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In-Box Review
135
Pz.Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. S
Pz.Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. S mit Fuel Drum Trailer
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by: Bob Woodman [ PANZERBOB01 ]

Introduction

The Pz.Kpfw. 38(t) – an important player on the German team in WWII – is well-represented in 1/35th scale, and times are good indeed for “38” fans, given the quality of kits now available. But times are better yet; as the industry giant himself, Mr. Dragon, has just stepped up with a state-of-the-art offering of a variant not kitted before, the “Ausf. S”. To add to the fun, he tossed in a cool little extra – a “lagniappe” (lann – yap), as we say down in Cajun Louisiana – a kit of the single-drum fuel trailer sometimes seen in photos of 38(t) “on the road”. Hey! What's not to like about all this? So, let's take a look and see whether there's anything to actually get excited about...

Apparently the D still doesn't like history. I don't know why, and it seems a missed opportunity, to me, but there it is. But we do, right? And history is really needed for this kit. So I'm going to start with a little.

Pz.Kpfw. 38(t) History, 101... (I'll speak on that trailer later)
The PanzerKampfWagen (Pz.Kpfw.) 38(t) originated as the “TNHP-S” light tank developed for export sales by CKD (Ceskomoravaska-Kolben-Danck) during the gathering darkness of 1938. A robust, relatively fast, rather conventional – looking tank at a modest price, the TNH offered customers a “good deal” for their tank money. Some of its technical features included an effective multi-fuel engine (it could use a range of petrol-ethanol mixes – how modern and “green” is that!), radios as standard equipment, a relatively heavy armament, and adequate armor for the times. Early on, the design also demonstrated handy cross-country performance, owing to that distinctive large-wheeled suspension, which appears at first glance like the “Christie” type seen on the Russian T-34 series, but in actuality is a much simpler elliptical spring-based design. Later, as the war progressed, the type became renowned for its reliability in combat, and when it did break, the ease with which it could be repaired.

CKD started production just in time for the German occupation in 1939, and the Germans soon adopted it for Wehrmacht service. Notably, the Germans adopted the TNH / 38(t) “lock, stock, and barrel” as originally designed and built by the Czechs: driver on the right (like those Brits), Czech guns, Czech optics, Czech engine, etc., etc., etc. The 38(t) remained an “all-Czech” tank throughout its production – just with a new German label!

Over 1400 “38(t)” were built in 7 Ausfuhrungen, or “models”, for (mostly) German use between 1939 and mid-1942, when production ceased. A major early member of Panzer Divisionen, it served in the front-line in all European actions up to 1943, when it was retired due to being increasingly obsolete and vulnerable to ever-larger Russian tank-guns. The 38 soldiered on in rear-area security, anti-partisan, and training duties, and served in armies of various German “client” states to the end of the war, and over 135 still remained in the German inventory in 1945. The “38(t)” chassis marched on throughout the war in the form of many well-known (and well-kitted) German tank-destroyers and self-propelled guns. 38(t) and derivatives continued service after the war in foreign armies, including Switzerland and Sweden.

So, what is a “Pz.Kpfw. 38(t), Ausf. S”?
The seven “German” 38(t) Ausf. ; A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, comprised a production series encompassing detail changes, armor up-grades, and assembly simplification steps aimed at increasing crew survival and reducing production time and costs. The “Ausf. S”, which came out between the D and E, in 1941, was, on the other hand, an opportunistic “accident of war” which resulted from CKD's marketing their new tank to foreign armies before WWII. Sweden ordered 90 TNH in 1939, but production got delayed, and when work on the Swedish order finally commenced, in early 1941, the Germans immediately took over the new tanks and incorporated them as the Ausf. S (S for Sweden, of course!). (Sweden went ahead and produced this version under license for their own use.)

In most ways -configuration, engine (6-cyl Praga EPA versions), drive-gear, and armament (3.7cm A7 L/47.8 main gun, 2 7.92mm MG37(t)) – all 38(t) were substantially the same, and it is fair to say that the “38” started as a Czech tank and remained Czech throughout its production – with a new German name! The easily-seen differences among Ausf. included varied drive-sprockets, lamp positions, radio antenna bases, and muffler positions, and addition of spare-track storage on later Ausf. The most “dramatic” visible change occurred when the stepped driver's front plate used for Ausf. A – D was changed to a simpler flat style starting with Ausf. E.

