The instructions are clear and easy to follow; the one gripe I had with them is that the parts are not numbered on the sprues: you get a sprue layout on the cover of the instructions, and you have to find the parts on the sprues based on it. It’s not that difficult to do, but it still is a hindrance during the build.
The model came in an “envelope-type” box, which opens on the top (and bottom). I personally don’t like these boxes because they aren’t very resistant but it’s a personal preference. The sprues were sealed in plastic bags alongside with the PE fret, decals and instructions. The cover image shows the tank in the middle of an engagement. The back of the box shows a set of computer generated images of the model, and the different build options.
The model is a 3-in-1 type of kit: you can build three different versions of the Luchs: early, mid, and the up-armored late versions.
Inspecting the plastic parts I found a lot of flash, and the detail was somewhat soft, and in some places missing. (Most notably one of the armored protectors for the vision slots is smooth, although it was ribbed in real life.)
The PE parts are thin enough and detailed; I liked working with them. The tank is really brought to life by the PE additions; the plastic itself only gives it a basic shape, really, and the PE gives it detail.
The decals are well printed and thin; there were no issues during application.
The build was relatively quick. The lower hull does not come as a single “tub”: you have to glue it together from four parts (bottom, sides, back). The top of the hull comes as one large part. Unfortunately it goes onto the sides rather than fitting into the opening on the top, which means there will be a seam-line around the superstructure that needs to be filling.
Before installing the tracks I’ve first finished most of the hull with all the PE details, added the roadwheels, and painted the hull and the mudguards in the base color (primer red) following the base color (RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb 1944). I added the tracks at this stage, attached the mudguards, and added the remaining details to the hull. These I painted with a brush.
I carefully painted the pattern using Tamiya olive green lightened with deck tan (for scale effect) with a brush. I was not particularly concerned about how even the patches were, since they would not be prominent after the whitewash; only small parts of the underlying camouflage would be visible. I did use a light brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. The decals were added this point, since the whitewash was applied on the field, onto a vehicle already in service.
Once the basic painting was done, I sealed the paint with Testors Dullcote to protect it from the subsequent steps, and covered the whole model with AK Interactive Heavy Chipping Medium. This was followed by Tamiya flat white, and after about ten minutes of waiting I went on creating chips with a wet brush and a toothpick. The paint was nicked carefully at places using the toothpick, and I used the wet brush to enlarge these chips.
Once I achieved a decent amount of chipping and cleaned off the model with some running water, the contrast between the white and the underlying colors was really stark.
Sealed everything with Dullcote again, and picked up MIG Ammo’s washable white. I covered the model with it using an airbrush, and after it had some time to dry I created a transparent, uneven white layer over the whole tank using a wet brush. Moving the brush with a downward motion I blended everything together nicely; the paint left a translucent white layer on top of the model.
The weathering part is always a bit difficult, especially in 1/72; it’s really easy to overdo in this scale. One thing I’ve noticed is that the camera and the eye sees differently. It’s probably the trickiest part of the whole process to make sure the model looks good on screen as well as with the naked eye. As a general rule if by eye the model looks good, on photo the effects will appear somewhat overdone.
I used some heavily diluted winter streaking grime from AK Interactive as stains on the lower chassis. Different brown pigments mixed with white spirit and “splashed mud” from Vallejo was used to simulate the mud thrown up by the tracks onto the lower chassis and the road wheels. A silver pencil helped to create a worn, shiny metal look on the edges of the tracks, and gave a metallic sheen to the gun. (Normally I use it on all edges, but in this case the whitewash made it unnecessary.) I’ve used a guitar string -E string- for the whip and the crow’s feet antennae.
Well, pretty much this was it. The model was not very difficult to build (some experience with PE required), and the detail looks good when finished. The crow’s feet antenna looks especially good compared to most of the other offerings in this scale.
Interestingly all 1/72 Luchs kits have minor differences from each other: the location of the Jerry cans, the combination of changes, the shape of the mudguards, even the turret are all slightly differ from each other. Unfortunately I cannot really comment on the accuracy of these; there are not many photos available, and they might -or might not- be representative to all the tanks produced.
