Jim Starkweather presented us with our first glimpse of Amusing Hobby
's Panzerkampfwagen VII Löwe contents on one of his ‘Cracking the Box’
video features. So let's have a closer look, shall we.
At some point early in the war the Germans had come to the realization that a larger than life battle tank that would stand up to threats on future battlefields was needed. Even with the quick pace Blitzkrieg advances that had been made on the western front, the low countries and now Russia’s eastern front, reports had already reached the highest levels of the German high command calling for a tank that could withstand, outgun and defeat both anti-tank guns and tanks their forces had encountered and surprisingly were unable to defeat, at least not with a lot of effort.
The idea of not having complete mastery of the battlefield especially did not sit well with Hitler, so by November 1941 plans had been set for development and procurement of a very heavy tank, a super tank in the 70 metric ton weight class. The weight limit for this vehicle could not surpass 90 metric tons, as this would exceed the peak amount that could be transported by railcars. The laid out specifications for this new tank called for a fabricated chassis with 140 mm thick frontal armor coupled with 100 mm thick side armor. A Daimler-Benz torpedo boat engine was chosen to achieve the specified top speed of 27 miles per / hr (43.6Km / hr). The initial specifications did not include the type of weapon that would be used but the turret would be required to be fully traversable through 360°. A five-man crew with two in the chassis and three in the turret would be required to man this vehicle.
On December 17, 1941 Krupp was asked to strongly track development of the new super tank. Krupp had recently lost out on the development of the VK 30 Series vehicle (Panther) and their experience with that project would see a resembling chassis and components designed for use on the new vehicle. A month later after being tasked with development of the new super tank Krupp finalized and presented their conceptual design based on the initial requirements of the VK70.01 on January 21, 1942. A 10.5 cm Kw.K. L/70 was chosen as the weapon in the turret, this gun was rated capable of penetrating 30° 160 mm thick armor plating at a distance of over 1/2 mile (1000 m). Wa Pruef 6 advised Krupp that they would be installing the new HL 230 (800 metric horsepower) engine, in development by Maybach and scheduled for series production beginning in January 1943, into the new tank.
By February 1942, Wa Pruef 6, pressured by the current war situation made a decision to promptly have two experimental vehicles completed in the 72 metric ton weight class by means of the drive train and armor – 100 mm frontal armor coupled with 80 mm thick side armor - as per the Tiger and proceed with series production without any testing thus awarding Krupp with a contract to produce and complete two developmental VK70.01 vehicles, one with turret and the second one with a test weight.
Then from February to May 1942 Krupp presented no less than 6 design proposals encompassing alternative main guns, center and rear mounted turret / engine compartment, powerplant(s), a variety of drivetrains and differing armor / weight all of which were sound and practical designs. In April 1942 the name of the project was officially changed from VK70.01 to Panzerkampfwagen VII Löwe (Lion). By this period Hitler had become gripped in the development of even heavier tanks so on May 18, 1942, the contracts for the development, procurement and production of the chassis were cancelled. Two months later on July 20, 1942, Krupp was ordered by Wa Pruef 6 to halt further work on the Pz.Kpfw. VII Löwe turret.
Only the official surviving design documents and end of war conversations with Krupp remain concerning this vehicle as never having been developed beyond the design proposals or line drawings. In essence this vehicle was never built, essentially a paper panzer.
The box art depicts a speculative massive and menacing end of war Pz.Kpfw. VII Löwe, slowly pacing along akin to a Tiger II on steroids in search of its next target. Had this design matured and preceded into series production it would have been among the deadliest and most formidable of land based weapons that the allies would have had the misfortune of encountering on the open battlefield. Thanks to Amusing Hobby for listening to the modeling community for we now have in our mist a much-sought out and interesting modeling subject in plastic.