The S was a sort of mixed-bag intermediate version, and combined the thinner hull and turret armor, and some small details, of earlier Ausf. A – D, with that flat driver's plate of the later E/F/G tanks. The S was thus visually most similar to Ausf. E and F, and is often confused with same in book and web-site picture-labels. (BTW, a good, practical reason for Dragon to offer this version, rather than a major hull re-tool for the those “stepped” A-D versions...)

The S retained the small old-style vision slit for the radio operator (left of the MG on the front plate, and a key “S” recognition feature), the conical-shrouded rear-view mirror and Notek lamp mounted on the left front mud-guard, and the vertical exhaust outlet pipe – all as seen on A – C tanks -, and S did not sport those E/F/G – style spare tracks-racks up front on the hull bow-plate and the transmission/brake cover-plate. What's really cool is that this kit provides these distinct, if somewhat subtle, details – including that thinner turret armor!

For the historically-minded, most (perhaps 74) Ausf. S were apparently turned over to the Slovak Free-State Army. The remaining 16 MAY have seen German service.... or not! The kit provides decals for one possibly assigned to 3rd Panzer Division (“#9”), given the insignia.

The Review

This is an In-Box review, as I have not assembled this one. My focus is on things such as “are the pieces correct for the version? And “what are the issues, if any, with … in this part/step?”. The included pictures address things identified in my comments, and will, I hope, add to your assessment of this kit.

What's in the Box?
The first look into a new kit is always a thrill to me. The kit comes in the standard Dragon lid-and-tray box. The artwork (nice!) shows an “S” in German “Dunkelgrau” livery motoring along a dirt road past fields with a burning Russian armored car (does that A-C signal a future Dragon kit???). One quickly notes the little “fuel drum trailer” shown following behind. There's gold in this here box: you get TWO kits – a tank, and a trailer!

Lift the lid to see a comfortably full – not jammed – box of modeling goodness. For those thinking all Dragon kits must be squeezed back into the box under pressure once opened, or else one is somehow being cheated, please rest easy! There are LOTS of parts – 405 gray styrene, 9 clear, 138 PE, 216 pre-clipped MagicTrack links, a hull tub and a turret-shell, and lengths of steel wire and black cord - some 850 bits in all. Smaller sprues, track baggie, PE, wire, and decals are attached to the “Dragon Card”. Of course you get a set of instructions and a small sheet of Dragon's typical Cartograf decals, to finish things out.

The Sprues:
This kits follows on Dragon's previous Ausf. G and E/F (kits 6290 and 6434), and shares most of its sprues with the E/F kit – in fact, you get all of that kit, save for its fender boxes, gas-cans, and turret-shell. . We should not be surprised, and this is appropriate, both in kits and in history, as the real E/F and S were extremely similar tanks. In exchange, you get specific parts to represent the S features, which I'll comment further on below. In addition, you get a sprue from Dragon's Tauchpanzer IV Ausf. E (kit 6402) – which provides parts for the fuel drum trailer. All in all; you get 16 Dragon gray styrene sprues, 2 PE frets, 1 clear styrene sprue, a bag of Magic Track links, and 1 piece each of wire and cord.

Bear in mind that the 38(t) was hardly larger than a Pz.Kpfw. 1B or II - so this kit builds to a smallish (positively tiny next to your Tiger) plastic panzer, and a dinky trailer. So lots of those parts are TINY. You WILL get to use much of what's in the box, with some interesting left-overs for the spares-locker.

A solid “plus feature” is the same substantially complete basic interior as provided in Dragon's 38(t) E/F and G kits. These parts fill-out the hull, turret, and engine compartment. Leave any hatch open, and you'll have stuff to see (and paint...)!

Quality, packaging and molding?
It's a recent Dragon SmartKit. Slide-molding, pre-drilled styrene gun-barrels, super crisp molding and detail with a minimum of flash and few knock-out pin scars. Sprues come packed 1 – 4 per sealed bag. For those familiar with recent Dragon kits, this is all “more of the same”. It's not perfect (no kit is, right?), but you'll get very few rude surprises here. Couple of funny ones, yes – but nothing wretched!

