by: Matt Flegal [ ]
Previously available only in resin from Accurate Armor, the T28 monster tank is a reply by Dragon to Meng's excellent Tortoise giving us its American bigger brother. The good news is: it's another plastic kit that I would have bet against ever existing even five years ago. Designed to breach the Siegfried Line on Germany's border, as well as combat German heavy AFVs, it was a well-armored - and armed - behemoth. However, it was quite underpowered and slow, and would have been quite problematic to transport. Two prototypes were completed too late to serve in the war, and after hostilities ended, the program was cancelled.
Now let's start with the elephant in the room.
Yes, it appears that Dragon made an error in the track width for their T28, which throws the width of the vehicle off. No, it is not very noticeable at all, and truthfully, if nobody had even pointed it out, I would never have noticed. Fixing it would be extremely difficult if not impossible. I gave away my completed AA T28 years ago, so I can't tell you all if that kit is more accurate. It was a challenge-and-a-half getting the resin suspension put together and aligned on that one, so keep that in mind when choosing your kit.
what you get
So what's in the box? An awful lot, actually; good luck ever getting all of this stuff back in the box after taking it out. First off, there are 25 sprues of grey plastic (2 clear ones) that will provide an awful lot of spare parts. Seriously, over half of the sprues will have you using only 60-70% of the parts, and one uses five of the 40 on the sprue. You also get a turned metal barrel, 2 small sheets of photo-etched brass, 8 lengths of excellent DS track, 32 metal springs, a small decal sheet and a metal tow cable.
Overall, the kit is a mixed bag. The molding quality is excellent and there is no flash and few seam lines or sink marks that will be visible upon completion.
Many of the details are extremely well-done, down to welds and even the different textures between the rolled steel sponsons and main cast hull. The use of slide molding is both helpful and very clever: the cranes and cannon muzzle are highly impressive. The suspension is complete and quite involved; however, Dragon took some really innovative steps to help you with cleanup. The tires are separate (so you can paint separately from the road wheels), and have a centrally-mounted sprue so you can easily mount it in a drill or Dremel to quickly sand off the mold seam. The road wheels have the sprue attachment right on the edge, so you have very little to trim off and sand.
There is even a small piece of paper that clarifies an error in the main instructions for the suspension. I didnít find mine until after several minutes of confusion as to how I could use one of the mounts twice as many times as I had partsÖ. The turned metal barrel is greatly appreciated. And you get a large amount of extra parts for your spares box, and it sure does look like a T28. However, there are some parts that fit poorly (more on those later), the drive sprockets are too low, the sponson rear plates are incorrectly placed and fit poorly, and the drive sprockets are not detailed-enough to represent the modifications to them, so if you choose to leave the sponsons off, they will not be accurate. In addition, there is a poorly thought-out photo-etch sheet, and many finer details are missing or simply wrong. Itís mildly frustrating, since Dragon is the top of the class when it comes to intricate detailing; yet they missed some obvious and simple things.
Load up a lot of music on your MP3 player, stock up on the beverages of your choice, make sure your sanding sticks and Xacto blades are in good shape, and be ready for hours and hours of modeling fun. Easily 80% of the time on this build will be spent on the suspension. Fourteen sprues, one sheet of photo-etch, and 8 lengths of DS track will take some time to put together. However, realize this: you will be able to see very, very little of it when you are done. Sixteen of the road wheels (maybe 20 if you look closely), about 1mm of the bottom of the suspension arms, and a bit of the drive sprockets are all you can see (along with the tracks).
So if you want to cut some time off the build, there is an awful lot of cleanup that you can avoid. To give you an idea, I did a full cleanup on all the parts and spent at least 8-10 hours just on this section, plus about another couple of hours painting them before installation. Iíd recommend painting a lot of this separately because it will be tricky to pull this off when everything is closed-up.
Do you have a significant other? Do they like you? Can they hold small parts for you? You are ahead of the game if so, my friend. The suspension is articulated, which is lovely. However, it will take a great deal of care to have it work and even if you do, I found that slight differences in alignment of the two pins that hold the arm in place dramatically change the degree of travel. So of my 16 bogie assemblies, probably 2-3 didnít move at all, another 3-4 had slight movement, 7-8 had a decent degree of movement, and the rest seemed to travel darned close to 120 degrees. I would recommend gluing one of the pins in place and allowing it to dry before attaching the suspension arm and other pin. The bolt on the pin should be slightly angled up and away from where it mounts, but you canít see the things anyway when youíre done.
