Unimodel 1/72 Commander’s Tank Pz.Bef.38(t) Build Review
|Date of Review||November 2011||Manufacturer||Unimodel|
|Kit Number||0351||Primary Media||Styrene/PE|
|Pros||Nice detailing||Cons||Tricky suspension alignment, vague decal placement|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$9.80|
When Nazi Germany annexed Czechoslovakia in the late 1930’s one of the prizes was the Skoda tank works, maker of the fine LT35 and LT38 light tanks. Production was continued, and these designs entered Wehrmacht service as the Pz.Kpfw. 35(t) and 38(t) (“(t)” standing for Tschechoslowakei, the German spelling for Czechoslovakia). They served well through the beginning of the war, filling a need between the Panzer II and III.
The Commander’s version included a wooden mock-up turret, which traded the main gun and its ammunition for a second radio set. The four-man crew consisted of a driver, two radio operators and the commander. It was used mainly in the Balkan campaign and on the eastern front, and also served with some of the Nazi’s allies, such as Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
Eventually, Allied armor and armament improved, and the tanks were withdrawn from frontline units. Even after the tank was no longer suitable for frontline service, the chassis was seen to still have value, so a number of other vehicles were designed based on it. This included self-propelled artillery and tank destroyers such as the Marder and Hetzer.
Many years ago, ESCI released the Pz.Kpfw. 38(t), a fine kit, especially for its time, which I don’t believe has been reissued by Italeri. For a long time, that was it. More recently, Attack has kitted many of the 38(t) variants, though their kits are generally harder to find and more pricey. Now UM has come to the rescue with an extensive selection, including this kit of the Command tank.
Inside the standard blue end-opening UM box are six sprues: two copies of A, which contain the wheels and tracks and are common to all of UM’s 38(t) series vehicles. Sprue B, the rest of the hull, C & D, the turret and E has the external frame antenna. The decal sheet has extra markings possibly for other variants, as well as for the schemes in this kit. Finally there is a small fret of photoetched brass, providing fender brackets and an engine intake cover box.
The lower hull goes together easily, along with the rear idler and the main suspension springs. According to the instructions, the upper hull over the driving and engine compartments doesn’t go on until step 10, but really it can go on early, before the tracks, which may help with painting. The fenders, however, will need to wait.
At this point you probably want to paint the road wheels and their rubber tires, as well as the hull that will end up behind the road wheels. The road wheels go on next, but the drive sprockets need to wait until they can be properly lined up while the tracks are being assembled. It is vitally important that you get the road wheels lined up as well as possible, it will make lining up the track pieces a lot easier.
I have to admit, I really like link-and-length track, yes, even in 1/72, so I’ve become a big fan of these UM kits. This is the fifth 38(t) variant I’ve built, so I’m pretty comfortable with these parts by now. The drive sprocket and rear idler wheels need to be aligned and spaced properly to fit the tracks. I’m thinking of making spacers from plastic card next time. Otherwise it occasionally becomes necessary to cut one of the guide teeth off some of the links to get them to fit properly.
The turret can be built up at any time and installed when convenient. The instructions call for it to be added near the end, and not cemented in place. As the turret was a wooden mock-up, and with the radio antenna frame around it, it is probably better to fix it in place. The antenna frame parts are a bit on the spindly and fragile side, and should be left until nearer the end.
After the tracks are in place, the fenders can be added, along with the photoetched brackets. The metal parts are numbered as being from sprue E, but the brass fret is actually F. There’s a nice selection of pioneer tools and other equipment to add to the sides. The intake cover box is the one piece of metal that needs to be folded, but it has nice fold lines etched in place. Normally I recommend heat-treating the brass first to make it more pliable, but in this case it’s not really necessary.
There are two schemes to choose from. The first is listed as 19th Panzer Division on the Eastern Front in 1941, in overall Panzer Grey. The other scheme, which is also on the front of the box, is from the 20th Panzer Division in Panzer Yellow. I used Vallejo paints, and Tamiya Weathering Masters pastels.
The decals are exceptionally matte, and handle well. The exact positioning of the markings is an estimate, as UM’s instructions are not particularly precise.
While I won’t claim to be an expert on the 38(t), comparing the finished product to photos, it looks every bit the part. Comparing it to measurements from various sources, it does seem to be no more than about 5-10cm (scale) too small in each dimension, and that’s not too bad. The fit and detailing is good, and even sprue A, which is used in every 38(t) variant kit seems to still be in good shape.
I love UM kits, I really do, I’ve built a number of them and have more in the stash. I can recommend this kit, though it will help to have a bit of prior experience with short-run kits and link-and-length tracks. The result is a nice little build of a less well-known vehicle.
My sincere thanks to HobbyTerra.com for the review sample!