The Instructions & Decals:
You get a fan-fold sheet with 5 panels (pages) printed on each side with black-on-white line-art showing parts, positions, and call-outs. There is the usual Dragon “parts-map” and color-guide, followed by 25 construction steps, plus painting guide, for the tank, and 2 additional steps for the trailer.

The small decal sheet is the typical Cartograf (Italy) product, with clean registration, thin film, and crisp appearance. Items are limited – mostly small Balkan-Kreuz and a selection of turret numbers - in keeping with the (mostly) “unidentified units” depicted in the paint-schemes.

Dragon always identifies some number of parts as being “not for use” by flagging them an ugly blue on the parts-map. This kit is no exception, though there are fewer such bits here then often seen in Dragon kits. Amusingly, amongst these are 8 nice road-wheels... hmmm. The ONLY road-wheels you get in this box. I'm sure that nobody will be fooled by this!

The construction steps are somewhat closely-packed – a seemingly common issue with Dragon instruction sheets. Many have embedded “call-outs” and sub-assemblies. Sometimes logic seems lacking in the construction sequence. Take your time and study each diagram carefully before doing it. For the most part, the diagrams show the correct parts and arrangement clearly, so the occasional wrong number can be usually over-looked. As some step-diagrams are flipped over, I suggest reconciling parts and placements between steps. Putting those tow-hooks onto the hull bow-plate upside down will be embarrassing! Looking at the box-art and CAD images on the box-bottom can resolve some confusions.

Note that a small “correction sheet”, for Step 13 (building the rear deck hatch assembly) is provided – alas, it gives you a choice of hatches... The parts “gray B54 and gray B55” with “more rivets” are the correct items for the “S”. Those with fewer rivets are for the G.

Dragon provides two paint-schemes; all-dunkelgrau, and a tricolor scheme. The all-gray scheme is shown for 3 “ca 1941 – '42 eastern-front” vehicles, while the tricolor scheme is for an “unidentified unit, Bohemia, 1945” vehicle. The trailer gets dunkelgrau. The painting guide is somewhat lacking, IMO. The all-gray schemes are appropriate, seeing as German painting regulation in effect in 1941 and '42 specified an all-dunkelgrau (RAL 7021) coat. And a tricolor scheme would have been likely on almost any German tank late in the war. But, while this tank may have served in some German units, most “S” actually went directly to the Slovak Free State Army. Sadly, no paint-scheme nor decals are provided for such use.

Now we'll look at the major construction stages, and I'll point out some key features, choices, and a couple of issues along the way. I'll cover the tank first, then the trailer.

a closer look

The lower hull, running gear, and tracks:
Steps 1 through 6 assemble the lower hull, gear, and tracks. About the lower hull: Some manufacturers provide hulls as flat plates which need to be carefully assembled. Dragon uses a tub, and this is, IMO, a good thing, as it saves some time while ensuring alignment of critical parts, such as the upper-hull, etc. Slide-molding allows Dragon to include some nice interior detail – again, a good thing, as you get substantial stuff to match with. This tub is the same as used in the Dragon 38 E/F kit (6434).

Is this tub correct for the S? To the best of my knowledge, the S used the early “E/F” hull. But I'm not an expert and cannot conclusively say.

Assemble the rear hull-plate with external details. The rear-plate (part B40) looks good, and unlike some previous versions, offers you a choice of leaving that large circular access plate (part B39) OFF, as for a maintenance scene! BUT, if you do, you will need to detail things... it bolted on, so if left off, there should be 16 small holes drilled in that flange around that hole. AND you'll need to shave the bolt-heads off and drill holes in the hatch cover. But, WOW, will this look cool!

A very tiny “S detail” appears on this hull rear-plate: Step 2 calls for applying 3 tiny styrene bolt-heads (K18) to each gusset-plate! You need to shave these off a K sprue-rod... or off that opened hatch cover... take care! Fortunately, it looks like you get some extras. They will be visible when done, if you know where to look.

