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Sd.Kfz.251 bonanza part 2. The AAA section

Just to recap from part one – I developed an immense (or unhealthy, depending on your point of view) fascination with the different versions and variations of the sd.kfz. 251 halftrack series at one point in my life. (Others do coke; I think I was still better off, although the costs were probably the same.)

I realized a lot of these models were available as conversions in 1/72, and the scale also offered one thing the 1/35 scale can never do: a reasonable time-frame of building. Imagine completing 10-13 models of the same type, putting together the same modules, gluing the same individual tracks, and you’ll have a decent image of a scale modeller’s hell. (At least my hell.) A disclaimer (again): unfortunately I had no airbrush at the time; and my skills with brushes are not as good as the airbrushing skills (which are, in turn, not very high either). So view the results with this in mind, please. (I also need to mention -again- that I used DML’s 1/72 251 model – I can only recommend this kit to anyone. It’s accurate, easy to build, the details are perfect, and it’s ideal for conversions.)

So to today’s topic: AAA vehicles. Funnily enough the Germans did not manage to stick an 8.8 onto this platform; the chassis was simply not strong enough. (I did build a lot of 8.8 based vehicles; most of them are on this blog, and some will be featured as soon as they are finished.)

That leaves us with the smaller caliber guns. Since Allied air superiority was an issue at later stages of the war, many different vehicles were converted into anti-aircraft gun platform. Some of these vehicles were purpose built, based on a chassis of an usually outdated vehicle, and a lot of them were converted ad hoc. There were even kits delivered to divisions which helped the workshops to do the conversion in the field. The success rate of these vehicles are dubious – for obvious reasons they quickly became the targets of ground attack aircraft, and they were not as heavily armored as the tanks they were protecting.

Sd.Kfz. 251/17

This version was equipped with a pretty cool looking gun with a small, triangular gunshield, which can be used against low flying airplanes or infantry for that matter. ModellTrans offers a neat little conversion set with turned barrel, and I have to admit it’s pretty nice. The attachment of the shield is a bit difficult, and you’ll have to add some styrene rods to the build yourself, but that’s just part of the world of resin conversions. (The moulding is pretty impressive; they managed to mould the handgrabs onto the shield.) More important issue, though, is that only one ammo storage rack is provided. I wrote a review about this conversion on armorama, so if you want to know more about the kit itself, you can read more about it.

There are instructions provided, which was a welcome change.

You literally just drop the gun into the hull, and you’re done with the conversion. No surgery, no major modification required.

Painted and weathered… (It was a learning curve how to weather 1/72 kits. Funnily enough it looks pretty good by eye; the camera has this tendency to expose the problems in a very brutally honest manner.)

Next stop: the Sd.Kfz.251/21 Drilling


To introduce this version I’d like to quote the review of this conversion.

As war progressed, aircraft needed a bigger punch. The Luftwaffe adopted heavier 3 cm cannons instead of the various 1.5-2 cm guns they have been using before, so there was a large surplus of the excellent Mauser MG151/15 and 20 cannons (15 and 20 mm respectively). Not to let the guns go to waste, the Kriegsmarine constructed a simple triple gun mount called Flak Drilling Sockellafette. This gun mount was adapted for the Sd.Kfz.251 to provide an anti-aircraft platform. They were available as kits for the troops to make this conversion possible on the field as I mentioned in the introduction. All benches were removed from the vehicle, and additional armor plates were installed around the sides. The mount itself was simply bolted onto the floor of the passenger compartment. Two ammo chests were placed in the back with a total capacity of 3000 rounds/vehicle.

The gun mount was a full rotating pedestal with a cradle assembly which housed three MG151s. They were mounted slightly offset to the right side to allow clearance for the ammunition belts and feed chutes. The shells and belt links were collected inside the pedestal. The guns were fed from three ammunition boxes attached to the pedestal itself. The center box was larger than the two others, containing 400 rounds in mixed HE, AP and tracer rounds. The two side boxes contained 250 rounds each. This arrangement was necessary as the middle gun was considerably more difficult to reload.

The gunner was sitting on a metal seat suspended at the rear of the gun, and operated the whole mount manually. The triggers were placed on the two handgrips. Early versions had reflector type gun sights, while the late ones used speed ring sights. (The armor shield and cradle assembly was different as well in these versions.)

The CMK conversion set is typical of the company: it’s professional, well designed, easy to assemble, but somewhat sparse on the details, and contains inaccuracies. (The review lists the issues I could find with the set.) The most important issue concerns the gun barrels. They are made of resin, and quite chunky. I’ve seen amazingly accurate resin barrels for the Modelltrans Luchs, so convincing 2cm guns can be produced using resin, but these ones really look like a couple of broom handles. This is when you buy an aftermarket set for your aftermarket set -a couple of metal barrels. The other problem is that the gun sits too low on its pedestal; the whole assembly should be much more higher to clear the sides of the vehicle. I’ve lifted it up considerably once I realized that it would sink under the sides. (The shields are way too wide as well, but this is not as noticeable.)

