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Type 74 MBT

Trumpeter vs. Revell 1/72 Sd.Kfz.9 FAMO 18 Ton Half-Track

By Llarry Amrose

Date of Review April 2009 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Sd.Kfz.9 FAMO 18 Ton Half-Track Scale 1/72
Kit Number 7203 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Fine detail Cons Overengineered in places
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $27.95
 
Date of Review April 2009 Manufacturer Revell
Subject Sd.Kfz.9 FAMO 18 Ton Half-Track Scale 1/72
Kit Number 7203 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Link and length track, good detail for price Cons Limited marking options
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $14.25

Background

With better off-road performance than trucks, halftracks were very popular with the German military. A myriad of different designs and configurations were used, both for combat and support. The biggest of these was the Sd.Kfz. 9, 18 ton, known as the “FAMO” after its maker, Fahrzeug and Motorenbau GmBh in Breslau. It was designed primarily for tank recovery, able to tow most models singly or in teams – three were linked together to handle a Tiger. Some were used to move and support heavy artillery, and others were fitted with heavy cranes. A couple were even fitted with armor and anti-aircraft guns. Powered by a 12-cylinder Maybach engine, over 2000 were built.

The Kits

When I was offered the chance to build the Trumpeter kit of this important halftrack, I thought about the Revell kit I had in the stash and figured that a comparison build would be of use. After never having a mainstream injection kit of this subject, we found ourselves with two in a short amount of time. There's a price difference between them, which raises the questions: Which is better? And which is the better value?

The Revell of Germany kit comes in the familiar end-opening black box and contains 153 parts on 7 sprues. Included is a strip of acetate from which to cut the windshield. It's about 8 inches by 1 inch, and should provide me with the better part of a lifetime supply of 1/72 vehicle windows... Revell has since repackaged the kit a couple times, including a variant with a large rear-mounted spade that was used for heavy recovery. As a matter of fact, my copy included the small sprue with these parts and a brief note apologizing for their presence in the box, but not in the instructions. The tracks are link and length, and rather nice, and the tooling on all parts is quite modern, with nice detail and little flash. It should be noted up front that this is not a small kit, and is marked on the box as Skill Level 5, though I believe that to have more to do with the parts count than with the actual difficulty of the build. There is no photoetch, and the builder is not overwhelmed by a barrage of tiny parts.

The Trumpeter kit comes in their standard grey two-part box, pretty well packed full of mostly individually bagged sprues. The box claims 137 parts, a few less than the Revell, but this is clearly wrong. It does not take into account the second copy of sprue B, containing the other half of the suspension, and a few of the other symmetric parts, nor does it include the 4 sprues of track parts. The tracks are individual links, in fact, each link is made up of two pieces. Needing 47 links per side, there are 4 sprues each containing both parts for 25 links, a total of 200 pieces, more than doubling the total part count. Also included are 3 vinyl tires (more on them below), a length of thread to use with the winch as tow cable, and a small sheet of acetate with the three parts of the windshield stamped into it. The detail is incredibly good, better than the Revell, though as we shall see, much of that advantage appears in parts of the kit that will not be seen unless you intend to modify the kit to open up some hidden areas like the engine compartment. This kit has been reissued with two versions of the heavy crane and in a combined set with the Sd.Ah.116 tank carrying trailer (also available separately).

Construction

FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit
FAMO Kit

Form follows function, so the assembly sequences for these two kits are pretty much the same. Both start with the chassis, suspension and engine. The upper body is built separately and in two parts, to be added to the chassis at the end, so there’s plenty of opportunity for parallel work, even if you’re only building one kit, not two.

The Trumpeter engine and transfer case are extremely well detailed, though much of that detail won’t be seen unless the engine compartment is opened up. Revell’s parts are simplified, but still look sufficiently good from underneath, which is all you can see in a straight out-of-the-box build. Likewise, the Revell winch, which sits between the cargo bed and the top of the suspension is one piece, while the Trumpeter is four, can turn, and includes a length of thread to use as a tow cable.

The design of the suspension is one of the bigger differences between these kits, and leads to the one real “gotcha” I fell for. Revell has the axles for the road wheels molded as part of the frame on each side. Trumpeter opted for separate arms, which, while it offers finer detail, also makes alignment even more crucial. The positioning of these parts is not as precise as might be hoped, and while I worked hard to get the arms on each side lined up in a neat row, I somehow managed to get all of them on one side about 1mm higher than the other. It really wasn’t visible while working on the chassis, but when I went to add the upper body, it became clear and I ended up having to shim one side so that the body would sit right. Be careful.

I like link-and-length tracks, and the Revell tracks are one of the best sets I’ve built. Trumpeter opted for individual track links, each made of two parts. Each link hooks onto a pair of pins on the next link. The second piece is the rubber road shoe, and it attaches over this joint to close it up. Sprue D includes a jig for building the tracks, and I don’t know how it would be possible without it. As is, making the last connection to close the track in place on the wheels, without the jig, is difficult. This is further complicated by a confusing note in the instructions which calls into question whether each side requires 47 or 49 links (turned out to be 47). In the end, I really do think that I got a better, smoother, result from the Revell, though with care, that need not be the case. Certainly, if your goal is a diorama placement on uneven ground, the Trumpeter suspension and tracks will better accommodate that.