These years seem to be the golden years of scale models. Vehicles that have not been available or only available in the form of limited resin kits suddenly get a lot of attention. The Pz.Kpfw. II. Luchs was one of these vehicles. I’ve built the ModellTrans version five years ago, inspired by the online game World of Tanks, and now, in a very short span of time we get not one but three Braille scale plastic versions of the tank.
I have reviewed Flyhawk’s 1/72 Luchs offerings before, and I was really curious what the other Luchs kits are like. This review will be about the up-armored Maco offering; I’ll comment on the differences between this kit and the Flyhawk kit here and there during the review. (The up-armored Luchs is essentially the same as the basic Maco Luchs with a small fret added; anything I say here is relevant to all Maco kits.)
The breakdown of the model is quite old-school: we have a “traditional” lower hull assembly from four parts (two sides, a bottom and the back). The suspension units and the swing arms holding the roadwheels are already moulded onto the sides. There is an interesting solution for the last pair of braces on the mudguards: they are moulded onto the back panel. The mudguards will need to be slid under the brackets. Be careful not to cut them off; first I thought they were some sort of plastic overflow during the moulding process. As most of the finer details, the back light is moulded onto the left brace.
The added parts are on a separate sprue: the tool box from the back of the mudguards, the jerry cans for the turret sides (these were moved to the back of the tank in the Flyhawk up-armored Luchs kit), smoke grenade launchers, some extra boxes on the back of the turret, a metal armor plate for the lower hull on the front, the perforated vision block protector, and additional track sections protecting the frontal hull. Without this sprue you can build the early version of the model easily.
The interweaving road wheels are done the same way as DML handled them with their kits: the two inner rows of wheels form one part each, onto which you’ll have to attach the outermost row as individual wheels. This solution makes assembly much simpler, and it’s a great solution to avoid any misalignment. The pattern on the road wheels is very well replicated, and the wheels are very thin, which is probably quite true to scale. (Although it’s a conjecture on my part since I have no access to a real vehicle, and neither have I found any information on the thickness of the wheels anywhere.)
The drive wheel is nicely detailed, and the plastic is a tad thicker than the Flyhawk kit’s- this is actually a good thing, because it can easily bend when you are trying to install the tracks on the Flyhawk model. The tracks come as link-and-length, and they are very easy to assemble. (They are probably the easiest I’ve had so far in 1/72.)
The upper hull and the mudguards come as one piece. The model is really “traditional” in this sense as well: the sides of the hull will need to be fitted as separate parts due to the details (viewing ports) that need to be there; no slide-moulds for this kit. The fit is remarkably good, though, so no problems there.
The model does not come with many PE parts: we get the top of the German “crow’s foot” antenna, and that’s it. We also get a couple of brass items: the rod part of this antenna, another whip aerial, and a turned barrel. (The thin metal aerial with the “crow’s foot” looks much more convincing than Flyhawk’s version of plastic rod combined with the metal top.)
The tools -with the exception of the jack, the fire extinguisher, and the shovel- are moulded onto the mudguard; this is something I’m not very keen on. (I prefer painting them separately before attaching them onto the model.) The shovel is a pretty simple affair; it’s probably better to replace it from the spares bin. The model does not have a width indicator; you should get a PE one (Dan Taylor modelworks does a set), or fashion one from stretched sprue. They were too fragile in the Flyhawk kit that I just used PE aftermarket ones instead of trying to clean them up. The tool boxes are slightly different than in the Flyhawk kit, and their locations are not exactly the same, either- again, these could be simply because the models were based on different production versions.
