by: Russ Amott [ ]
The majority of scale modeling is based on real life subjects with endless discussion on the accuracy and detail of the selected aircraft, ship or vehicle. Recently, due in no small part to the success of World of Tanks, an online interactive video game, several prototype tanks that never saw production or use have gained attention, and model makers are following the interest shown by gamers in producing plastic models of these unusual or unknown tanks. One of these is the subject of this review, the VK3002(DB).
In 1939 the German military issued an order for the development of a 30 ton tank. Not much was done with that order until the German army encountered the T-34 and KV series in 1941 with the invasion of the Soviet Union. The need for a heavier tank, better armored and armed, suddenly became urgently apparent. MAN and Daimler-Benz both had designs that would be acceptable to work with. Rheinmetal-Borsig was ordered to manufacture the turret, armed with a 7.5cm L/70 gun.
Daimler-Benz offered an initial prototype with a leaf spring suspension while MAN offered one with a torsion bar suspension. The advantage of the DB system was that it allowed for a lower hull profile and was easier to maintain. The torsion bar suspension allowed for better distribution of weight, and a wider hull. Additionally, the DB design had a diesel engine, which offered better starting torque and an overall better power to weight ratio, plus it was not flammable like gasoline powered engines. The DB design offered sloped armor 60mm thick and mounted the turret well forward on the hull. The engine and transmission were both located in the rear hull, allowing for increased space in the front of the hull.
When the two proposals were initially reviewed, Hitler and Speer both favored the DB design. Both companies went back to finalize work on their proposals, with DB offering a second hull with torsion bar suspension. MAN had the opportunity to look over the DB design and learn much about it. When the final review came, Hitler initially favored the DB design again, ordering that 200 tanks be built. However, he would later change his mind, making the final decision after overnight consideration, and selecting the MAN design. Despite claims of political influence, it appears that it came down to two simple factors, first that MAN had implemented the design improvements to their tank that they had learned from looking over the DB tank, and secondly, the DB hull was approx. 100mm narrower than the MAN design, and would require a new turret to be designed. As such, the MAN design became the Panther tank, and the DB design went away.
Amusing Hobby offer a scale model of the VK3002DB with the torsion bar suspension. Here is a look at the kit and how it goes together.
The large, top opening box features artwork of the subject tank rolling through a small village somewhere on the eastern front, burning T-34 tanks in the background. The tank presented on the box top is in overall dark gray.
Inside the box the sprues are carefully arranged, each packaged in a separate pouch, with an additional cardboard divider inside to protect the box contents. The sprues are in gray, with tools and tracks in brown styrene. The parts appear well molded and detail is, for the most part, clear and crisp. The plastic is smooth, so those wanting the rougher surface appearance of heat treated armor plate will need to add this on their own. Weld lines are very well detailed and look good. It is apparent that additional kits are planned, either of a late version of this tank, or a panther tank, as there are a number of parts marked not for use.
The instructions are in booklet form, with line drawings showing assembly steps. The instructions are clear and well laid out, with small drop boxes showing small details and color callout given throughout the build process. Those steps needing specific attention are called out in blue or red. Total assembly is called out in 16 steps.
The painting guide and decal markings are all hypothetical. The examples given in the instructions all show a base coat of dark yellow paint. Decals provided are generic, with divisional insignia for the following units:
5. SS Panzer-division, 1943-Summer 1944
2. Panzer-division 1943045
1 .SS Panzer-division 1943-45
24. Panzer-division 1943-45
5. SS Panzer-division fall 1944-45
The instructions show placement locations for the divisional insignia on the front and rear of the tank.
Markings on the decal sheet include generic numbers in red with white outline from 0-6, black with white outline number 423, yellow 211 and white with black outline 532. There are two types of balkencruz and kill marks to be applied to the main gun. The decals are cleanly printed and clear, and appear to be on thin carrier film.
Having looked over the contents I jumped right into the build. With life interruptions, I was frequently limited to only 15-30 minute spurts, but was able to get things completed with only minimal errors on my part.
