Tag Archives: World War II

The ultimate 1/72 Luchs showdown: thoughts on the Armory, ModellTrans, Maco and Flyhawk kits

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So now I have finished building all four offerings: Armory, Flyhawk, Maco and Modelltrans; it’s time to take a stock of what I’ve learned. I would not really go into accuracy, as I could not find any books on the Luchs; all kits differ slightly from each other with respect to location of the exhaust, tools, tool boxes, Jerry cans, and so on. As I could not find the time and resources to get to the bottom of these differences I merely comment on the models themselves.

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The Modelltrans kit is an old resin model of the Luchs; it’s a bit undersized, has very few parts, good detail, and has some issues with bubbles in the resin- in other words, your average garage company resin model. It’s fast to build, but it’s quite expensive for what it is; plastic models will always be better priced. It builds into a respectable depiction of the Luchs, but it’s kind of “rough on the edges”, and does not come with the aerials.

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Hands down, the Flyhawk kit is the most detailed and the most complex model of the four; it’s essentially a miniature 1/35 model. This, of course, comes with a price: it’s also the most difficult to assemble. The crow’s feet antenna is not very convincing; the PE offered by Armory is a much better representation. (But this is the only one that comes with width indicator rods.)

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Armory’s plastic Luchs is a new kid on the block; the company only recently started to make its way into the plastic scale model market. The plastic base is somewhat basic, and the engineering is not the best; however once you get through the filling and sanding, and add all the PE, you will have a very nice, detailed model in your hands. It does require experience building models and using PE- it’s not one of those “shake the box, and the built model falls out” type of kits. However, the results are worth the effort.

Maco’s offerings are the exact opposite of the Flyhawk models: they are very well engineered and very simple models to build – in other words, they are one of those “shake the box” models. The details are still pretty good, and Maco offers a good alternative if you want to build more than one tank quickly, or if you’re still new at building 1/72 models. (Or just want to have a quick weekend project.) One thing that I need to mention is that the shape of the turret seems to be somewhat off, and you’ve got my bane of small scale models: the moulded-on tools. On the other hand you get some beautiful metal gun barrels and antennae.

All in all, the plastic offerings have things going for them; choosing one really depends on your preferences and your purpose. How much challenge do you want to face? While the Flyhawk kits can be adjusted in difficulty using the alternative options (PE vs plastic vs molded-on detail), a lot of the tiny parts cannot be avoided. The Flyhawk offerings are definitely not for beginners. It also takes considerably longer to build. Another aspect to decide is: how much the lack of PE matters for you? The details on the engine deck grille are good enough in plastic on the Maco kit, and in this scale there is an argument that it does not make much difference. (Talking about PE: only the Armory kit has the wire mesh protecting the engine grilles.) You might also want to have a metal barrel; this is not an option in the Flyhawk line of Luchs’, but you get them in the Maco kits… and so on and so forth. I’ve tried to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of all four models; it really depends on the individual builder which one he or she wants to choose.

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Armory 1/72 Luchs

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This is the fourth Luchs in this series… and the third plastic one.

Let’s see…

Modelltrans Luchs
Flyhawk Luchs
Maco Luchs

Introduction -Armory’s plastic kits

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.

Zrinyi II part 1.

Apparently there’s some time for another post this year… So: the last 2016 post. For real.

 

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The Zrinyi II has always captivated me. Being a Hungarian obviously Hungarian-made armor had an interest, but this SPG in particular caught my eye due to how it looks. It simply looks cool, and unlike the Toldi, it was an effective vehicle as well.

Let’s face it, Hungarian armor was never a very famous (or even known), there were almost no models available for the longest time. There was one series of tanks done in resin in 1/35 for a horrendous price, and Hunor has a 1/72 line of Hungarian tanks (some of which I featured on this blog) of which I did not know about for a long time.

