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

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

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

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

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

History

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

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

An A9 Cruiser Mk I

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in the Box?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would You Want One?                                                                                                   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, I add some dry-brushed highlights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Action Report

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

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

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

Happy kit-building

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

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

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

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

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

History

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

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

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

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

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

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

A final model Jagdpanzer IV/70 (V).

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

What’s in the box?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you want one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Action Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in the Box?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you want one?

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

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

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

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

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Zvezda 1/72 Jagdpanther (5042) Build Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Action Report

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

History

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

A pair of Jagdpanthers somewhere in France, 1944

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

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

A Jagdpanther with the early one-piece main gun

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

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

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

What’s in the Box?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you want one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) Build Review

I’m planning to build the tiny Revell 1/76 Panzer II pretty much out of the box, with a couple of minor changes. First, the main gun is just too long. A bit of checking suggests that at 1/76, the main gun on a Panzer II should project just over 11mm from the support ring on the mantlet. As provided, the gun is around 14mm long, and it looks wrong so, when preparing this part I’ll be making sure that I cut it to the correct length.

Second, this kit comes with a stowage box for the rear of the turret. Many Panzer IIs were provided with these bins, but most photographs of DAK tanks shows that they weren’t fitted. So, I won’t be using the parts for the stowage bin which also means that I’ll have to fill the mounting slot on the turret rear and fabricate a new pistol-port for this area.

OK, time to get started. I begin with hull construction and I immediately run into a problem. The hull comprises just five parts – the upper and lower hull, the sides and the rear plate. Fit is fine and I carefully follow the instructions which show the top of the rear plate being in-line with the top of the hull sides.

However, when I do a dry assembly to check fit, here’s what I get:

As you can see, there is a very noticeable 2-3mm gap between the top of the rear panel and the underside of the upper hull. This also means that the top of the box on the rear plate is too low – it should be level with the top of the rear hull. That can’t be right! It feels like I’m doing something wrong here, but I just can’t see what it is. The only simple solution is to mount the rear plate a few mm higher, so that it projects above the hull side plates. That makes it fit at the top though I lose the smooth transition to the lower hull plate.

With this fixed, I continue with hull construction and everything else fits well. I also make a new pistol-port out of plastic card so that I can use one of the ports provided with the kit for the rear of the turret.

Next, the turret. Fit of all parts is good with no need for filler. I use some Tamiya white putty to fill the mounting slot for the turret stowage bin, add an additional pistol port on the rear and cut the main gun down to a more reasonable length.

Then, I add the sprockets, idlers and return rollers to the hull (I’ll be painting the roadwheels before I add them) and glue the three parts of the diorama base together. And that’s pretty much construction finished! I can’t resist trying the completed hull and turret on the base, just to see how it looks…

Time to start painting. The hull and turret both get an overall coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by the painting of highlights with a lightened version of the same colour.

Then I add the decals and paint the tools and other bits and pieces.

Then, it all gets a coat of clear varnish followed by a wash of dark brown to emphasise shadows and mute the highlights.

The tracks get a coat of dark grey followed by highlighting with a soft pencil.

The diorama base gets a base coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow followed by a couple of brown oil washes. The building is finished in stone with a darker grey for damaged areas.

With the addition of the exhaust, and tarpaulin and the roadwheels, that’s it except for adding the tracks. It’s worth noting that the fit of the roadwheels on to the spindles on the hull isn’t great and some care is needed to avoid wonky wheels. There also isn’t much room to slide the tracks between the track-guards and the sprocket, but it can be done with a little wriggling.

I decide not to use the figures provided with the kit. They really are quite oddly proportioned when you look at them closely and I also leave off the decal for the building – I think it looks a little out of place on a ruined wall. And here’s the finished Panzer II:

After Action Report

This was another simple and satisfying build. The fit problem with the rear hull plate was strange – I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other review and I’m still wondering if I did something stupid (always a possibility) though I can’t see what it might be. Other than that, there were no problems at all here and once again, the Matchbox vinyl tracks are simple to join without the need for glue. They are also commendably thin compared to some vinyl tracks.

The diorama base is a nice addition that really adds to the finished model though I’m not so sure about the figures. OK, the quality of mouldings here probably isn’t up to the best modern standards, but I do think it’s possible to end up with a perfectly acceptable finished model of the Panzer II. The only possible issue is that this is a really tiny kit, which is a challenge if, like me, you have large, clumsy man-fingers. How small? Well, here it is hiding behind a 10p coin…

Overall, this is a pleasant way to while away a few idle hours and it’s always great to discover that another kit from my younger days really isn’t bad at all. For under €10, I don’t really see how you can go wrong with this kit.  

