Tag Archives: German

Flyhawk Pz. Kpfw II Ausf L Luchs initial, special anniversary edition review, part 1




The Luchs was the final version of the veritable Panzerkampwagen II series, and was designed to serve as a reconnaissance light tank. It differed so much from any of the previous versions, it could be argued that it was a completely different design. In fact, I do argue it is a completely different design; it shares practically nothing with the original Pnz II. It was equipped with wide tracks, a torsion bar suspension, and large overlapping wheels which account for its good cross-country capabilities, and relatively high top speed. The tank was produced by MAN from 1943 to 1944; a total of about a hundred vehicles were made (from the original 800 planned). A version armed with a 5cm cannon was also in the plans, but this tank was never produced. (The word “initial” on the box hints that this version is in the works, too.) The chassis was developed by MAN, and the superstructure and turret was developed by Daimler-Benz, based on the VK 901 experimental vehicle. The engine was a 180 HP Maybach HL66P engine. The total weight was 13 tons, and the vehicle had a top speed of 60km/h, with the range of 260km on road, and 155km cross country. The tank had a crew of four (commander, gunner, driver and radio operator.) Being a light tank with the role of a reconnaissance vehicle, it was armed only with a 20mm Kw.K 38 cannon, and an MG34 machine gun. The vehicle was surprisingly well-armored for a light tank. The main weapon of the Luchs were the FuG12 and FuG Spr Ger F sets.
It served on both the Eastern and the Western Front in reconnaissance detachment of both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. The vehicles serving on the Eastern Front were supplied with additional frontal armor. The experience on the field was mixed; there were issues with reliability, and the concept of the light tank was already outdated by the time it arrived to the front, so after the first batch of 100 vehicles the production stopped.

As a side-note: this is one of my favourite tanks in World of Tanks; the amount of fun you can have when low-tier is just insane. If you play the game, get this gem in-game.

The box


Flyhawk seems to have abandoned the previous high-tech super-packages their previous models were shipped. The model arrived in a fairly large, rectangular box, with the sprues packaged in cellophane bags. (Interestingly there are two types of cellophane used in packaging…) Some parts became detached from their sprues during the transit, as the bags were free to move about in the large box, but nothing was damaged. This is a minor point; but I really liked the previous version of packaging. It gave the model a feel of having a very polished, very advanced product in your hands… kind of like the “Apple feel” you get when you pick up a brand new gadget they sell.

Nevertheless, this is the least important part of this review; after all, most of the packaging will end up in a landfill, so minimizing it makes sense on the environmental protection point of view, and not the least because it helps keeping the cost of the model down. The box art is a painting depicting the tank, with a map as a background.




The number of parts is relatively low, and we get a nice, comprehensive PE sheet along with the plastic. There is no metal barrel provided with the tank. (Which is a shame, because I prefer to use them, especially in the case of a fragile 2cm cannon. The plastic barrel is perfectly adequate, however.) The plastic is very flexible, and quite pleasant to the touch (and great to work with); cleanup is minimal, as there is almost no flash. (There are some large plastic chunks on the underside of the mudguars where the plastic was injected into the mold, but they can be cut off without any problems whatsoever.

I only had one issue: part N10 snapped into two when I tried to remove it from the sprue (it snapped when the touched it; it was probably either too thin, or already cracked). It is not a problem to replace it with a wire bent into shape. The detail is really nice (for example the padding on the interior of the turret hatch is shown; I opted to close it, though, as there is no interior detail provided.) The roadwheels are detailed very nicely, even on the side that faces towards the tank’s hull.

We also get the tiniest plastic parts I’ve ever seen (the lifting hooks for the turret), and you literally will need a magnifying glass to figure out what position they need to be glued on. You also have an option to make these hooks out of PE… We’re talking about a two-part assembly, which is smaller than a pinhead. (I took a look at them, broke into uncontrollable laughter, and decided that although I do like challenges, this time I’ll go with the plastic parts.) If you like workable hinges in 1/35 scale, you will have no problems whatsoever with these guys.

As usual, you also have the option to use PE parts instead of several plastic parts, like grab handles and the antenna, should you prefer to. (Again –see previous point… I’ve decided not to shave off the moulded on grab handles and lifting hooks from the hull, but I’ll definitely use the PE antenna for the radio.)



As an extra, we get a reclining resin figure of a tanker by Rabbit Club in his own little box.




