In an effort to come up with a self-propelled vehicle armed with the 10.5cm leFH 18/1, Krupp put forward a design that involved using a shortened Pzkpw IV chassis as the foundation. This chassis utilized only 3 road wheel pairs as opposed to the standard 4 and the resulting vehicle was given the label of leFH 18/1 (Sf)/Geschutzwagen IVb Sdkfz 165/1. Weighing in at 17 tons, the gun could traverse through 70 degrees in the open-topped turret. The vehicle’s armor ranged from 14.5mm to 20mm and was designed to accommodate a 5-man crew. Only 8 prototypes were completed Aug-Dec 1942 and were field tested with the 16th Panzer Division in Russia. The design was ultimately rejected in favor of the simpler and easier to produce Wespe and the vehicle never entered full production.
This release by Trumpeter comes in a sturdy cardboard box that is divided internally into 3 sections. The sprues are packaged in individually sealed bags and consists of over 590 parts arranged as:
• 8 sprues of vehicle parts molded in light gray
• 1 slide molded lower hull tub
• 1 turret upper half
• 1 hull upper deck
• 6 sprues of individual track links (32 links per sprue)
• 1 Photo-etched brass fret
• 1 Decal sheet
• 1 250mm length of braided copper wire
• Instruction booklet
• Finishing Guide
The kit represents an all-new tooling by Trumpeter and includes slide-molding for the lower hull tub but all other parts are done via the traditional injection molding approach. The new tooling applies to the vehicle as well as the leFH 18/1. The instructions consist of a 19 step exploded-diagram style black-and-white guide with the 19th step having had some modification done to it prior to final shipment as evidenced by the fact that it’s a loose sheet glued to the booklet and also has stickers with the PE parts numbers added as a correction of some sort. The finishing guide provided is in color and calls for a straight panzer gray finish. While no markings are included on the color finishing guide, a small decal sheet with two balkenkreuze and some generic white bordered red numerals are included if you are so inclined to add some basic markings. The parts appear to be cleanly molded for the most part at first glance but upon closer inspection some flash is present on various parts and will require some clean-up during assembly. Some of the attachment points, especially for the smaller parts, are quite large so care will be needed when removing them not to damage them in the process.
Lower Hull and Suspension:
The lower hull matches up to the dimensions of the Doyle diagrams in Spielberger’s “Panzer IV & Its Variants”. The suspension bogies are made up of 6 parts each and the leaf spring unit has a prominent mold seam that will require careful removal. The final drive housings are a single part but call for 5 individual bolts to be added to them that are provided on a molded strip labeled as part B18. Each bolt will need to be carefully shaved off and placed on the housing and each B18 comes with 16 bolts so there’s plenty of extras available to get it right. The sprockets are molded in two halves with bolt detail on the inner and outer surfaces. The idlers are also in two parts and feature the simplified welded tube design. The idler mounts are fixed in place as part of another sub-assembly and are not able to be positioned.
The road wheels are provided in two halves with a separate hub cap and many will be pleased to note that there isn’t a mold seam around the rubber portion to be removed, only the 2 sprue attachment points will require clean-up. The rear hull plate is a single piece molding with the tow bar integrated into it with only a small access panel as a separate piece. A smoke candle rack is provided for the right rear and the exhaust/muffler is a two-part assembly, resulting in a seam that will have to be dealt with, and features a hollow exhaust pipe. PE screens with a nice mesh pattern are also included for the vent intakes.
Since publishing this I've learned that this vehicle should have 520mm diameter wheels that are larger than the "standard" Pz IV wheels. The kit supplied wheels are of the standard variety and, as a result, are undersized and introduce an additional accuracy issue to be taken into consideration. It's also possible, depending on the plans used to compare it against, that the lower hull may be too short but it matches up with the plans I have in Spielberger.
The 40cm tracks are provided in the form of individual links with each link having 3 sprue attachment points. The links come 32 to a sprue and 6 sprues are provided for a total of 192 links. The instructions direct that only 88 are required per side so there are plenty of spares available. The links have hollow guide horns and feature the 2 dimple cleat faces. The dimples appear to be a little on the shallow side but may look better once painted. The links are not handed and the detail for the pins and small side shoes is not as crisp as you might find on other manufacturer’s offerings or on after-market links.