Construction of the upper body is straightforward and there are just a couple of differences between the kits. The Trumpeter kit includes a front bumper; the Revell represents an early vehicle without one. The Trumpeter windshield is two parts and three acetate sections, while the Revell is one piece and one piece of acetate to cut out of the provided sheet. The extra material came in handy when one of the panes in the Trumpeter kit popped out and disappeared. The biggest difference here between the kits is the split between the front and rear portions. Revell splits the body between the crew and cargo areas, while the Trumpeter is split at the firewall. I prefer the Revell design as it makes the seam less noticeable.

Neither kit includes a cover for the cargo bed; both include a part representing the support frames for a cover folded down. The Trumpeter kit also includes a jig and directions for using (user-provided) wire to create the framework. Another useful touch if superdetailing, especially in a diorama setting.

Markings

The Revell kit has two paint schemes, the first is from the 11th Panzer Division in overall panzer grey from October 1941. The other is Sturmgeschuetz-Lehrbatterie, February 1943, in a winter whitewash over grey. The Trumpeter includes three schemes. Two are StuG units, the 237th StuG Brigade in Russia in 1943, and the 190th Brigade in spring 1944. They are overall Dunkelgelb (Panzer dark yellow) with irregular patches of red-brown and olive green. The third is in panzer grey, from the Hermann Goering Workshop Battalion in 1942. I used PollyScale and Lifecolor paints, and Tamiya Weathering Masters pastels.

Both sets of decals handle well and the placement diagrams are pretty good.

Accuracy

While I won’t claim to be an expert on the FAMO, comparing the finished products to photos, they look every bit the part. More importantly, for purposes of this review, the two kits are pretty much exactly the same size and match up as closely as I can measure to quoted dimensions.

Conclusion

The detailing on the Trumpeter version is impressive, though a lot of it is hidden when built out of the box. The engine is practically a kit unto itself, and will look great if you want to open up the engine compartment. Likewise, having the suspension arms separate, and the individual track links, will really lend themselves to posing the model on rough terrain in a diorama. Short of that, the extra detail isn’t really of much benefit, and comes at a price.

Revell has done a fine job of concentrating on what will be visible. I found that the link and length track gave a smoother result than the individual links, counter-intuitive as that might seem. I also preferred the way Revell split the upper body. Trumpeter put the split at the firewall, while Revell placed it between the crew and cargo areas. This made it easier to get proper alignment and avoid leaving a seam. The tires (see sidebar) may be the weakest part of the exterior, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker.

Both of these are very fine kits, and it’s hard to go wrong with either. For the advanced builder with ambitious plans, the extra detail in the Trumpeter kit is well worth the added price. For most builders, though, the Revell will do quite nicely. Sitting side-by-side, it’s hard to see that much difference between them. For the price and ease of construction, I have to give the edge to Revell.

Third Wheel: CMK’s resin replacement wheels

Right after I agreed to this comparison review, I was browsing the site of one of my favorite on-line retailers, looking to place an order, when I came across CMK's resin replacement front wheels for these kits. They were cheap enough, and since they wouldn't add to the shipping cost, I went ahead and ordered them to add to this review. The package arrived, and I had in my possession two resin wheels and a small sheet of photoetch containing the locking rings for the wheel hubs.

The next question was which of the two kits' wheels needed replacing, if either. During the builds, as I looked closely at all the parts, what I found was that I had three sets of wheels with very different strengths and weaknesses. Each builder is going to have to individually decide how useful these replacement wheels are. Let's breakdown the different characteristics of the wheels:

FAMO Hubs: The Trumpeter hubs are by far the best, as they are the only ones to fully capture the structure in three dimensions, complete with a limited ability to see through them. The locking ring is a separate plastic piece. While substituting the metal parts from the CMK set might be closer to scale thickness, I don't think it's really that big a gain. The metal rings make the detail of the CMK a little better than the Revell (which has the ring molded in place), but honestly, after paint and a wash, and maybe some weathering, it's not a big difference.

Tire tread: Trumpeter and CMK are pretty even as far as the tread pattern goes. The downside of the Trumpeter (for some people, at least) is that the tires are vinyl. In the past, some Trumpeter vinyl tires have attacked the plastic, though I don't believe these are that kind. To be on the safe side, I made sure the hubs had a good solid, well-cured coat of paint before slipping on the tires. On the other hand, CMK's tires look fine except for the section of each where the treads are interrupted by the attachment points of the resin pour stubs. Certainly you can rescribe the tread or hide the flat sections against the ground (particularly in a diorama), but it does keep them from getting a clear win. The Revell tire has a rounder cross-section, though this may represent an earlier tire type. It's also comes in two pieces, so you get a seam around the tire, though it's not hard to sand out.

Sidewalls: The Trumpeter has the best sidewall pattern, including the manufacturer marks - Continental, a division of a US firm that was taken over and used by the Nazi government. The Revell has decent sidewall detail, but the CMK has no detail whatsoever.

To summarize, the Trumpeter has the best hub and sidewall, but the vinyl tires will be a big turn-off to some folks. The Revell has a decent huband reasonably good sidewalls, but, being two-part, have a seam around the tread, which itself is a little weaker than its competitors. The CMK has a good hub and fine tire tread, which is marred by the location of the pour stub. There is no sidewall detail at all.

In the end, I decided that for my purposes, the Revell sidewall was enough to push past the CMK, and the vinyl tires didn't bother me. Your mileage may vary. The CMK wheels should be available cheaply enough to be a reasonable substitution if you feel strongly enough about the weak points of either of the kit options.

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