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First Look Review
135
Bergepanzer 38(t) Hetzer
1/35 German Bergepanzer 38(t) Hetzer Late
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by: Dave Shick [ ILLINI ]

Introduction

In the fall of 1943, a high number of disabled Panzers and a shortage of traditional recovery vehicles (such as the 18 ton FAMO) led to a decision to convert existing panzer chassis into Bergepanzerwagen (“salvage tank” from the German verb Bergen. In mid ’44, Panzer III chassis were converted, and then later that year, the Panzer IV (Trumpeter and Dragon kits exist). During the same period, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) (Hetzer) was “chopped” to produce the Bergepanzer 38(t).

The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was a pre-WWII tank of Czech origin. After Germany took over Czechoslovakia, it was used in some further campaigns. However, it proved of inadequate armament, but apparently had a useful chassis. The chassis was used as the base of the Hetzer and Marder III vehicles. The designation of 38(t) indicates the Czech origin (tschechisch) which commonly indicated a captured vehicle (which is actually true in this case, but a bit removed). Over time, the “(t)” was dropped, but either designation appears to be correct.

Initially this recovery version of the Hetzer was only equipped to tow mired tanks. A large bracket was bolted to the rear, allowing towing bars or cables to be attached. However, this proved problematic, as the vehicle only had its own weight and traction to use on what was presumably soft ground. Eventually, a retractable spade was added to the rear, and a winch was placed in the interior. Powered from the vehicle’s transmission, it now had a lot of “pull.” The spade would be lowered, then the 38 was backed up a few feet to drive the spade into the ground, effectively locking the whole thing in place. The winch cable was then extended through the rear and over the spade to the vehicle to be extracted. This allowed the full power of the winch to be used, without the 38 itself moving.

A jib boom crane was also available for light lifting, perhaps engines, tracks or wheels, but certainly not an entire panzer. I say this because the boom of the crane extended well beyond the body of the vehicle. This would have provided a huge lever advantage to whatever was being lifted, resulting in tipping the recovery vehicle itself. Recovering a recovery vehicle is not a desirable outcome.

Now, for those of you with a terminal case of “too much time on your hands,” LZ models have added to their dispensary of cures a kit of the Bergepanzerwagen 38(t) (Hetzer). The kit is 1/35th scale, and is available in both the early and late versions (see below). This review covers the late version, but the early version is a subset of that kit. Both use either the Tamiya "middle" Hetzer or Dragon’s "late" Hetzer as a base. The kit I received portrays the later version, with an “early” version available without the spade, along with some minor changes in the exhaust area.

the kit

This is a multi-media kit, which consists of (according to LZ) 138 resin parts, 300 PE parts, plus all the bits of wire, chain, plastic rod, etc. needed (maybe— see below).

The resin parts count is somewhat exaggerated because of the multiples of the same part. For example, there are 24 tiny bolts (see picture), and several equally-tiny wing nuts. On the PE sheet, there are dozens of one tiny part I haven’t found in the instructions yet.

The parts break down into several categories, or sub-assemblies, as follows:

• Sides and superstructure
• Transmission and drive train
• Winch
• Jib crane and hoist assemblies
• Fenders
• Exhaust and cooling
• Spade

In addition to the resin and PE, various bits required are supplied, which I think is a nice touch. These include:

• Really fine chain for the hoist
• Copper rope for the winch
• Wires of various sizes
• Plastic rod, and a tiny bit of sheet plastic
• A block of balsa which, according to references, is an "un-ditching beam.” This would scale up to 13” square by eight feet (big?)

I have provided pictures of all the parts, with close-ups of some of the tiniest bits.

The instructions are provided on a DVD, and are a 40-page photographic history of a build of the model. The instructions, in full, can be downloaded as a pdf from the LZ website here.

The review

I have classified this as a “preview” review, because unlike most other reviews I do, I will not attempt a build at this time. My skills with resin and PE need to mature a bit first. Also, I’m not in a position to judge the millimeter accuracy of this kit; references aren’t available (to me anyway) allowing that.
One factor that limits LZ’s options is that the lower half of the total is based on either Tamiya’s or Dragon’s Hetzer kit.