And then there was this beast: a 1/15 scale resin model of the Zrinyi II. I saw it in the since-defunct Sas Militaria, Budapest, and it was offered to me for the paltry price of 300 dollars. Needless to say I was resigned I’ll never have any Hungarian tanks -let alone a Zrinyi- in my collection, ever.

In the last couple of years, however, suddenly these vehicles started to appear in plastic both in 1/72 and in 1/35. I built the Hobby Boss Toldi, and I also could not resist to buy Bronco’s 1/35 offering of the Zrinyi II. (To be honest I should have stick with the 1/72 Hunor one.)

The build

This was my very first Bronco model. The detail was very nice, the plastic was great quality, the fit was good, and yet I did not enjoy the process at all. The instructions were not always clear, and the model is overcomplicated. With the overly complex MiniArt kits, like the D7 dozer, you have the feeling that the engineers wanted to put everything into the model; complexity had a purpose there. With this model I felt like they were trying to mess with me. (The running gear was especially annoying to assemble, not to mention the installation of the mudguards.) Talking about the mudguards: they are very thin, very nice pieces of plastic; there is no need for any PE replacement.

We do get some interior detail, but not enough to leave the hatches open; most of the model is empty. (This is not a criticism; I’m not sure people even know how the Zrinyi II looked like from the inside.)

The tracks went together perfectly fine, unlike the Hobby Boss Toldi which I was assembling at the same time. As a first step I assembled two links at a time, and then joined these sections into larger ones; while the glue was still setting I could form the finished tracks around the return rollers and the drive wheel/idler.

Due to the fact I had to move cities several times during the build perhaps it’s not surprising I lost a small fret- unfortunately my Zrinyi does not have any periscopes.

The side skirts are very well detailed; it’s a shame they are provided as one unit per side. (It would be nice to be able to mount the different sections separately as the real things were. I was not brave enough to attempt cutting them apart.)

The marking was to be done using a provided PE mask; it was a really nice touch. The large cross sign on the engine deck is provided as a decal, but I would strongly suggest to try to paint it as well. The decal is enormous, and goes over the engine compartment’s hatches. Needless to say it does not conform well to the difficult surface even with the use of copious decal setting solution.

 

Painting

The painting and weathering was somewhat of an arduous process as I was experimenting with several products and techniques which necessitated a couple sessions of repainting.

The base color was a relatively dark, flat green; this was shaded using darker version of the same color, and then modulated using filters. I’ve used very thinly diluted oils as overall filters, and the dot method on larger surfaces.

I’ve tried to use True Earth‘s products for shading and fading with a varying degree of success; these products are not as easy and straightforward to use as the manual claims it. For one, absolute, flat surface is a must; and application by airbrush is also something that gives a better result. Don’t get me wrong: these products look like they have enormous potential; however you need to experiment to achieve a result that looks anything like the cover photo.

The wooden handles of the tools and the blocks for the jacks were painted Tamiya Tan, and then I applied some umber oil paint undiluted. By scraping most of it off using a very stiff brush you can get a nice-looking wooden surface relatively fast.

I’ve used pigments mixed with water on the lower part of the chassis; once they dried, I simply brushed off the excess. I repeated the process with much less and much lighter colored pigments on the top surfaces as well to simulate dust. With a fine brush and a dark brown color I painted some chips onto the tank, and used rust colored oil colors to simulate running rust from these spots. The exhaust received several layers of rust color pigments; I also rubbed some off between applications to make the effect realistic. (This “adding and removing” method is quite useful in weathering.) As a last step I used a silver pencil on the edges of the tank, the running gear and on the tracks to simulate the metallic shine of worn metal.

Well, the tank itself is ready. Next stop: a diorama setting.

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p4.

You can find the previous parts of this review under the following links:

part 1.
part 2.
part 3.

You can find the review I wrote of this MiniArt model on armorama, and another review of a simplified version of the same kit here.

 

In this post we’re taking a look at the interior- and hopefully finishing it. (Well, most of it.)

