by: Jim Starkweather [ ]
This kit of some 580 pieces is not going to be for the meek. And with individual magic-trac links for the vehicles tracks this figure may actually be much higher. At least to me there looks to be more than 500 sprue-pieces alone in the box. However I am not going to count them all, suffice to say this kit is going to be a decent mid to long-term project for most builders.
This kit obviously shares sprues with the recent Sd.Kfz 7 and 7/1 variant that was just released. I believe we should have a full review of the 7/1 posted soon so keep an eye out for that one as well as it will likely have some useful insights on the parts this kit shares.
There are 8 primary sprue sets for this kit. All unused pieces are marked in blue on the instruction set making it easy to see which items can be set aside. The obvious differences of this kit vs. the standard Sd.Kfz. 7 are the armored cab components and the Flak 37 gun and rear deck. While a crew is not included in this kit it would certainly be a nice addition as a separate figure kit. The kit does include a full engine and engine compartment detail however. The diorama possibilities are certainly intriguing with this kit and Ron Volstad's box art depicting the crew firing on Allied gliders on (assuming) D-day would in itself make a great scene. Who's up for scratch building a glider?
The chassis is a nice one-piece unit that will save the builder a lot of time and effort. The rear track assembly looks to be proper and includes excellently molded components. The detail on these Smart-Kits is certainly consistent and well done. There is little I could find in terms of mold quality to criticize on this kit.
The 3.7cm gun has a one-piece plastic barrel and the flash suppressor, which comes on it's own sprue in a nice little bag of it's own, is they typical advanced slide-mold quality we have come to expect from Dragon. The gun body itself has some truly amazing details including grab handles molded right into the main side frames. The instructions detail how to build the gun in either a combat position or in travel mode.
The rear deck has three sides which can be dropped down for combat or locked upright for transport. The grating for the rear deck sides is either a brass photo-etch in a typical screen pattern or wooden sides. This in effect is what makes the kit a 2-in-1 build. You can either build the kit as a 'Museum/Mesh-type' version or a 'Wooden' version. Step plates are also provided in brass P/E as well as some other details. There is a rack for weapons on the rear deck and the kit includes two K98 rifles which are high-detail Gen2 items I believe.
The instructions are well laid out and obviously a lot of time has been taken trying to make them correct for an international multi-lingual audience. I have seen a lot of critical comments about Dragon (or other makers) instructions in the past and I have to say I don't get it. What some people seem to want is a 300 page book on how to build a 500 piece kit. It's not going to happen folks unless we want to pay about 3 times as much as we do now for a kit. While confusion about where parts go is bound to occur I would go as far to say these are some of the best instructions I have seen from any manufacturer for such a complex kit. They include 6 different paint and camo schemes ranging from an unidentified Luftwaffe Flak unit (Germany 1945), Russia 1944, Greece 1943, a Herman Gorring division unit in Rome 1944, another Italy 1943 and finally an Eastern Front 1943 scheme. There are 11 pages of instructions in all.
The decals that are included are pictured below and allow for a wide range of vehicle ID numbers. The clear sprue items are nicely done as well (although I did note a spider line in the windshield which is thankfully not used in this kit). There are 3 tires in soft beige vinyl which have very good detail and tread characteristics as well.
I won't try to make any grand claims about this kit as I am no subject matter expert on the Sd.Kfz 7, however I think Dragon has produced another winner here and this kit is certainly a worthy challenge to any modeler who wants to build a highly detailed kit without the need for a lot of after-market parts and pieces. With the addition of a crew this will make for some great builds and dioramas and I certainly look forward to seeing what the modeling community at-large is going to think about these new Sd.Kfz 7's.