Flakpanzer 38(t) Sd.Kfz.140 auf (sf) Ausf.L "Gepard"
DML 1:35 Scale Smart Kit No. 6469
Kit review by Terry Ashley

Dragon continue their 38(t) series with this kit of the Sd.Kfz.140 Flakpanzer 38(t) which saw the 2cm FlaK38 fitted to the rear of the chassis with fold down sides to allow for better all around traverse, this also allowed the vehicle to engage ground targets if required. 141 Flakpanzer 38(t) were produced between November 1943 and February 1944 with the majority seeing service in and around Normandy after D-Day and Panzer Tracts No.12 also mentions that 48 were sent to Italy.

The Flakpanzer 38(t) was built of the same later 38(t) chassis used for the Panzerjaeger 38(t) Marder III Ausf.M and 15cm SiG33 auf 38(t) Ausf.K Grille but with the rear superstructure with the FlaK38. There were also a number of vehicles produced without the 2cm fitted and these are purpose built ammunition resupply vehicles and not just Flakpanzer 38(t)s with the gun removed, all German SP guns had the same chassis minus gun built as ammo resupply vehicles that accompanied the armed SPs.

Firstly let’s correct a misnomer with the name of this kit. The name “Gepard” (English translation Cheetah [Acinonyx jubatus]) is not a generic term for Flakpanzers but is a specific name given to the 1970s Leopard 1 MBT based Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer Gepard (35mm Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun) and is incorrect to be used in conjunction with the Flakpanzer 38(t) or any other German SP anti-aircraft gun for that matter.

But on with the kit review, there are a couple of features of the production Flakpanzer 38(t) that the kit misses such as some late type 2cm gun details (others included), incorrect drive sprockets and the perennial fender kink as well as some very good detail such as the thin cleanly moulded superstructure sides, offset gun mounting and the cast driver’s hood as well as being overall dimensionally correct.

The kit:
This uses quite a few parts from the recent Pz.Kpfw.38(t) Ausf.G (kit #6290) as well as few from the earlier Aufkläerungspanzer 38(t) (kit #6294) as well as from the 2cm FlaK38 (kit #6288) along with a personal equipment sprue from the Gen2 figure sets (eg #6348) plus new parts such as the lower hull tub, upper hull panels and rear superstructure.

The kit consists of 744 parts in light grey plastic although 270 are indicated as not used with this kit, 9 in clear plastic (8 not used), three frets of etched parts, a bag of individual track links and of course the instruction sheet and a small decal sheet.

Metal and Etched parts
Dragon Dragon

Standard of moulding is again excellent overall with very few if any pin marks with the detail very clean and crisp due to the many plastic ‘nodes’ on the parts that do require a bit of care when removing but worth the effort for the cleaner parts. There is also no flash or other blemishes present with the track links which are cleanly moulded with just the usual small moulding seams to be cleaned from all the parts which is normal for any kit.

Dimensionally the kit matches the 1:35 Flakpanzer 38(t) plans in the Panzer Tracts No.12 Flak Selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer perfectly in all respects with any discrepancies being well within accepted tolerances. As a point of interest the 1:35 plans in the Armour in Focus Flakpanzer 38(t) book are oversized meaning the kit doesn’t match them at all (as it shouldn’t) and again shows you can’t put your house on a single set of plans but the photos and information in the book is invaluable for building the kit.

The kit includes the forward transmission and driver’s seat as well as the detailed engine from the previous 38(t) kits but strangely you don’t get the etched steering levers from the 38(t) Ausf.G but just the plastic levers from the Aufkläerungspanzer 38(t) kit.

Lower Hull:
The lower hull tub has the floor and both sides moulded together as a conventional tub with well defined detail on underside and both sides of the hull walls for the forward compartment and inner final drives and includes revised upper walls for the Flakpanzer 38(t) hull as well as cut-outs for the engine intakes.

Detail on the tub exterior is very good with rivet detail on the bottom and sides as well as the idler mountings included with separate final drive covers and return roller mountings.

The separate front plate is in two parts to not compromise the detail on the upper and lower sections with the fit very good as is the separate tow hooks which have the correct profile but you should not attach this plate to the hull until the interior is done or there may be problems fitting the transmission/gearbox if you do attach the front plate now.

