|Kit # 7253||
Preview by Doug Chaltry and Rob Haelterman
Dragon has moved ahead once again in the "Elefant Wars" with this new release. At one time, the only choice we modelers had for a 1/72nd scale Elefant was the old ESCI kit, which although it was aged, it was pretty decent, considering it was the only kit available for a couple of decades.
Several years ago, Trumpeter announced a new series of small scale armor kits, beginning with the Elefant. But because they took so long in developing their kit, Dragon beat them to the punch last year with a new Elefant kit, which was the first release in THEIR new series of small scale armor kits. However, that kit has some weaknesses.
A few months later, Trumpeter finally made their Elefant a reality, and they took the lead from Dragon by releasing a superior model of this interesting heavy tank destroyer. But like the Dragon kit, the Trumpeter kit still was not perfect, and Dragon decided not to leave well enough alone.
This new Elefant kit is the first in a new series from Dragon, called Armor Pro. I believe that they consider these kits to be "Pro" because of the inclusion of hard plastic, link-and-length tracks, as well as a couple of photoetched brass parts, which are normally considered to be appropriate only for advanced modelers (although I don't agree with that assessment).
It seems as though Dragon took to heart the many complaints they heard about their earlier Elefant, and they have made a concerted effort to address as many of those issues as possible. While this new kit shares some parts with the older Elefant, it is essentially a completely new model.
My primary complaint with the old Elefant was the rubber band tracks (Trumpeter included link & length tracks in their Elefant kit). When Dragon announced the release of this revised Elefant kit, they mentioned that it would now have link & length tracks as well. But of course, you can't please all of the people all of the time, and many modelers complained about the L & L tracks, because they prefer the soft vinyl tracks. Well, it was a simple enough solution, and Dragon now includes both styles of track in this kit, which should indeed, please everyone.
My other major complaint with the old Elefant was the poorly designed and molded commander's cupola. This piece has been completely redesigned in this kit, and it is now a very nicely detailed and accurate cupola. One minor complaint, however, is that the hatch is still molded closed, and considering the shape and the detail of this hatch, it would be quite difficult to open it up and replace it, without a pre-made replacement.
Other minor complaints I had about the old kit included the lack of treadplate pattern on the fenders, which has now been rectified with an extremely fine and delicate pattern, plus the overly-thick lift hooks on the corners of the fighting compartment. Although that would have been a quite simple fix on the modeler's part, Dragon went ahead and thinned them anyway. Additional improvements to the fighting compartment are the open periscope ports on the rear corners of the roof, and a detailed gun breech inside the hull.
A surprise improvement over the old kit is the revised chassis and running gear. The wheels are the same as the old kit, but the bogie suspension assemblies are now separate parts, which allows for complete articulation of the wheels, and makes it easy to model the tank moving over uneven terrain. This was one feature that was present on the Trumpeter kit, and apparently Dragon saw the advantage. Plus, they made theirs a bit less complicated than Trumpeters, as well.
A final complaint I had about the old kit was the scarcity of marking options. Granted, this vehicle did not serve in a large number of tank units, but including only one marking option in the former kit was pretty poor. This new kit comes with decals that allow the modeler to build any vehicle from the 653rd Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion. That's very slick.
One very minor error that Dragon failed to correct was the hammer molded onto the left hull side, which is an incorrect location for the Elefant. This is where the hammer was stowed on the Ferdinand (which is probably why they left it there). It needs to be relocated to the rear hull for the Elefant.
So the bottom line is that I feel this new kit is now the superior Elefant on the market today. Its only weakness is the closed commander's hatch. Although one may argue that the improvements made to this kit only brought it up to the standards set by the Trumpeter kit, I feel the Dragon kit is the better choice because of the open crew hatches on the forward hull, as well as the numerous marking options.
It is unfortunate that Dragon released this kit when they did, because it seems that since that time, they have started the trend of including crew figures with their kits (LVT, Maus, E-100), and it would have been really nice to have some here as well. Also, their new technique of molding zimmerit onto the plastic kit parts (Tiger I, Jagdpanther) would also have been very appreciated here. All Elefants had zimmerit, so this is something that the modeler will still have to add on his own. I guess they didn't want to spoil us.
My final recommendation is this: if you already own the Trumpeter Elefant kit, keep it and be happy. If you own the old Dragon kit and don't like vinyl tracks, or are in the market for a new Elefant anyway, this is the kit to buy.
Nice job Dragon.
Rob Haelterman adds:
When the kits was first released the boxtop emphasized that the "new" Elefant was a different kit from their earlier Elefant.
It seems that the PE set was added as an afterthought, as the manual (which is still of the CAD/real model type) does not mention it. In my kit a small leaflet was thrown in to explain its use. I don't know if they ever updated the instructions. The rubber tracks weren't mentioned either, by the way.