add them to the kit.

All that now remains are the tracks. These get a base coat of Vallejo dark grey, then light gunmetal highlights on the treads and then a brown acrylic wash. You do have to be very careful when fitting the tracks, because the whole suspension, running gear, sprocket, idler assembly is very fragile indeed. With the tracks on, this kit is finally complete.

After Action Report

If you enjoy sanding, filling, drilling and repairing parts so tiny that they’re barely visible to the naked eye, you may enjoy this kit. If like me you appreciate a simple build and good fit, then you may want to look elsewhere. This tiny kit includes something in the region of 150 parts in a finished model that’s barely two inches long. In some ways, that suggests a commendable quest for detail and accuracy. In other ways, it suggests that this is a complete pain in the ass to build.

As you can probably guess, I didn’t enjoy this build. Actually, I really, really didn’t enjoy it at all. Parts that are very difficult to get off the sprue without damage combined with indifferent fit and poor mouldings make for hard work, especially when the parts involved are so small. The finished model looks sort of OK, though the fact that it has such fine detail does make the fat tracks look a little odd.

I certainly won’t be rushing to buy another RPM kit, no matter how cheap, though I hear that some of their other subjects are better done and easier to build. I guess it depends what you’re looking for. I like simple builds and good fit so that I can focus on painting. If you enjoy the challenge of a difficult-to-build kit that requires lots of effort, you might just enjoy this one.

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RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) In-Box Review and History

RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) In-box Review and History

I haven’t tried a kit by Polish manufacturer RPM before, so I when I saw this one for less than €6, I couldn’t resist. I have looked at several reviews of the range of Renault FT kits introduced by RPM from 2002, and I have been put off by descriptions of difficult assembly, crude moulding and horrible tracks. But at that price, I felt it was worth a punt.

So, is this really a terrible kit, or is it worth your time and money? Let’s take a look…

History

The tank that has become generally known as the FT-17 was designed and produced by the Société des Automobiles Renault, one of the largest pre-war French manufacturers of automobiles.  Deliveries to the French Army began in late 1917, with a total of over 2,500 produced before the end of World War One in November 1918. This was the first production tank with its main armament mounted in a revolving turret and it was produced in two main variations: the char mitrailleuse armed with a Hotchkiss 8mm machine gun and the char cannon armed with a Puteaux SA 18, 37mm, single-shot, breech-loading cannon. Two different styles of turret were used on both versions. A cast, circular turret, known as the Girod turret was the most common, but many of these tanks were provided with a polygonal Berliet turret constructed from riveted steel plates.

American FTs in 1918

Something that has led to great deal of debate is just what the letters “FT” stand for. The answer is: they don’t stand for anything. This was an internal project code used by Renault. The previous project was “FS” and the next “FU,” and so on. This tank was initially given the designation Automitrailleuse à chenilles Renault FT modèle 1917 (Armoured car with tracks Renault FT Model 1917) and during World War One, it was simply known as the “Char Renault FT.” After the war, it came to be called the FT-17, and that is how it is generally known now, even though that was never a formal designation. 

French FTs, still being used in 1940

In terms of production and sales, the Renault FT was one of the most successful tanks not just of World War One, but during the inter-war period. In America, around one thousand examples of a licence-built copy of the FT, the M1917 Light Tank, were manufactured and remained in US Army service until the 1930s. Large numbers of this tank were exported from France to countries around the world including Poland, Italy, Spain, Russia, Japan and Brazil. It was still in service in France in limited numbers by the beginning of World War Two and it was used during that conflict by Poland, Finland, Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia. This tank was still being used as a training tank after World War Two in some countries and during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, a couple of Afghan FTs were discovered in good order by US forces.

Czech FTs in 1928

Following the fall of France on 1940, the Wehrmacht captured over 1,500 FTs. Approximately 750 were used in German service, mainly being used for airfield defence and for police duties in occupied Europe.

For kit-builders, few tanks provide the scope for variations in paint schemes and markings offered by the FT. From the battlefields of World War One, through the Russian Civil War, the Polish-Soviet War, the conflict in Manchuria, the Rif Rebellion in Morocco, the uprising in Italian Libya, the Constitutionalist Revolution in Brazil through to the Second World War, there was barely a conflict in the first half of the 20th century that didn’t feature these tiny tanks.

What’s in the Box?

Quite a lot. There are just two sprues moulded in fairly brittle grey plastic containing over 170 parts, though these clearly include many intended for other versions of the FT.

