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

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

It’s time to start the build of Minairons Minatures IGC Sandurni tank. However, considering that this kit consists of just three parts plus a machine-gun barrel, perhaps “build” isn’t quite the right word? Anyway, I’m planning to attach the tracks and suspension units to the sides of the hull later, to give me better access to the top of the tracks for painting.

Therefore, the only job to be done before starting painting is to open out the lower part of the suspension units. Resin casting means that there is a thin film of resin on the inside of the wheel/track/suspension assembly on each side. I think the finished model will look better is this is opened out, so with drills and fine files, I cut away the film of resin between the wheels, tracks, sprockets and idlers. This isn’t difficult, it just takes a little care to ensure that the main parts aren’t damaged.

With this done, I begin painting with a sprayed undercoat of olive drab. After this, all painting is done with brushes. One thing that is clear, though it doesn’t particularly show up in these photos, is that the resin hull has a slightly rough texture that nicely replicates unfinished steel.

I add highlights in white to pick out raised detail and emphasise things like the rivets on the suspension cover plates.

Then, I apply a thin overcoat of Mig Jiminez Olivegrun. One thing I like about these Mig paints is that they are translucent, so the highlights beneath show through, but they are muted and blended. Then I paint the roadwheel tyres, and not that’s not a job to be tacked if you are suffering from coffee shakes! Though, to be fair, the moulding here gives a clear distinction between wheels and tyres which does make things easier. I then paint the tracks – all I do at this point is to paint the tracks overall dark gunmetal with lighter gunmetal highlights on the cleats and edges. I also add the decals on the hull. I notice that the large decal on the hull front is showing some signs of silvering despite my having used Vallejo decal fix and decal softener, but fortunately this isn’t too apparent.  Then everything gets a coat of matt clear varnish.

Then, it’s on to oils. The tracks get a wash of black oil to emphasise recessed areas and the hull, running gear and suspension cover plates get a pin wash of dark green to bring out shadows. I add some light chipping and wear at the edges of hatches and other parts and the tracks are completed with an acrylic brown wash to suggest rust and dirt. The hull machine gun is painted and fixed in place using a two-pack epoxy resin glue and the side-pods are fixed to the hull using the same glue. The location for these parts is only average, so some care is required while the glue sets.

Then everything gets a final coat of clear varnish that’s it done!

After-Action Report

This kit is a very quick build and paint. The whole job can be finished in a weekend and, do you know what? That’s really satisfying! I am fairly happy with the finished IGC Sandurni and I think this is a very worthwhile kit if you are in the mood to tackle something completely different.

The main issues here are related to the tiny size of this tank. How small is it – well, here it is next to a 1/72 Revell Tiger.

You see what I mean? Next to the Sandurni, the Revell Tiger looks gigantic! Making a kit with so few parts and so small isn’t really about construction, it’s all about painting. The size of this kit does make elements of this painting a challenge, and my painting skills certainly aren’t the best, but it’s possible to end up with something that looks decent and will stand out as an interesting curiosity in any 1/72 armour collection.

I highly recommend the Minairons IGC Sandurni for a quick-fix of modelling satisfaction. And as for resin kits, well, again the fact that parts are provided as complete assemblies does make painting a little tricky, but if the moulding is as clean and sharp as it is here, then it isn’t really much more difficult than painting any 1/72 kit. Do you fancy a complete change? Then this tiny kit may be the answer….

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

Links

Minairons Miniatures web site.

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

History

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

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

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

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

A Republican T-26 somewhere near the Ebro River

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

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

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

Image: Unknown

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

The Carro IGC Sandurni tank.

Image: Unknown

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

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

Image: Unknown

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

A dramatic image of an IGC Sandurni in the field.

Image: Unknown

What’s in the Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Tank Encyclopedia via Wikimedia Commons

Would You Want One?

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

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

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

Thanks to Minairons Miniatures for providing this kit for review.

Related Posts

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

Links

Minairons Miniatures web site.

Solway Crafts and Miniatures A Very British Civil War page.

