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M4A3

Tamiya 1/35 Sd.Kfz.131 Marder II Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review June 2007 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject Sd.Kfz.131 Marder II Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35060 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Still a nice model despite its 30+ years Cons Motorization holes remain
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

 

 

First Look

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In the summer of 1941, German forces on the eastern front were elated with victory, but – as they advanced east, ominous signs increased little by little. That is, they came to be confronted by the partisan guerilla tactics of the Russian people and strong Russian tanks typified by the T-34. The ominous signs were illustrated in official reports and communications sent in rapid succession from field forces, which said that German weapons, then in actual use, had already became outdated.

The periodical report, No. 156, from the tactical staff of the 3rd Tank Division said about the toughness of the T-34’s armor as follows: “We had Second/Lieutenant Steup shoot a T-34 tank with his 50mm tank gun. One time at a distance of 20 meters and four times at a distance of 50 meters. As a result, we have found that even the armor piercing shell, model 40, is not effective against the T-34. This is really worth noticing.”

This report meant that even the 50mm anti-tank gun, model 38 – the best anti-tank gun then used by the German tank troops and anti-tank gun troops was no match for Russian main battle tanks.

The German Army ordered the Ordnance Bureau to develop new anti-tank guns in haste and at the same time studied how to fill up immediate needs. It was necessary to help infantry division’s anti-tank battalions, then equipped mainly with 37mm anti-tank guns, out of their miserable condition.

To meet crying needs, the German Army paid attention to the Russian 76.2mm multi-purpose field gun. The Germans already captured a large number of guns of this type and their ammunition in the initial stage of the war against the Soviet Union. The 76.2mm field gun, with 54 length caliber, muzzle brake, high-velocity and low trajectory was powerful enough to harass the Germans. It was called “Ratch Bumm” by German soldiers. (I haven’t got a translation for that).

The German Army Ordnance Bureau decided to mount the Russian 76.2mm gun on the chassis (open-topped body) of the Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf. D and E by way of makeshift, until the 75mm anti-tank gun – Pak 40 – which was nearing completion was put into production. The 76.2mm equipped self-propelled gun tank II, types D and E (Sd.Kfz.132) was nicknamed “Marder II”.(Marten is the English equivalent to the German Marder) and 150 were manufactured from December 1941 until June 1942.

Early in 1942, German weapons and tactics against Russian tanks saw a beam of hope on the horizon. The production of the 75mm anti-tank gun got fairly under way and guns of this type came to be delivered in succession to anti-tank gun battalions. In addition, the main gun of the Pz.Kpfw. IV was reinforced.

Encouraged by the great popularity of the Marder II, the Ordnance Bureau ordered, on May 18th, 1942, to mass-produce the self-propelled anti-tank gun II equipped with the new 75mm gun – Pak 40/2 – instead of the Russian 76.2mm gun. In those days, the Pz.Kpfw. II already had became out-dated in fighting power and could not be used in missions other than reconnaissance and communications. Thus was born the 75mm self-propelled anti-tank gun II, types A, B, C and F (Sd.Kfz. 131) – also called “Marder II” –based on the chassis of the Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf. A, B, C and F. The body was remodeled by Alkett of Spandau and the 75mm gun was modified by Rheinmettal AG.

The 75mm anti-tank gun, Pak 40/2, it’s wheels, legs and suspension were removed, but shield and sight remained as they were. It was mounted in the center of the Pz.Kpfw. II whose body top was completely removed. Large 10mm armor plates were fixed to the body sides. The armor plates were designed to protect the crew from bullets and shell fragments, but slightly reduced the angle of traverse from 65 degrees to 57 degrees left and from 32 degrees to 25 degrees right. To protect the gun barrel from vibration, when the tank was moving, a large travel brace was fixed to the front of the body.

The Marder II carried a crew of three, commander, driver and loader. The commander had to grasp the situation in battle and also fire the gun. The driver had to serve also as radio/signal man. The loader was also kept busy during fighting. He had to bring and load, all by himself, firstly – 7 shells, kept on the back over the engine cover, secondly – 24 shells on the left-hand rack and thirdly – 6 shells on the right-hand rack.

Some changes, based on battle experience were seen in vehicles manufactured from the end of 1942 onward. The handle for starting the engine was moved to the rear of the body and the wireless apparatus, originally mounted beside the driver, was shifted to the right of the loader in fighting compartment. These changes were made because the driver served as the feeder of shells when fighting and also probably because the Marder II self-propelled anti-tank gun showed itself at its best in defensive action of attacking the enemy from ambush, rather than in offensive action. Employed at about the same time were new headlights and an anti-aircraft machine gun – MG42, which were standard equipment of German tanks in those days.

