The ‘Bison’ and ‘Grille’ are generally accepted names for Germany’s self-propelled 15cm schwere Infanteriegeschütz 33 (sIG33) vehicles from World War II. One of Germany’s chief weapons manufacturers, Rheinmetall, introduced the schwere Infanteriegeschütz 33 (sIG33) in 1927. With a firing range of 4.7km it was the most powerful support weapon for the German infantry, and in Januray 1940 the first attempts were made to adapt it to a tracked vehicle. The entire gun carriage, complete with wheels, was mounted on the Panzer I Ausf. B Chassis, with tall shields of armour plate added to protect the front and sides. Six companies of these vehicles were deployed on the Western Front, with each company having six self-propelled guns. The sIG33 auf PzKpfw I Ausf. B (“Bison I”) stayed in service until 1943. Thirty-eight examples of this vehicle were built.
Until recently, January 2009 to be precise, modellers wanting to reproduce one of Germany’s first self-propelled support vehicles (to be produced during the war) in 1/35 scale were limited to the plastic injection mould Alan kit, resin conversion kits, or to a combination of these together with a better, more accurate Panzer I Ausf. B hull and suspension by another manufacturer. Enter Dragon Models Limited with kit 6259 “15cm s.IG. 33 (Sf) auf Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B”.
What’s in the box?
The kit, moulded in Dragon Models Ltd’s traditional light grey coloured plastic, comes in a standard slip top cardboard box with many of the sprues sealed together inside plastic bags instead of being packaged individually.
Filling the box to brim, and with over 670 parts, the kit contains the following:18 Sprues of light grey styrene;
1 Light grey styrene hull tub;
2 Light grey styrene box-shaped gun shields;
1 Sprue of ‘Dragon Styrene’;
2 Sprues of clear styrene;
1 Turned aluminium barrel
2 Photo-etched frets of brass detail parts;
1 Bag containing 20 brass rings
1 Bag of ‘Magic Track’ individual links;
1 Cartograf decal sheet; and
1 Instruction sheet.
DML’s Pz.Kpfw. I Ausf.B has been hailed by many modellers as being the definitive 1/35 scale model of the vehicle. Thus it is hardly surprising that DML’s Bison I’s hull sprues are unaltered from that kit. That said, DML have included a revised Pz. I Ausf. B idler wheel which replaces the incorrect version in some of the Panzer I Ausf B kits in which DML depicted it with a solid rubber tyre as with the Panzer I Ausf A idler wheel. Also included are a few generic Panzer I and even Panzer I Ausf A sprues.
In addition to the above, the Bison I’s superstructure sprues bear the legend “sIG33 auf PzKpfw I Ausf. B”, while the sIG33 sprues themselves bear the specific sIG33 legend. This allows for DML to release the gun as a separate product – in fact prior to this review, and subsequent to the release of the Bison I DML released a kit of the sIG33 with crew through their subsidiary Cyber-hobby.
Generally the parts appear highly detailed, and the casting excellent. While there are the virtually unavoidable pin marks these are very shallow, and almost not worth mentioning. Mould seams are almost unnoticeable, and there was no flash that I could find. Hull
As always, DML supplies the lower hull as a tub, which in the case of the Panzer I includes the side fenders with raised diamond tread detail and some very nice detail on the sides and belly. Forward track guards are supplied, and the instructions indicate that they should be fitted. However since most photographs appear to show the Bison I without these I would leave it for the modeller to decide whether to fit this part or not. I suspect this may simply be a case of the hull instruction diagrams having being inherited from previous kits.
A bogie suspension unit with springs (or “longitudinal quarter-elliptic springs”) is supplied for the rear four road wheels. A separate shock absorber unit is provided for the front road wheel. Brass rings are supplied for fitment the walls of ten road wheels. As noted above DML have included a revised Pz. I Ausf. B idler wheel.
The glacis plate, transmission housing, and engine deck are all separate parts. The engine deck has an inner superstructure onto which the various outer panels are assembled. Also cast separately are the engine compartment access doors and fuel cap covers. Sadly much of this will be covered by the sIG33’s own wheeled chassis and gun trail.
DML have included a well-detailed driver’s compartment. The various subassemblies and details which include the transmission, pedals to be mounted against a diamond thread back-plate, detailed fire-wall, are mounted to the floor-pan. This constitutes the interior subassembly which is then fitted to the lower hull.
