Tristar
1/35 PzKpfw 38t/Befehlswagen Ausf.G
Kit Number: 022
First Look by  Patrick Keenan, IPMS# 31192
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MSRP: $42.00
488 Tan, 8 Clear Plastic; 51 Brass PE Parts

Background
Even though I am a wheeled fighting vehicle enthusiast, I still love many of the tracked vehicles. Believe me; I have "a few" in my built and to build collection. In fact, I can honestly say that the Pzkfw 38t and its entire line of derivative vehicles (Hetzer, Marder, etc) are probably my favorite vehicles, wheeled or not. Being half Czech probably has a bit to do with that fact. With a name like Keenan, who would have known??? Anyway, seeing this gem of a kit in my mail box when I came home from work "made" my entire month. On we go with the review.

Upon opening the box I was stunned by the number of parts included. The box is not big by a long shot, but it is STUFFED, ala' Dragon kits. You really have to work hard to get the darn thing back in the box once done fondling the plastic (I hear Plastic Fondling is a Class IV Misdemeanor in some states; so be careful). The kit comes with over 500 parts, of which a little over 200 are track pieces. Still, that leaves a whopping 300 parts for the rest of the model.

This kit can be built as either the standard G Model light tank or the Panzerbefehlswagen (Command) version with handrail antenna. The command vehicle had its main gun and bow machine gun armament removed to allow for the installation of additional radio sets. Geez, which one option will I build????

Kit Accuracy
I hit my references with gusto on this kit and I could not find much of anything "wrong" in the accuracy department. I am not a rivet counter and therefore did not actually count the rivets (there's a lot of them), but it looks spot on. The one thing I did really check on was the suspension and bogie parts. Normally this is where kit manufacturers really "mess up" the 38t series of vehicles, so this is usually one of my pet peeves. I went over them in a fairly detailed manor and they look almost perfect. They even have very nice detail on the back of the road wheels. Outstanding.

Plus, Tristar created this kit with the assistance of Mr. Thomas Jentz, one of our hobby's foremost vehicle experts. With that being said, I cannot begin to think I missed any major errors present. They probably aren't there. Even if I hadn't checked my references, knowing Mr. Jentz had a hand in creating this kit, I would not be too worried about the level of accuracy. I'd think it's got to be very good.

Quality of Casting/ Detail Level of Parts
The quality of the casting of the kit parts is outstanding. There is no flash on the pieces and only a few knock out pin marks. These are on the back or underside of pieces, so not much filling (if any) will be needed. Even with parts that traditionally have some flash are free of that. For example, with most molding techniques, parts such as grills or vents have flash between the small holes or slits. This kit has none. The perforated storage boxes of the 38t's are what would normally be affected by the normal molding limitations, but with this kit they are perfectly clean and need absolutely no clean up.

When it comes to detail level and crispness of the molding, Tristar achieves an A+. The parts are exquisite. A traditional problem with previous model kits of the Pzkfw 38t vehicles available was the hull and co-axial machine guns. The 38t's machine guns have the unique characteristic of ribbed barrels and the past model kits did not do so well making these look good. Not the Tristar kit, they are unbelievable. With the level of detail of both the parts themselves and the number of parts, I believe that building this kit out of box will come darn close to producing a museum quality level model kit. I can't wait to build it!

[review image] The brass photo etched parts included also look to be top quality and appear to be done very well. The detail level of the parts is very high and the complexity level of the parts looks fairly low and thusly easy to utilize. Tristar gives you a decent sized fret (51) which includes the engine grills, vehicle brackets, pioneer tool clasps/straps, etc. They give you more than enough parts to take care of the basic things normally done better in PE than in plastic. A nice addition which in my opinion will eliminate my need to purchase a separate PE detail set.

[review image] Lastly, I wanted to point out a unique aspect of how Tristar has engineered this kit. Their design makes it easier for us modelers to build and paint. They have designed the road wheels where the outside tires are separate pieces from the wheels themselves. This fosters easy painting of the road wheels and less headaches for us. The real design genius of these parts is that you are able to put the tires on the kit road wheels after painting the rest of the vehicle without driving yourself nuts. Obviously you'll have to leave the tracks off until airbrushing is finished as well, but since a majority of us modelers do this anyway, that is perfectly fine.

Decals, Marking Information and Painting Information
[review image] The decals were created by Cartograf and are very good, on register and produced in bright, crisp color. They are very thin and should work easily, without much setting solution. Tristar provides marking for 7 vehicles, but only one of which is a German Command tank. However, they do try to provide some variety in markings as they give us decals for 2 German, 2 Bulgarian, 1 Slovak and 1 Hungarian gun tank.

The markings and painting information Tristar provides is very good as well. They also try to provide us with some variety in camouflage coloring too, in that all of the vehicles are NOT Panzer Grey. For instance, the Slovak vehicle should be painted in a dark green color and the German tank of the 20th Panzer Division allows for a dark yellow color. The diagrams are very well done and not overly complicated. The color differentiations in the pictures are easy to understand and decipher as well.

Instructions/Packaging
Tristar's instruction sheet is also very nicely done. They are complete and well detailed. Also, the quality of the diagrams they provide is very good, so following the steps is much easier than could be the case.

The only problem I found with the instructions (and also the only real negative I found with the entire kit) is that the Parts Listing on the inside cover is a bit "off". Basically, it does not show the correct parts layout of the sprues. There are a few pieces shown on the listing that are not part of the sprues (i.e. a track link or two on sprues "T") and also it does not include a few parts actually on the sprues (i.e. a pick axe on sprue "D"). Considering how minor this "negative point" is, it didn't bother me at all. If this is the worst Tristar has done, I think I'll let them "slide". However, since I found these errors, I figured I'd let you all know too.
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The packaging of this kit is also excellent. The box top contains a nice "in action" painting of a panzer grey vehicle and one of the side flaps has a painting of the dark yellow vehicle. The weird thing is that the box top vehicle has the hull machine gun removed (like a command tank) but no Command Vehicle Antenna. Go figure.

Their boxes are made out of probably the sturdiest and thickest cardboard of any modeling company. These kits might even survive one of Mother Nature's most violent weather moments! The parts are internally bagged in cellophane, almost all having their own sealed and protected envelope of plastic. The clear parts, PE parts and decals are bagged on their own to prevent damage or scratching by the other model parts as well.

Conclusion
This kit is a total gem. Seriously, if you have any interest in the Pzkfw 38t go out and buy one (or the earlier released Tristar Pzkfw 38t E/F). You won't be disappointed. When I received this kit for review, my expectations were about as high as can be expected before actually seeing it. When expectations are so high, it is fairly common to be a bit disappointed. However, with this kit, instead of being disappointed in any way, my enthusiasm for building this kit is at fever pitch. I can't wait. Tristar has done an amazing job.

Again, to me the true scale of determining if a kit is "good", "bad" or otherwise is if one would actually spend their own hard earned cash on it. Well, after seeing what I have while conducting this review, I would not hesitate to buy another Tristar kit again, even if I could only get them at full retail prices. The retail cost of Tristar kits is fairly high when comparing them to other model companies ($42 USD for this one). That is a lot of money for a kit. However as my parents used to say, "you get what you pay for" and with this kit you get everything you need to create a stunning model version of the real thing.

Highly Recommended.

Thanks to IPMS/USA & Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC) for providing this kit to me for review.
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