The production of the Marder II self-propelled anti-tank gun was started in 1942, but stopped in February 1943 by order of Adolf Hitler, who intended to concentrate efforts on the manufacture of the “Wespe” self-propelled howitzer. In those months, 531 were manufactured.

The Marder II was one of the valuable vehicles that served as makeshifts for about 2 years, from the beginning of the German – Soviet war to the appearance of typical tank-destroyers on the eastern front. The Marder II self-propelled anti-tank gun delivered to poorly equipped anti-tank gun companies in infantry divisions rendered distinguished service as an important weapon to protect infantrymen from Russian heavy tanks.

Tamiya released this kit back in 1971. It is still around and has been re-issued a couple times. I bought my copy back then at the whopping price of $6.50. Inflation, over the years until now has more than doubled that price. For state of the art, for 36 years ago, the kit is pretty good.

DML Dragon recently produced a kit of the Marder II (kit no. 6262 – reviewed elsewhere on this site) and there is really no contest as to quality, although this old Tamiya kit is really not something to sneeze at. I thought that it would be good to review the older kit. I was the ONLY SHOW IN TOWN until DML did theirs. Tamiya also did a Pz.Kpfw. II kit, earlier, and this was one of the first armor kits I ever built. I even motorized that one.

The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art is Tamiya’s usual illustration of the vehicle in the kit, posed on a white background. In this case, a vehicle with the nick-name “Kohlenklau” (Coal Thief) with a illustration of a mustached character and the letters “IA” in a triangle (marking included in the kit).

The kit contains 166 tan parts (on 3 sprues-each individually cello bagged), rubber-band type treads and 18 tan vinyl poly caps. The instructions and decal sheet complete the contents. The upper and lower hull pieces are individual and loose.

I purchased my kit when it was first released. It is in the Japanese box with all Japanese language instructions. However, a net friend of mine sent me copies of the English instructions.

The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into eight pages.

Page one starts with a black and white repeat of the box art, followed by the history of the Marder II.

Page 2 gives a parts listing, parts tree drawings and a photo of the kit made up.

Pages 3 through 7 give a total of 16 assembly steps.

Page 8 is the painting and decal application instructions. Only one marking, the one for “Kohlenklau” is described. We are not told what outfit it was with. Division marks for the 320th Infantry Division, the 216th Infantry Division, the 168th Infantry Division, the 16th Mechanized Infantry Division and the 16th Panzer Grenadier Division are included on the decal sheet, but only illustrated by themselves. A tactical mark for self-propelled anti-tank guns is included also.

A small sheet in the kit shows different figure kits that Tamiya manufactures. This is all in Japanese also.

Tree letter A holds all the parts for the main gun, it’s shields and four spent and six live ammo rounds. I am not sure which caliber this gun is. If it is the Russian 76.2 or the later 75mm? I suspect it may be the later of the two. (46 parts)

Tree letter B holds side armor plates, radio empty rack (no radios provided), some tools, a tow cable, gun travel lock, an MG34 machine gun and it’s ammo drum, a MP40 machine pistol in storage box, ammo lockers etc. (43 parts)

Tree letter C holds: Two standing crew figures, road wheels, drive sprockets, return rollers, wood crates, idler wheels, fighting compartment floor, rear bulkhead, wood cases, tail pipe, transmission housing, spare track links etc. (72 parts). It is a shame that Tamiya does not provide the radios in the rack as one of the figures has earphones molded onto his head. Fortunately, I have an after-market set of radios by VLS that I can add. I also have an Elefant brand turned-aluminum gun barrel for this kit.

Then there are the top and bottom hull parts. The hull bottom has the suspension arms molded solid into the sides of it. So, you can only pose the tank on level ground.

The vinyl tracks are of the type that has to be stapled or hot welded, not the newer glueable type. The poly caps are to be used to hold the road wheels, idler wheels and drive sprockets on the model.

As mentioned above, there is a radio rack in the kit, but no radios to go into this empty rack. This is a shame, as it is quite visible in the fighting compartment where it is to be mounted. Being an early generation Tamiya kit, this model also suffers by having the motorization holes in the lower body tub part. Tamiya used to issue most of their armor kits, way back when, with electric motors in them – aimed at the kiddie market of kids that wanted to make their tank go brum brum brum across the floor. These holes will have to be puttied up for a more accurate static model.

Don’t get me wrong. For state of the art, back in the early 1970’s, this is a decent kit. What it has over the newer DML kit is the two-man crew included and the detail is pretty good too.

Recommended to modelers that want to save some money vs the price of the DML kit and are not too worried about the lesser detail in the Tamiya kit. An OLDIE, but still a GOODIE – considering the age of the molds.

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