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Tamiya 1/35 scale FAMO and Sd.Ah.116 trailer

Manufacturer: Tamiya, distributed by Tamiya America, 2 Orion, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-4200
Kit: No. 35246
Scale: 1/35
Price: $150
Comments: Injection-molded, 1,021 parts (36 vinyl, 63 metal), decals
Pros:Great detail and excellent fit, unusual subject
Cons: Lots of parts and some complicated assemblies
Removing damaged tanks to the rear so that they may be repaired and returned to combat is an important job in any mechanized army. The most notable and familiar vehicle used for this purpose in WWII was the U.S. Army's Dragon Wagon. Although the German army relied primarily on rail transport to move their armor, they also made use of transport trailers. Designed to be pulled by heavy halftracks, the 22-ton Sd.Ah.116 trailer could handle tanks that were built on the Panzer III and IV chassis.

The design was unusual, consisting of two four-wheeled bogies, each with independent steering, supporting the trailer bed. The rear bogie had a cab for a crewman who would steer the rear bogie, similar to a modern hook-and-ladder fire truck. To load a tank, the rear bogie unit would lower the rear of the trailer, and then it was towed away from the rear (it was not self-propelled). The tank was then driven or winched aboard the trailer, and the rear unit reattached. If the tank to be transported was too long to fit the trailer, the forward portions of the trailer bed could be pivoted up, to increase the capacity of the trailer. Unfortunately the trailer was too small to handle the Tiger and Panther tanks, but the Germans produced a 68-ton trailer in small numbers that could manage the larger vehicles.

Tamiya's latest effort is the Sd.Ah.116 tank recovery trailer, teamed up with their excellent FAMO halftrack. The halftrack part of the kit is exactly the same as before (see the review in the April 2000 FSM). Molded in Tamiya's familiar yellow-tan plastic, the parts feature excellent detail. Each bogie features independent steering, using metal tie rods and screws to connect all of the wheels. Heavy metal beams are provide to reinforce the trailer bed, so the finished model will be able to hold up even the heaviest resin tank. Tamiya has thoughtfully included a small magnetized screwdriver to help with the assembly.

Besides the FAMO crew, an additional four crewmembers are provided for the trailer. The decals are well printed, offering three marking options, all of which are shown in color on the outside of the box. The trailer uses the same soft vinyl tires as the FAMO kit. The thick, 36 page, instruction manual includes a detailed description of how the trailer was actually used to recover tanks.

I started assembling the trailer by building the front bogie unit. Although the instructions say the nuts used in step 29 are small, they are actually the larger of the two size nuts provided. The trailer features several small air tanks, and rather than try to reproduce their attaching straps when molding the tanks, Tamiya provides a large sheet of thin plastic. Each strap is to be cut and applied separately, providing a more realistic appearance.

Be careful when assembling and installing the towing arm (part L43); it is easy to get it upside down. You also need to watch the position of the brake-drum assemblies. Although they are lettered to tell them apart, it is easy to get confused and install them incorrectly. Pay particular attention to the position of the axles when installing the brake drum assemblies. You must follow the directions to the letter.

The screws and metal tie rods are out of scale, but if scale parts were provided, they would be too fragile to operate. I left off the spare tire, shovels, and the small lights (J39) until painting was complete.

The rear bogie unit went together much like the front one. While I assembled the rear cab, I did not glue the walls to the floor. This made it easier to install the windows and detail paint the cab after the main camouflage painting was done. I also left the spare tire for final assembly.

When assembling the rear unit, I ran into a snag. I had three long tie rods and only one short tie rod left. After spending some time to make sure I had installed the correct tie rods on the front unit, I had to modify one of the tie rods to complete my model. I used a cut-off wheel in my motor tool to cut out a portion of a long tie rod. I then soldered the two pieces together to the correct length, using a piece of fine brass tube as a splice.

The trailer bed itself is easily assembled. The underside of the bed screws to the upperside, trapping the heavy metal rails, which add rigidity to the trailer. The small screwdriver provided with the kit is a bit too small to drive these screws, but most modelers should have access to a small Philips screwdriver. Fastidious modelers will probably want to cover the screw heads with putty, but they are hardly noticeable when painted.

It is a bit tricky getting paint into all of the nooks and crannies of the vehicle, but take your time, and look carefully under strong light, and you'll be able to get paint where it is needed. Solvaset works very well on the Tamiya decals, and makes the red-and-white warning stripes wrap easily around the fenders. The decals fit nicely, and no trimming was required.

The windows for the cab are die-cut in thin clear sheet plastic. The easiest way to remove them from the sheet is with a fine scissors. I "glued" the windows into place with Future floor polish.

Tamiya's Sd.Ah.116 is another kit with fantastic engineering. I spent only about 18 hours building the trailer. The only information I could find in my library was a small photo and a couple of paragraphs of text about the vehicle in Hogg and Weeks' The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles. No dimensional data was given, although the finished model looks exactly like the photo.

Because of the many small parts and careful assembly needed, I recommend this kit only to experienced modelers.


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