German Panzer Kpfw.38(t) Ausf.E/F
Tristar Kit No. 35020
1:35 Scale
Partial Build Review by Terry Ashley

Following on from the excellent early Panzer IV series Tristar now present another early War tank in the form of the Czech LT vz.38 light tank which became the Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) when pressed into German Army service with the kit representing the Ausf.E/F variant produced from September 1940 to May 1941.

The kit has 240 parts moulded in light beige plastic with an additional 220 individual track links, 41 etched metal and 8 clear plastic parts plus the decal and instruction sheets.

Standard of moulding is very good with very few pin marks and those present in unavoidable places are quite shallow and easy to remove with only the odd bit of fine flash but overall the parts are quite clean. There are many very small parts that will require care when removing from the sprues and during assembly and the level of detail is very good with well defined rivets and extensive use of slide moulds to add extra details.


Lower Hull:
The lower hull tub is made up of the full length bottom plate that includes the lower front plate with separate hull side panels and the rear plate that when fitted together form the basis for the rest of the kit and as such the fit of these parts is paramount to the final outcome. I’m happy the say the fit was spot on without any warping to start with and precise location that resulted in a perfectly square and robust assembly not requiring any trimming or filler.

I use Tenax-7R cement for quicker bonding than some “conventional” liquid cement and this helps get a perfect fit by minimising the chance of panel movement while the glue dries.

The bolted front armour plate and glacis are also very good fits again not requiring any trimming and the separate glacis inspection hatch is a very snug fit and it is interesting to note that there is interior detail on the side panels and inside of the inspection hatch as well as floor panel detail in the engine compartment giving a hint of details coming if possible future kits in the 38(t) family?

Added to the front plate are the towing shackles and spare track links with separate attachment brace while at the back the circular engine inspection hatch is also a separate part with separate central cap and other small details such as the towing shackles, idler mountings and an impressive exhaust muffler which is a single cylinder hollowed out using slide moulds with separate end cap and pipe with this approach completely eliminating any mould seams or other cleanup needed on the muffler.

Suspension/Running Gear:
The suspension units are made of seven parts each and are designed to be movable if you are sparing with the glue. The bogie mounting plate fits neatly to the lower hull and the large spring is then attached without glue and held in place with a small U retainer (part E25) but this needed the inside deepened a little for a better fit, this is quite tricky due to the small size of the parts.

Next the two outer axles are fitted again without glue and the axle end caps (parts E7) carefully glued in place allowing the axles to move freely and this allows the suspension to rock back and forth to give the suspension articulation, the springs don’t actually compress but it the next best thing.

The eight road wheels have the correct 32 outer rim bolts and 16 inner hub bolts cleanly depicted on both sides of the wheel as well as having the rubber section as separate parts for good definition and also allowing these to be painted separately from the main wheel. The central hub is also a separate part and there is an inner pin that holds the wheel to the axle allowing free movement and this attachment pin is moulded as a hex bolt even though you can’t see this after assembly showing the attention to detail evident in this kit.

The wheels also match available 1:35 plans in the books listed below perfectly as do the other suspension components and most of the hull and turret dimensions with any discrepancies well within acceptable tolerances mostly being less than 1mm.

The upper return rollers also have separate mounting brackets and inner hub with separate rubber sections with the “continental” embossing included and this allows for the very crisp detail on the hub.

The drive sprockets have excellent details on both sides of the sprocket discs as well as having separate hubs with well defined bolt heads as do the rear idlers which again have details on both sides of the wheel discs and separate hubs.

The Tracks:
These are in individual links designed to clip together for fully working track to go with the movable suspension and the details on the links is very good with crisp detail and the moulding process adding detail to the guide teeth, there is a little flash on some links to be cleaned up as well as a few where the track guide has excess plastic but these are in the minority plus the sprue attachment scar for fairly minimal cleanup.

Each link has two small pins and corresponding locating holes on the opposite side of the link and is designed to clip together in the same manner as many resin track sets.

They click together easily but due to the small size of the links the pins and locating hole edges are quite fine and there was a quite high attrition rate where the links simply came apart with only light handling. With care you can assembly enough to go around the driver sprockets and idlers with those that won’t clip together used for the ground contact run and glued in place.

But the assembled track runs do look impressive and add further to the level of detail in the kit.


Upper Hull:
Moving up the full length fenders have very nice raised rib details and attachment brackets on the top but no detail on the undersides with other items added to the fenders such as a five part jack, the distinctive 38(t) perforated storage box in five parts with the holes cleanly depicted as well as the pioneer tools with some tool clips moulded on and others added from etched parts included.

