The heaviest German halftrack of WWII was the SdKfz 9 FAMO. Capable of towing 18 tons or carrying a 2.5-ton load this vehicle was also the largest halftrack used by any nation in WWII. The FAMO, primarily a recovery vehicle, had a standard crew of 8 and was powered by the 12 cylinder Maybach HL 108 TUKRM engine, same as the Panzer III. Just over 2000 of this vehicle were produced including a version carrying a 88mm flak gun. The FAMO was used on all fronts during the war.
The box from Trumpeter contains 9 sprues of tan plastic, a die cut sheet of clear for the windows, 3 vinyl tires, a piece of rope and a small decal sheet with 3 marking options. The parts count for the kit comes to 344, quite a lot for any 1/72 armor kit, but especially the FAMO. The box top states 137 parts, but they must not be counting the tracks, track pads, windows, tires, or rope. Considering the tracks and pads are individual links and take up a lot of build time they ought to be counted.
The detail in the box is far above anything Iíve seen in 1/72 and it appears that nothing was left out. You get a full engine, transmission, and winch. Suspension arms are molded individually and with a little effort could be posed, quite handy for a diorama on uneven terrain. The front suspension is very nice and is also designed to remain workable. You get a jig to help with the track assembly and this, as well as a lot of patience, will be needed. You also get a jig for the flatbed cover supports if you choose to make them instead of using the folded part. Also included is a draw bar for towing either a Pz III or Pz IV, another nice touch if you plan on making a diorama.
The instructions are very complete taking 18 steps from start to finish and as usual I skipped around a bit in here. For the most part they are easy to follow and have a logical order so you will be fine following them.
The decal sheet appears in register and has markings for 2 tri-colored FAMOs in Russia and one Panzer Gray vehicle in Germany. They are:
237th StuG Brigade, Russia 1943
190th StuG Brigade, Russia 1944
190th StuG Brigade, Russia 1944
I began assembly with the chassis. Due to the number of parts on this kit dry-fit is the word of the day. I cannot express enough the importance of dry-fitting. It is very easy to misalign this kit and so the use of a jig or a flat surface (in my case a piece of glass) is crucial during chassis and body construction.
First up are the 35 parts that make up the chassis and suspension arms. I found out much later on in the build that Trumpeter appears to have the wrong angle built into the suspension arms. These are parts (B5). They have locators connecting them to parts (A1) and (A34) but these should be either modified or removed or the roadwheels will sit too low and the end result will appear a little off. I did not catch this until it was too late and I was dealing with the front suspension so you can see the result in my build. I would recommend building on a flat piece of glass and sanding smooth the locators and moving them more in line with the chassis lower rail.
Engine and tranny are next and go together fine. It seemed a shame to cover up the detail of the engine so I cut out the sides of the engine cover as seen on many FAMOs in the field. If you elect to cover the engine you might consider making a blank bottom and saving this jewel for a Pz III. IIRC they are the same engine.
After I assembled the chassis I sprayed it with primer and set it aside and skipped ahead to the Flatbed mount assembly. I did this to assure early in the game that my alignment was going to be OK. There are quite a few knock-out marks on the bottom of the bed none of which can be seen on the finished model so I left them alone. I assembled the rear cab and sides next. The rear bed sides require some careful dry fitting and the tailgate requires a little trimming but not too bad.
Since I was assembling the top I skipped ahead to the fenders. These are molded as one piece and are only held together by the tiny bit of plastic at the very front where the headlights and bumper mount. I broke this piece after I removed it from the sprue because of its inherent weakness. I was able to fix it but I would suggest taking part (D12) off the sprue and immediately attaching (D3), the radiator housing for some stability because you will be working with this piece a lot during dry-fitting.
With the bodywork done, except for the tiny bits I finished assembly on the lower chassis and roadwheels and went ahead and painted and weathered this part now.
I found the model breaks up really nice into three sections, the chassis and suspension, the rear body, and the front body. With this approach in mind I finished the lower chassis and finally turned my attention to the tracks.
I have to admit I was procrastinating here. Assembling 100 individual tracks plus pads was putting me off. Plus, each link has five attachment points to be cleaned up. You will need patience for this next step and a couple nights of work. I painted what I could on the sprue and then began cutting off links. Be sure to use a new #11 and I found it helpful to burn a candle and heat the knife for the link removal because the plastic is a bit brittle and the parts are quite thin. Since you need 47-49 links per side and you only get 100 you need to be careful and take your time. It would have been nice if Trumpeter had included some extra links. Once the links and pads are cleaned up the assembly is fairly straightforward. Align the tracks in the jig, apply the glue of choice, and remove. I found it best to assemble 12-15 links at a time and set them aside. If done properly the links remain workable, but it is a very delicate operation.
Once the tracks were completed I went ahead and glued them onto the model so I could test fit the front suspension.
This is where some fit issues began to show themselves. If built OOB the front suspension sits too far to the rear and when the bodywork is attached the result is the front tires almost touching the rear of the fender wells. The fix is fairly easy. Simply cut the front chassis to allow movement of the suspension forward and slightly up into the chassis by about 2.5mm. This will require that you build new longer drive shafts, but thatís no big deal. The next fit issue is a little worse. I discovered at this point that the fender height seemed extreme. I couldnít move the wheel into the well because of the sit of the roadwheels in the back. It turns out that the suspension arms (parts B5) were messing up the sit. This is why I suggest modification of these parts early on, because by the time I found out it was too late.
Next is fitting the body to the chassis. If you have done some good assembly work based on careful dry fitting this will be no problem. The front fender assembly requires two notches cut on the inner sides so the exhaust manifolds clear and another two notches on the rear portion where the boarding step meets the fender over the drive wheel. I found it easiest to attach the fender assembly first and slide the body onto the chassis and up into the fenders.
At this point I attached the little bits and began my painting process.
painting and markings
Just prior to final assembly I painted the upper body portions in overall panzer gray. I applied a slightly lighter coat after assembly was complete followed by the dark yellow for the two-tone camo. To break up the camo and blend it a little I applied another very light coat of panzer gray. Next I applied a layer of dust created by mixing 5% paint with 95% thinner. After this I glossed the model and used a pin wash of Citadel inks. Then I dry brushed some Citadel Codex Gray to further highlight things before the flat coat. This time I used a little tan in my flat to help tie things together and it was done.
With the release of the FAMO, Trumpeter has come through with what 1/72 armor modelers have asked for for years. They have delivered 1/35 detail right OOB in 1/72. Because of the alignment and the sheer number and size of the individual tracks I canít recommend this kit to a beginner, but someone with a few link & length armor models under their belt should do just fine. This kit was very challenging and quite rewarding.
Review Sample from Stevens International via Saķl GarcŪa