Roden 1/72nd SdKfz 234/2 "Puma"

By Matt Bittner

History

The first few years of WWII were a time of triumph for German heavy reconnaissance 8-Rad armored cars. They were designed to support infantry troops on the battlefield and provide wireless radio communications between fighting units in action; but they also carried heavy weaponry and were ideal for modification for tactical purposes.

However, the 8-Rad type armored cars did possess some shortcomings. For heavy armored cars they were underpowered, and were lacking in armor. On the 5th August 1940 the Armament Commission placed an order for a new armored car. As the Germans were waging war on several fronts, including Africa, where armored cars with water-cooled engines were especially vulnerable, the new model needed to be equipped with a powerful air-0cooled engine. Furthermore, designers were pressed to reduce axle ground clearance, as the rather high 8-Rad armored cars were easy targets for enemy artillery.

The Bussing-NAG factory was responsible for vehicle design, and the Czech Tatra concern for engine development, and its series production. In 1942 the prototype was nearly ready, but the demanding specifications caused delays in engine development.

In 1943 the situation on the battlefield took a crucial turn, but not in the Germans' favor. German armored cars were being destroyed in combat; meanwhile the army requires a large output of new tanks. Plants manufacturing the old Sd. Kfz. 232 (8-Rad) armored car were not able to immediately switch production facilities to production of a new model. All this became a serious obstacle for Sd. Kfz. 234/2 (later nicknamed the Puma) production. The initial plan was to produce at least 80 cars per month by mid 1943; however, this was never realized.

The Sd. Kfz. 234/2 Puma had little in common with its predecessor. It was similar in concept but overall a completely new car. The powerful high-rotation Tatra 103 engine (eventually brought to operation reliability) allowed this armored car to make 90 km/h, and the huge 360-liter fuel tank increased its range to 1000 km. The Puma was the heaviest armored car of WWII, weighing over 11 tons. In comparison with the older Sd. Kfz. 232 (8-Rad) cars the Puma had been slimmed down, particularly in respect of ground clearance, according to requirements. The puma was armed with a 50-mm KwK39/1 fun with full 360-degree rotation, installed so as to allow a good vertical arc of fire. The armored body was several times thicker in comparison with the Sd. Kfz 232 (8-Rad), especially in front.

Sd. Kfz. 234/2 Puma production ran into difficulties and only a rather small number of them was produced, 101. Nevertheless they did fight during WWII, with the panzer divisions in Normandy. This impressive car had not realized its full capability, but its combat performance showed exciting potential. After test in the British and USA ordnance yards it was judged by the Allies to be the best-armored car of the WWII era.

My thanks to Roden for the history on their instruction sheet.

The Kit

The Roden kit of the Sd. Kfz. 234/2 consists of 132 injected molded parts - some black, some grey. The black parts consist of mainly the suspension with a few of the smaller details as well. The grey represents the rest of the kit. Everything is molded extremely well with any sink marks relegated to areas that won't be seen - if the sink marks exist at all. There are decals for two schemes: A Puma from an unknown unit in France, Summer 1944; and another from an unknown unit in France, from the same time frame. I would test one of the decals first to see how they react as some Roden releases had decals that didn't work very well.

Construction starts with assembling the turret, followed by building up all four, separate suspension units. The turret will be relatively quick to assemble; the suspension units will take some time. It's very nice the way Roden has molded the suspension, as the detail is outstanding. I'm not quite sure if all eight wheels can be positioned turned or not, and it also appears that - unlike their Sd. Kfz. 231 series - the suspension has no "play" in it so that all eight wheels touch the ground at the same time with little fuss. It would appear that care and patience is the "name of the game" in order to get all eight wheels touching simultaneously.

Once these assemblies are taken care of then construction moves to the interior, the Roden kit containing a rudimentary good start at it. However, in this particular version released you could leave out the interior since none of the hatches are separate - unless you want to open the hatches yourself, then the Roden interior provides an excellent starting point. (Personally I hope someone - Extratech or whomever - release an aftermarket resin set to "beef up" the insides, and include photoetch hatches to replace those you need to cut away from the kit.)

Now construction moves forward. First is the building up of the upper hull, along with adding the turret (although the turret could remain off until after painting is finished, as it's molded in such a way so it's moveable). From there the instructions would have you add items to the fenders, prior to adding the fenders to the hull. However, if the Sd. Kfz. 231 series is an indication, you definitely want to glue the fenders to the hull first, before adding any of the external details. Otherwise these separate pieces will get in the way of fitting the fenders correctly. One thing to keep in mind when doing this, though, is that it throws the rest of the instruction sequence off.

After the suspension assemblies are dry, now they're adding to the lower hull. There are a lot of small pieces in this assembly step so be careful. Once all four of the assemblies are attached to the hull and dried, now everything is brought together to create the armored car. This includes - if you took my advice - of adding all the smaller pieces to the fenders now that they're attached to the rest of the kit. After all parts are brought together, then painting can commence.

Conclusion

Roden is doing an excellent job with their German WW2 armored cars. They've created a niche for themselves in this particular area I see no one else matching. That includes the newly released Hasegawa Puma. While I have yet to see the Hasegawa kit "in the flesh", I have read that the Roden kit excels in the suspension area - as well as price. Typically the Sd. Kfz. 231 series has been going for around US$8 - a definite bargain.

Having built the Sd. Kfz. 231 I can say it was a relatively easy build - so the Puma should be the same. Even though Roden has created an easy build kit, they definitely do not suffer the quality because of it. The Sd. Kfz. 234/2 comes highly recommended

My thanks to Roden for the review sample.

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