Meng Model
VsKfz 617
Meng Model 1:35 Scale Kit #SS-001
Review by Terry Ashley

Meng Model
The first prototype of the VsKfz 617 Minenräumer (minesweeper) was produced by Alkett in 1942 and was designed to detonate mines using its weight with the large shoes on the wheels designed to have three shoes with full ground contact at any given time and was steered by way of chain linkages to the smaller rear wheel.

The large hull has armour protection of between 10mm to 40mm (undersides) to withstand mine explosions and was armed with a single Pz.Kpfw I Ausf.B turret with twin 7.92mm MG34s but initial test was unsuccessful due to the weight (50 tons), slow speed and awkward steering and size making it an easy target led to the cancellation of the project before series production started.

The single surviving prototype was captured by the Russians when they overran the Kummersdorf testing grounds In April 1945 and after some testing by the Russians eventually found its way to the Kubinka Museum outside Moscow where it now resides.

The kit:
This is based on the Kubinka VsKfz 617 Minenräumer as would be expected and consists of 201 parts in grey plastic with a further 30 track links in plastic and 30 plastic track shoes, these have metal blocks moulded inside giving weight but allowing normal gluing due to the plastic outer surfaces. Also included is a length of fine chain and copper wire and a 14 page colour instruction booklet.

Metal parts
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The standard of moulding is excellent with just some very minor flash on a few parts and totally free of pin marks although there are some small sink marks on the sides of the track links which are visible after assembly so need attention. The lever of detail is very well done with excellent surface details such as the hull and turret weld seams along with well-defined flush screws and other engraved and raised detail for a very good overall appearance. There are also some very small parts to contend with such as the small hull lifting eyes in 2 parts each plus all the hatch hinges are separate parts but this all adds to the excellent detail definition of the final kit. The only interior included is the inner latch detail on the turret hatch should you wish to show this open if adding a Commander figure.

The kit matches the 1:35 plans in the Rossagrapf Minenräumer book well with accepted tolerances and the Pz.I turret matches the Panzer Tract 1:35 plans.

Lower Hull:
This is large one piece tub has internal bracing included to ensure everything is perfectly square without any warping and has separate rear plate and front hull plates in a single angled part, surface detail on the tub is very well done as mentioned. There are just a few large parts added to the hull tub including the large lifting eyes with excellent welds included, the fit of the front and rear plates is spot on without any trimming or filler needed. Two 1.5mm holes have to be drilled in the rear hull for the steering chain added later and the small exhaust pipe could be drilled out further to improve the appearance. The front panel has some smaller parts added without any problems but you may want to leave these off until after fitting the wheels to avoid damage as quite a bit of handling is required while fitting the wheels.

You should note that the large front and smaller rear wheels must be fitted to the lower hull tub before attaching the upper hull. To fit the front wheels you firstly fit the large inner disc (part A7) to the hull mounting lugs and secure with the large pin (part A3) provided, ensuring not to glue the disc to allow for rotation. The large outer disc with drive teeth can then be glued to the inner disc ready for the tracks to be added, the detail on the outer disc is nicely done and matches photos well.  

The rear wheel has the two wheel discs glued together and after the track is fitted the wheel is trapped between the large rotating mountings ready for fitting to the hull but more on this after the track assembly.

While these are individual link workable track with links and shoes are huge as are the track pins but there is still some clean-up required on the parts as with any individual link track. One thing to note is the track pins for the front and rear wheels while similar in appearance are different in size so make sure you don’t mix these up when removing from the sprues as the front pins (A18) with not fit the rear wheel that have the smaller pins (A17).

Each of the track shoes has a single small sprue bur to be trimmed as do the individual links, all easy enough. Each link has a top plate added and on the larger front links the edges on the plate (part A16) has to be trimmed flush with the link proper after gluing otherwise the links will not fit together properly. Also on the larger front links there is a sizable mould lines along the sides which are visible after assembly along with a small sink mark and both need to be removed prior to the track assembly.

Link clean-up as per text
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Care is needed when trimming the sprue bur from the track pins not to bend the small bracket included on each pin and take note of the different part numbers between the front and rear track pins as mentioned above.

