German Destroyer Z-31 Smart Kit
Known officially as the Type 36A class (and by the Allies as the Narvik class), these vessels were Germany’s attempt to improve their individual destroyer’s firepower to compensate for their smaller numbers. To do this, these ships carried 5.9” (150mm) main guns, a caliber usually found on light cruisers. These weapons had no AA capability, as well as having the undesirable effect of weighing the ship down by the bow. Z-31 was designed to carry a twin mount forward, but it wasn’t until late in her life that these were mounted. This model represents the ship in the 1943-44 period with a single mount forward. She was also equipped to carry mines, and many of the class had more success in that role than in any other. By the end of hostilities, several of the class had been lost to surface or air attack, but Z-31 survived to be turned over to France as a war prize.
The Z-31 is everything we’ve come to expect from a Dragon ship kit. The most obvious first impression you get is of the well-crafted detail in even the minutest parts, and there’s no lack of them. The small parts and sub assemblies, such as the light AA weapons, torpedo tubs, ship’s boats and so forth are very nicely detailed and each of these small units is comprised of numerous very small pieces, both plastic and photo etch. Three sets of PE are included, and they cover just about everything except the railings. In some cases, such as with hatches, these are optional pieces with plastic equivalents also provided. One word of warning: as anyone who has built one of these ships knows, you could easily drive yourself mad working with some of these miniscule parts (case in point: the 10 round mines carried on rails aft, which are about 2 mm in diameter, each have four individual PE detonators to attach to them), so keep your magnifier handy. There’s no anchor chain, but the kit does include decals for the Kriegsmarine naval ensign (complete with several internationally approved half swastika images).
The ship can be built with either a full hull or as a waterline model. Bracing is cast into the upper hull for added strength. The bow is even covered with an extra protective plastic cover to prevent damage in shipping – a nice forethought. The casting throughout is crisp and clean, with no flash. One surprise I found was that each of the stacks, though hollow, was cast as a single piece. This is the first time I’ve seen this, and it will certainly save some assembly and clean up time. The only nit that I can find to pick is with the gun shields, where the riveting seems just a bit oversized. Finally, six new figures are included, beautifully designed and cast as always. If only there were about five or six times that many.
Past experience with Dragon kits tells me to be wary of the instructions. Without actually going through the complete build, there’s no way to know if there are any missing parts or confusing construction sequences. However, reading through some other build reviews leads me to believe that Dragon has taken pains to improve the instructions for their recent releases. As I’ve noted before with their instructions, the individual sequences are clear and precise. I just hope they didn’t leave out anything this time.
If the modeler is willing to take the time and patience to work with the abundance of very small parts and intricate construction, the rewards will undoubtedly justify the investment. These kits build up into truly eye catching miniatures of the real thing, and the Z-31 is no exception.
Thanks to Dragon for providing IPMS with the kit for review.