Let me begin this review as I did a previous one by stating that if you like 1/72 scale armor, you are going to love this kit, as Dragon has once again set the standard for others to follow. Included in this kit is not only a welded hull 251 Ausf.C half-track, but also a very well molded 3.7cm PaK 35/36 gun. The level of detail in the kit is right on par with their 1/35 scale kits, but will take up much less space on a shelf.
The German Sd.Kfz. 251/1 Ausf.C was a personnel carrier developed in the mid-1930’s to support the quick delivery of troops and their equipment into battle. Early vehicles sported a riveted hull, which, were later welded to ease construction, as depicted in this kit. Powered by a Maybach 4 liter, six-cylinder engine, the 17,000-pound vehicle could move at speeds of up to 32.5 mph for as far as 186 miles. This particular variant carried two MG-34 machine guns mounted forward and aft for offensive and defensive armament.
Typical for the latest releases from Dragon, there is a painting on the top cover and pen and ink drawings of the side of four vehicles, each of whose markings is included in this release, and CAD drawings on the sides of the box. There are five sprues of plastic parts, the lower hull, and a Dragon Styrene piece holding the two tracks. On a cardboard “extras” insert in separate plastic envelopes there are decals, a small PE fret, and a small length of metal rod for the antenna. All totaled, there are over 150 individual parts in this kit, making the price per part relatively inexpensive, if you look at kits that way. I found very few flaws on any of the moldings in my sample, just a small molding line on a few of the individual parts. There is also a direction sheet and suggested paint numbers for Gunze and Testors paints.
I have only built a couple of Sd.Kfz. 251 kits in the past, both were 1/35 scale, and these at best contained half the parts used for this model. When I first looked at the parts of the kit and noted the inclusion of the bars on the upper hull used to install a tarp over the riders’ area, I knew this was quite a release. The 3.7-centimeter gun is even molded using Dragon’s slide mold technology, providing a nicely opened barrel.
The overall level of detail with the parts included in this kit is outstanding, as the towed gun consists of twenty-one parts alone. You are also provided with a photoetched gun shield for the forward machine gun, that looks very nice when assembled, and better in this scale than the optional plastic piece. There are options to build the engine compartment covers (even though there is no engine to show inside), vehicle doors, and vision ports in either the open or the closed position.
Overall, construction was straightforward with my only issues involving the assembly of the towed gun, particularly when attaching the lower shield (part G6) and the hydraulics (parts G11 and 12). The engineers at Dragon came up with an ingenious wheel design, which makes the half-track area a snap to assemble. There is no mention of installing the tracks in the directions, but I would recommend doing this during step four (prior to installing the side fenders). As far as what worked for me with the gun assembly, I found that the gun has to be installed on its mount prior to adding the main gun shield. I also found that the hydraulic cylinders (parts G11 and 12) are easily installed after the main shield is in place, and prior to adding the adjustment hand wheels.
Aside from the overall level of detail, my “hits” for this kit would be the ease of construction. The use of the Dragon Styrene for the tracks is another plus, as they can be joined using Tenax-7R (my adhesive of choice), and they can be tacked down to the tops of the half-track wheels to create a realistic sag. The included multi-part photo etch gun shield and wire antenna were nice extras as well.
As far as what I would consider “misses” on this kit, there are no painting directions mentioned until step five when the tools are being added to the fenders. This was part of my selection of an Eastern front 1942 Grossdeutschland vehicle, as I knew that the interior would be the standard panzer gray. For the three vehicles with camouflage patterns, there is only a single side, front, and rear painting references, leaving the builder to research or guess on the other side and top patterns. I would have also appreciated pre-made decals for the vehicle identification numbers, as I was only able to squeeze six numerals onto the allowed spaces.
I do need to mention dealing with the Dragon support team that I had with this review before I finish. I am unsure whether I mishandled the sprue, or if the parts broke off on their own, but while looking over the “B” parts sprue, I found that pieces 24 and 25 were missing (and yes, I did check the parts bag that enveloped the sprue). After my initial contact with Dragon, and then answering a couple of e-mail questions (this was mostly because this was a review kit rather than one purchased in a store), I had my replacements in about three days. Fortunately, in all of my years of modeling, I have had few opportunities to test the customer service of the various manufacturers, but this was a very positive experience, and I would not hesitate to contact them in the future, if necessary.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this kit to those who enjoy building 1/72 scale armor. The level of detail in this kit was like nothing that I have previously experienced in this scale, or with the 251 half-track in 1/35 scale. Dragon will certainly be adding other variants of this vehicle to their fleet, and the advantage is that you can display close to three of these in the space taken by a single 1/35 release.
I want to express my thanks to the folks at Dragon Models USA for providing this kit for the IPMS-USA to review; to John Noack for running the review corps that allowed me to do this evaluation, and to you for taking the time to read it.