With Allied air superiority growing as the war entered it later years, the German leadership recognized the need for more modern, mobile antiaircraft vehicles to protect their ground forces from marauding Allied aircraft. In 1944, Rheinmetall-Borsig started the development of new Flakpanzers based on the Panther chassis. Three variants were originally envisioned armed with 20, 37 and 55 millimeter guns. Preliminary work on the variants was begun by Rheinmetall in January 1944. All envisioned mating the Panther hull with new fully enclosed, rotating and armoured turret.
The projected final production version turret was intended to be mounted on the more modern Panther ‘G’ chassis; however the increasing demand for gun tanks eventually led to the entire program never reaching the production stage. This kit represents what would have been the projected final version on a Panther ‘G’ chassis. This variant planned was intended to mount four Flak Vierling MG 151/20 antiaircraft guns and is the subject version for this review.
The subject of this review is the Dragon Models
1/72 Armor Pro Flakpanzer 341 mit 2cm Flakvierling, kit #7487.
Contents of the box revealed five bagged styrene sprues in the standard Dragon Models
light grey colour. Two larger sprues were contained in one bag and are the same as those that are found in Dragon Models
Panther ‘G’ (#7205, #7206) kits. Two smaller bags contain the upper and lower hull pieces and a further medium sized bag contains the parts specific to the 20mm Flakpanzer 341. A final bag contains two lengths of Dragon Models
Styrene (DS) tracks. There is also present a small sheet of Cartograph water-slide decals with generic German crosses in two sizes.
A four sided instruction card is provided displaying a parts diagram, two pages with four assembly steps in the form of exploded view CAD images with arrows for parts placement and one page showing painting and markings. The painting and marking pictures are for two tanks with the first having a two colour camouflage and the other a three colour camouflage. The colour references provided are for the GSI Creos Corp Aqueous Hobby Color, the same company’s Mr. Color and Model Master enamels.
Sprue contents and breakdown are as follows.
- A - 62 -Suspension components, running gear and side skirts.
- B - 8 -Flakpanzer 341 specific pieces.
- C - 52 -Panther hull details.
- D1 - 1 -Upper Hull.
- D2 - 1 -Lower hull.
- E - 2 -DS tracks.
The total kit parts content is 126 of which 40 will find a home in your spares container.
The first thing that stood out while inspecting the sprues is that all the crew hatches on the hull and turret are moulded on in a closed position. Despite this, the older ‘C’ sprue had a couple of pleasant surprises. The most notable being a part that represents the inner engine compartment with its fans, radiators and engine block. The main engine compartment hatch is a separate part and ideally could be positioned in the open position to display the interior.
All the external upper hull stowage is provided as separate parts. Granted, some of the tools are represented in clusters but should still be easier to paint than the moulded on variety. Another nice touch often missed with recent kits is that styrene spare tracks are provided for mounting on the rear upper hull. They are even of the correct size and contour to match the DS tracks. The 20mm guns have very fine detailing and even have their bores hollowed out thanks to slide-moulding.
While delicately moulded towing shackles are provided as individual parts, all lifting eyes in the hull and turret are semicircular moulded on projections of plastic. No PE alternates for these or other details are provided as in some past Dragon offerings (included with previous Panther G).
Sprue connection points (gates) are all over the place as far as size and location is concerned. Several parts on the older Panther sprues (A, C) not only have larger connection points but with some parts there are several vent gates on a part that will need to be cleaned up as well. A few of these are downright huge and will require even more careful clean-up. Ejector pin marks are mostly on surfaces that will not be visible after construction.
Flash is not absent on the kit parts and especially on the older two sprues. Most should take minimal effort to be removed. The ‘B’ sprue that contains the new turret parts had minimal flash evident.
- While the ‘B’ sprue with all the turret pieces has the ‘B’ identifier tab on it, all references for assembly in the instructions identify the turret sprue and parts as being on a second ‘A’ sprue.
As with any model build, it will serve the builder well to study the instructions and determine the best construction order prior to having glue meet plastic. While the instruction steps for this kit suggest or imply a general building sequence, the timing of attaching the individual parts will be left up to the individual. As an example, fragile and any delicate part placement should probably be left until nearing final finishing.
