Pz.Kpfw 38(t) Ausf E/F
1:16 Panda Hobby
The Panzer 38 started life as an inter-war Czech designed medium tank that was co-opted into service by the Nazi war machine when Czechoslovakia was annexed prior to WWII. It's age is exhibited by the comparatively light main armament and the riveted and bolted construction of the armour plates. Additional armour was deemed necessary in German service, which was achieved by the addition of extra plates to the existing armour, rather than replacing the panels, and these were designated as E through to G.
Although it was already a fairly old design by the outbreak of WWII in Europe, manufacture continued until 1942, when the realisation that it could not take on the Russian tank of the day, the T-34 dawned upon the designers. Its chassis carried on however, and was used as a Flakpanzer, the well liked (by its crew) Hetzer and the Marder III. Crews said of the drivetrain that it was well-designed for use as well as maintenance, which resulted in a low breakdown rate, with easy repairs when it did fail.
Its main use was on the Eastern Front, but it was pulled out of frontline use due to its light armour, and although it continued as a reconnaissance tank, that was the remaining chassis from the 1,400 that has been built were re-tasked in earnest. The Marder III was an attempt to break through the armour of the T-34 with captured 76.2mm Russian guns mounted in open turrets, and this in turn led to the more successful Hezter. The diminutive Hetzer (officially designated Jagdpanzer 38(t)) had a wider chassis and heavier armour in a turretless design, turning it into an effective tank destroyer that became increasingly common right up to the end of the war, with almost 3,000 built.
This is the first kit in Panda's new "Huge Monster Series", as evidenced by the 16001 catalogue number on the end of the box. Even though it is a relatively small tank, the dimensions on the front of the box show a length of 288mm, width of 133mm and height of 144mm, which is handy to know if you're not familiar with the scale. The box is around the same size and proportions as an Airfix Valiant box, just to give you an idea of how it'd fit in your stash - it's a top opening box that is pleasingly heavy, and inside you will find rather a lot of styrene in individual bags. There are eleven sprues in dark grey styrene, seventeen ladder sprues in mid-brown styrene containing the track links, a clear sprue, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a turned aluminium barrel for the main armament, and a sheet of decals for the tank's markings. The instruction booklet is in the form of a narrow A4 and runs to eight pages packed with construction sequences. The painting and marking sheet is A3 and printed in full colour on glossy paper, with a side-profile printed on the rear that could be framed and hung on the wall after use if you're careful with it, and so minded.
First impressions are good, and after you stop looking for the hull and realise it is supplied in slab-sections, it is obvious that a lot of detail has been crammed into the parts, including a basic turret interior and full breech. It is also clear that the kit has been made with absolutely no regard for motorisation, which I'm sure will disappoint a few folks, but most will be happy with a static model of this lesser known, but important tank. Slide-moulding has been used where sensible, a turned metal barrel improves the look of the gun immensely, and the individual track links with separate pins have been well done, and have only seams and sprue links to clean up - not an ejector pin in sight.
Of course, instruction starts with the drivetrain, and detail here is good. The drive sprockets are made up from two sprocket parts with two hub components coupled to the final drive, and the idler is similarly doubled up to trap the guide-horns, with a track-tensioner axle attached at the rear. The roadwheels are built up in pairs on their suspension arms, which have traditional leaf-springs between the axles. The wheels are separate from the tyres, which will please a lot of folks, and again, the two-part hubs are present. The return-rollers are built from two parts attached to a small stub-axle, and these are then attached to the hull. The hull itself is built up from a base with rolled front section, two side panels, front glacis plate with a large hatch in it, and the rear bulkhead, of which you have a choice of two for E or F models. Once that has set up, the running gear is added using locating pegs & holes in the sides of the hull, along with a bump-stop for the front suspension pair and two return-rollers per side.
The fenders are one-piece per side, and run from stem to stern, with folded PE brackets providing extra strength on the real thing. The upper glacis panel is built up from the two layers of armour, and the ball of the bow-mounted MG is trapped between them, with a simple breech added to a socket on the rear of the ball. The muzzle of the 7.92mm ZB-53 gun is hollow thanks to some handy slide-moulding, but its part number is wrong. The vision blocks are shown in the open position, and have small hinges, stays and latches added during construction to finish them off. The upper hull with the turret ring is added next, and here Panda have taken the trouble of putting a highly detailed set of teeth around the aperture, although it will seldom be seen unless you model the tank as knocked-out. The fenders are festooned with pioneer tools, which are very well detailed with more realistic tie-downs when compared to the usual shapeless blocks you see on smaller scale armour. For some reason these steps are repeated in steps 13 and 14, so can be ignored.