The instructions are really nice; they are well laid-out, and use color to help the modeler with understanding the assembly very effectively. I have to say Flyhawk has some of the best instructions I’ve ever seen so far. (The English is sometimes a bit clunky, but since I’m not a native speaker either, I’m not going to start throwing stones in this particular glass-house… I do say this, however. I helped with the text on Flyhawk’s Aurora cruiser, so if you did not like the grammar there, that’s on me, and me only.)

We only get one option for finishing; a late-war three tone camouflage, but the painting guide does not say from what unit the vehicle is from. (This case I’ll build a historical model, though; but as soon as the version with the 5cm comes out, it’s going to bear the proud colors of, well, me. I’ll paint it as my in-game tank.)




I only received the tank a day ago, but I could not resist building it. It’s pretty much finished, apart from the tools, the antenna, and the running gear and tracks. (Those will be installed after much of the painting and weathering is done on the lower hull, and I’ll leave the antenna until the very last step is finished.)
In short, the assembly was a breeze. The instructions are logical and clear; I really appreciated the fact that they contain a drawing of the finished area if it makes it easier to understand what part goes where. (This is a constant problem in many other companies’ manuals…) Clearly, a lot of thought went into designing the instructions.

The fit is perfect -I did not realize at first that the sides and the bottom of the hull are two different parts, as they were already fitted together when the model arrived, for example. Despite of my initial misgivings, I had no problems handling the small parts, either. (Good tweezers are a must, though.) The only issue I ran in was the detachment of some delicate PE parts from the sheet; the metal was difficult to cut with razor blades without warping the part. A dedicated PE cutting tool is probably the best to handle these situations.

The first two steps detail the assembly of the main parts of the hull, which is followed by the suspension, and the running gear (along with small tidbits added to the hull). Step four details the assembly of the rear parts of the mudguards, and five-six details the assembly of the turret. The colors for the painting guide are given in Mr Color and Tamiya codes.


The running gear is made out of an overlapping wheel system, and a set of link-and-length tracks. There are individual track links for the drive wheel and the idler, while you’re supposed to carefully bend the straight part of the tracks to shape. The instructions provide a really clear (and colored) diagram of the track assembly.

The assembly of the turret is quite straightforward as well; I was worried a bit about the PE jerry-can holders, but they went together like a charm. There are no markings on the turret side where they are supposed to be attached, but that should really not be a problem.

The assembly to this stage took about two hours; as I said it’s not a very complicated kit to build. (The next steps will be priming, painting, fixing the tools in place, weathering, adding the wheels and tracks, weathering, mounting onto a base, and adding the antenna. I’ve managed to damage one of the width indicators already, so no more delicate, easy-to-break part will be added until the model is secure…)


I have to say, it’s been a pleasure to build this kit. I’m not sure how long it will take to finish it, as painting and weathering always takes longer than the building steps, but I shall publish the second part of this review as soon as I’m done. (The T-44 takes priority, though, so it’ll be a while.)



Miniart’s SU-76(r)


This model has been a shelf-queen for a long time. When I moved to the UK I was living in a ~very~ temporary student housing, so I became severely limited in what tools I could use; among other things I was forced to give up on my airbrush. (It took me five years before my living conditions changed so I was able to get another one.)
This, and the lack of space meant I had to switch to 1/72 scale… a decision which I did not regret ever since. I quite like this scale, and I think I’ll stay focused on it in the future. However, there are models which make me stray from this scale into the world of 1/35. This one, particularly, sold itself with the box art. I liked the re-painted flaking dunkelgelb camo, and the relaxing German crew -even though I ended up not using the figures for the build. (I don’t like figures on models to be honest.) Originally it was a much more ambitious project; I wanted to make a partial interior, since the driver had nothing to sit on.
I bought the kit in 2011 in Norwich, and started work on it immediately; I thought I’d progress as far as I can without an airbrush, and then just put it away until I can finish it.

Well, I stopped a bit earlier than that.

The kit is not bad, let me say this. It is, however, not a very good one, either. There are some peculiar issues with it. For one, the parts are only numbered on the instruction sheet; the numbers are not on the sprues. This forces you to constantly check for parts on the instructions showing the sprue layout, which is really, really annoying.
The other problem was the wheels. The swing arms do not “lock” in place, where they are supposed to be when the tank is on a level surface. It’s nice if you want to position the tank on uneven ground on a diorama, however it makes positioning them on a level surface difficult. The vehicle cannot sit too low or too high; knowing what the proper height is is not easy. I’ve ended up building a rig to position the wheels using an armorama topic dedicated to this issue.
And there were the fit issues. Some parts were oversized -these had to be sanded thinner. The sides of the fighting compartment had fit issues, too, so they are slightly bent- a necessity when I needed to make sure it is glued on properly.