Part Q4 is beautifully-molded, but very easily warped, which will affect how the two ďspringsĒ articulate in the bogie; some finger twisting may be required. The actual steel springs that fit in are a stupid gimmick, but a necessary one unless you glue the arms in place. Without them, the suspension will collapse, so either grit your teeth and use them or glue things in place before you rest the weight of the model on them. The tires are fairly easy to clean-up, but you do have 64 of one type and 8 of another. Dragon includes extras in the kit, which is great, but I didnít realize this until after Iíd cleaned them all up. It did allow me to reject those which suffered from poor sanding jobs on my part. I will repeat though: you will really only be able to see ľ of them when finished, so unless you live in fear of IPMS judges with penlights and dental mirrors, you can cut some corners here.
The bogies are handed based on the springs but, repeat after me: you canít see them when youíre done anyway. The bogey mounting plates are beautifully-detailed and snap fit into the corresponding sponson plates tightly. The fit seems a little looser on the hull, which makes no sense as the plates are the same. The actual attachment area is a bit low, so I knocked off two of them while mounting the tracks. The tires fit tightly to the road wheels, which is good, but they are enough of a force fit that it chipped most of the paint off the rim. Not a major issue, because I highlight-painted those rims at the end for contrast. But I would recommend either being very careful or lightly sanding the road wheel rim edge to give you a slight taper, thus assuring the road wheel will fit a touch more loosely.
They fit, they are simple, and Dragon has minimized the attachment pointsí clean-up. The problem is: they are noticeably low when looked at from the rear, which allows the rear upper track run to slant. It would be fixable with some surgery to shift the sponson mounting peg up and reshape the rear hull housing. This seemed to me to be a fair amount of work for a fairly minor issue so I ran screamingÖ er, I decided against it.
Only issue is the same as the road wheel as far as tire attachment goes.
Very well-molded and DS tracks are a wonder of modeling. The separate guide horns look very nice and glue down well with Tamiya extra thin cement. I would recommend a pretty gentle plastic cement, as even this stuff melts the DS material noticeably. You will invest a couple of hours here, but you can leave off half the horns as you canít see them.
Lots of small guide wheels, return rollers, and the like are included, along with photo-etched suspension supports. You canít see any of them. Short of placing the return rollers so the track fits, you can ignore all of these if you so choose.
Overall, these are pretty well-detailed, and the welds around parts b11 in particular are lovely. They fit to the hull snugly, BUT do not attach parts D10 and D11 before placement. These parts donít fit well at all, and if placed too soon in the process, will actually block proper placement of the other parts. The problem is they overlap a lip on the hull rear, so the whole sponson is shifted backwards about 1 mm. I would suggest cutting off the raised lip on the inner side of those two plates and test fit and trim them by eye. Note that on Dragonís build, those pieces are slightly higher than the corresponding rear hull plate. This is incorrect based on the surviving example at Fort Knox, as that one has them at the same level. In addition, there is a slight taper on the real T28 that is not represented here where the plate overlaps the hull rear.
For some unknown reason, Dragon represents the hull boxes with photo-etch. It adds complexity to the build and little else that I can see. The guts of the cranes are simplified and youíll have to add your own cabling from wire. One pet peeve here is the tools: Dragon has started including either photo-etched or molded plastic clamps for their German OVM tools and Trumpeter followed suit with their E-50/75 series. The improvement is very noticeable. Can we please dispense with the 70ís/80ís era molded raised circle around an apparently magnetically attached tool approach now that weíve reached the second decade of the 21st century, please?
Until some basic straps and such are included, I would recommend junking the tools and replacing them with Formationsís resin set with molded straps. They are a significant visual improvement and one that adds to the build without a lot of subtle improvements. Many of the details are simplified or slightly ďimagineered,Ē while a large number of prongs and such are not present at all. In addition, many of the smaller blocks have a beautiful weld border to fit into which is greató except that they are noticeably smaller and there are noticeable gaps between them and the border which will need to be filled.
