Dragon Models has released the Marder II in 1/35 scale, another in an impressive line of German Marder (“Martin”) Tank Destroyer kits. Based on the venerable Pz.Kpfw. II chassis, this version of the Marder was phased out in 1943 for the Wespe self-propelled gun. The Marder name lived on, however, being coupled with the excellent Czech 38t chassis in the Marder III, which came in several different forms.
The kit is cobbled together using sprues from several previous products – the chassis of the Pz.Kpfw. II, the sprues from the Pak 40 kit (sans the wheeled carriage), and a single new sprue of twelve parts needed to morph the Panzer II into a Marder. It’s essentially the same design as the Tamiya kit produced in the early eighties, although Dragon has improved on the detail quite a bit. The sides of the fighting compartment are extremely thin and delicate, and the superstructure is replete with hatches and lids that can be modeled open or closed, allowing for somewhat simpler super-detailing. The three, large ammunition lockers along the rear of the main deck can be modeled open or closed, and the main gun can be swiveled to one side to expose a myriad of detail that would otherwise be covered up, with plenty of optional photo-etch to go around.
Opening the box
As is usual with Dragon kits, there are a lot of parts in the box, but this time around more than half of the unused blue parts are very nice personal weapons and handy pioneer tools – “the good stuff” – you gotta love Dragon.
The individual-link MagicTrack provided is right for this kit, and is sided by using two different shades of grey to distinguish each side. As always, the track links fit together well enough to make the task of assembling the runs relatively easy. More on that later.
As it’s somewhat of an older kit, there is not as much slide-molding used as on more recent kits, but what is there is superb. The front gun shields and delicate fighting compartment sides are well-protected via separate packaging and extended boxed sprue. The sides were a little warped in my example, but they are so thin that they behaved once attached with glue.
The contents of the box include:
- Main lower hull, packaged separately.
- 21 main sprues in soft, light grey plastic, packaged separately.
- 2 bags of sided MagicTrack track links
- 3 small photo etch sheets, including an engine exhaust grille and small front gun shield.
- 1 8-page blue and white instruction sheet with 21 steps.
The kit comes with four schemes represented, using the ubiquitous Dragon blue-and-white three-view drawings, and a small (but perfectly registered) sheet of decals from Cartograf of Italy. These include:
- 3./Pz.Jg.Abt. 561, Russia 1943
- Unidentified unit, Eastern Front 1944
- Unidentified unit, Eastern Front 1943
- 543 Pz.Jg.Abt 543, 3rd Panzer Division, Eastern Front 1942
There are sprues from several different Dragon kits included in the box. That said, I found nothing significant as far as errors or omissions. As with all open-fighting compartment vehicles, assembly sequence varies by modeler, and I found that I had to move steps around in order to get everything done, but I consider that a matter of personal choice, not a flaw in the instructions provided by Dragon. I do not own any older versions of this kit, so I cannot speak to improvements made to the instructions, but what you get in this box is certainly good enough. The only criticism I have is that many times the exact placement of crucial parts is vague at best, illustrated by a simple arrow pointing “somewhere in this general area.” As a direct result, I had some significant fit issues later on, which are detailed below.
Things to consider before starting
As mentioned above, the open-hull design of the Marder leads to a rather complex assembly sequence. The main weapon can be completely assembled and finished apart from the rest of the kit. The entire upper and lower chassis can likewise be built and finished separately – making the attachment of the track a snap.
In steps eight and nine, by far the most frustrating part of the build, you will produce two (left and right) baffled casemate armor arrays that are completely hidden on the final model (if you choose to point the main weapon straight ahead), but you won’t know that until much later in the build. If I’d built another one of these kits, I would have left those sections off.
The three, large ammunition storage boxes sport a lot of interior detail – if you choose to leave the lids open. If not, the detail can be tossed into the spare parts box, including some very nice shell casings and two kinds of main weapon rounds (AT and HE).
