Dragon (DML) 1/35th Sd.Kfz.184 Elefant
reviewed by Neville Lord
The Elefant is one of the definitive Panzers of the Second World War. Large, powerful and technically complex it was capable of extracting a high toll on enemy armor, when correctly deployed, and hence has a certain appeal for modelers. This 65 ton tank destroyer was based on the chassis of the ill fated Porsche design for the Tiger and first saw use at Kursk in 1943 under the name Ferdinard. Combat experience quickly revealed several flaws in the design including the lack of a hull MG and commander's cupola, and these along with other improvements were added during an extensive overhaul program. In early 1944 the vehicles were renamed Elefant and subsequently saw combat in Italy and on the Eastern Front.
For 1/35 scale modellers, the Dragon/DML Elefant offers an accurate crisply molded model of one of the reworked versions. Dragon also released a 1/35 model of the original production version (kit 6133 Ferdinard). These new kits quickly replaced the 1970s Italeri Elefant as the kit of choice for those wanting finesse and accuracy. The Italeri kit is a reasonable model that offers an affordable out of the box option.
In typical Dragon fashion the Elefant has plenty of parts and has been designed to share many parts with the Ferdinard. Parts are molded in light gray and have crisp detail and I found construction to be straightforward with the parts mating together nicely. Key features of the kit are:
- 1 piece lower hull with large separate parts for the upper hull and fighting compartment. These major parts fitted together well and did not have any warpage. The upper hull has been designed to allow for either the Elefant or Ferdinard's engine vents to be fitted.
- Crisply molded tools, hatches, periscopes and other small detail. In typical DML fashion, many of these fittings are often made up from multiple parts.
- Separate link tracks, which are the kit's weak point. The most obvious flaw it that the chevrons are molded upside down. These are small "V" shaped castings, which were on the front of each link. The other flaw, which is only obvious when you construct the tracks, is that the links are slightly asymmetric which causes the assembled tracks to curl making them harder to fit than usual. For the second track, I trimmed the teeth on the sprockets to gain leeway in fitting the links. The chevrons were added during the overhauls and the links on the Dragon Ferdinard correctly do not have chevrons (I am told the Ferdinard's links don't have the curling problem).
- A sprue containing those parts unique to the Elefant including the revised engine deck grilles, commander's cupola and revised front upper glacis with hull MG.
- Multifold instruction sheet with step by step drawings. This sheet is in the older black, white and blue format and I found it easy to follow.
A small decal sheet provides marking for two vehicles from schwere Panzer Jager Abteilung 653 (heavy tank destroyer unit 653) when serving on the Eastern Front in 1944. Both vehicles have a yellow base coat with dark green and red-brown camouflage.
Apart from the tracks, the Dragon model compares very favorably against scale plans by Hilary Doyle. The main improvement required to represent a combat vehicle is the addition of zimmerit, which was standard on overhauled Elefants. Atak and Cavalier both make convincing aftermarket zimmerit sets for the Dragon kit. I used the Atak set and was pleased with the results (see Neville's separate article on how to apply resin zimmerit sets).
I found the kit fit together easily with a close fit for all visible joins. The track links required minimal clean up, but I had to spend a little time removing seam lines from the outer road wheels. Like most Dragon kits, the Elefant, requires multiple modeling sessions to assemble. On several occasions I had to check my references to clarify exactly what the instruction sheet meant (if you don't have references the box art and scale plans for the kit's painting guide provide good references). I also choose to fit a Jordi Rubio barrel, even though the kit barrel is accurate. The JR barrel required a small alteration to the gun cradle. Remember to insert part C29 onto the barrel before fitting the muzzle break.
Some points I noted are:
- The rectangular hoods on the engine deck (E14 & A22) slope down towards the rear of the vehicle (the instruction show this but it is its easy to miss).
- The oval shaped mountings for the front drive sprockets (B15) only have one positioning plug and the instructions are vague as to their exact position. Part of these mounting should sit proud of the front of the side armor plate. When positioning these parts, the hole on the mounting face should be at 1 o'clock.
- To address the track's curling problem, I had to trim the drive sprocket teeth (only those that mate with the track) to get an acceptable fit. For modelers wishing to replace the kit tracks, Fruil makes a set of accurate workable metal links tracks.
- The cast base of the commander's cupola needs several (but not all) small notches to be removed from the underside to sit flush.
- If you are assembling the gunlock in the traveling position, take care when assembling its base as the small parts are fiddly.
- The machine gun was too long compared to two sets of scale plans. I trimmed about 2mm of the MG.
- The U shaped hooks on the rear of the fighting compartment are for spare tracks. Photos show that it was common for tracks to be hung of these hooks.
- For the two coupling on the center of the rear plate, I inverted part B24 based on photos of a Ferdinard and scale plans.
- Photos show there was some minor variance between Elefants in how the workshop overhaul was done which accounts for why the DML kit differs slightly from some scale plans (e.g. exact location of the support brackets on the fenders).
With its crisp detail, positive fit and general high level of accuracy, it is hardly surprising that Dragon's Elefant has proven to be a popular kit. The only real let down is the tracks and this can be readily corrected with Fruil tracks, but I certainly didn't let this stop me finding the Dragon Elefant to be one of the more enjoyable kits that I've built. Definitely recommended.
* DML6126 1/35 SdKfz 184 'Elefant'
* DML6133 1/35 Sdkfz 184 'Ferdinard' - This kit shared most parts with the Elefant, but depicts a vehicle as it was originally issued to the troops in mid 1943. This kit does not require zimmerit and has accurate early design tracks (i.e. without chevrons).
* AK35004 Atak Zimmerit for Elefant (DML)
* JRR14 Jordi Rubio KwK 43 turned aluminium barrel
* CAX122 Cavalier Zimmerit for DML Elefant
* FRUATL23 Fruil workable metal tracks for Elefant/Ferdinard.
* DRL0009 Jagdpanzer 38 to Jagdtiger from Darlington/Panzer Tracts is a concise technical history of the Elefant/Ferdianrd and other enclosed German tank destroyer of WWII with plenty of 1/35 scale plans.
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