by: Andras [ ]
I am very enthusiastic about farming equipment, bulldozers and whatnot, so I was really excited when ICM announced they were going to issue a rare, interwar German agricultural mover; it represents a very important, albeit little known step in tractor development.
Incidentally it also has a turret and a gun (I guess the designers were really keen on preparing for all eventualities a farm worker might face), so we may even look at it as an early attempt at tank development by the German industry. I say “may”, since at that time the Germans were prohibited from armored vehicle development by the treaties closing WWI, it is merely a coincidence, I am sure. Regardless, these little vehicles were used by the German armed forces as a substitute during training and for the development of their armor doctrine. This is the main reason that although they never were intended for combat, they had an extremely useful role in the development of the German armored tactics (blitzkrieg) employed in WWII, and also in the development of early and mid war German armored fighting vehicles. It is indeed a welcome step from ICM to issue a plastic model of this important vehicle; it seems like the company is willing to take risks and develop models of unique subjects.
When I say the Leichtractor was “little known” what I actually meant was little known by the average modeller/history buff. Even though I have been building scale models for a long time, and have been reading books about armored vehicles even longer, the first real exposure to this little tank was in the online game World of Tanks. The name was familiar, but I had no real idea how the vehicle actually looked like, I saw a couple of drawings in older books on tanks, and that was it. (Actually, three different vehicles were developed under the name Leichttraktor. This model depicts the Rheinmetall one.) Having a scale model of it makes me really happy about ICM’s choice to issue this kit. The interwar period was full of interesting attempts at tank design - I can only hope for all the weird French, British and American early interwar tanks to make an entrance, too.
The kit itself is a very simple one. It comes in a really nice sturdy cardboard box with its own cardboard lid, and the thinner lid with the boxart is completely separate - which leaves you with a very nice box to use for storing paint or whatever you decide after you finished the build. There are only 5 sprues, one small transparent sprue and the tracks. The surface detail of the model is really nice. There was no flash, and the details like rivets and small inspection hatches, etc are very well defined; there is no complaint about that.
The instruction manual is surprisingly large and has many steps, but since every single subassembly got its own step, it is deceptive: you can build this tank over a longer, boring Zoom conference. (Or a weekend. Or a couple of episodes of the Witcher.) Since there is already an in-box review on Armorama I skipped on the part photos; you can find them here https://www.armorama.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Reviews&file=index&req=showcontent&id=14458.
The model is very traditionally designed: the hull is made up by flat parts, the turret is made up by two semi-circular halves, necessitating filling seam lines, unfortunately which I personally do not like. (One of the boons of armor modelling in my opinion is that there is no need to fill in seam lines along the fuselage…) There is even some minimal turret interior provided; you get the main gun and the coaxial machine gun with some rudimentary detail. If you plan to leave the turret doors open, just paint the interior of the hull (but not the turret…) black.
The suspension and running gear is simplified; only the parts that show from under the side covering are detailed. Looking at the myriad of tiny road wheels it is a good thing I think… although it may be very interesting to have the option to open the side hatches to show off the suspension.
The gun has a hollowed-out end, which was solved without the use of slide-moulding: the tip is made up of two parts: the long barrel with half of the end is missing, and a tiny part that makes up for the missing half. This was it was possible to mould a short longitudinal channel in the end of the barrel, and closing it off with a small “half-pipe” forms it into a complete gun barrel with a hole at the end.
The model comes with rubber band type tracks - is a matter of taste if you prefer them or not. Talking for myself only, I consider this to be the weakest point of the model. (I prefer link-and-length tracks or individual track links, if possible. In this case definitely not individual links, though seeing how small the track links are.) You are supposed to glue two parts for one set of tracks, which leaves you with two possible seams showing where the tracks meet. I would suggest using a more discreet place to join them up than I did: the drive wheels and idlers… My mistake; as the tracks bend around the wheels the seams show up. They would all but disappear when joined flat.
The sides of the tracks do not really show segmentation where the track links meet - they are smooth, which is less-than-ideal.
All-in-all the model is well-made but geared for simplicity and ease of assembly. (I will not lie, a full interior version would be extremely welcome…) On top of the mud guards there may or may not have been some anti-slip surfacing on the real vehicle, which is lacking from this model (the mud guards are smooth). I could not decide how it was based on reference photos, but there are some builds online where this surface was added using PE by the modeller.
There are also no tools provided, which is, again, something that may be accurate; don’t forget, this vehicle was not progressed from the prototype phase. It really should not be hard to add a couple of shovels and picks should you want to include them. The weird, corkscrew-like exhaust is designed in a way that after gluing the two halves together there is no need to fill in seam lines; a very considerate way of designing models.
The thin handrails around the top of the hull are very well done, but a pain in the neck to use because it is really difficult to clean them properly from the sprue gates. They are very thin and snap easily. What I did was to shave off as much leftover plastic as I could, and then brushed on some liquid glue to melt the plastic a bit, smoothing out the sharp, protruding sprue gate remains. In all honesty if the model was not for review I would have just switched the plastic to wire, keeping the vertical holders. (It is also very easy to break them during the painting and weathering steps. Don’t ask me how I know this.)
Otherwise there were no problems with the build. You can build the whole thing before painting; there are no sub-assemblies to paint first. The instructions provide a guide to the Buntfarbenanstrich (colorful) painting scheme (https://panzerworld.com/german-armor-camouflage for more information), but I kept to the plain (and very likely non-historical) panzergray for sentimental reasons - this is how I was used to the vehicle when I played it in World of Tanks. I painted it using Tamiya acrylics: panzer grey lightened with buff for the whole tank with zenithal highlight and some panel highlighting, used light grey to further highlight edges and smaller details, and then used oils (burned umber, raw umber, green, white) to “deepen” the color with filters. Some streaking was added, some dust and some mud, and I declared the model done. I did not want to go overboard with rust, chips and scratches, as I figured the vehicle as a prototype had no time to actually get “used in”. It spent a couple of exciting days in the proving ground, and then went back to the machine shop to be dismantled. (Sadly.)
Altogether I really enjoyed both the building and painting of this model. It is important to keep in mind that when I wished for options of openable hatches and whatnot in the review I merely expressed a personal taste and not pointing out faults: this model is made to be an easy-to-assemble yet detailed little kit, and not as a super detailed 1000 part monster. It is a pleasurable little project which will not eat into your time and sanity, and beginners can absolutely build it with no issues whatsoever.