The Sd.Kfz. 234/2 Puma armoured car resulted in an order from the OKH on 5 August 1940, giving requirements for an 8 wheeled heavy armoured recon car, similar to the Sd.Kfz. 231. The similarity with the Sd.Kfz. 231 basically ended at that, apart from a generally similar appearance. The new vehicle was to have heavier armour, a 12 cylinder air-cooled diesel engine (designed for use in tropical environs, such as the Russian Steppes and North Africa), and it was also to carry heavier armament.
Bussing-NAG responded to these requirements with two prototype vehicles, the testing of these prototypes proved favourable and an initial order for 500 Puma was placed. Later, this order was increased to 1500. However, in September 1943, it was decided that 50% of the Sd.Kfz. 234 production be completed with a 20mm cannon as itís main armament. Later, in January 1944 this order was further cut, limiting Puma production to 100 vehicles, as the 50mm main armament was judged unsatisfactory for the Pumaís primary role. The 234 series was completed with the remainder of the vehicles on order being armed with either the 75mm KwK L/24 or the 75mm PaK 40 L/56.
The design of the hull, though similar to the Sd.Kfz. 231 was different in a number of ways. Firstly, the armoured body of the 231 was bolted to itís chassis, whilst the armoured body of the 234 served AS the chassis. Frontal armour was greatly increased, with thicker plates, laid at a greater angle. The fully enclosed turret carried a 50mm PaK 39/1 L/60, which was essentially the same gun mounted in the Pz III J (late) through Pz III M. A coaxially mounted MG 42 provided secondary firepower. 55 rounds of 50mm ammunition were carried along with 1050 rounds of MG ammunition.
The Puma was employed in companies of 25 vehicles. These equipped four Panzer Divisions and saw service both on the Eastern and Western Fronts. There are numerous accounts of allied tankers motoring along, and being suddenly jumped and mauled by platoons of these vehicles. Late in 1944, a handful of Pumas were even modified to carry the FG1250 Infra Red gear, with the Falke division.
Three Sprues of dark green plastic, not contained in plastic bags. Now this is something that I wonder about, as I'm sure many others do. Why do Italeri insist on just dropping their sprues into the box? Numerous pieces have been torn from the sprue, resulting in a LOT of torn holes in parts and even some broken parts. Come on Italeri, some otherwise brilliant kits are being let down this way, think about it, please.
The two Photo-Etch frets contain some of the most delicate and well-done brackets and clasps that I have seen. So far only Aber's tool clasps would excel these ones. The jerry-can racks and padlocks in particular are extremely well done. The fact that Eduard have added parts for a SPECIFIC vehicle, as well as a generic one (especially as that specific vehicle is such a well photographed one, and is also one of the decal options in the kit), is very welcome, very welcome indeed.
Naturally enough, construction starts with the lower hull and suspension. The suspension units are well molded with only a few minor punch-out marks and a single (visible) sinkhole, easily cleaned up. All the parts locate well, and only a minimum of cement is needed. Although step 2 instructs that you fit the wheels now, I left mine off for ease of painting, though I did tack the wheel hubs on so as to keep the cement contact surfaces clean. The next series of steps involve constructing the interior, which in itself is relatively complete. This is where you first turn to the PE set. A heater grill, replacement floor plates with tread plate embossed and new pedals are installed first.
Next, with the construction of the interior of the upper hull, the gas mask frames are added. These are well done, and a welcome inclusion in the set, as all other sets I have used, and kits I've built, not one of them has had them, and I've needed to resort to scrap PE frets to make them. At this point, I virtually gave up on the suggested construction order, preferring to go my own way due to the PE being quite involved. I then sprayed the interior Testors Panzer Interior Buff, picking details out with a brush and enamel paint, once the buff had set.
Once all the paint had dried, I cemented the upper and lower hull assemblies together, making sure to keep the two rear lower hull sections aligned. Next I added the internal bins (ammunition and stowage), adding the PE catches and fitting them into the hull. A final coat of the interior buff on the bins, and the interior is almost complete. Not shown in the photos, is the radio I scratch-built and added later, just before the base coats went on, an oversight on my part.