For those that have not seen Jim's 'Cracking the Box' video here is a sampling of what's in the box. There are 13 sealed bags containing 21 injection molded part sprues, 2 PE (photo-etch) frets and a decal sheet. There are 728 total pieces with over half of these parts used for the tracks. The lower hull and instruction booklet are left unsealed. No figure(s) are included.
The parts breakdown:
• Lower hull
• A Upper hull, front & rear armor plates, fenders
• B(X2) Front, rear & outer road wheels, suspension & exhaust components, hull details
• C Turret, mantel, main gun, details
• D(X3) Inner road wheels, torsion bars, ammunition, suspension details
• E Hull details
• F Jack, tools, tow cable ends
• L Front (drive) & rear (idler) wheel, turret trunnion poly locks
• R Periscopes
• T1(X6) Track links
• T2(X5) Track link cleats
• Y Etched brass fenders
• Z Etched brass mesh screens, fender brackets & hull details
• Decal sheet
Injected molded parts:
The individual parts are flash free and crisply molded, the modeler will still need to clean up a few of the parting seam lines. With the exception of some of the track link faces and a few of the suspension components (these will be hidden behind the road wheels) the parts are virtually clean of injection pin release marks and sink holes on the appearance areas of the parts. The two supplied muzzle brakes and tow cable ends benefit from slide molds so the modeler won’t need to fiddle with having to drill these parts out. The majority of the parts come molded in dark gray styrene with the track links molded in dark brown, tools are in brown and the periscopes molded in clear. The poly locks are molded in a soft rubbery (non-cementable) black plastic.
The single piece domed shaped turret shell, which makes up the majority of the turret, is molded with cast texturing, as is the turrets separate chin and gun mantle. Two separate varying diameter tubular molded lengths go together to represent the10.5 cm Kw.K. L/68 sectional main gun. The modeler can then choose which of two provided muzzle brake options he or she may wish to install to the gun. The turret floor piece comes with an integrally molded ring gear but no interior is provided in the kit for the turret. To this floor piece the modeler will fix the guns' trunnions and movable elevation carriage parts but no components are provided for the rear portion of the gun. The commander’s cupola is an 11-piece affair including the 7 periscopes, the hatch can be left in the open position as well as the loaders hatch if the modeler chooses to do so. A positional multi-part loader’s periscope and rear turret protruding armored defense plate with pistol port, three lifting loops, and the mantle’s gun collar complete the turret.
The upper hull is well detailed and comes with the rear decks intake / exhaust ventilation grates and antenna base all integrally molded to this single multi-sided part. Several parts make up the driver’s workable letterbox viewing hatch that installs to the separate front glacis armor plate. Three parts each make up a pair of Bosch lamps and respective support fixtures with stands. These lamps are fixed straddling each side of the glacis plate and a rectangular hinged plate covers the radio gunner’s machine gun port. Two separate front side armor extensions and their towing hooks are fixed to the front armor sides.
A pair of multi-part periscopes, circular crew hatches with their lifting handles, a dome shaped armored fan exhaust cover and several small hooks for the transmission access cover finish off the front hulls deck. The crews circular hatches can be posed open and the periscopes are positional should the modeler wish to arrange them. On the hull rear deck is an engine hatch with two dome shaped armored air intakes and a lifting handle. There are also 8 small lifting hooks for both center circular exhaust grate support plates and 4 large PE lifting hooks for the engine access cover as well as water and fuel armored covers. Finishing off the rear deck are the individual PE mesh screens for the air intake / exhaust grates.
Front and rear fenders are provided along with two long length horizontal side fenders with their associated fender support brackets. PE fenders and support brackets come supplied, as an option should the modeler choose not to use the plastic molded parts. There are dimpled recess guide holes along both sides of the hull for attaching all of the supplied tools including a PE stowage cover for the axe. No tow cables or their attachment hardware for the hull is supplied in the kit nor is any of this called out on the assembly instructions but surprisingly the tow cable ends are included so the modeler would have to outsource an aftermarket or suitable sized cable and associated brackets to use these and the box art could be used as reference for where to attach them. A 2m Stab antenna and antenna storage case are also not supplied.
