It seems, like with Moby Dick’s
Captain Ahab, we’re drawn to quirky losers. The Elefant tank destroyer was the by-product of Ferdinand Porsche’s failed efforts to win the design competition for the Tiger I tank. After losing out to Henschel’s prototype, he converted the chassis of just over 90 of his Tiger prototypes into a 65 ton tank destroyer equipped with the high-performance PAK 43/L71 88mm gun that would be used later on the Tiger II, Jagdpanther and Nashorn. Dubbed the “Ferdinand” in honor of its designer, the vehicle had several complex design innovations that made it prone to mechanical problems, including a “petro-electrical” propulsion system employing twin 300 hp Maybach HL 120 TRM engines that powered electric motors connected to the drive train.
Finished just in time for Operation Citadel, the Wehrmacht’s attack on the Kursk salient (and the German army’s last major offensive on the Eastern Front), the Ferdinand was a disappointment in combat: cumbersome, slow, prone to breakdown and vulnerable to infantry assault because it lacked a machine gun. But its cannon was deadly at ranges beyond anything the Allies had then, so the 50 vehicles which survived the Kursk meat grinder were returned to the Nibelungen-Werken factory in Austria.
There a commander’s cupola and a ball-mounted MG-34 for anti-personnel protection were added, and the lower half of the body coated with Zimmerit paste. Renamed “Elefant” (but still called “Ferdies” despite Hitler’s orders otherwise), they were formed into two “heavy anti-tank battalions” (schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen): the 653rd and 654th. Once again, the design undid the Elefant: it was too heavy for many Italian roads and bridges, and mechanical breakdowns meant more of them were abandoned or destroyed by their crews than knocked out in combat. Withdrawn to Poland, the Elefant later participated in the Battle of Berlin.
This new kit is attractively boxed with an exciting painting on the cover of an Elefant in action. The sprues are mostly individually-packed in clear plastic. Included are:
•16 sprues in Dragon’s usual light gray plastic
•1 light gray hull tub
•1 aluminum turned barrel
•2 DS Dragon Styrene track strips
•1 sprue of clear plastic for periscopes
•4 u-shaped tow latches
•1 bag of 6 pair of “handed” Magic Tracks “spare” tracks
•1 sheet of PE
•1 small chain for the pistol port cover
•1 strand of wire for cables
•1 sheet of Cartograf decals
Dragon already released a Premium Edition of the Elefant without Zimmerit (#6311 reviewed by Vinnie Branigan Here
). But since all Elefants had this anti-magnetic coating, modelers previously could either apply their own or rely on several AM choices. Now Dragon has added the Elefant to its recent line of kits with molded-on Zimmerit. The Elefant is actually one of the easier vehicles to Zimmerit, since the coating only extends part of the way up the sides. But not all of us have the confidence-- or time—to apply the paste themselves. After Market Zimmerit isn’t cheap, either. The two criticisms of molded-on Zimmerit are:
1. Not-to-scale (ridges & indents too “deep”)
2. One pattern for all vehicles (the Panther D kit was singled out for using an obscure pattern)
While there is no remedy for #2 other than doing it yourself or mixing and matching AM Zimmerit, Dragon is clearly learning as it goes and has improved the look of its molded-on Zimmerit on this kit. It’s shallower than the Panther D I’m building, and they have also built-in some minor defects and slight wear/battle damage to make the end results more realistic.
Dragon has once again followed its practice of reissuing a Premium kit with Smart Kit version. The changes are often minor simplifications, but here they have replaced a sheet of Photo Etched brass with a sprue of styrene. The change will benefit the average modeler, but likely annoy “rivet counters” like myself.
Another significant change is the switch away from “Magic Tracks” to Dragon Styrene “rubber band” tracks. While certainly an improvement over vinyl links, DS tracks still represent a big compromise in detail, especially with Wehrmacht vehicles where track sag is significant. The track link details are also soft, and there is, of course, no gap between links.
Turning to the details of the styrene, I was impressed once again with Dragon’s craftsmanship and production. Like the earlier Elefant without Zimmerit, the kit has crisp detailing, minimal flash and knock-out holes, and looks as though it will go together as easily as most current DML models. A turned aluminum barrel is included, along with metal tow lugs, as well as a chain for the pistol port and a segment of metal wire for the tow cable. The instructions are drawings instead of color photographs, a welcome step in this reviewer’s opinion. Dragon has been criticized for failing to properly indicate where some small parts a placed, and the photographic instructions generally exacerbate that issue.
Decals and Markings:
Perhaps because there were relatively few Elefants built and their units are well-documented, Dragon has strayed from their recent laziness in providing scant authority for painting and decals (“Unknown unit” seems to be their current favorite designation). The kit offers up five actual vehicles with detailed painting schemata:
•3rd Company/s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 Poland 1944 (khaki green and red brown disruptive pattern over dunkelgelb
•3rd Company/s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 Poland 1944 (green ”net” pattern over dunkelgelb
•1./s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 Italy 1944 (khaki green disruptive over dunkelgelb
•s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 614 Poland 1945 (whitewash over dunkelgelb
•s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 614 Poland 1945 (whitewash disruptive pattern over dunkelgelb
One quibble I would have with the painting guide, however, is it no longer shows the overhead view from the earlier, non-Zimmerit Premium Edition kit.
Since I never build kits using Magic Tracks, preferring instead the realistic look and detail of metal AM tracks, Dragon’s switch to its new DS styrene “rubber band” tracks doesn’t particularly bother me. But in terms of realism, DS simply can’t come close to even Magic Tracks.
Wehrmacht armor purists will also likely prefer replicating the Zimmerit paste coating with one of the epoxy putties on the market in order to properly “damage” the finished results. But for the majority of modelers, the addition of pre-molded Zimmerit on an already excellent kit will come as a welcome improvement.