Sd.Kfz.251/16 Ausf.C mit 14mm Flammpanzerwagen
The Sd.Kfz.251 German half-track family was widely employed throughout WWII, with more than 15,000 units constructed in various specialized vehicles for the German Army and its allies. One specialized vehicle type was the Sd.Kfz.251/16 Ausf.C Flammpanzerwagen, which, as its name suggests, carried flamethrowers. For this flame thrower, there were two 14mm projectors mounted on each hull side that were manned by crew members. These flame throwers were supplied by two fuel tanks totaling 700 liters of flammable mixture. This was enough to fuel 80 bursts lasting up to two seconds each.
A total of 347 such half-track flamethrowers were built from January 1943 onwards. The newest kit portrays such a flammpanzerwagen based on the Ausf C hull type with a welded hull. This vehicle also existed in the Ausf D Hull variant as well.
There is an impressive level of detail visible in the open-topped fighting compartment, including the projectors, spray tubes and fuel tanks. Indeed, two sets of projectors are offered (with or without covers) to ensure modelers can display the kit precisely as they wish. Two flame operator figures and a driver figure are included, and the former even come with alternate heads wearing field caps or flame proof hoods. This 1/35 scale kit is scorching hot in every imaginable way, so it makes a great addition to Dragon’s upgraded Sd.Kfz.251 family!
The History of the base Sd.Kfz 251 Vehicle
Originally designed to deliver a squad of German panzergrenadiers into battle, the vehicle hit the ground as very dependable which afforded the German Army the ability to quickly adapt this delivery system to the original chassis, providing a quick mock-up of the vehicle for testing. The drive train on this vehicle was sturdy and robust, with a long track area, which lacked any return rollers, having "slack track" where the tracks road freely on the road wheels coming back to the drive sprocket. As a result, the vehicle had a good ground pressure.
The 251 vehicle had tank steering, whereby the normal steering wheel moved the front wheels, but after more turning of the steering wheel, the tracks are braked to cause turning, like on a tank. However, the interleaved and overlapping main road wheels shared a major problem with the Tiger I and Panther tanks that also used such road wheel configurations - in muddy or winter weather conditions, such as those during a mud season (rasputitsa) or the winter conditions, accumulated mud and snow could freeze solid between the road wheels, immobilizing the vehicle. Unlike US half-tracks, the front wheels were not powered. Of the four variants in the 251 Hanomag series, the Ausf D variant was the final production variant that used fewer angled plates to simplify the production line while having flat doors on the rear of the crew compartment.
General Characteristics of the 251 were:
Weight: 7.81 tonnes (8.61 short tons)
Length: 5.80 m (19 ft)
Width: 2.10 m (6 ft 10 in)
Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Crew: 2 + 10 passengers
Armor: 6-14.5 mm (0.24-0.57 in)
Main armament: MG 34 or MG 42
Secondary armament: MG 34 or MG 42
Engine: one Maybach HL 42 6-cylinder petrol engine 100 PS (99 hp, 74 kW)
Power/weight: 12.8 hp/tonne
Suspension: Overlapping torsion bar (track) Leaf spring (wheels)
Operational range: 300 km (186 mi)
Speed: 52.5 km/h (32.5 mph)
Based on the highly reliable Sd.Kfz 251/1 Ausf C chassis, the vehicle was selected to be used for a variant that would deviate from its original intended purpose. The variant in this case would be the FlammPanzerWagen, otherwise known as the "Crewed Flame Thrower". The vehicle would serve as a terrible and useful psychological weapon because of the terrifying effects of being consumed by fire. The vehicle when used would create panic and terror among enemy troops that would come under its assault.
To mount this special flame thrower system to this chassis, a very simple alteration was done. Two tanks of highly flammable substance were added to the vehicle. Out of these tanks, the flammable liquid could be safely shot out from the vehicle. The beauty of this delivery system was intended to allow the operating crew protection from small arms fire while firing the flame throwers.