Airfix 1/76 Tiger I (A01308V) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

Ah, 1964. The Beatles starred in an alleged musical comedy A Hard Day’s Night. My big sister liked it, but I thought it was boring. Mary Poppins was genuinely funny, mainly due to Dick Van Dyke’s unforgettable cockney accent, but Doctor Strangelove was just disturbing, though still a bit funny. On television I fell in love with Samantha from Bewitched and Emma Peel from The Avengers and I really, really wanted to be as cool as Illya Kuryakin from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

It was a different time. Theme tunes were catchier, life was simpler and, apparently, kit manufacturers felt that accuracy was optional. Or so it might appear from the 1/76 Airfix Tiger I launched in 1964. I was pleasantly surprised recently when I built an Airfix StuG III from 1963. I bought this one expecting another nostalgia-fuelled build. Instead I was surprised again, but not in a good way this time…

Before starting the review, a quick word about scale because during its long history this kit has gone through some sort of identity crisis, not seeming to be sure what scale it was. When it was first released in 1964 it was labelled as “HO-00”, the same scale used for many items of model railway rolling stock and accessories. That’s how it stayed for around twenty years until 1986 when it was re-boxed and identified as “1/72.” It stayed that way for another twenty years or so until another re-boxing in 2005 saw it identified as “1/76.”

Just in case you’re unsure, it’s 1/76 and the kit itself has never changed, only the scale noted on the box. It’s notably smaller than 1/72 AFV kits and it will look odd if displayed beside one of those. I have no idea why it spent so long claiming to be 1/72, but it isn’t, OK?

Here is the upper hull of the 1/76 Airfix Tiger I (top) next to the upper hull from a Revell 1/72 Tiger I (bottom). The difference in size is noticeable.

Tiger I History

The Tiger tank is probably the best-known tank of World War Two. In fact, it’s probably the best-known tank of all time. My father was a tanker who served in the Guards Armoured Division during World War Two and the only German tank I ever heard him refer to by name was the Tiger. You could make an argument that it’s actual impact as a weapon system was far less than its reputation, but this is about as iconic as tanks get.

The history of the Tiger can be traced back to design work on a thirty-tonne heavy tank by German engineering works Henschel und Sohn. That work didn’t really lead anywhere, simply because early-war German victories seemed to suggest that there was no need for a heavy tank. Then, following the invasion of Russia in June 1941, German armoured units began to encounter Russian T-34 and KV-1 tanks. Suddenly, there was an urgent need for a new tank capable of effectively dealing with these well-armed and armoured Russian tanks.

A Tiger I somewhere in Russia, 1943

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

Henschel hastily dusted-off the abandoned designs for their heavy tank, made it heavier still and in April 1942 the first prototype of the new tank was created and it was quickly selected for production over a rival design from Porsche. Two hundred were initially ordered and what had become known as the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger (Sd. Kfz.181) entered production in August 1942.

The new tank was armed with the 8.8cm Kw.K. 36 L/56 gun, a development of the fearsome 8.8cm Flak 18 and Flak 36 guns with similar ballistic performance. The Tiger was heavily armoured and powered by a massive V-12 Maybach petrol engine. It was also extremely heavy at over fifty tons and this weight was distributed by using eight suspension torsion bars (stabfedern) on each side, with each torsion bar supporting three road wheels.

A Tiger I Ausf. H in Tunisia

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

The first production version of the Tiger was the Ausf. H. This model saw service on the Eastern Front from September 1942 and in North Africa from February 1943. This was superseded in April 1943 by the improved Ausf. E. There were a number of differences between the two but the most immediately obvious external changes were a different commander’s cupola and a switch from twenty-four, dished, rubber-tyred roadwheels per side to sixteen, flat, reinforced steel roadwheels per side. Production of what retrospectively became known as the “Tiger I” (after the introduction of the Tiger II in 1944) ended in late 1944 and around 1,400 Tiger Is were produced in total.

As ever, if you want to know more about the Tiger I, the Tank Encyclopedia website page about the Tiger I is highly recommended.

What’s in the Box?

The Airfix Tiger I was launched in 1964 and joined the growing collection of 1/76 AFVs including the Panther, Sherman, Churchill and StuG III. The 3rd Edition of the Airfix Catalogue, released in late 1964 proudly noted:

“The German Tiger Tank of World War II first appeared on the Russian front and later in North Africa. This 68-part kit makes a brilliantly detailed model of this mighty monster.”

Now, “brilliantly detailed” is not how most people would currently describe this kit as it certainly has some problems.

The small box contains sixty-six parts moulded in light brown plastic on five small sprues plus two rubberised lengths of track.

The level of detail is reasonable, though simply not as good as current 1/72 kits and there is a fair amount of flash. In at least one place (circled above) the mould seems to be getting quite tired and the definition and detail have vanished.

Detail on the rubber track sections is also reasonable, though unsurprisingly not up to current standards.

The instructions are simple and consist of just seven steps, though they do show the wrong orientation for the driver’s and bow-gunners hatches; these should be rotated around 90˚ from where the instructions show and they are correctly shown on the plan views for both colour schemes.

