by: Matt Szefer [ ]
The Soviet T-34, when introduced into production in June of 1940, was one of the most advanced tank in the world, even compared with German tanks. The revolutionary design, sloped armor, speed, fire power and low silhouette along with reliability and low production cost made this tank a work horse for the Red Army during WWII. When Germany recognised all the advantages of the T-34's they began to use captured tanks. Adopted T-34/76 were designated by the Germans as Panzerkampfwagen T-34 747(r). Large number of T-34/76 tanks was captured and pressed into service. Captured T-34's were modified to German standards via the installation of a commander’s cupola, radio equipment along with other non-standard field modifications made during service by the their new owners.
One of the most interesting conversions based on T-34/76 chassis was 2cm Flakvierling auf Fahrgestell T-34(r), an anti-aircraft tank – Flakpanzer. Also known as Flakpanzer T-34(r), it was armed with 20mm Flakvierling 38, which was a four barreled 20mm anti-aircraft L/115 gun. The armament was mounted in an open topped turret made by field workshop (Werkstattkompanie 653) using armor plates from damaged half-tracks. Ammunition was stored in metal cases on a rack at the rear of the vehicle. This unusual vehicle was a one-off and used by schwere Heeres Panzerjaeger Abteilung 653, on the Eastern Front in July 1944.
Dragon Models is known for adding, deleting or swapping sprues from other kits along with a few new parts to provide new unique subjects. As we can expect the same strategy was used in this kit. Generally Dragon combined their T-34 sprues with 20mm Flakvierling from other kits. This is why in the box are sprues from many previous released kits: a few T-34's variants (T-34 Krasnoye Sormovo, T-34 1942, T-34 1940/41 and T-35/85), Sd.Kfz. 7/1 and even from Pz.Kpfw. 38t. Only one plastic sprue is made directly for this kit. Previously Flakpanzer T-34 was released in 2009 by Cyber Hobby. After comparing Dragon's and Cyber Hobby kits I can say that, contents in both boxes is almost the same. The recent Dragon Smart Kit edition is re-release of Cyber Hobby Flakpanzer T-34 from 2009 with some minor changes like added notek lamp, new tool box and two PE parts but, what is interesting sprue with clear parts is removed. Because of the use many sprues from different kits a lot of parts are not for use in this kit. They are marked in blue on sprue map in the instruction. The next thing is that during the build it is necessary to pay extra attention to sprue marks and part numbers to be sure you are using the correct part because some different sprues are signed with the same letter.
This model kit contains around 415 parts, it means that the kit is well detailed, but elements are not too finely divided. Inside the box you will find:
25 gray plastic sprues
2 PE frets
2 bags with Magic Tracks
1 small decal sheet
The contents are packed in a standard size cardboard box with simple box art on the top. On the back Dragon provides details of some of the different elements of the model with a short descriptions. The sprues are packaged individually in plastic bags, except where the sprues are duplicated. The model parts are molded in Dragon standard grey plastic and fill the entire space inside the box.
The initial inspection of the sprues shows that the quality of all parts is excellent. There is no ejection pin marks, except of the tracks. Flash and seam lines also no existed. The upper and lower hull parts fit together very well. Overall all parts are crisp and sharp, only the sprue from T-34/85 is a little bit softer than others but still good enough. I think that, the good parts quality allows for fast build without any problems, only the tracks require some time. Let's take a look at the individual elements of the kit.
The instructions are printed in black and white and contains 12 steps. On the first page you will find a sprue layout which shows all the frames and parts distribution. The instructions are clear, but sometimes a little bit messy, so attention while assembling is required. 7 steps are focused on the hull and suspension assembly, the remaining 5 show how to make the turret with anti-aircraft guns. On the last page Dragon provides the paint scheme for s.Pz.Jg.Abt 653, Eastern Front 1944. The vehicle is painted in a later war scheme of panzer yellow with green and brown camouflage squiggles above the fenders. Only one paint scheme is provided because only this unit constructed and operated this unique flak panzer. The instructions also contain Gunze and Model Master paint references.