Finally, the build-it-all-and-then-paint-it approach will work (it’s what I did), but to do a good job you’ll want to approach this like an airplane model – build a little, paint a little, etc. It pays to plan ahead and proceed slowly.
Poor fit in places
Unfortunately, the fit of upper hull to the lower chassis is poor, or at least it was for me. Many of the parts looked as though they should fit, but didn’t. I attribute most of this to my poor interpretation of some vague areas in the instructions, as mentioned above. Other times, such as with the placement of the baffled armor arrays in step eight, the illustrations led directly to a clearance problem at the bottom. In the end, I clipped, sawed, or removed a lot of the interior detail to make things come together. Fortunately, none of this surgery is readily visible on the finished product – such is the beauty of building armor! But like the Dragon Sexton II (the last open AFV I built), this model won’t be winning any awards.
Lower chassis, wheels, and driver’s compartment
The assembly of the lower chassis went together relatively well. The instructions show an illustration of the wheels being attached above an illustration of some of the other detail (10 Parts H2) that is supposed to be attached behind the wheels. Consequently, this other detail ended up in the spare parts box.
Dragon provides 26 tooth-drive sprockets that fit the MagicTrack (Part E3) as opposed to the earlier one (Part E2). There are PE options for tool tie-downs and towing hitch chains.
The fit of the wheels to their axles and some of the individual parts on the back plate is not very good. The wheels have to be babied while drying so they line up right. Use some muscle to make sure to set the drive sprockets as far in as they will go, or you will have track runs that curve out to meet the sprockets later on.
If you anneal the PE mesh before forming it, it will cover the muffler nicely.
There are two large holes on the back plate that I thought would get used later on, but never did. In fact, the holes appear in the painting diagrams. (??) By the time I discovered this, however, I couldn’t easily fill them with plastic plugs, so I attached two spare parts that looked like rear plate detritus to cover them up and moved on.
The driver’s compartment and transmission go together well and look pretty nice when finished. A lot more detail can be added, of course, but precious little will be visible on the final model unless you open up the hatches and look at it from above with a flashlight.
The crossbar (A4) looks nice, but it is one of the first things I removed to fit the upper and lower hulls together. It was a similar story for the storage box (C49), a vertical pipe (C62), and vertical support structure (C83).
Make sure to leave a way to slip the spare track in behind the support framework on the front hull – once glued, the track won’t slip in right. Speaking of which – the instructions would have you assemble and attach the track at this point – I left it off until the very end of the build.
From here on out, everything left is the upper hull. In the end, you are left with a pretty nice-looking model, but getting there is a challenge. Some assemblies, like the main weapon, the air cleaner, the drive shaft, and the ammunition lockers, go together perfectly. Other parts… not so much. There are three parts (C93, B53, and A30) that are placed using vague arrows with no visible attachment points. All three may/may not interfere with the fit of the upper and lower hulls. I ended up trimming B53 and removing the other two pieces altogether later on.
Up front, there are two tow hooks (C31 and C32) that will interfere with mating the upper and lower hulls. If you leave them off, you will be able to put them on later without a problem.
Likewise, there are two boxes (H19 and H20) that should be added later, after the main side casemates have been attached, simply because there is no definitive place to put them. The instructions are vague here.
There are three four-piece, swiveling periscopes in the kit that are fiddly and break off easily. What’s more, the main component is clear plastic and needs to be painted carefully. I saved the parts for painting and assembly once the rest of the build was done. (Note – I ended up leaving them off completely.)
An MG34 can be stowed via PE clamps inside the starboard casemate, or you can mount it on top (I chose the latter). There is a hole for doing so, but I had to go to my spares box for a stand.