Paint scheme for a Tunisian Tiger from the back of the box

The decals and suggested paint schemes cover Tigers from Tunisia and Normandy. However, this isn’t a Tunisian Tiger – it’s a later Ausf. E which didn’t appear until April 1943 and never saw operational use in North Africa. The main issue is the road wheels – these are clearly the steel road-wheels of the Ausf. E, not the quite different, dished, rubber-tyred road wheels of the earlier Ausf. H. So, forget the North African decals and paint scheme (which are both wrong anyway) and focus on the Normandy Tiger. But then even this falls short.

It’s not what’s here that’s the problem so much as what isn’t. Specifically, the turret stowage bin and front and rear mudguards are missing. Both are part of the distinctive look of the Tiger and, without them, it just looks rather odd. I suppose it’s not impossible that a battle-weary Tiger might have lacked all these things, but their omission from the kit is surprising, especially when all versions of the box art show mudguards and the earliest versions of the bag header art showed a turret stowage bin too. Perhaps there were once plans for another sprue containing the stowage bin and mudguards? If you are going to build this kit, you certainly may want to consider adding these missing items.

Overall, this has the feel of a kit that perhaps was produced in haste. In some ways it doesn’t seem finished and even recent additions have errors. For example, the instructions provided with the Vintage Classics version include nice colour detail drawings of a paint scheme for a Normandy Tiger. The paint scheme is fine, but it shows rubber tyres painted on the road wheels, which is wrong for an Ausf. E with steel wheels. Even the arrangement of roadwheels is wrong on the side view drawings for this and the Tunisian colour scheme.

Detail from suggested colour scheme for Normandy Tiger

On the Ausf. H, there were three road wheels per torsion bar for a total of twenty four wheels on each side with the four outermost roadwheels on torsion bars (counting from the front) 1, 3, 5 and 7. On the Ausf. E, this was changed to two roadwheels per torsion bar for a total of sixteen wheels on each side. Essentially the outer roadwheels were removed on each side to leave the outermost wheels on torsion bars 2, 4, 6 and 8. The side views provided by Airfix show Ausf. E steel wheels, but painted with Ausf. H rubber tyres and in an Ausf. H arrangement with twenty-four wheels per side. Not the end of the world but perhaps further evidence of haste or lack of research? Fortunately the instructions are correct and show the correct roadwheel arrangement for a later model Tiger.

Would You Want One?

Honestly, given that it will take some work to turn this into a reasonable representation of a late model Tiger, probably not. I bought this for a bit of nostalgia, but to produce something that looks like a Tiger will mean awakening my long-dormant scratch building skills to produce at least a turret stowage bin and mudguards. As this will be an Ausf. E, I can only make it as a Normandy Tiger – I’d have preferred to model a Tunisian Tiger, but this model didn’t come into production until the fighting in North Africa was over. I can’t say that I’m consumed by excitement at the prospect of starting this build. Overall, it’s not a terrible kit, but by today’s exacting standards, it isn’t great either. It’s cheap at less than half the price of 1/72 Tiger I kits, but then that price reflects the quality of what you get.

If you really want an Airfix Tiger, the company are due to release a new-tooled kit in the summer of 2020. I’m sure that will be better; recent Airfix small scale AFV offerings such as the Cromwell tank have been pretty good and that one doesn’t have those nasty rubber tracks – Yay! So perhaps it might be better to wait to see what the new Airfix Tiger I looks like?

Alternatives

The new Airfix Tiger I due out later this year should be a notable improvement. This is the Airfix.com pre-order page describing the new release. I do note it’s described as 1/72 – I wonder if that’s correct? Other recent Airfix AFV releases including the Cromwell and Tiger II have both been 1/76 – I wonder if Airfix really are changing scale or if this will also turn out also to be 1/76?

Revell offer a very nice Tiger I Ausf. H in 1/72. You can find both an in-box and build review on this site and here’s a link to the Revell page for this kit.

Related Posts

Airfix 1/76 Tiger Build Review

Revell 1/72 Tiger I Ausf. H, In-Box review

Airfix 1/72 StuG III In-Box Review

Links

The website Tiger1.info provides more information that you could ever want about the Tiger I tank. This link is to a page on that site that is a review of various model kits by someone who really, really knows the Tiger. It’s a great resource for modellers, though it mainly covers 1/35 kits.

The Tank Encyclopedia page on the Tiger I provides lots of good information, photographs and colour schemes.

New Dragon 1/72 Armour kits for May 2020

DML have announced several new 1/72 AFV kits for May 2020.