The single piece multi-sided chassis tub is crisply molded and comes with perforations on the vertical side armor plates for the torsion bars and associated components, all thanks to the slide molding process. The hull bottom comes with nicely detailed hatch plates and weld seams. To the hulls separate rear vertical armor plate the modeler will fix exhaust muffler / pipes / armored covers, multi-part jack, jack block and a pair of towing clevises.
Forward drive gear housings, rear idler arm shafts, torsion bars and bump stops all come as separate parts and are well detailed. The front drive and rear idler wheels as well as the road wheels are also nicely detailed multi-part assemblies. Upon completion of the torsion bars and road wheels the modeler will have a workable suspension allowing for the completed model to be placed on an uneven ground diorama / vignette setting, this is a great move on Amusing Hobby’s part!
However, I found one issue that really bothers me and that is that the rear idler shafts sit out in the open without any means for track adjustment. This is where the crews would make adjustments to bring in or add slack to the tracks and no mechanical means (housing) is provided for in the kit? This leaves an exposed sinkhole directly on the other side of where the idler shafts reside.
Over four hundred pieces make up two workable double link wide 3.3ft (1000 mm) track runs. These tracks are completely new to the modeling world of large German tanks and resemble the Kgs 73/800/300 double-link tracks used on later production Tiger II’s. But these are much, much wider and will probably look very impressive on the model when assembled and installed.
The design of the workable track links looks simple enough for a modeler with moderate assembly skills to successfully assemble. There are shallow pin release marks on the inside surfaces on the links with the guide horns and outside on the links without the guide horns. Those with pin marks on the inside surface should clean up easily with a few swipes of a narrow sanding stick and the links with pin marks on the outside are extremely small and shallow so these could be left alone. Assembling individual link tracks is very time consuming so to help speed the process up a track fixture is provided to aid assembly and a footnote found on the instructions advising the modeler to complete 102 links per side.
Clear and easy to understand CAD line drawing assembly step instructions contained in a large stapled book format. There are 14 steps with 10 accompanying sub steps, a coloring and marking guide and a painting colors reference guild along with step-by-step instructions on applying decals. My example of the assembly instructions is written in three languages – English, Japanese and Chinese. The cover, depicting the box art, and inside cover, parts sprue layout, is both printed in color with the assembly instructions in black with blue highlights denoting referenced points on the line drawings or assembly options. The color and markings page is in grayshade, that being the only paint and marking option.
The decals are nicely printed and in register providing a few optional national insignia (cross) sizes together with red numerals in white outline. With this vehicle having been no more than a conceptual design the modeler could dig into his / her spares decal sheets and drum up any number of late war paint schemes and markings if so choosing?
Personally I like this kit and am happy that Amusing Hobby has presented the modeling community with a fine 3D plastic molded rendition of a vehicle that only saw the light of day on the drawing board, making for a very interesting vehicle and modeling subject with plenty of potential and possibilities.
The overall basic shape of the model scales well against the original conceptual drawings, with a few minor exceptions, as do the crew openings and commander’s cupola. What the actual layout of the crew compartment, rear deck, tracks, running gear, hull components and turret or what changes the vehicle may have gone through prior to seeing actual series production is strictly conjectural and speculative. That said the kit is sprinkled with parts reminiscent of those found on Panthers and Tiger II’s.
For the creative at heart or for those modelers seeking with interest in building a project reaching something authentic then this is the kit for you. The overall low parts count, with the exception of the tracks will appeal to most modelers. And who wouldn’t want an over grown big cat in the collection?
References used for this review:
Panzer Tracts No. 20-1 Paper Panzers ‘Panzerkampfwagen, Sturmgeschuetz, and Jagdpanzer’
by Thomas L. Jentz & Hilary L. Doyle.