Sd.Kfz.251/17 mit 2 cm Flak 38 Luftwaffe Ausführung


This was a purpose-built anti-aircraft platform for the Luftwaffe’s armored forces. (I know. Why they needed tanks is everyone’s guess. Goering wanted some cool stuff, too, and that was the end of the story. I think the world can thank a lot to the ineptitude and stupidity of the leaders of the Third Reich… looking at the success of the Mongols it’s a scary thought what would have happened if the German war machine was lead by competent leaders.) Anyway, back to the model. The whole crew compartment was radically altered to accomodate the 2cm Flak gun and the fold-down sides. All in all, it looks quite wicked I think.
ModellTrans offers a full kit of this vehicle. There are some issues with the kit: some moulding imperfection (which are to be expected), some accuracy issues (please read the review for more information), but the main problem is with the chassis itself: it’s different from the basic model. The bottom of the chassis is much more narrow than the original 251’s. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a problem with the model, and not a design feature in the original half-track, however it is an issue which you will not notice once the model is complete. The shields are very thin, and quite delicate -a very impressive feat in resin-making. As usual, instructions are somewhat sparse- they only cover the gun’s assembly. Using photos, however, it should not be a problem to build the rest of the model. (Of all the missing details I really think they should have included the rifle-rack on the mudguards, though. I’m planning to add it at a later time.)

So here they go. The three AAA vehicles in the display case. Since I’m moving about a lot, and don’t have a stable base of operation, I’m fixing my models in display cases -easy to store, easy to transport. It also protects them from accidental damage and dust.

Mobelwagen -abandoned and frozen

This is going to be an old build, and the second 1/35 model in this blog; I built this tank about ten years ago under the sunny skies of Florida. This does account for the execution. (Not that I’ve became a master since then.) It’s probably the first model I’ve done some serious weathering on, and the second “diorama” I’ve made. (If you can call a desolate winter setting a diorama.) Looking back at photos of my previous builts I have to say there will be some serious weathering done once they get out of their boxes in my mother’s attic.

Mobelwagen- a furniture transporter indeed. In travel position this vehicle does look like someone stuck a cabinet on top of a tank.

This vehicle grow out of the desperate need of the German armored forces for some protection from fighter-bombers, since the Allied airforces (Western and Soviet) had quite a lot of air superiority at the later stages of the war, and nobody likes rockets and cannons raining fire on top of their tanks, where the armor is thinnest, anyway. So they kept sticking AA guns on top of everything that moved. One of the first attempt was using a PnzIV chassis. It looked quite ungainly, especially with the sides up, and it took a couple of minutes to prepare for deployment. This might not sound like a lot of time, but when an IL-2 formation is making a low level attack run on you 300kph, it does make a difference. This issue was remedied in later versions (like the Whiberwind) of AAA tanks.

I have gotten this kit as a present from a friend in the US. He was a generous soul, and sent a couple of kits over the years as he knew I was struggling financially. It’s an old Alan kit (I think) and the result of an unholy matrimony between a Tamiya base kit, and an injection-moulded conversion with some PE thrown in. (Back then the Tamiya Mobelwagen has not been issued yet.) The difference in quality of the plastic between the two parts was very much visible. The construction was not a very easy process; as expected, the Tamiya parts went together like a dream, but the conversion was not the easiest thing to finish with my –then even more- limited skills. This also explains the setting. I could claim I was planning it as a deserted, abandoned tank, but I’d be lying. (It’s a nice counterpoint to the previous post- a burned out Jeep on a forgotten Pacific beach.) The truth is I just gave up on trying aligning the sides perfectly, not to mention the gun itself needed a lot of extra work. The flash was horrible, some parts were warped, and in general the detail was just not good enough. It should have been swapped to another model of the Flak gun, but I was on a budget, as I said. (And at that point I was pretty much frustrated with the whole built, so I would have been reluctant to throw money –and effort- at it.) The PE mudguards were nice, though, as they made it easy to make the tank look a bit “used”. (This was the first ever time I actually dared to damage and bend PE parts… someone suggested using my teeth, but I resorted to use a small plyer and a pen.)

Once ready, the model was treated as usual: small pin washes with oils, scratches painted on, and faded paint applied with an airbrush. The weathering was done using the hairspray method. Once the whitewash was on, it took some time to make the hairspray dissolve with a brush first- and then using a blunt piece of wood for the scratches. The effect was remarkably nice; I wish I could say it was intentional. Nevertheless, I’m pretty proud if it. (A lot of these weathering techniques have quite random effects; this actually leads to a convincing finish, but makes them hard to replicate accurately.) Once I was happy with the worn effect, I sealed the paintwork with some matt varnish.

This tank was also my first dabbing into the world of pigments –ground up chalk. White, in this case. I dissolved some in water (well, not dissolved, technically, but mixed into), and layered it onto the surface of the winter camouflage. This softened the contrast between the original camo and the whitewash.

The snow is just baking soda and white glue mixed together, heaped onto the base, and into the crevices of the model. I wanted to show the tank as abandoned and frozen up in the Russian winter. The crew obviously made it out alive, escaped the hell of war, and lead productive, peaceful lives, trying to forget the horrors they were part of.

All in all, this model turned out to be much better than I was hoping for, and was a very good testbed for several techniques. The moral of this story, I think, is to be brave enough to experiment. I did notice before (and since) that I’m very reluctant to “damage” good builds. You spend a lot of money and time to build a very nice model, and you don’t want to risk it by bending some PE, or cutting some holes. Since I wrote this model off during the construction phase, I was bolder than usual to try my hands out in different techniques.