by: Jan Etal [ ]
The first production contracts for a follow on vehicle to replace the Tiger I were awarded in February 1942. The subject vehicle (VK.45.02(P)H) for this review never made it to full production. Several turrets and hulls were completed, but because of significant problems with the Porsche designed and built engines and suspension the contracts for the production series were terminated in November 1942. The fifty turrets manufactured for this vehicle and its corresponding prototype, the VK.45.02(P)V, were eventually used on the first 50 Tiger II tanks, and were known as the “Porsche“ turrets.
It can only speculated on how well this tank may have fared in combat had it made it to full production. It was a complicated machine, no doubt, and if the history of the mechanical problems for the Elefant/Ferdinand and Tiger II are any clues, most of the VK 45.02’s would have been disabled or lost by mechanical failures than by combat.
When you open the box you will find four separately bagged styrene sprues in the standard Dragon light grey colour. Two larger sprues, two smaller ones plus a separately bagged pair of DS tracks. A small sheet of Cartograph water-slide decals with generic German markings is also present.
A four sided instruction card is provided and displays a parts diagram; two pages with four assembly steps in the form of exploded view CAD images with arrows for parts placement and one page showing painting and markings. The painting and marking pictures are for two tanks, one in overall sand and the second in a three colour camouflage. The colour references provided are for the GSI Creos Corp Aqueous Hobby Color, the same company’s Mr. Color and Model Master enamels.
Sprue contents and breakdown are as follows.
A - 10 -VK.52.02(P)H specific parts.
B1 - 42 -Mostly turret and turret specific pieces.
B2 - 6 -Suspension bogies.
E - 32 -Running gear wheels and sprockets
Z - 2 -DS tracks
The total kit parts content is 79 with 9 marked as unused.
With this kit we see Dragon continuing with what appears to be its new direction in subject and more importantly, kit design. As of late we have seen them producing several vehicles that had very limited production runs and now vehicles that are often referred to as “Paper Panzers” that, with the exception of some prototype subassemblies, never made it to full production.
Upon opening the box the first thing that was noticeable was that the ‘A’ sprue barely fit (the two hull halves had been twisted at their sprue connection points) and the ‘B’ sprue was placed in such a way as to slightly bow out the box’s sides. In general, the moulding overall is fair to good but not up to the standard of some previous “Armor Pro” offerings that I’ve reviewed. It becomes evident that Dragon has reused parts from two of their previous releases as part of this one. All the suspension components are from the earlier Elefant kit (#7201) and the turret sprue is from the their King Tiger with Porsche turret (#7231).
Sprue connection points (gates) are all over the place as far as size and location is concerned. Many are downright huge and will require careful clean-up. Ejector pin marks are mostly on surfaces that will not be visible after construction. Flash is not absent on the kit parts and especially on the hull rear plate. All six suspension arms have one or more sink holes but will most likely not be visible once the wheels are in place.
The ‘A’ sprue represents the only truly “new” parts of this kit and comprises the upper and lower hull pieces as well as the hull rear plate, two final drive housings and some smaller hull detail pieces. Unlike the majority of previous Dragon kits, the hull halves are not separately bagged but attached to the sprue. Their sprue gates were amongst the largest this reviewer has seen to date. Removing these parts will become quite a chore due to the positioning and thickness of these attachment points (and to not damage the parts proper).
Another feature that many will find disappointing is that all tools and the tow cables (excluding a shovel), are moulded onto the upper hull. Similarly, the two headlights at the front are also integrated with the hull moulding and poorly formed because of this. While there are nicely formed overlapping armour joints to the upper hull, there are no corresponding ones for the lower hull.
The hull rear plate also suffers from having all details integrally moulded on. Both the vehicle jack and its corresponding jack block are moulded on where in the past these were almost always separate parts. Another contradictory feature is that while the rear plate’s towing shackles are moulded on, the front ones are provided as separate finely moulded pieces.
Sprue ‘B2’ contained the six suspension arms while sprue ‘E’ holds the road wheels and sprockets. As mentioned earlier, the suspension arms each had a pair of sink holes that varied in depth from quite prominent to noticeable; along with noticeable areas of flash. The drive wheels and sprockets appear finely moulded but care will need to be exercised in construction as the road wheels require placement in a specific order. This is not represented particularly clearly in the instructions. In fact, the instructions for the suspension arms and road wheels and their placement order will for many border on confusing due to the lack of clarity. It will be up to the builder to study the instructions carefully before going on with construction.