The driver’s plate is the correct straight panel with separate visors that can be shown open or closed with inner etched and plastic details added as well as having clear plastic inside visor details.
The full ZB vz.35 machine gun (called the Besa when manufactured in Britain) is in two halves with the inner gun and outer barrel section with very well defined rib details and this is held in place with the circular retaining plate, the MG barrel is also hollowed out using slide moulds but not to any depth and is more a locating hole for you to drill out the barrel further. The fit of the driver’s plate to the hull tub is again excellent without any trimming needed.

Added to the side plate is the large vision port on the right side with clear plastic inner visor detail and the smaller visor on the left hull side and the two part driver’s hatch has excellent inside padding and latch details included.

The upper hull plate with turret ring cut-out and the angled rear engine deck cover are next to be attached and again the fit is perfect not requiring any trimming or filler, this certainly makes assembly easier as trimming and filler a riveted vehicle can present all sorts of problems.

The engine deck has separate large side opening access doors that have the correct two rows of rivets on the lower angled sides with slide moulds used to get good definition of the rivets but there is a fine mould seam along the door curve to be removed but this is easily done as it is not very prominent and a small price for the crisp latch and rivet details. Added under the outer edge of the door are fine intake screens from etched parts and considering these are impossible to see due to the fenders is an nice inclusion but will look impressive if you add an engine (CMK already have an excellent Praga engine in their set #3049) and the doors shown open.

The small square angled intake at the rear has separate fine plastic grills further enhanced with a fine etched screen to add over the top with the angled sides needing to be bent into shape to fit the engine deck contours, easily done with any of the available etched bending tools.

The Turret:
This is again made up of separate turret ring, left, right and rear plates as well as separate front plate and riveted chin strip with the roof plate and upper cupola made up of additional dozen or so parts.

The fit of the turret panels is good but not as precise as the hull with some minor trimming needed to get a snug fit of the front plate and minor trimming around the rear turret plates, but while this is minor you have to take care due to the many rivets located around the turret panels.

The fit of the cupola panels and visors which have additional clear plastic inner visors is excellent thankfully especially considering the many small parts that make up the cupola. The separate cupola hatch again has superb inner padding texture and can be shown open or closed as you wish.

The 3.7cm main gun is moulded in one piece with just a very fine mould seam to be sanded smooth and the muzzle is slightly hollowed out but again more as a locating point for you to drill out further for a better look. On the inside is a separate three part breech and gun guard with spent shell case bag plus other gun controls as well as the full co-axial ZB vz.35 machine gun the same as fitted to the driver’s plate.

The main gun is designed to elevate as is the telescopic sight which has a movable mounting and elevates in unison with the main gun for an impressive assembly. The instructions show to attach the turret roof before fitting the front plate with gun assembly and this does mean you have a tricky job to fit the gun assembly through the front turret opening. It does fit but it may be easier to fit the front plate and gun assembly before attaching the turret roof.

The two figures from the Panzer I kit are included with only the three quarter Commander figure indicated in the instructions to be used and he has the early war tankers beret with etched ear phone details included.

The large sheet is well printed with a selection of turret numbers and balkenkreuz with six vehicles shown in the instruction all from the early war period in Russian and the Crimea with markings in white, red and yellow for a bit of variety.

Clear parts

Tristar have lifted the bar with this kit which has superb details included with the fit of the parts, especially the all important lower hull tub being a standout and should make assembly as trouble free as you can get.

The level of detail included is exceptional for a small vehicle from the excellent detail on the running gear to the well defined rivets and full 3.7cm gun and this is without doubt the best 38(t) now available and hopefully we will see more in the 38(t) family based on this excellent base kit.

Highly recommended.

The sprues
Click for larger image
Detail images
Close new window to return to review

Panzerkampfwagen 38(t)
Panzer Tracts No.18
Thomas L Jentz
Hilary Louise Doyle
LT vz.38 P zKpfw 38(t)

MBI Publishing
ISBN: 80-86524-01-9
PzKpfw 38(t)
Tank Power Vol.XXI
Wydawnictwo Militaria No.241
ISBN: 83-7219-241-3
PANZER 38(t)

Ian Allen Publishing
ISBN: 071103091X
Pz.Kpfw 38(t)Ausf.A-D
in detail

Special Museum Line No.38
Wings & Wheels Publications
ISBN 80-86416-58-5
PzKpfw 38(t) in action
Squadron/Signal books #2019
Charles K. Kliment and Hilary L. Doyle.
ISBN 0-89747-089-3

Tristar ShopThanks to CK Pat from the Tristar Shop for the review kit.

Page created May 29, 2006

Click Browsers BACK button to return to list
Home / Reviews / Vehicle Reviews / Tristar