3.7cm FlaK 43 auf Schwere Wehrmacht Schlepper with Maybach HL42 TRKMS Engine
I’ve always been interested in self propelled flak guns, whether on a truck or tracked vehicle. Maybe it’s the interesting combination of equipment that makes some very unique looking vehicles. For several years I had the old Italeri sWS kit hanging out in the closet, along with some various details with the idea of building it someday. Lo and behold a new company, Great Wall Hobby, comes on the scene with all-new tool sWS. I hedged my bets and figured they would eventfully release some of the self-propelled flak halftracks based on the sWS. Sure enough, I didn’t have to wait long!
The schwere Wehrmacht Schlepper was meant to be a simpler, more cost effective, and more robust halftrack to replace other five ton halftracks, such as the Sdkfz 6 and Sdkfz 11. Over 800 of the base cargo model were produced, with production continued after the war by Tatra in Czechoslovakia. With a top speed of only 17 mph, it was to be used mostly for cargo; however it quickly became adapted as a flak vehicle. Only about 80 conversions were done by the war’s end.
Within the sturdy box you get 428 parts, plus over 200 individual track links. Also is an etched fret with 38 parts. Decals and the easy to understand 11 page instruction booklet round out the contents. There is a small addendum to the instructions, so be sure to pay attention to this. The painting guide is a separate full color print on a separate page, though only one color option is provided (overall yellow).
Among all the parts are options for two different drive sprockets, two different front wheel hubs, and both the spoke and solid disc idler wheel. Road wheels are the full dish type (the cargo version of this kit comes with spoke type). Now depending on what set of plans you pull from, there are minor errors in some dimensions. However overall it is still more accurate than the Italeri kit. If you’re interested in measuring the real thing, the Kruse museum in Auburn, IN has a sWS with flak bed in their collection.
Assembly is done in sub-assemblies, starting with the chassis. The cab, bed, and gun are all separate assemblies. The fit is so good overall that you could assemble each part, paint, and do final assembly after completing painting. I chose a little hybrid of the options assembling most, painting the interior, then finishing painting after the cab was installed, but more on that later.
The frame is molded in one piece and provides a very sturdy and square base. Great Wall hobby also includes various details such as air tanks and the tow wrench. Note that the armored variants of the sWS normally did not have the wrench installed, so leave this part out. I discovered that too late, so mine is there. Pay close attention to what parts go where, as some look the same but are slightly different. Very little cleanup is needed on any of the parts, and everything fits perfectly. If you desire a little extra detail, air lines could be added with wire or brass rod.
The front suspension leaf springs are very nicely done with minimal seams to clean up. The linkages are supposed to be moveable for positional front wheels; however a later step effectively locks them into position, so decide early. There are some different modifications that could be done to maintain the positional wheels, such as cutting the offending link, drilling out the joint, and re-pinning it. I just chose to decide on where I wanted them placed a head of time.
The rear idler assembles much like the real thing, and I would leave this off until the tracks are done so that it can be positioned to match the tracks. Otherwise, you may end up like I did and have a small gap in the tracks to contend with.
Wheels are made from a seven part sandwich with three parts for each tire half and a hub. The sandwich means that you get perfect tread pattern with no seam to clean up. I assembled each half separate, leaving them apart from the hub. This allowed me to paint the hub and tires separate, and then join them for a perfectly painted wheel. I did have to scrape out a bit of the inner tire parts to get the hub to slide easily onto the hub.
Tracks are individual link, and once clipped from the sprue assemble pretty fast. There is some small ejector pin marks between the guide teeth, but the road wheels cover this up and they are not seen in the finished model. I assembled mine in runs; bottom, top, sprocket, idler, and assembled the runs together on the model. It takes some tweaking to get the link count right, so start with the sprocket and work your way to the back, installing the idler wheel at the same time.
On to the Cab
The cab starts with the floor and fenders. The cab interior covers all of the essentials with plenty of room for a super-detail job if you wish, though once upper part of the cab is installed there is little seen. All of the kit parts are very well molded with crisp detail. The seats could use a little texture, but again, are hardly seen. One nice feature is that Great Wall Hobby did include the various pedals, something that is lacking in many kits. I assembled everything, and painted it with German Panzer Yellow. After a wash and light dry-brushing, I added the upper part of the cab to complete painting on the model.
On the exterior, the pioneer tools was one of the few letdowns of the kit. Seeing the rest of the advanced molding technology produce super thin parts, such as what is on the Flak 43, I don’t understand why GWH didn’t spend some extra time and added some molded tool clips, or included them even as separate parts. Instead the “clip” is represented by a box, much like the 1970’s era Tamiya kits. Width indicators are also provided in plastic, and though acceptable these would have been nice in brass, much like Dragon has done in many of their kits.
