This is the third Hetzer variant to be released by Eduard, and after the first (early) and second (late) it follows that this is the mid production version. The Hetzer was a purpose designed Tank Destroyer, produced from May 1944 until April 1945, when the bombing of the Skoda factory in Pilsen knocked out the last production facility. Like so many other wartime production vehicles, the Hetzer was constantly modified, mostly to simplify production, to cope with ever dwindling resources and production facilities. Modifications included strengthened suspension to cope with the weight of the gun, lightened gun mantlet, different idler wheels, different access hatches, exhaust, wheels, etc. The importance that the German command placed on the Hetzer is reflected in the high production noís, some 2584 were produced, and production plans called for a total production of 1000 Hetzer per month from mid 1945.
Whatís in the box?
The kit comes in a large, strong, top opening cardboard box. The box art and layout are very distinctive, and show a picture of a Hetzer on the front, and several photos of the (unpainted and ealier released) completed interior. Opening the box, always a special moment, does not disappoint. The box is loaded with 14 plastic sprues, one clear plastic sprue, a turned aluminium barrel, 2 frets of photo-etch, a length of string for the tow cables, a very complete set of decals and a set of Eduard paint masks for the wheels. The plastic sprues are packed in 3 clear plastic bags, but tight enough to avoid movement during transport. The Photo-etch is packed in a smaller plastic envelope, protected by cardboard sheets. All parts in my kit are undamaged, although two pieces did come of the sprue.
The instructions deserve separate praise, a beautiful 24-page booklet, in full colour on glossy paper, with clear 3D computer generated pictures. Although some positioning of smaller details could have been made clearer, with some carefull study and test fitting there should be no problems. The instructions start with a small history of the Hetzer, concentrating on the production history and outlining the various modifications during its short life. The three decal and paint options get two full pages each, including a short synopsis of the depicted vehicle.
A closer look
The inclusion of the larger Photo-etch set and turned barrel are a welcome change, and go a long way to justifying the price of this kit. First inspection of the plastic sprues reveals very little flash, and this cleans easily with a swipe of the trusty Exacto knife. Not so easy to fix are the few sinkholes I found, the most notable one on top of the exhaust manifold (see photo) and the jack. Itís awkward but prominent position means filling and sanding will be tricky, I tried to use some superglue, but the result is (not yet) completely satisfactory.
Another major clean up will be the link and length tracks (see photo). Rather disappointingly, the holes in the track faces have a lot of flash, some so bad that the question arises if the mould is faulty. The tracks are nice enough to make it worth the effort, although some might want to replace the tracks with a workable after-market set.
The upper hull is quite thin, which it has to be to preserve scale effect when you open the Hetzer up to reveal the interior. This has resulted in a slight warp of the right rear panel, but this will be easily corrected when the hull is glued together.
Setting aside these few minus points, lets move to the good points. And there are plenty of those. The plastic parts show fine detail, and fit is good.
The Photo-etch is very nice, as might be expected from Eduard. This kit contains two frets, and is a much more comprehensive set than the early and late versions, and adds a real edge to the interior. Whilst there is still scope for more detail, most of that will be in the realm of scratch building, such as wiring for the radioís and electrical conduits. The ammunition storage racks are very nice, with Photo-etch straps to secure the rounds to the racks. The kit includes 40 rounds of ammo, and although the detail is a bit on the soft side, once painted up they will add a nice ĎBattle readyí look to the interior. As they are all identical the purists might want to change a few rounds with after-market ones, after all a mixed load of AP and HE rounds would be carried. Iím no expert on ammo types, and because of the lack detail itís hard to call anyway, but the supplied rounds look like AP rounds to me.
Moving forward we come to the Drivers compartment. This has been represented well; with only the large handbrake lever to the Driverís right knee missing. The steering controls are spot on, as is the gear change control on top of the gearbox. The gearbox and the large brake housings are a rather basic affair, but to be fair, these will be hard to spot and appreciate once itís all together. The instrument panel is particularly good, and you are given two options. One is to use a Ďclassicí plastic panel, with raised detail for the dials which you can paint and weather to your liking. The other option is a panel without the raised dials, but using Eduardís signature Photo-etch panel with a printed sheet of dial faces in between. This makes for a very convincing panel. The foot pedals for throttle, brake and clutch are also separate items, adding to the cluttered feel of the Driverís compartment.
To the Driverís right is the gun, and again the kit has caught the overall look and shape very convincingly.
To the rear of the compartment we find the Commanderís seat, and recessed in the rear firewall the radio. The Radioís in this set are well detailed, with separate wiring connectors for added detail. The various junction boxes and the little heating vent assembly are also present in reasonable detail.
A very welcome detail is the inclusion of decals for the various instruction and stowage notices, which are always part of the interior of any AFV. Most of these can only be read with the help of a microscope, but one that I particularly like is the one for the Driverís compartment, telling the Driver that ĎWhilst driving, remove foot from clutch pedalí. Replacing clutch plates must have been a tricky job.
The engine compartment is basic but fairly well detailed. The only thing missed by Eduard is the coolant hose connecting the cylinder head to the radiator, but apart from that itís spot on. The lower part of the engine block is a bit skinny, but that wonít be noticeable once fitted inside the engine bay. To finish the engine of you might want to add some wiring and plumbing detail.
On to the exterior. All the exterior fittings are done well again, extensive use of Photo-etch adding great detail to tool clamps and spare track link brackets and such. It goes without saying the Photo-etch toolbox on the rear mudguard is a vast improvement over the plastic kit parts, but take note of the instructions, as there are two versions, and it depends on the final decal option which one you should use.
The suspension units have reasonably good detail, right down to the six small bolts on the parabolic spring hangers. The wheels and sprockets are good on the outside, but they lack hub bracing for the sprockets and bolts on the inside of the wheelrims. A minor detail for most, and when the model is finished with the track and skirts in place not really that prominent. One detail that has been missed is the casting mark numbers on top of the gun yoke. These can however be added by slicing a few numbers of the sprues and gluing them with some liquid glue.
Eduard has a deserved reputation for producing excellent Photo-etch sets for AFV models from most manufacturers. The Hetzer is the first plastic AFV kit they have produced, and, having opted to pull the stops out, itís a complete and impressive kit. Having said that, there are some issues. Some, like the sinkhole on the manifold and jack, can be overcome and are not a great problem. The tracks on the other hand are a different matter. Considering that the rest of the kit, and indeed part of the track sprue, has been moulded and produced so well, I find the amount of flash below standard. The tracks will clean up, but I would expect better from a kit that costs around £40. There is also a confusing mention of Ďoptional Photo-etched side skirtsí in the features listing on the box top, which in my mind means that these are included in the kit as an option. They are not; there is not even a mention of them in the instructions. Why this Ďoptioní is mentioned on the box is not clear.
But the kit as a whole is excellent, and a benchmark model of the Hetzer. The interior is spot on, the extra Photo-etch replaces some of the over scale plastic assemblies of the earlier kits and the instructions are a benchmark that other manufacturers would do well to take a look at. Not only instructions, but also a mini reference work, complete with period photos, history and specifications of the vehicle and a mention of and thank you to the people and resources that helped in the development of the kit. This is definitely an instruction book that you want to keep after you have built the model.
So then, despite the tracks, I do recommend this kit to all fans of German Armour.
- Hetzer & G-13 by Mike Koenig and George Parada Published by Kagero
- Encyclopaedia of German Tanks of WWII by Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle
- The Internet
My thanks to Eduard
for this review sample.