 

Most of the components are installed; the basics are done. I’ve put in the engine for the photos sake, but will display it outside of the vehicle. The gun is installed, and only a couple of small bits and the fuel tanks were missing at this point. The assembly went together without any issues; even the bits on the steering mechanism fit into the transmission without any problems. (In other words: they fit like a glove with is pretty good considering we’re talking about a multiple part assembly.)

 

I’ve also put in the finishing touches for the interior. By and large it went together fine; the fit is remarkable. Two issues I ran into: the back of the fighting compartment is one of them. The issue is simply the following: it is made out of three sections. Once is the large firewall between the engine compartment and the fighting compartment. The second is the edge of the top of the engine compartment (which, unfortunately, is not covered by either of the back sections), and the third is the back of the superstructure. I did not anticipate that the armor plating on the engine compartment will be visible, so I had to paint the edge white after I installed it. The best would be to fill in the visible seam, but unfortunately I could not figure out how to do it. (I’ve already painted and weathered the to larger parts.)

 

 

 

At this point the fuel tanks, the oil tanks, the compressed air bottles, the handle of the fuel priming pump (which was blue in the T-34 I saw, so I painted it blue instead of red), the ammunition, and all the other bits and pieces are installed. The one issue: the ammo on the racks. They would need to fit into corresponding holes on the top of the fighting compartment, so make sure you align them perfectly. (Not like I did.) What I suggest you do is to leave them out until you’re ready to attach the top of the fighting compartment. This way you can gently adjust them while the glue sets into their proper position. Since I’m not planning to glue the top on, it’s not really much of an issue.

I finished the final touches of weathering on the transmission and other interior parts. I blended in some gun metal darkened with black paint onto the transmission, and highlighted the edges with steel color. It received several dark washes; I have used a damp brush to adjust where the washes flowed. I used some oil stain AK products with some dark grey pigments to make it looked used and dirty. The metal bands on the two sides, which help with the steering got a light Citadel zinc overcoat to simulate oxidation and heat damage (as these parts overheat a lot, which encourages oxidation).

The fighting compartment only received a moderate amount of weathering as I wrote in the previous post, since these vehicles were not in use for the years to develop heavy rusting, and the crew kept them relatively clean.

The sides of the superstructure were fitted with all the details. For some reason the propellant cases are marked to be painted green instead of the brass color every other case has. The crew light was painted using a Citadel technical paint. I first painted the bottom of the part silver, and then used the Citadel paint to stain the face of the light fixture. Since the paint flows more like a wash, it left the protecting wire frame relatively free of paint. (The extra was scraped off with a blade.) The effect is pretty good in my opinion. (I just noticed that there are no photos of the walls; will rectify the situation in the next post.)

 

The first step was to add the frontal armor plate. It’s a bit fiddly, and it’s easy to break off the suspension’s springs while you’re trying to navigate it into its place. (To be honest these springs will not be visible even from under the vehicle, so if they break off, they break off. Only you will know they’re not there. Once the front is on, you can attach the top of the engine compartment. It’s a large piece of plastic which has most of the fenders as well, and you will need them in order to attach the side plates.

I would have liked to do a cutaway version of the engine compartment, but could not really figure out how to, so I just closed it in. The flaps over the cooling vents can be positioned; however they would be invisible in the finished vehicle, as the armored vents completely cover them. The two pieces that go over them (Ca13, Ca14) have apparently three alternative placement (about 2 mm from each other), but the instructions do not give any indication what these options are, and why you would want to position these parts differently to begin with. Strange.

I’ve finished detailing the sides and the back of the fighting compartment, and glued them to the model. I’ve added some wires to the light and the electrical switch box on the right hand side to make them look a bit busier. Interestingly the pistol ports are not operable, unlike in the T-44. They are simply molded on the plastic, but it would have been nice to have this option.

The fit of the sidewalls and the back armor plate is tight but good; I did not have to use putty, or trim anything.