The turret parts are the subject of sprue ‘B1’ and by far it is the most populated sprue. This is the same sprue that will be found in the earlier King Tiger kit #7231. As such you can expect to see some extremely sharp and delicate moulding including the full interior detailing of the main gun from breech to mantlet. All three hatches can be positioned open or closed and they even possess some extremely fine internal detail(s).
Sprue ‘E’ is the final major sprue and contains the road wheels and drive sprockets. These as mentioned earlier are also from the older Elefant kit and show superb moulding and detailing although being an older mould some pieces were showing signs of age in having more light flash than most newer kits.
The final pieces of the kit are the DS tracks and a small sheet of Cartograph decals containing two different sizes of Balkenkreuz as the only markings. The tracks have extremely fine detail, although oddly, there was one guide horn missing from each run.
During Steps #1 and #2 the builder’s efforts will be concentrated on assembling the suspension. The most logical step for this reviewer was to first attach the suspension arms to the new lower hull. These arms occupy their own sprue that this reviewer has referred to as B2. It should be noted that there are two ‘B’ sprues but the instructions fail to distinguish between them. Further, the suspension arm sprue distinguishes three being B1 and the other three as parts B2. After some study of the images in the instructions and the parts it seems that two of the B1 parts are meant for the right side and two of the B2 parts are meant for the left. In both cases these pairs will mount on the first two lugs from the front on the lower hull. The last or rearmost lug is meant to mount one of the two remaining suspension arms but in an opposite position. By this I mean that the last suspension position on the right will mount a B2 arm while the left mounts a B1.
After deciphering the above (and that is in no way clearly referenced in the instructions) I ran into a MAJOR dilemma. It was quickly evident that at least on my sample the mounting lugs on the lower hull and the corresponding holes in the suspension arms were incompatibly sized. The lugs are .0748 inches (1.9mm) in diameter while the holes in the arms were .0708 (1.8 mm). This may not sound like a monumental amount but it is significant. This reviewer tried sanding down the lugs and scraping out the holes, all to no avail. After a bit of research I determined that the best solution would be to bore out the holes with a suitably sized drill. After studying a drill chart I determined that a #48 drill bit (.076 inch/1.9304 mm) was the best option. After drilling out the holes I found that I also had to extend the alignment slot in the arms to allow the arm to mount properly.
The front and rear sprockets are two piece affairs and specific to front and back. An alignment tab between the two pieces of each aids to get the teeth of each in proper position. The only issue with mounting the sprockets is that the clearance between the front sprocket and the fender is very limited. In a test fit I found that the track must be mounted around the front sprocket before it is positioned on is mounting lug.
Steps #3 and #4 involve the building of the turret. Except for normal clean-up the turret should assemble quite well. It should be noted that the kit provides spare tracks and the mounting of them is listed as optional. These tracks are wider than the suspension tracks and also present different detailing. If they are not used then the instructions indicate that the mounting lugs on the turret should be removed. A somewhat negative point about the turret is the commanders hatch machine gun mounting ring is moulded onto the cupola. While the turret has lugs protruding from its lower ring and there are slots in the upper body ring to prevent the turret from falling off, they will not mate as the hull top thickness prevents proper mating. An addendum to the instructions has the builder cut of the lugs off as a solution. As this reviewer desired the turret to be moveable, the lugs were filed down so that they would mate with the upper hull.
The last step is attaching the bow machine gun to the hull, joining the hull pieces, placing on the tracks and the hull rear plate. General parts fit was good but we see a further inconsistency in Dragon’s standards. While four towing shackles are provided in the kit only two are used at the front of the vehicle. The two that would appear on the hull rear plate are present as a moulded on detail. At least with the extra pieces (that are marked as unused in the instructions) the builder will have the option of scraping off the moulded on ones and replacing them with the individual versions.
It should be noted that the kit’s subject is rather intriguing in shape and look and may thereby entice some modellers. For those with an avid interest in these “Paper Panzers” or “Panzer ’46” vehicles this one might be “a must have.” However, the kit is a proverbial “mixed bag” as far as consistency of design is concerned. It is neither a quick build nor up to the usual standards that Dragon has set for itself with previous Armor Pro kits.
For the modelling purist there will be many points that will need addressing. While the turret for the most part is quite good and the suspension adequate (except for the suspension arm attachment issue), the main tank hull is more than a little disappointing. The moulded on details such as tools, exhaust, headlights, hatches, jack and rear towing shackles will definitely turn a number of modellers off of the kit. However, I am sure that a few may find it a worthy challenge to spent all the time necessary to rectify all that is lacking.