by: Jan Etal [ ]
Originally published on:
During the early years of panzer development it was recognized that any accompanying infantry should be equally mobile. A full-track vehicle seemed too costly while wheeled vehicles with the required cross-country performance were not available. A half-track vehicle with the official name Sd.Kfz. 251 "Gepanzerte Manschafts Transportwagen" evolved.
Designed by Hanomog of Germany, the 3 ton Sd.Kfz. 251 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251) half-track first entered service in the spring of 1939 with the First Panzer Division. The vehicles were well armoured to protect against most small arms fire and blast splinters. Four versions, Ausf A to D, were produced with the ‘C’ being the most numerous. Sources do not agree on the numbers produced throughout the war but the numbers vary from just over 15,000 to as high as 16,000.
The Sd.Kfz. 251 Ausf. C was primarily used as an armoured infantry carrier but was also used to tow light artillery. One such towed ordinance was the PaK 35/36 anti-tank gun. The PaK 35/36 was developed by Rheinmetal in 1936 and appeared in combat that year during the Spanish Civil War. By May 1940 it was considered outdated against several Allied tanks that were being introduced on the battlefield. In 1943, the introduction of the Stielgranate 41 shaped charge meant that the PaK 36 could now penetrate any armour, but only at a range of less than 300 meters. The PaK 36s, together with the new shaped charges, were issued to Fallschirmjäger units and other light troops. The gun's light weight meant that it could be easily moved by hand, and this mobility made it ideal for their purpose.
The Dragon 1/72 Armor Pro Sd. Kfz. Ausf.C & 3.7cm PaK 35/36 (kit # 7352) is the subject of this review.
The kit contains four plastic bags containing five sprues plus the lower hull tub. A standard Dragon card holds the two DS 100 tracks, a small 5 piece PE fret, small wire antenna, as well as a set generic Cartograph decals. The styrene parts are moulded in the standard Dragon grey plastic with the tracks being a light sand colour.
A one page, eight sided instruction sheet with parts plan, five sets of build diagrams and a two page paint/decal instructions are also included. The build diagrams are standard Dragon exploded view drawings broken into eight construction steps. The first seven steps deal with assembling the half-track while the last is for the PaK 35/36.
Sd. Kfz. 251/C:
On examining the sprues, the first thing that will impress you is the level of detail on even the smallest parts. Be it panel lines, bolt or screw heads, all are beautifully rendered. As an example, the forward section of the drivers compartment shows all related dials, knobs and even steering linkage. Ejector marks are minimal for the most part and where they do appear, they are mostly on internal surfaces that will not show after construction. Flash is virtually non-existent, and mould seam lines were very light and can most likely be removed with a light scraping using a sharp hobby knife.
As with other Dragon kits that I have reviewed, some of the sprue gates for the smaller parts were quite large. This will require considerable care when separating them from the sprue tree. However, with this kit I also saw some gates for small parts that were themselves quite fine and delicate. A definite improvement.
The first two construction steps (1,2) deal almost exclusively with the build up of the vehicle suspension. Step one is the assembly of the track portion. The one piece lower hull tub has suspension details and axles moulded in place.
A nice feature that should ease assembly and allow for good suspension alignment is that the bogie wheels are moulded joined together. What would be the first two inner rows of wheels are actually one part as opposed to seven individual wheels. The next part is similar but only represents one row of four wheels. The outer three wheels are individual pieces and when the assembly of this section is complete, none of the joints will be visible.
Step two will see the construction of the front suspension and wheels attached. It is also during this step that the track driver halves and final dive housing are attached to each other and then to the hull.
Step 3 is totally devoted to building up the extremely detailed interior of the drivers and troop compartment. The former area sees the placement of seats, control levers, dashboard/firewall and various internal stowage items. During this stage the first build option appears. The option is to glue a rack of machine-pistol magazines to the compartment walls or to use a PE part representing an empty attachment frame for the rack.
The troop compartment assembly involves the construction of the troop seats and the assembly of the storage compartments that form the seat backs. The inner parts of these compartments are to have rifle racks and Kar-98 rifles added. A few more items of stowage are provided to enhance this area. Other than having to deal with some rather small parts, I don’t see any major difficulties arising in this step.
For the most part Step 4 deals with detailing the upper and rear hull and the rear doors. The rear doors have beautiful detail including a rather nice locking mechanism. They are not functional but can be built open or closed. Similarly, the four vision ports in the drivers compartment have both internal and external pieces and can be built open or closed. Separate doors for the engine compartment are provided but there is no internal detail or engine provided.
Step 5 and 6 is the detailing of the separate one piece fenders and attaching them to the hull. With this kit all the external tools are separate pieces as opposed to being moulded on. It is during this point that the two side storage boxes are added, along with width markers, tail lights and engine exhaust.
The half-track final detailing is the focus of Step 7. This will include the beautifully moulded MG-34 machine guns and their mounts. As an added bonus, these weapons come with single drum ammunition magazines. Both front and rear guns attach to their respective locating holes with a tiny locking press-fit mechanism to permit them to traverse. With the front gun the modeller is given the option of using a one piece plastic gun shield or a three piece PE version.
This step concludes with the assembly and attachment of the three piece Notek light to the body. Two headlights and side-view mirrors are also added. The final parts to be dealt with are the antenna mount and the antenna itself. Unlike other kits that provide an oversized styrene antenna, Dragon has provided an appropriately sized thin metal wire antenna that fits into a hole in the antenna mount.
