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Alan's 1/35 Panzer I Ausf F

 

By Tony Edwards

 

 

Background

The Panzer I originally entered service in the early 1930's (February 1934 ‚ June 1937) during the push for re-armament, and was originally known as the "Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper," or "Agricultural Tractor." By the treaty of Versailles, the Germans were prohibited from developing armoured vehicles. The first fifteen chassis were produced without turret or superstructure to maintain this deception. Although never seriously intended to be a combat tank, only a training vehicle, the Panzer I saw service in Austria during the Anschluss, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the low countries, France and even Operation "Barbarossa" before it was withdrawn from service.

Originally, the British favoured "Infantry" tanks, i.e., tanks that advanced with, and supported the infantry. However there was a movement within the German high command that also favoured the concept. This resulted in an OKH order to design one in 1939. The resulting VK 1801 was to carry the maximum possible armour, and retain the two turret mounted MGs. This tank used the Maybach HL45 petrol engine, which gave a maximum speed of 25 kph and a maximum range of around 150 km. It featured interleaved road wheels and dry-pin tracks. With 80mm of rolled homogenous steel plate armour, it was able to easily defeat most anti-tank guns of the period.

The need for vision devices was well understood by the German designers, so the commander was provided with no less than 5 periscopes in the roof of the turret. Whilst the driver had one periscope mounted to his left, an armoured sliding shutter very similar to that fitted to the Tiger I and a binocular episcope for use when "buttoned up." Due to the size and shape of the vehicle, the hull hatches had to be moved to the hull sides over the track run, resulting in segmented fenders which added to its unusual appearance.

The story of this tank's design, birth and subsequent abandonment almost sums up the thinking of the period. This vehicle was the successor to the Panzer I Ausf C, a lightly armed reconnaissance tank, which was also fitted with interleaved road wheels, but featured a turret similar to that used on the Panzer II employing a single MG and 20mm cannon. The Ausf C was abandoned after prototype development, as light tank doctrine had changed, and the OKH had decided that heavier armour was more necessary than heavier armament. The initial order placed with Kraus-Maffei was for 100 vehicles, though only the initial run of 30 was delivered.

Unfortunately for Kraus-Maffei, the slow, lumbering Panzer I Ausf F had no place in the fast and fluid tactics of "Blitzkrieg," which is why the initial order was cancelled. Most of these tanks ended their days as training vehicles, although at least one company (eight vehicles) saw active service with the 1st Panzer Division in early 1943, where they were sent to the Eastern Front for combat evaluation.

The only two surviving examples are in Europe and the Balkans. One is a monument in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, at their War Museum (though the recent NATO strikes may have taken that one, as Ižm told the War Museum is fairly close to some targets of "strategic interest"). While the only other known specimen is at the Tank Museum in Kubinka, Russia. There was a third example held at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, but that was broken down for scrap during the Korean War.

First Looks

The kit comes as four sprues, two dark grey sprues and two sprues of light grey. The plastic is very soft, so soft in fact that the ambient temperature was enough to warp the chassis. By far the greatest number of pieces are the separate track links. The links are quite well done, having no obvious ejector pin marks and nicely molded open guide horns. This is a nice change from the norm, as the normal situation is for the guide horns to be molded has a solid lump.

Construction

Construction starts with the lower hull and suspension. Unfortunately the temperature here in Australia was hovering around the hundred odd degree Fahrenheit range which is, I think, why the hull kept warping. After bathing the assembly in boiling water, I was able to twist it back into shape without much of a problem, and after it was bathed in cold water it would hold its shape until the next time the temperature got over that certain point. After the roof, glacis and driver's front plate were installed, this ceased to be a problem, as it appears that these three pieces are required for the hull to maintain its shape.

As you will be able to see, I decided to install a partial interior. This is because I'm tired of trying to find new ways of tying figures that are in the hatches to figures on the ground, I'm also real tired of positioning the hatches in a buttoned-up configuration, as I'm sure most of you are. I started by making the transmission out of Milliput, I used some old Tamiya Panzer IV spare wheels for the final drive and brake assemblies, with some 2 mm. diameter plastic rod for the axles. The components of the fighting compartment all came from my spares box or were scratch built.

The fact that an interior was installed precluded following the kit's construction sequence, so I'll just describe how I went about a) building the interior, b) the actual kit's construction and finishing and finally the figures and scenic base (I hesitate to call it a diorama).