Starting in January of 1943, the Ausf C. chassis, using a four man crew, was used to bring the idea of a Flammpanzerwagen to reality. In the original setup, the flammpanzerwagen was designated as the 251/16. Two 14mm flame projectors were used, in addition to a portable and tethered 7mm projector. The main 14mm projectors were mounted on both sides of the hull, offset from each other within the hull to keep from interfering from each other during operations. These could be traversed within a 160 degree arc. The portable projector however would be discontinued when production moved from the Ausf C chassis to the more advanced Ausf D chassis.
The two containers used to store the flammable oil mixture were mounted within the rear sidewall. Combined, around 700 liters of mixture could be stored for operations. With this amount of fuel, 80 one second bursts could be fired from the projectors. To ignite the mixture, an electric charge was used being a benzin-electric ignition system. A cartridge ignition being used for the portable projector. Later, in the Ausf D body variant, the ignition system moved to an all-cartridge type. A separate auto engine provided the pumping system with the power needed to operate. That engine was a 28 horsepower engine which provided sufficient power to propel the mixture out to a range of up to 60 meters. From that distance, the vehicle did not have to directly be on top of its intended target as it could reach out from the vehicle and strike a target from a distance.
The four crewmen that were assigned to the vehicle wore special protective clothing. The fuel itself was highly irritable to the skin of those that it came in contact with, as well as dangerous to handle from a safety aspect. The vehicle commander doubled as the radio operator while each mounted projector had its own operator. The fourth man drove the vehicle. The standard MG34 machine gun was retained to eliminate threats that approached the vehicle.
In all types, thankfully construction totals fell short of intended goals which kept vehicle output to less than 350 of the 251/16 configuration.
What's in the Kit?
Standard fare for instructions by Dragon......The illustrations are nicely drawn out and from what I can tell, are pretty accurate for what they show in the construction of the kit. A breakdown of the individual construction steps are as follows:
- Lower Hull
- Torsion bar insertion to lower hull
- Front wheel construction, first layer of interleaved roadwheels added
- Remainder of interleaved roadwheels added, with drive sprocket and rear idler
- Flame Thrower compressor assembly
- Flame Thrower compressor assembly continued
- Crew Fighting Compartment Floor layout with seats and compressor add
- Crew Fighting Compartment Driver Instrument bulkhead added to Crew Floor; installation to lower hull chassis
- Right side Fighting compartment construction
- Left side Fighting compartment construction
- Both right and left side fighting compartment side installation
- Front Hull detail parts add to fighting compartment hull top
- Rear doors to crew compartment construction
- Fighting compartment hull top mating to lower hull sides, rear door installation
- Right side fender stowage box construction
- Left side fender stowage box construction
- Flame Thrower station with shield construction
- Flame Thrower station with shield construction continued
- Flame Thrower station construction continued
- Both right and left side fender installation to lower hull
- Installation of Flame Thrower spray guns
- Installation of Close in Machine Gun station on front of fighting compartment top
Individual painting instructions for the flame throwing apparatus, such as the compressor and tank system, would be nice in Step 6 but that is NOT included. The modeler is left to their own way of verifying that. The painting of the spraying weapon itself and the crew shield is shown as being painted the overall exterior color of the vehicle along with the camouflage pattern.
Additionally, keep in mind that in Step 1, a rudimentary fuel tank and transmission housing is provided that resides under the main flooring deck that is laid down in step 8. This can be posed, with a little bit of surgery from the modeler and exposed, showing the details under that floor.
NOTE****a bit of painting advice here.....
Installation of the crew compartment sides in step 11, prior to the overall mating of the fighting compartment top (Part H1) should be done after the internal parts that are to be attached to the insides have been painted and details so only touch-up painting remains. This will facilitate that interior detail painting and weathering steps much more smoothly if done BEFORE the sides are attached as well as BEFORE the crew compartment is mated to the vehicle. Since the sides of the fighting compartment are at angle, care must be taken to make sure that all painting should be completed except for touch up before you secure part H1 to the vehicle. This also should be done for construction Subset "E" in Step 13 which is the step that involves building the rear crew access doors that will attach to the rear of the fighting compartment covered in Step 14. The flame throwing pump motor and plumbing for that subset that will be installed there will undoubtedly block painting by the modeler by spraying down through the open top of the fighting compartment and make that much harder. Needless to say, the rear of the fighting compartment will be "busy" with parts being everywhere so pre painting is desired to make that process easier.