These include the Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn (7626) and the Sd.Kfz.165 Hummel Early Production (7627). Both are re-releases of earlier Dragon models but both now include Neo Track, a system that uses a combination of pre-assembled lengths of tracks constructed from separate links and some separate links which must be assembled by the modeller. The result is track that can be realistically sagged or modelled as damaged. Both these kits also include photo etch parts and lots of interior detail and both have the potential to build outstanding models.

Other new releases for May include two Panther kits, both in the 2 in 1 series. These are an Ausf. A (7546) and an Ausf.D (7547) and both kits include parts to build either an early or late production models.

Full details of all new Dragon kits for May 2020 can be found on the Dragon website.

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun Build Review Part 2: Painting and completion

Introduction

Now it’s time for painting, and I’m nervous about this. The last time I painted a small-scale AFV was when I was around thirteen-years-old and more years ago than I care to remember. Back then, I used Humbrol enamel paints and I was as concerned with not getting (more) paint on my bedroom carpet than with the finish. If I got a reasonable coverage without getting too much paint on the tracks, I was happy.

Now, the painting of these tiny kits has developed into an art-form. And I do mean that sincerely – some of the finished kits I see pictures of on-line really are nothing less than mini works of art that display outstanding creativity and a feel for light and shade. I’m experimenting here for the first time using acrylic paints and attempting highlights and washes, so, please be gentle with me.

Paint Scheme

A bit of research indicates that the suggested paint scheme on the back of the box is totally inaccurate. From around February 1943 to August 1944 most German tanks were leaving the factory finished in overall dunkelgelb (dark yellow), but each was also provided with pots of rotbraun (red-brown) and olivgrün (olive green) which maintenance crews used to add camouflage in the field. So, while a dark yellow makes sense for the base colour, I’ll be adding some sort of camouflage as per wartime photographs.

I’m brush painting as always and this time I’m using a pack of acrylic paints by MIG Jimenez, a Spanish company, intended for German tanks from 1943 – 1945. There are six colours included, dunklegelb base, dunklegelb highlight and dunklegelb shine, essentially progressively lighter shades of the same colour. Also included are olivgrün (dark green), resedagrun (a lighter green) and schokobraun (dark brown). I’ll be using dunklegelb for the base colour on the StuG and olivgrün and schokobraun for the camouflage.

Painting

I begin with two coats of dunklegelb and it’s immediately apparent that this paint doesn’t cover as well as the Vallejo acrylic paints I have previously used. It also dries to a slightly strange, semi-gloss finish. I plan to use a final coat of matte varnish, so this isn’t a problem, and the coats are at least very thin and don’t obscure detail.

Then it’s on to highlighting. I try the provided dunklegelb highlight but it’s much too light and looks really odd. It might work better on a larger scale, but on the tiny StuG it’s too much, so I use a slightly lightened version of the dunklegelb base to pick out areas that would catch the light.

 Then it gets a final coat of thinned dunklegelb base to blend everything in, and I’m not unhappy with the overall result.

Then I add the camouflage. For me, one of the pleasant things about painting a tank such as this is that you aren’t necessarily following a defined scheme. For the StuG, camouflage was added in the field and it seems to have varied enormously. Some vehicle camouflage schemes seem to have been meticulously applied and completed with blended edges while others look as if they have been applied with a scrubbing brush during a cigarette break. Whatever you choose to do, you won’t be wrong.

I go for a very simple scheme with irregular blotches of olivgrün and schokobraun. When this is done, I also add the six decals.

Then, it’s time for a wash to pick out shadows. I used a very dilute overall wash based on schokobraun. It took several attempts until I got something I was happy with, but I do think this makes a difference and, in combination with the highlighting, it gives a more 3-D effect on a model at this scale. This is my first ever attempt at a wash for many years, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but overall I’m fairly happy with it.

An overall coat of matte clear varnish reduces the shine and the sprockets, idlers and road wheels also get a coat of wash and varnish. Then it’s on to painting the road and return wheel tyres with a dark grey mix. I find it easier to do this by revolving the wheel mounted on a cocktail stick while keeping the paint brush still which is why I’m doing it before I attach the wheels. It’s still very fiddly, it takes time and it’s never going to be perfect, but what I end up with isn’t too bad.

Final Assembly

The wheels, sprockets and idlers are glued on to the hull once painting is finished. The application of a wash to the road wheels does help to highlight the recessed circular areas that would be holes on the real thing.