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 PzKpfw II Ausf. F (03229) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

As you will know if you read my review of the Revell 1/76 M24 Chaffee (and if you haven’t, you’ll find a link at the end of this review) I really enjoyed building that 1974 kit. It was as cheap as chips, fairly accurate, simple and it came with a rather nice diorama base. So, for my next project, I thought I’d go back to another kit that originated as a Matchbox product at around the same time.

Early Matchbox art for the Panzer II

Matchbox launched their new 1/76 armour range in 1974 with ten kits in their Purple range, all covering subjects from World War Two: Sherman Firefly, A-34 Mk I Comet, Panther, Jagdpanther, Panzer III, Humber armoured car, Puma armoured car, M16 half-track, Wespe SPG and M24 Chaffee. Each kit was moulded on two sprues and each was provided in a different colour. Each also included a diorama base and several featured figures. In 1976, three more kits were added to the Purple armour range: Hanomag half-track, T-34/76 and the subject of this review, the Panzer II Ausf. F.

Revell purchased the rights to these kits in 1991 and in 2005 began releasing then under the Revell name. Currently, eight of these original thirteen Matchbox 1:76 armour kits are offered by Revell: Jagdpanther, Puma, Comet, Humber Mk II, T-34, Chaffee, Wespe and the Panzer II. Revell also sell a later Matchbox 1:76 kit – the Char. B.1 bis & Renault FT.17, which was added as part of the larger Orange range in 1983, after the Matchbox kit range had been sold to Hong-Kong based Universal Toys in 1982. 

These Revell re-releases are identical to the original Matchbox kits other than that they are now provided in new boxes, they are manufactured in a single colour of plastic and decals and colour schemes for some have changed. When it was released back in 1976 there just weren’t many small-scale Panzer II kits available. This kit was well-received back then, but how does it look now?       

History

Like many other German weapon systems during World War Two, the Panzerkampfwagen II was introduced as a stop-gap solution to a short-term problem, but it remained in service for far longer than anyone could have anticipated. In 1934 the only German tank in service was the tiny Panzer I. The designs of both the Panzer III and IV were well advanced, but production delays meant that it was clear that these tanks would not enter service as quickly as hoped. As a temporary measure, it was decided to accelerate the production of a new light tank which was originally intended as a training vehicle and which was expected to be phased-out when the Panzer III and IV finally entered service.

A column of Panzer IIs in Poland, 1939

The result was the Panzer II, a ten-ton tank with a revolving turret housing a Rheinmetall KwK30 L55 20 mm quick-firing main gun, a weapon derived from the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun. This gun was capable of firing both high explosive and armour-piercing rounds at the rate of six hundred rounds per minute. The turret also housed a co-axial 7.92 mm MG 34. Motive power came from a six-cylinder Maybach petrol engine developing 140hp. Five roadwheels on each side were each controlled by separate leaf-spring suspension units. This tank held a crew of three: a driver, a commander who also fired and loaded the main gun and a radio operator who sat behind and below the commander.

US Army Ordnance Unit Recovers a captured DAK Panzer II Ausf. F in 1942

By the time that German forces invaded Poland in September 1939, almost twelve hundred Panzer IIs were involved, compared to less than one hundred Panzer III and under two hundred Panzer IV. By the time of the German invasion of Belgium and France in May 1940, the Panzer II was still the most numerous German tank in service.

Another Panzer II Ausf. F of the DAK. This one does look rather dark in colour – could it be finished in Dunklegrau (dark grey)?

The first main upgrade to the original Panzer II came with the Ausf. F model which incorporated thicker armour and a commander’s cupola. This was the final production version of the Panzer II and over five hundred were produced. The vehicle depicted in this kit is an Ausf. F of the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK). Panzer IIs served throughout North Africa and were still in use in Tunisia in 1943. 

What’s in the Box?

Like all the early Matchbox kits, this one is provided on just two small sprues, each originally provided in a different colour but now both moulded in a sand-coloured plastic. The kit includes two figures and a rather nice diorama base.

The tools are moulded in-place on the hull and only the commander’s hatch is a separate part. The level of detail and crispness of the mouldings is, well, variable. The upper hull and suspension, for example, are both nicely detailed.

However, some other things are less well done. Take a look at the main gun, for example, just to the left of the figure below. It lacks the characteristic bulged shape of the original, in fact, it’s little more than a blob of plastic and it’s much too long.

The co-axial machine gun is also a little vague. You can see it here, directly above the other figure.

Overall, the quality of moulding here just isn’t quite as good as the earlier M24 Chaffee which I reviewed earlier. It isn’t terrible, but it just isn’t as good as current small-scale kits.