At this point the model finally looks like a proper tank destroyer, with the interior mostly finished. The hatches allow only a limited view of the interior, so I think I’ll display the model with the top of the fighting compartment lifted up. I’ll use either stiff wires or plastic rods to hold it off-center above the model, as a “cop-out cutaway”. (I was a bit reluctant to start cutting and sawing. With the next model I’ll do a real one, I promise, with the sides and top cut out.)

 

And finally, work has started on the tracks. The tracks are not workable (regardless of what the instructions claim), but they are fine nevertheless. The pins are too small to hold them together with glue, so they actually do fall apart once you assembled four-five pieces on their own. Hence: gluing. Normally I’m using Tamiya’s lemon based Lemonene cement; the only problem I have with this product is that it looks just like the retarder they sell… and the first couple of pieces I tried to glue with the paint retarder. (Yes I was curious where the brush from the jar disappeared, but not really focused on the issue. No, I’m not a very smart man.)

Anyhow, the best method to glue individual links together is to work in sections: do doubles first, and then assemble those into larger and larger sections. You have at least a couple of hours to adjust the sag before the glue sets completely, so it gives you time enough to assemble half section, wait a bit, and fit it over the running gear. (Every side is usually made up by two halves- at least this is how I prefer to do it. It’s easy to mix up the different sections for the two sides if you work with smaller ones.)

Now, onto the colors. I’ve chosen black as a base color simply because most of the Russian tanks I saw had trans that were black. No doubt it is a museum-related thing and not historical. First of all, why would anyone paint the tracks? Any paint and rust would rub off very, very, very quickly indeed once the tank starts moving. I’ve made this choice, however, because I wanted to have a “distinctive” look for my Russian tanks, and not use the same track painting and weathering methods that I use with the German tanks. (In reality most tank tracks have a very dull, steel color -they are a steel-manganese alloy-, which is covered with dust and rust in the recesses. Most of the rust, mud and any other contamination simply rubs off as the tracks rub against each other, the running gear and the ground.) I go with these “artistic licences” as if I really, really wanted to be accurate, I’d be working with only 50 shades of brown mostly. A little color here and there (even if it’s black) livens things up a bit.

Once the tracks were assembled, I used an acrylic spray paint to paint it black. (Grammatically incorrect, however it had to be done for the reference’s sake.)

After drying the first thing to do was to add a neutral wash by Mig. (I’ve got it in a discounted set for painting primer red, and have no idea what to use it for. It looks nice as dust/mud deposit.) The next steps will be adding a good thick slurry of pigments/oil paints to simulate the slush of snow and mud, and I’ll rub a silver pencil along the surface to simulate the parts that were worn to the bare metal. The guide teeth will be treated in a similar manner, since the drive wheels rub them shiny as they turn the tracks. (Silver pencils are great for simulating worn-down metal.)

1/72 ARL-44 by Cromwell Models

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Disclaimer: the previous version of this article simply disappeared. It’s just gone. It does not really fill you with trust towards WordPress; I hope it’s only a glitch that will not surface again…

 

Anyhow.

 

The ARL-44 was a peculiar tank. Design started immediately after Paris was liberated (hence the “44” in the name -signifying the date), and was more of an effort to re-establish France’s heavy industry, tank production, and to retain its talent, than actually an attempt at designing a modern tank.

The design called for a 48 ton heavy tank with a high calibre armament. Due to the wartime shortages, and the consequences of German occupation, the design had to incorporate several compromises. Its design is based on the pre-war French tanks, but it also bears some resemblance to the later German tank designs (it does look like a child of a Tiger II and a B1). The power plant was chosen to be captured German Maybach engines (HL230 600 hp), and the first prototype turret was armed with an American 76mm gun, which was later replaced by a new turret, and a 90mm DC45 tank gun. The turret was well armoured and large; an actual car engine was used to rotate it.

Not only the overall design was anachronistic; the suspension, drive wheels and the tracks were quite old-fashioned as well. The armour was well sloped at 120mm. By 1945 the need for a heavy tank disappeared, but the French authorities decided to press ahead with the production of 60 vehicles (downsized from the original 600). This was a political -and an economical- decision, rather than a military one as it was mentioned previously. This showed an incredible amount of foresight on behalf of the decision makers in my opinion.