I cannot find a review of the Tamiya kit here on Armorama, but there is one on a noted Southern Hemisphere site, which rated it 8/10 with no significant issue with the parts. There is a review of the Dragon kit (6030) here which wasn’t kind to that kit. The instructions do indicate that things may go easier with the Tamiya as a base. I test-fitted a side panel, and the front and rear panels to both (see pictures), and I agree they fit the Tamiya much better. In the pictures the Tamiya parts are dark beige (as usual) and the Dragon are dark gray.

In general, I would say the resin parts have excellent detail and fit. For resin, there is very little flash or other annoyances one usually gets with resin. I found only one casting “divot,” which is on the tip of the spade; this can be easily corrected with a bit of putty.

Libor (the L of LZ) has been producing incredibly-detailed resin parts for some time. I purchased his “spares” for the BR86 some time ago before he began his company. His castings, then and now, are of incredible detail, even with the tiniest bits. Speaking of tiny, check out the bolts next to a dime (there are 12 of them per block). Unlike most other resin kit makers, he actually provides some spares, which is good, because I lost one just unpacking things for the pictures.

The PE under magnification contains some minute detail. There are some ridiculously small parts, some of which I can’t begin to figure out how to handle. This is one area I think the instructions need improvement. The PE parts are often shown after they have been bent, and soldered or glued to other pieces. It would be nice to know how they got that way. One other issue I have is that the PE comes “naked.” These days, in my limited experience, PE comes “dressed” in a sandwich of clear sticky plastic film to keep the little bits from jumping to their death.

I mentioned above that there might not be enough of some of the wire and chain. The kit supplies about 9 inches of the chain, and copper wire for the winch. This is enough to show the vehicle in transport mode, but not enough for a diorama of the crane deployed, or an extraction in progress using the winch and spade.

One final comment: the instructions end with the model complete, but only primed. There is brief mention of a paint scheme, but no details. Certainly the interior would need to be painted and detailed before the sides are added (at least the transmission area).

Conclusion

Despite the negative comments above, I’m confident that this kit is capable building into an incredible model of the Bergepanzer 38(t). I say capable, because it will take more than average skill and experience, plus tons of patience (that time thing) to produce great results. The instructions do suggest that you consider using kit parts where you’re OK with that.

To judge if this is something you want to attempt, study the photos included, and better yet, go to the LZ website and download the instructions. I leave that decision to you, but I would. I plan to be retired soon, and hope to have that “too much time” problem to solve.

References
You can, of course, find information on the Internet. However, the same pictures seem to show up over and over. I have a book I bought for the Hetzer in general entitled Hetzer and G13 published by Kagero. Their website is here

Panzer Tracts No. 16 is a short (and cheap) book specifically about Bergepanzerwagen including a section on the Hetzer-based vehicle with several pictures, and line drawings of both the early and late versions. The line drawings are helpful, but not detailed enough to use for measurements.
SUMMARY
Highs: A precision model of a very rare and interesting subject. The exacting detail LZ is known for.
Lows: May be too difficult for most modelers. A little pricey when you add in the base kit needed.
Verdict: Will be an excellent model for those with the skills and experience to pull it off. A real showstopper.
Percentage Rating
95%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 35402
  Suggested Retail: 55 Euro
  PUBLISHED: Nov 12, 2011
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 82.14%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.09%

About Dave Shick (Illini)
FROM: CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES

Copyright ©2017 text by Dave Shick [ ILLINI ]. All rights reserved.


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Comments

I bought some of Libor's left overs as well and his German Box car. If this is anywhere near as good as those we are all in for a treat then.
NOV 12, 2011 - 07:36 PM
I especially appreciated the use of US coins to show the relative size of some of the components. That will help a lot of modelers (including me) decide whether they've got the skills to pull this off (as I do not)! Thanks!
NOV 13, 2011 - 11:29 AM
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