by: Talal Mashtoub [ ]
The SU-76i is Russian a self-propelled gun based on a modified German Panzer/StuG iii chassis, the i stands for ďInostrannayaĒ meaning foreigner in Russian. The vehicle was developed as a stop-gap measure in early 1943 when production of the original SU-76 was halted for having power plant issues. At that point in time the Russians had several hundred captured German Panzer/StuG iiiís, mainly from the battle of Stalingrad, that they figured they could put to use. The SU-76i used the reliable German Panzer/StuG chassis and mounted the Russian made 76.2mm S1 gun on a welded superstructure. Roughly 200 SU-76i were made, 20 of them being command variants that mounted a Panzer iii cupola on top of the superstructure. The vehicle was well liked by its crews for it performance but mainly because of its enclosed hull which is better suited for the harsh Russian winters than the open top design of the original SU-76. Production on the SU-76i was halted in November 1943 once the issues of the original domestic vehicle had been resolved.
Dragonís German Su-76i with cupola (Kit# 6856) is its 2nd release of the Su-76i series. As indicated by the name of the kit and the box art this is a vehicle that was captured by the Germans and put back into service with some German modifications. The first version of the SU-76i (kit# 6838) released by Dragon in 2016 was reviewed here on Armorama by Kevin Brant. The main differences between the two kits are the addition of a commanderís cupola and winterketten tracks to this version.
Inside The Box
The majority of the parts are carried over from the 6838 kit except this newer version now comes with a sprue for the cupola (sprue F), a clear parts sprue (sprue M), and winterketten magic tracks instead of the DS styrene tracks in the earlier kit. The decal sheet has also been changed and now only has German marking options, there is also a new photo etch clamp added (MA #15) to the photo etch fret even though itís not called out on the instruction sheet.
The Paint and Markings guide has 3 options:
ē Unidentified unit 1943/1944. German Gray with white wash only on the upper hull and balkenkreuz makings
ē Unidentified unit 1943/1944. Russian Green with spots of brown, no markings.
ē Pz.Jg.Abt 128, 23.Pz.Div, Russia December 1943. All white with large balkenkreuz makings.
As with most Dragon kits the build starts out with the assembly of the running gear and suspension components. The parts used in steps 1 through 6 are the same ones found in Dragonís Panzer iii Ausf J kit and fit together perfectly. My only gripe about this part of the build is the fact that there are now 3 pieces of photo etch used on each side of the idler wheel when it previously used to be 1 piece. Before moving on to the other steps of the build I opted to assemble the tracks here which are on the last step in the instruction sheet (step 20). I found it easier to do it at this point in the build with fewer parts in the way. The magic tracks are colored coded in different shades of gray for the left and right which helps a lot in differentiating between the two. The instructions call for 98 links/side but I found that 95 links/side provides a sufficient amount of track sag. The kit comes with 108 links for each side so you will have some extras you can use later.
Here is where you begin to assemble the side fenders, the parts used here are also carry overs from the panzer iii kit and require you to fill in holes used for tool mounts. This part was a bit tedious especially since it was difficult to sand down the putty without removing some of the molded texturing on the fenders. It would have been nice to have dragon mold new fenders here but we donít always get what we want. You can omit filling some holes by looking ahead at step #20 and seeing where the storage boxes are mounted as they will cover some of the holes the instructions ask you to fill.
The assembly of the engine deck covers is pretty straight forward; I didnít have any issues putting the covers together. The CAD drawings on the back of the box show you the option to leave them open but since the kit doesnít have any interior detail I opted to leave them closed.
Here is where your modeling skills will get tested as you will have to make cuts on parts A61 and A62 to fit the gun assembly. The build instructions provide dimensions in millimeters for the cuts you have to make which I found to be pretty spot on. I used a calliper to mark my cutting lines and I purposely made the cuts 1mm shorter on each side to compensate for the sanding I did. Part# B25 will be a huge asset on this step as you can use it as jig before you make your cuts to see if your cutting lines on A61 and A62 are aligned. Another tip here is to omit filling in the holes on part A62 on step 11, this holes will not be visible when the superstructure goes on.
In step 13 you assemble the glacis plate and sides of the upper hull, again no fit issues here. Step 14 is where you put together all the subassemblies of the upper hull. I made a mistake by not dry fitting the subassemblies and quickly realized that the front glacis plate has to go on before the fenders do, so be aware of that. There is a part of the instructions that threw me off at step 14 where it shows you how to mount the fenders to the rear part of the hull, the instructions call out different fender mud flaps than the ones used in the earlier steps 7 and 8.
In this step you are asked to make another cut but this time to the superstructure, this will be where the cupola gets mounted. This cut was a little bit trickier to make as it contours to the shape of the superstructure however, the section that needs to be cut out is already imprinted on the inside of the superstructure piece. Part # E1 can be used as a guide while making the cut, it will help you make sure you arenít making too big of a cut.
This is where you mount the hatches and the gun ports of the super structure, you have the option to leave the hatches open here but aside from the gun breach there isnít much interior detail to show off.
This is where the cupola gets sub assembled and here you have the option to leave the vision ports open or closed as well as the hatch. You are provided with clear parts for both configurations, I built mine with the vision ports open and cupola hatch shut. As a side note I did notice the cupola to be a bit small, I had a hard time fitting figures inside it once I had it assembled without the hatches. I suppose you could omit the clear parts if you really wanted to add figure to your model but thatís just a suggestion.
Steps 18 and 19
Step 18 is where you mount the superstructure to the rest of the hull, the parts lined up perfectly and I didnít have any gaps. Step 19 has you mounting the cupola and the gun the mantlet to the rest of the superstructure. A tip here is to not install the mantlet yet as it will be in the way of the PE trim pieces that go on in step 20.
This is the final step of the build, here you assemble the spare fuel tanks, spare road wheels, gun shield and a few other exterior details including PE trim to cover the seam between the superstructure and the upper hull. The PE trim pieces can be challenging to bend if you donít have good PE bending tools, the pieces are very narrow so there isnít much to hold on to in order to bend them. I bent them at roughly 120 degrees angles and pressed them into place to conform them to the surface before gluing them on. After that I installed the mantlet which was by far the worst fitting piece of the kit, the bottom of the mantlet had a huge gap which required quite a bit of filling. The last part of the build is installing the gun, which unfortunately is a 2 piece barrel. This was also another let down but relatively easy to fix if you decide to replace it with an aftermarket barrel. One last final touch I did that isnít called out in the instructions was adding some of the spare winterketten tracks to the front of the vehicle.
Overall this kit built into a quality model with the exception of the 2 piece gun barrel and the fit of the mantlet. It would have been nice if Dragon had molded new parts specific to this variant such as the fenders and the superstructure. The modifications required to build this model arenít anything an experienced modeler canít handle but they can definitely scare away beginners. I do think the addition of the magic tracks and cupola make this variant a better option than Dragonís previous SU-76i kit. As I mentioned earlier the only aftermarket modification I recommend for this model is a one piece barrel. I really enjoyed building this model, it is a rare and interesting subject to add to any model collection.