The production trials started in 1947, and delivery started in 1949. The tanks were used to replace the captured Panthers the 503e Régiment de Chars de Combat regiment operated. (Which is also an interesting story by itself.)

In service the ARL-44 was found to be less than satisfactory. The suspension, gearbox and other parts of the running gear had frequent breakdowns, which resulted in the tank being recalled from active service in 1953, and replaced by the M47 Patton tanks.

Review

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Cromwell Models sent the model in a simple ziplock bag; no artwork, and no instructions included. The parts were undamaged during transit.

The model is cast in a yellowish resin. The casting generally is good, although some issues are visible (around one of the drive wheels, and there was a bubble in the muzzle break). This is not surprising, considering how intricate the parts are; the level of detail moulded on is pretty impressive.

Some of the resin parts are incredibly fine; the gun lock in particular is a wonder by itself. It’s moulded onto some resin support; despite my worst fears it was very easy to cut it free without snapping it.

The hull is essentially one piece: everything is moulded on: tracks, running gear, everything. It’s attached to the moulding block through the tracks; you’ll need a large, fine saw to cut it free. (And you’ll need to be careful, not to cut into the tracks. A word about sawing resin: resin dust is toxic. Use wet sawing, wet sanding techniques when working with resin to minimize harm to yourself and others around you.)

The lack of instructions is not really an issue for this model; the number of parts are so low, it’s really not that difficult to figure out what goes where. (Although I still cannot figure out where that cross-like part is going…)
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The gun barrel is very nicely done; it’s straight (not always the case with resin models), and the bubble on the underside of the muzzle break was easy to fill in.

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The only minor issue I had was the top of the turret: the surface is marred by tiny little holes, which I completely missed at the priming phase. (I normally use black primer). They should be easy to fill in, if you catch them BEFORE you paint the tank. Well, lesson learned; it’s grey primer from now on.

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Since I play World of Tanks, I’ve decided to paint my model using the non-historic bluish-greenish color the French tanks come with. It took me a while to achieve the desired color. I kept mixing different ratio of blues and greens; unfortunately I can’t recall the formula of the most successful one.

I used filters to modulate the color even further.

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I’ve used some left-over decals from a French M5 Stuart to dress it up a bit. (The printing on the decals is awful, but they do give a little color to the tank.) I was seriously tempted to use the branch/leaf camo pattern from World of Tanks, though, but since I was doing a review I decided to forgo the silliness. If I get another French tank that is in the game, I’ll do the pattern, though.

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After some protective varnish I used oil paints to do pin washes and streaks.

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I used pigments for the accumulated dirt: added them dry, and used white spirit to dissolve them. A clean brush helped to make sure the extra pigments are taken away.2016_04_26_0082016_04_26_0102016_04_26_01212016_04_26_0132016_04_26_014

 

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

 

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Introduction

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

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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.

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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.)

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

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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.)

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Assembly

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.

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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.

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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…)

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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.)

 

 

Toldi I, 1/35 Hobby Boss

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The Treaty of Versailles forbade Hungary to possess or to develop armored vehicles after the First World War. Only in the ‘30s did the rearmament start in earnest, later than in most European countries. Some unsuccessful experiments led to the realization that a completely independent domestic tank research and development program would be prohibitively expensive. After some evaluation the government bought the license of the Swedish Landswerk AB L-60 in 1939, and started to manufacture a modified version under the name of 38.M Toldi I, or Toldi A20. (Miklos Toldi was a legendary nobleman and warrior in the 14th century.) The main modification was in the armament: the main gun was changed to the Hungarian-produced 2cm Solothurn anti-tank rifle, and an 8mm Gebauer machine gun. The first order was for 80 vehicles, produced by both the MAVAG and GANZ companies. In 1940 the Toldi received new, stronger torsion springs, and was renamed to Toldi II. 110 such vehicles were ordered. The first combat experience in Yugoslavia during the ’41 campaign highlighted how inadequate the main armament was, so 80 of the Toldi II variants were rebuilt with a 4cm gun, and had their frontal and turret armor increased to 35 mm. Even with these improvements the tank was hopelessly outclassed on the Eastern front by the T-34 and the KV-1, but due to its speed and good radio equipment it was put to good use as a reconnaissance vehicle.

