Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. A/B/C (Sd.Kfz.121) "French Campaign"
The Panzerkampfwagen II, or Pzkfw. II for short, was a light tank produced as a stop gap measure by the German armaments industry for the German Armed Forces prior to and during the early stages of WW2. What the German High Command really wanted was the more powerfully armed Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks, but German industry found producing the more complex heavier tanks in any meaningful numbers beyond their capacity, at least initially. That said the Pzkfw. II series of light tanks went on to serve with distinction during the initial phases of the War, especially in the Polish and French Campaigns of 1939 and 1940, with nearly 1,900 vehicles of all marks eventually seeing production.
Tamiya launched their 1/48thscale Military Miniature Series of military vehicles about seven or eight years ago, and since then have produced at least one variant of all the German WW2 medium and heavy tanks, from the Pzkfw. III through to the King Tiger. With the introduction of this latest kit, Tamiya have come around to producing an early war light tank. (With luck they will eventually produce some of the derivatives such as the Wespe SPG etc., which utilized the Panzer II chassis).
The model itself is molded in the standard Tamiya light gray plastic, without any evidence of flash. Parts are well detailed, and crisply molded, and no sink marks or ejection pin marks are present that can be seen when the kit is fully assembled. There are no photo etched parts with the kit, but it does come with two lumps of steel bar, more of which later. Decals are your standard Tamiya fare: a bit on the thick side, but perfectly useable being well printed, and opaque.
Assembly of the kit parts provided me with no surprises. As one has come to expect from Tamiya kits over the years, the parts fit was excellent, as were the instructions. The instructions start the modeler off assembling the lower hull, and this is an all-plastic affair unlike many earlier Tamiya 1/48thvehicle kits which utilized under-detailed cast metal hulls. However, Tamiya does provide the modeler two steel rods which one can only assume somehow adds “scale weight” to the model? It really makes no sense to me whatsoever, and if Tamiya wanted to do something useful with metal and the investment these steel rods represent, perhaps a far smarter idea would have been to incorporate a small photo etched fret into the kit for the exhaust muffler area??
Following the assembly of the lower hull “tub” the modeler moves on to the assembly of the road wheels, and the track. The latter utilizes the excellent “link and length” system seen in previous kits, with individual links that wrap around the drive sprocket and idler wheels, with much longer track runs for the upper and lower track runs. There are very small ejection pin marks on these links, but they aren’t easily seen, the track pieces being very petite. And I experienced no difficulties in assembling the tracks if one carefully follows the instruction sequence. Test fit these tracks very carefully to avoid having the track runs turn out too long, or too short. That said, the road wheels were a different matter: the five road wheels on each side of the kit were very loose on their mounting pins, and so care had to be taken to carefully line them up with one another, and with the drive sprocket and idler wheels. You get the picture: care, care, care!!
As per usual with this series of Tamiya kits, the on board tools (axe, wire cutter etc) were molded as part of the main upper hull part, B10. Thus they will need carefully painting with a fine brush and a steady hand. The exception is the shovel, part C24. And the Notek blackout lamp is a two part setup, though as with a number of other small parts in the kit, care needs to be taken in removing the parts from the sprues, and cleaning up the sprue attachment points. In the case of the two headlamps, I carefully drilled each of them out, for later filling with two part clear epoxy to simulate the glass. And while discussing the upper hull parts of the kit, it is here that I must admit to being rather disappointed with one particular aspect of this model: the exhaust muffler parts, C31 and C32. Or should I say, the fact that there isn’t a third part: an exhaust muffler screen. Given what is offered from other manufacturers these days, I felt that a dedicated photo etched screen part should have been provided here. What does Tamiya give you? A decal: in an attempt to “simulate” a mesh screen. It simply looks hokey, in my opinion.
Moving on to the turret assembly, all the hatches are molded as separate pieces, including the vision flaps. The cannon and machine gun are separate pieces, but could do with their ends being carefully drilled out. A single crewman comes with the kit, suitable for posing in the open turret main hatch. As per usual with such figures, this little fellow is a tad under scale, but otherwise looks the part. He is at least dressed in what appears to be the appropriate early war uniform.
The kit offers the builder the option to finish their model in any color, provided that color is gray. Three marking options exist. All naturally enough given the title of the kit are from the Battle of France, 1940: one vehicle from the 6thPanzer Division, two from different Regiments in the 4thPanzer Division. The review model was initially primed with Mr. Surfacer 1200 lacquer primer, followed by an undercoat of Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black over the lower hull and the recesses of the upper hull, as a sort of pre-shading exercise. Following this, I painted my model overall using Tamiya’s XF-63 German Gray. The base color was then lightening with white, and the centers of panels etc., were highlighted. All the primers and paints being thinned with Mr. Color Self Leveling lacquer thinner. A couple of coats of Tamiya X-22 Clear Gloss were then applied, followed by the decals. The latter went on with no problems whatsoever, even over the raised vision slot on the back of the turret. The decals were helped to settle down nicely by applications of the two part Mr Color decal setting solution system, first the Blue Top liquid, then the Green Top liquid. When thoroughly dry after 48 hours, some more clear gloss was applied to seal the deals. Then some oil paint “washes” were applied to highlight the various details, and when dry, the whole model was airbrushed with Vallejo acrylic Matt Clear, my current favorite matt clear product.
Overall this is an extremely easy to build, and fairly nicely detailed model. It appears to be quite accurate in outline, and with the exception of the unnecessary (IMHO) lumps of metal in the hull, and the lack of a photo etched muffler guard, is a wonderful kit. I had a ton of fun assembling and painting this model over the course of a number of evenings, and it shouldn’t cause any issues for your average modeler. My sincere thanks to TamiyaUSA and to IPMS/USA for providing this little gem of a kit for me to review.