Step 3 identifies assembly of the smoke-candle box. The instructions do NOT mention any chains for these candles – but you do get 6 tiny PE chains on fret MB... I'd use them! Flat PE chains can be greatly enhanced by twisting the links a little.

Step 1 offers options (as usual in Dragon kits, without any explanation as to which to use, or why) on both idlers and drive-sprockets... The S used the older-style “key-hole” idlers (A5 and A6), and the sprockets with 8 outer holes, A24 and A25. Sadly, the outer holes in these sprockets are too large... but unless you have spares from an older Dragon Flakpanzer 38(t) kit... these will have to do!

Ausf. S used the earlier-style 38(t) the spring-sets with perforated brackets (part A23). These springs are very crisp moldings, but do have visible seam-lines running down the center of the stepped-side... see the close-up pic. The springs are mostly hidden behind those large road-wheels, but some will want to clean these up before assembling the bogies.

The kit road wheels... Yes, despite the “blue – not-for-use” labels suggesting otherwise, you will want to use them - are nicely-molded with fine bolt details on both sides. Folks debate about mid-line seams on “new” rubber tires on German tanks. Photos do show some. These “roadies” (and the rollers, too) have small seams. They COULD be left in place, but this will require careful knife work when removing wheels from sprues, as the connectors are right along those seams. (See the close-up pic.) Probably easier to sand these smooth.

The rollers come with that typical Dragon “Continentau” logo. It's there and it is TINY. You can shave the last leg of the “U” off to create the terminal “L” - or not. Most probably won't see it if you do!

Assemble the bogies carefully, and they will operate and allow you to position the track to fit rough ground (proviso your tracks are still pliable!). Do note, however, that the styrene kit tracks will NOT be workable once dry, so...

The return rollers are a vague fit and need to be carefully lined up and held in place while they set up.

Tracks:
This kit comes with 1 bag of Dragon's “signature” Magic Tracks pre-clipped links. I'm a fan of these. They build into some of the most realistic tracks you'll ever get in a kit! You get 216 tiny links complete with casting numbers... yes, really tiny numbers. I doubt anyone will ever see them once the paint goes on, but now you know that they are there. The links do have 2 visible ejector-marks on the “horn side”, and small mold seams around the edges. The ejector-marks are easily removed with a knife. The seams around the edge are unlikely to be readily apparent or disturbing to many builders?

The links click together for assembly, but are NOT workable, so cement them. Assembling and cementing a run, and letting it set for several minutes will make it easy to fit over the gear . Let dry fully-formed in place. Remove the dry, formed runs for painting.

The instructions call for 96 links per side. Real 38(t) had 93 per side, and often showed considerable “sag”. IF you leave the idler axles loose (Step 6) on the hull during track-fitting, this helps you adjust track tension to get sag.

Note: The links are NOT “handed”. The 38(t) used dry-pinned tracks, with the link-pins inserted from the hull-side and kept in place by a “pin-knocker plate” as the tank rolled along. Sometimes a “circlip” was used to secure the pins on the outer end. So, a purist might expect these track-links to be “handed” to reflect this. They are not, but don't worry, these tracks will look good, once assembled.

I suggest you assemble and paint gear and tracks BEFORE attaching the fenders – it's easier then fitting tracks over rollers with fenders on, IMO!

About the “famous 38 fender-kink”: No, this kit doesn't do any better with this than any other Dragon 38 kit. 38(t) fenders were “tinny” and often appear kinked and bent-up in photos. But NOT in Dragon kits. So accept this and move on! The kit fenders are nice and thin and can be readily warped and twisted to gain some of that kink, if desired.

Be sure to thin the fender mounting brackets! These were sheet metal, and the styrene bits are a bit chunky. Note that these brackets attached to the hull with 2 small-but-visible bolts... not on the parts. If you have any bolt-heads (shaved from some donor kit-hulk?), they can easily be added to the brackets BEFORE assembling fenders to the hull...

The S utilized the older “vertical” muffler alignment of the Ausf. C – correctly provided in Step 3 with parts B32, 50, and 51. Note that you use the “E/F” parts, but assemble them with a different angle-of-pipe. Follow the diagram! It's a subtle-but-accurate “S detail”.

