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DRAGON MODELS LIMITED
6439, Heuschrecke IVb “Grasshopper”. 1/35th-scale injection-molded styrene/multimedia kit. Contains: 698 styrene parts (including 10 clear), two bags of Magic Tracks, two photo-etched brass frets, one decal/marking scheme and eight pages of instructions in 22 steps.
One thing that fascinates modelers, especially the “SGFs” among us are the seemingly inexhaustible variety of prototypes that the Germans designed and produced during the Second World War. One of the most curious of all was a project to mount a 10.5cm l.FH18 on a tracked chassis, with the caveat that the gun be de-mountable for use on the ground, while the chassis would then be free to be used as an ammunition re-supply vehicle. That this cumbersome and extremely flawed concept was allowed to be developed in two versions, using precious production resources (muscle, time, minds and raw materials) is, in retrospect, truly astounding.
Yet, the project resulted in one of the most unique variations of the GW III/IV series to see the light of day, the 10.5cm le.F.H.18/6 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen “Heuschrecke IVb”. Not surprisingly, DML has chosen to kit this vehicle, based on parts from their StuG.III Ausf.G and Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.F2/G “Smart Kits” with a little help from their Nashorn/Hummel kits and some Gen2 gear thrown in for good measure.
Starting with the tracks, DML provides the earlier type of 40cm track with smooth faces and opened guide horns, in the so-called “Magic Track” individual-link style. The links need no preparation prior to assembly, if the modeler can ignore the two faint ejector pin marks on their inner faces. The links are “handed”, which means that they have certain details that are seen on each outer side when they are properly oriented on the suspension system. So, don’t just empty them out of their bags and start throwing them together. DML has also molded them in two different shades of grey to keep the modeler from getting mixed up.
Modelers should note that all existing photos of this vehicle show that the guide horns are of the solid type.
The road-wheels have separate hub-caps of the type initially introduced with the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.E. The wheels themselves are the widened type first introduced on the Ausf.F, which along with the 40cm tracks were able to handle the increased ground pressure resulting from the weight of the thickened armor introduced with the Ausf.F. These then remained as standard items on all vehicles derived from the Pz.Kpfw.IV, to include the Heuschrecke. Each wheel/tire assembly is conventionally-molded in one piece per side and includes manufacturer’s logo and tire size information on the rubber rim. A total of 20 complete road-wheels are given, which leaves four extras for spare stowage.
The suspension bogies do not articulate, and as a result are far less complicated to assemble compared to DML’s Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.B, C, D and E kits. The bogies themselves are in two parts with separate ends for the leaf springs, and a separate hub, which in turn attach to a separate mount. Although assembly has been eased, the detail is still excellent.
The final drive housings are of the type seen on the Pz.Kpfw.III, and are holdovers from the G.W.III/IV Nashorn/Hummel chassis (and Premium Edition DML kits), upon which this vehicle was based. The drive sprockets themselves are presented in a conventional manner using inner and outer halves. They are also from the G.W.III/IV and both styles (six and eight openings around the rim) are provided, which in the case of this specific vehicle allow for the use of one of each, precisely as seen on the prototype.
Separate, two-part bump stops are fitted to stations on either of the hull sides, but the instructions are un-clear in this regard since for some reason their installation is spread over more than one step; use all five of them for each side! The idler wheel axle adjustment housings and separate axle, will allow the modeler to easily manipulate the track sag, something that will be of great help in fitting the tracks. Don’t glue the axle in place until after the tracks have been fitted; this will prevent the dreaded “one-too-few or one-too-many” links phobia. The idler wheels are of the welded-tube design and are also provided as inner and outer halves with the hub molded in place. These assemblies feature excellent weld bead details and, as mentioned above, can be adjusted on their axles in order to depict proper track sag.
On the actual vehicle, the hull was based on that of the G.W.III/IV chassis, which is reflected quite well in this kit. It has the fairings between the bogie units molded in place, again for simplified assembly. The hull also has parts of the superstructure sides molded in place, while the port-side panel, below the track guards, has the circular plate seen on the G.W.III/IV, which was used to cover the opening for the engine starter crank. This item is actually redundant to this vehicle, since the G.W.III/IV had a mid-hull mounted engine and this vehicle had the engine at the rear. Multi-part slide-molds were used to render this part, so details have not been compromised. Rivets, bolts, panels, hatches and weld beads are all crisply-rendered, and there is a separate panel that is added under the engine compartment.
Modelers should note that there are two “injection stubs” on each rim of the hull side walls, at the rear. These must be removed or the engine deck panel will not fit. This is not mentioned in the instructions, although the drawing in that particular step shows the items in question as having already been removed. The bow plate is molded integrally with the hull and a separate part is provided to hang spare tracks upon. Separate plates fit behind the final drive housings; these were drilled at the upper forward corners and could accept tow hooks.
On the stern, the lower hull plate is fitted with the idler wheel housings, “straight” (without mufflers) exhaust pipes, the mounting brackets for the two wheels used to tow a dismounted turret and the brackets for the trailer hitch. The upper rear plate mounts brackets for the lifting gear, an antenna base, mount and rod, an option of two styles of convoy distance lamp and a separate circular hatch lid. It is curious that photos do show the antenna base and mount on the APG vehicle, yet DML provides a radio to be fitted in the turret. How this rig would work when the turret is dismounted is beyond me! More on that later…
As mentioned, the superstructure side plates are molded with the hull. A separate glacis plate, featuring separate armored air intake covers for the final drives is followed with a new driver’s compartment front plate. It features two visors with internal details and etched brass braces. Above that, a roof plate with detailed turret ring race is complimented by two circular hatch lids for the driver and radio operator; these are separate and feature separate grab handles. The engine deck plate is a separate affair and features most of the tool stowage as separate parts with molded-on clamps and brackets; etched brass screens are fitted to the inside of the air cooling grills.