The turret is made out of five parts; the plastic barrel is molded on the top section. Interesting solution (both the assembly of the turret and the gun barrel), and it works. You have an option for a metal barrel, which is nicely detailed. The only imperfection I found with the kit was the grab handle on the back: it was broken and bent during transit. (I ended up not changing it.) The other issue I have with the turret is the almost perfectly rectangular shape of the top of the turret; I think it’s a bit larger than it should be- it’s certainly larger than the Flyhawk’s turret. (Which is also smaller than the ModellTrans turret). The shape is not the same, either. The Flyhawk kit’s turret is more hexagonal: the back and the front are a bit narrower than the middle. In the Maco kit it’s more rectangular. It also looks like the top is a bit larger than on the drawings I found online. The big question is which one is correct. I don’t have access to an actual tank to check, and the photos I found were taken mainly from eye level -for obvious reasons. (If there’s one in Bovingdon I’ll keep an eye out next time I get there.)
The top turret hatch (the commander’s) can be opened. The hatch has interior details, but the rest of the turret does not; it’s probably best to put a figure in it if you leave it open. The back large, rectangular hatch cannot be opened.
The assembly was about two hours -tops; it’s a very well engineered, easy to assemble kit. I tried something new (for me) in this build, and made the whole running gear/track assembly as a single sub-assembly; the whole shebang can be removed for painting and weathering. (I think I’ll use this approach in the future more often.)
The painting was a bit more difficult, as I am not really good with spraying 1/72 freehand camo. I’ve base-coated the model with primer red, and used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb. Obviously neither my airbrush nor my skills were up to the challenge of making thin sprayed on lines, but here I had an idea of pure genius. (If I can be as bold as to call it that.) The Ammo acrylic paints form a cured surface; they are very different from the Tamiya paints. And, as we know from experimenting with the Windex chipping method, Tamiya paints are dissolved by ammonia… I simply made up a 2-3% ammonia solution, and used a brush to carefully clean up the overspray.
This is something definitely worth remembering; as long as the base layer is different (either enamel, or, in this case, Mig’s Acrylic paint), you can clean the Tamiya top layer up easily. (I did not take a photo after applying the green, but imagine the yellow areas having a greenish oversrpay all over.)
The weathering steps further helped with the camo issues. Some dust (pigments mixed with water and some surfactant sprayed onto the model), washes all made the base color a bit darker, and helped to fade the green patches a bit. The silver pencil really helped making the model look like a chunk of metal.
I’ve used different colors of mud (in this case I used Vallejo’s and AK’s sets, not pigments). The key is to first use the lighter colors on a larger area (both flicking it on, and by applying with a brush directly), representing the dried under-layer, and then add the darker shades, representing the still wet mud. With a brush moistened with the appropriate solvent (water in case of Vallejo, white spirit with AK) you can -and should- adjust the effect before the layer dries.
The Flyhawk kit is an incredibly detailed, albeit complex model, which will challenge the model builder. The Maco kit is a very well detailed, well engineered, easy to assemble model. Sure, it does not pack as many PE parts and tiny plastic bits, but it does make the build less of a challenge, and the results are still nice. The moulded on detail is convincing, and it is nice to have a model that is a breeze to build. In my subjective opinion it is on the same level as the Revell 1/72 Famo in the quality of plastic, ease of assembly and level of detail. (In other words: pretty darn good.)
It comes with a metal gun barrel, and two metal aerials -things the Flyhawk kit lacks. On the other hand it does not have a PE engine deck grille unfortunately.
In short: if you want to go all-out, and have a challenging build, go for the Flyhawk one. If you want a good, easy to build model, which builds fast, choose the Maco model; in this fortunate case we have an abundance of choice when it comes to this vehicle.
Well, this has been a long, arduous trip. It was one of those models where you lose inspiration, you make mistakes, and it feels more and more frustrating to spend time on, rather than on a more rewarding project -and not because of any fault of the model itself. It was just one of those builds I guess. I had no clear conception where I want to end up, I made some mistakes, and it felt like a choir trying to push forward. The end result however, was surprisingly nice. So this is the story of the poor, neglected Lowe.
The Löwe was a 90 ton super heavy tank, which was planned -but never built- by Nazi Germany. It was superseded by the even heavier Maus- which actually did get built. Along with the super heavy members of the Entwicklung series, these gigantic tank design programs demonstrate some of the lunacy of the direction WWII tank design took to in Germany during the second half of the war: embarking on even more and more ambitious tank projects in search for a war-winning superweapon, consuming valuable resources and manpower, while the fronts were collapsing all around them. It did give us some nice-looking tank models, though, so there is some silver lining.
