While the concept of Blitzkrieg
conjures up images of tanks and mechanized infantry, most of Germany’s troops marched into battle on foot much as they had for hundreds of years. But the Great War had taught military theorists like Guderian it was imperative to have artillery moved up quickly to support the armor’s breakthroughs. To that end, the Wehrmacht developed numerous halftracks between the wars to tow its guns into battle, with the vehicle shouldering the majority of this work the Sd.Kfz.7 Prime Mover developed by the Munich firm of Kraus-Maffei.
Yet it was the rise of air power in the 1930’s, and its stunning success in the Spanish Civil War, that showed German planners they would need mobile anti-aircraft to protect their armored spearheads. A variety of platforms — tracked, semi-tracked and wheeled — carried a wide variety of AA weapons throughout the war, but one of the more-successful was the marriage of the 2cm FLAK 38 Vierling
(“quad”) to the Sd.Kfz.7 chassis. Developed by Mauser (not, as is often claimed, Rheinmetall-Borsig), this fearsome weapon could fire 800 rounds per minute, and was lethal against light armored vehicles and personnel.
Until this Spring, modelers interested in Sd.Kfz.7 variants had only the ancient Tamiya kits. Now within weeks of one another, Trumpeter and Dragon have both released 7/1 and 7/2 versions (mounting a 3.7cm gun) with more variants to follow. This review will concentrate on Dragon’s
The Sd.Kfz.7/1’s formal name was Sd.Kfz.7/1 2cm Flakvierling 38 auf Selbstfahrlafette (Sd.Kfz.7/1 20mm Flak quad 38 on a self-propelled gun platform). The Dragon kit comes in the usual attractive box with 11 sprues of light gray styrene, one of clear, a single-piece chassis and the mud guard/gun platform, a single fret of PE brass, decals and a twin-bagged set of Magic Tracks, all totaling more than 580 parts.
The kit is well-designed and should be a pleasure to build. First off, I’m relieved Dragon did not resort to the rubber band DS Styrene tracks that are turning up with annoying frequency on its other tracked kits. These are Magic Tracks but not the immobile kind we usually see, but movable ones meant to conform to the Sd.Kfz.7’s toothy drive sprocket. The vehicle had an ingenious system of wet pin/lubricated tracks requiring intensive maintenance, but lasting almost indefinitely, and these two-part tracks recreate the metal track and rubber wear pad well (be sure not to paint the wear pads a metal or rusted color).
DML has instead used their Dragon Styrene for the three tires (including one spare) which take paint very well compared to vinyl. The PE included is minor: some tread plates and the “step ring” on the hub of the drive sprocket, along with the wire “mesh” for the sides of the gun platform (which can be built in the deployed or travel positions). The mesh, unfortunately, is incorrect, both in shape and its dual-sided embossed surface, since the actual vehicle used a slatted metal openwork pattern barrier which was not a mesh at all. The railing dimensions are slightly shorter than those of the actual vehicle, but this is not readily apparent and not a major detraction.
The kit shows an “early” version of the Sd.Kfz.7/1 with an open cab and the distinctive rounded mud guards (introduced by the firm of Büssing-NAG in a prototype of the Sd.Kfz.7 prior to the war). While there are photos showing a Luftwaffe unit during the campaign in France with the distinctive armored cabs of the late-war 7/2 variant, the open cab version was adequate at the start of it all— until the Wehrmacht’s opponents improved their air arms.
The Dragon kit uses a single-piece chassis which is molded expertly, thanks to the company’s slide molding technology. The single-piece chassis makes building easier, though lacks some detail on the inner framework that doesn’t show after assembly. The gear box is much-simplified, but again, the final assembly is not really seen, so this will only matter if you plan on showing the vehicle being repaired.
More disappointing is the lesser detailing in the engine, with fewer parts used than Trumpeter’s Sd.Kfz.7 versions. Still, the detailing is generally quite good, allowing modelers to show an open bonnet. Perfectionists will want to add additional wires and levers to the detailed firewall, along with metal support rods between the cab and the radiator housing. On the other side of the firewall, the instrument panel has no decals and will require the purchase of the Archer set. This is a major shortcoming for the OOB modeler.
The slide molding for the gun is very impressive, and Dragon got the number of ammo bays correct (8). The gun shield is nicely-rendered, though a tad too thick as one would expect from styrene, though I suspect an after-market correction will be forthcoming. Since PE isn’t to the liking of many modelers, this “shortcoming” may turn out to be a net gain for most consumers. The gun barrels are very good, though perfectionists will want to go the AM route, as no current styrene technology will allow for properly-proportioned open-holed flash suppressors. The gun sight has minimal detail and was handled better in Dragon’s own kit #6288.
One of the real missed chances for excellence in this kit is the absence of a correct ammunition trailer. With an 800 rpm rate of fire, the Sd.Kfz.7/1 had a prodigious appetite for ammunition. It’s curious how a majority of surviving Early War photos show the vehicle without any trailer, suggesting trucks supported the FLAK Abteilungen
the Luftwaffe deployed to handle AA cover for ground units. But either the Sd.Ah.52 or Sd.Ah.56 were standard trailers used to keep the gun well-fed, and it would not have significantly increased DML’s costs to include a trailer.
A minor quibble is the absence of a proper crew for the gun. Its huge appetite for rounds required seven, including a driver. Dragon has a crew set of four for its single-barrel 2cm gun, so that’s a good start, but an accurate build with a Luftwaffe gun team will mean combining two sets and doing some extensive figure conversions. To that point, the kit includes wonderfully-detailed KAR98 rifles for the crew, which mount prominently on the front mudguard. Molded in two parts (rifle and slide bolt), there are sadly only two.
Instructions, Decals & Painting:
Thankfully the instructions are line drawings instead of the photographic style, and look straightforward. Disappointing is Dragon’s continued laziness in researching its painting options, especially given the rich photographic record for the Sd.Kfz.7 variants: three of the four options are “unidentified unit,” and all of them Eastern Front vehicles. Sometimes it seems as though the campaign in Russia is the only front that mattered. This is almost countered by the inclusion of blank license plates and generous digits allowing for almost unlimited Heer
, SS and Luftwaffe vehicles.
Despite its relatively high cost, the kit is an outstanding rendition of a storied vehicle that has been a staple of modeling for decades. After waiting over 30 years for a new Sd.Kfz.7/1, hobbyists will be well-served by this kit. Despite its few flaws, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the variant, German halftracks or just a fine build.
To see a build log of this kit, click here