Baffled Armor inside the Main Casemates
This was the most challenging portion of the build – the two baffled armor arrays, one to each side of the main weapon. If you will be pointing the gun straight forward, the interior of these six-part assemblies will not be visible and will serve no structural purpose. You can get by with building the outer shells (which go together well) and discarding the four interior baffles. If you choose to build them up anyway, you will find the fit is poor and, once put together, the assembly doesn’t exactly fit where it looks like it should. What’s more, in order to fit the upper and lower hulls together, I had to use a razor saw to trim about an eighth of an inch off the bottom of the entire starboard assembly. This was due to the diagram at the bottom of step eight showing the armor array in place about an eighth of an inch below the lip of the main side wall. There are no guides to help you place it and you won’t know if it fits until you try to glue the entire right-hand (H21) casemate to the main deck. This is easier to see than to explain (see photo).
The port side armor array and casemate go together better and seem to fit better onto the main deck.
Fortunately, the side armor is whisper-thin and will respond well to a little pressure while gluing. Don’t use too much glue, though – it will melt through the thin plastic.
Rear-Deck Ammunition Lockers
There are three prominent ammunition lockers that cover 90% of the rear-deck if you choose to install them. The lids can be posed open or closed, and if you leave them open Dragon has provided some pretty nifty detail inside, including racks and two types of rounds (HE and AT). Part B28 doesn’t seem to want to fit – I had to shave off some of the interior detail to get it to settle down. The lockers fit next to each other and go right on top of the rear deck. The narrow, right-hand locker, however, does not slide forward enough – it’s blocked by the back end of the right-hand casemate. Checking the instructions against the parts and fit confirms this. I ended up sliding the right-hand locker back a little. It doesn’t match the illustrations but it looks ok.
7.5cm Pak 40/2
Dragon’s German Pak 7.5cm AT gun is a gem and I’m glad they’ve included it in the kit. The entire assembly is a snap to put together and fits like a glove, which is important because all eyes eventually lock on the intricate weapon in open hull vehicles like the Marder. There is a PE shrapnel shield (MA4) that doesn’t seem like it fits anywhere – no worries. After the gun is assembled and in place, you can slide the thin shield down between the spaced armor in front and secure it with a drop of super glue.
You are provided with three options for the gun muzzle, and Dragon has thoughtfully added a nub at the end of the barrel that will insure that whichever option you choose lines up right.
Dragon has included MagicTrack with the Marder, a good choice. The runs are sided so the track comes in two baggies, each side molded in a slightly different color grey to distinguish them. In my copy, about two dozen links had significant flash that I had to remove – highly usual for MagicTrack. As always, however, there are tiny mold release marks, two per link, that could be removed by sanding if one cares to (I don’t). That said, I somehow spent so much time getting the correct run on the correct side that I actually ended up attaching both runs backwards. The runs were dry before I realized my mistake. Oh well – it probably happened once in a while in the field too!
Dragon provides 105 links per side, and instructs you to use 99 per side, leaving the remainder as spares and for the run across the front of the vehicle. I actually used only 87 links per side, so there is plenty of room to create a significant sag in the track – the main benefit of using MagicTrack.
Painting and Finish
Open hull AFV’s are usually a real challenge to paint. After spending so much time painting the British Sexton II and not realizing any significant benefit to doing so in the final product, I decided to return to my old build-first-then-paint approach. I think the results look fine, and finishing the model in this way saved me a lot of time.
I decided to finish my vehicle using the 3./Pz.Jg.Abt. 561, Russia 1943 scheme because I like that particular style of German crosses, and I thought the open mottled camouflage pattern would look good with a hairspray finish.
After completing the main assemblies (see Things to consider before starting, above), painting and finishing followed these steps:
- I started by airbrushing a primer coat of Gunze Mr. Surfacer 1200 since there were several gaps and other flaws that needed to be exposed and fixed.
- I followed this with a pre-shade coat of Tamiya German Grey (XF-63), both inside and out.
- I then sprayed the entire vehicle with a generous coat of hairspray. I use TreSemme #4 Extra Hold, but I really don’t think it matters. (I like the small black can it comes in).
- Next came the first camouflage coat, consisting of a mixture of Tamiya Desert Yellow (XF-59), Deck Tan (XF-55), and Flat White (XF-2), which results in a color that is close to Tamiya Buff, but a little more yellow than brown. I sprayed it carefully, allowing some of the grey to show in the interior and behind the pioneer tools, etc. – just as though someone had field-sprayed a camouflage coat over the factory grey finish.