Nevertheless, the detail is excellent; if you accept the shortcomings mentioned, the kit builds up into quite a nice representation of the vehicle.

So… without further ado, the build.

When I got the model out of its box after sitting there for years, the first thing I did was to cut the swing arms with the wheels off, and built a little rig to help me reattach them appropriately. (As you can see I painted parts in a very funky shade of green back in the days… the reason was simple: I used up a batch of paint that was mixed for a Braille scale model. Fear not: it was not intended as the actual color of the vehicle.)


The gun was almost finished when I got the kit out of the box, so there was very little work left to finish it. I did a silly thing, and added the muzzle break before putting the gun into its sleeve. This meant I had to cut the gun in half, attach it to the sleeve, and then glue it together again. No biggie, but a beginner mistake.


The lifting hooks had a good amount of flash around them; it was simpler just to use a piece of wire instead. (I did clean one or two, before giving up.)


The build was quite straightforward after I took care of the wheels. Once they were on, I painted the sides of the hull with green, and did the whole mud and dust routine. After that I added the tracks, and then proceeded with the rest of the build. (Once the mudguards are on, the tracks are near impossible to add.) This section had to be masked, of course, for the rest of the build, although a little overspray of Dunkelgelb and brown actually adds to the weathering effect.






I’ve left the sides green, figuring that the Germans would not bother cleaning and painting the areas under the mudguards. You’d have to take the tracks and wheels off, and scrub it clean before doing any sort of painting -and the results would not be visible, anyhow. This meant that the mud and dust was going on over Russian green color. The tracks were assembled without any problems; the individual links were excellent. I painted the rims black (to represent rubber), but did not worry particularly about neat lines; the wheels were about to receive quite a heavy layer of washes, mud and dust. (Yes, I was lazy.) The surface of the return rollers that rubs against the tracks was painted steel.



The finished gun, and the sides of the fighting compartment.


I’ve decided to leave the fighting compartment in the original green color. (I reasoned that the vehicle was adopted to German use in a field shop, so they did not strip everything to be repainted. They would probably be content on leaving the interior of the fighting compartment untouched.) This made the painting a bit more tedious (had to finish and mask the fighting compartment before proceeding). The fighting compartment itself was painted along with the rest of the model in green, and the dust/accumulated dirt added using pigments.


The painting of the ammunition was a bit boring to be honest. First, you have to remove the mould seams, and then paint them one by one… not very entertaining if you ask me. I’ve used Citadel’s bronze and gold colors on the casings. I cut a couple of the projectiles off to create “used” casings, which went onto the floor of the fighting compartment, under the gun.


Attaching everything to the hull… the parts of the model are in various stages of painting.




The gun installed… I’ve used the kit’s tow cable, which was a straight plastic part; you are supposed to bend it around the holding pins. Well, I decided to be bold, and try it, instead of using a metal tow cable. (You also get the ends of the cable as two extra separate pieces should you decide to go this route.) As expected, the plastic broke; hence the somewhat angular look.





Once the sub-assemblies were reasonably done, I’ve used Russian green as primer.

I wanted to depict flacking paint as I mentioned already. Since the vehicle was captured, I decided I would not only show the underlying original colors, but the rust/scratches that the vehicle has accumulated before its capture. Once the SU-76 was painted green, I’ve used dark, rust colors on edges, and other areas where heavy wear and tear was expected. The idea was that removing the Dunkelgelb from these areas would expose the base metal, while on other areas only green would show through.








As soon as the green dried, I applied hairspray, waited an hour, and added the Dunkelgelb coat. (Tamiya paint, lightened with tan to account for the scale effect.)


Yes, you can see the numbers still…


Since Tamiya paints dry really fast, I could add the red-brown pattern right after the yellow base. It was necessary to add heavy layers at regions where the permanent marker showed through… I thought I was smart when I wrote the part numbers onto the plastic with a permanent marker, until the point where I realized that it showed through on everything… Some of these numbers only disappeared after the brown color was added in heavy layers. There you go: an important lesson. Don’t use permanent marker on exposed areas.

By the way, this was the first ever free-hand camo I’ve done with an airbrush.