At Step 7, you transition to the front hull (bow) plate and start into the crew interior.

Use the R2 bow-plate, as called for. The S did not come with any spare-track brackets up front. The R2 part correctly lacks spaces and fittings for the track-rack.

Engine, drive-train, and hull interior:
Steps 7 through 12 and Step 14 deal with the interior bits from “bow to tow-hook”. You have to decide HERE whether you want to show the crew interior or engine, or not. If “yes”, think carefully and plan your moves! You get a lot of stuff here, and it will build up to a good basic interior straight from the box. But it begs for detailing if you want that extra bit.

Interestingly, Dragon offers both styrene and PE options for the driver's steering-levers, but leaves out various easy-to-create operating rods and such around that tranny. These details may be hard to see, given the small hatches, so it's a question of love... I highly recommend the PE steering-levers for those who need something “extra” to do (snark!) – they will look AWESOME, but are decidedly NOT for those with sausage-fingers!

Dragon does NOT supply any dash-board or instrument-cluster for the driver. There should be one in a “complete” interior...

Fit the duck-board in before the firewall, but do NOT cement it in place until you are sure that the firewall is straight and level.

Paint the hull walls and floors and big assemblies before you fill big stuff in.

Those driver's and radio-operator's seats are pretty bad, IMO. But as they are not easily seen...

Placement of the many 3.7cm ammo boxes is mostly pretty vague, and you should examine carefully the diagrams and dry-fit boxes to ensure good placement and avoiding occluding the turret. It is a simple matter to shave those box loop-handles off and replace them with curved styrene or lead strips for a (much) better look.

Radios... The S came with either 1 or 2 units. Curiously, the kit INSTRUCTIONS allow that these radios do NOT sit on top of that drive-line, but the box-bottom CAD-art shows them in that position! Noooo. NOT there! Dragon also claims on the box – bottom that a PE radio-rack is provided, but we don't get one. (But not completely a bad thing, as the illustrated PE rack would be that erroneous version shown mounted on top of that drive-line... still, PE radio-racks are just so cool!).

What you DO get are two nicely-molded radios with separate styrene racks, and some power-supply items (sprues RB and RD). Shave those “handle-ridges” off the radio-fronts and replace with wire handles. The instructions do not show any conclusive mounting of radios or gear – the radios suddenly appear mounted on the hull beside the radio-op's seat in Step 16! (And without any racks... go figure.) It is likely that at least one unit did mount as shown... adjacent to that wall-vent (which is a cooling vent for the radio, NOT a vision-slit. Unless, of course, one might want to squint through it and look down onto the fender outside the “window”?) located beside the left seat. Dragon does provide “rack-guides” molded on the hull at that location (the joys of slide-molding!), and at least one radio would attach to these. With a rack, of course – so I would add the provided styrene rack-bits – or some AM PE, or... - to the unit(s) mounted here..

(PS: IF you decide to add a cable to that antenna-mount out on the left front hull-corner, that cable actually came out through this vent-hole!)

Where the “other” radio goes remains a matter of some debate. Some suggest that it mounted in a rack on top of that transmission right by the front plate. Probably you can be sure that it was NOT placed where it could interfere with turret crew footing... No hint is given for where you should mount the power-supply, etc., either. Consult your references for ideas on these?

The engine compartment is pretty complete, other than some wiring and piping for fuel and coolant, etc. The engine and associated bits are a kit in themselves. Assemble and paint these before placing them into the compartment. Paint the compartment before mounting the engine. Or, leave that engine out on the ground for repair, or...!

Step 14 addresses that “special” flat driver's plate – with the small left-side vision-slit. This key S feature is correctly represented by part R4. Step 14 calls for assembling the hull MG37 into this plate. Note that an ammo-belt is provided. This belt needs to be sharply bent down, if you use it – it was NOT a stiff, horizontal “stick” such as seen on the old French Hotchkiss MG! You will encounter this MG and belt assembly – issue again in the turret.

If you plan on showing the interior OR you plan on having the driver's vision port open, be sure to use the provided clear parts and the indicated PE pieces for best effect.

