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Thunder Model Hetzer Bergepanzer

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/35 scale plastic model armor kit
A need for recovery vehicles to support the Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer led to the production of a vehicle based on the same chassis. It was equipped with a five-ton winch powered by the transmission, and a manual two-ton folding jib crane. About 180 were produced by the end of the war.

Molded in light gray styrene, Thunder Model’s Hetzer Bergepanzer Late includes three sheets of photo-etched (PE) parts, three resin cable ends, three pieces of wire of different gauges, and two different diameters of cotton string.

No clear parts or markings are included. Color diagrams developed at Ammo by Mig Jimenez show two camouflage patterns from 1945.

The 16-page direction booklet is the same for both this standard kit and another special-edition kit with more interior details and PE.

Pay attention to keep the versions separate. The directions vaguely note the placement of parts and how to fold certain PE items. A good reference was Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer Vol. 2 (Gun Power 31) by Marcin Rainko (AJ Press, ISBN 978-8-3723-7211-6).

Caution: The plastic is brittle and will break when parts are forced.

Since my model was not the special edition, I started with Step 5, assembling the lower hull, which is molded as a tub. The leaf springs lack detail, and the back of parts D33 and D34 had sink marks. Four large ejector-pin marks inside each of the eight road wheels were difficult to remove.

The link-and-length tracks fit well. I glued the rear idler axle (D19) to the rear idler instead of the hull. This allowed me to rotate the rear idler, ensuring proper tension of the tracks. No extra links are included.

The most detailed assembly of the model is the transmission. When completed, it is a work of art and a good start for those who want to superdetail the interior.

Pedals, the firewall, driver’s gauges, winch, and drive shafts finish the interior. It looks bare — some tools and other repair clutter would busy it up.

I noticed a gap between the rear wall of the hull and the engine-deck access doors (parts C7 and C16) that I filled with strip styrene and sanded flush with the deck.

The most difficult part of the build was the jib crane, which can be built in traveling position or erect. Assembly shackles are two mirrored PE parts that are thick and difficult to bend. I annealed them to make forming them easier.

Step 26 has you cut the retaining bolt on the U-bolts (Part D15), slip it into position on the boom assembly, and glue it back together. Every one of the bolts broke, so I drilled a hole in the U-bolt and glued in a piece of wire. I made the support chain for the boom by making two hooks from wire and gluing them to a piece of wire with nylon string holding it together.

The string to rig the spade frayed, so I replaced it with nylon. The resin ends for the spade and tow cables were poorly formed and broke during cleanup.

Two choices of camouflage schemes are shown on the color sheet. One is a hard-edge camouflage, and the other is the late-war disk pattern I chose.
This model is not for beginners. With only 318 parts it still took me 51½ hours to finish. Most of my time was spent on the boom assembly, bending tiny PE parts, and masking the camouflage. With some patience, an experienced modeler can add missing detail and refine some bland detail to make this model into a real gem.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the February 2018 issue.
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