Having issued two Panzerfähren models, the Prototype I in 2012, and Prototype II in 2013, Dragon have now released this third related 1/72 scale kit, comprising the Fährendeck (“ferry deck”) with the Prototype II Landwasserschlepper boxed together.
The two previous kits were both reviewed here on Armorama (see links at the end of this review) but, briefly, the Panzerfähren were conceived as a means of transporting tanks and other heavy payloads across rivers without the need for bridging or any special adaptation to the vehicles being carried. They would act as ferry boats, carrying the payload either by means of a towed floating trailer, or by employing a raft fixed between a pair of Panzerfähren.
Photographs suggest that two of each prototype were built and trials carried out using the raft, that is the main subject of this kit, to carry a PzKpfwIV. It seems that the trials demonstrated the arrangement to be unstable and the idea was never carried into production.
Ron Volstad’s box art is derived from the same painting that adorned the Panzerfähre II kit, showing both types together with their raft, but this time the type I vehicle in the background is greyed out to indicate that it is only the coloured elements that are in the box (although, unfortunately, that doesn't include the figures).
So the type II vehicle included is identical to that released as a solo kit last year, but we now have the raft as well, with the parts arranged as follows:
- Sprue A is the smaller deck details, as per both type I and II kits
- Sprue C the deck vents, crew cab, flotation sponsons as per type II
- Sprue D is the one piece hull, again as per type I and II
- Sprue Z is the type II vehicle deck
- Sprue E the bogies
- Sprue F is a bag of road wheel hubs
- Sprue I the sprockets
- Sprue J the idlers
- Sprue K the road wheels
- Sprue M the return rollers
- X is the tracks – these last seven items all being as per types I and II
- Sprue N is the big new sprue in this box, the two deck halves and fittings.
The decal sheet is the same as that provided in the type II kit, and so presents the same conundrum in terms of providing two number “2” decals; photos of the trial show that the two paired vehicles taking part were numbered 1 and 2, the numerals being painted on the driver compartment. If you were to buy two type II kits with the intention of representing the scene as photographed, you’d find yourself with four number 2s! Oh well. Other than that there are three plain white crosses which do appear to be correct.
I won’t go into the detailed construction of the tracked Panzerfähre vehicle here, as the building of both types was covered in the reviews below, but I will start with the raft and then go on to describe the fitting of the parts necessary in order to link the raft and the vehicles together. This latter stage is something that, mysteriously, the instructions completely ignore.
The deck, or raft, is two big flat halves carried on a thick sprue with just two attachment points and so is very easy to remove and tidy up. It’s a nice moulding with no significant flash or mould lines. The four members (parts N7) that support the raft between the vehicles are on the outside of the same sprue and are themselves quite delicate with several moulding gates, although, again relatively easy to clean up. The holes in the ends of the members, into which the roller chains will fit, are provided just as indentations, and are best drilled through with a 0.6 or 0.7mm bit.
So we see in the photo the two halves held together but with a small gap at each end, showing that they will need to be clamped when they are assembled with cement. With that done and the four identical members drilled and cleaned up, the members just slot into the receiving pins on the side of the deck. The instructions do not use the “Do Not Glue” symbol for this assembly, but I would definitely not
use glue at this point, or possibly at any point, until you have it all set up on a final base and never want to move any of it again!
When building the two vehicles, I left off the vertical steel bars (parts A5) that attach to one side of the vehicles; in fact four are provide in each kit, but I think they only attach to the side on which the raft is mounted and assume that they are to protect the tracks and wheels from being damaged by impacts from the raft. So now I attached two to opposite sides of my two vehicles.
The roller chains (A4) are identical even down to the semi-circular male attachment, but unfortunately the corresponding semi-circular female attachment on the body of the craft is the wrong way round on the front of the craft, so it needs to be reshaped with a sharp knife to allow the chain to be fixed in place. The chains are a curious arrangement, with this point of attachment appearing to have been fixed rather than swivelling; the chains, being like bicycle or cam chains, would have limited lateral movement, and it seems that this limited flexibility was enough to allow them to bend sufficiently sideways to attach to the raft, while keeping it under a certain amount of tension. In this way, the three parts of the set-up, two vehicles and the raft, had a limited independent movement.
The chains provided are moulded so as to appear to be hanging down from the front and rear of the vehicles, but this isn’t quite right if you are to attach the raft; they will need to be bent sideways, something that is possible due to the nature of the moulding, although if and when you come to attempt this attachment, you may find yourself thinking, like me, that for this edition of the kit Dragon could helpfully have provided new chains with an appropriate shape to make things easier. Anyway, this was all left to set before attempting to put all three parts together…
As I said earlier, the instructions do not deal with the attachment of the raft to the vehicle at all; they have you build the vehicle, and then the raft, and then you have finished. There is no illustration of the arrangement other than on the box top art, and, there, frustratingly, the exact attachment point is under water! So referring to several photos (please see the reference link at the end) it was apparent that the ends of the roller chains simply connect into the holes we drilled earlier in the articulating tubular steel members.
After a few attempts to do this the right way up, I turned everything over, propped the raft up on some bottle tops and stuck the two Panzerfähren down with some blue tack to stop them sliding around. The chain ends were then cemented into place as shown, the helpfulness of the movement in the members now being apparent. This was left to set before attempting to turn it back over, and when I did so, I used a small picture frame placed carefully on top, held the three models against it, then turned it, and slid them off on to the table.
For the photos a PzKpfw III was driven on to the deck, making the whole thing look rather neat. Surprisingly perhaps, the chains bend enough, and their attachment at both ends is strong enough, that it all stayed together – though I don’t think I’m going to try it out in the bath. Finally, for storage and painting purposes, I was able to detach the members from the raft, leaving them attached to the chains, as shown.
Without reiterating too much of what was said in the previous two Panzerfähre reviews, I will just mention that this kit follows the recent Dragon pattern of being somewhat simpler than it might have been, so that construction is made easier at the cost of some of the parts being somewhat clunky: the quite disappointing internals of the funnels and the one piece folding deck crane come to mind. The significant flash was again present on some of the vehicle parts, as before, although as mentioned, the raft deck itself is very nicely moulded in those terms, although with respect to detail, the hoops attached to the deck top are moulded as tabs rather than hoops, that simplification once again.
The lack of any description for the method of attaching the raft to the vehicles, not even an arrangement drawing, is, I have to say, a bizarre and very poor omission. Without that set up, there seems little point to the kit, unless one is to just leave the deck lying on the ground. Perhaps there was some reluctance to address the fact that of course you do need to buy another kit in order to use the raft, but then again, the fact that the kit wasn’t released as two-vehicles-plus-a-raft suggests that they are aiming at the many modellers who might have already bought one of the solo vehicles. Whatever the reasoning, it’s just strange to have ignored it in this way.
As mentioned, it would also have been nice had some new chains been included that attached more easily rather than just being shaped to dangle; some of the photos of the real thing show the chains pulled tight when the raft is fixed in place, and this could have been provided for. The decals could also have been fixed to provide a 1 and a 2 (I did helpfully point this out last time out...)
So, typical Dragon shortcomings with the simplified build and odd instructions, yes, but again, with the tank in place on the deck between these two curious craft, I did start to feel inspired to want to create an exciting watery scene to display it all. It certainly makes for an unusual looking set up, and these Panzerfähre kits, and the raft, are very easy to build (notwithstanding that final assembly) although that simplification may mean many will want to get involved in adding more details of their own.
(Microsoft translated page from the German.)