Upper hull and fender stuff:
Steps 13 and 15 through 19 complete assembly of the hull and fenders. Of note here; while kit instructions identify typical fender equipment types and placement, we know that the “38” was extremely “personalized” by crew, and all sorts of stuff – gas-cans, storage boxes, etc. - were added to and rearranged on tanks by the users. So, you have options!

The fenders are NOT drilled for mounting stuff. You will find locations marked with dimples on the underside of each fender. The instructions indicate that you should drill through as needed to mount tools, etc. Some may want to fill these dimples in.... if so; easier to do this before you mount your fenders to the hull.

The box-art shows “jerry-cans” on the fender. Alas, this option, while very common on 38(t), is NOT supported in this kit – you don't get any cans. So I would add some.

Instructions Step 19 is fouled up – Dragon shows the “G” rear-deck access hatches being used (wrong) and shows mounting of two sets of spare tracks, with some PE straps (nice stuff, but...), on the brake-cover plate (another wrong – not on the S). I'd recommend skipping these track-sets, if you wish to depict a “typical” relatively new 38(t) S. The small spare-track sets shown in Step 16 fitted onto the fenders are correct for these S tanks.

PE tool clamps are provided for some of the fender tools, and you will have to use them, as the kit tools lack molded-on clamps. The PE clamps take some effort but will look great. If desired, source tools with molded-on clamps from elsewhere – another Dragon “German” kit!

The standard perforated 38(t) grouser-box is provided in both PE and styrene. The PE item really looks the part. Many 38(t) carried 2 such grouser-boxes – one often lidless and used as a gas-can “rack” on the rear deck- so you could easily use both in a build.

Another small “S” feature is the old-style rear-view mirror mounted on the left front fender. This is correctly provided in part T1. The Notek lamp (parts B13, B14, and MA23) should also mount on the same front-left fender. There are 2 tiny reflectors called for (parts R1) for those front fender-ends. Many S apparently lacked these...

Back in Step 13, you assemble the upper rear deck and engine-access hatches and cooling vent. Be sure to use the “S-version” hatch lids, parts B54 and 55. You get PE screens for the underside of each hatch. You can see these only if you have those hatches open, so...

Do NOT use the PE “damper plate” (part MA24) supplied with that mesh screen cover that fits over the engine air-exhaust vent on the rear deck in Step 13. My understanding is that these S did not have that plate under the mesh cover – the damper plate actually came out as a G feature.

Turret and final assembly:
You assemble the turret in Steps 20 through 25. This kit provides a super nice “S-version” turret-shell. The key difference between 38 turrets was the thickness of the side armor, and some variations on the turret front plate. Ausf. A – D, and S, had thinner turret-walls then did the E/F and G. The kit turret – shell correctly depicts this thinner wall around the top. Cool! See the comparison picture, and look closely (S on left). This is a great indication of Dragon's attention to details, even if nobody would ever know to look! I certainly didn't.

The turret comes with a substantially complete interior, including another complete MG37, a nicely-depicted 3.7cm A7 main gun, assorted ammo-boxes, the periscope (with or without leather boot), and some turret equipment. The cupola is also pretty complete. Sadly, you (and the crew) get one small hatch to look in through! Some authors note that the perforated 3.7cm breech-guard was removed in most German 38's... That periscope was in a sort of ball-mount, and can be put on tilted, turned, etc. (Show judges hate this, as it's hard to tell whether that was a sloppy build, or the real thing!)

Note that the turret MG also gets an ammo-belt. Again, bend this item down to reflect gravity...

The gun barrels are Dragon's pre-drilled styrene types. They are pretty clean and mostly free of flash and seams, and will look pretty good with minor clean-up. The Dragon MG37 are not very correct in regards the gun handles (which actually angled down, out and slightly forward, beneath these MG), but this is can be fixed, and the guns do look fine, otherwise.

The MG are provided separately from their characteristic armored “trough and ball” mounts. VERY nice. This allows you to add in metal barrels if desired. Or you can depict guns pulled out for repair, etc. I would recommend thinning the inner sides of the gun-troughs a little to better open things up.

