DRAGON MODELS LIMITED
6761, Sd.Kfz.3a Maultier Half-Track Smart Kit. 1/35th-scale styrene/multimedia construction kit. Contains 349 styrene parts (including seven clear), one etched brass fret, one set of self-adhesive, pre-cut window masks; five water-slide decal/markings scheme and six pages of instructions in 13 steps.
When the full impact of the Russian terrain and climate was felt during the first six months of Operation Barbarossa, the inadequacy of Germanys transport columns, both motorized and horse-drawn, became painfully apparent. Wheeled vehicles designed to operate on Western European roads simply could not cope with the rivers of autumn and spring mud. Photographs abound of semi-tracked vehicles hauling wheeled vehicles through mud that was often axle-deep. Frigid temperatures also played a role in hampering motorized transport.
German industry eventually came up with a purpose-built vehicle, the fully-tracked Raupenschlepper Ost (East Front Tracked Carrier), which successfully performed its duties. In the interim, standard 3- and 4.5-ton trucks were modified by replacing the rear drive wheels with a tracked suspension system. The 4.5-ton trucks used a suspension system based on Pz.Kpfw.II components. The 3-ton trucks were fitted out with a suspension system based on British-designed Carden-Loyd components running on Pz.Kpfw.I tracks. This was a design championed by the influential Waffen-SS, to the detriment of a simpler and cheaper system put forth by Opel.
Thus was born the Maultier (Mule) series. DML has logically taken their fine Opel Blitz kit and added 129 new parts to create a kit of the Maultier. One would suppose that eventually we may see the armored 15cm Panzerwerfer and its associated ammunition carrier, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
These are the usual Magic Tracks, taken from DMLs existing series of Pz.Kpfw.I kits; they come loosely packed in a plastic bag. They require virtually no clean-up and fit together perfectly, if loosely. They must be fixed with cement.
The front tires are conventionally-molded as two halves with the separate wheel hub being trapped between them. For this kit, new wheel hubs are included on sprue J, but they are not for use; perhaps another Maultier version is in the works at DML. The for-use wheel hubs are of the pattern that had eight lighting holes and eight rim bolts. Two-part brake hubs are also given. Because of the sprue layouts, all of the tires and wheel hubs from the original Blitz kit are provided, so these can be used as cargo, or as battlefield debris in a diorama. None of the tires are provided with filler valves, but these can easily be added using stretched sprue.
Up front, the suspension system consists of a pair of leaf-spring bundles. The steering linkages consist of three parts for better detail definition. These parts are not engineered to be movable, but with some work, the front wheels can be fixed into various attitudes.
The road-wheels for the tracked suspension are the dished type with four perforations. These are very well-done and they include the barely-noticeable slits near their rims as well as manufacturers logo on the rubber tires. Each suspension unit consists of six parts, plus a return roller. The spring details are nicely-rendered, but cleaning the restrained mold seam will be a challenge. The road-wheels will roll and the bogie units will articulate, with care in the use of cement. The drive sprockets are each composed of four parts, while the return rollers are composed of three parts. The latter is the type with six perforations on its disk, with six ribs radiating from the hub.
The main frame is a single part and it is new for this kit, being tailored to fit the tracked suspension system. At the far rear end, a cross-brace is added and on that is fitted a three-part trailer hitch and brace, with some of it slide-molded. There is also a cover that I believe would be associated with a towed load; it probably covers brake and electricity lines. The new parts to fit the tracked suspension system include tubular frames that run along each side of the frame; these are tied together by two tubular cross-members and a single part representing the rear members. Separate detail parts are fitted and each idler wheel is mounted on a three-part adjustable axle.
A two-part fuel tank fits cross-wise on the frame, below the cab. It is complete with embossed strengthening ribs, filler cap and vent cap. The spare tire is also mounted further aft, behind the fuel tank.
Engine and Drive Train.
The engine has been re-tooled for this release. It is identical to the original 11-part assembly, but it now includes a separate oil-pan. Three more parts make up the radiator, its fan shroud and mounting plate. A separate exhaust pipe and muffler assembly is also given; it is new and coming from a slide-mold, its end is already open for the proper appearance. A single-piece drive shaft runs from the transmission to the five-part final drive unit..
