by: Vinnie Branigan [ ]
Dragon have been stunning us all for some time now with their ‘Super kits’ such as the Tiger Initial & Late, and the Panzer IV series. This kit represents a departure from this direction, in an attempt to make a kit that is complete, needs no aftermarket, and can be completed into an accurate representation of the vehicle in question, straight from the box with the minimum of fuss.
The kitWhen you open the box on this kit, you still get that little thrill of anticipation on opening a new Dragon kit. The ‘card’ is still there, albeit a little depleted looking from the super kits series. This time it has just one large photo etched fret with the engine grills on, and a tiny one with some squares, plus a transparent styrene sprue. There is also two decal sheets, two wire tow ropes, a cupola and the centres for the idler wheels.
Underneath the card there are 13 sprues of Dragon’s light grey styrene. If you examine the sprues closely you can see that the moulding is immaculate. No flash whatsoever, no mis-moulds. Dragon seemed to have used slide-moulding technology to the full. You can see parts on these sprues that you wouldn’t have though possible to make through injection moulding.
Everything in this kit seems to be brand new. The running gear has separate torsion bar suspension, you could position the idler arms for uneven ground in a diorama, with the removal of a small ‘pip’ that whilst there keeps everything straight and level. The details on the road wheels looks amazing, and Dragon even include steel wheels for the last position to represent a late version G. The tracks are brand new, as said above, and are not the ones released with the recently released Panther D Premium edition kit. These have a different pattern on the track face, more appropriate for the Ausf.G. Again, slide moulding technology has been used to produce a set of the finest tracks possible with injection moulding. The detail on the guide horns looks incredible!
Although the track links are supplied as individual links in a small poly bag, there are some included on the sprues, with separate guide horns for around the drive sprocket. I still haven’t managed to discover why, since they do look identical to the ones in the bag, but no doubt this will become clear upon building it. Apparently they are meant to sit better on the drive sprocket…more on this when I’ve built the tracks!
The hullThe stated purpose of this series of kits is to provide a simpler modeling experience, with everything already in the box to produce an accurate kit. With this in mind Dragon have produced some of the finest injection-moulded parts I have seen. The spare track link brackets for example on the hull sides feature separate locking pins, and although at first though they would sound too small to use, they’re not! They work really well! The on vehicle tools are moulded with the tool clamps already in situ, including the U-shaped handle. The driver’s and machine gunners hatch can both be posed open and feature full internal detail, including the complicated hinge ad spring assembly. The front mudguards, although moulded integrally with the hull, have other parts to be joined later on which gives the complicated compound curves necessary to depict them properly.
The machine gun for the ball mount on the glacis plate is composed of seven parts and is complete with ammo pouch. Little of this can be seen if you depict the model ‘buttoned-up’, but as modelers are apt to say… ‘you know it’s there!’
The back of the hull, engine deck, comes with the large, central hatch as a separate part to which detail is added. Again, Dragon provide several options here, to correctly depict a late G, you can have the raised fan on the left grill, or both flat for an early G. Six photo etched grills are supplied, 4 rectangular and 2 circular, the mesh pattern being amongst the best I’ve seen in photo etch. There are two small clamps supplied for the back of the deck, and again, these are supplied with separate plastic locking pins... superb!
The long side fenders that run along either side of the hull are supplied as separate parts along with separate brackets which have to be affixed to the hull sides. These can be tricky, and there is a mistake in the instructions so take care when fitting these. There may also be a tiny gap around the back of the rear plate when fitting to the hull. Nothing to write home about, I filled it with a thin styrene strip, and it was gone.
The turretThe turret is a masterpiece! One innovation Dragon have ‘pushed’ is the inclusion of small pigmented ‘spots’ instead of protrusions, for locating things properly. They are superb. If you want to include the part, then you know exactly where it goes, and if you want to leave it off, there is no chiseling or sanding to perform!
The gun assembly is complete with breech, so if you want to leave the hatch open it will look ok, as long as you have a figure in there too! The barrel is supplied as plastic, but it is in one part so there’s no difficult seam to get rid of at least. The muzzle brake is a multi-part assembly, and there are two types of mantlet to choose from, the earlier rounded one and the later ‘chinned’ mantlet. A close defense weapon is supplied as this can be modelled opened or closed.
The Commander’s cupola is supplied in 11 parts and includes clear periscopes. Apparently Dragon used an 8-directional slide mould to produce it!
DetailsIt’s hard to describe the moulding finesse of this kit without somebody actually seeing it, so look at the pictures! The weld detail is incredible. I can’t fault it. It seems to be in all the correct places, and of the correct type. The fine detail of parts such as the gun travel lock is also there. It actually does look like the chain that was used to hold the barrel. Dragon have kept the ‘extras’ down to a minimum. Two thicknesses of metal tow rope, a photo etched fret that just contains the engine grills. However, it’s what they have done with the plastic that counts in this kit. There are parts in plastic that have been moulded so that they are easier to install, but with no loss of detail. After all that is the stated intent of this series of kits. Simpler, more accurate kits.
In conclusionIf this is a portent of things to come from Dragon, then I’m all for it. The only possibe gripe I have, is that all my references say that the rod case should be across the rear of the engine deck on a late G. I do really hope that they offer modelers the choice, and that they don’t stop producing the ‘super kits’ with everything thrown in. The thrill I get when I open a new kit is still directly proportional to the number of parts in the box, and the amount of photo etch that’s included, however, this kit is easy to build... and as such will ‘hook’ many of the younger modeller’s to armour modeling. It’s accurate too! Very highly recommended indeed.