German Panzer Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. G Panzerbefehlswagen Pz.BfWg 38(t) Ausf. G
by Cookie Sewell
|Stock Number and Description||Tristar 1/35 Scale Kit No. 35022; German Panzer Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. G/Panzerbefehlswagen Pz.BfWg 38(t) Ausf. G|
|Media and Contents:||543 parts (484 parts in tan styrene, 51 etched brass, 8 clear styrene)|
|Review Type:||FirstLook and FirstBuild|
|Advantages:||Subtly different from the earlier Ausf. E/F kit; options for either command or line variant of the tank, very nice track sets'|
|Disadvantages:||tracks are not particularly fun to assemble (see text)|
|Recommendation:||Highly Recommended for all early war German and "Small Army" fans|
The TNHP-S has so far been served by the old Italeri kit and another from Alan in Russia, but now Tristar has come out with not one but TWO kits of this popular little tank. Following right on the heels of their very nice Ausf. E/F kit is one of the Ausf. G. This one does not come with figures but it does come with a lot of options and also the ability to make it as an early command tank with the "handrail" antenna.
According to the 2002 Francev/Kliment book on the TNHP-S tank, or "Praga" (I messed up earlier; while the tanks were later built at the famous "Skoda" works they were a CKD design and the term "Praga" is named in honor of the Czech capital – Prague) reached its final tank design with the German Wehrmacht in the Ausf. G in 1941; an H model was forecast but the tank was then considered obsolete, but the reliable and useful chassis were used instead for self-propelled antitank guns. 306 of these tanks (and an extra 184 turrets for fortifications) were built (serials 1101-1359 and 1480-1526) with production terminating on 20 June 1942.
The G was little different from the F that preceded it, having basically some changed fittings and new stowage and rearrangement of items like the "Notek" light to provide better protection to fragile components.
Roughly one tank in 20 was built as a command vehicle, and to augment the normal Fu 5 radio set with pole antenna it mounted an Fu 7 or Fu 8, which required both the removal of the main gun and the installation of a "handrail" antenna around the rear of the hull. To avoid being singled out for destruction, a high-quality dummy gun nearly identical to the normal 3.7 cm gun was installed. These tanks had two radio operator/machine gunners instead of one radio operator/machine gunner and gunner.
With input again from Tom Jentz (who again gets a free plug for "Panzertracts" books on the bottom of the box!) this kit also provides for all known basic options of the Ausf. G. More than 60 parts from the Ausf. E/F are changed out for new sprues (surprise! Tristar makes NEW sprues, not "mix and match" ones!) and a new sheet of etched brass is included. This kit does not come with figures, however, to keep things balanced and prices about even. There is a choice of fenders and stowage bins provided, as well as a lot of smaller bits. There are some minor quibbles (some of the bolt and rivet patterns appear to be carried over, but since it is removal and not addition it is pretty minor stuff to me) but overall it matches well with plans and photos.
Having built the E/F, I can make the following comments on the G. This is a very precisely engineered kit, and as noted above if parts don't fit then it is YOUR fault and not Tristar's! I had some fit problems which soon turned out to be "operator error" on my part and not theirs.
Assembly starts with the wheels, which are very delicate and require a great deal of care in assembly. Tires for the road wheels and return rollers are separate parts, nice if you want to paint them before installation, and since the last step is installing the tracks you may prefer that. Like nearly all "flat kits" (belly, sides, and rear plate as separate parts) the hull is next, and you will have to take care to find the detail parts on the very compact and busy sprues.
In Step 4 you begin using the clear parts; note that part G-3 is mounted as far to the right in the glacis opening as possible in order to clear handle C-19 if the visor C-18 is left in the open position. There are two visor styles for the right side, G-1 and G-2, but I have no idea what the difference is and simply used the G-2 one. Mounting the bow machine gun is tricky as the handles are difficult to get through the opening in the glacis and take some finesse.
Step 5 – tools and stowage – come with very nicely done brass straps with buckles, clasps and even "belt notch" holes in them. I suggest annealing them over an alcohol lamp to make them easier to bend. The rest of the step lists a large number of options. I must say that Tristar's directions are much easier than DML's to follow in figuring out where all the parts go, and what is and what is not an option.
Step 6 covers the upper hull and again note that all parts are a snug – but correct – fit. I suggest mount the rear deck frame (A-4) first as it has to have its rear edge butted against the rear plate and not on top of it. The driver's hatch is nicely done – padding is molded on the inside and no ejection pin marks. (There are some on the inside of the hull and under the fenders, but none in any place of importance.)
The smoke candle box in Step 7D is somewhat tricky to assemble, for the slotted section (part D-45) is the only one that did not seem to self-align. Once assembled the box fits well on the stern plate. The only problem I found in the entire kit worth mentioned took place here. The E/F kit offers you the adjustment splines for the track tensioning devices (parts E-33) or covers for them (E-34) but suggests that the covers go over the splines. That flat out will not work, as the covers are supposed to fit flush and if assembled per kit instructions there is a good 2 mm of daylight under them. I left the covers off, but I think the right choice would be to install the covers and skip the splines. The G kit splits the difference and shows an open spline E-33 on the left, and a covered one E-34 on the right! Go figure.
Step 8 is the initial turret assembly and it requires care. If you do it right, the gunner's telescopic sight (B-26) rotates with the gun and this is visible from the front of the turret. Step 8-3 covers the commander's cupola and if you take your time and care the entire assembly literally goes together without any seams that should not be there.
In Step 8-4 – turret body – I cemented one side in place, then the back, then the other side, and finally the roof and front skirt. This way I was able to align all the parts and again, no gaps. The turret front is a dead-on fit and the side plates (C-14 and 15) also snug up without seams.
Step 9 starts with the rail antenna installation, which is pretty straightforward. But note that the plastic bits have to have brass footers to attach, so it will require some care to align the entire assembly.
Last is the track installation; I did one their way and one my way. Their way is simply snapping the links together and installing them, but most of the pins are too weak to hold so it was more than a bit frustrating. I did make a small jig for assembly out of a section of 0.080" square (2mm) strip glued to a section of 0.040" sheet (1mm) to assist in alignment. "My way" was to use Tamiya "Orange" cement and make sections of ten with the pins filled off the end sections, and then assemble them on the model. It was faster and a LOT less frustrating!
The kit provides decals and finishing instructions for three different tanks: a command tank with a generic "R01" in red and white on "Panzergrau;" a line tank from the 1st Armored Division (Hungary), Estergom 1942; and a tank from the 9th Company of the Armored Brigade, Bulgaria, 1944. I suggest a good source of photos though, as the finishing directions are pretty spartan and do not match with comments in the Francev/Kliment book.
Overall, this is a dandy little kit and will be a fun project for just about anybody. It is an incredibly precise kit to assemble and it's fun for me when you don't have to get out the body putty!
Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample