Saturday, 13 June 2015
1/76 WWII - Airfix German Reconaissance set: Sdkfz 222 & Kubelwagen
My local HobbyCraft superstore had a few Airfix kits reduced; I bought this set - the middle box in the above pic - plus an Sdkfz 234 and a Stug III/G, all for just £2.99 each. Score!
This 'reconnaissance set' comprises two models (and includes five figures), an Sdkfz 222 light armoured car, and a Kubelwagen. The kit comes on two sprues with, perhaps a little surprisingly, elements for the two vehicles not confined to the separate sprues - the Kubelwagen is all on one sprue - parts for the Sdkfz 222 are on both. There's a simple decals set, and, of course, the instructions.
My recent efforts to upgrade the AMC SturmTiger have seen me getting more into modifying kits. That particular model involved quite a lot of work. So too - because they're so basic - have these new acquisitions. At the time of posting this I haven't started the Stug yet, but the 234 and the Reconaissance kit have given me plenty of scope for modifications and - I hope! - improvements.
These kits are very basic. The Kubelwagen had no floor detail, no internal panelling or door handles, no gear-stick, handbrake, wing-mirrors, or those funny rectangular black doodads on the edges of the windscreens (anyone know what they are?). I added all of this detail, plus wire frames for the two front seats, and a replacement for the the bar that goes across the back and over the top of these seats (and sometimes has an MG or rifle-rack attached). I'm not sure if I'll use the driver and officer figure or not. If I do they'll obscure quite a lot of the work I've done! Other driver figures I've got won't fit into the very confined space.
Above, floor detail added using a combo of plastic card and thin rectangular profiled wire. Wire frames added to the from seats, and a wire replacement made to substitute for the rather fat plastic one supplied with the kit. In the pic. below the front seats ar in place, and wire gear-stick and handbrake have been added, with a mall circular mount for the former being made from surplus sprue.
It might be rather crude, admittedly, but I carved inner door-panel detail into the vehicles inner panels, using some cheap Chinese-sourced carving tools. The sharpened cocktail stick, shown below, was used to apply some PVA, by which means I mounted the small see-through plastic 'window' inside the windscreen frame.
As with the Sdkfz 234, the wheels went on near the end, unlike most the model armour I've been building. In the background can be seen a Fujimi BMW and sidecar, and an Academy Kettenkrad with added figures taken from a Caesar Miniatures tank crew set.
In the picture above one can see the scale difference between the Academy 1/72 Kubelwagen, and this Airfix 1/76 version. The Academy vehicle has a pretty nicely modelled heard, where as the one supplied with the Airfix model is pretty basic. Perhaps unusably so? In the picture below can be seen the scratch-built wing mirrors, constructed from stiff wire and a very small discs of sprue.
The Sdkfz 222 is a fun looking little thing, almost cute, if an instrument of Blitzkreig can be so described? But this Airfix version of this vehicle - which I built a rather poorly constructed Tamiya 1/35 model of about thirty years ago! - is really terribly basic.
Three of the four vehicles in this little cache of Airfix models (this, the Kubelwaugen, and the Sdkfz 234) depart from the near universal 'running-gear first' approach that's characterised most of the WWII German armour builds I've been doing so far. Here instead we start with the body.
Then it's the turn of the turret. This mounts on an internal pillar. The interior and gun are pretty woefully under-detailed!
Above, drilling out the barrel. Below, the turret and gun in place.
And, finally, the wheels go on. Removing the seam line from these is hard work! Below, the more or less completed kit.
As can plainly be seen, there's no secondary armament, nor any anti-grenade grills.
I noticed, looking at the work of others who've built this and similar kits, that there's loads more that people frequently like to add or change, including adding the secondary MG, changing the wheel-hubs, and suchlike. I didn't fancy doing so much work on this, after the SturmTiger and the 234 (which latter build will probably feature in my next post). I looked around and found a company in Dorset selling some photo-etched detailing stuff I thought might be helpful, including the anti-grenade hatches, and some potentially very useful Jerry-can holders.