Surface detail is just about adequate. There is flash here, and some of the mouldings are a little vague, with things like mounting holes not always accurately moulded or even present – on the lower suspension covers, for example, only around half the holes needed to mount the roadwheels are actually present and correctly moulded. Connection with the sprues is a little clumsy too and cutting parts off will require care if they aren’t to be damaged. The roadwheels (below) are tiny and cutting them all off the sprues and removing the flash looks as if it may be a particularly long and tedious job. The return rollers are even smaller…

This kit claims to model an FT-17 with the “Berliet” polygonal turret armed with the 37mm Puteaux gun. However, there are lots of alternate parts on the sprues. For example, there are different types of idler wheel and sprocket, but no information about which you should use for a particular tank. There are also two similar (but not identical) sets of hull halves and front hulls and there appear to be all the parts needed to model the circular Girod turret armed with either the 37mm cannon or the Hotchkiss machine gun as well as the octagonal Berliet turret.

The tools are moulded as separate parts and hull and turret hatches can be modelled open, though there is no internal detail. Some mouldings really aren’t very good at all. On two of the hull halves, the bottom edge is not properly formed and looks as if it has been nibbled by termites (above). The spindle on which the suspension assembly mounts is also snapped off and missing on one of those halves, so I guess I’ll be using the other set of hull halves, even though those aren’t the ones called-out in the instructions.

What about the tracks? I have seen several reviews that claim these are so badly done as to be unusable. For whatever, it’s worth, I disagree. These are vinyl tracks and they look adequately detailed. I’m surprised about this. Some reviews note that the tracks provided with this kit are truly terrible and, squinting at photos of the tracks in those reviews, the tracks I see in the box here do look different and perhaps a little better detailed. I wonder whether RPM have revised these and what I’m seeing is a newer version of the vinyl tracks?

Whatever, these look reasonable in terms of detail, though like most vinyl tracks they’re rather thick,  and they use a similar system to that seen on early Matchbox kits where the tracks are joined using a tab on one end that fits into a hole on the other. I have found that worked very well on the Matchbox kits without the need for any glue and I hope it will here too, though I won’t find out or be certain how these will look until I begin construction.

The instructions seem clear, but all the text is all in Polish. Colour schemes are provided for eight tanks: A US Army tank of the 304th Tank Brigade in 1918, two French Army tanks used on the Western Front in 1918, a tank of the Polish Army used during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, a tank of the Italian Army used in Libya in 1919, one of the unpainted prototypes used for French Army training (around 150 of these were produced), a tank in German service and a tank with hull number 181 described only as “trial series production.” Three of the colour schemes are illustrated on the back of the box.

Decals are provided for all of these eight tanks. Or at least, I think they are… The backing sheet is white and the white decals provided are virtually invisible in most lighting conditions. The illustration on the back of the box shows what’s there, but that has a blue background. It’s also notable that there is only one piece of carrier film that covers all the decals, so these will have to be carefully trimmed. If you can see them…

Would You Want One?

Maybe. If you like a challenge… This isn’t a simple kit that you will be able to build quickly and getting the tiny parts off the sprues and removing flash without causing damage may be a problem. Some of the mouldings aren’t as sharp as I would have liked and it looks as though a drill will be needed to open a number of holes that are either not there or only partly open. But the tracks don’t look nearly as bad as I was expecting and the overall level of detail is reasonable. I almost didn’t buy this because I was put off by negative reviews, but in the box at least, it actually looks all right. However, if you don’t fancy such a challenging build, there are several alternatives in 1/72.

Chinese manufacturer Flyhawk Models do several versions of the FT in 1/72 in a kit first released in 2014. Like most Flyhawk kits, detail is very good indeed and this includes sufficient parts to build two tanks, PE parts and separate tracks moulded in the same hard plastic as the rest of the kit. This is probably the best and most complete small-scale kit of the FT available at present.

There are several quick build versions of the FT in 1/72. French manufacturer HAT Industrie produce the FT in 1/72 as a simplified kit intended for wargaming. This has a low part-count (the complete tracks, suspension and side-armour is provided as a single part, for example) and each pack contains two kits. Another Polish manufacturer, First to Fight, offer a quick-build Renault FT in 1/72. This is also a simplified kit with fewer than 20 parts in total. Finally, Spanish manufacturer Minairons Miniatures offer a pack of three 1/72 Renault FT tanks. These are fairly simplified injection moulded kits that are intended for wargaming, but if they’re like the Minairons resin kit I tried, they should build into nice representations of the FT.   

If you’re happy with 1/76, Revell have re-released the old Matchbox kit that first appeared in 1983 which includes a Char B.1 bis and a Renault FT. The Renault is somewhat simplified and the tracks are rather thick vinyl, but this actually isn’t a bad representation of the FT. And, like all the reissued Matchbox tanks, this does include figures and a rather nice diorama base on which to display the finished models.

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RPM 1/72 Renault FT Char Cannon with Berliet Turret (72204) Build Review – Coming soon

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: Part ??, 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 fixing 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 take 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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IBG Models 1/72 A9 British Cruiser Tank Mk.I with 2 pdr Gun (WAW011) Build Review

The order of construction here is dictated by the way in which this kit is presented. I want to paint the wheels and tracks before attaching these to the hull. That also means leaving off the track guards until the tracks are painted and attached.

