For this comparison I have used the cast Zgw5001/280/140 type track sets from AFV Club (AFV) set No.AF 35055, Friulmodel (FM) Set No.ATL-07 and ModelKasten (MK) Set No.K-19 and also the individual links from the Dragon (DR) Sd.Kfz.251 kits which aren’t available as a separate set but are worth including. The pressed type track from the same manufactures is basically similar but with different details so to keep things simple I’ve just included the cast style track only.
Just a short note on the types of 251 tracks used during WWII as there is some confusion regarding "early" and "late" types. There were two basic track types, cast and pressed. The cast are the 'common' ones seen on most vehicles these came only with rubber blocks. The second, lesser seen, stamped pattern (incorrectly called late) are in use from the Ausf A also with rubber blocks. The rubber shortage lead to investigations to replace the rubber block pad with a steel pad with two steel cleats welded in a chevron. It was good cross-country but demanded a reduced speed on hard road surface because of the vibrations it set up.
To sum up both types of track were in use throughout the war although the stamped type are seen at about a 3-1 ratio in photo's and the steel cleat track pad was only fitted to the stamped pattern track and was officially fitted from late '43 to mid-late '44 when it was discontinued.
Three of the sets from AFV, DR and MK are injected plastic with separate track pads while the FM are cast metal with the pad included with the track link.
The real track link measures out at 280mm wide and 140mm long (pitch), this equates to 8mm x 4mm (1/4” x 1/8” give or take a 1/16th) in 1:35th and the pads are 160mm x 70mm which is 4.571mm x 2mm in 1:35th and the kits tracks and pads measure out as shown in the chart below. All measurments have been taken using a set of Hardware Store calipers so you can give or take 0.01mm in the measurements.
|Track link sizes||Track pad sizes|
As can be seen all are to within less than 1mm of the actual size with the only real difference being the width of the FM links which are noticeable wider than the others (but still under .1mm at 0.75mm) with the most accurate in size being the MK links, they also had the best defined pad detail of all the track sets. The smallest links are the DR but at 0.05mm we really are talking small change and the AFV pads are also slightly smaller but actually closer to the actual width (if the real sizes I have are correct?) than the others but again only a fraction of a millimetre and when we are talking measurements less than 1mm it’s really getting academic and some might say quite anal.
The image below is enlarged to show the track sizes and even then the differences at this magnification is negligible. The black vertical line indicates the 8mm width and is 1 pixel wide and even this hides some of the size difference in the links such is the small differences, the yellow horizontal lines indicates the 4mm pitch of the tracks which is pretty much okay on all links.
The FM track castings aren’t quite as crisp as the plastic links but again only really noticeable with a direct comparison.
All three plastic tracks require the links removed from the sprues with the resulting bur cleaned up and the AFV and MK links have very small pin marks to be removed while the DR links are the cleanest once removed and cleaned with all three having separate track pads which act to hold the link pins together but trapping the pins from one link under the pad on the next link and so on.
The FM links require small casting burs to be removed from each end of the link and also some of the lightening holes needed drilling out which added a bit to the preparation on the links for assembly. There are also left and right handed links in the FM set so make sure you use the appropriate links on the correct side of the suspension.
The AFV pads have a fine moulding seam down the middle and being vinyl this is tricky to remove while the DR pads have the occasional small sink mark to deal with on the face of the pad but this was not on all pads so is not that much of a problem and the MK pads also had a mould seam down the middle but being plastic this was easy to deal with and finally the FM links have the pad included in the one casting so no additional work is needed on these other thank top drill out the pin holes.
Additional preparation is required on the AFV and FM links with the AFV links requiring the pin extension bracket shortened to allow free movement and the FM links need the pin locating holes drilled out taking care not to drill right trough the outer end depending on the hand of the links. You then have to cut lengths from the supplied wire to act as pins to be inserted through the drilled out bore holes and despite the adjustments needed on the AFV links the FM links require the most preparation.