Then it’s on to the tracks. Some people have said that superglue works to join these new, darker Airfix tracks, but I didn’t find this to be the case – maybe Spanish superglue is different? I also tried a two-pack epoxy resin that glues everything to everything (just ask my cat!), but that didn’t work either. I don’t know what these tracks are made of, but whatever it is, it just shrugged off every type of glue I tried. After more than fifty years, you might hope that Airfix would have worked out that it’s necessary to be able to join these tracks firmly and changed the material to make gluing possible, but it seems not.

In the end, I raided my wife’s sewing basket for a needle and some fine but strong black thread. I put two stiches through each join and I hope that will hold it together. I could have tried a staple, but from experience, I know that these can distort the join and this at least makes it not too obvious. I’ll be placing the joins at the top of the run so that the knots underneath won’t be too visible. The tracks are then painted dark gunmetal with lighter highlighting inside and out.

Then the tracks are wrestled into place – fortunately, they aren’t too tight. I recall building an Airfix Panther many years ago where the tracks were stretched so tight that they snapped both front sprockets off. Because the tracks aren’t too tight, I added some small pieces of sprue between the underside of the hull and the top of the tracks to simulate sag. Then the exhaust and spare track links were added, though I place these on the front and rear of the hull as this seems to have been more common than on the sides of the upper hull as shown in the instructions. Finally, I add the aerials, and it’s done.

After Action Report

I really enjoyed this build. It was quick and simple and the lack of masking and fiddly decals made it much less stressful than couple 1/72 aircraft kits I had tackled recently. Painting was also in some ways less challenging – there are colour variations here that would look odd on an aircraft, but I think they add visual interest to a small-scale AFV kit. I wasn’t completely convinced by the MIG paints, especially in terms of coverage, though they are translucent which helps with things like highlighting.

In retrospect, I don’t care for the camouflage scheme I chose. I was nervous about this and wanted something as simple as possible. Historically, there probably isn’t too much wrong with it, but a scheme with stripes of green and brown would have looked much better. The contrast between the schokobraun blotches and dunklegelb base is also too strong and the wash I used failed to tone it down sufficiently. I clearly still have a lot to learn about painting.

The kit itself was reasonable for its age. Some of the road wheels just wouldn’t fit over the spindles on the hull without some assistance from a drill and the aerials supplied look like tree-trunks, but other than that, there were no real problems with fit. I did consider having the MG shield folded forward, but some wartime photos do show it up, even with the hatches closed, so I left it as it is as I rather like the look of it.

This really is a tiny kit – here it’s shown next to a 2p coin for comparison. It’s so tiny and so light that it doesn’t sit particularly convincingly on its tracks – if I was doing this again, I think I’d consider adding some weight inside the hull.

One thing that did strike me while I was working on this kit was that, given that they had already invested in moulds for the lower hull, suspension, tracks, wheels and sprockets, I wonder why Airfix never (as far as I know) produced a kit of the Panzer III? I’m sure there must be a story there!

Overall, I really enjoyed this, my first AFV kit for more than forty years. And despite the age of this kit, I think it builds into a reasonable representation of the StuG III. At some point I might make a diorama base for it, but for the moment I’m going to call it done. 

Related Posts

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun (A01306V) In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun (A01306V) Build Review Part 1: Main Construction

Links

Product page for the StuG II on Airfix.com

MIG Jimenez products

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun Build Review Part 1: Main construction

Before I start, I drill out the barrel with a 1mm drill – a close match for a 75mm bore in 1:76.

I then had a look at the road wheels and briefly considered drilling them out too; they’re moulded solid, but the Panzer III running gear on which the StuG was based had road wheels with six holes in each. The holes are represented here by depressed circular areas on the wheel mouldings.

But there are fourteen outer-facing wheels here (including the two spares) and each would require six holes. That comes to a total of way too many tiny holes, so instead I’ll try to use a wash to try to highlight the circular areas moulded into the wheel-centres.

Then it’s on to construction. First, both sides are joined to the hull floor – fit here is good and it’s nice to see the “1962” date on the inside of the floor – that’s when the mould was made rather than when this kit was first offered for sale.

Then the gun breech and mount are added to the upper hull and that is joined to the lower hull – fit here is OK but not great and some tape is needed to keep everything in line at the front while the glue sets. I also added the hatches, mounts for the spare wheels at the rear and the bases for the aerials (I cut off the aerials themselves and I’ll be replacing them with something closer to scale thickness). The MG34 shield and the main gun are both rather flimsy, so I’ll be leaving both off until a bit later.