Now, the PE set contains some louvers for the engine deck. I spent a while looking back and forth from the louvers to the deck, wondering if I was supposed to have replaced the molded ones. Luckily, they didn't. Looking at photos of the version I had chosen to model, 1111, the louvers appear to stand just proud of the framework, so I bent them to shape as indicated, and CA'd them in place. These louvers are handy, as they allow you to chose how open the engine compartment is, if for instance, for one reason or another, the crew feel they need more or less cooling air in the compartment or if you wanted to remove the molded louvers and install an engine.
Next, I tackled the fenders/side bins. Firstly I drilled around each door, then cut them away with an X-Acto knife. Clean up with a file, and there, you have nice clean holes to put your new doors on. But what's this? The holes are around 25% larger than the new doors! Checking references, this appears to be because the Sd.Kfz. 234/1 has larger bins, and as Italeri released that kit first, itís a throwback. So how do you fix it? Simple, cover the hole from the rear with cardstock, and fill with your favourite putty/filler. I used Squadron White, mainly because I like the way it finishes. While the putty is still firm, not wet enough that it sticks to the doors, and not so set that it resists gentle movement, push the bin doors into it, so they sit flush with the outside of the fender. Once the putty has fully set (I left mine for 3 days, just to be on the safe side), CA the doors in place.
It's worth mentioning that the padlocks for the bins need to be cut in order to pass them through the latches. Be careful, and cut one side, bend slightly either forward or back, pass it through the latch, and bend back. Alternatively, you can leave the lock hanging open.
Now, once all that was complete, I added the fenders to the body. I detailed the headlights with some scrap PE and fuse wire cabling, and installed them. One look at the horn though, and I decided to chuck it. I replaced it with a Tamiya one from their Pz IV OVE set, joined to the hull using some spare windshield hinges from Eduardís new Sd.Kfz 7/1 set.
I replaced all the lifting hooks/eyes in the kit with the supplied PE parts and also replaced the kit-supplied jerry cans. These items appear to be too small, so I took four from Tamiya's new Allied Vehicle Accessory set, and modified them to bring them to German standard, and attempted to fit them. Uh oh, the PE racks are designed for the little kit items. After pouring over books and photos for the better part of an hour, I decided that the Tamiya cans were more accurate, and just bent the racks to fit. The latches for the racks are absolutely tiny, and care must be used when working with them, because one sneeze could ruin your entire evening!
With the jerry cans safely in place, I turned my attention to the external stowage bins, one kit supplied, the other in the PE set. The kit bin doesnít have any markings on it to show where the lid is, so I scribed this in. The PE one goes together beautifully, and you can dent it without resorting to a Dremel. Latches went on both bins, and I also placed all the tools and clasps on at this point as well. The only tool I replaced on this kit was the wire cutter, as I felt the supplied one was a little chunky, though I did modify the jack to have a folded handle. This involved nothing more complicated than one cut with a scalpel and re-join it with a tiny rectangle of cardstock at it's base.
Studying the photos of Puma 1111, I couldn't see any mounts for a spare wheel, or for the full 234 exhausts (parts 60 and 61). The photos I have seem to show some discolouration where they would have been, but it's not obvious as to what happened to them. Needless to say, I left these off, and moved on to the turret.
After I cut the turret free, I noticed that it had no joint/weld marks on it, so back to the photos. I drew marks on where I thought they should be, double checked them and scribed them in, widening them slightly with a scalpel, and adding weld detail directly to the plastic in the process. I built up the 50mm KwK and MG mount as per the instructions, but also added a mount for the gunner's sight at the same time. The site was made with nothing more complicated than a piece of rod, the eyepiece from an old Tamiya ëscope, and some 0.125mm cardstock.
