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Getting ontrack with a SdKfz 251

Patience is a necessity when placing the track and wheels on this Schwebenlafette.
By Karl Logan
00
Karl Logan’s SdKfz 251/17 Schwebenlafette looks ready to roll – a testament to Karl’s skill, innovation, and, perhaps most important, patience. He had a little trouble – partially self-inflicted – wrestling Dragon’s 1/35 scale kit to the ground.
01
In Dragon’s kit you could build the engine and transmission – but unless you want to show one open for maintenance, the machinery under the deck won’t be seen. Karl skipped ahead instead.
02
When the photoetched-metal parts for the lower hull didn’t match up, Karl cut them up and hid the joint behind the sprockets.
03
Karl’s building jig didn’t cost anything after he bought the coffee under the lids.
04
After a smooth modeling session, Karl retired for the evening, certain the tweezers would be all he needed to hold the suspension down until the glue dried.
05
What’s wrong with this picture? Sure, the front wheels are floating, but the culprits here are the track blocks he forgot to attach before finishing the suspension. Doh!
06
Dr. Logan grabbed his scalpel and rushed into surgery, applying more glue and working the suspension arms loose enough to raise them enough to lower the front wheels. Nothing to it.
07
The patient looked much better in recovery as Karl’s operation corrected the stance of the vehicle.
08
The 20mm gun had enough detail to be dangerous.
09
Working in subassemblies allowed Karl to paint more easily and precisely, weathering different sections of the SdKfz as appropriate.
10
Wire for the headlights was an easy and effective added detail.
11
Karl carefully cut open the molded lifting points at the front of the vehicle using a photoetched-metal saw.
12
A micro bit in a pinvise made a loop in what used to be solid plastic.
13
Karl used the loops to hang stretched-sprue “wire” to hold spare links to the front, as he had seen in photos.
14
A war-weary soldier would look right at home on his heavily weathered ride.
15
The SdKfz 251/17 Schwebenlafette rolls into – or, perhaps, judging by the soldier’s posture, out of – action somewhere in Karl’s display case.
Karl explains how he weathered his SdKfz 251 in the July 2010 FSM. Check out the issue's video issue preview.

Building Dragon’s 1/35 scale SdKfz 251 requires a lot of forethought and planning – and placing the track and wheels so the vehicle sits flat can be a real headache.

The kit instructions begin with assembling a completely hidden engine and transmission – nice if you’re going to show the vehicle in repair, but I skipped this step completely, 1.

Next come photoetched-metal strips for the lower hull, over and around the suspension arms. Mine didn’t fit properly and would have interfered with the suspension arms; I snipped the photoetched metal behind the sprocket (where it would be hidden), patched it up with super glue, and filed the break smooth, 2.

The suspension arms were a really sloppy fit. I made a jig from two coffee-can tops to level the arms while the glue dried, 3. Luckily, an FSM forum member gave me some advice on the tricky alignment of the front wheels and the tracks, so I assembled a length of track and slipped the wheels on over it, giving it the proper height, then glued on the front tires, gently bending the axles to firmly ground the tires. I weighted the chassis with a tweezers and left it overnight for the glue to harden, 4.

I felt pretty smug until the next morning, when I realized I had forgotten to put the track blocks on the tracks – adding a millimeter of height to the sit of the vehicle! Ugh! 5

I decided to try to lower the suspension arms; since they were already cemented into place, I cut halfway through them with a scalpel, 6, wiggled them loose, and was able to move each one about 2mm without them snapping. I used a drop of Tenax R-7 on each cut-through part of the mounting arms, which both helped move them and re-cement them.

Now I had to make sure all the road wheels touched the tracks and that the hull sat correctly. The only proper way to determine this was to attach all the wheels, at least temporarily. I permanently glued the first six inner wheels (they’d be easy to paint attached). Then, I added a tiny drop of glue to the attachment points of the other wheels to tack them in place until after wrapping the tracks around them. I could reattach them after the tracks and wheels were painted (same as I do tank tracks).

After four hours of surgery, the patient was stable (and level), 7. I took another night to assemble the tracks, wrapped them around the wheels, gluing all but the joining link, then let them dry overnight.

Finally I was able to move on to the rest of the details and pieces. The intricate 20mm gun required care and patience, 8. I had to shorten the post for the gunner’s seat to fit it inside the gun shield.

Working in subassemblies aided the painting process, 9, as I would have to paint and weather the interior before I joined the upper and lower hull. I added accessories to the interior after painting and weathering all the pieces, then carefully added the top hull, wrapping rubber bands around it to clamp the seal. (I was not impressed with the difficult alignment of the hull sides.)

I added wires to the front lights, 10, and opened up the two small molded-on lifting points at the front so I could hang extra tracks on them (as in a photo I saw). First, I cautiously cut their top halves away from the hull with a photoetched-metal saw blade from Micro-Mark, 11. I drilled them out with a micro bit in a pinvise, 12, then carefully bent them away from the body. Using stretched sprue for hanging wire, I threaded it through the attachment points and the links themselves. Three hours of extremely frustrating work produced exactly what I wanted, 13.

After finally gluing in the gun pedestal and adding a war-weary figure waiting for reinforcements, 14, my Schwebenlafette was ready for display-case war!
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