Dragon 1/72 AFV kits have a great reputation and I have always found the German Armoured Cars of World War Two fascinating. So, when my local stockist had a sale that included this 1/72 kit from the Dragon Armor-Pro series, it seemed too good a chance to miss.
Chinese manufacturer Dragon Models Limited (DML) began producing 1/72 AFV kits in 2003 and these quickly gained a great reputation for the quality of their mouldings. This is partly because DML use slide moulding, injection moulds that have moving parts (slides) which are extracted so that the finished parts can be removed from the mould. This allows the moulding of much more complex shapes than traditional, static injection moulds. This kit was released in its present form in 2012.
Does all that technology add up to a decent kit? Let’s take a look.
Design of the Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (Heavy Armoured Scout Vehicle) began in 1929 following a German military requirement for an armoured car for reconnaissance operations. The requirement specified good endurance and range and the ability to operate off-road. The result, produced from 1932 – 1935, was the Sd.Kfz. 231, a six-wheeled armoured car based on an existing Büssing-Nag truck chassis. It had a manually revolved turret mounting a 20mm autocannon and an MG13 machine gun.
A line of Sd. Kfz. 231 (6-rad) at a military display in September 1936. The vehicle second from the left is an Sd. Kfz. 232 (Fu.) fitted with a one-hundred-watt long-range radio and a “bed-frame” aerial.
Image; Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons
However, use soon showed that this vehicle did not have the required off-road capability and in 1935 bus and truck manufacturers Büssing-Nag were invited to submit a redesign. Although the new vehicle looked superficially similar to the previous version, it was completely different. A tough ladder-framed chassis mounted eight wheels, all steerable, all driven through differentials from the rear-mounted engine and independently suspended. The new design also featured a larger hull with sloped armour to accommodate the four-man crew, front and rear driving positions and a hexagonal, manually rotated turret mounting a rapid-firing KwK 30 20 mm cannon (the same gun as used for the main armament on the early models of the Panzer II) and (from 1938) an MG34 machine gun. These vehicles entered service in late 1938 as the Sd. Kfz. 231 (8-Rad).
German paratroopers ride on Sd. Kfz. 231s in Italy, 1943.
Image; Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons
The new design provided amazing off-road capability, good speed (up to 85kmh) and reasonable range (up to 300km). The eight wheels were arranged as two steerable four-wheel bogies. In normal use, only the front four wheels steered and the rear wheels were locked but, it was also to steer from the rear position in which case the four wheels on the rear bogie were steered and the front bogie was locked. All this required a very complex drive and steering system and the Sd. Kfz. 231 was one of the most technically advanced early war German AFVs though, despite this, it also proved to be reliable in operational use.
An Sd. Kfz. 231 with Zerschellerplatte in the Balkans, 1941.
Image; Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons
The Sd. Kfz. 231 remained in production until late 1942 and in service with German units on all fronts throughout the war with only minor changes. The most obvious external change was the addition of “Zerschellerplatte” from around mid-1940, an additional plate of 8mm thick armour mounted around 50cm in front of the vehicle’s nose to provide protection from heavy machine-gun fire which it was found could penetrate the front armour. The area between the armour and the front of the hull was often used as a stowage area, but not all models received this armour upgrade. Later models also featured a more powerful KwK L/55 autocannon and a spare wheel and tyre, usually carried on the rear – early versions were fitted with self-sealing, bulletproof tyres and no spare was originally carried. Shortages of rubber and other material led to later versions having regular tyres and a spare.
Developments of this vehicle led to the Sd. Kfz. 232 (Fu), with additional radio equipment and a frame aerial, the Sd. Kfz. 233 “Stummel,” with a short-barrelled 75mm L/24 howitzer in an open-topped fighting compartment and the Sd. Kfz. 263 command vehicle. The Sd. Kfz. 231 was superseded, but never entirely replaced in Wehrmacht service, by the improved Sd. Kfz. 234 which looked similar but was actually a completely new design.
What’s in the box?
The small box contains three sprues and separate upper and lower hull sections, all moulded in light grey plastic, a set of decals by Cartograf and a four-page instruction booklet. No information about the history of the Sd. Kfz. 231 is provided on the box or in the instruction booklet. Each of the sprues, the upper and lower hull parts and the decals are all packaged separately in sealed plastic bags. No PE parts are included.
The quality of these mouldings is indeed very good. In fact, good barely covers it, these are really outstanding. My gob is smacked, my flabber, gasted.
The fact that the bore of the tiny 20mm autocannon is moulded open is impressive but things like the detail and complexity on the lower hull is nothing short of astounding and clearly would not be possible without using slide-moulding technology. The hatch in the turret is separate part that includes some internal detail, so this can be assembled open. The tools on the front hull are moulded separately, which always makes painting easier.
There seems to be lots of nice detail for the steering, suspension and differential units and even things like the tiny driver’s vision slots are cleanly and sharply moulded. Overall, all the detail is very sharp, I can’t find anything missing or wrongly located and overall, and in terms of the quality and accuracy of parts, this seems to be a very, very impressive little kit.
The four-page instruction booklet is simple and includes five colour schemes and decals for vehicles operated by several different units in Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, in Mozdok on the Eastern Front in 1942 and in Kursk and Sicily in 1943.
The kit can be completed with or without Zerschellerplatte and with or without a spare wheel and tyre on the rear. The Zerschellerplatte has a towing cable moulded in on its front face and two jerrycans are provided for the stowage area between this plate and the front of the hull. The kit also includes four width indicating antenna on the corners of the mudguards, but wartime photographs indicate that these were often not fitted or removed.
Are there issues? Well, some of the parts are really tiny and will take some careful removal from the sprue and assembly, but that hardly counts as a fault. I would have quite liked decals for a DAK version – the Sd. Kfz. 231 was used in the Western Desert where Rommel was particularly appreciative of its speed and range. Dragon also produce an Sd. Kfz, 232 (Fu) and the turret on this kit is common with that version, which means that it includes two small inverted triangular areas on the upper centre of the turret sides. These are used to mount the frame aerial on that kit and should be removed here.
Tread detail on the side of the tyres is good but not so clearly defined on the edge. Some of the decals are so tiny that they are actually kind of silly.
The number-plates, for example, are separate decals and you must then add to these the requisite separate letters and numbers which are around 1mm tall. There are a couple of ready-made numbers but there are also separate digits to create your own – I really don’t relish trying to get those tiny characters straight. Two of the decals are for SS units and, presumably to comply with European prohibitions on replicating Nazi symbology, each SS rune decal comprises two separate pieces that must be assembled on the number plate.
Other than those very minor niggles, this looks like a very impressive kit indeed and I very much look forward to building it.
Kiev-based Roden produce several versions of the Sd. Kfz. 231 (8-rad) in 1/72 scale including the Sd. Kfz. 231, 232 (Fu), 233 Stummel and 263. These are nice kits, but they don’t have as quite as much detail as the Dragon version.
Roden Website page for this kit
British manufacturer The Plastic Soldier Company (TPSC) produce a rather nice version of this vehicle in a kit that contains three models, each of which can be built as the Sd. Kfz. 231, 232 (Fu) and 233 Stummel. TPSC was founded in 2008 by Will Townshend to produce hard plastic figures and vehicles for wargamers and collectors and this kit also includes nicely detailed figures.
TPSC Website page for this kit