Waffentrager 88mm PAK-43
During the last desperate days of the Third Reich, the Germans had many armor projects under development and design. Some were prototype test vehicles and some just concepts on the drawing board. These have shown up recently as a spate of new kit releases for armor modelers, very similar to the Luft ’46 kits that have been coming out for years for airplane builders. This kit from Trumpeter was a design by Krupp/Ardelt, mounting the powerful PAK-43 anti-tank gun on the Hetzer chassis, combining a hard hitting gun and a highly mobile, lightly armored vehicle with limited crew protection.
Trumpeter’s kit has over 1000 parts of plastic, two metal gun barrel parts, and two small photo etch frets. The vehicle and gun parts are molded in a tan plastic. The individual track links are molded in a brown plastic. The parts are pretty cleanly molded, with nice detail, but there are some areas of flash and ejector pin marks that will need to be cleaned up. The trees are well protected in several plastic bags. The instructions are a twelve-page, 8x10 booklet with no text, just twelve steps of drawings with number callouts. A one-page color painting/marking guide with color callouts for Mr. Hobby, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya, and Humbrol showing a single vehicle camouflage scheme is included.
Construction starts with the lower hull and proceeds smoothly until you get to the individual track links. The links are molded in pairs. Each track link requires you to cut it from a tree at four points and then has to be cleaned up to allow a good fit between links. You are also expected to drill out each link at two points where a tiny connecting pin is supposed to join the two links together. There are 240 links and 480 pins…and I chose to glue the links together. The links do glue together well and Trumpeter included two jigs to assist in assembly. One is to align ten links at a time and another to set the proper sag to the upper part of the track assembly. I used the second jig (it worked very well) and tried the first (not so well). The cleanup, assembly, and fitting of the tracks was by far the most time consuming and frustrating portion of the build!! Be careful when gluing the fenders to the lower hull to ensure clearance for the tracks. It is a tight fit at the back end of the tank.
The upper hull is built next with very good fit overall. You are provided with several ammunition containers (one photo etch and three plastic), with the option to open them for more detail to show off the (included) 88mm rounds. The fighting compartment (turret) is next up and goes together quickly with no fit issues or problems.
The PAK-43 gun has three assembly steps: first, the cradle assembly; second, the breech assembly; and finally the barrel. There are many small fragile parts that must work together to allow the gun to elevate, so caution and good clean up with parts E38 (x2) and E25/E26 (x2) and their mount parts E33 and E34 is needed. The turned metal barrel is very heavy compared to the breech/cradle assembly and will even tilt the turret assembly forward if it is not supported by the travel lock, so gluing everything in place is needed if you don’t figure a way to counterweight the barrel (possible weights in breech halves D17 and D18??).
Final assembly has you joining the three major components together. The turret and gun fit right into place on the tank, no problem. There are extra parts on the trees that give you a variety of tools and extra track to place on the tank as you see fit.
I painted the tank per the instructions, using Tamiya paints. I left off the markings. There are two types of German crosses and two sets of kill markings for the gun barrel, and a radio face decal. They look very thick and glossy on the decal paper. The tank was weathered lightly with pastels.
Overall, this was a good kit, and my only complaint would have to be the overly difficult tracks both in clean up and assembly. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Dragon’s Magic Tracks… I did enjoy building this kit and it adds something different to my growing WWII German Tank Destroyer collection. I would like to thank Trumpeter and Stevens International for the donation and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to build it.