Use the “T3” part for the turret face-plate. The box claims this to be a “S new-tool” item, but it's the same sprue and part as for the E/F kit, near as I can tell. But that's actually likely correct for the S, so “no harm, no foul”. When you assemble the MG into this face-plate, be sure to leave the bullet splash-guard ring off. The S did not have this.

The turret comes with two crew-seats slung beneath the turret-ring on small posts. These are reasonably correct – and the reason that you do NOT want to mount those radios in the wrong place!

The final tank assembly step (Step 25) is the fitting of the tow-cable to the left hull – side. This cable is supplied as a steel wire, which you fit with provided styrene cable-ends. It will look good, but is a PITA to bend to shape and mount. Twisted copper lamp-wire is easier to work with. You will assemble 2 PE strap-clamps for mounting this cable onto the hull side. Take your time, as the parts are tiny and the placement somewhat awkward, but the result will look awesome!

You are now done with the tank – small but packed with neat detail!

The Trailer

Yes, the Germans did make “fuel-drum trailers” for tanks (they surely called these something like “Betriebsstoff-Anhanger” - though Dragon apparently did not want to, for this kit – unlike for their 2-drum version in that IV-E Tauch kit). The vastness of Russia strained every aspect of German logistics and support, and providing fuel-trailers for tanks was a partial solution. Pictures (see the attached B&W pic) show 38(t) towing 1-drum trailers, so the scenario depicted on the box is “good”.

This kit includes the 2-drum trailer sprue from the IV-E Tauch kit (6402), along with additional parts to make the frame for the pictured 1-drum trailer. You can build either – you get 2 drums and 2 trailer-frames. But, you only get one set of wheels! (Now... if you have some spare wheels... ).

The drums come with embossed ends and nice “bung” detailing, And neat PE straps are provided to tie the drum down on the kit 1-drum trailer. Those drums can “pop” if you use a sharp knife-tip and cut in a little along the sides of those rings around the drums... pictures show those were under-cut rims and NOT simple solid rings.

The trailer frame is pretty crisply molded, but perhaps a little simplified, and includes fenders on the frame in a single large piece. You get a “ring-on-post” device to hold the gas-hose up over the trailer tongue. The molded fenders do not, IMO, represent well the nature and appearance of those seen in pics of these trailers; photos strongly suggest that the trailer fenders were NOT “solid”, as molded, but “tinny things” attached by braces and open over the frames. It MAY be possible to cut the fenders off, cut off the “side”, and reattach the fenders to the frame? MAJOR surgery. The fenders are NOT the high-point of this trailer, IMO.

The trailer wheels are the simpler 2-piece types. Molding is crisp, but the join-line may need some cleaning-up after assembly, and the wheels will look better with some air-valves fitted to the available holes in the rims.

A braided black nylon cord is provided for the “hose” - most may find using a piece of heavy solder will be easier to work with. This hose MAY be passed through that ring-on-sticks support, but pictures also show these hoses more casually looped over to the tank without using the brace.

There you have it, folks. 27 steps later, a complete small tank and a tiny trailer! PS: Of course you can build the tank and save the trailer(s) for something else... Options, folks, options!

Conclusion

I'll be blunt: The Ausf. S was a rare and subtle version of an important “German” light tank of the early war years, and there's certainly some truth in that old saw, “seen one, seen 'em all”, with 38's. And this kit does have a few tiny glitches. But, so what! BUY it! Whether you are a “38” fan, like clunky-looking little tanks, or just want a great, detailed “German” kit with a complete basic interior to build on, this one could be for you! It's a fundamentally accurate and complete representation of the Ausf. S, and Dragon has gone the extra mile to capture subtle details to make this another great offering for the plastic Pz.Kpfw. 38(t) collector. You'll get a state-of-the-art kit with enough parts and options to keep most modelers happy, and it will build into a very respectable 38 S right out of the box. And don't forget that trailer... while maybe not overly-detailed, it's a pretty nice lagniappe, I think. Now, if D would come out with a Ausf. A – D … that would be the bee's knees! Let the Good Times Roll!

References:
Gander, Terry J., 2006. Panzerkampfwagen 38(t). Tanks & Armor. Ian Allan, Publishers.

Milsom, John, 1970. Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) & 35(t). AFV Weapons Profile #22. Profile Publ., Ltd.

