by: Russ Amott [ ]
In the spring of 1942, the German army found itself possession of a large number of 7.5cm KwK 37 L24 gun, left over when the Pz. IV and StuG III were rearmed with more powerful guns. The KwK 37 was still highly valued for the close support it could provide and it was quickly adapted to other vehicle roles. One of these was installation on the Sd.Kfz 251 half-track. In June of 1942, two prototypes were manufactured and sent to the Russian front for evaluation. Reports were highly favorable and there was an immediate demand for more vehicles. An order for 150 vehicles was issued and general production started in November of 1942. The initial variant featured a raised platform on the vehicle floor as used in the early StuG III, to the right of the driver, with the gun set where the right front vision port had been. This created a low profile but limited traverse and elevation of the gun. Secondary armament consisted of a single MG 34 or MG 42 on a pintle mount for anti aircraft and close defense. The crew consisted of a driver, commander and gunner. The standard seat for the driver was also of no use as it blocked in the driver's position, so a new seat with a cut down back rest was installed. 52 rounds could be carried internally. A large ammunition box was placed to the left rear of the vehicle, and a shortened bench seat to the right rear. Production shifted to the Ausf. D, and later still a new gun mount attaching to the top of the superstructure which improved traverse and forward depression of the gun. The 251/9 was very popular due to its mobility and potent round. It continued in production until December of 1944.
The Sd. Kfz 251/9 has been available previously in the Ausf. D version, with Tamiya making an early variant and AFV Club and Dragon both offering the later version. This is the first time the Ausf. C has been offered in 1/35th scale as a full kit.
The kit comes in a standard, top opening box with artwork showing the subject vehicle in a green over dark yellow camouflage pattern.
Inside the box the sprues are carefully packaged in individual plastic pouches, which protect the parts from being broken off and getting scratched. The tan color varies depending on the sprues, with some being lighter, some with dark specks (which look like dust on the parts in close up photos) and the newest sprue having a slight translucence. Molding quality is very good overall, though there is some slight flash visible on some parts, such as the road wheels. The flash is very fine and easily removed. A few of the thicker parts, such as the rear seat box, have slight sink marks (at least in my sample) that are easily sanded away. The styrene varied between the sprues, with some being softer, and some being much more brittle.
The road wheels and drive sprockets are well formed, with delicate weld detail around the road wheel rims. For anyone who has built any of the Sd. Kfz. 251 or 11 series from AFV Club, these are the standard sprues seen in the other releases. The sprue attachment points on the drive sprockets are somewhat heavy and care is needed to remove them from the sprue. The tie rod has thick molding points and the styrene is fragile. There is a fairly complete front suspension assembly, including the steering linkage, though the wheels are not pose able for steering without modification of the kit parts, which will require some cutting. The front wheels are molded as halves with the rims and tire in one piece and a small separate hub. There are bump stops for the torsion bars, and each torsion bar has a small attachment pin to set it in alignment. If you choose to show a articulated suspension simply remove this pin.
The actual vehicle body consists of the main hull bottom, which includes the main transmission hump and the oil pan for the engine (no other engine parts are included but would also not be visible on the completed model), and molded texturing on the vehicle floor. This texturing is not as fine as what is found on other sprues, especially that used on the gun mount. As the floor of the Ausf. C and D are the same it is again another part extending back to the first 251 series release. Detail is good and the transmission hump is correctly located. There is also an armored plate for the underside. The vehicle sides are separate parts and are attached to the hull bottom with a rear axle helping to hold the parts in place. I assembled this section to test fit the upper to lower hull sections. The upper hull, which is a single piece molding of the engine cover, driver's armored screen and upper hull sides, fit fairly well, though there may be a need for some putty along the join seam. I have found from prior AFV Club kits that careful sanding of the edges of most parts, especially larger molding, is needed to get a good fit as the seam lines run along the edges of the hull sections. Mounting locations for interior details are shown with fine placement lines.
The driver's compartment includes all pedals and levers as separate parts. The revised driver's seat for the early version is included and matches the seat I have seen in a photograph quite nicely. It seems to be placed back a bit too far, but when checked with a figure the placement is fine. The firewall is also nicely detailed, but there are no decals for the instrument dials. There are basic aftermarket detailing sets, decals and dry transfers available to spruce the interior up as much as you want, though most are for the base 251 or the 251/9 ausf. D. This kit is new enough that there is not anything specific to it yet.