I’ll be painting the wheels before assembly – I think that painting the tyres on to the road and tiny upper return wheels will be a challenge that will be easier tackled before they’re attached. However, during a test assembly I do notice that several of the road wheels won’t fit on to the spindles on the hull and I have to run a 2mm drill through them. I also sand some of the teeth off the sprockets – these look as if they should engage with the tracks, but they don’t, so to get a better fit, the teeth are removed where the tracks will sit.

And that’s just about it for main construction. One thing I did notice (actually I didn’t notice until I had started painting…) was that the mantlet and main gun fit onto the breech moulding which is itself clipped into a set of hinges on part 56. That allows the main gun to be elevated when the kit is complete, but it also leaves a large and odd-looking gap between the rear of the mantlet and the hull.

I cut the hinges off part 56 (arrowed above) and left out the breech (part 55) so that I could glue the mantlet and gun directly to the hull. That means the gun can’t be elevated, but the fit is visually much better.

Next, it’s on to the part that’s going to take the most time on this tiny kit – painting.

Related Posts

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun In-Box Review and History

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun Build Review Part 2: Painting and completion

Links

Tank Encyclopedia web page on the StuG III

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun (A01306V) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

The Airfix StuG III is a piece of unfinished business for me. Back in the early 1970s, I built just about all of the Airfix 1:76 AFVs. I loved them, especially the Panther, Tiger and SdKfz half-track and 88mm gun but for some reason I never did get round to building the StuG III. When I got back into small-scale AFV building, this was top of my list.

This Airfix kit was released way back in 1963 – Hell this thing is almost as old as I am (though I suspect it has aged better…). At the time of release, this joined the small but growing number of Airfix 1/76 kits that already included the German Panther, British Churchill and American Sherman. At that time, there just weren’t many small-scale plastic tank kits.

Originally, these were labelled as “HO & OO” scale, which matched a number of Airix model railway kits. Later they were labelled as “1/76” scale, though it still seems odd to me that Airfix didn’t just use 1/72 for their military vehicle kits which they were already using for a range of aircraft kits. This slightly odd choice of scale has been maintained by Airfix for most of their military vehicle kits since. Now, most other manufacturers have standardised on 1/72 and these Airfix are notably smaller.

Compared to some more recent offerings, this perhaps isn’t the most accurate StuG III kit or even the best Airfix AFV, but it first appeared at a time when the Syrian army was still using the StuG III operationally! Mine is the Vintage Classics version released in 2018 and featuring the dramatic early box-art by George Schule, though Mr. Schule appears never to have looked at real tank tracks, those spare wheels on the back are rather too small and, unless my eyes deceive me, that rear idler is far from circular. The incomparable Roy Cross took over producing the box art illustrations for Airfix AFVs soon after. As far as I’m aware, the present kit and decals are unchanged from the original release. It may be worth pointing out that it cost me less than €7.00!

StuG History

The Sturmgeschütz (StuG) III Ausf A entered service in January 1940 in response to a requirement for an assault artillery infantry support weapon. It was based on the hull, engine, suspension and running gear of the Panzer III and armed with a short-barrelled, 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone-37 L/24 main gun. This was soon followed by the Ausf. B, C, D and E, also equipped with short-barrelled main guns. Like all StuG IIIs these carried three-man crews; commander, driver and gunner and all performed well in the infantry support role. However, by early 1942, encounters with increasing numbers of Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks on the Eastern Front led to an urgent requirement for a tank hunter with a high-velocity main gun.

StuG III Ausf. B

Image; Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

The response was the StuG III Ausf. F, introduced in March 1942 and armed with the new 3.3m long 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43, a highly effective anti-tank weapon. Later that year, this was further modified to become the StuG III Ausf. G armed with the even more powerful 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48, capable of penetrating up to 120mm of armour at 500 metres range.

The StuG III Ausf. G became not only the most produced of all the Axis AFVs (almost nine thousand were manufactured between December 1942 and April 1945) but also one of the deadliest, accounting for more enemy tanks destroyed than either the Tiger or Panther. The reasons for its success were simple to understand; in addition to mounting a powerful main gun, it was also low (the original specification called for a vehicle no taller than a standing man), light (less than half the weight of the Panther, for example) cheap and quick to produce (because it lacked the complexity of a turret) and, because it was based on the proven Panzer III engine, drivetrain and chassis, completely reliable. Overall, this was one of the most effective Axis AFVs of World War Two.