As mentioned the assembly of the AFV, DR and MK links uses the same principal of the pad trapping the locating pins on the next link and so on and this does provide a bit of fun to deal with as the pads are slippery little suckers. The AFV pads are in a vinyl material while the DR and MK pads are the same plastic as the links which does make things easier and all pads have locating pins on the underside to fit into the location holes on the links and it should be noted that the pins are not central on the pads and can only be fitted one way, so watch the orientation of the pads to reduce the frustration.
The AFV vinyl pads are best attached using a small bead of thick cyanoacrylate placed on the link and the pad added applying light pressure to seat the pad and leave for the cyanoacrylate to cure. Note; only a small amount of cyanoacrylate is require so it doesn’t squeeze into the pin locating holes when the pad is pressed into place but I had no problems assembling these tracks using this method.
The DR links are assembled in the same manner but you can use normal tube plastic cement (don’t use liquid cement or it will flow into the pin holes and you’ll have solid links) with again a small dab of cement added to the link and the pad lightly pressed into place with of course the next links locating pins in place and by getting into a rhythm you soon have the lengths put together.
The MK links assembled the same as the DR but the locating pins are slightly larger and by using a pair of fine needle point pliers with the jaws pressing on the top of the pad and the bottom of the track tooth you can “clip” the pad into the locating holes and they will actually stay in place without glue such is the tight fit, but of course you would use a small amount of glue to make sure.
The FM links are held together and the pre-cut lengths of wire (you have to cut the wire from the coil provided) are inserted through the holes and held in place with a small dab of thick cyanoacrylate on the open end and any of the pin extending out of the link filed down.
All three of the plastic links assembled into a snug run with free movement while the FM links were the sloppiest (for want of a better word) with a lot more sideways movement than the others but they were the most robust after assembly due to being metal while the plastic links can come apart with rough handling if not careful and the extra weight of the FM links makes them sag more than the plastic links but in reality the tracks on the 251 have a very gradual sag from the drive sprocket to the top of the road wheels and you have to make sure the heavier FM track don’t sag too much and I found all the plastic tracks gave a very natural sag when fitted with the right track tension.
Drive sprocket fit:
The AFV, DR and FM track runs fitted perfectly to both the AFV and DR kit drive sprockets and also to the older Tamiya sprockets for that matter without any alterations but the MK track required some modification to fit the newer AFV and DR sprockets.
The MK track is designed for the Tamiya 251 kits which have slightly smaller drive sprockets than the newer AFV and DR kits and to make the MK track fit the AFV and DR sprockets you have the trim the MK links that go around the sprockets by slightly reducing the width of the track tooth and slightly enlarging the hole between the links but once this is done they then fit okay.
Both the FM and MK sets give you spacer discs for between the Tamiya road wheels to allow the track to fit but these disc are not needed on the AFV and DR kits as the spacing of the road wheels is correct.
As mentioned above the differences in link and pad size are very minor being less than 1mm in all cases and so is not of any real consequence with each set making good looking track runs with the only noticeable difference being the extra width of the FM links but again this is only 0.75mm (0.375mm each side).
The extra work needed to make the AFV links fully articulate is actually less than the work needed to clean up and fit the FM links so can be regarded as just things needing to be done with individual links and took no extra time during assembly. The fitting of the separate pads on the plastic links requires some care not to get glue in the pin recesses but again I had no problems with any of the track sets.
The MK tracks have very good details and are easy to assembly with the pads snapping into place but do require minor mods to fit the AFV and DR sprockets and the AFV tracks are also nice but the vinyl pads need some extra attention but if care is taken they assemble quite okay.
In the end it is like many things in modelling being up to personal preference and availability as many like the added weight of the FM links but for the 251s this is of no real benefit as there is no dramatic sag on the 251 track runs and the plastic tracks work perfectly well in representing this.
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Page created 22 January 2005