First steps in building the interior are to build the hull up, so as to have something to build into. I followed the first 4 steps from the instructions, almost to the letter, however I left off the exhaust pipe so I could weather it without affecting the finish on the main hull. The hull is broken down into 4 main component parts, as is becoming increasingly the norm for kits from the former USSR and surrounds. Once the hull side hatches are in place, the hull sides are butt jointed to the belly plate and the tail plate and covering armour are butt jointed to the rear. The instructions also tell you to install the glacis, driver's front plate, hull roof and engine compartment roof, but for obvious reasons I didn't install them at this point.

I installed all the other external fittings, such as bump-stops, shock absorbers, suspension arms, final drive housings, etc. and filled the ejector pin marks and recesses from the inside.

The first thing to add for an interior is the floor. I used a piece of 0.25mm Evergreen cardstock for this; however I scored some criss-crossed diagonal lines on it first to represent tread plate, with another, smaller, piece for the rear bulkhead. Next comes the transmission: this was built from Milliput, making an oblong, rectangular block and a slightly smaller one with beveled edges. Once dry, these were sanded to their final shapes and fitted into position, the large block being the actual transmission while the smaller block formed the final drive reduction gear part of the transmission unit. The junction box was sanded from a smaller piece of Milliput, with a dome made from the end of one of the sprues. The propeller shaft was built up from 2mm-diameter rod, passed through the junction box from the rear bulkhead and into a drilled recess in the clutch box of the transmission (also made from Milliput).

The driver's seat was made with a cardstock base and back, with Milliput cushions; while the steering levers were built up from stretched sprue with Milliput canvas shrouds for their bases. Pieces of sprue were used for the seat mountings and cemented in place with the steering levers added with CA glue. The driver's instrument cluster was also made from cardstock, with the instrument dials cut from 0.125mm cardstock and cemented in place. The foot pedals were constructed from scrap PE set frets, CA'd in place with the instrument panel following soon after. All the stowage was either direct from the sparežs box with little or no modification, or built from cardstock in the case of the sheet-metal boxes and first aid kit.

The next step is to paint the interior and all of the stowage etc. I tend to paint everything after it's built, as this eliminates the chance of paint interfering with the cement bond, but this is purely a matter of personal choice; indeed I've only been managing it this way for the last year or so. The interiors of German AFVs are uniformly painted "lfenbein" - a pale ivory colour - above the floor, with the areas below painted in a greyish blue. Testors have released the elfenbein as "Panzer Interior Buff," which on comparison to a mix of paint I was given, matches almost perfectly, whilst the blue is also almost matched by Humbrol 115. Later during the war, the OKH (German high command) specified that elfenbein no longer be used, and AFVs were delivered with only the primer covering the interior surfaces, however this order seems to have been rescinded after a short time. Engine compartments early in the war were painted with the blue, but this seems to have ceased once the war had started to drag on, and it's not unusual to find later war engine compartments painted in primer.

The instructions call out that the wheels be added at this point; I left mine off for ease of painting, though I did push the hubs on with a little blu-tak so the cementing surface would be clean when I finally did install them.

Next you move to the turret. The mantlet and mount came first, and were put together basically as shown in the instructions; however I drilled through the holes for the episcope in the front, and also the MG barrel sleeves, so I could add 2 MG 34s. The sighting episcope was built up from 1.5mm rod, a small square of 3mm x 2mm strip and the eyepieces from an old set of binoculars, with the face guard built up from 0.125mm cardstock and a small "sausage" of Milliput. This was passed through the two holesI 'd drilled in the internal mantlet for the episcope and left to set up. While that was drying, I built up the MG mounts from various sizes of rod and scraps of PE. The MG's ammo bags were molded with Milliput, using an Academy part as an example. Once the mounts and bags were complete, they also were added to the mantlet.

Wiring for the turret was done with 4, 8 and 12 amp fuse wire, and stowage added from the spares box again. It is worth noting that Tamiya's ancient "German Equipment Set" was used, as the MGs, the flare pistol and many of the other weapons and ammo cases were taken from it. The MGs were painted Humbrol buffing gunmetal and placed in the sleeves without the barrels protruding in order to stop over spray from entering the turret that way. The periscopes were also added for the same reason. The hatch was then tacked in place with a tiny drop of CA and the whole interior sprayed elfenbein.