The gun deck gets assembled with a solid group of frame parts and the deck itself. Do be sure to keep the frame parts square with the deck, as mine tended to want to glue toed inward. The rear stowage compartment assembles easily enough and the fit is perfect. I really like that the kit gives all the hatches separate, thus you can pose them either open or closed. The side panels are assembled with some photo-etch mesh, which also fits very well. Just be sure to file off the nibs where the photo etched part was attached to the fret. These side panels can also be poised down or closed, and some small photo-etch chain is provided for the locking pins.
The Flak Gun, 3.7cm Flak 43/1
After building the old CMK offering many years ago, and then the Tamiya version on the Mobelwagen, this kit is a jewel. First thing that caught my eye was how thin the gun shield was. Sure, you could still “upgrade” it with a metal offering, but I honestly don’t see why as it is extremely thin and accurate. The gun is all done in plastic, with the only exception being the screen for the shell basket and a few bits on the mount itself. Though there are a lot of parts, it goes together easily over a few sessions and the instructions are easy to follow. The barrel is a one part deal, and will be adequate for most, however I opted to replace mine with a metal one for the flash suppressor looked better.
As far as that shell basket goes, don’t be daunted by the photo-etch screen. The frame is plastic, and assembles easily. Most of the resulting sides are flat, so it’s just a matter of centering the screen on the side and running a little super glue along the edge. Start with one side of the screen and then work your way around adding glue as you go.
Painting and Markings
As mentioned, only minimal markings and one, overall yellow, scheme is called out in the instructions. I decided to stick with this as it has been a while since I’ve done an overall German Yellow scheme. I also wanted the vehicle a bit weathered with the lower portions showing a heavy layer of grime and accumulated dirt.
First, I kept all the major assemblies separated. So the lower body, cab top, and gun were all painted separate. First up was to finish off the interior of the cab, which I did using the exterior color followed by some detail painting and washes/drybrushing. Once finished I secured the cab top to the rest of the chassis for final painting.
To help with the texture of the built up grime and dirt, I used some artist “stucco” gel medium on all of the areas I wanted a heavy build up. Once painted this texture looks just like caked on dirt. I started with a pre-shade of Testors #2005 Burnt Umber along all the joints, crevices, and the entire underside and running gear. This formed a pre-shade for the dark yellow areas and the base color for the built up grime in the lower portions. For the dark yellow, I have always felt that the Testors Model Master #2095 “Panzer Dunkelgelb 1943” was a bit too dark for my personal taste. So I made a custom 2:1 blend of the #2095 and #1709 “Radome Tan”. This lightened the Dunkelgelb a bit while keeping the yellow hue. Using the airbrush I sprayed this color on the gun, gun shield, and upper portion of the model in light coats. By building up the color with successive translucent coats, I was able to control how much of the pre-shade I wanted to show through. I continued to build the color up until satisfied with the results. I also sprayed a little in the center of each road-wheel and sprocket, as it didn’t look completely right to have these totally covered in grime. To do some “rain marks”, I used the Radome Tan with just a drop or two of the Dunkelgelb. This mixture was thinned considerably and carefully sprayed along the vertical portions of the model in vertical streaks that tapered toward the top. Some of the same color was also sprayed on the horizontal portions to highlight and fade. Testors also have a railroad line of colors under their “Floquil” label that has many useful colors. One of these is “Caboose Red” which makes a great red-oxide primer color. Being a late war vehicle, I took a little liberty and thought that some of the interior spaces, such as the storage lockers, would have been left in the primer and not over painted in Dunkelgelb.
After a coat of Future, decals were applied. A pin wash of dark brown oil paint and turpenoid was flowed into the cracks and around details. Once set for a short time, this was cleaned up with a brush moistened in turpenoid. Dry-brushing with a very light tan oil paint was done after the wash had completely dried. For the barrel, I rubbed a graphite pencil onto sandpaper creating a powder. This was transferred to a paper towel and then rubbed into the barrel and somewhat on the gun receiver. At this point painting was completed for now, with more work to do later with pigments, chipping, and final details such as crew gear and ammo load.
Overall this is an excellent kit. The moldings are sharp, zero flash, and very fine details are included. Fit is excellent and even though complex, the clear instructions make it manageable for even a novice modeler who allows time to work through the kit. Though a bit pricey, it is leagues above the other offerings of the same subject, and builds into a very detailed model without any aftermarket. Figuring that a “standard” kit in the $30-$40 range may need another $20-$30 of aftermarket to even begin to touch the same level of detail (not even mentioning inherent kit inaccuracy’s), this kit is reasonable for what you get out of the box. For those that still want additional detail, Great Wall Hobby does make a small detail set for a very reasonable price, and even paying full retail for both you will still be under $100. Something that can’t be said with some kits appearing on the market these days. My thanks to Dragon Models-USA and IPMS/ USA for the review sample!