Fighting Compartment Interior:
A good deal of detail is provided for the interior of the fighting compartment since it’s exposed via the open top of the turret. The interior detail includes a wooden lattice floor insert for the forward part of the compartment supplemented by a steel tread plate section for the rear. The front, rear, and side compartment walls are provided as separate pieces and there are no ejector or sink marks on the surfaces that will be visible. Large bracing tabs are molded into the floor of the compartment to help with alignment of the four sides. The lower hull detail also includes ammunition racks and charge boxes. The boxes have no detail on the insides and the racks are molded solid vs. featuring loaded ready rounds, so options here are limited. No additional detail is provided for the driver’s compartment or the engine bay.
The upper hull consists of a single piece upper deck and sides, a separate superstructure front plate, and the glacis plate. The driver’s hatch is provided with only basic detail on the inner surface and the two side hull vision ports are molded solid with only the barest hint of a vision slit present. The driver’s visor can be positioned either open or closed however no clear armored glass parts are provided as is common in other kits. The upper hull plate also features recessed weld seams along the side edges as opposed to the correct flush seams that should be present.
The fenders are provided as single pieces for each side with the front and rear mud flaps already integrated. The fenders feature a tread plate pattern only on the upper surface and have multiple locating holes for the various pioneer tools and stowage. The fender braces are provided as PE items only with their locating channels molded into the fenders so there’s no doubt as to their placement.
The pioneer tools feature molded on clamps with hollow handles, some of which seem a little undersized at first, but when looking at one of the available photos it would appear that the clamps used on the prototype were smaller than “normal” clamps, perhaps due to the tight space on the fenders, so I'm willing to give Trumpeter the benefit of the doubt here. Square head lamps are provided for each fender with inserts to create the blackout slits however the wiring is missing that leads down the inside of the fenders, a detail that can be easily added with some fine gauge solder or wire if desired.
Turret and Main Armament:
The turret housing the leFH 18/1 consists of the lower bottom half and the upper turret itself. The lower half and hull cutout doesn’t feature any turret race detail and the turret is a friction fit into the hull itself. A full set of interior details is provided including the traverse mechanisms, MP40s, crew gear, and a detailed gun breech and will result in an absolutely jam-packed arrangement. Locating tabs and markings are provided to help insure everything ends up in the right place and the only ejector marks are on the underside of the turret roof and are not readily visible.
The crew gear detail, especially on the canteens and gas mask canisters, is soft in many respects when compared to the detail offered by other manufacturers and detracts somewhat as a result given the prominent position they will occupy on the finished build. The radio for the rear of the turret is also somewhat chunky in its details. The gun breech is a three part assembly that will inevitably require some sanding and putty work to produce a seamless product, a task made a little harder by the fact that the top has the breech lever and other detail molded in place where the mating surfaces meet.
The gun barrel and muzzle brake are separate assemblies with each consisting of two halves. This will require care when assembling the barrel to avoid a seam. Having the brake separate will make it slightly easier to deal with its seam on the interior surfaces at least. The mantlet is also a two part assembly which will also have a seam to be dealt with to accurately replicate the smooth finish. The gun is not designed to be movable but rather is fixed in position, so a decision as to the desired angle will have to be made at the time of installation.
The exterior of the turret includes some very nice detail in the form of the foul weather tarp attachment points and the bolt detail for the strip around the top front area. The turret sides do contain an error though in that the weld seams where the front plate meets the sides is represented as recessed when reference photos show it should be flush. To round out the details, braided copper wire is provided that will have to be cut to length to make the two tow cables. Separate styrene cable ends are provided and PE retaining chains are included that will have to be bent to shape to round out the turret details. The gun cleaning rods that attach to the rear of the turret are designed to integrate in with the spare track run on the turret rear and, as a result, the cleaning swab appears to be much smaller than you would expect for the 10.5cm gun.
Overall the kit packs a lot of detail into a small vehicle and the kit represents a first in styrene for this particular design. As an all-new tooling, the presence of flash on some of the parts came somewhat as a surprise but where present it can be easily removed. The amount of detail for the turret and fighting compartment, while soft in many respects in terms of the crew gear, will make for an interesting project. There are some obvious problems that will have to be corrected such as the recessed turret and upper hull weld seams to produce an accurate build. Overall the kit appears to be generally accurate when compared to available photos and drawings considering the rare nature of this particular vehicle. A Build Log
is available via the forums to evaluate part fit and construction. Recommended with reservations in regards to the accuracy issues.
Spielberger, Walter J: “Panzer IV & Its Variants”, Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 1993. ISBN 0-88740-515-0