Kit Review: cyber-hobby.com (Dragon Models Limited) 1/35 Scale Upgrade and Conversion Kit No. 3831; Upgrade and Conversion Kit for Sd.Kfz.234/1 Schwerer Panzerspaehwagen (2 cm); 155 parts (129 etched brass, 18 in grey styrene, 8 pre-bent wire); price not available
Advantages: factory-made custom parts are a "drop-fit" onto the234/1 kit; upgrade the fine details and the steering gear as well as allow for a late-production vehicle
Disadvantages: competes with after-market products; some question as to why parts were not provided in base kit
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for fans of the German "stroke 1" heavy armored car
Back in the 1960s, Revell took a look at the fact the most popular models in the US at the time were 1/25 scale car kits. But the modeler was pretty much limited to what came with the kit, and as such even with "Three in One" car kits - stock, custom or racing - he had to buy a large number in order to build up a spares box for customizing his model. Revell decided to "preempt" that situation and released a large number of after-market sets designed to drop into any of their own car kits on the market. These included custom wheels, custom engines, transmissions, suspensions, a completely chromed motorcycle, and a complete hot rod that could be purchased one sprue at a time. Since each set cost only 69 cents (the minimum wage was about $1.25 at the time) they were a deal and were very, very popular.
Since then there have been only a few attempts to carry this out, as most conversion kits soon began to come from "cottage industries" and were made from resin or etched metal parts. Fit of the parts depended on the company, the pattern maker who made their originals, and getting the specific kit it was designed for in order to get a good match. But it was never the company which produced the main kit that usually did the after-market upgrade or conversion parts.
Through its parent company DML cyber-hobby.com has now started doing the same thing Revell did 40 years ago, and is now releasing upgrade or conversion sets for recent DML kits. The first one was a set of late model fenders (four bins) for the Sd.Kfz. 234/4 kit, and this one provides the reverse (two bin fenders) and other parts for the Sd.Kfz.234/1 kit.
The kit comes in a "blister" pack and not a box, with the directions placed in a folding cardboard stiffener used as the backing. "Directions" is something of an overstatement, as they are basically "stick here" drawings and do not cover where or when to insert the new parts when building the kit. The new parts include eight new driveshafts and eight new tie rod heads for the steering gear. They also provide eight lengths of bent wire which appear to be brake or air lines (I am not sure which, but they are in the position to be one or the other based on the system the vehicle used.)
The etched brass is very extensive - even though the original kit came with some 31 parts, most of them were just for the turret and not the rest of the model. This kit comes with the complete etched brass sheet that reads for the Sd.Kfz. 234/4 (but was NOT what came with that kit, so it must be another upgrade set as well) and two gratings, plus a complete etched brass 2 cm magazine rack for inside the hull that provides stowage for 10 full magazines. Stowage for 7.92mm ammunition is also provided, along with air intake and exhaust louvers, seat back details, and "jerry" can racks. However, many parts are provided but their locations are not described in the directions.
One new color profile is provided along with a new "targeted" set of Cartograf decals, but the directions fail to say what unit or where it was located. The model is suggested for a tri-color "patch" scheme with a hard edge.
Overall, it is a nice idea to come up with "drop fit" conversion kits for the company's models, but I am sure some modelers will question why didn't these parts come in the original kit rather than as "after market" offerings? To be sure, it keeps prices down, but at the end of the day it's the modeler who makes the decisions as to what is and what is not good value in a kit.
Thanks to Freddie Leung of DML for the review sample.