When you evaluate the vehicles produced by smaller nations, keep it in mind that they were not designed to fight the Russian or German war machine originally. Their abysmal performance is due to the fact that they were built to fight military hardware built by similarly small countries; never the “big boys” -and they are the products of the ’30s, so they were already obsolete by the time the war broke out. The fact that Hungary after losing most of its historical territories where the heavy industry was based could produce tanks was a small miracle in itself. The fact that these tanks were not very good is a different matter.

Ironically, Toldi was an incredibly strong guy: showing the right way to Buda with gigantic sticks, retraining raging bulls with bare hands, and throwing milling stones at soldiers. And they named a light tank after him. Go figure.

 

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The Hobby Boss offering was an impulse buy, and one I regretted. The model is no more detailed than a 1/72 scale model, and it has accuracy issues. The build itself can be finished in about two hours. Except for one thing. The tracks. You will hate these tracks. You are given individual track links, which you will have to cut off the sprue (five attachment points each), and glue together. They are smaller than 1/72 Tiger track links. They are thin and easily bend and break. It’s insane. (I never had problems with DML’s pnzI individual tracks, mind you.) The best way I could figure out to work with them was to glue them together two at a time, and then build up longer sections once dry. It’s still horrible; this is when link and length or one-piece, flexible tracks would have been much, much more desirable.

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Base coat is on, and dry fitted the upper hull.4d5f48v

 

Before the tracks are attached the lower hull is painted and weathered.tehrzu8

 

Camo on -I’ve chosen the colorful pre-war scheme. rpddsp13bno5fg1o9oygadwmqel6v

 

Washes and filters… they help accentuate the details, and blend together the different colors. Yellow, green and brown filters prepared from oil paints were used.m0jwcnk

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The decals are thick and they don’t hug the details very well; this is a problem with the large ones.au0afpoh9tplmc

I very lightly dusted the model using Mig’s washable dust. In this case I was looking for a fading-effect, not a dust effect. Once it is completely dry, it’s difficult to remove, so keep it in mind.

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I’ve used pigments mixed with water to make the tank extremely dusty. I decided to use the model for an experiment, if I can create a convincingly dusty tank. After all, these were used as reconnaissance vehicles on the eastern front, and boy, that place was dusty during the summer… I wanted to show a tank absolutely caked in dust. (Next experiment: convincingly muddy tank, caked in mud.)cq6rzig

 

Once the water dried, I used a dry cotton swab to remove most of the pigments using downwards motions. I made sure I left more accumulated in crevices, and around rivets and other details.

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Once I was satisfied I used a pigment fixer to keep everything in place. Since it’s kept in a closed-down display case, even that was unnecessary.

To sum up the experience: not good. The tracks, and the simplicity just killed this model for me; the level of detail, as I mentioned is on par with 1/72 offerings. It took me a long time to finish this model, and I’m somewhat disappointed in Hobby Boss. Their 1/48, 1/72 models are incredible; especially the T-34 series with full interior… but in 1/35 they seem a bit lacking. (The Pnz I F was somewhat underwhelming, too.) I’ve read that they’ve bought up the Tristar moulds, and started producing those kits again -this is a good sign for the future I guess.

Hunor Models 1/72 Csaba armored car – command version

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The 39.M Csaba was the standard armored scout car used by the Royal Hungarian Army during WWII. Some 39.M’s were used by the police force as well, but the main users of the vehicle were the reconnaissance units of the Army.

