I really love small WWII 1/35 scale armor. As such, I have built many variants of the excellent Czech TNHP-S or German designated Pz Kw 38(T) type tank. Talk about versatility! These vehicles were used for everything from main battle tanks, to mobile artillery platforms, to tank destroyers. Imagine my delight when the new Alan Ltd 1/35 Grille (Bison) Ausf M arrived in the mail.
The Czech built TNHP-S tank built from 1938 onwards was one of the most modern vehicles of its time. Production of the vehicle continued under German aegis after the occupation. This extremely robust and reliable type formed a quarter of German tank strength in the 1940-41 period. After replacement by later German designs the excellent chassis was modified and equipped to form a variety of expedient vehicles such as the PanzerJager Marder III, Jagdpanzer Hertzer, and Panzerartillerie Grille. The Hertzer variant soldiered on with the Swiss army until the 70s! A functioning Swiss Hertzer is preserved to this day at the Texas Guard Museum at Camp Mabry here in Austin. Not bad for a 1938 design I'd say.
A further Pz Kw 38(t) variant coming into service during 1943 was the 15 cm SIG 33//I auf Gw 38(t) Grille (or Bison). These vehicles mounted the 150 mm SIG 33 infantry gun on the proven Czech chassis. There were two types. The Ausf H (modeled by Kirin) had the engine in the rear and fighting compartment forward. The Ausf M had the engine mounted forward and compartment aft. The Ausf M version was also manufactured as a Marder III variant.
These powerful vehicles known as Grille or Bison served on all fronts from 1943 with heavy infantry gun companies of Panzergrenadier regiments. A total of 370 units were built.
In the Box:
This new kit, from Alan Ltd in Russia, is of the Grille (Bison) Ausf M. This is the first Pz Kw 38(T) type variant produced by Alan and hopefully not the last. It is molded such that other variants will be available in the future. In fact one sprue is marked "Marder/Grille 1/35." I am quite impressed with this new Alan offering
The parts consist of seven trees of hard gray styrene parts, one set of brass PE parts, and a decal sheet. The styrene parts are extremely well molded with no flash. There are no injector marks or sinkholes visible on any exterior surface.
One large tree (D) includes parts for the vehicle hull sides, top deck, fighting compartment rear, and various hatches. Surface detail is sharp. The ventilation slats on the right side of the vehicle are molded open. It is clear from these parts that all hatches can be posed either open or shut. The suspension mounts on the hull are molded in to the sides of the kit.
Another large tree (B) contains the hull bottom, external equipment, ammunition, muffler, and vehicle fenders. The hull bottom has molded details. The various axes, jack, fire extinguisher, etc. are well molded and in scale. I would not replace them. Alan provides no less than 10 shells for the sIG 33 gun. These are one piece parts with detailed fuses. The vehicle radio is also one piece and very well detailed. The two fenders are close to scale thin.
The third large tree (C) contains parts for the sIG 33 gun, gun shields, and a myriad of internal containers and detail. The gun barrel and front breach are molded in two halves with a rear breach section added. This is the same method used with Alan's sIG 33 kit and makes for a lot of cleanup work to get those seams to go away. The gun barrel and mount assemblies both contain around a dozen parts. The gun shields are scale thin with excellent rivet detail. The interior of the shield sides contains marks that should take the guesswork out of parts placement. Alan is extremely generous in providing interior detail in the form of dozens of separate components.
Finally there are four identical trees containing suspension, wheels, and individual track links. The wheels and drive gear are very nicely molded. The track links are superb. Interconnect moldings seem fine and a dry fit of several links proved that it should be no problem linking them together. I also tested the fit of the road wheels within the teeth of the tracks. This has been a problem in the past with Alan kits. I am pleased to report the fit was perfect! I wish I had a few more of these trees to back fit some of my other Pz Kw 38(T) types!
The kit instructions are printed in four languages. There are ample extremely well done drawings showing assembly. All parts are numbered in the instructions and on the sprue. Some of the instruction drawings got a bit busy with up to 30 parts but even then they seemed fairly clear.
Decals for the kit provide group markings for the 1st SS and 13th Panzer Divisions. They appear to be quite thin and well registered.
Two photo etch pieces are provided for the muffler cover and a storage box. They appear to be a tad heavy but I plan on using them.
Well, now that I put my glasses on and really gave this kit a going over I am quite impressed. I can find no major problems with the kit at all. Alan Ltd. seems to be improving with every kit! I can't wait to the Marder III Ausf M from these guys. If you are into the Pz Kw 38(T) variants, as I am, I am sure that you will like this late model beauty. Can't wait to start building now! I thank Lincoln Leung for providing this review sample.
F.M. von Senger und Ettrlin: German Tanks of World War II, Galahad Books, 1969.