Tuesday, October 3

Construction Review: Tamiya's new 35th scale "Wehrmacht Tank Crew Set"

All of Tamiya's releases seem to get a fair bit of attention no matter what the subject and how many other companies have made it in that scale. The new tooling of the 1/35th scale Wehrmacht Tank Crew Set is one of those – even though we have seen scores of similar kits, even from Tamiya themselves, it is interesting to see how the new tooled set may have improved on the older kits from themselves and others. Is it any good? Let's build them and see in our construction review...

Construction Review:
Military Miniature Series No.354 "Wehrmacht Tank Crew Set"
From: Tamiya Models
1/35th scale
Two sprues in grey plastic plus a small decal sheet
Item No:# 35354
Hobbylink Japan has this set for $13 AUD / $10 US / €9 EUR / £8 GBP at this link
Whenever Tamiya release something everyone goes into conniptions about how good it is and how they will buy two or three of them. Queue back to May 2017 when I saw the newly tooled kit of the Military Miniature Series No.354 "Wehrmacht Tank Crew Set" from Tamiya Models at the Shizuoka Model show. People were raving about the figure set, though looking at the figure from the stance of a modeller who is used to some very high-quality representations by some of the resin figure makers out there, I was a little more reserved in giving my opinion. 

This set at the Shizuoka Model Show in May 2017
But of course - like everyone else, when the set was released I had to see for myself. Like you - I want to know if my own expectations from Tamiya meet the reality. That is why I made these figures up in a review for you today.

Product Overview:
This kit contains the figures four full-body figures depicting two men studying a map, a soldier peering through binoculars, and an officer looking ahead as well as another four half body figures, including an officer that fits inside your tank's cupola, a commander giving an arm/ hand signal, plus a driver and crew figures.

Promo image of the set in it's anticipated uses from Tamiya
These figures are meant to fit German WWII armoured cars, and AFVs from the Pz.Kpfw. II, right up to the Tiger and late war tanks. When we say late war, the uniforms depicted here are early to mid-war in their composition, but more on that later. Decals are included for the soldier's ranks and insignia.
About the Uniforms in real life.
Tank crew in the Wehrmacht's armoured units were provided with a black double-breasted WW2 German Army Panzer Jacket Wrap Tunic (or Panzerjacke) with a grey shirt underneath it. The right breast of their short jackets were adorned with the eagle of the German national emblem. The shoulder and collar insignia had a pink border or Waffenfarbe Rosa or Korps colour Pink.
Front buttons were hidden to help minimize the chance of them catching on something in the cramped tank interior. The black pants of the soldiers were often tight to the short, laced up boots of the tankers that were common.
The choice of headgear of all of these soldiers is either the Panzer Officer's Visor Cap (Schirmmütze) or Panzer Officer's M38/ M40 Overseas Cap (Feldmütze M38/40) and some of these soldiers actually get the choice of two headgear choices in this kit. On the soldier's chest of these figures, four pairs of field optical glasses and four sets of "cans" for the radio transmitters, pistol holsters for the tanker's self-protection are also supplied in this kit.
Below is a picture of the uniform of the Panzerman from early till mid war eras, with a key to each of the more common items that these soldiers would wear.

Uniform Panzertruppe lieutenant, 1939-43
01 - officers' cap with pink band of the armoured corps ("Waffenfarbe Rosa")
02 - black officers' jacket, Death Hussars' Totenkopf on the collar tabs.
03 - grey shirt
04 - armoured troops' trousers
05 - officers' boots
06 - headphones
07 - laryngophone
08 - protective goggles
09 - M-34 leather belt
10 - leather holster for Luger P-08 pistol
11 - leather gloves
12 - standard grey socks
13 - M-31 Meldetasche- map pouch
14 - Zeiss 6x30 binoculars

The main thing we did notice about this kit's uniform choices was that these uniforms of the Wehrmacht were good for early and mid-war soldiers, they could also work for Assault gun soldiers as well in their grey uniforms. However, the black outfits that panzer Korps were known for were starting to change by 1943, with more non-standard issue clothing being worn, especially in the colder climates. The addition of the M43 peaked cap for officers and other ranks became common. Alternatively, the very early war black Panzer beret is not featured in this set. With the inclusion of one or two of these in the set you could really make these figures stretch further throughout the war.

Some examples of this basic uniform in the field
The uniform choices in the box make these tankers good for anything but winter and late war soldiers.