The Peace Treaties after WWI prohibited Hungary to possess any type of armored vehicles. This was the reason that the design and development of such vehicles only started in the ’30s. The story of the 39.M started with an automotive engineer, Miklos Straussler, and the Weisz Manfred Factory in Budapest. Straussler was an expat, who moved to England in the interwar period, and designed amphibious and off-road vehicles. Probably his most known designs were the flotation system for the DD tanks used by Allied forces during the war and the Alvis Straussler Bomb Trolley. He set up collaboration with the Weisz Manfred factory to produce armored cars and other designs for his home country.

The first armored car prototype –named AC1- was built in 1932 by Weisz using Straussler’s plans. This was followed by the AC2 in 1935. They enjoyed a modest export success, as the British Army ordered 53 AC2 chasses from Weisz Manfred. The engine, weapons, transmission and armor was supplied by the freshly formed joint Alvis-Straussler company in England. The “39.M Csaba felderito pancelkocsi” (reconnaissance armored car, named after the son of Attila the Hun) was developed from the AC2 in Hungary. It was a modern design and a very successful vehicle. The sloped body was riveted using 9mm armor plates. The powerplant was an 8 cylinder German-made Ford engine which gave it a maximum speed of 65 km/hrs. The transmission had 5 gears in both forward and reverse. All four wheels were driven, and the car had two driving positions as in most contemporary designs. It had an excellent off-road performance, but the complex driving arrangement made maintenance difficult, and due to the fuel capacity the range was somewhat limited (150km). It was armed with a 20mm 36M cannon and a 34/37A M 8mm MG in a rotating turret, giving it a respectable firepower. All vehicles were supplied with an R-4T radio, and had a crew of 3 (gunner, driver, radio operator/driver).

After the successful trials in 1939 the Army ordered 41 vehicles first, which was followed by subsequent orders. Altogether 135 39.Ms were built of which 30 was a special command version, the 40.M Csaba. This vehicle had extra R/4 and R/5 radios and a large pneumatic lattice radio mast installed, while the armament was removed.

The Csaba was used throughout the war; unfortunately no example survived.

 

 

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The model comes in the usual Hunor box: sturdy, flat cardboard (it found a new life as a toolbox). The box art is a very nice picture of the vehicle; it mistakenly says 39M (should say 40M, the command version). The parts are in ziplock bags, protected by packing peanuts. There are only 20 resin parts, a small and delicate photoetched fret, and the decal sheet produced by HAD. (My review sample did not contain the decals, so I used the Bison Decals offering of Hungarian tanks; it offers a number of options for most armored vehicles used by the Hungarian Army; in fact I was hard pressed to decide which one I want to use.)

The instructions are quite basic. Most of the time it is not a problem as the model is easy to assemble, but there are some areas where references will come invaluable. The pneumatic arms raising the radio mast, and the lifting hooks on the body need to be made by the modeler, and not much reference is given.

The parts are molded in cream colored resin; the pouring blocks are smartly placed, and easy to remove (with the exception of the turret where you have to saw through the whole base, which is not a design flaw, but a necessity of the molding process). The quality of the resin is very good: I did not find any casting imperfections. The model measures up to scale drawings nicely; the rivets and the armored panels are at the right place, and more importantly, right size. (In small scale models rivets tend to be exaggerated, giving the models a very characteristic Warhammer 40k look.) The included PE fret carries the radio mast and a few small parts for the model. It is very fine and delicate; care must be taken not to break the metal.

 

 

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The construction is quite straightforward and simple; it took me about two hours total. As I mentioned the only part I was worried about was the fabrication of the pneumatic arms, but it was surprisingly easy to make them from Evergreen plastics. I used slow drying superglue to fix the radio mast and the arms, which gave me time enough to position them correctly. The lifting hooks I made are a bit oversized and placed too close to the arms –they should be a bit further up.

The camouflage I chose was a pre and early-war three-color one with big, colorful markings from Bison. I used a paintbrush, as I still had no access to my airbrush when I built this vehicle. (Later in the war a much more subdued overall green or gray color was adopted; perhaps later I’ll build a 39.M in those colors.) Weathering was done using pigments mostly.