As covered in my notes above, the flame thrower apparatus which includes the main pump motor, tanks and the plumbing should be painted for detail and weathered before you install the assembly to the floor of the fighting compartment. Being in close proximity to the rear access doors, it will be be virtually impossible to paint and weather that area otherwise. Personally speaking, painting the floor, the seats...everything in step 7 and weathering it prior to assembly will make you life much easier.
TAKE NOTE IN THIS STEP as covered in my warning of painting the interior of these access doors prior to installing the back access area to the fighting compartment.
Sprue "D" (x2)
Sprue E (x2)
Sprue L (x2)
Sprue W (Clear parts)
DSsytrene crew figures are included in parts A, B and C
Sprue X (Hull Bottom)
A mishmash of parts and accessories here....Plastic tubing, nylon cord, PE fret, reflectors for the mirrors and decals which are nicely printed.
Conclusions pending full review:
From what I can tell, based on the other previous Sd.Kfz.251/1 Ausf C. variant that I reviewed in the 251 28/32cm Wurfrahahmen 40 rocket launcher kit, I would have to say that this kit has the makings of being an outstanding replica of the 251/16 Flampanzerwagen. The details are in the kit which will make for a great rendition of this vehicle. In looking at the flame thrower parts, they are nicely detailed. Parts K26 and K27 are going to have to be cleaned up for seam lines once they are removed carefully from the sprue. The flexible plastic tubing that is shown in the last photo above is used to connect these plumbing parts to the individual flame thrower units mounted on each side. That will have to be cut to length as specified in the instructions. Be careful in those construction steps.
The overall lower hull tub details are nice as well. The floor is molded with the steel plate details there. There are optional parts to install below this floor and with a little bit of surgical work, could be cut apart, revealing the fuel storage tank below the floor, along with some other parts. Could be a good start for a cutaway model.
Again, there is no complete petrol engine in this kit. An aftermarket engine, or scratch build engine could be added since the engine compartment doors are molded separately. That is a nice gesture on Dragon's part to allow the modeler to add that level of detail.
And in a really great bit of news with this kit, the tracks are unlike the tracks in the 28/32cm Wurfrahahmen 40 Rocket Launcher kit that I reviewed previously. I can detect no knockout pin marks in the track shoes. I think this is very encouraging to the modeler that wants to use the kit tracks. Construction is the typical clam shell arrangement with the track shoe forming the "clamp" that connects the tracks together once attached to each shoe. It will be difficult to build them so the tracks are workable however. Exercise care when building them. Major Kudos go to DRAGON Models for cleaning up those track parts!!!!
Again, Dragon has put the details into this kit and they are nicely done. With a little bit of extra work, this kit can be super detailed, but straight out of the box, it's impressive. Don't know how the modeler is going to simulate flame coming out of the throwers but I'm sure someone will build it this way in a diorama and....pardon the pun....it will look "hot"....
A full build review will be posted the near future to show how this kit can build out.
My feelings about the kit are very positive and are reflected in this review.
Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders, moderately so for beginner modelers due to the complexity of the kit, but, patience and this kit will be conquered by all. If you purchase this kit, take your time with it.
Thanks goes out to DRAGON Models Ltd. for this review kit.
Reference materials for this review were provided by Mr. David Doyle and Ms. Franziska Jentz/Panzer Tracts for permission to use their wonderful reference photos. I would like to personally thank both of these people for their friendship and permission to use their work. I used images found in their books. Panzer Tracts No. 15-3 covering the 251 vehicle (ISBN 0-9771643-5-7) contained very detailed photos with information. David Doyle's "Standard Catalog of German Military Vehicles (ISBN 0-87349-783-X) was also used to gather additional photos with historical data. Both of these books maybe out of production but can be sourced at some shows. Links to their websites can be found here:
Panzer Tracts: http://www.panzertracts.com/
David Doyle Books: http://daviddoylebooks.com/
Reviewed by Glen Martin
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