The chipping was done with a brush, and with a toothpick- depending on what effect I wanted to achieve. I added water to the surface with a brush, waited a bit, and then used a stiff brush/toothpick to carefully. It’s difficult not to overdo it, so it’s worth stopping now and then for a while, and put away the model for a day or so. With a fresh eye it’s easier to gauge the effect.

Once I was satisfied with how the model looked like, I sealed everything with an acrylic varnish, and applied the decals. I took some of the decals from the MiniArt T-44 set; after all, they looked good, and I liked the name on the gun.

As soon as the decals dried, I applied another layer of varnish, and started on filters. I used yellow and dark yellow colors. While the surface was still wet with the diluent, I used some dark pin washes (the wet surface ensures that the capillary action can work unimpeded even on a semi-matte surface). The same filters and washes were used in the fighting compartment as well.

Everything was sealed with varnish once again, and I started on the dust and mud. The dust was simple light colored pigments (chalk ground up) added mixed in water. Once it dried, I just brushed away the excess, and sealed it with pigment fixer.













The rolled up canvas cover was a very underwhelming affair; it did not look like cloth at all. (I was not even sure what it was until I checked in the instructions; it was very symmetrical and smooth.) The cloth effect was added using oil paints. I painted the plastic with desert tan first, and then used burned umber directly from the tube to add the folded cloth look using a brush, and rubbing some off after letting it dry for a day. I’ve even painted the sides with oils to give an impression of it being rolled up. I have to say the canvas given for the T-44 is a much better affair.







All in all, it was a pretty good result considering how this model looked like when I got around to finally finish it. The model itself is not bad, but I think the new Tamiya offering probably supersedes it in quality. Nevertheless, fear not; it was not an unpleasant journey.

ICM Panzerbeobachtungswagen Panther 1/35


While I’m working on the T-44, another blast from the past… I present you ICM’s Panzerbeobachtungswagen Panther.

OK, try to say this word three times. Panzerbeobachtungswagen
(If you manage it, something worse than Beetlejuice will come.)

The vehicle itself is not a “real” tank: it does not have a main gun. The thing you see sticking out of the turret is a dummy gun; it’s there to make sure it “blends in” with the other tanks, so that the enemy cannot single it out. Why is it important to hide what this tank is? Well, it’s an artillery observation vehicle. In itself it’s not dangerous; however, in place of the gun it carries a lot of extra radios, and the turret is equipped with special optics and a range-finder – this tank poses danger by acting as the eyes of the artillery. (I’ve read somewhere that even the turret was fixed in place. Somewhat dubious, since the optics would require the turret to be turned occasionally, but perhaps true.)

I’ve built this kit straight out of the box; unfortunately I did not document the building process. Back in those days (about 8 years ago) model kits from Eastern Europe had a reputation. Sub-par plastic quality, lots of flash, fit issues, low detail… in general, poor models. Well, this kit put all those things to lie. It was an incredibly well designed model. It could use some PE -especially the screens protecting the engine deck- but otherwise it’s a great kit.


I’ve chosen a Dunkelgelb camo, as was depicted on the box, and experimented with pre-shading, oil washes, pigments and filters. (This was my first model where I used filters, by the way.)



Surfacer 1000 base coat followed by some pre-shading


Lots of wheels. Lots and lots of them.


The base-coat of Dunkelgelb is on. It’s slightly greenish, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, apparently. I used Tamiya’s paint lightened with some Buff.


Added dirt using chalk powders. (Cheaper than pigments.)



A very thin mixture of burned umber was spread on the surface with a downward streaking motion with a flat brush. It acted as a filter, and as a very subtle wash as well, since it got into the crevices and nooks.


Some earth colored pigment mixed with white spirit was added directly onto the lower points of the chassis and mudguards, and a slightly wet (with white spirit) brush was used to spread it upwards.


In a similar fashion I’ve treated the top edges of the tank – to make darker stains running down. I’ve used more black than brown in the oil paint mixture.



Dot-method of filters was used as well using brown colors.


The bloody antenna broke more times than I care to remember.


Using a sponge I’ve dabbed some dark-brown/black oil mixture directly onto the tank to simulate paint chips. I’ve concentrated around the edges and hatches.nratpyil6ij187iyyxo8bzy806zrqk3pc9a




Renault UE Chenillette with Wurfrahmen 40 (Mirage Hobby, 1/35)




The Renault UE was a small, lightly armored vehicle which was developed to tow artillery pieces. It’s worth reading the Wiki article on the tractor -quite an interesting vehicle.