In a rather astounding and glaring omission, nowhere in the instruction sequence is any reference to attaching the tracks. The track parts D1 and D2 are not listed anywhere except on the parts diagram. They just magically appear on the bogies in the illustration in Step 7. Having not built one of these kits my educated guess would be that they should be attached during Step 6, before attaching the fenders.
Another puzzling issue was the fact that the tracks are numbered ‘1’ and ‘2’ whereas a previous half-track that I examined did not have the tracks on the ‘D’ sprue numbered. While researching this subject I ran across an article that specified the “real life” description of the tracks. The left track is made up of 55 links, 7.7m long. The right track should be 56 links and 7.84m in length. In looking at the tracks on their sprue I got the impression that they were not identical. Taking a small ruler I measured the two tracks. The track labeled ‘1’ measured out at 111 mm while track ‘2’ was a little over 113 mm. That being the case, track ‘1’ is the left (drivers side) track while track ‘2’ belongs on the right side.
Comprising 19 parts on two sprues, the greatest challenge with this gun will be in handling all the tiny parts. Having previously reviewed this gun here, I decided to build it to see how it came together.
While not numbered, the assembly consists of four subassemblies. The first part is to assemble the carriage base. I test fit the trails (G1, G9) that are to be sandwiched between part G2 (upper carriage) and G7 (lower carriage). It became immediately obvious that the pins in the trails were too large to fit into their required holes. I chose an appropriately sized drill in a pin-vise and enlarged the holes. The trails fit into G2 snugly but comfortably. It was at this point that I found part G7 would not fit flush into G2. The problem was an exceedingly large sprue gate that overlapped a step in the part. Some careful work with a jewellers’ needle file rectified the situation and the parts mated quite well. The builder should be forewarned that during this step the carriage is constructed upside down and care will need to be taken to make sure the trails are oriented properly.
A lower shield piece is attached during the carriage construction and it’s very small locating tabs are a little too light to be of much help. While this step also called for the wheels to be attached, I decided to leave that for later. Their presence at the time might interfere with other parts placement.
The next subassembly deals with the gun cradle. In this step the traverse and elevation wheels and their respective parts are attached. I chose to not remove the plain hand wheels and substitute them for the optional ones. The next part to install was the gunsight. Neither of these processes were difficult other than the handling of such small parts and the fits were positive. While the gun shield supports (G11, G12) are meant to be added at this time, I decided to leave them until I was ready to attach the shield.
I chose to attach the cradle to the carriage next. The bottom of the cradle has a small undersized pin that is meant to fit into a hole in the top plate of the cradle. As this was an extremely loose fit, care had to be taken to make sure that everything was properly positioned. At this point I attached the gun proper and its recoil slide to the cradle. The bottom of the gun/slide has a notch in it that fits over a lug at the base of the cradle. The elevation gear is meant to be positioned into a ‘U’ shaped protrusion in the back of the cradle.
When all the previous parts had time to dry I started the last part of the assembly. This proved to be rather tricky. The gun shield is meant to fit into two protrusions at the front of the cradle. At the same time the shield supports must fit into locating holes in the shield and cradle. For this assembly I used a standard gel type tube glue with a slower drying time. This allowed me to position the shield supports in the cradle and still have time to manipulate them into proper position. It took a few tries but I finally got everything to align and fit.
The final stage of the PaK 35/36 was to fit the wheels and the guard at the back of the recoil slide. The latter fit nicely but the wheels were rather loose. I first shortened the pin on the axle that fits into the wheel and then used a gap filling Super Glue to attach them.
The pictures of the unpainted parts of the gun with barrel and shield in place were only dry fitted. Where the gun and shield are coated with dark yellow, the parts are affixed. The last pictures are of the finished PaK lightly weathered and distressed.
Painting and Markings:
Painting and marking options are provided for four vehicles:
•Pz. Gren. Rgt. 110, 11th Pz. Div., Kursk 1943 (sand with green patches, grey gun)
•24th Pz. Div., Eastern Front 1942 (sand with green stripes, grey gun)
•Pz.Rgt. 12, 4th Pz. Div., Kurland 1944 (three colour scheme, black 232, sand gun).
•Pz. Gren. Div. "Grossdeutschland", Eastern Front 1942 (grey with white outline crosses and markings)
No decals are provided for the PaK 35/36. There are only two colour scheme suggestions and these are either an overall Panzer Grey or Dark Yellow.
The Cartograph decals are crisp and in register. Unfortunately, the license plates are made up of a base decal with separate individual numbers that need to be applied to the base. This will invariably prove time consuming, at the very least, to create a proper looking marking.
This Sd. Kfz. 251 kit has some very wonderful details and could be a great addition to any small scale builders collection. A nice addition would have been for the manufacturer to offer a PE alternative for the PaK 35/36 shield. The plastic one, while quite well done, is still over-scale in thickness and size of its details.
The internal parts of the drivers’ compartment visors have acceptable detail but would be better if they had been moulded in clear styrene, like many of their larger scale counterparts. The addition of the “snail-drum“ magazines for the Mg-34’s was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
In the past Dragon kits have often suffered from excessively large sprue attachment points. While not entirely absent in this kit it appears that there has been an improvement with this release. This looks like a promising kit for any moderately skilled modeller. I would recommend this kit.