|DRAGON - 8.8cm PaK 43 Waffenträger|
A look at Dragon's kit of this late war 8.8cm armed SPG....
Ardelt-Rheinmetall 8.8cm PaK 43 Waffenträger
Manufacturer: Dragon Models
Material: Styrene & Photo-etch
Serial Number: 6728
I was under the initial impression that this vehicle was another of the paper panzers, but some looking around seems to confirm that this one was actually produced....at least as a prototype. The general drive towards mounting larger guns on mobile platforms towards the end of the war was in part driven by their sheer size. They were becoming so large that crews were finding them more and more difficult to operate and manoeuvre. In April 1944, it seems a requirement was announced which led to Ardelt-Rheinmetall to produce a prototype on which this model is based, however the eventual production model was different and manufactured by Ardelt-Krupp instead. This prototype mounted a powerful 8.8cm gun onto a chassis that consisted of heavily modified 38(t) components.
The kit box is stuffed full of Dragon's light grey sprues, and also contains a small decal sheet and photo-etched brass fret. There's really very little point these days in stating that there are '314 parts' or similar, since the modern practice of including sprues from various sources with lots of parts marked as 'not for use', makes this academic. For similar reasons it's almost as pointless saying there are e.g. 15 sprues, especially with a manufacturer such as Dragon that included some large sprues, some really small sprues, and many sizes of sprues between the two extremes. Suffice to say that it looks like a very full box! Even that is sort of misleading....since there appears to be an awful lot of parts shaded in blue on the parts map, meaning that they're not to be used either. This can actually be a positive advantage....since many modellers like to kitbash, being supplied with so many extra bits to fill up your spares box can be almost as much fun as building the kit! It occurs of course, as a result of Dragon already releasing many models of the vehicles that went into making the real one of these! So we're supplied with sprues from the Nashorn kit, Pz.Kpfw.38(t) Ausf.G., Hetzer, and even the Jagdpanther!
Construction-wise, the assembly of this model is really quite simple. The instructions themselves only run to four sides of foolscap sized paper, and two of them are the boxart and parts map, and half a page of marking scheme.
Construction begins with the assembly and installation of the running gear. For the roadwheel pairs we're instructed to use the wheels supplied on the Hetzer sprue, which are slightly larger than those supplied on the 38(t) sprue, and lack the bolt detail on their inner surface. The actual leafsprings for their suspension are brand new and supplied on a new sprue. These are actually slightly narrower than the ones supplied both on the included Hetzer and 38(t) sprues. The tracks are supplied as individual links on four sprues. They are from the Hetzer kit and therefore not exactly new. In some ways this shows too. In addition to cleaning up two attachments points per link, each has a slight recessed ejector pin mark which will need to be scraped away or filled, and each also has a small amount of flash which will need to be cleaned off with a sharp scalpel blade. Lot's of fun to be had there.
The one-piece lower hull is brand new, and does have some internal detail supplied with it. There's a 38(t) engine, which sadly is incorrect for this vehicle and not for use, although we are offered a transmission plus driver's seat controls and full radio rack made from photo-etch etc. The front of the superstructure is supplied with a separate, nicely moulded louvered panel, which in part explains why we're offered the transmission, since the louvres are far enough apart that an empty space may just be visible through it, plus the driver's station itself is sort of open...although we are supplied with photo-etched parts that acted as armour when opened, and as covers when closed, so this area really had to detailed.
Construction then moves onto the 8.8cm gun itself. The main parts for this are surprisingly, all new and supplied on a sprue newly created specifically for this model. It consists of a three-piece slide-moulded muzzle brake, and three part barrel, the outer section of which is slide-moulded itself, so there are no 'halves' to join...at least fro that portion of the gun! The breech, recuperator assembly, loading mechanism etc., are all provided on the Jagdpanther sprue, either because they would have been identical, or because nobody knows if they were or not! Once the gun assembly is complete, the armoured superstructure can be assembled. This consists of a three-sided slide-moulded part that has been moulded extraordinarily thinly. No need of chamfered edges to disguise the plastic's thickness here! There isn't much detail provided for the structure's inner surface, apart from a rack for shells which are provided on the Nashorn sprue, and are actually the only things used on that entire sprue. Sadly you'll need six shells to fill up the rack, and there are only five provided. Even though the instructions indicate you should use six too!
Once the separate assemblies are completed, you can put them together and install the gun rest....which should about finish the build! There's an optional mantlet armoured piece included as photo-etch, and it's optional in the sense that although there are two marking schemes included on the instructions, this small photo-etched part is the only difference between the two. And I do mean the only difference. Both have the white markings on the lower front hull where something has been scrubbed out, which leads me to suppose that they're both the same vehicle with the armoured mantlet shield added later since that version is shown as being from 1945, the other 1944.
Prototype or not, there'll be lots of Axis modellers itching to get hold of one of these. It's a late war curio almost, and a strange looking beastie. That just adds to its appeal. Great kit!
My thanks to Dragon models for the review sample.