Tuesday, March 23

Build review Pt I: 1/35th scale Self Propelled M42 75/18 from Italeri

Clayton Ockerby has had the opportunity to build Italeri's 35th scale Semovente da 75/18 full interior kit. Today he completes the construction and shows us a lot about the kit and how it builds along the way in his guide...

Build review Pt I: Self  Propelled M42 75/18 
From Italeri
Kit No #6569
1/35th scale
Photo-etched parts included
Full interior kit
Markings in Italian and German forces in the box.
Available in October
This new-tooled kit from Italeri:
I’ve always had a soft spot for Italian subjects, so when I saw the ‘all new’ M42 Semovente was coming from Italeri I was pretty excited. I have always wanted to build one but had avoided the old, outdated kits of the subject in the hope that one day there would be something a little more appealing to get to work on. 
This kit was promoted as being all new moulds, and whilst there was a little bit of scepticism around social media that it was possibly a re-boxing, I guess the proof would be in the pudding and only one way to find out… so what better way than to build one step by step and see how it looks. 
But first…a little history of the Semovente da 75/18.
Italian artillery Colonel Sergio Berlese, had witnessed the success of the German design StuG III during the French campaign and suggested that Italy needed to produce a vehicle along the same vein. The design and production process was fast tracked, and February 10th of 1941 would see the first prototype (based on the M13/40 tank) presented. From that 60 examples were ordered into production.
You can see the rounds on the top of this tank that was abandoned after becoming immobile
Mounting a 75mm Obice da 75/18 modello 34 mountain gun and based on the M13 chassis, the initial batch was delivered late 1941 and were shipped to North Africa in the January of 1942.
Subsequent orders were placed for the weapon however the design would change to see the gun mounted on the M14/41 between 1941 to 1943 and then move to the M15/42 chassis thereafter.
The Semovente da 75/18 was essentially seen as a stop-gap vehicle until the heavier P40 tank could be delivered and available.

Crews used spare track links to improve protection - this tank was no exception
The Semovente saw service in North Africa and during the Allied invasion of Sicily, however it would also feature through the South of Europe under the control of the German Army after the Italian surrender in 1943. 131 vehicles were seized by the German forces and the production of a further 55 was authorized under their watch. The vehicles were issued to 12 Divisions and were designated StuG M42 mit 7,5 KwK L 

Semovente da 75/18 during the North African Campaign, 1942.
Indian troops inspect a captured Semovente in German markings in Forli, 30 January 1945.
Variant Differences
Semovente 75/18 M40: weighed 13.1 tons, a max speed of 20 mph (32 km/h). The powerplant is a V8 SPA 8 T M40, 11,140 cc with 125 hp. Maximum Range is 210 km. Armament includes an additional 6.5 mm Breda 30 MG.

Semovente 75/18 M41: weighed 13.5 tons and a max speed of 21 mph (34 km/h). The powerplant is a V8 SPA 15 T M41 11,140 cc with 145 hp. 6.5 mm Breda 30 MG  upgraded to 8 mm Breda 38 MG.

Semovente 75/18 M42: weighed 15 tons, max speed of 24 mph (38.4 km/h). The powerplant is an 8 cylinder SPA 15TB with 190 hp. Max Range is 200 km. Upgraded armour of 70 mm on front casemate, 45 mm on sides and 50-55 mm on the front nose.

Carro Comando: Command tanks lack the obice da 75/18 mod. 34 and have additional radio equipment.

Semovente da 75/18 M41 Specifications
Model Semovente da 75/18
Crew 3
Horizontal Traverse 40°
Vertical Traverse -12° to +22°
Rounds 44
Muzzle Velocity Approximately 450 m/s
Firing Range 9,500 m

This new kit from Italeri...
Opening the box, it became pretty clear that this could hardly be deemed as ‘all new’. On reflection I did notice the box just said ‘new moulds’, so maybe they were new moulds of old parts ? 
It was clear the sprues had been updated though, so it’s not all bad news. There just seemed to be a few double ups of pieces and the 70s style sculpting of the figure still gives me nightmares! My goodness figure sculpting and production has come a long way in the past few decades!

But again, let’s get this thing together before we start swinging the axe!

The build commences...
Construction starts with a simplified interior. The pieces were sprayed in white and ready for the next step. 
Using a dark brown acrylic on a small piece of sponge. Tiny chips were applied around the piece. Restraint is advised as it is really easy to get carried away at this step. 
Radio, cabin fan (?) and compartment seats are painted using German Grey. The instructions call out for black, but black can be visually very heavy, so I tend to try and paint on the lighter side of the equation. 
The transmission and drive train are assembled. There was a reasonable amount of sanding and filling required on this assembly. Once ready the part was painted in SMS Aluminium 
The interior is basic but should offer enough visual noise to make the peep through the hatches interesting. 
The side walls of the lower tub are now glued in place and the rear section attached. 
The engine deck and maintenance hatches are attached in place. The fit was very good and required no filling. The recent release of the T34/85 Italeri did have an engine section with the kit. It was essentially a simple piece moulding but when painted and set in place it looks really good. It’s a shame this kit missed out on that upgrade.
Detailed parts were now added as well as the full-length guards along the length of the vehicle. Interestingly, one of the defining features of the M42 version was the full-length rails.
Construction continues with the exhausts, stowage bins as well as the drivers instrument panel and radio fitting in the fighting compartment. The radio was adequate but the instrument panel for the driver was very basic. Whilst it will be hard to see in the finished model it would have been nice to at least had some decals for the dials. Unfortunately, I had nothing in the stash I could use, so would have to settle for some basic hand painted faces. 
Focus now turns to the wheel assemblies. The road wheels and bogies were dry fitted to the chassis. I believe these parts of the model were part of the original kit from back in the day. They still look OK and should blend in reasonably well when the model is painted.