Disclaimer: I’ve used my review in Armorama for some of the text.
The plastic parts are well done, apart from some minor problems. Overall I found the quality of parts, the detail, etc. on par with the Eastern Express/UM/Roden offerings: not very good, but not bad, either. The detail, in general, is good; certainly not soft, but don’t expect DML quality. There is very little flash. The model could use some extra detailing; one of the things I would have liked to do was to replace the periscope covers with photo etched ones. (They are simple molded-on blocks. Armory produces excellent quality periscope covers for the King Tiger, which would probably serve well as substitute.) The one thing I really missed is the depiction of the interlocking armor plates on the upper hull. The hull was (to be) originally constructed by welding slabs of armor together, and the points where these armor plates meet should be visible (you can see this on the hull of the Tiger, and Tiger II, for example). It would have been nice to have these details molded onto the hull. It’s possible to carve them out, but I decided not to bother with them. Some parts you will have to create yourself; you will need some wire for the towing cables, for example. (You can get some wire used to hang pictures from art stores.)
The only real problem I found was the engine deck. The grills have several casting imperfections (see photo above), where plastic got into the perforated parts; if you want to open them up, you will have to work very carefully with a very thin scalpel. I attempted, but quickly decided to leave them as they were- did not want to risk the delicate plastic detail. I assume the vehicle would have had screens over the engine deck, just as the Tiger I and Tiger II did; these would have been great additions to the model. (I tried to find aftermarket 1/72 scale Tiger II grille screens, but the only one set I managed to find was sold out everywhere.)
The tracks are flexible, and made out of several segments. The detail is somewhat soft on the inner side; again not a big problem. This solution of segmented flexible tracks is an interesting combination of the link-and-length plastic tracks and the “rubber band” style tracks. It makes it easier to install them, but alignment is a problem – in fact it is kind of a nightmare. A set of PE tracks would have been really nice (although this is a bit too much to ask for this price I admit), or at least some plastic alternatives. All in all, the kit could use some more brass. As for tracks and engine deck grilles I’m happy to report that Armory has came out not long ago with an updated version of this kit, which alleviates all these issues.
Finally, the modeller gets an option of building a “historical” model (whatever it means in this context), or the World of Tanks version of the vehicle (you get the very characteristic muzzle break from the game, and a different engine hatch on the back panel).
Instructions are well done, and easy to follow, but the first part of the build is a bit challenging if you follow them. The hull has to be assembled from multiple parts (as usual in these kits). The issue is that if you follow the instructions, the hull parts will not fit. Once you assembled the “tub” that makes up the lower part of the hull, you are supposed to glue the fenders onto the sides, and finally place the upper part of the hull on top of this. The plastic parts are on the thick side, and the guiding ridges are not perfectly placed onto the fenders. Despite of how small these differences are, they do add up. When you put the lower and the upper part of the hull together, there will be a gap on the front where these two halves should meet.
The best –and quite easy- way to get around this problem is to do some surgery first, and to deviate from the instructions. First, thin the sides of the top part of the hull from the inside a bit (for an easier fit into the grooves molded onto the mudguards). Glue the back panel, the top and the bottom parts together first (parts 1, 24, 35), creating the overall shape of the tank (see photos) without the sides.
This way the top and bottom will touch in the front. This is the time to use some filler to make sure the attachment points on the back and the front are smooth, and there are no seams anywhere.
Sand off the guiding ridges from the side parts (parts 34, 36) of the hull, and glue them in place. Cut away the guiding ridges from the sides of the fenders (parts 23, 25). It is necessary, as they are supposed to go on top of the side panels, locking together with the ridges on those parts, fitting between the two hull halves. Unfortunately there is not enough space. The fenders themselves are not thin enough to fit, but this will not be an issue if you remove these ridges. (It would have been more fortunate if the fenders were made of PE.) Glue the fenders in place, and you are almost finished with the build.
