Italeri 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 the late type 2cm gun details, incorrect drive sprockets and lack of offset for the gun pedestal but does include the fender kink missing from the other Flakpanzer 38(t) kits.
I will make some brief comparisons with the Dragon (kit #6469) and Tristar (kit #35035) Flakpanzer 38(t) kits during this review with a full 4 way comparison including the older Alan kit will follow shortly.
This uses quite a few parts from the previous Italeri Pz.Kpfw.38(t) based kits such as the Marder III (kit #6210) and Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) (kit #6448) as well as from their 2cm FlaK38 (kit #377) plus new parts such as the lower hull parts, upper hull panels and rear superstructure with quite a few parts left over for the spares box.
The kit consists of 279 parts in light beige plastic, a short length of twine, a small sheet of mesh plus the instruction and small decal sheets for a more conventional kit than the other recent Flakpanzer 38(t) kits.
Standard of moulding is good overall with very few if any pin marks with the detail clean and crisp in most instances but a little “soft” in some. There is a little flash here and there but nothing dramatic with the track links cleanly moulded and just the usual 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 most respects with just a few minor discrepancies but mostly 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 from the Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) as the only interior parts with no engine as well as the additional radios and equipment in the open rear superstructure.
Unlike the one piece lower hull tub in the Marder III and Aufklärungspanzer 38(t) this hull tub is made up of five separate main parts with the full length floor plate, a lower front plate, the hull side panels that includes the upper superstructure sides plus the rear plate that when fitted together form the basis for the rest of the kit and as such the fit of these parts is paramount to the final outcome.
The side panels include the cut-outs for the engine intakes including the large rear opening on the right side leading to the radiator if it were there and you may want to blank this off as you can see into the empty engine compartment from some angles through the side louvers.
The hull sides also include the grills over the engine intakes but these do have a fair bit of flash that needs the be removed and you should fit the side bulkheads above the intakes before fitting the hull parts together as indicated in the instructions.
It is also advisable the firmly glue the engine bulkhead (part 2D) to the floor and let dry before attaching the sides as this provides a firm footing to help with the proper alignment of the side panels.
The fit of the hull parts on my kit was spot on without any warping on the floor plate to start with and precise location of the side panels resulted in a perfectly square and robust assembly not requiring any trimming or filler, but note you don’t attach the rear plate at this stage as it also forms part of the upper superstructure later in construction.
On the inside is the basic two part driver’s seat which is oversized, foot pedals which are located about 2mm too far back but as they are basically hidden after assembly not worth bothering with. There is a padded panel on the sidewall which is the only wall detail included as well as the hand brake lever.
The transmission/gearbox is again extremely simplified with the one piece transmission lacking any real detail as does the two part gear shift lever and the rear drive shaft with this assembly having only a passing resemblance to the actual transmission/gearbox and it’s best you leave the separate glacis inspection hatch closed to hide this away. If you were to also leave the Driver’s hatches closed you could even bypass the interior to save a little time on assembly as it’s simply not up to today’s standards detail wise.
The rear bulkhead/firewall (part 35D) also fits neatly into the hull tub and you should also note that the side exhaust pipe should be fitted at this stage due to the upper superstructure sides being moulded with the hull sides. This fits through the opening in the side louvers to a locating hole in the inner bulkhead but be sure to clean off the rather large moulding seams form the pipe beforehand.
Added to the front is the two part front plate with a plain inner plate and thin outer plate with the details which have the tow hooks added, note that these should face outwards on both sides. There is also the spare track rack for a couple of the track lengths.
The suspension mounting plates are included with the hull sides leaving just the leaf springs and two swing arms as separate parts for each station and these fit easily in place without any problems with the fine mould lines on the springs are easy to remove.
The road wheels have the correct number of rim bolts (32) on both sides of the wheels with the hub bolts nicely defined but the wheel disk has the rounded profile too pronounced with the wheels themselves about 1mm too small in diameter. This discrepancy may not be that noticeable but the rounded disk contour is a little off putting and there is basically nothing that can be done other than replace the wheels.
The drive sprockets have separate hub caps as well as the 8 lightening holes around the outer rim and details on the insides of the sprockets and while quite nicely done most 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 most production vehicles seen in service have the solid sprockets as mentioned.
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 this point.
At the back the idler wheels with round lightening holes which are correct for the Flakpanzer 38(t) and these fit directly to the idler axle included with the hull sides and don’t allow any adjustments for track tension.
The return rollers have nice hub detail but no side wall embossing and these are fitted to their mounting posts which again are moulded with the hull sides.
These are provided as individually moulded link and length track which have okay detail and just a minimal amount of fine flash to cleanup from the sprocket holes on some links.
There are longer sections for the top and bottom track runs with individual links for around the drive sprockets and idlers wheels which are designed to be just glued together as you go.
There is a problem here where the assembled track links don’t fit the kit sprocket teeth very well and you may have the trim the thickness of those teeth fitting into the track for a better fit. This is compounded by the length of the guide teeth which foul the inner sides of the sprockets preventing them from sitting correctly around the sprocket. Even after trimming the guide teeth I then found the pitch of the guide holes in the assembled links did not match the sprocket teeth exactly making the fit even trickier, in all quite a frustrating assembly exercise.
The long one piece glacis plate of the Flakpanzer 38(t) has nice rivet head detail with cut-outs for the driver’s hatches and the engine inspection hatch on the glacis with the driver’s hood and engine access hatches moulded as part of the hull plate. Note there are quite a few locating holes to be opening up in the top plate before fitting for the engine deck detail to be added later.
There is no cast texture of the driver’s hood and as this is included with the hull top plate the bottom row of securing bolts is completely missing from the hood and you will have to add those yourself as well as there being too many bolts on the glacis around the base of the driver’s hood.