After capturing several hundred of these vehicles, the Germans have taken about forty, and since they could not possibly put an 88 on top, went for the second best thing. They have added Wurfrahmen 40 rocket launchers to the vehicles. There were two configurations: one had the rockets mounted on the sides, and the other had the launching platform mounted on the back. (I assume despite of the armored compartment, the crew had to leave the tractors before firing.) As mentioned in the previous post about Wurfrahem rockets, they were ideal attacking larger areas. The drawback was that their short range and tell-tale smoke contrails invited some vigorous counter-battery response from the less-than-amused enemy forces after an attack. This meant you had to let the rockets go, and get out of dodge as soon as possible. Since the range of fire was short, some armor protection was handy, too.

The Germans also used these vehicles in their original roles, of course, and they also armed several of them by adding small caliber guns, machine guns, and other weapons it could carry. Sadly, no 88s as I mentioned.


The Mirage Hobby kit was an interesting one. I’ve built it a long time ago; it was my first armor kit with link and length tracks. The color of the plastic was -I can’t put it in another way- very white; once assembled, the model looked like a scratchbuilt model someome put together from Evergreen plastic. (It would have been impressive feat.) The detail is really nice, although not sure how it would compare to the more recent Tamiya UE that was issued a couple of years ago. (Probably not favourably. The price, however, still make this model worth building.) One thing is for sure: I built it the same time I was working on the Trumpeter R35, and the detail on the Mirage Hobby kit was much better than on the Trumpeter one. There was some flash on the parts, but nothing major, and even the thin parts were straight, and easy to work with. All in all, it was a professional kit; I quite liked working with it.







Painting went the usual way: I sprayed the model with different shades of German grey, and then added some oil dot filters, and some washes; nothing too fancy. If I manage to dig this model out of storage, I’ll be sure to work on the weathering some more.

As I said, it is an old build; I included here as a historical reference -and because I did not want to lose my photos again on my hard drive. (Perhaps I should make some new photos as well; my equipment was not very up to the task then.)



Flyhawk VK18.01 (panzer I F.) late version 1/72

The development of this tank has been covered in the previous post; the description of the model is also very similar, so I’d refer you to that post if you are interested.

So, let’s see the build

Box and contents

The model is packaged in the same Flyhawk-style: it keeps the contents save even in case of a nuclear strike. It also looks amazing, although I suspect it’s a bit of an overkill. (Certainly resource-intensive.) The box art is nicer than the Early version’s; you can see the front of the tank.
The parts are ordered on the sprues in a somewhat different layout, but the basic tank is the same. (Obviously.) The quality is outstanding; like a shrunk 1/35 kit. (I keep saying this, because it’s true.)

As usual, the build is straightforward, and you get the different options for PE parts, if you do not like the plastic provided. No metal barrels this time, though, but you get two cool little figures.

The turret without the guns looks like the stupid robot from that insurance commercial…

Going full-brass

Same color scheme as before: German grey. Perhaps I should have chosen something else than grey, but I wanted to experiment with different painting and weathering styles. This time I’ve used Tamiya paints. They are fine, but dry quickly, so retarder is very much necessary when painting with an airbrush. They are also very sensitive to the dilution- you have to get the water (diluent)/paint ratio just right.

Highlights are added using Tamiya German Grey lightened with Tan

Filters were applied using the dot-method. Oil paint (umber, burnt umber, blue, yellow, green) was dotted onto the surface, and washed off using a damp bush. Damaging to small details if not done carefully.

Dust and scratches are added. The scratches were done using the hair-spray technique: I applied hair-spray to the black primer, and then added the grey. Very gently you can remove some of the paint using a wet paintbrush. (It’s easy to overdo.)
The dust was applied using Tamiya’s make-up kit. (I was lazy.)

Early and Late versions together, side-by-side.

