Articles

Airfix - Opel Blitz and PaK40 Gun (02315) _________(EXT)

 

 

Manufacturer Airfix
Scale 1/72
Set Code 02315
Year unknown
No. of Figures 5
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items 1/76 PaK40 and Opel Blitz
Size High (Driver is 1/76)
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray or Light Brown or Green
Flash Level Intermediate
Glue-ability Excellent (Standard Modelling Glue)
Conversion-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1933 -1945

 

Review 

Of great joy is finding inside a Braille Scale plastic or metal model kit of a gun, tank, truck or other vehicle, at least few figures capable to bring life around the piece. Related to WWII German Army, in the scale there are available quite many such kits issued by several producers, especially old ones. For representing a reliable source of increasing the number of poses in collections, these sets should be highly appreciated and despite the low number of soldiers encountered in general, still exist good examples having three, four or even eight figures, exceeding from this point of view a regular resin or white metal figures set, containing less troopers.

Definitely, one of the precursors of this way of approaching a model kit was Airfix, many of their standard boxes incorporating not only the vehicle or gun, but also few troopers. In this light, a pioneering set is “Opel Blitz and PaK40 Gun”, where except the vehicle and gun mentioned in the title, without any advertise, there also offered five figures. Likewise, it has been for the first time in the history of the Braille Scale when WWII German Army fans had the opportunity to acquire an appropriate crew for their cannons, both the good poses of figures, and its capacity of returning pleasant memories to elder modellers enhancing the value of the present set.

Initially labelled as HO, then 1/72 and lately the true size - 1/76, this last named scale is printed only on the newest Airfix boxes. Moreover, 1/76 is valid just for the vehicle, gun and the pose of the driver, the other four soldiers are produced in a truly 1/72 scale, and even more, they could be incorporated in the tall side of this scale. It is not for the first time when Airfix has mixed both scales in terms of figures within the same set, another eloquent example representing their “German Infantry”, where nine figures are at 1/76, the rest, meaning six poses, are released at 1/72. On the other hand, taking into consideration that the vehicle and gun are at 1/76, the hereinafter review will limit itself strictly to the figures, making only few remarks to the driver pose.

Inside the box we find three sprues with the pieces for the truck, gun, troopers as well as the assembly guide providing several data about the gun and truck, plus instructions for assembling and painting the kit. Little guidance for painting the figures is offered in the interior the assembly sheet, but using the recommended paints we will not get a very good reflection of uniforms, especially concerning the tunics. A better image on the topic is brought by the artwork, featuring not only the truck and the gun, but also the soldiers in stances almost identical with those met inside, and including the driver, too. On the artwork, the colour of tunics is closer to feldgrau than the recommended paint, Humbrol 27, a much too gray colour. Without establishing a direct contact with the gun, it should be pointed out that the stances of the crew were inspired by reference photos and the man who sculptured them surely deserves congratulations for this. The most disturbing faults result from mould mistakes, varying from box to box, the crewmen having bigger or smaller holes in the chest. Sometimes a similar mark may appear on their backs, but universal for all boxes is the completely mutilated face of the commander, it seems that he was fixed in the mould by his face.  The same situation applies to the driver as well, he wears on the back a huge stigma of the mould, but putting him in his place, the inconvenient is completely masked by the seat. Regardless drawbacks, these figures created with more than 40 years ago and representing the first attempt in the scale for showing a WWII German gun crew, are still far superior to many similar gun crews launched on the market between their first appearance and 2008.

Five soldiers are not enough for portraying a complete PaK40 crew, but is still a fair number, capable to supply the necessary for a small vignette in full concordance with photos of the period showing even less troopers around anti-tank cannons. In general, PaK 40 crew was composed by eight members, the chief of section being responsible for seeing that all duties are properly performed, all commands executed and all safety precautions observed, the gunner set the announced deflection and laid for direction, no. 1 loaded and fired the gun, no. 2, 3, 4 and 5 handled the ammunition and no. 6 drove the prime mover.  All our crewmen are dressed in the Early War uniform composed from M36 tunic, regular trousers and long marching/jack boots. An interesting aspect is that the driver has just steel helmet while the rest of his comrades covered their helmets with camouflage cloths that can be painted either in Wehrmacht or Waffen SS camouflage patterns. Except the belts featured by all, the binoculars held by the commander and a projectile in the left hand of a trooper, no gear or weapons are available. Taking into account the role of PaK40, fighting pretty close to the enemy, it is an unpleasant surprise the absence of weapons and gear, it was more appropriate the figures to have at least pistol holsters or ammunition pouches. However, the problem has a quick solution facilitated by the hard plastic of the figures. In order to improve them, pistol holsters or ammunition pouches extracted from Preiser or Dragon sets are highly recommended to be added, the standard modelling glue making a strong bond between such parts and the bodies of the soldiers. If it is desired better equipped troopers, the same sources are accessible for other items of gear, weapons or even arms and heads.

