by: Andras [ ]
The Panzerkampfwagen I had several experimental versions serving different roles over the years of its development. These versions had very few things in common, aside from the designation. The Ausf C version (VK 601) served as a fast reconnaissance tank, and it shared very little with the Ausf A and B versions. The Ausf D. (VK 602) was an up-armored version of the Ausf C, while the Ausf F (VK 18.01) was a completely new design on its own right, which had more common features with the VK 16.01 (Panzerkampfwagen II. Ausf J), than with any of the Panzerkampfwagen I versions. It was designed as a heavily armored infantry assault tank, and was produced by Daimler-Benz and Krauss-Maffei between 1942 and 1943. As with the VK16.01 it was somewhat of an anachronism, which explains why only 30 of these tanks were produced. It was as heavily armored frontally as a KV-1 (80mm of armor), weighted between 18 and 21 tons, had very wide tracks. The 150HP Maybach HL 45 P engine gave it a comfortable speed of 25kmph. It had overlapping drive wheels, and a torsion-bar suspension; features it shared with the VK 16.01. It had two MG-34s as main armament… which were probably not very sufficient at the time.
Some of these tanks did see combat in the Eastern Front where they were lost (captured or destroyed) very quickly. The remaining tanks were used by training and reserve units.
Flyhawk has recently also issued an early version of this tank, which does have some notable differences from the late version reviewed here. That model will be the subject of a separate article.
It came in the usual Flyhawk packaging: a very sturdy cardboard box with a sleeve, and the parts embedded into shape-cut foam for safety. The sleeve displays a painting of the tank with two crewmen around (the kit is supplied with the crewmen in the same pose as on the artwork), and on the back there’s a short introduction, some photos of the model, and a couple of QR codes. Overall it is a very well designed piece of packaging. The PE fret and the decals are attached to a thin cardboard sheet for extra safety; the other side of the sheet has the same cobblestone print as with the VK 16.01 model (it can be used as a diorama base, which I find to be a nice touch). The tank comes with two crewmen, as mentioned, and they are in their own little bag, already separated from their sprues. These figures are produced by Caesar Miniatures.
The quality of the parts is excellent. The molding is crisp, with no flash showing; the details are very sharp and very fine.
The model measures up well against the published dimensions, and quite accurate in scale.
The PE sheet is quite extensive for a model of this scale; Flyhawk provided alternative PE parts for plastic ones for more experienced modelers. We have a choice of PE periscope covers, cable holders, etc. which can be used instead of the plastic parts. This approach provides a certain “scalability” for the difficulty level of the model, so both relatively inexperienced model builders and grizzled veterans can build a model straight out of the box that will provide a satisfactory challenge for their skills. Some skill with PE will be necessary as several parts (straps, the cover of the muffler, the protectors for the machine guns, the engine cover screens, etc.) are PE parts with no plastic alternatives.
The sprues are coded with letters. Sprues A, B, C, D, E, F contain the tools, equipment, towing hooks, and other small parts; sprues G, I contain parts for the hull, the turret, the suspension, and some parts of the running gear, sprue J contains the drive wheels, idlers, and road wheels, and two sprues (Q) contain the tracks. The hull is made out of two major parts, which are already separated from their sprues.
One thing that could be swapped for a metal part is the nylon thread that was supplied for towing cables.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow; where needed colored pictograms help the modeler. There are also explanatory drawings provided showing the completed overlapping drive wheel assembly, and also the tracks, which will make the build easier for the modeler.
The fit is excellent, and aside from the tiny PE parts I did not meet any challenges during the build. The suggested order of assembly is perfectly fine.
The first step starts with the hull: assembly of the two parts of the hull, the engine deck, exhaust system and the frontal armor (the molded-on periscope covers can be exchanged for a PE replacement). The second step details the rest of the hull assembly with the suspension.
The third step details the assembly of the running gear; a very nice colored diagram shows the finished overlapping wheel system. Flyhawk used a similar system to Dragon's roadwheels for the 1/72 range of Sd.Kfz.251 halftrack series: many of the roadwheels are already attached to each other to make assembly easier. In order to make the weathering step a bit simpler, it might be better to leave this step and the subsequent track installation, after the painting is finished and the lower hull is weathered.
The fourth step details the track assembly. My suggestion is to leave the drive sprocket off, and glue the individual track links to them. This is the most difficult part of the assembly, and it's easier to do while the sprockets are not attached to the tank. This way it is easier to install the tracks once the mudguards are in place.
Next step shows the attachment of the mudguards, and is followed by the placement of tools, headlights, and toolboxes on the mudguards (these too should probably wait until the painting step is complete). The last two steps show the assembly of the turret, and the final assembly of the tank.
Two paint schemes are available: an overall panzer grey color from the 2nd Polizei-Panzer Companie from 1944, and a late-war camouflage scheme from the 1st Panzer Regiment from 1943. The painting guide is easy to understand, and the colors are given in both Mr Hobby and in Tamiya codes.
Overall the whole construction of the tank was a joy; the model feels like a shrunken 1/35 scale kit both in detail, and in execution. It is a truly excellent model of an obscure, but interesting-looking German light tank.