Flyhawk VK18.01 (panzer I F.) early version 1/72

The Panzerkampfwagen I had several experimental versions serving different roles over the years of its development. These versions had very few things in common, aside from the designation. The Ausf C version (VK 601) served as a fast reconnaissance tank, and it shared very little with the Ausf A and B versions. The Ausf D. (VK. 602) was an up-armored version of the Ausf C, while the Ausf F (VK. 18.01) was a completely new design on its own right, which had more common features with the VK 16.01 (Panzerkampfwagen II. Ausf J), than with any of the Panzerkampfwagen I versions. It was designed as a heavily armored infantry assault tank, and was produced by Daimler-Benz and Krauss-Maffei between 1942 and 1943. As with the VK.16.01 it was somewhat of an anachronism, which explains why only 30 of these tanks were produced. It was as heavily armored frontally as a KV-1 (80mm of armor), weighted between 18 and 21 tons, had very wide tracks. The 150HP Maybach HL 45 P engine gave it a comfortable speed of 25kmph. It had overlapping drive wheels, and a torsion-bar suspension; features it shared with the VK.16.01. It had two MG-34s as main armament… which were probably not very sufficient at the time.

Some of these tanks did see combat in the Eastern Front where they were lost (captured or destroyed) very quickly. The remaining tanks were used by training and reserve units.

The model came in the usual Flyhawk packaging: a very sturdy cardboard box with a sleeve, and the parts embedded into shape-cut foam for safety; you’d think the designers have worked in a CPU factory previously. It’s incredibly well done. The sleeve displays a painting of the tank with two crewmen around (the kit is supplied with the crewmen in the same pose as on the artwork), and on the back there’s a short introduction, some photos of the model, and a couple of QR codes. Overall it is a very well designed piece of packaging. The PE fret and the decals are attached to a thin cardboard sheet for extra safety; the other side of the sheet has the same cobblestone print as with the VK 16.01 model. (It can be used as a diorama base, which I find to be a nice touch.) The tank comes with two crewmen, as mentioned, and they are in their own little bag, already separated from their sprues. These figures are produced by Caesar Miniatures.

Yes, these are metal barrels. For MG-34s. In 1/72.

The build was quick; after all, the model has relatively few parts.

One reason to take photos of your models: you spot the mistakes easier. The guns are not perfectly aligned, giving the tank a somewhat goofy looks.

Basecoat: German Grey from Gunze onto a black primer coat. (The Gunze paints are some of the best paints I’ve ever used.) I’ve used some Tan to lighten it.

The raised details were highlighted with some of the base coat with more Tan added.

Weathering steps… lots of filters (greens, blues, yellows), and some careful drybrushing. Not careful enough, though – one of the gun barrels got knocked off accidentally. Not a big issue, since I was going to fix the alignment issue, anyway.

The filter I used was not the dot-method; I simply made a very thin solution of oil paints, and added them onto the model. The extra was wiped away. (On the sides, as well, after taking the photo.) You can see where the extra blue filter did not get removed. This was covered up in the subsequent (discreet) pin-wash step. I added pin washes to the different areas where shadows would be expected in a real vehicle, using a mixture of black and burnt umber.

Some dusting, some metal paint to the tracks, and to the edges of the tank- and we’re done. Here’s the finished model.

Roden 1/72 Vomag Flak 88

As we have been discussing this before, the Germans had this tendency of sticking 8.8cm guns onto anything and everything they got their hands on. If they could have, they would have put an 88 onto the top of another 88. Since this is a legendary gun (deservedly or undeservedly; it is, after all, something that’s designed to kill people), and it looks wicked, I’ve been building a lot of models which were either 88 Flak guns, or vehicles with 88 Flak conversions. (I’m proudest of the pnzIV conversion.)
The Vomag is essentially a bus, built by Vomag (so it’s not the actual designation of the vehicle, just like in the case of the Famo). They shortened a the chassis bit, and used it as a mobile platform for an 8.8 Flak gun. As far as crew comfort or even armour goes, it has none; but it does look cool.
This particular vehicle I wanted to build for a long time; ever since I’ve seen Wespe’s 1/35 resin model of it. But it’s expensive and it’s huge… so I kept putting off the purchase.
Enter Roden: they recently came out with a really nice little kit. It’s the usual Roden quality: some flash, some inaccuracy, but overall a nice kit. It does benefit greatly from aftermarket PE; at least the screens on the sides need to be changed to something more convincing than the nylon screen they provide.
During the build I’ve also realized that the engine, which is a multi-part construction, and a small kit in itself, will be completely invisible once I put the engine compartment together. I’ve solved this issue by simply leaving the sides off -as they were sometimes left off on the Famo half-tracks. (I have no historical evidence it has ever been done to this vehicle, but it’s my model, and I’m going to watch it on my shelf, so I call the shots.) One thing I did not like was that doors of the ammo storage racks cannot be opened; it would have been nice to have them open. If you decide to depict the model in a “foul weather” setup -meaning the canvas cover up- you’ll also need to do some scratchbuilding, and bend the canvas holders using wire.

