In the novel Candide
, Voltaire has one of his characters exclaim “this is the best of all possible ages!” Certainly for fans of German halftracks, this would seem to be so, with all major weight classes now in styrene except the Sd.Kfz.8. Over the past 18 months, we have seen Dragon and Trumpeter racing to put out a complete line of variants for the 7 and variants, with no fewer than seven new kits, ranging from the Prime Mover through Late War Sd.Kfz.7/1s and 7/2s. Dragon’s Sd.Kfz.7/1 Early War version has prompted a series of aftermarket photo etch upgrades from Griffon Model that cover everything from the gun barrels for its 2cm FlaK 38 guns to the mesh sides.
The Sd.Kfz.7/1 Early War version had mesh screens on the fold-down side panels of the rear bed, presumably to provide secure footing for the gunners when deployed for action. Both Dragon and Trumpeter use fairly conventional photo etch mesh to render the screens, but there is some dispute about the nature of that mesh. Some surviving photos seem to show just that— mesh, while the museum examples have what can only be described as a complicated lattice work mesh not unlike the modern Stryker’s slat armor (see photo at right from the excellent book in the "Wings & Wheels" series, Sd.Kfz.7 In Detail
, reviewed by me here
). Dragon’s later war Sd.Kfz.7/2 comes with both wooden sides and “museum” mesh (see Jim Starkweather's review here
for more). Whether the Germans gave up on this complicated system in favor of ordinary mesh screening, or the photos are simply inconclusive remains a topic of discussion. But Griffon Model has taken on the challenge of rendering the slat mesh sides as accurately as the original with a set of PE that literally throws out the Dragon side panels and starts from scratch.
The set includes:
3 frets of silver (steel?) PE
1 fret of conventional brass PE
Wire for hinges, etc.
This set is a real “balls to the wall,” hold nothing back for the sake of expediency effort that chucks out the styrene parts supplied with the kit and goes for the maximum level of detailing possible in a 1/35th scale rendering of the Sd.Kfz.7/1’s mesh sides. It dispenses with the plastic side framing, and instead goes to full-blown metal. Part of me wishes Griffon had kept the styrene frames to seat the PE on and work with it, since getting the sides to "true up" with perfectly squared corners demands some extra effort. You begin by separating a total of four “base” components, then raise up the slats running vertically across it so that their indentations are ready to lock into the horizontal slatting. There are 16 individual slats that must be separated from the PE fret, filed down where needed to remove the "burrs" from the photo etch process and attachments, then glued one-by-one onto the four “base” components. Removing them from their frets, aligning each with the teeth on the vertical slats locking into those of the horizontal ones, ultimately forming a series of boxes, seemed at first like an impossible task.
And the first base component I separated got a "sprung," misshapen bend to it I couldn't straighten for love or money. I thought I was screwed. But as each slat was added, the interlocking teeth began to form a series of squared joints and the "sprung" look gradually was overcome. I use a piece of tile to assemble the components because the CA glue doesn’t stick to it as much, but you must be very careful not to apply too much glue lest it clog up the openings. You can see some extra glue around the edges of the assembly photo at right that I'll have to clean up when I've completed adding all the slats.
This is definitely not for the PE novice!
While the upgrade is aimed at the Dragon Sd.Kfz.7/1, I think it’s possible to modify the results to fit the Trumpeter kit, though the dimensions are somewhat different on the rear beds of the two models. If you’ve bought the Trumpeter version, I’m sure you’ll be tempted to try once you’ve seen this set. The results are simply amazing.
The Dragon mesh for the kit is handled with PE, but it’s a plain mesh that doesn’t come close to replicating the slat mesh on surviving vehicles. However, the set is both complicated-to-use and requires extreme patience and some advanced PE skills, including the ability to file off the "burrs" that are left after the pieces are removed from the frets (I use a pair of flat needle-nose pliers and a Tamiya diamond PE file). Definitely NOT for the novice or casual builder, yet the level of authenticity is astonishing.
Subsequent to publishing this review, I have begun assembling the set for the build log referenced below. During that assembly, I have found this set to be extremely
difficult to piece together: six panels must be separated from their frets, no easy task because of their harder composition than conventional PE brass. Then each vertical slat must be bent into shape, with some slats breaking loose from the frame. When all the slats are sticking out, then the horizontal slats (16 per panel) must be glued into place. Then the rest of the panels are assembled from two rectangular frames that are separated by two long, easily distorted thin slats intended to form a square framing shape. While the accuracy of the results is without compare (as can be seen in the final photo showing this upgrade compared to the kit parts and a laser-cut paper upgrade from Kamizukuri), the difficulty of working with it has induced me to lower its score by 10 points to reflect the difficulty. Some of the components should have been pre-formed as, for example, Griffon Model has done with its muzzle brakes on its Flak 38 barrel upgrades.
A build log of this accessory set can be found by clicking here