|Part 1: First Look|
534 Pieces (490 gray plastic, 16 clear plastic, 24 Photo-Etch Brass & 4 brass fender width indicators)
Without a doubt, the biggest modeling news to me this year was that Dragon was coming out with a new-tooled 1/35 Sdkfz 234 series of armored cars. Normally, any information that indicates a new-tooled 1/35 armored car/wheeled fighting vehicle kit is coming out excites me greatly. However, the 234 is one of my favorites, so I was more "geeked" than ever. I bought the first two Dragon 234 releases right off the bat (Sdkfz 234/4 75mm & Sdkfz 234/1 20mm cannon armed vehicles) and I was well on my way to purchasing the 234/2 "Puma" when I received this review sample. Great modeling timing for once! Incidentally, the name of Puma was never officially used, but I use it since many of us modelers know the 234/2 as such. Plus, it sounds cooler; to me at least.
On to my review… My first impression while looking at this kit was that it appeared Dragon had done a wonderful job. That great first impression was only reinforced after going a bit more in depth, while closely inspecting the parts, reviewing the instructions and comparing the kit with my reference material. I suspect that my positive feelings about this kit will only continue once I start the building process and probably even after I complete it.
Again, Dragon provides a kit chock full of parts; there's 534 of them! That is simply amazing considering this is a wheeled vehicle, without tracks (and therefore individual track links). The 8 wheels/tires each use 5 parts and the suspension is so detailed I didn't even begin to count the parts with that sub-assembly.
Some highlights of options and general features that Dragon provides us include:
Neither of these two conditions should pose any significant problem to even basic modelers. Considering what Dragon offers us in this kit, these are "nits I am picking". Normally things like this that are so minor they would not warrant me even mentioning them in a review. However, I was trying hard to come up with something "negative" to counter all the positives of the kit I've discovered so far. I had to come up with something; right?
The accuracy level of the Dragon 234/2 is that is VERY high and close to the real vehicles I've viewed as well as the references I have. Although I've never seen an actual 234/2, I did get a chance to take a peep at Ft. Knox's 234/4 and Bovington's 234/3. Many of the parts are identical to all three vehicles, so I believe my observations are probably fairly close when compared to reality.
I compared the kit parts and instructions with my references and I found no major problems, omissions, etc. To be honest, I found nothing wrong; although it is definitely possible I missed something. Of course I don't get too worked up over minor differences between kits and the real vehicles, but that's just me. The kit scales out almost perfectly to George Bradford's AFV drawing of the 234/2 and compares VERY well to the photos and drawings I've compared it to in Thomas Jentz's books "Museum Ordnance Special #24 - Schwerer Panzerspahwagen (Sdkfz 234)" and "Panzer Tracts 13 - Panzerspahwagen (Armored Cars Sdkfz. 3 to Sdkfz 263)".
Quality/Detail of Parts
The quality of the casting of the kit pieces is simply outstanding; Super-Crisp. There is absolutely no flash present on the parts, and even the tiniest of pieces were almost flawlessly cast. Also, there are very few sink holes present, and those only appear in the hard to see/reach areas, where no filling will be needed. At first glance, it appears to me that the only clean up needed to parts would be caused by any mistakes I make when cutting the parts off the sprues. If I don't screw up, then no clean up will be necessary.
The detail level of each individual part is also superb. Even the smallest of pieces contains a stunning amount of detail. Finally, the overall detail level of the kit after construction looks like it will be unbelievable. For instance, the suspension is literally eye popping. The amount of parts and the level of detailing almost seems to be the same as with the real vehicle! My first impression is that I believe aftermarket detail parts may not be needed for most modelers. It looks like a super detailed model can be made right out of the box.
Decals, Markings, Painting
Yet again, Dragon provides top quality Cartograph Decals which are thin, vibrant and printed in register. The decals are crisp with no color overrun. The decals provided cover the markings of 4 vehicles: · 20 Panzer Division - 1945
· 2 Panzer Division - France 1944
· Panzer Lehr Division - Normandy 1944
· Unidentified Unit Vehicle - France
Also, the license plate decals are designed with individual numbers and "WH" prefix so that you can represent any Wehrmacht Heer (Army) operated vehicle.
No "SS" rune prefixes are provided for the plates though.
The markings/painting guides are one in the same, and come with three views of each of the 4 vehicles which decals are provided for. The guides are understandable and can be easily followed.
The instruction sheet is "typical Dragon" and should pose no major problems using if you are an experienced modeler. As I usually state, caution should always be used when following Dragon's instructions. This is not necessarily a negative point to me in that the "problems" encountered with Dragon instructions are not usually due to their low quality. Any difficulties encountered are usually due to the fact that they provide a high level of detail in their kits (equaling many parts) as well as a myriad of vehicle versions, sub-variants, etc. The more parts and options Dragon gives us, the more cumbersome their instruction sheets will generally be. I'd rather have Dragon provide more detail and kit building options in their kits and get more "complicated" instructions rather than receiving a kit with outstanding/ exceptional instructions but only getting one vehicle version/option which is less detailed.
With all this being said though, some building sequences (i.e. the suspension) are very complex and Dragon only provides "exploded views" of the construction sequences. I really think the construction of those few kit sub-assemblies would have been less confusing, if Dragon could have provided "after completion" diagrams too.
As usual, Dragon provides excellent kit packaging and "safety" by providing a box constructed of sturdy cardboard and following the practice of bagging all sprues separately. They also mount their decals, clear plastic pieces and PE frets on their signature black cardboard "slab" and bag them separately as well.
After looking the kit over, fondling the plastic and comparing it to my reference material it looks like it is an outstanding representation of the real vehicle. Of course my impression could possibly change after I build it, but that is REALLY doubtful.
The casting quality, detail level of the parts and options provided in the Dragon's 234/2 kit are amazing. The only "negatives" I found were minimal at best, especially when compared to all the positive aspects of this kit. I am really excited to get building this kit and it looks like it will be a great time.
Thanks to Dragon Models for the review sample.
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