Other interior details include the stowed armored glass vision blocks, MP40, spare magazines and a radio. No transformer or speaker are provided for the radio, so they will need to be sourced or scratch built. Kar 98 rifles are included as well, but any further personal crew items will also need to be sourced outside this kit.
The new raised floor section comes in multiple parts with nice, subdued anti skid pattern visible, as well as the various bolt heads that would have held it all together. A shortened bench seat attaches to the right rear of this part, with the option of the padded leather or wood slat bench provided. Opposite this is an ammunition locker with the individual rounds molded in place (visible only as the end of the shell casing). There are three empty spaces. With some care you can create additional empty spaces to create variation. There are also 20 spare individual rounds provided, 7 of the Gr38 HI/B anti tank round and 13 Sprgr 34 high explosive. Unfortunately there are no tubes or crates for spare ammunition, although there are some aftermarket options for this.
The gun is carefully depicted and moveable when complete. It includes a metal barrel. The barrel does not have rifling visible, but there is no seam line to deal with. It fits neatly into the adjoining styrene part. My basic assembly of the gun shows very delicate parts so care is needed when removing them from the sprue. Also, the mounting holes for the shield around the breech are partially hidden and the parts want to sit crooked. Some trimming and careful fitting is needed to get it right.
Both cast and welded engine air intake covers are offered, so you can better match with your reference photos. The vision ports can be molded either open or closed, though there are no clear glass parts in this kit. Tools are provided to mount on the hull, though the clasps lack detail. There is a small etch fret with parts on it to provide better detail for the gun mount and a transmission access plate.
The tracks are the same flexible vinyl present in all prior releases of the sd. kfz 251. They are highly detailed and very flexible but will require CA glue to join the ends. They are handed as one side is shorter than the other. They do fit nicely around the sprocket. There are a wide variety of aftermarket tracks from AFV Club and other manufacturers so if you prefer individual link tracks you can obtain them.
The instructions are done as line drawings with the parts called out clearly. Placement instructions are good. The instructions call out to assemble the running gear fully early (like nearly all other kits) but most modelers prefer to paint the road wheels and kit separately and then finish assembly. The only error I have found is in step 21, assembly of the bench seat. Part DD-9 should be inserted as the front panel, and not DD-10. There is a 1mm difference between the two.
A paint guide is provided at the beginning of the instructions, with colors listed and corresponding brand matches given for GSI Creos Hobby color, Mr. Color and Mr. Color spray, Humbrol, Revell and Lifecolor. Specific painting instructions are called out during the assembly process. Decals are provided for four vehicles. The decals appear to be printed very neatly and clearly and the carrier film does not appear to be overly thick. There are 4 side color views provided for each vehicle. They are as follows:
16th Pz. Division, Poland, January 1945, full whitewash, with plate WH-1451611
Unknown unit, Eastern Front 1942, German gray, plate WH-1205744
19th Pz. Division, Charkow, winter 1942/43, whitewash over German gray base, plate WH-1262878
Eastern front, summer 1943, unknown unit, mottled green over dark yellow base, plate WH-1449622, yellow 527, "Maria" in script on side. This is the vehicle from the box art.
I was unable to find images of the above listed vehicles to link directly to this review. I have seen a few images online showing some unique camouflage patterns and paint schemes including some hand painted designs. Many with spare track and road wheels mounted on the hull, along with other stowage items. One thing I wish was included with this kit (and all the other 251 variants from AFV Club) are spare links and road wheels and at least a couple of jerry cans.
Overall, my impression with this kit is highly favorable. I have noted in assembly so far that most of the placement holes need to be opened just a bit, or the pins reduced slightly, and as stated above many parts do require some clean up along the edges to get them to fit properly. I have not encountered any major fit issues or mis-molded parts, and only a bit of flash on a few parts. I have used my lunch hour to try and get a bit done as time allows and assembly has gone smoothly. AFV Club has provided an accurate interior and done a very good job overall with this kit, which should be a welcome addition for many modelers. I havenít built a kit yet that didnít need some dry fitting, though some do have fewer. The biggest issues were some of the older parts. Care is needed to identify the ejector pins, and not remove anything that should be left attached but the instructions are clear on this. I do have a minor gripe in that most reference photos I could find show spare track links and even a road wheel or two attached to the vehicle hull. I really do wish AFV Club would include some spares in their half-track kits to address this issue, but that is a personal matter for me. What is in the box has will build up as a very nice model. It would not surprise me to see them follow with and early ausf D variant as they now have the parts.
References used for this review include www.tanks-encyclopedia.com, http://www.kfzderwehrmacht.de