The other issue I had with the kit was that the attachment of the back panel is a bit unfortunate. Usually the top of the hull goes over the back panel, covering it. This follows the original way of construction, and does not break the upper surface with an extra seam. In this kit, however, the back panel is placed behind the top part, creating an extra seam on the top of the hull. This, unfortunately, needs to be eliminated with filler.
The turret has a strange, round shape, which is very uncharacteristic of the usual angular German designs. It is made out of three parts: the main part of the turret (part 2), the frontal bit under the gun mantlet (part 6), and the bottom part, which will not be seen (part 17). This bottom part has two invaginations which should fit with the two little pegs molded onto the smaller, frontal part of the turret, but they are too small for the actual parts. You will have to enlarge them with a scalpel. It’s not a major surgery, and as it will be hidden under the turret, it will not impact on how the model will look. The rest of the kit falls together without any problems whatsoever.
I have finished the model to the point of weathering for this review. A couple of details are missing (the towing lines, for example, as I will need to fashion one later). Photos of the finished model will be posted in the World of Tanks campaign forum.
I’ve given the tank an uniform German grey color, before attaching all the equipment, tools, etc to the hull.
At this point I kind of lost my motivation to go ahead. I had other projects, and I felt a bit stalled; I was not sure what direction I would like to take the model.
After spending a year in a box (I’ve moved to London, I’ve had other worries) I dusted the Lowe off, and gave a hard thought of what sort of a paintjob I wanted to give it. I settled with the octopus-pattern, which I’ve seen on some fictional 1946 designs. The build stalled even further as I had no idea how to achieve this finish…
The next breakthrough was when I spotted a punch set in a charity shop; I managed to make little rings out of masking tape. They were not exactly good, but I went ahead, nevertheless as I wanted to get the painting over with.
The results were disappointing to say the least. The masking tape rings were not good enough, and I’ve used Mig’s paints for the first time without reading about them. I assumed they are to be used the same manner as Tamiya paints; well, I was wrong. Nevertheless at this point all I saw was that the paint behaved weirdly, and I really, really hated it. (Since then I actually learned to use it properly.)
The other thing I’ve failed to consider in my rush to finish the build was the scale effect: the model had a really bad, very strong contrast. (The colors should have been “toned down” in this scale.) Needless to say I went on working on more successful projects; nobody likes to be reminded of mucking things up.
The next step -after standing like this in my “half-finished” box, I’ve decided to give it a winter whitewash; to use the model for practising -and to finish it finally; and this I did. I’ve covered the Lowe with dullcoat, and used Tamiya white in several light, irregular layers. About 30 minutes later I’ve brought out my ammonia-containing cleaning product, and proceeded to do some practice on the Windex chipping method. This relies on the fact that ammonia dissolves Tamiya paints, and by preparing a 2-3% solution you can carefully remove some of it with a brush. (It’s a process that can be controlled surprisingly well.) It creates much subtler chips than chipping solutions/hairspray technique.
Once the whitewash was on and made look worn, I was in the finish. The model finally looked like a proper model, all past mistakes corrected or hidden away, and even the octopus camo pattern looked good under the whitewash. The emotional roller-coaster was high again. Some white pigments (chalk ground up) in water was used on the fenders and the back of the engine compartment to simulate accumulated snow.
Since it was a winter vehicle I wanted to make it looked dirtied up. Winter slush is dark, almost black. I’ve used oil paints as a slurry, and to make it look even dirtier and disgusting I’ve put some green in the mixture as well. I’ve used MiniArt’s painting guide to the SU-122 as an inspiration: the winter camo (“Rudolph, the red topped SPG”) option is quite dirty and covered in this dark, blackish much.
I dabbed the oils on using a large brush, and used a clean, wet brush to “wash back”, and remove the excess from the top part of the hull, and other regions where I judged the dirt to be too much. The brush then -since it had some pigments trapped in it already- was dabbed onto the turret and other “lightly” soiled areas.
