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In-Box Review
135
Elefant with Zimmerit
Sd.Kfz.181 Elefant with Zimmerit
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

INTRODUCTION

It seems, like with Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab, we’re drawn to quirky losers. The Elefant tank destroyer was the by-product of Ferdinand Porsche’s failed efforts to win the design competition for the Tiger I tank. After losing out to Henschel’s prototype, he converted the chassis of just over 90 of his Tiger prototypes into a 65 ton tank destroyer equipped with the high-performance PAK 43/L71 88mm gun that would be used later on the Tiger II, Jagdpanther and Nashorn. Dubbed the “Ferdinand” in honor of its designer, the vehicle had several complex design innovations that made it prone to mechanical problems, including a “petro-electrical” propulsion system employing twin 300 hp Maybach HL 120 TRM engines that powered electric motors connected to the drive train.

Finished just in time for Operation Citadel, the Wehrmacht’s attack on the Kursk salient (and the German army’s last major offensive on the Eastern Front), the Ferdinand was a disappointment in combat: cumbersome, slow, prone to breakdown and vulnerable to infantry assault because it lacked a machine gun. But its cannon was deadly at ranges beyond anything the Allies had then, so the 50 vehicles which survived the Kursk meat grinder were returned to the Nibelungen-Werken factory in Austria.

There a commander’s cupola and a ball-mounted MG-34 for anti-personnel protection were added, and the lower half of the body coated with Zimmerit paste. Renamed “Elefant” (but still called “Ferdies” despite Hitler’s orders otherwise), they were formed into two “heavy anti-tank battalions” (schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen): the 653rd and 654th. Once again, the design undid the Elefant: it was too heavy for many Italian roads and bridges, and mechanical breakdowns meant more of them were abandoned or destroyed by their crews than knocked out in combat. Withdrawn to Poland, the Elefant later participated in the Battle of Berlin.

CONTENTs

This new kit is attractively boxed with an exciting painting on the cover of an Elefant in action. The sprues are mostly individually-packed in clear plastic. Included are:

•16 sprues in Dragon’s usual light gray plastic
•1 light gray hull tub
•1 superstructure
•1 aluminum turned barrel
•2 DS Dragon Styrene track strips
•1 sprue of clear plastic for periscopes
•4 u-shaped tow latches
•1 bag of 6 pair of “handed” Magic Tracks “spare” tracks
•1 sheet of PE
•1 small chain for the pistol port cover
•1 strand of wire for cables
•1 sheet of Cartograf decals

REVIEW

Dragon already released a Premium Edition of the Elefant without Zimmerit (#6311 reviewed by Vinnie Branigan Here). But since all Elefants had this anti-magnetic coating, modelers previously could either apply their own or rely on several AM choices. Now Dragon has added the Elefant to its recent line of kits with molded-on Zimmerit. The Elefant is actually one of the easier vehicles to Zimmerit, since the coating only extends part of the way up the sides. But not all of us have the confidence-- or time—to apply the paste themselves. After Market Zimmerit isn’t cheap, either. The two criticisms of molded-on Zimmerit are:

1. Not-to-scale (ridges & indents too “deep”)
2. One pattern for all vehicles (the Panther D kit was singled out for using an obscure pattern)

While there is no remedy for #2 other than doing it yourself or mixing and matching AM Zimmerit, Dragon is clearly learning as it goes and has improved the look of its molded-on Zimmerit on this kit. It’s shallower than the Panther D I’m building, and they have also built-in some minor defects and slight wear/battle damage to make the end results more realistic.

Dragon has once again followed its practice of reissuing a Premium kit with Smart Kit version. The changes are often minor simplifications, but here they have replaced a sheet of Photo Etched brass with a sprue of styrene. The change will benefit the average modeler, but likely annoy “rivet counters” like myself.

Another significant change is the switch away from “Magic Tracks” to Dragon Styrene “rubber band” tracks. While certainly an improvement over vinyl links, DS tracks still represent a big compromise in detail, especially with Wehrmacht vehicles where track sag is significant. The track link details are also soft, and there is, of course, no gap between links.

Turning to the details of the styrene, I was impressed once again with Dragon’s craftsmanship and production. Like the earlier Elefant without Zimmerit, the kit has crisp detailing, minimal flash and knock-out holes, and looks as though it will go together as easily as most current DML models. A turned aluminum barrel is included, along with metal tow lugs, as well as a chain for the pistol port and a segment of metal wire for the tow cable. The instructions are drawings instead of color photographs, a welcome step in this reviewer’s opinion. Dragon has been criticized for failing to properly indicate where some small parts a placed, and the photographic instructions generally exacerbate that issue.