All in all, it’s a cool little model, and the antenna makes it look very unique.

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References:
The Magyar Steel, Modell & Makett kulonszam, online photos and the-blueprints.com website.

Churchill GC (1/72 Modelltrans conversion)

 

 

I’ve learned about this tank the first time when it was introduced into the online game World of Tanks, where it acquired somewhat of a hipster tank reputation. (It was so underperforming that certain people felt compelled to play it…) The looks sold this vehicle for me: it definitely looks unique. (Too bad about the in-game stats…)

It’s really difficult to find much information about this tank destroyer online. About fifty Churchill tanks were converted into tank destroyer roles (the numbers vary between 24 and 50) between 1941-’42. The increase of firepower in case of the Churchill was always problematic as the turret was too small to significantly upgrade the gun it can house. The largest guns they could fit was the widely used 6 pounder, and the 75mm gun derived from it. By going the usual tank destroyer way, the tank has lost its turret, but received a larger, more effective gun in return. The 3 inch anti-aircraft gun was housed in a thick boxy superstructure (frontal thickness 3.5inch) using a ball mount. Not one of these conversions saw combat, and were used later on for target practice… as you can see it on the example remaining in Bovingdon.(A shame, really. It would be nice to see this tank restored.)

 

 

 

 

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The Conversion

The conversion comes in a ModellTrans blister pack as usual, which is quite an effective way to protect the parts from damage. Quality of resin is good, so the cleanup is relatively straightforward. The detail is also very nice for this scale. We get a new upper chassis for the Churchill, the boxy superstructure, the gun, and two tool boxes.

One issue with the kit is the track covers. Modelltrans has included the blast covers at each ends; they were only fitted to turreted tanks to protect the covers when the main gun was fired. The reason is probably simple: Modelltrans simply used a mould of an existing upper hull section without any alterations.

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(Just ignore the T18. That’s the topic of the next post.)

The conversion is really easy. It is designed for the DML kits, so I’m not sure if it fits the Airfix, Hasegawa or Italeri offerings, but knowing their quality in comparison to the DML one, it’s probably better to use the DML kit anyway. The resin upper chassis fits very well onto the Churchill model; it can actually be snapped into place. The superstructure’s fit is also quite good, although there were some gaps where putty had to be used. Overall there are no real issues with assembly at all. The conversion essentially builds itself if you shake the box hard enough… One detail is missing: the vertical tubes next to the boxes mounted onto the superstructure. These should not be very difficult to scratchbuild, but I still would have preferred to get them.

 

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The painting went the usual way: black primer spray was followed by a dark green colour. I tried to get it as close as possible to the dark green #24 used by the British forces, but I also needed to lighten it to take the scale effect in account, and to pre-plan for the subsequent weathering steps.

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Highlights were added using the usual Citadel snot green colour… 🙂 (I love their names; bestial brown and vomit brown especially.) I’m always worried these will stand out, but by the end of weathering they usually blend in quite well.

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Weathering went relatively fast. I started with the usual filters -both pre-diluted, and the oil paint-dot methods-, but then wanted to try something quick and fast. I have bought a couple of those Tamiya make-up kits (weathering products that look like a compact make-up kit for women), and tried the sand, light sand and mud colours as filters. If you use light sand and sand in a very thin, irregular layer, it looks like armour discolouration and dust accumulation; a pretty convincing effect when you think about how you achieve it. (By petting your model with a small sponge, essentially.)

These colours went on thicker on the lower chassis to simulate dirt; gunmetal was added to the edges, and the tracks with the same method. I have to say, the results were quite satisfactory, and more importantly: easy.

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Since finally I have bought a new camera (a Nikon D3300), I was playing a little with the aperture settings, and how they affect the field of depth. The difference between large and small aperture is pretty apparent. (Not strictly relevant to our, but an interesting comparison.)

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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.