I begin with construction of the hull. There are no particular problems here, though there is an error in the instructions. If you look at the image above, you’ll see that I have fixed part K15, the mounting for the middle return roller, as shown in the instructions.

However, that’s wrong. If you put it there, it not only doesn’t line up with the roller, it will stop the track guards fitting in place. The correct location for this part is lower and further to the rear, arrowed in red on the image above.  Everything fits nicely with no need for filler and other than this minor issue, the locations for all parts are clear despite the instructions being rather brief. Some small parts, the headlights, for example, are tricky to remove from the sprues without damage. The plastic is rather soft, the attachment points are thick and you do need to use a very sharp knife. I leave off the exhaust and tools so that I can paint these separately.

Next, the turret, and again, fit is good and construction straightforward. Surface detail and especially the rivets are very well done. The only odd feature is that the Commander’s hatch is square while the opening beneath is circular, but that’s a feature of the original too. The hatch can be fitted open or closed, though because there isn’t a figure or any internal detail, I’m going for closed. The radio antenna is way too thick, so I cut it off the base and I’ll replace it with stretched sprue at some point.

I construct the MG turrets too, but I don’t add them to the hull yet. I think that painting these and the surrounding hull will be easier if I keep them separate for the moment. I do drill a small hole in the base of each and mount them on screws to make handling easier while I’m painting them.

That’s as far as I can go with construction until I have painted the tracks and lower hull. I’m using Vallejo Russian Uniform for the base colour. It isn’t a precise match for Khaki Green G3, but it’s probably close enough. I’m brush painting as usual and there is some very fine surface detail here, so I’ll be building up several coats of very thinned paint.

The suggested paint scheme in the magazine shows the camo extending to the lower hull, under the track guards, to the roadwheels, but I’m not convinced. Looking at wartime photos and images of the A9 in The Tank Museum in Bovington, it seems more likely that the dark green camo pattern was only applied to the track guards and above.  

For painting the tracks, I begin with the base green, including highlights. Then I add dark grey for the tyres (and the idler has a rubber tyre as well as the roadwheels) before starting on the tracks. These are painted a lighter grey, then highlighted with gunmetal and given a final acrylic brown wash. Once everything is dry, the tracks and lower hull get a coat of clear varnish and then a wash of dark grey oil to pick out the shadows.

Once they’re painted, I add the track guards to the lower hull and then fix the tracks in place (and you must do it in that order, if you fit the tracks first, it isn’t possible to get the track guards on). Painting the one-piece tracks and running gear is more challenging than working with separate parts, but overall, I’m not unhappy with how it looks in the end.

Next, everything gets a couple of thinned coats of the base colour followed by some drybrushing of edges and details with a lightened version of the same colour.

Then I add the camouflage pattern using a dark green I mixed using Vallejo Dark Grey and Olive Green and following the detailed 3-view drawings in the magazine as a guide. Once it’s done, I again add drybrushed highlights using a lightened tone of the same colour.

Then, I paint on the tools on the track guards and the lens on the turret spotlight and add the shovel and crowbar on the right side of the hull. I also add the decals, and these are commendably thin and densely printed and they go on with no problems using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. Strangely, there are spares on the decal sheet – there are three of the blue squares for the turret where only two are needed and two of the 1st Armoured Division rhinoceros where only one is needed. I suppose it’s always good to have spares.

Finally, it all gets an overall coat of clear varnish followed by an oil wash. I use a dark grey overall wash to highlight shadows with a few spots of white to show streaking and bleaching on the hull and turret. All that’s then left to do is give it a final coat of clear matt varnish, then add a stretched sprue radio antenna on the turret and fix the exhaust to the rear hull and put everything together.

After Action Report                                                                                                          

This was a satisfying and simple build.  Fit was good, there were no real problems and I rather like the look of the completed model. Detail is sharp and the camo scheme didn’t turn out too badly either.

Don’t let the fact that this is described as a fast-build kit put you off. Yes, the tracks, roadwheels, etc. come as a single part, but detail is generally good. Apart from the tracks themselves of course, and how many small-scale tank kits have I said that about?

This is a fairly cheap kit, but IMHO, it’s as good as or better than many other more expensive kits. The provision of the magazine is a nice touch and it does give some interesting background to the development and use of this tank. And it’s great to find a decent model of a little-known British tank. I haven’t tried any of the other IBG World at War series, but if they’re as good as this little A9, they should be well worth looking out for.     

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

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

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

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

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

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

History

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

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

An A9 Cruiser Mk I

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in the Box?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would You Want One?                                                                                                   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, I add some dry-brushed highlights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Action Report

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

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

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

Happy kit-building

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

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

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

History

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

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

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

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

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

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

A final model Jagdpanzer IV/70 (V).

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

What’s in the box?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you want one?

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

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

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

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