Other details include the hinged rear track guards, reinforcing bar across the rear hull, photo etch heat sink for the exhaust box, visors which can be positioned open or closed, tow hooks, headlights, as well as pioneer tools. The excellent weld seams, bolt and rivet detail does not go unnoticed, nor go unappreciated. Superstructure/Gun Shield
Of the 38 sIG33 auf PzKpfw I Ausf. B vehicles (including prototype) manufactured by the factory, some had a slightly different shape of the upper part of the side gun casing. Instead of committing themselves to one shape, DML have provided modellers with both types of gun shield. The two box-shaped gun shields are basically identical except for the slight rearward slope of the one. Two sets of hinged rear side shields are supplied as well, which could be fitted open or closed.
The blockade onto which the gun chassis is mounted is a fairly simple affair. The two blocking elements which get attached to the mudflaps consist of only three parts each and look the part. Modellers are given the option of either plastic or PE rods running to the rear point onto which the gun trail is bolted. sIG33
The 15cm heavy infantry gun 33 included in this kit really is an amazing thing to behold. Being one of the most important components of this kit it is perhaps unsurprising that it commands a little more than a third of the instruction sheet.
Supplied with a metal barrel (complete with rifling) the many fine minutiae include the pressed-steel wheels (the type used for horse drawn guns – i.e. without solid rubber tyres) complete with what appears to be multi-part brakes, the cradle with fine rivet detail, a highly detailed gun sight, and impressive gun shield.
Modellers should take note of the blue numbering used as opposed to the black numbering used elsewhere at this point. While this may cause confusion, the reason for this is the duplication of sprue numbers due to sharing of parts between kits. Tracks
DML have chosen to only supply modellers with MagicTracks, DML’s individual link track system. As these always received mixed responses from modellers, those that do not like MagicTracks will be disappointed that no alternative is supplied with this kit.Instructions
Per the instructions, the assembly of this kit consists of 26 steps. This could be further split into five distinct areas: hull (including interior), which is basically the same as most previous Panzer I chassis vehicles; superstructure; sIG33; tracks; and final assembly.
The complexity of instructions is by large a very subjective matter; what may appear overly complex and confusing to one modeller may not be so to another. Personally my initial reaction to the instructions was confusion, but as I read through them with parts at hand they became clearer. The build log which will follow this review shortly will reveal just how well an intermediate level modeller (which is what I would class myself as) can follow this kit’s instruction sheet.Decals/Paint schemes
Modellers are presented with five paint scheme/decal options, namely: S.I.G.Kp. (mot. S) 702, 1.Pz.Div., France 1940
S.I.G.Kp. (mot. S) 704, 5.Pz.Div., Russia 1943
S.I.G.Kp. (mot. S) 704, 5.Pz.Div., Russia 1941-42
S.I.G.Kp. (mot. S) 703,2.Pz.Div., France 1940
S.I.G.Kp. (mot. S) 703, 2.Pz.Div., Balkans 1941
Readers will have noted that I have elected not to discuss the subject of accuracy. Accuracy of kits tends to be a contentious issue, and I am by no means an expert of this subject, the sIG33 auf PzKpfw I Ausf. B. Thus I will leave it to others more knowledgeable than I to discuss this. What I will say is that with my limited research and reference material (noted below) the kit appears to be an excellent depiction of the vehicle – and DML’s PzKpfw I Ausf. B, of which many sprues are included in the kit, is considered by many to be the definitive kit of the Panzer I Ausf. B.
It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to review a DML plastic scale model kit, and having been very critical of DML in the past, this kit has left me thoroughly impressed. The subject is unique; DML have offered two options regarding the superstructure and corrected the previous Pz. I Ausf. B idler wheel; the sIG33 is a thing of beauty; and the casting is excellent with barely a cast seam in sight.
I highly recommend this kit to modellers interested in the Early War period, vehicles based on the Panzer I chassis, self-propelled artillery, or even those simply looking for something different to build.
The following material is suggested reading for more information on the subject: “15 cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf PzKpfw I/II/III”. Tank Power Vol. XXIV. 247. Janusz Ledwoch. Wydawnictwo Militaria. 2006.
“Modelling the German 15cm sIG33 Bison and Grille”. Osprey Modelling 19. Gary Edmundson. Osprey Publishing. 2005.
Bill Plunk’s build feature on Armorama: Bison Bashing