Perhaps the biggest challenge for recreating any German gun platform halftrack from WW II is the complex slat ďmeshĒ used on the fold-down ramps/sides of the Early War versions. While some photos are indistinct, clear period ones (along with propaganda Wochenschau
newsreels) show the sides are indisputably a complicated lattice-work array thatís not unlike smaller versions of the modern Strykerís slat armor (see photo at right from the excellent book in the "Wings & Wheels" series, Sd.Kfz.7 In Detail
, reviewed by me here
). The ramps presumably gave gun crews a secure footing when in the combat, deployed mode, and were lighter than metal sides. Not surprisingly, both Dragon and Trumpeterís Sd.Kfz.7/1s and 7/2s use fairly conventional photo etch mesh to render the screens. While both are different, both are incorrect.
Dragon in its Sd.Kfz.7/2 and Trumpeter in its later war, armored-cab version of the Sd.Kfz.7/1, both offer the modeler the choice of wooden sides (rendered in styrene) as an alternative. Period photos clearly show that, as was production lagged and Allied bombing disrupted German industry and the availability of steel, the complex mesh was replaced with wood (as were the rear portions of the Sd.Kfz.7 Prime Mover in its Late War version).
Griffon Model has released the most-realistic rendering the slat mesh sides (see my review here
), but the Griffon set is extremely
complicated to assemble: you have to separate steel components from their frets, bend the base frame to shape with the vertical slats in the "up" position, glue all the horizontal slats in-place, then assemble the various sections into a frame that must be glued-together literally piece-by-piece.
As good as the Griffon Model slatted mesh upgrade is, it will not work for the Sd.Kfz.7/2, which has received little PE attention from manufacturers so far. Previously, there was no option except using the incorrect PE mesh supplied by Dragon, or going with the later-war "wooden" sides. Now Kamizukuri has released an upgrade that is a small compromise in authenticity at a HUGE improvement in convenience and ease-of-assembly. Their slatted mesh is made from laser-cut paper
, and they have released sets both for the Sd.Kfz.7/1 (reviewed by me here
) and the 7/2 (the vehicles had slightly different rear panel dimensions).
The set comes in a clear-glassine envelope and includes:
A sheet of 3 laser-cut paper slatted mesh panels plus support brackets
1 fret of laser-cut paper for the pins and latches securing the panels
A sheet of illustrated instructions
The set is almost ready-to-use straight out of the packaging with little more needed than a sharp hobby knife to remove the sections from their paper ďfret,Ē and some viscous white glue. In fact, CA glue doesnít work very well on the paperís slick surface (actually a thick, cardboard-like consistency). Assembly involves separating the panels from the main fret and gluing on the support brackets, then adding some fixtures that secure the sides when in the travel configuration.
One disconcerting element to the set is its smell of burned paper from the laser-cutting process. But thereís nothing strange about the ease-of-assembly or the quick results. Itís important to be careful handling (and painting) the components, as too much torque will cause the various layers to separate. Imagine youíre working with fine balsa wood. The manufacturer recommends putting down a thin base-coat of some description to seal the paperís absorbent surface, though you will not learn this information from the instructions: theyíre almost entirely in Japanese.
The simple assembly steps are rendered with drawings that are easy to understand, but I would have preferred something I could read, and I would urge Kamizukuri to provide an English-language update that could be downloaded from the Tasca website where the products are marketed and sold.
While the laser-cut paper isnít as accurate as the Griffon Model PE mesh slats, itís sooooo much easier to assemble, I canít imagine anyone except the hardest-core rivet counter not wanting to at least consider this option. And in the case of the Sd.Kfz.7/2, this is the only accurate alternative for upgrading the "mesh." Highly-recommended.
Several of you have speculated on adapting these sets to other gun-toting halftracks, but thatís a matter for another discussion.
I want to thank Tasca for sending me this set for review.