The figures themselves are reasonably detailed and seem to be wearing appropriate uniforms though their heads and hands do seem a little large.

The tiny tracks are vinyl and not terribly well detailed, but at least they are fairly thin and they do use the same locking tab seen on the M24 kit, which does mean that they can be joined reliably and without glue.

The decals cover two vehicles of the DAK, one from 15th Panzer Division and one from 5th Light Division. Both sets of decals are fairly plain, but they do seem to be reasonably accurate. The instructions don’t mention it, but the red Arabic text is intended to be applied to the ruined building on the diorama base.

The instructions are black-and-white and provide acceptable 3D views of all steps of construction. The only anomaly is that the instructions seem to show the main gun being fitted back-to-front, with the bulged part, which should be near the muzzle, adjacent to the mantlet.

The instructions also provide three-view details of where the various decals go, but oddly, no information at all about paint colours. The box art features a dramatic action painting of a Panzer II in a desert setting, but it appears to be finished in Dunklegrau (dark grey). That might be appropriate for a Panzer II on the eastern front, but not, as far as I know, for a tank of the DAK. In the beginning, DAK vehicles were overpainted when they arrived in Africa with locally sourced Italian paints that gave something approximating an overall sand finish. Later, a two-tone, low-contrast camouflage scheme was used, though most photographs of DAK Panzer IIs seem to show tanks finished in a single, fairly light sand colour (though one of the photographs of a DAK Panzer II in the history section above does seem to show a tank finished in a dark colour, so perhaps a DAK Panzer II in dunklegrau finish isn’t impossible?). It isn’t difficult to find this out, but it does seem odd that the instructions don’t mention paint colours at all.

One other thing I will mention is the stowage box at the rear of the turret. That’s provided with this kit but, most wartime photos of DAK Panzer IIs show that they weren’t fitted with these stowage bins.   

Would you want one?

My initial reaction here is that this is sort of all right. It isn’t awful in any respect, but the sharpness of the mouldings just isn’t up to modern standards nor even as good as some other contemporary Matchbox kits. Having said that, this is cheap, readily available and it does come with a rather nice diorama and a couple of figures.

Back in 1976 when this kit was released, there were very few small-scale Panzer II kits available. Now, there are quite a few alternatives though as far as I know, none in 1/76. The Italeri 1/72 Panzer II Ausf. F is actually a re-box of an old Esci kit from 1974. It isn’t bad, though fit isn’t the best and the vinyl tracks are rather thick.

Polish manufacturer First to Fight produce the Panzer II in both Ausf. C and Ausf. D versions in 1/72, and these are nice little kits. They are aimed at the wargamer rather than the modeler (the tracks, roadwheels, return rollers, idlers and sprockets on each side are moulded as a single part, for example) but they’re accurate and build into very reasonable models. Ukranian manufacturer Ace Model do a 1/72 Panzer II Ausf. F that includes lots of detail and photo-etched parts (including tracks!). However, Ace Models tend to do short-run kits, and their otherwise reasonable products often include lots of flash and surface imperfections. Dragon used to produce a 1/72 Panzer II, but it no longer seems to be available and I know nothing about this kit.

Finally Chinese manufacturer S-Model produce a Panzer II Ausf. C in 1/72. This another “quick-build” kit aimed at wargamers, but it is reasonably detailed, includes some PE parts and a turned brass main gun barrel. It comes in a pack including two tanks and a pair of tripod-mounted MG 34 machine guns.

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Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

Revell (Matchbox) 1/76 M24 Chaffee (03323) Build Review

I’m going to be building this elderly kit almost straight out of the box. I know, there is lots of additional detail that could be added to this kit, but I rather like the sheer simplicity of it. I will however be making two small changes: I’ll be drilling out the main gun and I’ll be removing the side-skirts that cover the upper return rollers and the tops of the tracks. The main reason for this second change is that I simply think that the M24 looks better like this, and most wartime photographs show these tanks without the side-skirts. Apparently they tended to clog with mud in the wet and snowy conditions found in Europe during the Winter and Spring of 1944/1945. The second reason is entirely practical – If you make this kit with the side-skirts in place, you will need to assemble and paint the tracks and running gear early in the build. Removing them means that I’ll be able to paint the hull before I add the running gear and tracks, which is my preferred style of assembly.

Anyway, on with the build. First, the turret. And this assembles with no problems and no need for filler at all. The main gun (which I carefully drilled out – there isn’t any room to spare!) is a slightly loose fit in the mantlet, so a little care is needed to get it straight. Otherwise, this is completely straightforward.