 StuG III Ausf. G in January 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge

Image: Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons

The Airfix kit depicts a StuG III Ausf. G with the later cast, rounded “topfblende” or “saukopf” mantlet introduced after November 1943. In this form the StuG III saw service on both on the Eastern Front and in the West during operations including the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. For information, photos and colour schemes, I found the Tank Encyclopedia web page on the StuG III very helpful, you’ll find a link at the end of this post.

What’s in the Box?

Opening the small box reveals two sprues and some loose parts all moulded in light brown plastic. A quick check shows more flash than you will find on more recent kits but detail that is surprisingly good considering that the mould is now heading towards sixty years old. It just isn’t as crisp as the surface detail on more recent kits, but it certainly isn’t terrible.

There are more than seventy parts in total, but over forty are wheels so don’t expect lots of detail. I can’t see anything that looks inaccurate or inappropriate though the radio aerials are much too thick and there is no aperture moulded into the muzzle of the gun. The main hatches are separate parts so they can be fitted open, but there is no interior detail inside the hull or on the inside of the hatches. The MG34 shield is provided, but no MG 34, so you’ll either have to find something in your 1/76 spares box or leave it empty.

The tracks themselves are still made of the same rather strange, rubberised material I remember well from the 70s. At least they were short enough to lie flat in the box so they won’t need straightening out. The detail on the tracks is reasonable, though not up to the standard of more recent kits.

The small decal sheet includes just six decals, though they are printed in-registration. No unit insignia are provided and no alternatives and these really are just generic markings.

The multi-language instructions are clear and very brief with just seven steps. There is some very brief background information on the history of the StuG III though this refers mainly to the Ausf. A – E and their use as infantry support weapons rather than to the Ausf. F – G in their role as tank-killers.  

The suggested paint scheme on the back of the box for the StuG III is, well, let’s say a bit sparse, showing the whole vehicle (including the rubber rims of the road and return wheels) finished in “Brown Yellow” with the only the muzzle-brake and tracks in “Gunmetal.” Earlier versions of this kit (and the box art) suggested an overall finish of olive green, but neither are really appropriate for this vehicle. It feels as though someone lost interest here and it really wouldn’t have taken much research or imagination to portray a more interesting colour scheme for the StuG III.

There were no real surprises inside the box other than the pleasant one that a kit this old actually isn’t too bad in terms of surface detail and that 1/76 AFV kits seem to have shrunk – this is really tiny!

Would You Want One?

That’s a tricky one. As it’s 1/76 scale, it’s not going to fit in a collection of 1/72 armour. It’s heading for sixty years old, and considering that, it isn’t a bad little kit. But, there are a number of more recent 1/72 StuGs that are better, especially in terms of tracks and surface detail. Set against that, it’s as cheap as chips – this will set you back less than the cost of a couple of cups of coffee and, for me at least, it’s a nostalgia trip back to my heady Airfix days of the late 1960s and early 70s.

If you want a super-accurate StuG kit, maybe you ought to look elsewhere? If you want a bit of 1/76 fun, this might just hit the spot. As ever, it depends what you’re looking for.

Alternatives

If you fancy building a similar StuG III in 1/72, you may want to consider one of these instead:

If you can find one (I’m not certain this is still being produced) the 1/72 Revell StuG 40 Ausf. G was originally released in 2003 and then re-issued in 2013.

The Dragon 1/72 StuG. III Ausf. G was released in 2010 and includes schürzen.

Related Posts

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun Build Review Part 1: Main construction

Airfix 1/76 StuG III 75mm Assault Gun Build Review Part 2: Painting and completion

Links

Tank Encyclopedia web page on the StuG III

Confessions of a born-again kit builder

From the ages of around ten to sixteen I was an avid kit-builder. Actually, avid probably understates it; I was completely obsessed and I spent an unhealthy amount of time building kits, thinking about building kits and talking about building kits. In retrospect, I was a fiendishly dull child and what I mistook for awe on the faces of listeners was almost certainly a mix of incomprehension and boredom. Then I simultaneously discovered girls and motorcycles and, suddenly, the precise difference between an early and late construction Tiger tank didn’t seem quite so interesting.

I built a few kits in the intervening years but not with a great deal of success or enthusiasm. I built quite a number of motorcycles too, but they were 1:1 scale, so I don’t suppose they really count. Relatively recently, more than forty years after I was last involved, I re-discovered the therapeutic joys of making model kits. And boy, have things changed!

