This third kit in the Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) series from Tristar is the early Pz.Kpfw.38(t) Ausf.B and as you might expect it shares some parts with the earlier Pz.Kpfw.38(t) Ausf.E/F (kit #35020) and Kpfw.38(t) Ausf.G (kit #35022) most notably the suspension parts but has many new parts for the Ausf.B.
The kit has 262 parts moulded in light beige plastic with an additional 237 individual track links, a revised fret of etched parts and 8 clear plastic parts plus the decal and instruction sheets.
There are a number of options in the kit such as the parts to make the Panzerbefehlswagen Pz.BfWg 38(t) Ausf.B Command version as well as alternate fenders for the open tools or enclosed storage boxes and the large smoke grenades carried on the rear fenders of this some early 38(t)s plus a decal choice for the colourful Slovakian 38(t).
Standard of moulding is again 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/bolts and extensive use of slide moulds to add extra details.
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. 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 and obviously there is a more assembly involved that a one piece hull but the end result is very good.
The bolted front armour plate is the correct early 25mm plate with different details than the later 40mm plate with this and the glacis having a good fit 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 but no interior parts are provided with this kit.
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 the 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.
Alternate full length fenders are supplied for the Command version with the larger storage boxes on both fenders as well as "normal" fenders with locating holes for the separate tools that have moulded on tool clips plus additional etched clips for added details. The 38(t) style perforated storage box is provided in plastic as well as etched parts with additional etched latches if you prefer this medium. The fenders have the raised ribs along the top surfaces with the support brackets moulded on but there is no underside details included.
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 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 and represent the style with the outer row of lightening holes with the rear idlers having the teardrop shaped lightening and details on both sides of the wheel discs and separate hubs. This is the style of drive sprocket and idler wheel most commonly seen on all versions of the 38(t) gun tanks from the Ausf.A to Ausf.G.
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 some fine 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 and easily cleaned up with a sharp X-Acto #11 blade 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 can be used for the ground contact run and glued in place.
The assembled track runs do look impressive but it should be noted that the tracks links are the later type (Ausf.E and later) which have indentations in the side of the guide teeth. The early track fitted to Ausf.A to D 38(t)s had solid guide teeth but otherwise the same. WWII Productions have released a set of early 38(t) tracks (set #35042) with the solid guide teeth if you wish to update the tracks to the appropriate type.
The driver’s plate is the most noticeable difference of the early Ausf.B with it having a curved step instead of the flat plate of the later types and the kit accurately depicts this curved step very well 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, or Besa in British use (for the standard Ausf.B) 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. For the Command version you have the round blanking plate for the machine gun opening as this was not fitted to the Command version.
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 and front plate cut-out does not have the turret ring bullet splash ring which is correct for the Ausf.B with this plate and the angled rear engine deck cover has cut-outs for the separate engine bays doors with the fit of these parts being very good not requiring any trimming or filler, this certainly makes assembly easier as trimming and filler a riveted vehicle can present all sorts of problems.
One feature of the 38(t) is that the hull and turret panels are joined by a combination of domed rivets and domed hexagonal bolts, with most of the vertical surfaces having rivets and the top surfaces (glacis, superstructure and engine deck) as well as the driver’s plate and mantlet having the hexagonal bolts. This is not easy to see at any distance but close examination will show the different rivets/bolts (the new Wings & Wheels 38(t) book shows this in good close-up.)
The different rivets/bolts are represented on the kit glacis but are quite understated on the engine deck and can only be seen with some form of magnifier but the effect is there. This probably gives a scale effect when looking at the kit and it’s good this feature is recognised as it’s easy to overlook, the same comments apply to the Dragon Sd.Kfz.140/1 kit which also incorporate the feature with some bolts more prominent than others.
The engine deck has separate large side opening access doors with the two rows of rivets on the lower angled sides (correct for the Ausf.B) but there is a fine mould seam along the door curve to be removed which is easily done as it is not very prominent. Added under the outer edge of the door are fine intake screens from etched parts with the correct mesh profile 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.
Also provided for the Command version is the large frame antenna over the engine deck which is thinly moulded with additional etched parts for the mounting brackets and makes this version of the 38(t) quite distinctive from the standard gun tank.
Included for this version are the two large smoke grenade/incendiary cartridge clusters which have three launcher tubes on each side and these are finely moulded using slide moulds for good detail and can be added to the back of each fender as desired for a different look. These grenades were only fitted to early model 38(t)s being eliminated fairly soon after on the production lines but they give another nice option to the kit.
This is again made up of separate turret ring, left, right and rear plates as well as separate front plate with the correct revised rivet details for the Ausf.B 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 decal sheet is well printed with a selection of turret numbers and balkenkreuz with four vehicles including the colourful four colour scheme for the Slovakian Army 38(t)s.
The markings are:
The kit follows on from the previous two with the same superb level of detail and good overall fit of the parts, especially the all important lower hull tub for relitively straghtforward assembly.
The alternate parts for the fenders, Command version and the early smoke grenade launchers as well as all the modifications for the Ausf.B make the the standout model of the three 38(t) kits released to date IMHO.
Click for larger image
Panzer Tracts No.18
Thomas L Jentz
Hilary Louise Doyle
LT vz.38 P zKpfw 38(t)
Tank Power Vol.XXI
Wydawnictwo Militaria No.241
|TANKS & ARMOUR:
Ian Allen Publishing
Special Museum Line No.38
Wings & Wheels Publications
|PzKpfw 38(t) in action
Squadron/Signal books #2019
Charles K. Kliment and Hilary L. Doyle.
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Page created February 1, 2007