You should also take care with the instructions when attaching the tow hooks as they are shown both facing one side while they should face outward on both sides. The parts themselves are correct as are the part numbers it’s just the illustration that is wrong and it may cause a bit of confusion if the instructions are followed to the letter.

On the inside are two part final drive fittings and front brackets which fit snugly to the inner side walls with the transmission/gearbox having crisp details included for all the basic detail including the cooling ribs on the gearbox and textured drive shaft cover. The driver’s controls are in one piece and fairly basic but there are a couple of detailed etched sets available if you want to dress these up a bit?

There are still no driver’s foot pedals included and the three part seat is also very basic and there is also no driver’s instrument panel that should fit to the underside of the upper hull plate. As you can only see the interior through the transmission inspection hatch or the driver’s hatch if left open not a lot of the interior is visible in any case but if you’re going to include an interior providing all the main parts or none at all would seem the appropriate thing to do?

Once the transmission/gearbox is assembled this should be fitted inside the hull and you will have to flex out the front sidewalls slightly to insert the pins on the drive shafts (parts D46) into the final drive fittings (parts D55/56) and this is the reason for leaving the front plate separate as you won’t be able to flex the sidewalls to fit the transmission with the front plate in place.

The instructions show to fit the engine bulkhead inside the hull before the engine but if you do this it is a little difficult to fit the engine to the two floor mounting pins and it’s better the fit the engine first and then the firewall.

The kit has the full Praga TNHPS/II 6 cylinder petrol engine from the 38(t) Ausf.G kit with the rear radiator and associated fuel tanks to provide all the basic structures for a full engine compartment.

The engine block is in two halves with separate top rocker cover and a separate front bell housing with detailed fly wheel inside which is completely hidden after assembly but shows nice attention to detail. The detail on these parts is adequate but also a little plain on some when compared to photos such as the rocker cover but should be okay when looking through the open engine hatches.

Added to the engine are numerous accessories such as the alternator, carburettor and exhaust manifolds with the fit of the parts quite good overall and thankfully Dragon have fixed most of the instruction bloopers for the engine, but one still remains.

The location of the large exhaust manifold (part D16) is incorrect and it should be mounted above the lower intake manifold (part D23), not below as indicated.

Some of the smaller items are a little vague in their location and careful study of the instructions and pictures of the assembled engine will help to get things in the right place. The large air cleaning sort of “hangs” out in mid air but thankfully the locating of the parts is quite precise and so long as you make sure it is sitting at the right angle as the glue dries there shouldn’t be any problems.

You can of course finish off the engine by adding the wiring and plumbing from fine wire or sprue.

At the back is the large radiator with four parts, two for the radiator itself giving you nice mesh detail on one side only, the large fan coaming and a fairly basic later style fan moulded and not the usual fan on the 38(t) Praga engine. But this is not a big issue as the fan is all but hidden after assembly on this model even with the top engine hatches open.

There is a separate exhaust pipe that joins to the external exhaust pipe as well as the side mounted fuel tanks and again you can add the fuel lines and wiring to finish off. You should also fit the fuel tanks, especially the right side tank before adding the engine as you will not be able to fit this after the engine is in place.

After adding the fully painted fuel tanks and engine/radiator assemblies to the lower hull you can then fit the forward bulkhead/firewall which fit neatly over the engine flywheel with the exhaust pipe meeting the hull wall, don’t fit this into the hole in the sidewall as this must be left open to fit the long external exhaust pipe later in the assembly sequences.

The rear bulkhead/firewall also fits neatly into the hull tub and this has a separate round engine inspection hatch and right side intake detail which is visible as this bulkhead forms the front of the rear fighting compartment.

Each suspension bogie is made up of the hull mounting, two separate swing arms and the leaf spring unit and has a face plug that allows the arms to move but the springs are glued in place so there is only downward movement possible for the wheels after assembly. The fine mould lines on the springs are easy to remove with the bogie units fitting together as you attach to the hull side as the spring locating pin is on the hull side and also used to locate the bogie mounting plate. Also the bolt head detail on the bottom of the bogie mounting plate has been enhanced to better represent the actual bolt head sizes as they were for the Ausf.G kit.