Essentially this was it. The moral of this story is essentially this: despite of all my efforts to mess it up, I managed to make something resembling a presentable tank out of this model.
This little tank was the first mass produced Soviet tank (almost a thousand was made), and the humble forefather of the later successful Soviet tank designs. Due to its historical significance it is a welcomed addition to the Armory offerings.
The T-16 (prototype T-18) was heavily based on foreign designs, primarily the FT-17, the first archetypical tank. (The Soviets have made several copies of captured FT-17s.) It was a rear-engine, fully riveted design with a crew of two (commander and driver). The engine was a license-build 35 hp Fiat truck engine, the gun was a modified French 37mm SA 18 gun with a semi-automatic breech (this gun was used in many contemporary light tanks), and the suspension was a modified Renault design. A curious design feature was that the 7.62mm Hotchkiss machine gun and the main gun were placed at a 45 degree angle in the turret. The prototype was not successful, as it had mobility problems (transmission failures), and had issues crossing wider trenches. The improved version, named as T-18 or MS-1 was, however, accepted for production after several rounds of redesign. (MS stands for Maliy Soprovozhdeniya-Perviy: light support vehicle.)
The production T-18/MS-1 had an extra support roller, a redesigned independent vertical spring suspension, and an improved 40 hp Russian-designed engine, which increased the maximum speed to a whopping 17kmph. (Nobody said early tanks were fast.) Its weigh was increased to 5 tons. The riveted armor was overall 8mm on the turret, and 16 mm on the hull. Instead of an optical sight, the vehicle was equipped with an obsolete dioptre sight (similar to what you’d normally find on rifles).
The tank was only a minor improvement over the FT-17. It was slightly faster, more maneuverable, and a bit better armored. Overall, due to the high rate of fire it was quite effective against infantry, but not very useful against other armored vehicles.
The tank was already obsolete when it got into production in 1931, so it saw limited service (mostly on the Far East), and it was mainly used as a training vehicle. It also served as a useful testbed for Russian designers. In 1941 the still operational tanks were upgraded with a 45mm gun in a new turret with the designation T-18M after the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
The arergard.com webpage has some really interesting photos of an MS-1 restoration process, which can be used as a great source of reference for the build.
Armory supplies the model in a thin paper box with the built model’s photo on the front. It was packaged very safely, so none of the parts were damaged. The parts are very finely cast, and they have thin films of resin to be cleaned up – this is not surprising or unexpected in resin kits. The hull and the cupola are supplied as one piece, and most of the resin is used to make the running gear and tracks. The tail is a multi-part PE assembly which can be quite challenging. (Before bending large PE sheets it’s worth gently heating it up over an open flame; it makes it easier to shape. Be careful as you can easily burn the metal, though.)
Some of the parts (both resin and PE) are extremely tiny and thin; experience working with resin and PE will be needed for this kit. The suspension units are modelled as one part (fortunately), but they are very delicate: the thickness of the suspension arms is actually smaller than the attachment point itself. This means extreme care needs to be taken while removing them from the casting block as they can be broken very easily. A fine drill will be needed to prepare holes for the swing arms of the return roller on the front of the tank. Strangely the inside face of the drive wheels have ribbing moulded on, but this cannot be seen after assembly. There are some missing parts: namely a headlight and the horn, which are not included in the set.
The instruction sheet (which is a welcome thing in itself –very few resin models come with one) is computer generated, and clear for the most part; it’s always a good idea to check against photos, though.
The assembly is very straightforward as the model is well engineered. The only challenge was the handling of small parts; there were no fit issues. The leaf springs are to be assembled from individual PE parts; I would have preferred to have them made out of resin. (Assembly can be a bit tedious and it’s quite difficult to line them up correctly.) Drilling a hole in part 8 was quite a tense activity. One thing I noticed, and I’m not sure how it happened is that the roadwheels don’t line up perfectly; the first suspension unit is slightly out of plane. I attached them before gluing the roadwheels on -perhaps doing it the other way around (attaching the roadwheels first) would help to remedy this issue. (The suspension units fit pretty neatly into their attachment points.)