One of things that has changed most is the sheer volume of data available to anyone interested in scale models via the Interweb thingy. Back in 1970s, my bible was Airfix Magazine and my main reference sources were Purnell’s History of the Second World War (I bought the complete set at a jumble sale, except for one…) and the Airfix Magazine Guides written mainly by contributors to the magazine that began to appear in 1974 with “Plastic Modelling” and expanded to cover modelling subjects such as “Tank and AFV Modelling” (1975) and guides covering specific topics of interest to modellers such as German Tanks of World War Two, 1975 and Luftwaffe Camouflage of World War 2, 1976.

These would most probably look laughably amateurish now (though personally, I’d love to have a set of those Airfix Magazine Guides…) compared to the information currently available on-line. Enthusiasts make available more information than you could possibly want or need. One of the things I enjoy is researching the history of whatever I happen to be building but information overload is a real possibility. There is just so much information out there that it’s all too easy to disappear down a wormhole and suddenly discover that it’s days later and you haven’t actually made any progress on that kit. Some people also seem to get completely bent out of shape over the most arcane information. Does it really, really matter what precise shade of brown German tanks in North Africa in 1943 were painted? Seemingly it does if a number of forums are to be believed.

There is another problem with the Internet. For a long time (and I do mean a long time) I lurked on forums dedicated to scale modelling, especially those that covered builds in detail. I found them fascinating but also off-putting. Some of the results were just so damn good that I knew I’d never be able to match them. Instead of inspiring me, they made me wonder if it was even worth trying?

This is a Dragon 1/72 T-34/85 finished by a Russian modeller, Sergey Golikov. Does this inspire you? Or does it make you want to give up modelling and take up basket weaving instead? If you’re inspired, Mr Golikov has written a book, Next Level: Perfection – Taking 1/72 Scale to The Next Level, which is available on Amazon here; https://www.amazon.com.au/Next-Level-Perfection-Taking-Scale/dp/B07MJMF6B5 and at MIG Jimenez here https://www.migjimenez.com/en/books/1710-next-level-perfection-taking-172-scale-to-the-next-level-english.html

I now know that I will never be able to produce work of this standard, but I have also discovered that I don’t care as much as I thought I would. It’s the process of building and painting the kits that I enjoy. Sure, I like to see the finished result but then I kind of lose interest and move on to the next kit. There is almost always something that bugs me about a finished kit, but I guess if I learn from each, that makes it worthwhile. I don’t expect to earn money or win awards from kit building, I just enjoy something I can do in the evenings with a minimum of outlay and that keeps me interested.

The final revelation for me was the kits themselves. I have always liked small scale kits, preferably at 1/72 scale. The finished kits don’t take up much space but they’re big enough to include a fair amount of detail and they’re a challenge to paint. The thing is, 1/72 kits have got so much better since the 1970s that they are whole different breed. New production techniques such as slide moulding certainly contribute to this, but I suspect that modellers have also got a whole lot more demanding.

Back in the 70s, if you ended up with something that looked kinda, sorta like a Tiger tank, that was good enough. Now, if the commander’s cupola really belongs to a version that appeared a few months later, or if the bolts on the roadwheels don’t have precisely the right spacing, hard questions will be asked. In a way, that’s good – of course we should demand the best possible kits and refuse to buy those that don’t hit the spot. In another way, it’s daunting. If your build of the 1964 Airfix 1/76 Tiger tank doesn’t turn out so good, well, it wasn’t such a great kit in the first place. If your build of the 2013 1/72 Dragon Late Production Tiger I isn’t an award winner, what the Hell is wrong with you?

Kits like the new Dragon 1/72 Pz. Kpfw. IV Ausf. J Mid Production come with slide-moulded parts, photo-etched items and nicely detailed tracks. And that’s great, I think…

Image from the Dragon website, http://www.dragon-models.com/d-m-item.asp?pid=DRA7498

Back in the 1970s, cockpit detail on 1/72 aircraft kits meant having a seat rather than a plastic peg on which to place a pilot figure that had all the fidelity and detail of a half-chewed caramel. If you managed to create from this something that looked recognisably like a specific aircraft, that felt like a win. Now, my painting and finishing skills are regularly tested by the sheer quality and detail of modern kits.

Don’t get me wrong, better kits are always going to produce better finished models. But the nature of the process feels like it has fundamentally changed. Back in the 70s, it seemed like kit makers were constantly being challenged by the demands of modellers. Now, it feels like my abilities are challenged by the quality of some kits. If I screwed up back then, that might partly be the fault of an indifferent kit. Now, it’s all down to me.

I wouldn’t like to say if that’s an improvement or not, but it sure is different.

Links

This downloadable .pdf includes an interview with Sergey Golikov and some photographs of a few of his finished 1/72 models. Inspiring or depressing? You decide.