Roden has sent a kit of the sd.kfz 4/1 (8cm) Raketen-Vielfachwerferauf Panzerwerfer 42, already given an excellent review by Matthew Lenton
. This review will hopefully compliment his work on the kit. I have tried to keep the build as strict to the instructions as possible.
The history of the vehicle is as follows, taken from the front of the instruction booklet. In 1941 the German army was astonished by the Soviet BM-8 and BM-13 Katyusha rocket launchers and demanded a similar weapon. In response, a 158mm rocket launcher system developed by Rudolph Nebel and was mounted on the Opel Maultier halftrack. The weapon was superior to the Soviet launcher, but the volume of fire of the large caliber rockets was slow. As a result, a new rocket was developed at the SS Troops Academy research center. It was basically a copy of the Soviet 82mm rocket improved by the German team. In place of the tubes of the 158mm rockets, a rail launching system was also developed, again copying Soviet designs. The new system carried 48 rockets on 24 rails mounted on a swiveling, elevating platform at the rear of the sd.kfz 4/1. They were nicknamed "Himmler's Organs" because of the unique noise they made when firing their rockets.
The vehicles first arrived at the front in 1944. They were more efficient and accurate than their Soviet counterpart, but were inferior in firepower to the 158mm rockets. As a result, they were not widely used in combat and it is unknown how many were actually built. My search for information online yielded little to add to this history, and there are very few photos of the vehicle. The launcher was apparently installed on other half-tracked vehicles, in addition to the Opel Maultier. One pair of photos found at axis history shows a prototype with an extended crew compartment.
The kit comes in an end-opening box, with the sprues packaged in plastic pouches. Most of the sprues are identical to those from the Sd.kfz 4/2 munitions vehicle I previously reviewed. They appear to be in similar condition, with some rather good detailing on some parts, but with considerable flash and heavy mold seams on others. The plastic is somewhat soft but brittle. Sprue attachment points are fairly heavy, and will require considerable care to remove. I tried sprue cutters and found they compress the plastic too much, and could damage or break parts. As a result, my experience was that it was best to use a sharp knife to remove parts from the sprues. Parts breakdown is as follows:
, with the hull tub and upper body half, fenders, hatches and doors, engine parts and body attachments. The hood, rear doors and rear hatch are all grooved and can be shown open. The detailed engine will look nice when completed but the interior is quite bare.
,X2, front tires, front suspension parts, interior compartment dividers-ammo racks, doors for the storage bins, seats and hatch covers.
, X2, new for this kit, with 12 launchers and rockets, one brace and bracket.
, X2, rear running gear.
, suspension frame and drive axle.
, vinyl track runs, two lengths.
There is a small decal sheet providing markings for two vehicles. First is SS-122181, unknown unit "Waffen-SS", at Breslau, Silesia, autumn, 1944, with green and brown camouflage over dark yellow base, and WH-1506508, 7th Panzer division, East Pomerania, March 1945, also featuring a green and brown pattern over a dark yellow base. There is a color print of the first vehicle on the rear of the box, along with a paint guide providing colors in the Testors Model Master range of enamel paints.
are in a small pamphlet form, showing assembly in 21 steps, with small boxes for sub assemblies.
Although not visible once the kit is complete, The engine is built in steps one and two. The parts are quite small and some attachment points are not specific. I partially drilled out the radiator hose attachment point, and to assist with placement of parts, set the engine into the hull tub, to make sure everything lined up properly.
Steps 3, 4, and 5 cover assembly of the suspension. The road wheels all needed the lightening holes drilled out as they were flashed over. I drilled them out, and then drilled out the axle holes for the road wheels and return roller to help with positioning. I also opened up the axle hole on the spring suspension units to help them fit later in the build. The front wheels can be left moveable, but this is a rather pointless feature as there is no tie rod to align them, and they will end up flopping around. It is best to align them how you want and fix them in position.
I left step 6, adding the road wheel assemblies to their axles, until after the axles were placed.
Step 7 puts hatches, fenders, rear doors and armored visors on the upper body. Clean up was required in all openings to remove small amounts of flash and get a clean fit. My hatches came out a little crooked (it couldn't be my fault-maybe small helping hands?) and as mentioned previous, all hatches can be posed open if you want to show off the interior.
