Why Tanks?






Part of the appeal of model making is its diversity - in theory you can build a model of virtually anything,  but for many, tanks are of special interest, seeming to possess a presence that other types of military equipment fail to impart. These characteristics make them ideal subjects for the model maker.
Even during my boyhood modelling days I don't think I ever built a car or motorbike - perhaps it’s the lack of imagination required to produce those toy-like kits. The most exquisitely prepared model Harley Davidson or Lamborghini would hold little interest for me - that degree of finishing seems to suck the life out of the hobby. That’s why tanks are different I suppose,  the scope for creatively is far greater. Even though some modellers finish their tanks as if they've just rolled out of the factory - most have a preference for employing some form of weathering technique. Quite often this is one of the most satisfying aspects of the the model building process. Since no two modeller's will produce the same result, an artistic imprint is placed on the model by its creator, the subtle shading and finishing really does require a good eye for colour and effect.

Panzer popularity
When looking at archive footage, and the thousands of field & propaganda photographs published, there's no doubt that there's something different about the German tanks.  The designers produced tanks that for some reason were far more aesthetically pleasing than the equivalent machines produced by the allied designers, thus making them excellent subjects for modelling. I'm sure it wasn't a major consideration for the main protagonists to produce the coolest looking tanks, but the fact remains that the German tanks do look the best. This pretty much holds right through the war years, from the PzKpfw II to the IV, the two Tiger's and other variants, the Panther & Jagdpanther and others are all impressive machines. So I think this, coupled with the fascination for the tactical ability of the German armed forces, gives a interesting historical footnote to accompany the finished model. That's why model companies such as the Tamiya have included so much German equipment in their range of kits, mainly to cater to all the modeller's who also have this preference. To illustrate this, just imagine for a moment that German; Tanks, Aircraft, Uniforms, were the same as say, the Russians - I don't think there'd be anything like the same degree of interest that there currently is in German military equipment, nearly sixty years after the end of the war.
Take the PanzerKampfwagan VI (Tiger) as an example, and compare it to a British Churchill or Russian KV. I think most modellers would agree that there is little competition in terms of visual presence. The Tiger itself is without doubt the most impressive tank produced during the W.W.II. The imposing bulky form must have struck fear into allied tank crews - stories of a lone Tiger decimating an enemy tank company are well documented. This makes the Tiger a must for any modeller.

Against the odds
Outside of the obvious distaste for the consequences of the military war machine of the Third Reich, the technical superiority (for the most part) of these weapons produced by such manufacturers as Henschel, Daimler-Benz & Krupp was amazing. If anything they were too good. The designers must have seen their creations as more than mere instruments of war, but as technically advanced pieces of contemporary engineering excellence. This comes across very much today when looking at the result of their efforts from a modern day perspective. War is always a driver of technological advancement.

The conditions under which the German equipment was designed and manufactured played a large part in the eventual defeat of Germany. The strategy of mass-production over quality employed by the United States & the Soviets in manufacturing their tanks was ultimately the deciding factor in many military engagements. From a tank-v-tank perspective, even thought the kill ratio at times could be more than 10 to 1 in the favour of the German machines, the vast quantities of allied tanks simply over-ran their opponents. If, on the other hand, the directive from the German high command had emphasised the need to keep the production time to a minimum, we may have seen a slightly different outcome in some key battles of 1944/45 (however not enough to change the outcome of the war).
Allied tanks in many cases were the poor cousin of their German counterparts - with close air support and superior numbers, they didn't have to be anything else. But it was the way the German forces were able to account for themselves against these  sometimes overwhelming  odds ensures a high degree of respect & interest for the   equipment and men among military modellers today. The determination of their tank crews gave the Germans a formidable advantage, even if some of this was due to the perceived invincibility of their machines - which of course was redressed to some extent later in the war.



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