Not ALL of the late war or winter clothing choices could be covered which is a shame...😆
The Kit
So there we are – the premise – eight figures in one box, four half body and four full-length figures and several different options out of the box.
Physically, the box of the kit looks much like Tamiya's other smaller model kit boxes that house figures and smaller equipment sets. It is long and thin, maybe an inch (2.6cm) thick by 29cm long and 20cm wide.
The box is a standard top and bottom half set up, with several garnishes of that nicely familiar, very Tamiya style art on the side, showing close-ups that will help the modeller paint their kit. The equipment, decal and soldier's badges and medals are shown on the side, there is as well as a small map printed on the box that is meant to be used in the kit, but more on this later.
When you open the box you find inside two pages of instructions, Two sprues in grey plastic, wrapped in plastic bags, and a small decal sheet.
The Instructions
The kit's instructions are in two parts – both a single page, however, the construction part is a paper page, with several helpful tips in the usual Tamiya method. These guys love models and it shows. The soldier's options and positioning are pretty simple to follow in construction from these pictures.

An example of two of the figure's simple instruction process and painting tips.
The second part of the construction paperwork is actually a painting guide, an explanation on the medals and insignia and a decal placement and application guide.
This guide is on coloured shiny paper, and it is a handy little instruction document that tells you where and what colours to paint these figures, but also what the medals are and why they are awarded.
There is a small sheet of decals in the box. It is filled with 35th scale replicas in good register of the insignia and rank badges, cast belt buckles, German eagles for the breast, cockades for the soldier's caps and ribbons and medals of the soldiers. This is a massive help to both the modeller, who does not have to paint these up and is now given them in great detail, but also the model making company. Unterofficer Chevrons, the pink Waffenfarbe to line the caps, Iron crosses in 1st and 2nd classes, and a Knight's Cross, Panzer assault badges, the Crimea Shield, and the Kurban Shield are all here.
These decals enable the model company to turn out less than perfect renditions of these medals and insignia and the detail of the decals will sharpen the look of the plastic dramatically. With the decal placement guides given in the instructions and on the box sides, this is a great inclusion to this set.

The Plastic
There are two sprues in a medium grey inside the box. The plastic is nicely moulded with only the smallest of seam lines on each of these soldiers to remove, especially around the neck and collars and trouser legs.

The first sprue front and back...
 The second sprue with half body figures and accessories in front and back... You may notice that each of the figures is put on a certain sector of the sprue, so it is pretty easy even without instructions to put them together.
The engineering of the kit impressed me, with each of the soldier's heads fitting in a particular way with shaped lugs and sockets to make the fit not only more secure but properly aligned. The extra items on each of the soldiers like the pistol holsters had little lugs on them also. The fit is not perfect on every joint as you will see, but it is pretty bloody good. 
Notice in this figure and all of the others, the only real place they are let down is the softness on some of the medals and the belt in the mid-torso area, the decals provided make up for the lack of detail in the midriff and they will paper over the cracks in that area. The hands, are sharply detailed and not giant like in previous releases (there you go Stuart!) while the faces and clothing are all top-notch in detail, nearly as good as some resin high-end figures.

Extra features like the pedestals for the figures are included. These are meant to support the bodies of the half- body figures inside the turret or the hull of the tank. These work pretty well, although a full interior kit might get in their way. You can cut them to whatever height you like so they sit in, or out of the turret to your needs or taste.
The figures.
Let's take a look through each of these figures now – one by one on the sprue, with the instruction and put together before we sum them all up.
Figure A. 
The first figure 
To make him only took a few minutes of work, the part A1 is a flap of the jacket which gives some "3D" effect to his uniform that you might not have seen in previous generations of Tamiya figures. A pistol holster and the flat forage cap are features of this soldier who is peering over to look at a map on the ground.
Here he is put together, with only a slight gap in the arm which could well be an "operator error". I was very impressed with the detail of this figure's face, his hands and ears, all of the human elements which you look for in a figure.
Figure B.
Next is the counterpart to the figure we just looked at. He is seen in the instructions pointing down at the map on the ground they are both reading.
The figure is a simple construction, with only a few minutes needed to make him up and not much to do with seam removal. 
Here he is all made up.  The wrinkled look on the cap of the "Old Hares" is well represented here and his face is very nice, however, his hands are slightly softer in detail but still delicate in detail and effective as he points down at a point of interest on the map.
Forgive the long black hair in the picture - my cat wanted to get involved and shed one along the way,
Figure C
This figure is standing, hand on hip in "teapot" fashion holding his binoculars in his other hand as he looks on.
Again he has a choice of either the side forage flat cap or the officer's peaked cap to choose from. It is great to be offered headgear choices like this in such a basic figure set - something not offered by several high-end resin kits that are much more expensive.
Here he is all together - again only a few minute's work and not much in the way of seam removal to do. His stance is nice and natural, and his face is impressive, even a slight double chin. he looks very heroic in this kinda generic pose.
The details on his chest are a little better with this figure, not by much but better.
Figure D
The next we will look at is a soldier or non-commissioned officer looking through his binoculars. He has the choice of a flat cap or the officer's peaked cap.
Ten parts in grey plastic make him up, and the black panzer jacket and pants along with his pistol holster on the belt. You can see on his torso the soft detail that lets this figure down a little, especially around his Iron Cross and belt.
Here he is made up - notice the first picture is without the binoculars so you can see his face. The pulling on the cloth on the pants of this figure is a great point of this kit, as are the wrinkles on the arms of the jacket as his arms hold up his field opticals.
A nice and useful pose...
Figure E
This figure is of a junior officer/ NCO that looks like he could be leaning forward onto a turret, or more likely the front hull ports near the driver or MG hatches - a flat space. He is a half body figure, with only one head choice here.
There are six parts in this figure's construction. The E2 is a flap that attaches to the front of the jacket to give it that open 3D look. A simple addition but smart. I have put one of the four headphones "cans" that are included in the kit around his neck. These cans can go on any f the figures, and an extra bit of detail would be to add wires to the cans.

