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Flyhawk Panzer II Ausf J

Introduction
Flyhawk models are well known for their ship models and different upgrades in small scales, however, a year ago they stepped into a new market for them – 1/72 scale plastic kits. To me, their appearance was a kind of a revolution having seen the images of sprues and kits online. I grabbed a FT-17 kit (FT-17 Cast Turret ) and it was a pure joy to build and paint. Needless to say, I was excited to see what else they will bring to fans of scale modelling. This year, they did 2 new sets – Panzer I Ausf F and Panzer II Ausf J. Both kits have a lot of similarities and it was a natural choice for a manufacture to tackle them together. A thorough video assessment of that kit is already present at Armorama (Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf. J ) while I will share my thoughts on the kit package, content and build.
Background
But first a bit of background on that “heavy” light tank that was developed by Germany during WW2. The idea was to create a tank sufficient for infantry support while still keeping it a “light” tank. The main difference with standard variants of Panzer II was the newly developed wide suspension, wide tracks and thick armour (up to 80mm on the front of the hull). The armament however remained similar to other Panzer II variants – 20 mm KwK 38 gun and 1 MG. These tanks were used in reconnaissance and anti-partisan actions, but it should be noted that only about 20 vehicles were made.
The Kit
The kit comes in a revolutionary package (seems that Flyhawk is revolutionary in many ways) – a thin colorful box contains thick cardboard one inside. The first one has kit information including some 3D images, boxart, background information about the vehicle and mentions other releases in the 1/72 scale range from Flyhawk. The thicker cardboard box is filled with sprues, a 4 page A5-manual, 1 photoetch fret and 1 decal sheet. The latter two are stickered to a cardboard backer. What is absolutely new to me (and I am sure to everyone here) is that the sprues inside the box are located between extra isolation foam to prevent their damage and movement during shipment and transportation. That kind of packaging would resist compression and dropping of the box. Looks like the Apple approach to product packaging in a way. There are total 8 of grey sprues with tank parts, separate hull halves plus 2 black sprues made of a kind of soft plastic for the tracks. For tow cable there is a piece of nylon thread provided. The parts on the sprues look as sharp as possible and needless to say there is no visible flash and only minor mold seams. Large parts like the turret or fenders have fine detail and are a great example of what can be done in styrene. Honestly, there are many manufacturers that can’t reach such quality in 1/35!
The Build
The assembly process is straight forward and there are no issues at all. The front hull has separate added armour plate on the superstructure with visor port covers to be glued. The rear hull end has an exhaust muffler which I bored out with a tiny drill and there are some variations of the muffler guard (1 piece or 2 part). The suspension is very well detailed with separate shock absorbers and final drive housing. The rear hull armour plate has tiny photoetched parts for towing cables and spare tracks. I did not like the supplied wire and skipped adding the cable. Also I think that the towing cable ends do not look very nice the way they are done. The idler and sprockets are each 2-part assemblies, and all 4 have great bolt detail. The multi-layered road wheels also have good detail on the outside while on the inner surfaces it is simplified, but it is all hidden anyway and the detail is still years ahead of other 1/72 manufacturers. To make painting easier I placed the wheels on the model without gluing them to the hull. This is done to allow assembly of the tracks first. The tracks are made of a different kind of styrene which can be bent in the joints and thus provide a realistic appearance of the tracks. I used the sequence shown in the manual and it looks very good when finished. Be sure to wait for some time to be able to remove the suspension with tracks as the wheels sit very tightly on the bars. The fenders are nicely detailed and rather thin for this scale. They have photoetched supports and various separate elements like tools, headlights, tail lights and jack block. I must say the tools look much better than Tamiya’s 1/48 offerings. The turret has a separate hatch lid, gun mantlet, barrels and lifting hooks. The latter are supplied in plastic or photo-etched variants which I assembled first, but then lost 1 during photography and therefore replaced it with a plastic one. A noticeable change, but acceptable as I had no replacement. On a minor note they could have done a better job on the gun muzzle brake as it looks a bit thick in contrast to the barrel itself and required drilling it out.
Painting
There are 2 major painting options provided in the manual – 13. Polizei Panzer Companie and Pz.Abt.z.b.V66. The polizei vehicle is panzer grey overall with unit insignia on fenders and crosses on sides and smoke dischcharger cover. While Flyhawk offers 2 variants of crosses (white contour and white with black fill) I think the accurate one is the filled cross according to the images I found online. The Pz.Abt.z.b.V66 version is 2 or 3-tone camouflage with dark yellow base and red brown random shaped stripes (plus green in 3-tone variant). The turret number here is the same for both of variants just with a different colour and I am not sure which one is correct. Most likely it was a 3-tone camouflage with black numbers judging by the image of that particular tank (B25) in one book. It should be noted that Flyhawk also mentions confusions that might come from black and white pictures interpretation. First time I see a manufacturer advocating their choice. Great, isn’t it? For my model I decided to do a panzer grey paint scheme as I had no experience with it for that scale. First I airbrushed red Tamiya acrylics to imitate German factory primer and covered a model with chipping effects fluid from AMMO. Next a mix of German grey was prepared (Tamiya XF-24 with a drop of light blue) and airbrushed over the model in fine coats. When paint was dry I took a brush with tap water and started scrapping the top paint layer. It is important not to overdo the chipping effects, regardless of which scale you are working with. After the chipping was done I did a wash and added some tonal variation between the different surfaces using artistic oils. Dust and dirt were done using AMMO enamel products, pigments and acrylic paste. I also added aerial using a piece of 0.09 guitar string.
Conclusion
In conclusion I enjoyed this project a lot. Built over 2 evenings plus another 2 evenings for paint and weathering, it is a perfect kit for weekend/mini-vacation modelling. I will definitely be waiting for other Flyhawk kits and I am getting their Panzer I Ausf F. for sure. Maybe it is the kit of the year?
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