ARM: Review - Italeri 1/35 scale Sd.Kfz. 140 "Gepard" Flakpanzer 38(t)

Kit Review: Italeri 1/35 scale Kit No. 6461; Sd.Kfz. 140 "Gepard"
Flakpanzer 38(t); 319 parts (317 in tan styrene, 1 length of silver
twine, 1 section of nylon mesh); retail price US$60
Advantages: simple, easy build of this popular vehicle; only kit with
"link and length" tracks
Disadvantages: third kit of this vehicle in the last year to appear
may be iced out of the market; higher price than competitors will hurt
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all German and Praga tank fans
When I heard this kit was going to be released I was curious as it
was going to the third one in a relatively narrow market, and based on
how other companies do things I was afraid that all they would do is
the old Tamiya trick of adding one new sprue and upping the price.
While there is one small section of the 30+ year old Praga kit from
Italeri in the box (sprue A) only a handful of parts are used from it,
and this kit boasts a totally new suspension with details on both
sides of all parts. The Italeri kit also is the only one of the three
(DML and Tristar being the others) to come with "link and length"
tracks and not individual link tracks. Again, however, Italeri also
calls this the "Gepard" (Cheetah) which so far I have had no luck in
confirming anywhere.
As kits become more and more complex there seems to be a subtle
backlash against some of the overly technical kits (a Tiger I kit can
now come with as many as 1,300 parts) and as such modelers seem to
want to find projects they can complete. (I have the same problem,
generally referred to as AMS for "Advanced Modeler's Syndrome" and now
seek out simpler things myself!) This kit is the answer to that sort
of approach and will satisfy the modeler who will accept a slightly
lesser amount of detail for getting the project done in a reasonable
amount of time. The model car fans have what they call "slammers" -
simple car kits without any interior bits other than the passenger
compartment that they can get together in a weekend. This isn't one of
those (!) but it looks to be an easy build.
The model has a new mold hull and partial interior which covers the
parts most modelers are likely to detail and show. This includes a
basic transmission, drive shaft, seat and controls in the driver's
compartment and some basic interior firewalls. Care will be needed in
installing the exhaust pipe (part 39D) as it has to be snaked through
the side of the hull to fit in the interior bulkhead behind the vents
(part 36D).
The suspension is new and from what I recall of the other two kits
much easier - a bogie assembly consists of five parts: spring, road
wheel arms, and two road wheels. The road wheels are detailed on both
sides and come with a tire in place. Oddly enough Italeri shows the
drivers being secured by assembling them and installing the drivers
with a small ring in the back (part 4B) which is then sealed with a
hot screwdriver.
There are a number of holes on the underside of the main hull roof
(part 33D) which must be opened up before installation and which are
shown in step 6. Step 7 shows the installation of the "link and
length" track; there are a few small ejection pin marks on the long
lengths but nothing really objectionable or visible and I suspect most
people will simply ignore them. With small pitch/small width tracks
like this, this is a much easier proposition for installation, and
having done the Tristar tracks I wish they had used this option as
The fenders on this kit go on in step 8 and go in flat. This appears
to be correct for "as built" but as most modelers have figured out the
fenders for these vehicles were quite flimsy and bent easily. There is
no detail on the bottom of the fenders, so they will actually be
easier to bend that the stiffened ones in the other kits so this may
be an advantage.
Most of the details that go in in step 10 are a bit thicker than the
competing kits but look reasonable enough so that they will suit the
modeler's purpose.
In step 13 two gas mask canisters (parts 45D) are installed but these
look wimpy; if you have some from a DML "Gen2" figure set I suggest
you use them.
Steps 16 and 17 cover the installation of the folding armor plates
around the casemate. Ergo plan ahead as to which one you want and use
the appropriate step.
The gun is assembled in steps 19-21. Sharp-eyed modelers will note
that this gun is identical with that provided in kits 371 (Demag D7
with 2 cm Flak) and 380 (Maultier with 2 cm Flak.) This dates from
1999 and apparently is not related to the older ESCI 2 cm Flak which
Italeri purchased from ESCI when they went under. As such it is a nice
little weapon and simpler than the ones in the other kits, but comes
with similar details. Instead of an etched brass "catcher" cage for
the 2 cm casings this kit comes with a nylon mesh section that must be
cut and fitted into place on the brackets (parts 11A, 14C, 12A).
Apparently the kit went "final" before somebody got the size of the
patterns, as while the patterns are provided life-size the dimensions
are listed as question marks. Well, I've seen worse flubs in
directions lately!
There are four finishing options provided: 26th Panzer Division,
Italy 1944 (tricolor stripe); 29th Panzergrenadier Division, Italy
1944 (green splotches over sand); 90th Panzergrenadier Division,
northern Italy 1944 (sand overall); and Unknown Unit, 1944 (white 13,
tricolor stripe). A small sheet of targeted decals is provided.
Overall this would be a great kit if it was offered at about $40 or
so. When I found out the high price, I queried MRC and they glumly
noted the prices here are pegged to the Euro (which is trading at
$1.58 to 1 Euro as of yesterday.) This is unfortunate as it is the
most expensive of the three. But on the other hand, this is a kit more
modelers are likely to assemble and enjoy than the other two, which
take a totally serious approach to modeling and a commitment of more
Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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