At this point you add fenders and external stowage - tools, stowage box, etc. The fenders are only butt-joined to the hull, which results in a weak bond. I added a tiny bracket fashioned from scrap PE along their entire lengths and glued them in place.

Painting

The model was painted in a three colour scheme, using my own mix of Tamiya paints for the dunklegelb and Tamiya Dark Green and Red Brown for the camouflage colours, over my customary satin black primer coat. The wheels were sprayed at the same time with the dunklegelb, and the tires hand painted with Testors Flat Black for the running face of the tires, with the side-walls painted with AeroMaster's Tire Black. The key to reality here is to study how things would actually weather; for instance, with the tires. Go to a car lot, and have a look at old tires. After a time, the tires tend to weather to a dark grey, however a lot of people forget that after running for just a few yards, the rubber on the face of the tire wears down, to fresh, black, rubber.

Once the primary paint scheme was down I added the wheels, repainted all of the periscopes, and pushed the MGs through their shrouds. At this point, I also decided to construct the tracks. As mentioned above the tracks are nicely molded with open guide horns. This, in my opinion, is both a blessing and a curse. It is painful - to say the least - having to open them with a pin vise and file, and it makes the links slightly weaker. This is not a major problem, care just needs to be taken when cutting them free from the sprue.

In my normal manner I built the links as a single run and shaped them to the entire surface of the running gear before putting them aside to set. The tracks were airbrushed Tamiya Flat Brown, drybrushed first with Testors Rust, followed by Testors Jet Exhaust (this final coat gives the nice metallic appearance of in-service tracks, but has a very slight burnt/reddish tinge to it).

Weathering

Once all this was complete, I noticed that I'd been a little heavy with the base coats. There was almost no appearance of the pre-shading that I'd been expecting. Out comes the trusty old "smoke" wash. Tamiya's "Smoke," normally used for tinting windows on cars etc., makes a dandy shadow wash. By its nature it's translucent, and once thinned down to a wash, it's near transparent, only adding a tint to the paint it covers; if the wash is performed carefully, the need for heavy drybrushing disappears. A slight drybrush is advisable though, if only just to pick out the raised detail. This was followed with a coat of Testors Dullcote, as I had decided not to add decals to this particular kit.

Due to the purpose of this little beast, I decided that it needed heavy weathering, so the lower hull and running gear got a slight overspray of Tamiya Flat Earth and Floquil Dust as a starter. This was followed up with brown, grey and rust coloured pastels.

Diorama

The diorama base is a Polish Vac-Formed item, obtained locally and depicts a section of cobbled street. This was brush painted with various Humbrol paints while the slate grey for the path is automotive spray paint, drybrushed with various Humbrol greys. All the figures are from Tamiya; the two tankers are from their excellent "German Tank Crew at Rest" set, while the soldiers are their "German Machine Gun Crew on Maneuver" set. All were painted with artist's oils and gouache, with the highlights on the field grey picked out with Humbrol.

The street sign and telegraph pole came from Italeri's Sign Post set, and the steel barriers are from Tamiya's "Barricades" set. The telegraph pole was scraped along its length with a razor saw to give it a grain, and wires were added using fuse wire. The steel barriers were painted Tamiya German Grey with a fairly heavy application of graphite powder applied both by finger and brush. I also added rust coloured pastel dust to give them that used look.

Conclusions

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable departure from the norm, and a very nice little kit; however, due to the points mentioned above, this kit really should only be tackled by those with some experience, especially experience with individual track-links. Thanks go to Earl Martell at NKR Models, and especially to Lance Whitford, from Kiwi Tracks, for help with photos of the interior of this AFV.

Bibliography:

Kiwi Tracks, Various Contributors. Photos of interior Pz I F, plus factory photos of wooden mock-up.

Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, revised edition; Peter Chamberlain, Hilary Doyle and Thomas L. Jentz. Arms and Armour Press, 1993, ISBN: 1-85409-214-6, Pages 18-26

German Tanks of World War Two, In Action; George Forty. Arms and Armour Press, 1987, ISBN: 1-85409-132-8, Pages 30-36

Leichte Panzers in Action, Squadron Signal # 10; Uwe Feist and Mike Dario. Squadron Signal Publications, 1974, ISBN: 0-89747-043-5.

Fine Scale Modeler, October 1998; George Bradford. Kalmbach Publishing Co., 1998, ISSN: 0277-979X

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