After clean-up assembly is very straightforward due to the large link/show size and you just fit one link into the next and then slip the shoe over the links and slip the pin into place securing with a small dab of normal plastic cement, don’t overdo this so capillary action doesn’t take the glue onto the link itself. Repeat the process for the 10 links per track leaving the last shoe off until adding the assembled track to the wheels.

Once you have secured the track around the wheels a bit of man handling is required as the track doesn’t sit evenly around the wheel due to the three links that sit at ground contact (this is by design on the real thing, not a problem with the kit), the fit of the track around the wheel disc is quite tight and makes it difficult to rotate the track as they don’t fall into place as you would expect and I found it easier to position the links/shoes appropriately and leave it at that.

The added weight in the larger shoes does help in having the shoes sit at the right angle around the wheel disc but this didn’t help much with the smaller rear wheel due to the less weight and I actually glued the smaller rear links/shoes in place around the wheel disc as this made things a lot easier when mounting to the hull.

Upper Hull:
The upper hull is a single large part with just a separate front driver’s plate with two part visors that can be positioned open or closed as you wish? Surface detail is again very well done with the weld seams, panel lines and other detail although most of the details are added as separate parts.

There are 3 very small lifting eyes on the rear plate and the 7 side mounted lifting hooks are in 2 parts each that requires careful handling when removing from the sprues and fitting but gives excellent detail definition after assembly. The covers over the rear engine intakes are finely moulded and the two engine access hatches are open with 6 separate louvers on each and a separate top cover that again gives excellent detail definition to the hatches.

All hatch hinges are separate and again required careful handling especially cleaning up the sprue attachment bur but again adds detail definition to the final assembly, you can show the hatches open if you wish but there isn’t anything inside so better leaving closed.

There is a separate visor on the front left hull side which is one of the weirdest design features as the large track shoes block any vision out of this anyway but the vision slit is open for added detail in any case.

The upper hull fits precisely to the lower hull tub at the front and sides, there is what appears to be a gap along the sides but this should be there so don’t worry. By total contrast to the good overall fit there is a large gap at the rear upper/rear plate join which is actually too big for filler and adding a plastic card strip to fill the gap would be far easier and won’t damage the weld seams in the process, you could then texture the card strip to replicate the weld.

This is designed in the conventional manner for Panzer I turrets with the full upper shell, separate lower turret ring and front mantlet frame that traps the gun mantlet in place allowing elevation. Detail on the turret is again well done although the rivet detail around the separate visors is a little oversized and could be sanded down a little before adding the visors for a better appearance.

The top hatch is also separate with three very small latches added on the inside should you wish to show this open, note the instruction illustration of the inside hatch is a mirror image of what it should be so take care when fitting the latches.

The instructions also show the exposed MG34 barrels fitted the wrong way around with the longer exposed barrel on the right side when it should actually be on the left side, just swap the position of the two barrels supplied, all very easy. Detail on the barrels is okay but would certainly benefit from metal barrel replacements to improve the appearance.

The assembled turret clips into the notches on the upper hull to allow for full rotation and can be removed at any time for ease of painting etc.

There is no decal sheet in the kit with three painting options provided all noted as unidentified units at Kursk in 1943. This is of course hypothetical as the vehicle never reached production but does give some options for the final paint scheme of the model. Also included are paint numbers for Hobby Color, Mr.Hobby and Vallejo colours used during the construction.
Meng Model
Meng Model
Meng Model

The colour instruction booklet is a high quality production with the usual exploded view assembly illustrations that are easy to follow as there aren’t really any real complicated areas in the construction, the only issue being the mirror image of the turret hatch insides as mentioned.

This is a very well-engineered and detailed kit of this unusual vehicle with a nice combination of large parts (hull tub, track links/shoes) and very small detail parts that result in a nicely detailed kit with very good overall detail definition and appearance.

Part fit was good overall with the only issues being the trimming on the large track links and the rear hull gap, other than that assembly was straightforward without any problems; I assembled the whole thing in about 8 hours.

This kit should appeal to German armour fans as well as Sci-Fi fans due to its appearance and we could well see some built will all manner of turrets fitted.

Rating 8.5/10

The Sprues:

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Model Detail Photo Monograph No.13
Published by ROSSAgraph

Thanks to Meng Model for the review kit.

Page created December 31, 2011

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