He looks pretty crank, doesn't he? The detail in his face is really very good, that of a bulbous nose and square chin. his face is so well sculpted he almost looks like a 3D scan.
Here he is in his natural position, leaning forward on the hull of the tank, he would be good for a driver or radioman MG gunner I would think. He still looks terse don't you think?
Figure E
next up is one of the simpler figures of the set. with just a high-chest and head to makee up the whole figure - I used headphones with him to give him some more detail.
I added the tanks' headphones to this figure as he would only ever be inside the tank with the rest of his body unattached. I trialled it and found that I had to remove pretty much all the figure's ears for the headphones to attach properly.
A simple figure of what I would say is the driver, but you could put him anywhere with the help of the pedestal to attach him to the tank's interior at just the right height. Only three parts with the cans included.
Notice the cracks on the surface of the figure's back? it is some type of moulding problem that you can see on one or two of the figures here, it definitely is an error on the moulding front. A little sanding should fix the blemish.
Figure F
This next half body figure is an officer of the Panzer Korps, and again he has two head choices. Noting that the chest piece here has that interesting feature of the lapels that fit into the socket for the neck directly. 
In the picture below you can see how this head part fits onto the torso. very nice engineering and fit in the nine parts that make the figure up.
Here he is together with the high, peaked officer's cap. The headphones of the RT are on his (chopped off) ears and all he needs is a few wires from them to make a very convincing figure.
Notice the slight crazing on his back again? Also, the soft detail around the waste is again a let-down when the top of the figures, his face, hat, arms and hands are so good in contrast.
Figure G
This figure is ten parts of construction, there is again a head choice of both the peaked officer's cap and the flat side cap often wor by tankers short on head room.
This half-body figure again features a lapel joint that both secured the head at the neck and the collars onto the chest/ torso in a neat fit. Again the head is nicely moulded in both of the two head choices and the torso is once more a little soft for this reviewer's liking. I am still not sure of the reason why the contrast in detail on these torsos. Lucky for us the decals will sharpen up the details of the medals, belt and everything else that is lacking and need of fixing up.
Another fast assembly, and a little cleaning around the neck and he was together. He has the choice of both headgear's again and in this case, I needed officers so I went for the flattened peaked cap. I like the way how it sits all crumpled up, made that way by the owner crumpling it up to look worn, like an experienced soldier might have. This was common in the soldiers of the time so we are told (EG street cred).
Here he is giving the signal - very heroic!
so here they all are - in small groups or alone, in a Tiger I to show you a few of the scenarios, if they fit the turrets and how they might be used.
 In Summary

OK - so let's break it down after all of the comparisons and detail you have seen here...

- Price - Amazing - around $10 (US) or so bucks for eight figures of very good detail
- Eight figures in one set!
- The detail on the heads, hands, clothing is really very good.
- The detail on the torso is only so-so and pretty bad for most of these figures.
- Poses, body language are very good if not a little heroic and pointy at times.
- The decals that accompany the figures are excellent and should make up for the lack of detail and enhance the very good detail - an excellent addition the figure set.

The plastic is not as sharp in detail as you might expect in a high-end resin kit, and that is what the modeller must look at when buying this kit, whether that small sacrifice for detail is worth the cost advantage of having eight figures in a ten US dollar kit versus one figure for the same price with higher detail. Even the Dragon "Gen 2" kits are 15 bucks for four or five figures, and they are very much of the same quality and detail.

I remember at the start of this review I was sceptical about this set, but I do like this set very much and I think that modellers, especially those looking for figures on a budget, also those looking for a better than average detail on their plastic figures, will not go wrong with the choice of this figure set.

Adam Norenberg

You can get this set from Tamiya's Distributors Worldwide or on their online shop.
Hobbylink Japan has this set on sale for $13 AUD / $10 US / €9 EUR / £8 GBP at this link