L4500 Maultier Heavy Half-Track
When this kit arrived in the mail I was pleasantly surprised by the my impressions of the kit. Although I’d never build a Zvezda kit, my understanding about their kits was… well, let’s say not so good. Let me say right here at the start that if this kit is any indication of the quality of kits they now produce, I’ll gladly put down my money to buy one if the subject interests me. This is a great kit of an unusual German heavy truck. The kit is molded in dark tan styrene. The quality of the molding is very good, with minimal flash and clean up required. There were some minor sinks on the suspension bogies that needed to be filled and sanded, but were not difficult to accomplish. The sturdy box contains 10 sprues, 9 in dark tan and one clear sprue and a small decal sheet. No photo etch is included. The kit does include two very nicely cast crew figures as well.
Construction followed the sequence described in the instructions starting with the very nicely detailed engine. The kit gives you the option to display the engine by modifying parts G19 and B42. In the interest of time I decided to cover this little gem up but if I were to build another, or perhaps it’s sister kit the wheeled L4500, I’d most certainly open these doors up! Once the engine was done I moved onto the very elaborate ladder frame. There are two major elements of this, first the main frame and second the frame supporting the Maultier’s adapted Panzer II running gear. Both are highly detailed and complete. These frames comprise the majority of the parts of the kit and again are very complete. I recommend not gluing parts (H5), the idler support arms, to the frame until you are ready to assemble the link and length tracks to ensure you get the correct fit over the idlers.
I next built up the front suspension and wheels/tires. The suspension is very complete, intricate and fragile, care will be necessary to make sure it’s not damaged throughout the build. I left the tires to paint and weather them separately and glued them on after everything else was painted. The tires although nicely engineered are a little dubious. The tread pattern is very shallow. I don’t have any reference material for these trucks so I could say exactly if they’re correct for the war or not, but if not we’ll certainly see a set of aftermarket tires released to replace them (and the spare too).
I went along and attached the engine and the various exhaust components to the frame and then move on to the cargo box and canvas cover. The box is comprised of eight parts. Be careful and double check your work because it’s easy to confuse the front from the back of the cargo box if the fenders aren’t yet attached. I goofed a little and accidently glued the fold down door to the front of the box.
The canvas cargo cover is a beauty, and is again made up of five parts. You again get options to display the rear of the canvas cover open to see the contents of the cargo box. Zvezda cleverly designed the sides and top to join along the seam of the canvas. Some minor filling was required with Gunze’s Mr. Dissolved Putty. A quick sanding after it dried hid any offensive seams. Noteworthy of the cover are the nicely cast folds and sags of the tarp, very nicely and naturally done!
As mentioned these are the link and length variety and have generally good detail. If doing another kit, I’d probably spring for a set of functional metal link to link track to give it the realistic sag they provide, plus they’re easier (generally) to build and paint, and aren’t as brittle. I did one side at a time over two nights, letting each side dry before working the other side. Again these are a little fiddly because the joints can be a quite brittle. I used Tenax Liquid cement for this with good results.
The last major portion of the build was the Cab. I highly suggest gluing the doors to the cab before attaching it to the frame to make sure everything lines up correctly, I left mine off because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to display the cab (doors open or closed). This cause me problems later when I added the doors because I couldn’t get either door to “close” The instructions show you building up the cab and attaching it to the frame without the cab roof. There is a seam along the back of the cab where the roof joins the lower cab that will have to be filled and sanded. Handling will be somewhat more difficult if you follow the instructions and attach the cab to the frame as the instructions depict.
Painting was done in major sub-assemblies, lower frame, cab, cargo box and canvas top. The model was pre-shaded with Vallejo German Camo black, and then primed in Vallejo Model Air German Gray. Once dry I gave the cab a coat of hairspray and let that dry. From there it was on to the dark yellow. This was done by first spraying a light coat of Vallejo Model Air Green-Brown, followed by a mix of this color and Vallejo Dark Yellow. A few more detail coats were applied to a few specific points (top of the cab, bonnet, tops of the headlights etc) using this final color, lightened with Vallejo Model Air White.
The tracks were first primed with Floquil Antique Bronze enamel, and once thoroughly dry, given the rust and dust technique using Life Color’s amazing “Dust and Rust” acrylic paint set.
Once the tracks were dry I put all the sub assemblies together and wrapped this project up. A few detail washes later and it was done! Again this is a great kit of a unique German soft skin. Highly recommended
A big thanks to Dragon-USA and IPMS for the review sample!