|DRAGON - Ferdinand - Kursk 1943|
Dragon's very latest Preium kit...with lot's of add-ons!
Ferdinand - Kursk 1943
Manufacturer: Dragon Models
Material: Styrene, Aluminium & Photo-etch
Serial Number: 6495
The Ferdinand first saw action during the battle of Kursk in 1943, but were soon found to be vulnerable to infantry attacks, although most of the vehicles lost during that action were actually lost to track damage or mechanical failure. In September of 1943, all the surviving Ferdinand's were recalled to be modified based on shortcomings identified during the Kursk action, and were henceforth called Elefants.
Although ostensibly an older release, this updated and streamlined kit has a few surprises under its lid! The box is fairly full of grey sprues, and there's not much that's marked as 'not for use' either. Additionally, we're supplied with a small transparent sprue, two bags of individual 'Magic Track' links, a turned aluminium barrel, length of copper chain, four metal towing shackles together with metal pins, two pre-formed mudguard pins, a metal tow cable, decal sheet, and three brass photo-etched frets...one of which is very big!
The main point of 'Premium' range kits are that they're 'older' releases which were basically sound, that have been given a new lease of life so to speak, by the addition of some new parts. Mostly, those kits released so far have been worthwhile, especially in the case of the Premium Sd.Kfz.250's, and this one looks set to continue this trend. Having said that, this is sort of a Premium update of a Premium update. The original Premium Ferdinand was released way back in early 2007, so is the only difference the Kursk in the title and the box art?
Okay....the running gear in the kit is still a proverbial pain in the....but once over that hurdle, it's mostly good. I say a pain, because nobody expects the suspension swing arms in a modern Dragon kit to come in two halves, and to have to join them and then spend time disguising the joint before getting on with the job. I suppose it was the way things were done when the original Dragon Ferdinand and Elefants were released. They are large swing arms too...I'll give them that! Plus...and it may just be that I'm in a good mood writing this...the components do seem to have been re-worked somehow? The moulding looks sharper. Very clean, not a trace of flash. More modern tooling. This is a subjective appraisal though. Once the swing arms are built, they are keyed onto the one-piece lower hull, although there is a little play, so to get them lined up perfectly, use your favourite method, be it a steel rule, homemade jig, or leave them loose for setting straight afterwards. The drive sprockets and idler wheels are all supplied in two halves, no surprises there. We're actually instructed at this early stage of construction, to install the tracks now, and it may actually pay to carefully consider doing so as well, since the construction of the vehicle may make it more difficult to do so later. The tracks, as I mentioned earlier, are supplied as individual 'Magic Track' ones, one in light grey and one in dark grey so that you can't get them mixed up. Well...that's the theory. The ttracks supplied in this kit are actually brand new. They're identical with the ones supplied in the original Premium Ferdinand, apart from that small fact that they have guide horns. Apparently that's correct for a Kursk Ferdinand, but as far as I knew that was correct for any Ferdinand?
I still hear from people that insist they don't like Magic Tracks because they fall apart very easily during assembly. They're supposed to. Well...no...they're not actually supposed to, but they are not designed to be working tracks, and it always surprises me that a lot of modellers out there are under the impression that they're supposed to be. They are individual links that fit together so that they can be posed realistically and cemented into place. Therefore, make up a short run, brush some liquid poly cement on, and before they set solid, position them onto the vehicle and 'adjust'. To aid this, Dragon actually reproduce a small diagram on the instructions that indicate how many links should be used for each section of tracks. I kid you not. For example, from the diagram we can gather that the bottom straight run should take 17 links, whilst the top run takes 19, and the drive sprocket curve takes 10. The idler depends on whether we're talking right or left. Honestly...they're different. Wonder if it works? I'll let you know.
The rear of the lower hull is constructed from multiple parts, including two side pieces that extend the hull sidewalls, rear wall itself, with several small baffles etc., to be fitted in place, and a large air intake cover that is provided with a photo-etched brass mesh to fit to its lower surface. Although the lower front hull wall is supplied already moulded in place, with weld seams, the upper part is supplied separately, as you would expect. For all the various tools we're supplied with photo-etched brackets, and plastic tools without the clamps moulded in place, which certainly makes it easier. Each of the long side fenders is supplied as a separate part, with nicely produced tread pattern on their upper surface, and plain lower surface. These are also supplied with photo-etched alternatives on the large photo-etched fret that is included. The photo-etched ones are constructed in sections, their advantages being not only a more scale-like appearance, but also offering the potential to impart a little (or a lot) battle damage. If you want to damage them I would seriously consider soldering them rather than using superglue or epoxy though. The two pre-formed hinge pins supplied in the set are fro use on the front mudflaps, offering again the potential for posing them raised or lowered. The two stowage boxes on the right side of the vehicle are also supplied as photo-etch, and one is supplied with a full complement of tools should you wish to model it opened as in a diorama.
Moving to the superstructure and gun. The gun itself is showing its age a little, being heavily simplified, with most of its component parts being supplied again in two halves. Little of this will matter much however, since little will be seen on the finished model. We're supplied with a turned aluminium barrel with three part injection moulded muzzle brake for its end however, so the important parts are as modern as you would want. Once constructed, the completed gun and simplified breech assembly are fitted to the inside of the one-piece slide-moulded superstructure before the superstructure itself can be fixed to the hull. Of course, once in place, there are a myriad of smaller details that have to be fixed to the superstructure itself. Of course, all the hatches are provided as separate parts for posing opened or closed, separate ventilator covers, lifting lugs, and pistol ports are all provided, the copper chain included for attaching the latter.
The engine deck is provided as one part with grids moulded in place, and supplemented by an additional structure with further grids that fits over the deck. There are also separate ventilator hatches, with separate armoured covers to fit over these. Lastly, for the rear wall there is a photo-etched stowage box supplied on the large fret. This consists of a long rectangular box, that fits into a photo-etched frame, and is supplied with hasps and separate hinges for the large lid.
There are two marking schemes illustrated on the instructions, both in two colour camouflage schemes. See below for full details.
If you have the previously released Premium edition of the Ferdinand from Dragon, you'll have to think hard before opting to get this one. There are differences...they're few, but important I suppose. There are a few extra tools supplied, and an extra photo-etched toolbox, plus the large stowage box on the rear of the vehicle. We're also supplied with more correct tracks. The decal sheet is different too of course. That's it. Everything else is the same. Of course, if you haven't yet managed to obtain a Premium Ferdinand, then this is the one. There's little doubt it's a well-engineered kit, that includes some very nice options, even allowing for the slightly dated running gear components.
Many thanks to Dragon models for the review sample.