The new wheels for this kit are the correct size and have the correct number of rim bolts (32) on both sides of the wheels with the hub bolts nicely defined and these simply glue to the axle stubs on the swing arms. These wheels have also had the detail between the rim and rubber tyre enhanced for a finer appearance adding a little more detail to the wheels.

There are two sets of drive sprockets from the Ausf.G, the original sprockets with the 8 lightening holes around the outer rim with these having basic details on the insides of the sprockets and the revised sprockets also with 8 lightening holes but better defined inner rib detail but the outer lightning holes are still too large which can be seen by the holes overlapping the inner rim ridge with the holes on all sprockets I have seen not overlapping the rim ridge.

The main issue here is the fast majority of available action photos of Flakpanzer 38(t)s have the solid drive sprockets without the lightening holes and you don’t get these sprockets in the kit. Factory photos of the initial pilot model Flakpanzer 38(t)s show the drive sprockets with lightening holes but the production vehicles seen in service have the solid sprockets as mentioned.

It is possible to turn up one or two action photos with the holed sprockets while the majority still show the solid sprockets, that only goes to show again that the solid sprockets should be in the kit.
As the majority of photos available show the solid sprocket you can only build a specific vehicle shown in a specific photo with holed sprockets and not generalise as you can with more common features.

There is a photo on page 60 of Concord's "Panzers in the Gunsights" by Steve Zaloga showing a Flakpanzer 38(t) with holed spockets as well as another with solid sprockets but as you don't get the markings for the first vehicle in the kit it's a mute point. Also of interest is the captions with the photos in the same book indicate the vehicle is a Flakpanzer 38(t) and not a "Gepard" as the author relies on primary references for his information and not publicity driven hype.

One of the decal options provided is of a well photographed Flakpanzer 38(t), vehicle #13 from 12th Panzer Div. in Normandy which clearly shows the solid drive sprockets as do a number of captured vehicles to illustrate the point that you can't build the kit accurately with the markings supplied as the solid sprockets are not in the kit.

At the back there are new idler wheels with round lightening holes and these are correct for the Flakpanzer 38(t) and the idler axle allows a little movement of the idler position so it’s best not to glue this in place until fitting the tracts for a better fit.

The return rollers have nice hub detail as well as the “continentau” embossing on the side wall but it’s a little oversized if you want to get real picky but will look good when painted and weathered to highlight the embossing, and it’s easy to convert the ‘u’ to an ‘l’ if you want to do this.

These are provided as individually moulded “magic tracks” which have nice detail including minute casting numbers on the edge of each link with no cleanup required.
The tracks are designed to be glued together and are not workable and you will have to incorporate the track sag as you glue the lengths together. By gluing a length together and letting the glue “go off” you can them add it to the suspension and add the curve around the drive sprockets and idlers as well as the track sag easier.

The assembled track runs look very good but if you prefer workable track links which take care of the track sag themselves then those from WWII Productions would be a simple alternative.

Individual magic track while not workable looks very good when fitted to the model
Note: the tracks shown are fitted to the 38(t) Ausf.G kit but are the same for this kit.

Marder III HMarder III H

Upper Hull Plates, Superstructure and Fenders:
The long one piece glacis plate of the Flakpanzer 38(t) has excellent rivet head detail with cut-outs for the separate cast driver’s hood and the engine inspection hatch which is a very snug fit to the glacis as is the fit of the driver’s hood with no trimming needed for either part.

The cast texture of the driver’s hood is very nicely done but there are very fine mould seam lines running around the top and care will be needed smoothing these out to not damage the cast effect. The lines are very fine so using the tip of a hobby knife should be enough to remove them and the two part driver’s hatches are free of any pin marks and fit to the hood nicely. There is no interior detail on the hatches and the real things have fairly substantial padding which you may want to add if leaving the hatches open?

The front visor port is also a separate part if you wanted to show open and the right side visor is also a separate part for better defined detail with the fit of the glacis to the hull tub being very good again not requiring any trimming to fit.

Added to the front plate is the two part Notek light which has etched parts for the mounting and light aperture and you can add this now to later to avoid any damage during the rest of the assembly.

Added to the engine compartment are the four separate doors which again can be shown open or closed as you wish and these also fit very snugly together to form the top plate over the engine bay.

The two large superstructure side panels are superbly moulded with rivet and panel detail on both sides without any hint of pin marks anywhere to contend with, there are also moulded a uniformly thickness to avoid the bevelled edges seen on some previous kits and make for excellent detail.