The finish was done in the regular panzer grey. I was experimenting True Earth’s products to age and fade the model, but so far the results are somewhat mixed; the product (it’s not really a paint) breaks up into small droplets when it gets onto the surface, instead of spreading evenly. I think the surface has to be completely flat (matte) for they to work.

After much filtering, washing, dusting, and breaking off -gluing back the tiny parts – I present the finished truck. (If I can get my hands on some cheap cargo, I’ll add some later.)

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.

Hasegawa Karl-Gerät

The Germans had an obsession with enormous guns. Sturmtiger, Karl-Gerat, rail guns of all sorts – Dora especially, it seems like whomever was in charge for projects, he was overcompensating for something. They look awesome, they make for nice scale models, but that’s mostly it. Somehow the designers of these enormous weapons forgot one important thing the 20th century already taught by the time they were conceived: if you really need to kill a lot of people, it’s cheaper to do it using the air force. The sheer logistics required to set up and operate these weapons severely limited their usefulness in a fluid, dynamic battlefield. They were designed for a static siege warfare, and that was mostly a thing of the past. The Karl mortars saw service at Sevastopol, at Warsaw, and at the Battle of the Bulge, but in general, their impact was not exactly strategic.

The Karl line of self-propelled mortars were designed as siege weapons for the Maginot line. They were supposed to lob enormous projectiles onto the walls until they cracked, from a relatively safe distance. Because of the enormous recoil generated, these monsters actually had to be lowered to the ground, otherwise their torsion bars would have broken the first time they fired. They were also very, very, very slow. Slow to move, slow to fire. This is not really surprising, considering the projectile weighted as much as a small car. This meant they could not store their ammunition (or the separate propellants) on board. There were dedicated ammunition carriers converted from panzer IV’s, which were ferrying ammo from the supply dumps to these guns. There were seven of these guns built, and six of them had their own names. (Adam, Eva, Thor, Odin, Loki, Ziu: because nothing’s better than naming a tool of destruction after Adam and Eve; Thor and the other Norse gods at least are fitting.)

Hasegawa came out with two kits long, long time ago, depicting these weapons: one showing the mortar on a rail carriage (actually, hung up between the two dedicated carriages), and one in deployment with a carrier provided. Since the vehicle would be enormous in 1/35, I’ve chosen to do the 1/72 version. (Hobby Boss came out with its own Karls; they probably are really nice kits, but I have not had a chance to take a look at them.)

The Hasegawa offering is surprisingly good considering its age. You can choose between the original 60cm or the later long-barreled 54cm variants. As you can see, I’ve chosen the late-war 54cm mortar, since I’ve already built the DML 1/144 version of the same vehicle with the 60cm gun. You essentially get two models -the mortar and the ammo carrier-, and they both are very nice kits on their own right. It really was a joy to build them.

This was the first ever time I tried my airbrush. I used a dark brown primer (simple spray can), and as the first color of the 3 colored camouflage I layered sand on top.

The brown-green camo was done using silly putty as masking.

Once all the colors were on, I used brown filters to turn the sand color more like the German Dunkelgelb, and to blend the different colors together. Once all the camo colors were done, I installed the ammunition into the carrier. I used thread to simulate the metal cables for the winch, but I ran into some difficulties: the projectile carried in the arm of the winch was simply too light, so the thread was not stretched. It looked like it was holding a projectile-shaped balloon, and not a 2000kg projectile. I cut away the bottom of the projectile, and stuffed as much fishing lead into the cavity as I could. I also pulled the thread tight, and applied glue to it to make it still. These two solutions together made a realistic-looking winch.

I used some heavily diluted burnt sienna as a pin-wash to bring out the small details, and some rust-colored scratches here and there. I did not want to take the weathering too far, as these guns were always very much maintained by their crew. The models were sprayed with some semi-matt varnish to protect the pain, and to give it a metallic shine. (After all we kind of expect painted metallic surfaces not to be completely dull, even though -in reality they mostly are.)

And there they are: a mixture of gray and brown pain oversprayed lightly onto the running gear and the lower chassis of the two vehicles to simulate dust, some use of a soft lead pencil to simulate worn metal, and I declared the models finished. (I don’t always use dry-brushing; sometimes you don’t need a stark contrast on the surface of a model.)