Stapfer, Hans-Heiri, 2009. Panzer 38(t) / Swiss LTL-H Walk-Around. Squadron Signal Pulications.

Zollner, Markus, 2008. Panzer 38(t); The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) light tanks Model A to G. Tankograd Publishing
SUMMARY
Highs: First 1/35 styrene kit of this variant Fundamentally accurate in all major and most smaller details for the Ausf. S Provides complete basic 38(t) interior Includes MagicTracks, modest PE, state-of-art molding and details Trailer a distinct “addition"
Lows: Instructions continue DML's challenges of crowding, missed details, some misleads in steps No explanations offered for options on parts (critical to getting this version built correctly) Some common & useful accessories (fender boxes, gas-cans) left out
Verdict:
Percentage Rating
85%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6435
  Suggested Retail: 49.95 USD
  Related Link: DragonUSA Item Page
  PUBLISHED: Sep 29, 2012
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 85.00%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.39%

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About Bob Woodman (panzerbob01)
FROM: LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES

Copyright ©2017 text by Bob Woodman [ PANZERBOB01 ]. All rights reserved.


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Comments

@Panzerbob01 – Bob, You’ve put quit and effort into this review – top notch! Reading along and noting your comments has definitely sparked an interest in obtaining a copy of this kit for my stash. I don’t know a thing about these vehicles but with your insight do you think that you could be persuaded into posting a build log for this vehicle? Well how about it? ~ Eddy
SEP 30, 2012 - 05:46 PM
Bob, this is a very thoughtful review. Thank you for taking the time to share with us.
SEP 30, 2012 - 10:16 PM
What an informative write up! I had almost forgotten about the little jewel. ~ Jeff
OCT 01, 2012 - 06:15 AM
All; THANKS for taking the read and for your kind words! I'll clearly "out myself" up-front and allow as I am a serious 38(t) fan, so you can rest assured that I have some bias toward this subject and kit! Reviewing it was a serious pleasure and fun labor of love! That said, it IS a cool kit and the Dragon has certainly done a good extension of their well-done kit mini-series (the 38) - and this version is IMHO well worth getting and building. Even if you somehow skip that cool little trailer...! @Eddy N.; Build log / review? I'll definitely consider that! I do plan on doing it and sooner than later. My thoughts are that I might build it pretty much encapsulating the specifics I hit on, along with a couple of other detail things - almost all OOTB. (Of course, if I do that trailer with it - THAT won't go OOTB on account of those fenders...) I could do it for the "Light Tank Campaign" and fill a couple of "goals" at once... Cheers! Bob
OCT 02, 2012 - 09:15 AM
OK, 38(t) "S" fans: A little update on the review... I just learned that I left at least a few little things out which could be helpful for you builders of these Dragon 38(t kits - so here goes! 1) There are two MG - one in the turret, one in the front hull-plate. Both of these guns came in spherical ball-mounts. The ball-mount allowed the gun to freely aim "all over the place" and not just up and down or left and right. The neat thing is that the real gun could actually spin in this mount, so that you see tanks with guns seemingly "leaning" with sights and armor guards tilted off the center up-right. The KIT parts do not allow this. To fix your gun mounts, simply shave that little peg or nipple off parts F14 (the ball mount). This will allow you to tilt and spin your gun in the mount as desired. 2) Do note that the turret MG in Ausf S, E, F, and G did NOT have any outside splash-ring on the turret-face. I noted this in the Review. I did not mention that the hull MG DID have this ring - so be sure to use the supplied splash-ring (part B1) for the hull-MG! Part B1 IS a little thick - the real ring had a slightly-raised inner ring around that ball-mount. The part has this too thick. Thin it down to maybe 1/2 for a better look? 3) You will see a small, angular plate mounted on the left (main-gun side) of the turret MG... part C8. This was a sheet-metal "stop" that prevented the turret MG from actually aiming at that main gun barrel end. Verrry important! The kit part is a little thick and clunky. The simple fix is to thin it to get a more "sheet-metal" look... or if you feel AMS coming on, make a replacement from 0.010 sheet styrene? Cheers, All! Bob
OCT 23, 2012 - 08:21 PM
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