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Kfz.21 Horch Staff Car

Ace 1/72 Kfz.21 Horch Staff Car Build Review

By Llarry Amrose

Date of Review August 2011 Manufacturer Ace
Subject Kfz.21 Horch Staff Car Scale 1/72
Kit Number 72261 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice detailing Cons Short-run
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $21.95

Background

Transporting men and supplies has always been an intrinsic challenge in warfare.  As soon as the motor vehicle was invented, armies were looking for ways to use them. As the Wehrmacht developed the Panzer divisions and other mechanized units, motorized transport became increasingly important.

Trucks carried troops, equipment and supplies, but there were plenty of missions for lighter vehicles. Many civilian cars were impressed into service, but purpose-built vehicles were built as well. Economic conditions in the 1930s led to the orders being spread over many different companies, including BMW, Daimler Benz, and Volkswagen. A variety of sizes of car were produced, four-wheel and two-wheel drive, and even some six-by-sixes. Thousands were built, though a number of the designs were less than completely successful.

The Mittlerer geländegängiger Einheits-Pkw (Medium cross-country standard passenger car) series was produced by Horch, Wanderer and Opel. It was complicated, expensive and hard to maintain, but the engines were good. A number of Horch machines were built as “Commander’s Cabriolets”, and designated Kfz.21, and named Schwere geländegängiger Personenkraftwagen (6-sitzig) – heavy cross-country 6-seat passenger car. That’s the subject of this kit, a field staff car as used by the likes of Panzer General Guderian.

The Kit

Staff cars were ubiquitous, but are woefully underrepresented in styrene. ACE is trying to do something about that.  They have produced kits of an assortment of light transport. Certainly it’s only a few of the literally dozens of different vehicle types that saw service, but it’s a start. Some of these are now out of production at ACE, but still available through on-line retailers.

Inside the attractive lightweight lid and tray box are three sprues of moderately soft light gray plastic.  The first contains the wheels and chassis. The next contains the car body and interior. The last is the suspension and transmission. This sprue had the most flash and a slight molding misalignment, which makes me think that it is common to some of ACE’s other kits. There is no photo-etched brass, just a small decal sheet, containing three sets of license plates and some command pennants. ACE’s decals are generally nicely thin and matte, though in this case the sheet disappeared before reaching my workbench.

Make no mistake, this is a short-run kit, and some care will be needed in the construction.  Still, “short-run” doesn’t quite mean what it used to.  Gone are the crude castings, prominent ejector towers and huge sprue attachments. Careful cleanup of the parts and lots of test-fitting will be the order of the day.

The instructions are the fairly usual folded page, with one page of parts diagram, two pages of construction, and one page with three paint schemes. The construction diagrams are a mixed bag, with a couple of exploded diagrams, but most of the parts shown in place.  In a few places, this can make it harder to figure out exactly where certain parts are to be attached.  There is no historical account or statistics, but ACE has an interesting solution.  Their website includes almost every kit, even those currently out of production.  Each page has pictures of the sprues and links to walk around photo essays of real examples on display. 

Assembly

Construction consists of six steps.  The first two cover the underside of the chassis, with the suspension, transmission and exhaust system.  As I mentioned earlier, the instructions are not always clear, showing some parts in place and not how to get them there. The trickiest part here is #18, the muffler and exhaust pipe. There is no indication of exactly where the part lines up, but patience will be rewarded. The floor of the body is not explicitly directed to be mounted on the chassis frame, it’s sort of implied between steps 2 and 3. Once it is installed, though, there is a hole in it for the front (engine) end of the exhaust pipe to be connected to. Once that end is lined up, the muffler can be simply glued to the side of the frame, and the exhaust will end up where it belongs.

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Step three adds the seats and gearshift and handbrake to the floor of the body.  Step four builds the engine compartment, the firewall/windshield and the dashboard. There is a small inset drawing showing the position of the steering wheel, and templates for making the windshield and side windows from clear sheet. By this point you will need to have done most of the painting, particularly in the passenger compartment.

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The fifth step adds the sides and rear of the body. The diagram is not very clear, but once you have the parts in hand, you’ll see the alignment is pretty straightforward, especially if you dry-fit in the sides while installing the firewall/windshield. The templates for the windows are a single piece for each side, even though the installation drawing seems to show them split into two parts. At the end, when the roll bar is to be installed, it will go a lot easier if the windows are split with a small gap. Cutting and sanding a groove afterwards was an unpleasant task that can and should be avoided.

The last step covers most of the small bits like mirrors and headlights, and directions for fabricating the command pennants and their mounting masts. The folded-down canvas top goes on here, but it will help if it’s been dryfit with the rear of the body at various points along the way.

Painting and Finishing

There are three paint schemes. The first two are General’s staff cars from the invasion of Russia in 1941 in Panzer Grey. One is from Army Group Pennault in December, the other belongs to Panzer General Guderian during the summer. I’ve seen pictures of both of these subjects online. As staff cars, they include command pennants to be wrapped around masts the builder will have to fabricate.

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The third scheme is the one from the box top, from the ever-popular “Unit unknown” in Italy in the summer of 1944. It is overall Panzer Dark Yellow with an irregular squiggle of olive green and red brown. The only markings it has are the front and rear license plates

As the decals had gone walkabout on the kit’s way to me, I had to improvise. I decided to keep it simple and went with Panzer Grey (you’re not reading this for a demonstration of my painting skills…) and dug up a set of license plates from the decal dungeon. As the ones I could find in the right size were from an old Hasegawa kit, they’re more ivory than white, but a little dirt and grime weathering hides a multitude of sins.

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Conclusions

This is not an easy kit. The moldings are not as crisp as you get from the newest and fanciest big makers, and the fit is tricky. Still, with some care, it will build up into a nice model that will be a unique addition to a diorama.  There are a few pieces which the builder must fabricate, though the directions are very clear about providing templates to work from. I would not recommend this kit to a beginner, but anyone with some experience with short-run planes or tanks should do just fine.

My thanks to HobbyTerra.com for this review sample.

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