The right side panel also has the large engine louvers included which are again cleanly moulded apart from some very fine flash along a couple of the louvers that is easy to remove. Added to the sidewalls are the forward top and lower panels as well as etched intake screens for the underside of the engine intake overhangs and all these parts fit together perfectly without the need for any trimming. Just ensure the rear corner joins of parts M13/M18 and M11/M2 are set at right angles as this will affect the fit of the rear panel later.

The fit to the full side is also very good making for quick and easy assembly of these major parts of the overall kit, the fenders should be added to the kit as you fit the side panels to align with the undersides of the superstructure overhand.

As with the previous 38(t) kits we have the perennial fender kink missing, looking at any photo of the Flakpanzer 38(t), either the factory pilot models or serving production models will show a distinct fender kink but again the kit fenders are straight apart from a small kink at the rear to fit under the superstructure overhang. The locating ridge along the hill side is also straight but quite fine on this kit and it wouldn’t be that much trouble to alter the fenders to include the kink if you wished.

I have included a few reference photos to fully illustrate the fender kink included some of the assembled kit fenders to clear up any confusion over what is in the kit. I’m sorry of this seems a little pedantic but we have seen some bizarre theories put up to explain their absence from the various Dragon 38(t) kits and as mentioned the feature is very noticeable on the Flakpanzer 38(t) fenders.

The fenders themselves are very nicely done with the strengthening ridges raised on the top and indented on the undersides without any locating holes for the pioneer tools which are provided separate along with etched tool clips. Included in the instructions are overhead plan views of the fenders showing the location of the tools as well as the distinctive 38(t) perforated storage box in plastic or etched brass to allow you to fit these in the right places due to the absence of the locating holes. 

There are separate fender attachment brackets that fit to the hull side to add a little more definition but the position of these will have to be altered slightly if you include the fender kink but this is up to the individual.

The upper folding superstructure panels are also moulded uniformly thin with again no pin marks to be seen and these can be positioned raised or lowered as you wish with separate small plastic hinges to add a little more detail definition with separate securing latches to hold the various panels together in the raised position.

At the back is the large multi-angled upper rear hull plate and this again is superbly moulded with not a pin mark to be seen as well as nicely defined rivet detail despite the different angles involved but there were some minor fit issues adding this to the hull but after a little fiddling and aligning of the side panels an okay fit was achieved. It might be best to leave this panel off until all the interior components have been added for better access as the location of the firing platform is also not the best.

Once the rear panel has been attached there is the rear two part exhaust muffler and long single pipe that runs from the side engine louvers to the exhaust and this slips into the side louvers to fit into the hole in the hull side which it does okay providing you left the hole open when fitting the engine earlier.

Fighting Compartment Interior:
The main feature of the interior is the intricate pedestal base for the gun mounting which incorporates bays for the 2cm ammo boxes and this is provided in two parts for the base and another four for the tread plate that makes up the floor of the rear fighting compartment.

The base assembled easily but take care with the alignment of the pedestal to get the hole at the back lined up and two of the tread plate sections are numbered incorrectly in the instructions just to see if you are awake? Part M32 should be M33 and M33 should be M32.

There is also the long shaft (part R11) that connects to the engine bulkhead and this has to be aligned as you mount the base into the rear compartment which can be a little tricky, you could just cut off the end section and attach to the rear plate after assembly if you wish as the shaft can’t be seen after assembly.

The 2cm ammo boxes are made up of three parts which are numbered incorrectly in the instructions and should actually be parts H11 (the lid), and parts H25, H26 for the boxes, not H16, H29, H30 shown in the instructions but it’s fairly obvious which are the ammo box parts on sprues H in any case.

The fit of the ammo boxes to the bays in the pedestal base is very snug, tight even but they will slip in providing you line them up with the bays correctly. The ammo boxes themselves are a little oversized with the actual boxes measuring 10.85mm high, 7.45mm wide and 3.75mm deep in 1:35 scale with the kit boxes being 12mm high, 8.25mm wide and 4mm deep.

This doesn’t mean much if you only use the kit boxes but if you wanted to use some of the aftermarket metal ammo boxes for more detail only the boxes from Griffon Model (set #MA35001) will fit as all the others are a little over 4mm wide meaning they won’t fit into the pedestal base recesses.

