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  1. Leichttraktor Rheinmetall 1931 (35330) 1:35 ICM via Hannants Ltd. After WWI the German military were forbidden from developing any serious form of weapons by the Versailles Treaty, so did so underground, with the assistance of their then-friends the Soviet Union providing the trials grounds. The name Leichttraktor translates literally to "Light Tractor", which was part of the subterfuge, and both Rheinmetall and Krupps produced design proposals for consideration for VK31. Rheinmetall created prototypes, which were a fairly unusual (for the time) engine-first design, with the fighting compartment for the four crew and turret bearing a 37cm cannon at the rear. The tracks were suspended using leaf springs, and an order for around 300 examples were made initially, but later cancelled after testing. Only the two prototypes were made, due to the vehicle's poor performance and reliability, especially the tracks, which were prone to slipping off the poorly designed wheels, and were hard to swap due to their poor design. The Kit This is a new tool of a very dead-end in German tank design. It is a small tank, so there are only five sprues of grey styrene in the small box, plus four lengths of black flexible tracks, a tiny clear sprue, a small decal sheet and the instruction booklet. Detail is good throughout as we've come to expect from ICM, with plenty of external detail, including the spiral exhaust mufflers. Construction begins with the upper deck for a change, which has two engine access panels with individual louvers fitted beforehand, and a smaller armoured cone-shaped hatch further back toward the turret ring. Either side are two crew hatches, the left of which stands proud of the deck, while the right hand hatch is flush with the deck. More louvers are added to the front bulkhead before it and the top deck are attached to the right side of the hull, then it has the floor and rear bulkheads glued into place and is finally closed up by adding the left side. The rear bulkhead has a crew hatch on the right side, which is added along with a bunch of shackles and towing eyes, with none at the front. The road wheels are made up in four pairs per bogie, which are held in place by two sets of triangular parts trapping the small wheels in place. There are three of these per side, plus two double-bank return rollers, and another pair on the lower run just aft of the front-mounted idler wheel. The idler and drive sprocket are both made of two parts, with the teeth on the drive wheel central within the flat outer section. With the wheels done, the mud-shedding fenders are constructed from the outer panel and a run of box-sections, and they are then fixed to the hull sides with two pins locating them firmly. The process is repeated on the other side, and the rubber tracks, which are accurate to the initial designs that are mostly rubber with metal inserts, and these are made up from two sections each with one run each side. You will need to use super-glue for the joins, as liquid glue doesn't melt the plastic they are made of, as I tried. The top plates are fitted last to the rear three quarters of the track run, and then attention turns to the turret. Despite this being an exterior-only kit, there is a nicely detailed full breech included in the kit, which is made up over six steps, then set aside to wait for installation. The turret is supplied in two halves, with crew access hatches in each side, which are separate parts and could be left open if you desire. The two halves are brought together around the breech, and sealed in by the turret ring below, and the fairly featureless circular roof part. The mantlet is next, covering the interior of the breech, and is completed by adding the coaxial machine gun mount and the barrel, which is a single part with a short insert at the dangerous end to give it a hollow muzzle. The turret is then decked out with two roof-top vents, lifting eyes and other small parts before it is twisted onto the hull and held in place by a pair of bayonet lugs. The clear headlight lenses are fitted to the domed rear and attached to each side of the front, and a wrap-around railing is glued around the aft area of the hull and turret area. The fun-looking (is that even possible?) exhaust exits the right side of the hull and travels over the fender, with a spiral muffler and short tip - this section being made in two parts to achieve the correct shape. Markings Due to the fact that only two of these vehicles ever existed, there is one colour option, which is a three tone dark sand with brown and green camouflage over the top, somewhat reminiscent of the late war camo used by the Nazis in WWII. The decals are on a tiny sheet with three crosses the only content, which are printed to a good enough standard for the task in hand. You can of course paint it any colour you fancy if you're going off-book for your finish. Conclusion A nicely rendered model of this failed attempt to create a light tank prior to the Panzer I, which was actually a lot more suited to the task and performed well in the early days of the German expansionist attempts. It's also dinky, so won't take up much space on the shelf once built, and if you're feeling adventurous you could always hack it up and create the drop-top early version that had a windscreen where the turret front was later to be found. There are some pictures of them online if you're up for a challenge. Highly recommended. Available from UK Importers HG Hannants Ltd. Review sample courtesy of
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