Decals and Markings:
Perhaps because there were relatively few Elefants built and their units are well-documented, Dragon has strayed from their recent laziness in providing scant authority for painting and decals (“Unknown unit” seems to be their current favorite designation). The kit offers up five actual vehicles with detailed painting schemata:

•3rd Company/s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 Poland 1944 (khaki green and red brown disruptive pattern over dunkelgelb)
•3rd Company/s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 Poland 1944 (green ”net” pattern over dunkelgelb)
•1./s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 653 Italy 1944 (khaki green disruptive over dunkelgelb)
•s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 614 Poland 1945 (whitewash over dunkelgelb)
•s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 614 Poland 1945 (whitewash disruptive pattern over dunkelgelb)

One quibble I would have with the painting guide, however, is it no longer shows the overhead view from the earlier, non-Zimmerit Premium Edition kit.

CONCLUSION

Since I never build kits using Magic Tracks, preferring instead the realistic look and detail of metal AM tracks, Dragon’s switch to its new DS styrene “rubber band” tracks doesn’t particularly bother me. But in terms of realism, DS simply can’t come close to even Magic Tracks.

Wehrmacht armor purists will also likely prefer replicating the Zimmerit paste coating with one of the epoxy putties on the market in order to properly “damage” the finished results. But for the majority of modelers, the addition of pre-molded Zimmerit on an already excellent kit will come as a welcome improvement.
SUMMARY
Highs: Crisp detailing, lack of flash, good rendition of the Zimmerit with realistic defects and damage, turned aluminum barrel and other “goodies.”
Lows: Loss of PE detail from Premium Edition kit w/o Zimmerit; DS molded tracks replacing Magic Tracks.
Verdict: Despite some quibbles, another fine kit from Dragon. The more exacting should consider adding AM or self-applied Zimmerit to the Premium Edition kit, but no one should be upset with the results from this version.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6465
  Suggested Retail: 49.95
  Related Link: Dragon USA
  PUBLISHED: May 08, 2009
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.08%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.19%

Our Thanks to Dragon USA!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.
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About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright ©2017 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.


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Comments

Thanks Bill. The Zim does seem to be getting better and better with every new Dragon Zim kit, nice to see the irregular and damaged pattern. They've come a long way since the rare patterned Panther D and very neat strait unconvicing KT. I think the waffel patterned Stug really was the start of this revolution in Zim plastic kits. Its great news for modellers that have not the time or maybe the skills. I really hope that Dragon continue producing these Zim kits that are common vehicles with common patterns. Not like the late tiger also with its rare pattern and over deep scale depth to some areas of the kit. Looking at the Zim on this Elephant shows us that they are more than capable, and have the ability to produce kits on a par with the Resin AM people. Great review. Thanks geraint
MAY 08, 2009 - 06:52 AM
Thanks, Geraint. Vinnie should get a generous nod for reviewing the non-Zim kit and setting the path. I agree that DML can do a better job on the Zimmerit and I'm glad to see they listen to modelers about it. I will be building the kit mostly OOB (will substitute Friuls because I can't stand rubber bands of ANY substance, and some tool clasps) once I finish my Panther D build.
MAY 08, 2009 - 11:07 AM
Thanks for the review,I picked up one of these at Mosquitocon last month and I look foward to getting started.
MAY 08, 2009 - 12:07 PM
I'm with you on this on Ds tracks for tanks with sag is just plain IMHO its going backwards. Down with the Rubber Bands! I Bet Fruils are rubbing they're hands. Cheers Geraint
MAY 08, 2009 - 02:36 PM
I'm with you on this on Ds tracks for tanks with sag is just plain IMHO its going backwards. Down with the Rubber Bands! I Bet Fruils are rubbing they're hands. Cheers Geraint[/quote] I agree Friuls are great probably the best,but at $40.00 a pop +shipping...I will be using the DS tracks and making the best of it
MAY 08, 2009 - 04:44 PM
I have a set of Magic Tracks from the Premium Kit I'm selling here.
MAY 08, 2009 - 05:25 PM
I agree Anthony. Why didn't they just put magic tracks in as well. That would please everyone and I dont think the price for the kit would alter. The only problem then, would be. Once you've opened the box, had a look around, you would never get the lid back on
MAY 08, 2009 - 05:26 PM
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