The main hull assembly consists of just four parts – two sides and the top and bottom and, once again, fit is very good. Only a tiny amount of filler is needed at the sides of the hull nose.

Next, I cut the side-skirts off the track-guards. This isn’t difficult, it just takes a little care and a very sharp craft knife. Here you can see one before and one after.

Then, the track guards and other bits and pieces are added to complete the hull. Again, fit is great, though the instructions are a little vague about things like the placement of the rear lights – an arrow points in the general direction of the rear hull but there aren’t any pictures of the completed rear hull.

All that remains is to assemble the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets (all will be painted separately) and that’s pretty much construction of this M24 done. I do like a simple build and it’s difficult to see how you could have a simpler kit than this!

To begin painting, I use white for highlights and black for areas of deeper shadow.

Then, it all get a coat of Vallejo Olive Drab. This is a little light for a US tank (I know it doesn’t look that way in this photo), but I’ll be using a dark wash later so that should bring it back to approximately the right colour.

When this is dry, I use a scourer to distress the paint to reveal the white highlights underneath. On such a small tank and at such a small scale, this has to be done carefully if it isn’t going to look overwhelming.

The decals are then applied using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. The decals are nicely dense, but they do seem a little thick. That gave a few problems on the white star on the rear hull which needs to conform to the grilles and other detail underneath. Even after several applications of decal softener, this still wasn’t perfect.

Then, the whole thing got a coat of clear acrylic varnish. When this was dry, I used a wash of heavily diluted black oil paint. This finds its way into tiny crevices and details and helps to give emphasis to shadows. The only thing you have to be careful about is not allowing this wash to form pools that will result in noticeable darker patches on large panels and on the decals.

Them it’s time to look at the tracks. This kit comes with vinyl tracks and, given some recent experiences, I wasn’t looking forward to this. Joining vinyl tracks is never easy and, if they’re short, stretching them into place can break the joint. However, the joining of these tracks is different. At one end there is a long locking tab and at the other, a slot. 

All you have to do is push the tab through the slot and, when tension is applied to the track, the joint closes up. It isn’t completely invisible but, if the joint is placed at the top of the track run, under the track-guards, I think it will barely show at all.

The result is a simple, elegant solution to the problem of joining tracks that needs no glue at all. Now, here’s my question: If Matchbox managed to get this right almost fifty years ago, why are we still faffing about with vinyl tracks that are almost impossible to join reliably? Other manufacturers please take note – if you must supply your kits with vinyl tracks, please make them join as simply and reliably as these!

I paint the tracks very simply – just a grey gunmetal base, light gunmetal highlights for the treads and a wash of acrylic brown for rust and dirt. Then, I add the running gear and install the tracks. And guess what – they’re long enough to fit without stretching! Top marks to Revell (and of course, to Matchbox) for providing useable vinyl tracks.

Finishing the M24 doesn’t take long, mainly because there are no accessories, tools or spare track links provided. So now, it’s on to the diorama base, and this is the only part of this kit where the fit is not so good. Here are the two halves of the base glued together.

A fair amount of filler is required to make the join less visible.

With this done, I give the base an undercoat of Tamiya Dark Yellow. I then use several oil and acrylic washes to give some colour contrast and visual interest to the base itself. I leave the edges in Dark Yellow, again to add visual interest.

With the addition of the sandbags, signpost and MG34 to the base and a stretched-sprue radio antenna to the tank, that’s this build finished.

After Action Report

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and stress-free build. This is a very nice little kit – everything fits well, the vinyl tracks are a delight to work with and I’m happy with the finished result. This M24 lacks some detail and finishing touches, but that certainly didn’t spoil it for me and you can of course add your own extras to turn this into something special. I like the diorama base. I think it adds to the finished model and, unlike some of the other early Matchbox kits, the base provided here is large enough to work well.

Going back to kits I enjoyed as a young man is always risky. What seemed like a great kit back in the early seventies can prove a bit of a disappointment when compared to current efforts. Memories of old kits can turn out to be more than a little rose-tinted. Not in this case! This was a tidy, well-moulded, well thought out kit back then and it still is now. This provided me with a great deal of enjoyment for very little money. If you enjoy building small-scale armour and you haven’t tried one of these old Matchbox kits, I thoroughly recommend the Revell M24.

The only question for me is: which one next? The Matchbox A34 Mk.1 Comet was a nice kit and it too has been reissued by Revell. But then I always liked the Panzer II Ausf. F and it too is available as a Revell offering as is the Wespe. And Revell have also recently re-released the Matchbox Humber Mk II armoured car…  I think I’m going to be busy for the next few weeks!  

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