by: Kevin Brant [ ]
The Raupenschlepper Ost or RSO for short is translated to Caterpillar Tractor East. The versatile tracked vehicle was designed for the Russian front to deal with mud and snow. Based on the Steyr 1500A light truck, the RSO was used in multiple roles, including a cargo carrier and weapons platform.
In 1943 there were a large number of complaints by Wehrmacht anti-tank units concerning the use of trucks to move their gun. It was at this time OKW explored the idea of mounting the Wehrmacht standard 7.5cm on a RSO/03. Based on initial tests the vehicle proved worthy, but due to urgent needs the pre-production units, about 60 in total, were redirected to Panzer Jager and Grenadier units. A full order never reached production, and even though Steyr tested improvements, the 60 pre-production units were the only ones built.
14 sprues of plastic, including the chassis tub
2 small frets of photo-etched
2 very fine preformed wire handles
1 bag of Magic Track (144 links)
1 instruction sheet
This is the second 7.5cm PaK 40/4 auf RSO/03 released by Dragon Models, the first being released in 2010. A quick scan of the contents, reveals this new kit is basically the original release with the all-weather cover added. Looking at the plastic, it is well molded with little to no flash, and from what I can see there should be no ejector marks showing after construction, with the exception of the four inside the cover, which would not be that visible, nor that difficult to sand out.
The kit does include a fully detailed chassis, engine, and suspension. I am rather impressed with the engine detail, but it will be covered, and some cutting would be required to have it shown. As for the running gear, Dragon has included new parts for the brake housings, which are more detailed then in the first release, a nice addition. To round out the running gear a bag with 144 links of Magic Track is included that should provide a great looking track.
The driver and passenger compartment is well done, with new molded parts included in this new release, that better profiles the floor of the RSO and adds some texture to the seats. The crew compartment hatches can be built in the closed or open position, with some nice photo-etched details of the latching mechanism for the open position. As part of the hatches, two VERY fine pieces of pre-formed wire has been included to represent the handles.
Onto the rear deck, Dragon has included in newly molded fighting compartment deck, that has a different layout of the under floor bins. Based on what little information I could find, it seems the original floor had the correct storage bin layout, thus I am not sure as to why the inclusion of the changed part. As mention, only the 60 pre-production units were built, it is possible that some may have had different under floor storage layouts.
From looking at the parts of the PaK 40, I believe this is the original gun released by Dragon in 2007. The breech and firing mechanism look to be well detailed, and should build up nice. The front shield does a nice attempt at representing the scale thickness with tapered edges, I would still look to an aftermarket shield to show truer scale thickness. The barrel is one piece molded with separate muzzle brake to be built and attached. The kit does include three options for the muzzle brake, I would check references to ensure you are installing the correct one.
A nice addition to the kit is the inclusion of plastic molded ammunition and boxes. Eight unfired and three fired shells are included, as well as the individual and box stowage. Now the instructions show decal application for the stowage, but the decals are missing from my review example and I am not sure if they are really included in the release.
The main reason for this release is the inclusion of the all-weather cover. While nicely textured with creases and folds, in my opinion it seems to be a little over done based on images I have seen as on the real RSO as the all-weather covers seems to be fastened down pretty taunt. While being molded a little thick, there is also no interior structure to the cover molded on. It should also be noted that in contrast to the box art, the cover is a full single piece, and would require some scratch building and cutting to represent the sides up.
As for the instructions, the kit is assembled over 22 steps, starting with the engine, then chassis, working to the crew compartment then fighting platform. As I have mentioned in past Dragon reviews, always double check the parts and dry fit, as Dragon has a history of making mistakes in their instructions.
Painting and Marking schemes are presented for four vehicles, two from unidentified units and two for Pz.Jg.Abt.152. Unfortunately I am unable to confirm the accuracy of these markings as my limited information show of the 60 pre-production units, they were supplied to Pz.Jg.Abtís 743 and 744 as well as the 18th Panzergrenadier Division.
Overall this looks to be nice kit, and the inclusion of the all-weather cover is a nice addition. The updating of some parts also makes the kit worth the purchase, especially if you did not purchase the 2010 release. Unfortunately, the missing markings for the ammunition stowage, questionable marking options, and limited display options for the all-weather cover does offer some draw backs. I would recommend this kit, especially if you did not purchase the original release, as this release does offer the modeler a few extra options in the build.