First green layer
Well, the green chosen looks a bit too light; I decided to go deliberately lighter than I normally would, as the subsequent weathering steps will darken the base color.
Light green highlights
I’ve used one of the Citadel greens to highlight certain parts of the model. (Probably snot green or some other delightful color.)
Filters and washes
I’ve used a lot of pre-diluted colors (oil paints in solvent: mostly burnt umber, burnt sienna, green, blue, yellow), and some dark brown pin washes. I’ve tried Tamiya’s weathering products (the ones that look like make-up kits) to add dust and some dirt on the lower part of the chassis.
The finished tank
Finally the usual lead pen highlighting of the ridges and rivets – this makes the tank look like it was made of metal, not a piece of resin. I’m quite happy with the results; I’ve always wanted to have one of these in my collection. (As an avid World of Tanks player, this was one of my favorite tanks in tier 1.)
This is the 30th post of this blog, and since I’d like to have regular readers, feedback, comments, and all that jazz, it is also an unashamed attempt for getting people to visit… There are several new and old builds waiting to be published in the draft section, but here are four amazing models I am reviewing for Armorama this month… and these three will also be featured in this blog. So… subscribe and keep coming back here already!
(If this does not work, I’ll be posting the third page from The Sun from now on.)
I always liked halftracks -especially the Germans built ones. They look angular, somewhat futuristic, and they have been built in an incredible number of versions. (Especially the 251 series; more on that in a later post…)
Anyhow, the Sd.kfz. 4.1 is essentially a modified Mercedes-Benz truck that has been armored, and fitted with a 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 rocket launcher by Opel. The armor was enough to protect the crew from small-arms fire, and the halftrack gave mobility to the rocket-launcher platform. The issue with rocket launchers was that they were relatively short-ranged area saturation weapons, that leave tell-tale trails, so counter-battery is relatively easy. So after you fired, you’d better get out of dodge FAST, because you can bet that the enemy will throw everything at you the second they recover from your rockets. This is the reason for mounting the Katyusha rockets onto trucks, by the way. Nobody wanted to stick around after the first salvo, so due to its low mobility the German version was not the most effective.
The problem of mobility lead to the Germans creating their own mobile rocket launcher platforms. They used the Sd.kfz 251 halftrack to mount the Wurfrahmen 40 rocket system. This was known as the badassly named Stuka-zu-Fuss (Stuka on foot), and also as the less-than-flatteringly named Bellowing Cow… In any way, the problem with this weapon system was that you could not stay in the vehicle while firing for obvious reasons. (Just imagine what the blast of 6 successive rocket launches would cause less than a meter from you, and you’ll see why.) They also used captured tanks and tracked vehicles to stick rocket launching platforms onto them, but these were mostly ad-hoc, field modified solutions to the problem.
The Sd.Kfz 4.1 on the other hand had no such issues. It stored the rockets in the crew compartment, so reloading was fast; and it was protected enough so the crew did not have to disembark from the vehicle before launch. All in all, it was a relatively successful weapon platform.
Roden has issued an excellent 1/72 scale version of this vehicle, but to be absolutely honest, the kit will only shine, if you invest in the Armory PE sets as well. You will absolutely need the exterior detail set, the tracks, and if you feel adventurous, the interior as well. (This is not strictly necessary, as most of it will be hidden, anyway.)
There are some issues with the base kit: the tracks are short (kind of a big problem), and they don’t look very nice, either. The details are soft: the edges of the vehicle are not sharp enough. When you compare the razor-sharp edges of the PE replacements for the fenders, the armored plates in front of the radiator, the storage boxes, etc, with the plastic parts, you’ll be happy you got the extra metal. Other than that the running gear is a bit finiky, and VERY easy to break the delicate parts.
So to the build.
