by: Vinnie Branigan [ ]
introductionThe Aufklarungspanzer 38(t) mit 2cm KwK.38, or reconnaissance tank was of course, based on the LT-38 or the Pz.Kpfw 38(t) as it was known in German Service. It came about as a result of the German takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1938, when CKD who originally manufactured the vehicle was renamed Praga.
the kitThis kit is another in the 'Smart Kit' series, and as such purports to supply us with an easy to assemble, accurate miniature of the vehicle, and including the minimum of photo etched parts etc. necessary to produce it. So far this series has produced some really excellent kits, and it looks set to continue with this one.
The kit arrives in a smaller than normal Dragon box, similar to the size of the PaK 40 with crew kits, but there's plenty inside it! The usual Dragon 'card' is supplied, with a small bag of Magic Tracks stuck to it's side, and on the card there are two photo etched frets, which is more than I've seen in other 'Smart Kit' releases, a small transparent sprue, a decal sheet, and a small grey sprue holding an MG 42. Also inside the box are the instructions of course, plus five large sprues of grey styrene and five smaller or part sprues, plus a separate hull. The sprues themselves are all marked 38(t) Ausf G., and I'm not that well up enough on this particular vehicle to say whether or not it refers to this kit or a further variant we can expect, but judging by the way the included sprues have been cut up to get them in the box, I can say we can expect a few more variants! For example, one of the sprues has a huge gaping hole, where it looks like a lot of parts are missing, but will be included at a later date, and one of the sprues is even chopped in half to get it into the box? Given that there was so much use made of the real chassis by the Germans, I would say it's a foregone conclusion we've got lot's to look forward to with this one.
Back to this one! What we actually get looks pretty good. The KwK 38 of course, is from Dragon's earlier releases such as the Flak 38 etc., and the small sprue with the ammunition magazines is from their 251/17 kit, whilst the large sprue H is from their more recent 234/1.
Since this is to all intents an open topped vehicle, or can be displayed as one, Dragon supply a rudimentary but fairly good representation of the inside of the vehicle, such as transmission, crew seats, firewall etc. There's no doubt that it could benefit from the addition of a bit of super-detailing, but with what you get, and once the main gun is in position, most people will I suspect leave as is.
Dragon have taken to including a small information leaflet in their last couple of kits, which I quite like as it attempts to explain some of the thinking behind some of the features included in the kit and how they were derived. For example, the fenders in this kit are supplied straight, but are pushed down at one point in the construction to introduce a marked 'bend'. Apparently this was a feature of the real vehicle? Feature-wise, as mentioned, there are some really nice little touches, the engine hatches can be posed open, and whilst there is no engine supplied, there are some on the market from the aftermarket sector, so I might leave off building it until somebody finds out whether or not they'll fit! The transmission hatch can likewise be posed open, and as this is included, it's useful! The construction of the suspension on this kit is very similar to the way it's constructed on the Marder IIIM by another well-known manufacturer! The real vehicle had a Christie-type suspension, although modified, and there isn't really much scope for constructing it differently, although having constructed one of the Tristar 38(t) versions recently, I have to say I much prefer Dragon's and Tamiya's method of constructing the bogey's.
Although this is a 'Smart Kit' release, there does seem to be much more in the way of photo etch than in any of the other Smart kits so far? All the tools are supplied moulded without clamps, which are supplied as photo etch, and significantly, the option of using tools with moulded on clamps is not catered for? The grenade screens are supplied pre-bent in this kit, and are simply beautiful! They were supplied as flat photo etch on a fret in the 234/1 kit, this way looks much better!
The tracks for this kit are brand new, and must rate amongst the best Dragon have ever produced. They have the indented guide horns, but..........they also have individual casting numbers on each link. Try as I might, I couldn't see them on the link, although when I took a photograph using my macro lens they did show up. How visible they will be on a painted and weathered track is anybody's guess...............but as you can see from the photograph...........they're there alright!
marking optionsDragon have supplied only two marking options on the small decal sheet supplied, both for unidentified units, one on the Eastern Front, and one Western, both in 1942. A selection of different Balkencreuz is included.
conclusionDragon have come late into the 38(t) game with this one. Matters not...........they've taken the lead. The inclusion of so much photo etch, and those grenade screens, plus their magnificent 2cm 38 and those tracks, which are a first in injection moulding, and quite possibly in tracks of any material, puts them ahead of the game immediately. This one is extremely highly recommended, and there'll be full build coming soon!