Steps 8, 9 and 10 add parts to the lower hull tub. There are three pedals, parts 17B, that are not called out in the instructions but are shown in place. Parts 4B, the side storage spacers, are shown installed, but I don't know what the interior would have looked like. There are spare tubes for the 158mm rockets, but no extra stowage for the 8cm rockets. The two seats look more like kitchen chairs, with four legs, but I figured I would have my interior buttoned up so I placed them as shown. I suspect the seat would be more like that of the Opel Blitz bus, with a center pedestal, but I haven't seen interior photos to verify this. The side stowage bins all needed cleanup before the doors could be placed.
Steps 11 and 12 add the front fenders to the body, and then attach the upper and lower hull halves. There is considerable flash to clean up on the fender parts, but make sure not to scrape out the indentations for the side steps. I could not get a clean fit with the two hull halves, so filler and scrap styrene was used to take care of the gaps.
Steps 14, 15 and 16 cover assembly of the rocket launcher assembly. Again, the holes need to be drilled out to clean them up. The instructions show rockets attached to both top and bottom of the rails, but there are only enough rockets for one per rail. The parts are specific so care is needed when assembling the rail sections. Step 13 is in a side box and assembles the two jerry can racks.
Step 17 is the assembly of the lower suspension. For the front suspension, the leaf spring assemblies only have detail on one side, but it will be difficult to examine the inside so this isn't a major issue. However, when the front axle is placed on the springs, the tires are against the fenders, so I ended up having to add a spacer from scrap styrene. For the rear suspension setup, the front axle with the drive sprockets is narrower than the axle section with the idler wheels. I did a little trimming to try to get things to line up, which was the wrong choice. It would work better to add some space on the drive sprockets to get the proper width. I added the axle for the road wheel assemblies but didn't add the road wheels at this point.
I chose to add the rocket launcher assembly at this point. Step 19 assembles the rails in sections and adds them to the frame. Then step 20 adds the complete launcher to the turret frame. The instruction view is shown from the top, with arrows pointing at the bottom, sort of hinting at where parts would be placed. I looked at photos of the launcher and the painting guide to get a better idea of where things went. One side has what looks like a hydraulic piston arm that should raise and lower the mount. Part 37 A is over-sized for it's locator point on the turret, but the hole for the extension rod on my sample easily fit the rod. The rod itself was fragile and promptly snapped off, so I added a new part from scrap styrene. I positioned the launcher on the back of the vehicle, a trial and error process that required some re-defining of the parts with a hobby knife. Once in place, I was able to place the support rods, part 25 and 26A. I chose not to add the seat as this part would be hidden from view.
Once I had positioned the launcher, I then finished the suspension assembly. I had held off, not wanting to snap the road wheels off while setting the launcher, as I believed it was the more robust assembly. The instructions show placement of the bogie assemblies with springs towards the rear on both sets. Photos and the box art show they should be opposite each other, with the springs facing away from the middle. As the plastic is brittle, one of the bogie assemblies started to come apart. As a result, it ended up going in place a little crooked. Once in place I then added the vinyl tracks. They can fit all the way around if stretched, but it took them to the breaking point, both of the tracks and the plastic suspension parts. When I built the previous Sd.kfz 4/2 kit, my son cut the tracks in half. I wrote to Roden and they sent me a replacement set. I placed the kit tracks, leaving a little sag, and then used the broken tracks to make a spacer to fill the gap.
After I was done with the suspension I added all the small parts to the exterior. The mud flaps on the rear were placed by looking at the box artwork. I had the rocket launchers positioned in a firing mode, so the travel locks were placed resting on the top of the rear compartment. I made a mistake placing the tools (I'm prone to getting things backwards when I build) so a pick and the wrench are on the wrong sides. Once those were in place the construction was complete.
My completed kit is a little rough looking and still needs some gap filling. I need to straighten the launcher rails as well.
In summary, there are some issues with the appearance of parts in terms of flash and mold seam lines. Only half the load out of rockets is included. The suspension setup is tricky and ill fitting and the vinyl tracks are hard to get in place. On my other build of the 4/2, I was able to get one side on with one section, even with a little sag represented, but broke a bogie off on the other side while trying to get that track on. Use care.
On the plus side, the completed kit presents a very interesting subject. Ugly, ungainly and fascinating all at once, this is a vehicle I don't think will ever be represented in plastic in a larger scale, which is too bad. With care, the kit will build into a very nice model, and for the price, listed at around $11.00 online lowest price before shipping, this is a pretty good deal. Know what you are getting into, but know that it can be done, and done well. If you want extra detail, there are some aftermarket etch sets available for the basic vehicle, including fenders, hatches and doors, and even etched brass tracks. Certainly I hope that Roden will improve the quality of their moldings, but for now I am more than happy with the choices they have made in the kits they have released. I hope modelers will give this kit a chance.