As mentioned earlier, the barrel of the gun is turned from aluminium and has a hollow barrel for realism. This is clamped between the breech parts, which are built up into a good representation of the 37mm kwK 38(t) L/47.8 cannon, the German version of the original Skoda A7 unit. The coaxial machine gun is also present in another ball-mount, this time trapped behind an internal bezel within the mantlet. This also has a breech identical to the bow-mounted one. Unlike the bow-mounted MG though, the turret coax doesn't have a hollow barrel, but could be quickly drilled out for extra realism if you wished - why they gave us only one hollow barrel is a mystery. The turret has a high cupola for the commander, which has a quartet of clear vision blocks mounted in armoured blocks every 90o around the hatch. This is added to the roof of the slide-moulded turret part, which lines up with the four sections of the inner hatch wall moulded into the turret. Additional sighting is achieved by a periscope that sits just forward of the commander's cupola on the port side. The underside of the turret with its cut-out is glued inside the turret shell, and a pair of jump-seats are added on tubular brackets for the gunner and commander.
The aft deck is fairly empty, save for one grille that has a PE mesh panel installed over it to stop debris and grenades from finding their way inside. The exhaust is on the rear bulkhead, and is cylindrical with input and exhaust tubes on either end. Attached to that is a shroud for the input pipe, and on the rear of the cylindrical section is a box that is intended for smoke candles, set on a bracket. Additional track links are added to the fenders, and here the repeated construction steps start to take their toll. Clearly there were other steps that have been missed out during production of the booklet, as there is a large sloped sided box on the starboard fender behind the jack-block, and yet it is not mentioned in the instructions until it magically appears on the back page. It's a shame, as it's a nicely done perforated piece, which has benefited from some slide-moulding to make it in one piece. The jack fits across the top of it in a pair of recessed, and this is also ignored in the instructions. A length of spare track also appears on the underside of the bow, with no word of how it is affixed, although I have a hunch that part E50 has a hand in it. Oops! I'm sure that this will be corrected now it's known, but in the meantime, a little guesswork will be required, and some reference to reference photos to see how it goes together.
Oddly for a tank, the tracks are not covered until the very last step, almost as an afterthought. In a scrap diagram the links are shown being glued together, and you are told that you need 186 of them, which I assume will mean 93 per side. The track pins that are provided in large quantities on the side of each track sprue aren't mentioned however, but most tracks seem to be assembled with an open or closed pin, which are both supplied, six of each on each sprue. You'll need to check your references to see which one goes where, so take care when assembling them.
The last act is to add the turret and some small PE parts to the upper hull, and place the communications aerial on the bow plate on its bracket that attaches to the port corner.
Decals forfour options are supplied in the box on a medium sized sheet that has been printed in China. Printing is nicely done, with minimal carrier film between the numerals, although there is a slight registration error between the black and white colours, so you'll need to trim the ends of some of the balkenkreuz (German crosses). From the box you can build one of the following machines:
- "525" Pz. Regiment 25 of the 7th Pz. Division, Russia 1942 - overall Panzer Grey
- "833" Pz. Regiment 204 of the 22nd Pz. Division, Crimea 1941-2 - overall Panzer Grey
- "522" Pz. Regiment 204 of the 22nd Pz. Division, Crimea 1941-2 - overall Panzer Grey
- "1003" Pz. Regiment 25 of the 7th Pz. Division, Russia winter 1941-2 - overall Panzer Grey with a worn white distemper overcoat
As someone that has recently been introduced to the world of 1:16 armour, I'm very pleased to see this kit, and it bodes well for the next and subsequent kits in this scale from Panda. Detail is excellent, just as you would hope with the increase in scale, and even the most hardened adherent to rubber-band tracks will be able to deal with these nice big links, although having to research where the pins go is a minor pain. Of larger concern is the mistake in the instructions, as less experienced modellers might struggle to figure out where the unmentioned parts go, and may not even realise that they are missed, resulting in an incomplete tank. Hopefully Panda will come out with a downloadable addendum for those that have the incorrect instructions, but it's a mistake that could have easily been averting by proofing or even a test build following the instructions. Somewhere along the line, the copy & paste machine took a wrong turn.
Don't let that put you off the kit though - it's well done and highly detailed. We shall have to wait for the P38(t) experts to pick over the fine details to hear more about the accuracy of the shape when built, and to find out whether there are any smaller details that need working on, as is so often the case with any older, and even some of the newer tank designs where production was in a constant state of change from month to month.
If you've not tried 1:16 armour before, this would make a great introduction, as the finished product is relatively compact, and the detail is that of a model kit, rather than a well-detailed toy. It deserves to do well.
Review sample courtesy of
and available soon from major hobby shops