There is a slight gap where the rear plate attaches, but the fit of the various parts is very good. Clear plastic periscopes are much appreciated, too. The M2 .50 cal. is very nicely-molded, and I see no reason to do my usual procedure of junking it for a Tasca MG. The casting texture is very good and the upper plate of the hull is appropriately smooth. I did want to include the obvious sand casting rings on the front of the mantlet and hull, so I stippled Mr Surfacer 500 and then used the smallest brass tube I could find to imprint the rings. Iím not 100% thrilled with the result, but I do like it.
The front of the mantlet appears a bit sharper than the actual tank, but it depends on the angle whether Iím convinced this is an issue or not. As with the sponsons, many smaller details are not present and some others are just wrong. The two circular spools on the left side of the hull are bolted to the real vehicle directly; Dragon missed this and represents those as fitting into a circular base plate. The M2 machine gun is pretty darned good and warrants being used as opposed to being swapped out for one of Tasca's plastic offerings. The ring mount is well-done, but the four support legs are simplified and missing flanges and such. They also don't have the overlap of the roof edge as in the real vehicle.
I singled the PE out because I feel this is both the worst part of the kit, as well as illustrating the odd design approaches Dragon took overall. The sheet for the suspension is fine and fits well, but it is also not visible when the kit is completed! The sheet for the hull is awful and pointless. The bulk of it is to make the two large boxes on the right sponson. Why? They have a mediocre level of detail and are of extremely thin brass (almost a foil), which is very prone to deforming while handling. To combat this, I superglued evergreen square tube to the large box sides to give it some stability. In retrospect soldering thicker brass plate would have been a better idea to avoid having the flimsy brass stop popping off, as well as soldering the box edges.
I assembled them with thick cyanoacrylate and put the lids on, which are an extremely tight fit on the short sides. My advice would be to leave one of those edges unbent and bend into place once the lid is placed. Actually, my advice would be to use those parts as templates and cut them from plastic; you could knock the boxes together in less time than it takes to assemble the brass ones. If you're not comfortable with photo-etch, these boxes will be a real challenge, and there is simply no reason they couldn't be done in plastic. However, that is not the most foolish part of the sheet: slightly forward of those large boxes on the real vehicle, there are 4 small blocks of steel welded along the edge. Dragon represents these tiny 1 mm blocks with five sided PE parts that must be bent into a box and placed. So, you're going to be folding 4 tiny featureless boxes of very thin brass for absolutely no reason that I can see.
Or you can do what I did and replace them with small segments of Evergreen 0.040 X 0.040 strip in less than 3 minutes.
Then there are two pieces of sheet steel that protrude from the right sponson side that has all its cousins on the kit represented by lovely scale thickness plastic parts. Here you not only get them in brass, you get a piece that you have to fold over for closer thickness which is still noticeably thinner than the real part and could have perfectly represented in plastic. This PE fret simply makes no sense. If Dragon wanted to make it multimedia, they could have replaced this entire fret with plastic and then used the fret for the profusion of flanges and welded steel pieces that stick out all over the actual surviving vehicle. Unfortunately, they aren't represented at all. Which is a shame, because this kit actually will benefit with after-market PE to add visual complexity to so many of the flat surfaces.
The suspension is a time killer, but it is a well-done effort to represent the complexity of the actual suspension. There is an issue with the drive sprockets, though only if you display the sponsons separately; and if you donít, the majority of this detail will be hidden. The error in width is an annoyance as this is something that could have been easily avoided. However, it is not really obvious without measuring, and the finished monster certainly looks impressive. The problem with lower drive sprockets is more obvious, but these arenít a major issue, to me at least. There is an awful lot that Dragon got right with this kit, and it is an impressive purchase. I think it unlikely that weíll see another of these in plastic anytime soon, so if you want a T28 and resin isnít your preference. this is it. It is just a shame that Dragon skipped the refinement stage of design, because this kit could have been a world beater if another QC pass had been performed. Especially as there are any number of really good walk-arounds on the 'Net that they could have double checked details against.