Lower hull and suspension
The single piece lower hull part is typical for every T-34-based Dragon kit. It comes separately from a slide mold so all details on the side walls are molded on. There are also openings for the Christie suspension springs, swing-arms mounting points and bump-stops. The bolts details are nicely reproduced too. Inside hull part is place for separate boxes with the suspension springs . The welds are really nicely done , visible but no over scaled. Details on the bottom of hull are also well made, some of them are molded on and some are presented as separate parts. A rear lower plate with circular covers and the towing hooks are the last details needed to finish the lower hull.
Wheels and tracks
The road wheels are the dished type with rubber tires and they are standard T-34 wheels in Dragon kits. Each road wheel consists of three parts: front and back half and a small lid. Steel idler wheels and drive sprockets complete the suspension system. All three kinds of wheels have really good reproduced details in compare with the real vehicle.
This kit is different from almost all of Dragon's Smart kits because it includes Magic Tracks made in gray styrene. There are many modellers who prefer these over the DS tracks and to be honest, they do look much better after assembly especially with T-34 suspension because there is a lot of sag in their tracks and it is easier to achieve a sag effect with separate link tracks. These represent typical 550mm wide cast type tracks. They are sorted into two bags : with the guide horn and without. They need glue to keep them together but fit each other every easily. These track have one issue, on each link are two ejector pin marks to remove. I know that after assembly some part of the track will be hidden but for good effect some clean up and sanding will be needed.
Upper hull, front glacis and rear plate
Dragon has provided very finely molded main upper hull part which is a base for other details. This part looks pretty good, all weld seams are nicely reproduced. On the fenders are molded on mounts for a wide range of Russian tools but according to the instruction they need to be shaved off because instead of tools, here is place for a rack with ammunition boxes. They are made from plastic and photo etch parts. The ammunition boxes are provided by a sprue from Pz.38(t) and there are only four of them, a little bit too few in my opinion. Also the rear mud flaps are molded together with the main upper hull piece and they also must be cut off and replaced with photo etched parts. The plastic front fenders look decent, but on the inner side they have injection pin marks which should be removed. The air intakes grills with horizontal pattern and engine access hatch lid are provided as separate styrene parts. The main engine access lid comes in two configurations. The first is a solid plastic part, with molded on screen detail. The other option is use styrene frame and PE screen and louvers; of course second option looks much better than all plastic part.
The slide molded front glacis plate is of course a separate part with mounts for other details like tow hooks, bow MG port and driver's hatch. MG parts and mount with nice cast texture are provided by sprue from T-34/85, all parts seem to be ok. Only one minor issue and that is the lack of a hole inside the MG barrel. The multi part driver's hatch has internal parts so can be left ajar but it's pity that a solid part for the vision block is included when a clear part would have been far better. The rear plate with nicely reproduced bolts looks fine and easy to assembly, to finish this part we only need to add an access lid and exhausts pipes with armored covers. All there look good, there's nothing to find fault.
Turret with 20mm Flakvierling 38
The turret In this vehicle can be divided into two main parts: Flakvierling and gun shield for the crew protection. The shied consists of 19 parts made In Dragon Razor Edge technology. This mean that parts are thin, well detailed and without ejector pin marks, seam lines etc. The anti-aircraft gun is very well molded as well. The slide molded barrels are such good quality that I see no reason to exchange them for metal aftermarket offerings. Overall almost all of the parts provided to build the Flakvierling are made from styrene, only a few of the most fine parts come from the photo etch sheet, but In my opinion all details look good enough even though they are plastic. All other parts like ammunition magazines, gunner instruments, hand wheels and seat are at the same high level as the rest of the model parts.
The assembled turret is placed on a pair of girders and mounting plate glued inside the hull. Fitting the girders requires special care because there is no marked spot to fit them and what's more instruction is not clear at this point. So in my opinion the best way in this case is to finish the turret assembly first, the pre-fit to the hull and then glue the girders and mounting plate in place. Dragon could try a little more in this step to make modeller life a little bit easier.
The decal sheet is small and as I wrote before, provides marking for only one vehicle from s.Pz.Jag.Abt.653s unit. The decals are printed by Cartograf so the quality is very good, they are soft, thin and clear. I do not expect difficulties during work with them.
Overall this is an example of a typical Dragon kit, very good quality, high level of details but also not without issues. On the other side the uniqueness of the vehicle which can be built from this kit allows me to recommend it.