Assembly starts with the turret. Parts throughout the build must be test fitted prior to gluing as some of the seam lines run along the edges of the parts. I opted to leave all hatches closed on this tank as there is no interior detail at all. I promptly lost the ball and inner ring of the machine gun mount and so went with replacement Dragon parts I had as spares. Everything fit well, although the main gun does not have room to elevate in spite of the glue free assembly-the mantlet interferes with movement. My only deviation from the instructions was to use the turret basket and corresponding rear plate as all other German tanks of this period had turret baskets and I figured it would have helped with battlefield identification. I used the styrene mounts for the smoke grenade launchers as I was building this on the go and did not have CA glue with me at that point in the build. This covers the first 4 steps in the instructions.
Next is the lower hull assembly, with torsion bars and details. The lower rear plate does not have any placement reference and so I would recommend leaving it off until later in the build, or you may have to reposition this part. Also, be careful when removing the suspension arms from the sprue as the locator pin on the arms needs to be left on if you want a fixed suspension. If not, remove it for a working suspension. The instructions call for placing the road wheels at this point, but for painting it is easier to leave them off. I did test fit them, and the axles are much smaller than the hole in the road wheels, so unless they are secured they will promptly fall off. This covers steps 5-8.
Step 9 starts the upper hull assembly. The fluid filler ports on the rear deck are multi-part assemblies so they can be left open if you desire. The hatches appear to be workable, but again, I left them closed. Step 10 joins the upper and lower hull, but if you desire, as I did, you can add all the components to the upper hull at this point. The only danger is that if pressure is needed to get the hull sections to fit you may knock something off. Tools, air intakes, upper glacis plate and various handles and fittings are applied. Here is also the only error I found in the instructions. Parts C6, the mount for the tow cable ends, and C21, the stop for the side hull hatches, are mixed in the drop detail box. A nice detail is the bracket for the cleaning rods which have the wing nuts molded delicately in place.
It isn't until step 13 that the upper rear hull plate is added. I would recommend adding the lower plate at this point as the two must match up carefully to fit. The separate photo etched bracket for the jack block was a nice touch on the kit, installed here.
Steps 14 and 15 finish adding the lower hull details and etch screens. Once this is complete the turret is placed and the antenna added and assembly is complete.
The tracks are the best feature of this kit. Removed from the small sprue and cleaned up, they are then placed on the provided template, with teeth going in the guide horn holes. They line up perfectly. Place the sprue section with the bolt heads into the holes, carefully separate and you have a small section of joined tracks. I doesn't take long to assemble the run of 87 links. Just make sure to watch that you place the pins on the correct side and not mix them up.
There was one issue with the kit here. 16 of the links I had did not have one of the holes for the guide horn opened up. This was not an issue of flash. It was just not opened up. I had to carefully drill a hole and then trim out the rest of the opening with a #11 blade. The tracks are fragile and will break easily. Two more tracks had a plastic stub at the pin hole where the track shoes join together. 18 tracks with mold issues is almost 10% of the total tracks. I don't know if this was just my sample or commonplace with production. It is something to watch for.
Having assembled the kit, I went with a dark yellow base and a random overspray of red brown, using Tamiya paints. There is still work to do, finishing the tracks, weathering and adding the tow shackles, but as assembled, you can see how it looks. I placed it next to a Tiger I kit (Zvezda early) for size comparison.
I think this is a generally well designed and engineered kit. The instructions were excellent and there were no hassles or issues in assembly other than the minor ones mentioned above. The modeler has fairly wide liberty in choosing markings and camouflage schemes. I wish all kits had tracks like these.
If you are a fan of WOT, like different subjects or enjoy the "what if" aspects of modeling this is the kit for you. This kit is available widely through online retailers and may be found at the local hobby store, with prices running generally around $45.00 US.
References used in gathering information for this build came primarily from threads in online discussion groups in axis history, achtung-panzer, alternate history and Wikipedia references, with references varying widely. Such is the nature of a tank with two prototypes built, none surviving.