Fitting the base into the rear hull is a little tricky as it should be level with the side sponsons and naturally wants to sit lower as there are no locating pins or ridges to hold it in the correct position. Also note there are two raised locating ridges along the sides of the rear compartment but these are not applicable for this kit and are probably there for the Marder M or Grille to come, so just ignore these here.

Other items for the interior include a number of 2cm ammo boxes with etched racks, a couple or radios made up of multiple parts for good definition as well as two MP40s in plastic racks plus crew seat cushions with all these fitting on top of the side sponsons and there is a spare barrel box that fits across the front of the compartment.

2cm FlaK 38:
The gun is straight from kit #6288 and represents the early model gun but most available images of the Flakpanzer 38(t) show later gun features such as the later embossed hand wheels, ribbed receiver cover and later sight. The kit does supply the ribbed receiver cover as an option with the instructions just showing the three covers included but no indication of the correct one to use, but experienced modellers will know this anyway? You should use the ribbed cover (part J2) for this gun but will have to make do with the early hand wheels unless you want to scavenge them from elsewhere, like from the Tristar 2cm FlaK 38 Late kit?

It also includes the later gun site parts along with the earlier sight but again the instructions do not indicate which should be used but put simply if you are building an early pilot model use the early sight or if building a production model; use the late sight (parts R1 to R5).

Again the photos of vehicle #13 clearly show the later gun sight in use indicating this vehicle is fitted with the later model FlaK38 gun as opposed to the early gun and one can assume from available photos and the time period that most production vehicles would use the late gun.

The gun itself will build into a nice replica of the early gun and provides the option to fix the elevation at 0°, 20°, 40° or 60° with optional parts depending on your elevation choice. I have covered the gun in detail in the 2cm FlaK 38 comparison review and so won’t reiterate it all again here.

The main gun shields are in plastic with bevelled edges to simulate the thinner shields with only the front guards (parts A59, A60) have etched alternatives and the plastic shields do look a bit over scale and providing the full shields as etched parts would have given a better appearance.

The smaller upper shield is in plastic as well as an etched alternative for a better appearance which makes the absence of etched main shields even more conspicuous as the differences between the plastic and etched shields is very noticeable.

One nice inclusion is the added armour plate fitted behind the gunner’s seat to provide additional protection when the upper superstructure sides are down and this shows on pilot model photos but is not present on many action photos of the Flakpanzer 38(t) but having it included offers the choice of fitting if you wish.

The fit of the lower Flak turntable to the pedestal base is very tight and would not allow any traverse on my kit so choosing the position of the gun before fitting is the best option and unless using the model in a diorama most will fit in the forward neutral position in any case.

Also still included from the original FlaK38 kit is the spent cartridge case cage made up of thin plastic frames and fine etched mesh, it’s best to anneal this mesh by running though a candle flame before fitting as it will make getting the contours of the cage much easier.

Decals & Instructions:
The small decal sheet is well printed with four balkenkreuz and number markings for just two Flakpanzer 38(t)s although the instructions show six vehicles from 12th and 21st Panzer Divisions in Normandy, 1944 with various cam schemes.

Scheme 2 is for vehicle #13 as mentioned but available images of this vehicle clearly show the solid drive sprocket, fender kink and the use of the later model FlaK38.
Flakpanzer 38(t)
Image courtesy Ground Power Magazine
Also of interest is the can scheme is applied to the insides of the drop panels as well as the vehicle number and the decal sheet does give you three numbers in white but doesn’t tell you to apply these on the insides of the drop panels.

Clear parts

The instructions are the usual exploded view drawings but are very busy in places and can be confusing unless you study them very closely before any assembly as some parts are shown incorrectly placed and some numbered incorrectly meaning you have to be in guard and not just blindly follow the instructions as they come. I almost missed a few alternate assemblies as the sequences are so busy in parts you can easily get lost and going back over them a few times will be a big help.

This kit from Dragon has very good moulding quality and the detail is well presented along with overall excellent fit of the parts and is dimensional accurate making for fairly simple assembly without any major hassles to produce a nice model of the Flakpanzer 38(t).

