Throughout WW2 the Germans constantly sought ways to create mobile artillery platforms and often captured vehicles were pressed into service in this role and this latest kit by Bronco Models addresses one of these. 48 captured H39 tanks were converted to serve as self-propelled mounts for the 10.5cm leFH 18 and were assigned to the 155 Panzer Artillerie Regiment as part of the 21st Panzer Division in Normandy. This release follows on the heels of kit #35004 which dealt with the Marder I conversions which I also Reviewed Here
The kit is packaged in the standard slip top cardboard box with each sprue individually sealed in its own clear bag with the “multimedia” items contained in a separate single zip-lock bag. The kit consists of over 450 parts arranged in the following:
• 5 sprues of light gray styrene
• 2 sprues of black styrene individual track links
• 1 light gray styrene hull tub
• 1 sprue of light green styrene for the MG34
• 1 turned aluminum barrel
• 1 PE fret of 52 parts sealed between two laminated clear sheets
• 6 coil springs for the suspension
• 1 length of chain
• 2 nylon mesh sections of “chicken wire”
• Cartograf Decal Sheet
• Instruction booklet
As you might expect given how much is in common between the 10.5cm leFH 18 armed vehicle and the 7.5cm Pak 40 armed vehicle, this review will focus primarily on the new parts and changes in the instructions relative to this kit and vehicle. Virtually all of the parts provided are used with the exception of some components found on Sprue C that are used only on the H39 gun tank kit and the extra radio parts on Sprue G used on kit #35004.
All of the interior, lower hull, and suspension parts remain the same and the order of assembly in the instructions is unchanged with the first 5 steps repeating everything to the letter as in kit #35004. The parts provided are molded in a medium gray plastic that is somewhat softer than normal and care is required in parts removal and clean up to avoid damaging them in the process. Some fine flash is present on the sprues that will require attention and some of the smaller parts have large attachment points that intrude into the part itself, making clean-up a more complex affair in the process. The pioneer tools provided are somewhat soft in their detail and all of the tools are repeats from the #35004 kit. This presents a problem only with the cleaning rods which are the right length for the Pak 40 but not for the leFH 18.
The details that distinguish this kit from #35004 primarily involve the fighting compartment layout and, of course, the armament itself, although much of the detail and design remains unchanged. The left side of the interior remains largely unchanged and the radio is provided in two halves, which creates somewhat of a difficult seam in the process that will have to be dealt with. A one-piece charge case is added to the top of the fuel tank and contains 24 charges that have some detail molded-in on their exposed ends with one row different from the other two. The right side shifts the three MG34 drum racks over and, unlike in #35004, the instructions now tell you to fill in the molded-in mount holes that would’ve been used in the previous kit but are not in this kit. The shell rack for 24 rounds is installed on the right side with the butt ends of the shells exposed and all the racks filled to match the charge rack on the opposite side. The construction of the fighting compartment superstructure and installation to the lower hull is the same as kit #35004. The only additional change to the front superstructure comes in the form of a larger curved guard for the heavier gun and separate panels for the mantlet vs. the one-piece design in the previous kit.
The gun assembly for the leFH18 follows a similar pattern as that in #35004, namely that the breech is a multi-part assembly designed to assemble around the mount plug on the base of the aluminum barrel. Care will be required to avoid seams and sanding may be necessary to get a truly unified look to the block. The late-style muzzle brake comes in two parts for the brake itself plus another two parts that form the throat of the brake and attach directly to the front mount plug on the barrel. The armored housings for both the recuperator and the recoil sled come in separate pieces, so some seam cleanup may be necessary here as well. The mount assembly is a complex affair accomplished in a single diagram, so careful study of the parts is recommended before committing to glue. The instruction suggest not using glue on the mount pins to allow the gun to elevate but the weight of the aluminum barrel may require fixing it into a permanent position. Due to the design, it was difficult to determine if the barrel length is correct but going off the scale plans in Achtung Panzer #7 which has plans for the same gun on the Wespe it appears the barrel may be short by 1-2mm at the base due to the way it attaches to the breech. The details on the mount and elevation wheels are finely molded with the only disappointment coming in the form of the gun-sight which is missing the top portion of the sight aperture, at least in my sample.
As noted in the kit contents description, the kit does include some multi-media items in addition to the standard kit parts. The metal coil springs are present once again and add greatly to the detail on the suspension. The nylon mesh in this kit are now black instead of the previous yellow which ought to make it easier to paint and detail. The mesh is also now cut in a more consistent pattern and just needs to be trimmed down a bit to fit the space on the mantlet. Curiously, the instructions call for the mesh to be installed under the mantlet vs. on it, so be wary of this error when using this feature.
The kit instructions are laid out in an 8.5”x11” booklet on glossy paper and comprises 11 different steps across 13 pages. The instructions do note on Step 4 that the PE parts numbered 4, 5, 6, and 7 are optional only. These parts deal with assembling tool clamps but the instructions do not include any sort of guide on how to do that so you’re on your own in that department. The vast majority of the PE parts provided are for the small tarp loops on the fighting compartment exterior and latches are also provided for some of the gear in the fighting compartment interior. Bronco made the decision to package the PE fret in the same zip-lock bag as the aluminum barrel and the PE fret had become entangled with the aluminum barrel and this caused the fret to be bent almost completely double. The fret was able to be straightened out for the most part by hand but some damage remained. This is very similar to the experience I had with kit #35004, so the packaging methods haven’t improved and damage is very likely as a result.
The decal sheet by Cartograf is the same sheet provided in #35004 and the finishing guide provides 2 schemes for the 21st Panzer Division in Normandy. The markings are simple balkenkreuze on the superstructure sides and a small division marking for the hull front with additional firing table decals for the interior.
While the kit takes some short-cuts with some of the details such as the radios, overall it has a high level of detail particularly for the interior and the gun layout. Many of the features are carried over from #35004 with the same results as documented in my Build Log
of that kit, so the same pitfalls are to be expected with this kit as well. Assembly of the kit will require skill and patience and is not for the beginner. The subject falls into the more esoteric realm since only 48 were built and will fill a welcome niche for the Beutepanzer/Conversion enthusiast. Recommended with reservations.