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 and you can add this now to later to avoid any damage during the rest of the assembly as well as the front fender supports.
Added to the engine deck are the various supports for the upper superstructure sides when folded and these fit into the holes previously opened up in the top plate.
As the main superstructure sides are moulded with the lower hull panels with just the upper superstructure sides as separate parts there is no inner bolt head or panel detail provided other than inside the separate rear plate which makes for a rather plain looking interior but there are no pin marks on the sides to contend with thankfully, just two small ones on the rear wall.
The fit of the upper superstructure sides and the tops of the intake overhangs is quite good without any trimming required and the resulting small gaps can be filled with liquid cement as you join to the main hull.
The fenders in the kit have the top strengthening ridges and support brackets included in one but without any detail on the undersides as well as including the fender kink missing from other Flakpanzer 38(t) fenders, see the reference page for more info on the fender kink issue.
Added to the fenders are the standard perforated storage box, jack and tools all with the tool clips moulded on and could do with aftermarket tool clips added for better definition.
The upper folding superstructure panels are a little over scale thickness but have no pin marks to contend with and these can be positioned raised or lowered as you wish with separate small plastic securing latches to hold the various panels together in the raised position.
At the back is the large multi-angled upper rear hull plate nicely moulded with just two small pin marks to remove as well as nicely defined rivet detail despite the different angles involved. 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.
Once the rear panel has been attached there is the rear two part exhaust muffler and short exhaust pipe that joins to the pipe exiting from the side engine louvers and the join of these two pipes has to be completely eliminated which can be a little tricky with the pipes already attached to the hull?
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 comes as a single piece with the mounting pedestal and floor plates with just cut-outs for the ammo box bays. There is also a lower floor section with tread plate included that fits lower down in the rear compartment and you can see right through the ammo box cut-outs in the pedestal to the lower floor.
Unfortunately there are only two plastic ammo boxes provided so you will have to source these elsewhere if you want to fill to open recesses or blank these off with thin card to overcome the see through look.
The actual pedestal is offset to the right side of the compartment but the kit pedestal is located centrally missing this detail which is included in the Dragon and Tristar kits.
Other items for the interior include addition equipment boxes, a couple or radios for the left side, a basic fire extinguisher 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.
There are some detail omission in the interior such as the large recess on the upper left of the forward bulkhead and the angled intake on the right is quite basic without the movable louver as it should but the fit of hull and interior parts is good overall with very little trimming or filler required.
The gun is straight from kit #377 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 but these features are not included and will have to make do with the early gun details unless you want to scavenge them from elsewhere, like from the Tristar 2cm FlaK38 Late kit?
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 reasonable replica of the early gun and I have covered the gun in detail in the 2cm FlaK38 comparison review and so won’t reiterate it all again here.
Basically the detail on the parts is adequate in most places but there are a few sink marks about due to the age of the moulds and fairly heavy mould seam lines on some parts for the same reason.
The gun has the two gun cradle parts with separate round gun mountings allowing elevation while the gun itself has some dimensional issue as detailed in the comparison as well as having a separate plastic flash suppressor and this will benefit from having the barrel replaced with one of the available metal barrels.
The early gun sight is again quite basic but can be positioned in accordance with the gun elevation while there is a separate seat with two part backrest but there is no additional armour sometimes fitted behind the gunner’s seat to provide additional protection when the upper superstructure sides are down. This additional armour shows on pilot model photos but is not present on many action photos of the Flakpanzer 38(t) so its omission may not be that important.
There is also the spent shell catcher cage provided for the right side but the plastic frames are quite thick and the mesh provided also quite basic in definition.
The fit of the lower Flak turntable to the pedestal base has a small underside attachment plate that will allow gun traverse but there are a few details missing from the pedestal mounting such as the forward travel lock and the rear crank shaft.
These are the usual exploded view drawings that are easy to follow in places as the kit is not overly complicated but you study them closely before any assembly to avoid any problems.
The small decal sheet is well printed with three balkenkreuz and number markings for 4 Flakpanzer 38(t)s; 26th Panzer Division, Italy late ’44, 29th Panzergrenadier Division, Italy 1944, 90th Panzergrenadier Division, Northern Italy, 1944 and from 12th Panzer Division in Normandy, 1944 all with various cam schemes.Scheme 4 is for vehicle #13 of 12th Panzer Division as mentioned but available images of this vehicle clearly show the solid drive sprocket, fender kink and the use of the later model FlaK38.
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.
Image courtesy Ground Power Magazine
This kit presents a bit of a conundrum, had it been released way before those of Dragon and Tristar it would have been greeted as a big advance over the old offering from ALAN but as it comes after those kits it’s shown wanting in a number of areas.
While the overall quality is quite good with minimal pin marks or other blemishes and with the generally good fit of the parts it will build into a respectable model with a bit of old fashioned modelling skills if the detail omissions are not a big issue.
But it is sadly lacking details in a number of areas, not least the interior parts which are really not up to current standards making building it buttoned up a good option, it also has the early Flak38 features as well as the perforated drive sprockets with references showing these are not on most production vehicle features and the fit of the tracks to the drive sprocket will require some work.
|Flak Selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer
Panzer Tracts No.12
Thomas L Jentz
Hilary Louise Doyle
Armour in Focus
|Ground Power Magazine
#065 - 10/1999
Published by GALILEO Publishing Co.,Ltd
|TANKS & ARMOUR:
Ian Allen Publishing
LT vz.38 P zKpfw 38(t)
Tank Power Vol.XXI
Wydawnictwo Militaria No.241
Thanks to Italeri for the review kit.