In most part, the poses are inspired by reference images, so extremely realistic and suitable for using in relation with cannon, featuring two crouched soldiers, one prone and a driver. This last mentioned figure is at 1/76 for matching the truck and it is good for its purpose, with the right holding the steering wheel and the left laid down on the gear shift. In spite its scale, the figure might fulfill its role in a 1/72 vehicle as well, especially in one with an unopened cabin. For the gun, Airfix granted a crew formed by four troopers, but one pose is duplicated. The doubled pose might be positioned in the close proximity of the tubular legs, as images of the period show it, but also next to traverse or elevation wheels. It will be a pity not using both figures, and in order to bring little diversity, if no other resources are available, at least the head of one pose should be removed and glued in other position. With the right hand up in the air, the gun commander is crouched too, peeking through its binoculars the target or trying to see if his crew succeeded to hit the enemy. Based on the fact that his face is completely damaged, more solutions are at hand for solving the issue. Taking profit by his face covered in large amount by binoculars and left palm, a camouflage mask or with few aftermaths, even a gas mask are possible to be painted instead of regular flesh. Another possible approach aims the complete replacement of the head, but the maneuver in more intricate, taking a little more time and effort. The pose of the prone soldier is really well done, attempting to maintain his profile as low as he can and crawling for loading the new round held in the left hand. The projectile is not quite adequate for a PaK40 either in 1/72 or 1/76 scale, being a little too short and thick that the normal ones. Taking into account that we are in the presence of a nice figure, his projectile can be replaced with a better one according to the type of the gun where this soldier will be deployed by each modeller.

At their turn, uniforms are quite well replicated, showing pleasant small details such as collar and shoulder boards, buttons, accurate pockets and authentic creases. In addition, the camouflage cloths of the helmets present some creases, contributing to a better and more credible appearance and identification. Likewise, except the mould faults, we get a first-rate anatomy with well proportioned bodies, palms with fingers and great facial expressions conferred by fine sculptured noses, moths and eyes. No matter the year, in case of having the bad chance to get a kit with figures featuring holes in the chest, considering their size, these might be depicted as huge wounds done by mortar or projectile splinters. On the other hand, this major mould fault can be either filled with putty or interpreted like a just described wound. The hard plastic excellent responses to paint and does not bring any influence to the initial properties of the employed enamels or artistic oils. Furthermore, if it desired to add various hard plastic weapons or gear available in plenty of Preiser and Dragon sets, this operation can be done without hesitation, the standard modelling glue, polly cement, creating a reliable bond between the figures and extra equipment. The crouched figures come attached to basis, but even if these are removed, the troopers will maintain a very good balance.

The present crew should be appreciated as a road opener for many other sets on the same matter such as Esci "German Anti-tank Gun", Hasegawa “88 mm Gun Flak 18 or 36”, Revell "German Artillery", Pegasus Hobbies “German 75 mm le IG18 Infantry Gun with Crew”, Italeri “Pak40 AT gun and servants” or Preiser "German Pak 40 Crew”. As it can be easily noticed, PaK40 occupies the main interest of manufacturers and to the above mentioned sets could be added another PaK40 belonging to Hat’s series of German guns. Best matching the tall side of the 1/72 scale, the present reviewed figures are appropriate, also bearing in mind their attire, for emplacing close to Imex "German Troops", Hasegawa "German Infantry Attack Group", Esci "German Soldiers"/Italeri "German Infantry" or Atlantic "German Infantry”. Likewise, based on the same criteria, the Airfix PaK40 crew finely match with the large range of WWII Germans produced by Preiser as well as with the other offer of Airfix where both scales were mixed again, more precisely "German Infantry" set.

Airfix’s “Opel Blitz and PaK40 Gun” is of major significance in the history of Braille Scale, it was for the first time when a WWII German cannon provided by a mass production model kit was approached from the point of view of the personnel who operated it. Copied by different companies, and still maintained in production by Airfix, the kit is one of the most well-known kits and found in many collections all over the world. Accessible at a very small market price, fully justified even only for the figures, this set represented for many elder modellers the first contact with gunners issued in the 1/72 scale and in spite their age, these figures are appropriate to nowadays standards, and it is assessed that they will preserve their status in the future, as well. Not only the sentimental and collectable value or the good quality, but also the capacity of receiving further improvements and the suitability for conversions recommend the present gun crew for wargaming, dioramas and collections.        

 

Historical Accuracy 9
Anatomy 8
Poses Quality 10
Details Quality 8
Mould Quality 4 to 8 (varying from box to box)
Sculpture 8
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion

8