by: Kevin Brant [ ]
After the Battle of Stalingrad, the Russian Army had captured several pieces of German equipment, including about 200 Pz.Kpfw.III's. The Russian decided to make us of the Pz.III's by converting them to self-propelled guns, hence the SU-76i. Using the Pz.III chassis a casemate upper hull was formed to house a 76mm S-1 gun, the tank began to see service in the Fall of 1943. The tank only saw limited service as it was withdrawn from the front line in early 1944, and relegated to training units. Dragon Models, using their well done Pz.Kpfw.III chassis, has now brought this converted, and interesting, tank out in a new offering.
11 Plastic Sprues (including lower chassis tub)
1 Photo-etched Fret
2 DS Track Lengths
1 Decal Sheet
When this kit was first announced, I was really excited in it being something that was only available as a conversion in the past. Opening the box, and having a quick peek, my excitement was dimmed a bit. The box contained many very familiar sprues and a general lack of extra detail parts that Dragon used to include.
The plastic, molded Dragon grey standard, is very well done. This included many of the previously release sprues, from past Pz.Kpfw.III and StuG.III kits. The kits new sprue includes the parts to build the SU-76i upper hull. These new parts do look very good, and well done.
The kit does include a small fret of photo-etched, mostly previous Pz.III parts, with a few new parts used where the new upper hull meets the Pz.III chassis. Also included, hated by some, loved by others are two lengths of DS track.
Now it is not all bad, the past Dragon Panzer III kits were and are still very good kits, meaning the kit should build into a good model of the SU-76i. Having built a few of the Pz.III kits, I know the running gear and suspension parts go together very well, and are nicely detailed, including use of photo-etched on the idler wheel.
Top of the upper hull is also done nicely with details, including the fenders. I did notice in the instructions that instead of providing a new mid portion of the upper deck, the modeler will need to cut the existing part. A diagram with measurements is provided. The diagrams are just a tad larger than scale, and so could be used as templates while remembering the slight scale issue.
The new upper structure for the SU-76i does look to be well done, with the main part molded as a single piece. The gun mantlet does include the casting surface look, adding to the good surface detail. Inside, there is a basic 76mm breech included, from a sprue marked T-34, thus being an older molding from Dragon. The hatched can be modeled in the open position, but being large as they are, you would need to add more interior details.
A big disappointment is the two piece, side by side, barrel included. With todays molding technology and standards, it is a let down that Dragon did not upgrade the barrel for this kit. But this is easily replaceable with an aftermarket part. Two Russian style fuel tanks are included, again from an older kit.
The instructions are Dragon, so I recommend test fitting often. They do look well laid out, and should be easy to follow, but remember Dragon instructions often in the past have contained errors in part numbers and location attachments.
The kit includes marking for six tanks, with four of them Unidentified Unit. The other two are the Russian 58th Tank Regiment, and a "recaptured" Pz.Jg.Abt.128, 23rd Pz.Div. unit. The decals look well done, and nicely printed.
Overall this does look to be a nice kit of the SU-76i from Dragon. Unfortunately, this kit is an example of a lot of recent Dragon releases in that they use a lot of parts from older kits without them being updated. The new parts to form the upper hull gun housing look to be well done. For me to build this kit, I would replace the barrel and tracks, but with only two minor changes, it should produce a good model of the SU-76i. I would recommend this kit for fans of unique Russian armor.