But as we have seen on previous occasions the kit is almost there but misses some important details to build a truly accurate production Flakpanzer 38(t) as it lacks the solid drive sprockets, retains some early gun features and again misses the fender kink with available photos clearing showing these are features on production vehicles.

So you can forget these couple of issues and just build a pretty model of the Flakpanzer 38(t) from the kit contents which it will do nicely but if you want a truly accurate Flakpanzer 38(t) a bit of scavenging is in order. Hopefully the inevitable after market update sets will address the drive sprockets and gun features as well as the fenders.

The setup of the kit would indicate we will see a kit of the Panzerjaeger 38(t) Marder III Ausf.M or 15cm SiG33 auf 38(t) Ausf.K Grille (or both) in the not too distant future given the rate of Dragon releases.

Highly recommended 8/10

The Sprues:
Sprue images
Click on thumbnails for larger view

Build images

Comparison summary:
As mentioned I will not be doing a detailed comparison of the kits until the Italeri kit is available later in the year but the Dragon and Tristar kits both will build into very nice models of the Flakpanzer 38(t) as they come with both having their pluses and minises.

In summary:
Moulding quality:
The Dragon kit has cleaner parts with very crisp detail without any flash or appreciable pin marks while the Tristar kit has a number of parts with fine flash and some pin marks that requires additional cleanup so the Dragon kits rates higher in regards moulding quality.

Part detail:
The Dragon kit as mentioned has cleanly moulded detail but this is a little sparse in places especially the interior where the Tristar kit has additional detail included on the floor and side panels as well as the full driver’s foot pedals, instrument panel which are missing from the Dragon kit.

Comparing the interiors the Tristar kit is clearly more detailed with some of the Dragon details being fairly basic in comparison, this is obvious to anyone with functioning eyesight in both eyes.

But as mentioned there is considerably more assembly needed with the Tristar kit due to the many small parts and more complex assemblies while the Dragon kit assembly is far more straightforward due to the fewer parts breakdown.

Some other parts such as the fenders while not having the kink are better detailed on the Dragon kit with underside detail and separate attachment brackets for good definition as well as not having open holes for the tools which gives a cleaner appearance after assembly.

Build ability:
Continuing the theme from the interior the Dragon kit overall is an easier build due the main assemblies such as the lower hull tub and superstructure sides being in single pieces while made up of multiple parts in the Tristar kit.

The superstructure is broken down very differently on both kit but I found both assembled without any real problems with good part fit overall.

The Tristar 2cm Flak is also more complex than the Dragon gun but again the Tristar gun is more detailed as a result of the extra parts and work.

But overall on a pure build ability scale the Dragon kit is the easier build of the two.

Both kits are dimensionally sound according to the available data and plans with any discrepancy being within acceptable tolerances but the Dragon kit misses some important details clearly shown in photos of the decal options provided. These include the solid drive sprockets and later 2cm gun parts which are included in the Tristar kit. Both kits also do not have the fender kink that is evident in most available photos of the Flakpanzer 38(t).

So in the end we have a similar situation as with previous kits in the 38(t) series. If you want a kit with cleanly moulded parts that goes together relatively easily and are not fussed with complete accuracy then the Dragon kit will be the kit for you as it will build into a nice model of the Flakpanzer 38(t).
On the other hand if you want a more accurate and detailed kit especially the interior and are not afraid of some additional work along the way then the Tristar kit is the way to go.

The final decision is really up to the modeller in what you want from a kit as both will without labouring the point build into nice models of the Flakpanzer 38(t).

The choice is yours.

Flak Selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer
Panzer Tracts No.12
Thomas L Jentz
Hilary Louise Doyle
Flakpanzer 38(t)
Armour in Focus
Janusz Ledwoch
English Edition;
Books International
Ground Power Magazine
#065 - 10/1999

Published by GALILEO Publishing Co.,Ltd
German Flakpanzers
PANZER 38(t)

Ian Allen Publishing
ISBN: 071103091X
LT vz.38 P zKpfw 38(t)

MBI Publishing
ISBN: 80-86524-01-9
PzKpfw 38(t)
Tank Power Vol.XXI
Wydawnictwo Militaria No.241
ISBN: 83-7219-241-3
Thanks to my credit card Hobbyeasy for the review kits.

Page created January 28, 2008
Updated January 30, 2008

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