- Before the paint had dried too much, I took a long-bristle red sable brush, dipped it in tap water, and wet the surfaces that would receive chipped paint. I then used a wet, stiff, short horsehair brush to gently rub off the yellow paint along the edges of the metal surfaces and high-wear areas like hatches and clasps. I also rubbed some paint away from flat areas here and there to give the vehicle an overall worn appearance. I would be applying the kill rings decal on the barrel, so I had to make this SPG look like it had seen some combat.
- Next, I applied the second (mottled) camouflage coat using Tamiya NATO Green, lightened with a little Deck Tan.
- Once the camouflage coats were dry, I hand-painted the areas that would receive decals with Future.
- While the Future was drying, I painted the wooden portions of the pioneer tools Vallejo Acrylics Old Wood (shovels) and New Wood (pick axe), and all the steel parts Vallejo Oily Steel. For the hand painting, I mix a tiny bit of Vallejo Slow Dry and water with each color until it flows smoothly off a 00 Liner Red Sable brush.
- I painted the MG34 and breech block of the Pak 7.5cm gun Tamiya Gun Metal (X-10). The shine would later get covered by a flat coat.
- To give the wooden parts of the tools more depth, I brushed on a little Mig Wash Brown Oil straight from the tube and let that set overnight. Don’t let this paint leach out its oil beforehand, like you would when you are using oils for detailing. The oil helps it stay workable. In the morning, I carefully removed most of the oil paint using a brush dampened with Mona Lisa, leaving the areas near the buckles and metal parts darker than the wooden shafts.
- I applied the decals for my scheme next, using the Red and Blue Micro Sol/Set system without any problems.
- I followed this by adding several applications of a filter made of Paynes Gray to the rubber portions of the wheels and the spare track up front. I heavily thin all of my washes and filters with Mona Lisa White Spirit.
- Once dry, I hand-brushed another coat of Future over the decals to seal them.
- I then gave the vehicle a pin wash using Mig Dark Wash (aka Raw Umber). There is so much to work with here. The Marder has beautiful metal plate floors and fenders that really show off a good wash, not to mention the 7.5cm Pak itself.
- I worked a thin slurry of Mig Russian Earth and Mig Thinner into the track. Once dry, I applied a mix of Mig Old Rust and Mig Black Soot pigments to the track. And once THAT was dry, I used a mini Q-tip to apply Model Master Dark Anodonic Gray Buffing Metalizer to the cleats of the tracks. This smaller, tighter (and cheaper) Q-tip can be found at any drug store. It is less fluffy and works great at getting into tight spots.
- While the oil paints were drying, I brought out the detail by carefully dry-brushing all the protruding bits and metal edges with Amblin Silver Artists Oil.
- I followed this with a road-dusting coat of Vallejo Model Air Light Brown, and then shot the whole vehicle with Vallejo Flat Varnish to kill any remaining shine. I cut each of these 50/50 with Vallejo Airbrush Thinner to improve flow.
- Finally, I applied a light dusting of various Mig pigments – light earth tones for the body and wheels, dark rust and black for the track. Then I attached the MG34 and antenna up on top.
This kit was a challenge to build, but not more so than any other open hull, self-propelled gun. Many parts fit perfectly, others not so much. I had expected a longer than usual build and Dragon didn’t disappoint me in that respect. Still, this is the best Marder II on the market, and most of the kudos for that goes to Dragon’s attention to detail and engineering.
I wish I could recommend this kit to everyone but I can’t, reserving that for average-to-experienced modelers only. The complexity of the design and the fit problems require a bit of actual modeling to occur. I recommend that you go slow, pay attention to the instructions, and consider the suggestions included above.
I would like to thank Dragon Models USA for providing this kit for review, and IPMS USA for giving me the opportunity to build it.