Although the initial planning stages for a Uniform Weapons Carrier began in 1942, real development didn't begin until early 1944. Due to lack of mobility, high losses of conventionally towed guns (some destroyed by their own troops to keep them out of enemy hands) put this project on the more urgent list, especially for the 8.8cm Pak 43.
These weapons carriers were to be designed to carry various anti-tank guns and howitzers on a universal chassis, and original specs included the ability to dismount/remount the guns in the field with all the necessary equipment to do so carried onboard. Using available field proven components was also high on the list as a requirement in the design. Designs for 4, 5 and 6 wheel running gear were drawn up using components from the Jagdpanzer 38 and 38D programs. Production was slated to begin in March 1945, with full production by the fourth quarter of the year.
Although some first production vehicles were built with the 8.8cm Pak 43 mounted, the weapons carrier for the 10.5cm leFH 18 can be considered a 'paper panzer'. This kit from Trumpeter
, in this reviewers eyes, appears to be a hybrid of the Krupp designs.
The kit is packaged in Trumpeters sturdy slip-top box with artwork by Vincent Wai. For the most part, sprues are packed individually in plastic bags with some of the more delicate parts further protected with foam. A separate compartment within the box holds the lower hull, metal barrel and two small sprues. Even though the box top proclaims over 920 pieces this appears to be a fairly simple kit, with most (more than 700) of the parts belonging to the tracks.
Included in the kit are the following:
• 8 sprues holding 244 parts (32 marked as unused)
• Lower hull
• Metal barrel
• Track links and pins
• Photo etch fret holding 21 pieces
• Small decal sheet
• Instruction booklet
• Painting & marking guide
The instruction booklet spans 12 pages covering 12 construction steps. These are uncluttered and very clear, with only two options to make a decision on: styrene versus metal barrel and the travel lock in road or firing mode.
The parts themselves are fairly well detailed with light flash and seam lines evident on some. Pin marks appear to be on unseen areas if the model is viewed from a top or side view. Sprue connection points are quite large and in poorly placed areas on some parts, nothing that a little TLC won't take care of.
Construction begins with the lower hull, and if you have ever built a DML or Tristar 38(t) you'll find the parts count dramatically reduced. Judging from the molding quality this does not take away from the detail and simplifies construction. The parts lock into place so the idler and road wheels will not be able to be adjusted for track tension or portraying the road wheels on uneven ground.
A sparse driver's compartment includes a seat, pedals, levers and a gauge cluster which can be viewed if the driver's hood is not glued in place. The gauges themselves are molded smooth and no decals for them are included, so dressing them up will be left to the modeler.
The fenders are textured on the uppermost surface only, and molded thin to give a better scale appearance. The access hatches are molded closed on the upper hull, with the exception of the driver's hood. The edges of the steel plates are molded smooth, no flame-cut marks as depicted on the box art, so an opportunity for the modeler to further detail is provided. No lights are called out for in the instructions, nor a tow cable although the 'eyes' are included if you wish to add your own.
The Fighting Compartment:
The fighting compartments rear deck has storage compartment doors as separate pieces, so these can be shown opened or closed, and have PE cartridge 'ends' for the rear storage to add a bit more detail. Standard high explosive shells are also included along with their storage racks.
The swept back gun shield is also thinly molded for scale appearance, with details such as pioneer tools, personnel equipment and a radio to be mounted on the inner walls. There is no provision for an antenna that I can see (although one is included), and it's unknown to me if the pioneer tools would be mounted in these locations or on the fenders. A jack and various other implements are supplied but not called out for, so if you decide to use these a bit of artistic license can be applied and these can be placed where desired, given this is a paper panzer.
The light howitzer has the option of using a metal or two piece styrene barrel, with either choice a three piece muzzle brake is used, which will require some careful clean-up. The gun components are finely detailed and include a couple of PE parts to further enhance it. By not cementing the areas marked in the instructions the gun should be able to elevate and traverse.
The tracks (made by Starr?) resemble ModelKasten track links, in that they should be workable by being prudent with the adhesive. Each link has four connection points that will need careful clean-up, and there is also some flash on the links. To make them workable and provide a realistic look, the links are connected to each other via small pins, numbered differently for the inner and outer surfaces. An assembly board is included to ease the construction and keep the links aligned.
Oddly enough, even though these are workable tracks, a jig is included to get the proper sag. Possibly, it's advised to glue them together when completed? The instructions call for 112 links per side, and after doing a very short practice run found that this will be a labor of love. These also didn't seem to be as sturdy as the MK tracks that I have assembled, but may be due to a rushed effort on my part. I advise to treat these the same as MK tracks and avoid solvents that would melt the delicate track pins when finishing/weathering.
Painting and Marking:
A small decal sheet containing four balkenkruz
, 2 black outlined with white and 2 plain white outline, is included and shown on a plain dunkelgelb
Just as the real vehicles were designed, Trumpeter didn't overcomplicate this one. There are enough details to build this one out-of-the-box, and being a 'paper panzer' the option exists to personalize it. The basic kit, as far as I can tell by the in-box view, should be a pleasure to build. The tracks will be a love/hate affair depending on the modeler, but the included track sag jig makes it easy to just glue the links together if you don't want to bother with having workable ones.
As far as the coolness factor...it doesn't get much better than this. Hopefully Trumpeter will continue releasing more of the 4, 5 and 6 wheeled versions of these weapons carriers.
Panzers 35(t) and 38(t) and their Variants
by Walter J. Spielberger
Other Armorama reviews in this series:
Krupp Steyr Waffentrager
Krupp/Ardelt Waffenträger 88mm Pak-43