by: Jacob Hederstierna-Johnse [ ]
In the winter of 1943 the German army on the eastern front was trying to regroup and stem the tide of the red army offensive, which had already cost the wehrmacht its 6th army, the cities of Stalingrad and Karkow and almost all the territory gained during their Operation Blau the year before. The German armament had been working on some new tank designs, which would be ready for service in early summer of 1943. One of these was the huge self-propelled gun Ferdinand, named after its designer, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche.
The vehicle was based on the Porsche VK 4501(P) tank prototype, which had lost the competition for the Tiger design to the Henschel tank prototype. Although losing the Tiger contract, around 90 vehicles had been ordered from the Nibelungen Werke, and these vehicles were now rendered useless by the German army and put into storage. During 1942, this decision was changed, and most of the chassis were converted into tank destroyers.
The kit comes in the old familiar Dragon sized box, with a nice box art. On the side and bottom of the box, theres depicted the numerous special features of the kit. The sprues come in clear sealed plastic bags, and the whole kit contains over 600 parts and includes the following:
11 sprues molded in grey styrene.
1 sprue molded in clear styrene.
1 separate hull tub.
1 separate superstructure.
2 bags of MagicTracks. Right and left sided.
1 large and 2 small frets of PE.
1 length of steel cable.
4 metal shackles w. pins.
1 length of fine metal chain.
2 pre bent metal parts for the front fenders.
1 turned aluminum barrel.
1 decal sheet.
1 instruction booklet (not in color)
Dragon has released this as a Premium edition kit, which means there is a bit of extras in the box. The overall details are great, and in some ways simplified, as in their Smart kits. There are also some nice options to choose from during the build.
The assembly starts with the road wheels, drive sprockets and shock absorbers. The road wheels and drive sprockets are nicely cast, with crisp details on the outside, inside and even between the wheel sets. The hull tub is beautifully slide molded, with a whole lot of fine details, especially on the underbelly, where there are a lot of inspection hatches, bolts and weld lines.
The fitting of the wheels are pretty much straight forward, without any construction traps or places of special care. The tracks are MagicTracks. This does not mean, that they will come together all by themselves, but it is very close. They are excellent molded and fit each other perfectly. I must admit, that Im a real sucker for MagicTracks. They are not workable, but in my book they dont have to be, because when they are in place, they are not supposed to be going anywhere! It is not a toy, but a static model. And yes, it IS possible to glue these tracks on, and get the sagging right. Well, just my opinion.
Anyway, caution must be taken when fitting the tracks, because you have to use one more track link on the left side, than on the right side.
The rear hull assembly offers a chance to use some of the PE options. The heat shields come in both styrene and brass, and the cast metal tow shackles can be used instead of the ones in styrene. The netting over the exhaust box can be made of PE netting, too. These are all small, but great features, which gives your model that extra edge in detail, compared to the styrene offered.
The front of the hull gives you a good impression of just how massive the frontal armor really was
200 mm.! Very impressive indeed. I guess no vehicle was lost due to penetration of that armor. Dragon has given good attention to the bolt on armor, which has some very nice cut marks on the steel plating. The bolts and weld lines are also excellently done.
The jack is a small model by itself. Composed of no less than 6 styrene parts, and the choice of using PE holders, really makes it stand out. The wooden plate for the jack also can be turned into a well detailed part, as it too can be pimped up with Dragons own PE.
And now for something truly great. The fenders! The ones offered in styrene look fine, with nice details on the top side and no ugly stamp or sink marks on the underside. But Dragon also offers a complete set of fenders in PE, which not only are detailed on the top side, but also on the underside, and since they are PE, it will be very easy to make these bent and looking worn/damaged. One has to remember, that these vehicles got mauled pretty badly at their debut at Kursk, so Dragon gives the modeler a great chance to duplicate realistic looking wear and tear on this model. The only down side is, that these fenders lack the bend on the outside edge. This can be added by using some metal foil strips, but it might be a bit tricky.
Another truly nice feature is the tool and stowage boxes. These are also offered in both styrene and PE, which gives the modeler the choice of leaving them open or closed. The tool box really looks nifty left open, showing the tools in place. A very nice detail indeed.
Then it is time for assembling the gun breech. Dragon has not chosen to make very much of this massive gun breech, or the interior, so if one wants to leave the hatches open, you either have some serious scratch building to do, or you have to hit the aftermarket, or else you will find yourself staring down into the great nothingness. It is a huge fighting compartment, and it will seem endless with nothing in it.
Next up is the superstructure. It comes in one nice and crisp slide molded part. It has a lot of nice details, such as the weld lines between the interlocking armor plates. All the hatches can be positioned opened or closed, and there are no sink marks what so ever. They all are well detailed on the outside as well as the inside. The pistol ports can also be left open, and the plugs can be left dangling on small metal chains, which really looks cool.
The assembly of the engine deck is pretty straight forward, especially the drivers hatch with its 3 periscopes is very well detailed, and both this and the radio operators hatch can be either open or closed. The travel lock for the main gun can, as far as I can see, only be assembled in transport position, which was the same as in Dragons first Ferdinand kit, from way back. One should think, that with all these other options in this kit, at least the travel lock could be made either position.
Another rather mysterious feature is a big stowage box for the back of the superstructure. It really looks great and it is made in PE and all, but personally, I have never seen such a box on a Ferdinand before. I think Dragon should have linked this feature to a specific vehicle, instead of just making it an option for the modeler.
Assembling the main gun, Dragon gives you 3 choices. First you can build the gun old school, with two half barrels glued together, secondly they offer a styrene molded barrel, and a 3 part muzzle break also molded in styrene. The last option is a turned aluminum barrel together with the 3 part muzzle break as before. Personally I would choose the aluminum barrel, because it offers a totally straight and round barrel, which has not been flattened, when one tries to get rid of the molding seam.
Dragon offers markings for all the vehicles in both s.Pz.Jg.Abt.653 and s.Pz.Jg.Abt.654 during operation Citadel 1943
This is a really nice kit, which beautifully represents Ferdinand, as it looked under operation Citadel in July 1943. Dragon has gone a long way to minimize the use of aftermarket products. This kit is highly recommended.