Once the gun carriage assembly was complete, the turret interior, rear barrel and inside of the Saukopf primary mantlet were sprayed interior buff and left aside to dry while I built up and painted the bottom part of the turret, seats and elevation/traverse gear. Once dry, I detailed the gun's breech, added some interior detailing (fuse wire cabling, etc) and put it all together. I added the PE to the turret and hatches, replacing the kit's smoke dischargers with the PE ones, and replaced the kit antenna with one from DML's excellent German Tank Antennae Set. It's also worth noting that Puma 1111 is a command version, and the PE set includes the FuG 8 antenna base armour, this antenna was also taken from the same set.
As noted above, the interior's primary colour was airbrushed Testors Model Master Panzer Interior Buff, with the various details and fittings picked out by hand, I also added a light dusting of powdered graphite by finger to impart a look of worn paint. This time, I decided not to follow my usual practice of priming the kit with Satin Black spray paint, and used just standard auto primer instead. This was followed a day later by the base coat of dunklegelb (my own mix) and Tamiya Dark Green camouflage applied in a line camouflage scheme, the same was applied to the wheels. Once dry, I brush painted the tires AeroMaster Tire Black with the running surfaces Testors Flat Black.
All the photos I have seen of Puma 1111 show it in a fairly sorry state, most of the photos are of it after capture, and show it with the allied shipping/capture stenciling on it. I decided to model it just before capture, with the crew just finishing taking on (what would be) their last lot of supplies. To that end, I gave it a moderate coating of mud on the lower surfaces, it also received a heavy coating of dust, both Tamiya Flat Earth and Floquil Dust.
My mud mixture is a fairly simple affair (pinched almost wholesale from an article at Tracklink, (thanks Paul), just white glue, Poly-Filla (a type of household filler), Woodland Scenic's shredded foam grass and earth, and finally, some tube acrylic paint, the colour depends on what colour you want your mud to be. Mix all that with water till it's a bit like toothpaste, and slather it on. Easy. Once dry, follow this off with either a brushed coat of diluted white glue for wet mud, or scrub some pastel dust into it for dry mud.
The diorama was constructed in my usual manner, which is to say, quickly! The base-board is 10mm MDF board, cut to size with a hand saw. The location of the road was marked in before hand with a pencil (you can't see it once the ground work goes down, but it does help to visualize where youíre going to put everything later).
The groundwork is simply papier-mache, made with two parts water to each part of white glue. I used to use aliphatic resin (a very strong 'white' glue), however, after a certain amount of experimentation, I've found there really isn't much difference, so go for the cheaper, normal grade, white glue. As it is winter here at the moment (and I was running WAY over-time), I 'baked' the base in a low temperature oven for an hour or two to harden it a little. When it came out, the road was shaped in, and 'tyre' tracks added with one of my daughter's toy cars. Once that was complete, a light sprinkling of sand and really small rocks, gathered from the gutter out on the street, was tamped into place, then back into the oven for another hour or so.
After it came out of the oven for a second time, I put it aside for a day to cool, and also so the base could straighten out. Let this be something of a lesson, even if youíre in a tearing rush, never forget to coat a wooden baseboard to protect it from the moisture in any groundwork ! The next day, after the warp came out of the base, a dilute mixture of white glue was brushed over the entirety of the base. The road area was 'paved' with Woodland Scenics shredded foam Turf, Soil. The green grassed areas is my own mix of several different colours of static grass, with the brown grass being plain old Verlinden 'Winter Brown' static grass.
The vehicles and figures were then pinned and glued to the base with CA glue, and the whole lot received a final light pastel coat, to tie it all in together. And voila, one complete diorama. Well, not quite - the Kubelwagen is Tamiya's new one, built almost straight from the box, the only real additions were the brake and electrical lines. The wine bottle and hurricane lantern on the Puma's fender and rear deck are from Tamiya's new(ish) Churchill VII kit, as is the milk churn in the Kubelwagen's boot (or 'trunk' for those of you in the US ).
All in all, this setup was an absolute delight to build, and I think most will agree, it's turned out looking pretty good also. I could recommend both kits to newcomers to the hobby, though a little experience would be helpful. With the PE set, the recommendation would have to be for those with a little more experience, however it shouldn't be out of reach of most modelers, and may make a nice first attempt with etched components.