The track guards are typical examples of DML’s smart use of technology. They are detailed on both surfaces and are devoid of ejector pin marks; separate mud-flaps are added up front. The “parallelogram” manually-operated turret lifting gear is based around several slide-molded parts and can be constructed so as to be movable. Also stowed are the four segments for the ground-mount frame; these are made from slide-molded parts and are embellished with etched brass. If used on the ground, eight slide-molded earth anchors are provided to “nail it” in place. Other items on the track guards are a pair of “C”-shaped tow hooks and a multi-part vehicle jack, a pair of spare road-wheels with etched brass stowage frames and a multi-part Bosch head-lamp; no jack block is provided.
This is based on a slide-molded outer shell that is fitted to the separate base; both then drop into the turret ring on the roof plate. Four separate side flaps can be left opened or closed, while a frame for a tarp divides the open roof in half. Lift hooks and mounts for the wheels (for when the turret is towed behind the vehicle) are also provided. The wheels themselves have cast steel hubs that feature eight arms; the central part of the rubber tire is molded with the hub, while two rings are added on either side to complete the area, while leaving a proper channel between each section.
The main gun is based in part on new-tool pieces for the mantle, slide-molded gun tube, muzzle brake and mounting, as well as some parts from the StuG.III Ausf.G. The gun-mount features recoil cylinders, multi-part breech (that has a wedge that can be depicted opened or closed), a multi-part sight featuring clear styrene for the optics, traversing and elevation gear and gunner’s seat. A radio, rack and transformer are provided for the turret interior, but I think this may be wishful thinking. There is no means of providing power to it when the turret is dismounted and as mentioned earlier, it would also be separated from the antenna mounted on the vehicle’s rear plate. This “separation” would be rather pronounced, if the chassis was off gallivanting on its own in a quest for more ammunition!
I suspect that the radio was fitted in the hull, just as it was in the Nashorn and Hummel SPGs.
Fighting Compartment Interior.
A separate internal bulkhead is fitted between the fighting compartment and engine compartment. It has some detail and also serves a structural purpose, helping to align other parts. A floor plate contains a molded-in battery compartment with a separate lid, as well as a separate drive-shaft housing. Multi-part projectile stowage boxes are provided (three each with cells for eight rounds each) as are two cartridge case boxes. All can be modeled open and there are four projectiles and four cartridge cases included. A fair amount of Gen2 infantry equipment is provided for stowage, to include gas mask canisters, mess tins, water bottles, steel helmets, bayonets, entrenching tools and a pair of MP40s. None are designated in the actual instructions (they are only seen on the parts map) and I have no idea where any of this stuff is supposed to go. The modeler should feel free to improvise…
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
There was no shrinkage of any parts; there was no flash, while mold part lines are minimal and easily cleaned. I have already mentioned the slight ejector pin marks on the inner surfaces of the track shoes. A dry fit of the major parts indicates the fit is good-to-excellent.
The only scale drawing that I have access to is a single port-side profile view in 1/35th-scale by Hilary Doyle, seen in both references 1 and 2. It would appear that some aspects of the drawing depict the vehicle prior to it being re-worked into the version sitting on display at the US Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen, Maryland. Naturally, the kit is based on the APG version since I would suppose it provides an artifact that could be precisely measured. According to ref.1, the vehicle had the hydraulic lifting gear replaced by a manual system, the exhaust muffler configuration was changed, the turret was lightened and mounts for wheels were fitted to each side of the latter.
Suffice to say that the Doyle drawings are not the best source to use when comparing the model for the sake of accuracy, as some changes are included and some are not.
There are some omissions as follows:
• The lifting gear is completely inadequate; it is missing wheels, gears, shafts, and various hoisting chains.
• There is no part to attach the dismounted turret and its firing base/trailer frame to the vehicle’s tow hitch.
I noted two inaccuracies as follows:
• The tracks should have closed guide horns as seen in all photos.
• Lack of proper, easily-documented markings
These consist of traditional line drawings; they are as busy as most instructions from DML. They can be confusing when it comes to the fitting of the bump-stops and as mentioned previously, they don’t tell the modeler to remove the pour stubs from the hull part or what to do with all the Gen2 equipment. As usual, colors are keyed to Gunze and Model Master paints.
Decals and Markings Information.
Water-slide decals for one vehicle are provided by Cartograf of Italy; these consist of four black/white Balkenkreuze. They are in perfect register, have crisp, sharp edges and excellent color saturation. Photos show a chassis number (58250?) on the front plate of the superstructure, and a ring with the number 212 inside of it, on the starboard front mud-flap. These are not provided and photos do not show any Balkenkreuze in evidence.
This is a rather esoteric, yet interesting subject, especially from a technological standpoint. It represents the current state-of-the-art in injection molding extremely well. There are some of what I would term as “major glitches” in the area of omissions, with rather less-important issues concerning the markings and track types. Modelers may wish to consider all of these factors prior to deciding if this kit is for them.
Recommended with reservations.
Frank V. “Curley Stooge” De Sisto
References consulted for this review included the following books:
1. “Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten”, Panzer Tracts 10, by T. Jentz & H. Doyle.
2. “Panzer IV and its Variants”, Spielberger Vol.IV, Schiffer, by W. Spielberger.
3. “German Experimental Self-Propelled Guns”, Ampersand Publishing, Allied-Axis Issue 17, article by D. Doyle.
Reviewer’s note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reviews.
DML kits are available from retail and mail order shops. For details see their web site at: www.dragonmodelsltd.com.