Of the four construction steps the first two are the busiest. Step 1 has the entire hull and all it’s associated pieces entirely built. However, in this reviewers opinion, it is probably more logical to leave joining of the upper and lower hull until after the rather intricate suspension, complete with tracks in place, is completed.
The suspension is the focus of Step 2 and is fairly complex when compared to that of the recent Panther D (#7494). The construction process will require some planning as the construction sequence is not all that clear in the pictographs. There are also some deficiencies as far as parts labelling is concerned. On the review sample the inner halves of the rear idlers (parts A19) are not identified on the sprue. The road wheels shown to be A18 in the instructions are identified on the sprue as A1. It will be the responsibility of a builder to compare the parts specified in the instructions with the sprue diagram to ensure they are selecting the right parts.
Step 3 has the entire turret assembled but only involves eight parts. Final assembly of the model takes place in Step 4. During this step the tracks are added, the hull rear plate with its accompanying detail pieces are attached, the turret is placed on the hull and the side skirts are glued in place.
As there are numerous build logs of the earlier Dragon Models
Panther ‘G’ kits on the Internet, this review will mostly concentrate on the new turret. However, after reading a number of these reviews I’ll just say that the hull is not without a few problems, primarily gaps needing to be filled due to parts not fitting the best. There is also an issue with the front machine gun’s ball mount (C20). The recess for the ball mount in the front upper hull plate is quite a bit larger than the mount itself so it will require quite a bit of careful filling.
Dry fitting the interleaved suspension parts showed that the various wheels had an adequate fit, with only the innermost road wheels being a bit loose. The idler halves however were a bit of a nuisance as they each had a fair amount of flash around the ejector pin areas and vent gates. In two cases the flash was so thick that it formed semi-circular projecting plugs of plastic (perhaps due to the age of the mould?).
The turret itself has a fair overall fit to the pieces. The gun barrels are nicely detailed and have a hollow barrel end but will require extreme care with removing them from the sprue and during clean-up. Indeed, their small size and fragility will undoubtedly cause problems for more than a few builders.
Parts A2 And A3 are internal mantlets into which the gun barrels are mounted. Part A2 is used for the upper pair of guns and is quite small, while A3 is noticeably larger and should prove easier to handle. The barrels have a half moon shaped projection at their end that fits into a similarly shaped hole in each mantlet. The fit was extremely sloppy or loose and the modeller will need to make sure that in the end, the guns remain parallel to each other and properly oriented. On each end of the mantlets is a circular “pin” that is inserted into semi-circular depressions in the turret top (A1). Once placed into their locations the lower part of the turret (A6) can be attached.
The lower turret part has four internal projecting lugs of plastic that are meant to insure that the mantlets remain in place, even dry fit, these lugs hold the mantlets such that the guns will remain at any elevations chosen. Ideally, the gun’s elevation can be changed after the bottom is glued but there is quite a risk that doing so could break one of these very delicate parts.
Unlike a few recent kits, this kit has the turret lugs that prevent the turret falling off or needing to be glued. The fit of the turret to hull is snug but not excessive and it will allow for rotation. It should be noted that while the turret details have some very decent moulding, the modeller might want to enhance a few areas. The periscope openings on the commander’s cupola are moulded open but some of the openings are not perfectly rectangular. Another point is that the lifting eyes on the turret front are represented by solid plastic projections. A few minutes work with an appropriately sized drill bit in a pin vice could open them up to create a more appropriate look.
With this kit we see Dragon Models
combining something old with something new to create an interesting “paper panzer.” As the hull and the lower suspension are from the venerable previous Panther G kit(s), those that have built one should expect no surprises other than the need for increased clean-up due to the age of the mould. The turret, while having a simplified construction, seems quite appropriate based on images one will find on the Internet.
While not exactly what one might call a “quick build,” this kit is simple enough for even a beginning modeller. For the more skilled builder there is quite a bit of opportunity to enhance it. Since this was not a production vehicle there is great potential for a builder to use artistic license for any embellishing of the basic form and colour scheme.