A7V Totenkopf (1:35)
Sturmpanzer-Kraftwagen WW1 German Tank
by: Matt Flegal [ ]
introductionAt the Somme on September 15th, 1916 forty-nine British Mark I tanks began rolling towards the battlefield and a new age of warfare had arrived. Caught by surprise, the Germans embarked on a crash program to develop armored vehicles of their own. Although slowed somewhat by the limited successes of Allied tanks through the middle of 1917, the Germans’ answer started production by the end of 1917. Relatively fast and nimble it was also quite powerful but suffered from poor mobility over torn up ground and was few in number. As 1918 progressed the value of the tank became obvious and the Germans scrambled to field their A7V's. In 1980 (32 years ago!), Tauro Models of Italy released an extremely ambitious multimedia kit of the tank which has been re-released a number of times and is still available.
Kits of World War 1 AFVs are sadly quite sparse in 1/35 scale. Emhar did some mediocre kits of British tanks and there are a couple of nice but pricey resin kits available but that's it. (Dear Dragotumptamibroncmengriich please release some nice kits of the Mk IV/A7V/St Chamond please).
OverviewThis is a true multimedia kit and quite remarkable for it’s day. Fairly complete interior, individual track links, movable suspension, hundreds of crisp rivets, and separate doors. Aside from a little flash on the plastic parts and moderate flash on the vinyl/rubbery track links the molding is still really clean after 3 decades. More than 450 parts are included including the track links and connecting pins.
SuspensionThe suspension is made up of the bogie assemblies, drive sprockets, idlers, and individual track links. The plastic pieces are crisp and well formed. The bogies are rather tricky to get together with the included springs and such but they look good, albeit with delicate mounting points. The idler and drive sprockets look good and are barely seen anyway. The tracks look pretty good, aside from the moderate flash. That's the last nice thing I'll write about them. The material is a rubbery vinyl that has the added benefit of being surprisingly delicate and prone to tearing. The track pins do a lovely job of tearing the holes in the links to pieces and, because of that aforementioned fragility, if they have to stretch at all around the pin they will tear. Finally, just to make things interesting when I first built this kit I painted the tracks with Poly-S paints and displayed it in the sunlight. Within 4 months the tracks started to melt and fragment. I've since resolved this problem with the clever idea of gooping enough mud around the running gear so that nobody can tell I didn't put the tracks on. For my next one I'm going to cast them in resin.
HullThe hull and turret (well, that's what it’s called in the various references) are crisply molded with tons of lovely rivets and attach to each other by poorly fitting butt-joints. The doors are separate, as is the driver’s hatch, but the various viewport doors are molded to the hull pieces. The various MGs and main gun are positionable, although the mounts and MGs are somewhat simplified. The fit of most of the parts is pretty poor and flimsy; bevelled butt joints are not a great idea for large slabs of parts. This is where superglue becomes quite useful as holding the parts together correctly while waiting for the plastic cement to dry is frustrating.
InteriorThe interior is fairly extensive with radiators, guns, and drivers seats. No engine is provided nor are there the steel-framed seats for the MG gunners. Through the hatches it will definitely look very nice.
AccuracyWell, it looks like an A7V. I feel kind of bad criticizing the kit as for the price of a Tamiya tank of the time (back with open sponsons and motorization holes) you got a wildly ambitious kit of an obscure (20 built) WW1 German tank with individual track links and a partial interior. However, the kit is fairly poor from an accuracy standpoint.
The basic shape is incorrect. The body is too short and the front and back end are not tall enough. More importantly, the fact that the tank has a sockle mount and the upper ventilation slits aren't full length means it is a tank of the first Krupp batch. Which means the hull should be made up with 5 plates per side. The model doesn't represent this at all, so the rivet pattern is all wrong. The upper grates do not have the offset interior grates so you can see into the hull through them on the model. The sliding viewports don't have the correct profile. The rear hull door opens in the wrong direction. The suspension bogies are squashed too flat and make the tank seem to sit too low. The interior is pretty much “imagineered”. It looks good but doesn't match interior photos well at all. All in all, if you want an accurate hull shape you're probably better off scratch-building the shell from plastic sheet.
ConclusionI feel kind of bad for panning such an ambitious kit but I will. It's pretty inaccurate and is a challenging build with self-destructing tracks. If you're a moderately experienced modeler and really want an A7V then this kit is reasonably priced and with half a bottle of Mr Surfacer 1000 it will certainly look like an A7V. If you're not that person though the kit is a chore that won't accurately represent any of the A7V's built.