Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale '39-'45 Series Kit No.6311; Sd.Kfz. 184 Elefant - Premium Edition; 713 parts (335 in grey styrene, 240 "Magic Track" snap-together links, 108 etched brass, 16 clear styrene, 4 white metal shackles, 4 turned aluminum pins, 2 steel pins, 2 lengths of twisted steel wire, 1 turned aluminum barrel, 1 length of brass chain); estimated retail price about US $45
Advantages: upgrades a popular older DML kit
Disadvantages: if you bought the first one, now you have to make a choice to keep it or get this one
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all German and "Tiger" fans
Dragon has now turned its attention to upgrading older kits, and one of the first to undergo the "Premium" treatment is their popular kit of the Porsche "Elefant." This kit was a "mystery kit" when first released back in January 2001, and now has been cleaned up and a lot of new bits added to make it better.
To cite from my review at that time:
The kit is quite different from the old Italeri mold, and the engine deck is very involved and detailed, providing the covered gratings via separate external grilles and an inner former with grillework cut into it. This compares well with the photos of the APG Elefant during its assessment for restoration, which appeared in Museum Ordnance Special Number 4: Elefant Panzerjaeger Tiger (P) by Tom Jentz and Jeff McKaughan. The screening on the cooling vent over the rear electric motors (parts B9, B10, B19 and B20) is solid, however, but as it is joined to the hull at a reverse angle below the rear of the fighting compartment, it shouldn't be a major complaint. (Note that new parts are offered to upgrade this area of the kit on a "Y" sprue today.)
The hull comes in a number of pieces - nine, to be exact: hull with sponsons, rear sides, rear plate and bottom rear of hull, bow plate and glacis, rear backing plate to glacis, glacis with ball mount, engine and forward compartment deck, and casemate. All are nicely detailed but smooth (i.e. no zimmerit paste is applied, or simulated by being molded into the plastic.) Parts placement is by small raised lines, which some modelers find annoying.
The suspension is totally new, and each one of the six bogies consists of nine parts, which do not move as the Italeri ones did. Installing the tracks once the wheels are in place is cagey though, as the hull comes with the sponsons molded in place which makes access to the top run difficult. DML recommends installing the tracks before the fenders (parts B1 and B2) but most modelers will probably want to try and avoid this for painting and finishing reasons. If you have problems with this sort of thing, perhaps a set of Fruilmodel tracks would be advisable, as they can be "snaked" through in this situation. (The inclusion of "Magic Tracks" solves this problem, but as with the new Pzkw. IV kits there are "left" and "right" tracks packed in separate bags, so be careful when using them. They are much easier to install after painting than the original kit's tracks.)
The kit also includes parts for the 8.8 cm L/71 gun to include a basic mount, recoil cylinders, and guards at the rear of the breech. The gun mount (parts C14 and C15) appears to cement in place, which limits traverse of the weapon once installed, but it would seem from the entirety of the gun mount and its components that it could be left loose to also provide the minimal traverse this big gun had in real life. The mantelet alone comprises five parts, so that the massive bolt heads on the joining plates can be accurately reproduced. (A new turned aluminum barrel and the sprue from the "Tiger I" kit with the muzzle brake section are now included so this can replace the kit's two-piece styrene barrel. Also a new cupola is included on the "Y" sprue with clear plastic vision blocks.)
As noted, the model does not come with zimmerit detail embellished on its parts. Some modelers have complained about this, saying that "if it's on the box it should be on the kit", but most German modelers have preferred to do it themselves and "get it right" rather than some of the methods which kit manufacturers have to use. (The kit acknowledges this, and at least does show what areas need zimmerit and where it goes.)
A choice of metal or styrene shackles is provided, as well as this time the kit comes with the two tow cables and metal cable for them. The kit also now comes with standard DML German tool sets TA (pioneer tools), TB (jacks and fire extinguishers) and TC (tow cable heads).
A choice of five different vehicles is offered: 1./s.Pz.Abt. 653, Italy 1944; s.Pz.Abt. 653, Rome 1944; 1./s.Pz.Abt. 653, Italy 1944;2./s.Pz.Abt. 653, Poland 1944, and s.Pz.Abt. 614, Poland 1945. All are camouflaged, but the decals include a "number jungle" so different vehicles may be modeled.
Overall DML has done a great job of upgrading the original kit, having added another 224 parts to the kit and fixing some of their errors or omissions the first time around. However, those people who bought the kit during its first release and have left it as a "force in being" on their shelves now have to make a choice as to keep it or buy the new one.
Many thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.