I also made the decision to add a set of Friul tracks to the model. Whilst the kit boasts that the tracks are a new design, there is no getting around the fact that they are still a set of rubber band tracks. For some that is OK, but for me there is nothing better you can do for your model tank than add metal tracks to it. The tracks on this kit will be quite prominent, so the addition of the tracks was something I personally couldn’t avoid. The drive wheels were included as part of the set.
The after-market metal tracks compared to the kit supplied vinyl tracks. No comparison really… But like I said, each to their own and I’m sure the vinyl tracks would look OK if you chose to use them. 
The wheel assemblies are removed, and the spring sections and supports are attached. For some reason I thought they were attached to the chassis and hadn’t assembled them earlier..  An interesting detail for the Semovente was when the Germans took them over, they began producing them with the additional horns to the drive sprockets. This was an attempt to stop the tracks slipping off the sprocket. The kit pieces were attached to the white metal pieces using CA glue.
The gun assembly is a stark reminder as to the roots of this kit and one of the pieces that could have used a serious upgrade. An aftermarket barrel was really the only viable option I could see to be able to present the fine details of the muzzle break. 
Moving to the casemate and it is again apparent that we are working with a part from the original kit. The Jerry can brackets were moulded into the sides of the structure and the instructions call for these raised representations to be removed. 
The hatches for the roof of the fighting compartment each have four large ejector pin marks that  will need to be cleaned up if they are to be posed in the open position. There is a number of fine rivetted detail around the perimeter of the pieces that will make sanding these very difficult…but as it happens, after checking references, those rivets are not actually present on the real hatches, so the sanding and clean-up just got a heck of a lot easier. 
With the gun assembly attached in place it was almost time to close up the model, so one last weathering step was added to the interior. A mix of Earth toned pigments and enamels were used around the fighting compartment to dirty it up. 
The wheel assemblies are dry fitted and the tracks attached temporarily, and the model is starting to take shape.   The sag on the tracks is just about perfect and clearly justified my decision to use the after-market offering. 

Some filler will be required were the casemate meets the underside, but nothing too major. 
The top hatches were held in place using Blue-Tac at this stage. The pin marks and the rivets have been removed to match references. I had also noted some latches in some of the reference photos, so I made something to match using lead foil and fine brass rod. 
After studying references further, I saw that the jack was missing as well as the left hand side headlight. The bracket for the jack was made using fuse wire and lead foil. 

At this stage the upgraded fuel can brackets were also attached to the sides and some styrene and lead foil was used to simulate the strap section of one of the brackets that was missing its base (again noted from historical reference images). 
Side steps, antenna mount and tool brackets were now added to the model. The positions for the tool brackets in particular was quite ambiguous in the instructions, so I had to reference images to ensure they were in the correct position. The instructions note a track link tool to be placed on the engine deck also, but I just couldn’t work out where it was supposed to sit or how it was to be attached…so I just excluded it from the build. 

An additional storage bin is added to the rear of the casemate for the German versions of the vehicle. I assume it may have been for the gun cleaning rod (?), but happy to be corrected. The position of the part is very forced and sits on quite an odd angle. So much so I kept thinking I was doing something wrong, but I think the part just needed to be a fraction longer. Probably not worth mentioning, but if you are building this kit then be sure to dry fit it and see what you think. It may be worth slightly packing out the length to ensure the part sits flush and clean.
And with that the construction phase of the model was complete.
I made the decision to glue the roof hatches in place. I’m sure this will make painting it a little awkward, but Ill deal with that later. The cooling hatches for the transmission were held in place using blue-tac because I needed to be able to remove the sponge from these sections after paint. Soft sponge was then stuffed in the fighting compartment to avoid overspray from the painting that was to follow. 

Whilst the image shows the tracks attached they would be removed prior to the primer stage.
Mr Surfacer 1200 was decanted and applied to the model with an airbrush and the model was now ready for the painting stage. The tracks were reattached purely for the photographs but would soon be removed again. 
Italeri have been around for a long time, so clearly they are doing something right in the fact that they have obviously identified their target market and are catering to it. 
There is no getting around the fact that this is a very basic kit and there are a number of shortcomings with it. The gun barrel being the most obvious and one I just could never make peace with. It simply must be replaced. The tracks are another key element that need to be upgraded. The basic interior is.. well basic, but good enough to add some interest to the kit, and the overall bones are there to build an interesting version of the Semovente around. 
The ‘new moulds’ claim should really be taken with a grain of salt. The kit is clearly the ‘classic’ kit with a number of upgrades to help elevate it into the modern market. When comparing it with some of the modern day manufactures I can’t help but feel that on a surface level it doesn’t stack up. But for those who are tired of high part counts and overengineered kits that can take months to assemble, then this should certainly be a consideration for you. It might sound like I am hating on the kit, but I am not. I am just conscious to call it as I see it. This is a kit that would suit anyone with even the most basic of modelling skills and would possibly be a really great introduction to the hobby for someone. In saying that, a few tweaks here and there from the experienced modeller can really elevate this model into something quite lovely.  
I can honestly say I have loved building this every step of the way. The ease of assembly and fit have been really refreshing and a nice change of pace. 

My next challenge is working out how I am going to paint this Continental Camouflage scheme, maybe the one from the recent Panzerwrecks 23… this could get interesting…Watch this space…
Clayton Ockerby 

Tank you to Italeri for supplying this kit to Clayton to build and review for you. This kit is available from Italeri directly 
See more of Clayton’s work at his website “Workbench Hobbies” or join him on his Facebook page