Interior: really cool. I did not use many of the PE parts, simply because you will not be able to see them. There’s no point in adding the pedals, the excellent instrument panel, and the mechanisms lifting the armored panels covering the viewing slots. (OK, these come very handy if you depict the vehicle with open viewing slots, and if -unlike me- you don’t mess them up.) I installed the back of the seats, the no-slip flooring, and some smaller titbits in the engine compartment. (You get a really detailed engine, which you can superdetail as much as your little heart desires; I did not go crazy with it, though. I added some wires to the engine compartment’s firewall, and that’s about it; most of it will not be visible even if you open the engine hatches, anyway. I forgot to take photos of the finished engine compartment before closing it up, unfortunately.)
You have to admit, it looks cool with all the shiny brass.
Once I have finished with the interior (painting and weathering included), it was time to close it up, and move onto the exterior.
This is where the PE additions shine best (weak pun intended). The storage boxes, fenders, mudguards, steps; they all enhance the model significantly.
After fitting, and sanding, and fitting and sanding, the model has gotten it’s first layer of paint: black. I’ve used Citadel’s black primer spray can.
The second layer was the German Dunkelgelb. This is where the purists will crucify me, but the fact is I don’t adhere to the “sacred color charts”. While the paint was relatively standardized, true, there are many factors that would influence the final color of the vehicle. The Sun will fade it, the scale effect will make it appear lighter, and somewhat bluer; not to mention dust, wear and tear will all modify the original color. Having said that, since I planned to add a worn whitewash, it does not really make any difference, anyway.
After the yellow base color, I wanted to try something. The most popular method of simulating worn whitewash, is to use the hairspray technique: put a player of hairspray between the base color and the white, and once the white paint is dry, you can use a wet swab or brush to dissolve the hairspray. This way you can remove parts of the white paint, as if it was worn off.
Whitewash originally was either white paint (surprisingly), or more often than not, lime smeared onto the vehicle using mops and rags -so the coverage was not perfect to begin with. The whitewash was further worn off by the crew climbing all over the vehicle, by the elements (wind, snow, meltwater), etc; so by the end of Winter, if the vehicle survived that long, the white layer was usually all but worn off.
I wanted to try something other than hairspray as I did not have any of the stuff around. I did, however, had a water soluble varnish for oil paintings by Windsor. This is a thick solution, drys relatively fast, and can be redissolved with water -just the thing you need. I covered the model with the varnish, and after drying I painted Vajello’s white primer on with a flat brush. (Quickly, and using a relatively thick paint, so that the water in the paint does not dissolve the varnish.) Surprisingly it worked. Using wet swabs I was able to create the worn, washed off look I was looking for.
thinly diluted white pigments were used to “tie” the surfaces together; this takes the contrast of the yellow and white away, and blends everything together.
Different colored pigments were applied to the lower chassis and the mudguards using a wet brush both by dabbing and by flicking (simulating the mud-spatters) -and the weathering was essentially done.
And finally, the tracks.
The rubber bands you get from Roden are not very good. They are short, for one. The running gear, as I mentioned, is very delicate; any kind of tension would break the plastic parts. This means you need the PE set. Any PnzI tracks would do, actually, as this vehicle used the same tracks as the Panzer I, but I stuck with Armory’s set. (This is a rare case of common sense in the German armed forces, looking at the incredible number of different vehicles they have been using. Support must have been a true logistical nightmare.)
Armory’s tracks are brilliant. They have two parts; all you need to do is to fold up the interior part (the guide teeth), and carefully glue it to the track’s exterior part. A PE folding tool comes handy (as with the other parts of the assembly), but the folding can be done using two razor blades as well: one holds down the part, the other is used to fold it carefully.
It is made of metal, so it was easy to position it, and to simulate the typical “drop” non-live tracks have on the top of the road wheels. Even without the issues of length, the rubber bands given as tracks will never be able to give convincing results like these. This was my first experience with PE tracks; I think I’m sold on the idea.
(I have to take some photos of the vehicle with the tracks on… keep tuned.)
So there it is. A brilliant little kit, made even better by aftermarket PE. I have to say considering my skills in photoetched parts, these can be recommended to people who are not professionals. With some basic skills and patience, it it possible to achieve decent results.