Above is a pic. of the SMA 'Sdkfz 222 etch set for Airfix'. I got these via scalelink.co.uk, who are a company based in Dorset (at a very similar address to that shown above - now Unit 27, not Unit 19 - albeit under a different company title!), who appear to specialise in model railway stuff.
Sadly these photo-etched parts, which cost far more than the models themselves, aren't very good. The anti-grenade hatches - clearly allegedly produced specifically for the Airfix Sdkfz 222 model - don't fit very well, being too small, and not matching the turret shape very closely. Without remodelling the gun and its support they can't be modelled closed either, as the gun barrel gets in the way. The annoying thing was that I'd specifically bought these to hide the rather basic gun and the view into the vehicle interior!
I decided to add some wire along the left and right inner edges of the turret (see above pic.), hoping it might look a bit like hinges, so as to make the anti-grenade grills appear to fit a little better. I've glued them in a partially open position, a potentially unrealistic compromise which at least has the benefit of covering up the lack of detail without involving me in a total rebuild of the turret and gun, etc. I saw several people had added some wire to their anti-grenade hatches, which appears to be a form of support and reinforcement. So I added this detail.
I also used the photo-etched jerry-can holders on the Sdkfz 222, and, like the anti-grenade grills, these were quite annoying and therefore rather disappointing. They're annoying because there are no clear instructions on how to use them (there's a few tiny nigh on indecipherable images) - and they don't resemble, as supplied, any I've seen in reference material. In order to use them I needed to snip off an apparently superfluous part, and then what's left could be formed into a reasonable analogue of one type of holder I've seen a lot of pictures of. But, when folding the very fiddly and fragile parts, I found they frequently broke (always in one particular place, which makes it a design flaw in my view), necessitating horrifyingly fiddly and usually very ugly (blobby!) superglue fixes.
In the end, after trying several different approaches, I've decided that the best way to build them is as a standalone construction, separate from the model, part by part and very slowly. Trying to do them in situ was too excruciating. Then, once assembled, I can add them to the kits. I had so much trouble with these that I decided to 'secure' the Jerry-cans on the 234 with holders made from plastic card. This presents its own set of other and different difficulties! But I'll come to that in a subsequent post on that vehicle.
Photo-etched detailing is a new area of modelling for me, and is proving a very mixed experience. The detailing on the two Special Armour Nebelkraftwagens I've built exemplifies the whole gamut, from very satisfying details (albeit, more often than not, dangerously fragile!) such as the gear-stick and the 'width-whiskers', to stuff that's just too damn fiddly, like the windscreen wipers and door handles. And even the nicer hits, like the width-indicators, aren't rally suited to use as wargaming models, as they'll just get broken off.
I hate to pan products made by small operations - such potentially useful stuff supplied by and for enthusiasts should be encouraged - but the Sdkfz 222 anti-grenade grills I got are just too wrong to be properly useful. I certainly wouldn't recommend them as they are, or buy them again. I have no idea about the manufacturing processes involved (I know that the tooling costs for styrene kits can be enormous, making re-tooling a big deal), but I do wonder if these sorts of things - photo-etched stuff, resin parts, etc - can more easily easily be changed? If so, then someone really ought to redesign these so they fit the model. The Jerry-can holders could be improved as well. And both sets need decent legible instructions, even if these are provided as an online reference link, rather than with the parts.
Of the two vehicles in this set, it was the dinky little Kubelwagen that I spent the most time and effort on, in terms of modifications and improvements. Perhaps all this is just wasted effort? Making, or at leaf attempting to make, silk purses from sow's ears? I don't know! Nor do I really care, truth be told, as long as I'm having fun! And I certainly did enjoy all of this. All of this, that is, excepting some of the arse-clenchingly frustrating and annoying photo-etch and superglue episodes.There's also the issue of 1/76 vs. 1/72, the scale disparity between which is quite easily apparent to the naked eye when one places the two Kubelwagens I have - one by Academy and one by Airfix - side by side. I'm gradually and haphazardly building a 20mm WWII German army, and I hope to have both 1/76 and 1/72 in it. I don't think the scale difference will be too bad or even too noticeable on the games table.