The manual for the GS Fahrgestell series of 8x8 heavy armoured cars issued by Büssing-NAG in 1937 described how the purpose of these new vehicles went beyond the original needs identified when army units were first undergoing mechanization in the early 1930s: "they must be able to negotiate the most difficult terrain such as hills, ditches, sand, swamp, ford, etc. and still remain operational because they are depending upon themselves and due to the proximity of the enemy can’t depend on outside help. Even… where the horse failed and human power had to help, the Panzerspähwagen must under its own power be able to withdraw quickly out of range of enemy weapons without crew losses."
(Quoted in Panzer Tracts 13-2, see references below). It was clearly intended that there would be no more truck based armoured cars stuck in ditches waiting to be towed out by other vehicles; the 8 rad series had to stand up on its own 8 wheels.
The subject of this review, the Sd.Kfz.231 (8 rad), can be regarded as the base version of the series, and was equipped with a rotating turret fitted with a 20mm automatic cannon and a coaxial 7.92mm machine gun. The 232, with more powerful radio equipment and a frame aerial that pivoted on the turret, was rendered by Dragon in the first of their GS Fahrgestell 8 rad releases last year, and was followed by the 263 with its larger fixed superstructure and frame and mast aerials. Both are the subject of Armorama reviews: Sd.Kfz.232
what you get
In a smallish top opening box adorned with a painting by Auletta, the sprues are all separately bagged in normal thorough Dragon style, including individual bags for hull top and bottom and a zip lock bag for the little decal sheet.
Let’s look at what’s the same and what is different from the other two 8 rad kits:
Sprue A with the wheels and suspension units is common to all.
Sprue B with the big wheel arches and other small suspension and body parts is also common to all.
Sprue C small hull details common to all.
Sprue D – there is no sprue D… this one is left out as you don’t need the frame aerial from the 232 kit.
Sprue E, the turret parts, is present here, as it is in the 232 (but not the 263).
Sprue F is the zusatzpanzer
add-on nose armour plus fuel cans, again, common to all.
Looking at photo 23 we see the photo from Russ Amott’s review of the 232 that shows the sprues C, D, E and F, and which I’ve labelled to show which of the four are included in each of the three kits. So in this kit, the 231, sprue D has been removed. In the 263 kit, sprues D and E were missing, but the upper hull body was different due to the fixed superstructure, and the parts for the two aerials plus additional body plates were on a new sprue. The only new thing, then, about this kit compared to the 232 kit is a new decal sheet and new finishing schemes. As with the other two kits, the finishing options cover both grey and dark yellow schemes, in this instance including grey finishes in Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, and dark yellows for Russia in 1942 and ’43 and finally Sicily in ’43. With some relief I noted that the registration plates, although blank white plates, are at least provided with a couple of choices of ready-made serial numbers as well as the six rows of individual 1s to 0s, so you aren’t forced to go down the fiddly road of making up three plates from the tiny separate digits.
The kit of course follows broadly the same construction sequence as the 232 and 263 kits. Both of the reviews I linked to above include full builds of those kits, so I would advise you to refer to them if you want full step by step details.
Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 are in fact identical, and still include the same ambiguities and errors: when components are similar to each other, Dragon habitually save space by labelling them, for example, B29(B30), but seemingly take no account of whether the parts are actually identical, or mirror images, as in this case, which is of course not the same thing at all – so make sure you know which way round the steering arms are going. To me it makes much more sense to label identical
components with the same part number, while mirror image parts should be labelled separately. Again we have the erroneous uses of the "optional” symbol in step 2, when what is actually needed is two identical pairs to be made up.
Step 3 still shows the horn, part B22, mounted facing backwards, and still has you add on all the tiny delicate details prior to adding the mudguards to the body – but then we all know that instruction sequences are not always to be followed – and when building the 263 I found to my cost that the rear lamps are best added before the mudguards as it is virtually impossible to attach them afterwards. As I noted in that review however, I’m not convinced the brackets position the rear lamps in quite the right place. The flag staff, B18, is a fairly simple rendering that should be a frame rather than a solid plate, but for later vehicles it should be omitted in any case, and the locating hole filled.
Step 5 is the same as in the 232, and is the point at which a choice is made on the configuration of the rear body plate: spare wheel mounted on a hinged rack over the ventilation slats, or an armour plate cover. Unfortunately, as in the other two kits, there is no easy way to do what could be a third version, which would be to have just the ventilation grille without either wheel or armoured cover, as many early vehicles seem to have had, this being because there’s two rather big locating holes moulded into the grille.
So the final step, 6, is the same as in the 232, but without the frame aerial. Note that the turret does however still have small locating steps for the aerial on either side of the turret top, and though not noted in the instructions, these should be carefully removed. Regarding the zusatzpanzer
nose armour, the finishing options are all 1941 or later, which means it can justifiably be fitted for all of the illustrated options; if you want to represent a vehicle operating before 1940 then it should be left off, though even many early production vehicles were back fitted with this armour after its introduction.
So the third of Dragon’s 1/72 scale 8 rad offerings produces another of the Schwere Panzerspähwagen series, but as noted, you could quite easily have already built this 231 version from the 232 kit simply by leaving the aerial off. All we have here is one less sprue and a new decal sheet; this will still however build up into another fine looking model of a “fascinatingly ugly” vehicle type. For me, the real highlight of these kits is the lower hull and the suspension, both of which are beautifully rendered, and makes me think that someone ought to produce a small diorama with one of these flipped over on its back, or perhaps being repaired with some of the wheels removed.
The engineering of these kits is top drawer, with the lower hull in particular being a superb example of slide moulding, and the fit is very good indeed. If there’s any disappointment it is perhaps that these vehicles actually went through various changes during their six year production run, but the kits haven’t been designed with that in mind, but armed with the Panzer Tracts book, for example, particular marques could be represented. Those with a mind to could certainly up the level of detailing: width indicators and indicator guard bars could be improved, and the tow cable moulded on to the nose armour could be removed and replaced by a separate item; perhaps some vendor will come up with some knobblier off road tyres, and in the meantime, I’m anticipating that the next in this series may be the more drastically different 233.
Panzer Tracts No.13-2 Schwerer Panzerspaehwagen (Sd.Kfz.231, 232, & 233) and Panzerfunkwagen (Sd.Kfz.263)by Thomas L Jentz and Hilary Doyle
Squadron / Signal Amor No.4 Panzerspähwagen In Action
German Armoured Cars of WW2 by John Milsom and Peter Chamberlain (A&AP, out of print)