The engine compartment hood (bonnet) is based on a delicate internal skeleton, produced by a slide-mold. On to this is fitted the right- and left-side access panels, which can be depicted opened or closed. Each panel has two separate T-shaped closure clasps, and their delicate cooling slots are see-through for maximum detail fidelity. The radiator grill is a separate part and its slits are completely opened up, so that the provided radiator can be seen behind them. Two etched brass parts are given with the Opel Blitz legend included; they are to be fixed to the grill, but there are no locations given for them. A separate hood ornament is given as is a three-part Tarnscheinwerfer-Notek black-out head-lamp and mounting bracket. A pair of separate windshield-wipers is also given to complete the area.
This entire bonnet assembly is fitted to a front bumper/wheel-well/fender unit, which also comprises the cockpit floor; the latter has fine panel and rib details molded in place. Each fender is fitted with a three-part head-lamp unit, which has black-out slits and separate clear styrene inserts for the slit openings; conventional head-lamp lenses are not included. Width indicator stems are also given for each side. Down low on the bumper, a separate part for the registration number plate is then fitted. Tools are mounted on the fenders with a shovel to port and a pick-axe to starboard. Each mounts on a two-part bracket/clamp unit. The latter can be thinned-down for a better scale appearance, or replaced by after-market etched brass items.
The new running boards are separate parts, with separate mounting brackets. They feature non-skid strips on their upper surfaces. Each is tied in to the load-bed by etched brass mud-guards. The back wall of the cab is separate and in the center it receives a separate clear panel for the rear window; there are more detail parts added back there as well. The seats are one large piece, with restrained wrinkle texture; two parts are added to help mount it to the cab floor. The front end of the cockpit is a separate, well-detailed part. It includes the opened glove compartment and various switches, button and dial faces molded in place on the instrument panel. Dial faces are given as decals, for a refined look. All of the drivers controls are separate. They include shift lever, parking brake lever, gas, brake and clutch pedals and steering wheel/column parts.
The roof panel is separate and includes the frame for the wind-shield glass. The latter is a separate clear part. The cab doors are both separate parts and they can be posed opened or closed. They feature separate inner panels, for proper dimension and detail; this configuration also eliminates the possibility of sink marks and the attendant clean-up. There are also no ejector pin marks to worry about. The outside door-opening handles are separate, as are the ones on the inside. Furthermore, the crank handles for opening and closing the windows are also separate. Modelers should note that no other available kit has these handles and cranks as separate parts. Clear parts for the side windows are also given, while pre-cut self-adhesive masking material is provided for all of the clear parts to ease the painting process. A delicate, separate drivers side-view mirror should be fitted last. Several small etched brass parts provide some of the smaller details around the window frames.
The cargo bed features the spaced boards on the upper extension segments. The side and rear panels can be shown erected or dropped. An optional, but un-mentioned slat-less tail-gate is given; see below for use. Numerous separate detail parts are added to the panels, to include plates, handles and other hardware. The deck panel is separate and is detailed on both of its faces (as are all the other load-bed panels). A separate part represents the four-part canvas foul weather cover frames, bundled up and stowed. There are actually two of these and both are supposedly not-for-use. No separate frames for the erected position are given. The previously-seen rolled-up canvas tarp in DS100 soft styrene and its attendant etched brass detail parts is not provided. Likewise, a erected canvas tarp is not provided.
It should be noted that, unlike other kits in this scale, all of the body panels are completely devoid of ejector pin marks and that they are not burdened with out-of-scale wood grain details.
The forward-most body panel, which does not fold down, is fitted with W-shaped mounting brackets for connection to the chassis frame. Six more separate parts (two are V-shaped, two are W-shaped and two are L-shaped) are then fitted to attach the deck panel to the frame. A pair of multi-part tool boxes are fitted under the port side of the platform, with a third on the starboard side. Optional tail-lamp and registration plate configurations are also given.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
I have already commented on the lack of visible ejector pin marks in places they may normally be seen; there are several inside the cab roof and rear wall, as well as beneath the front fenders. These are all difficult to se on a finished model; still, some modelers may wish to eliminate them. There was no parts shrinkage, no flash, and the mold parting lines are delicate and easily cleaned-up. Detail is crisp overall, and parts break-down allows for a high level of detail, without (in nearly every case) complex assemblies. I have not checked the fit of the new parts.
Accuracy and Details.
Regarding the basic truck kit, the front end accurately represents the S-Typ with the shorter hood/bonnet, which was the basis of the Opel Maultier. There should be a fire extinguisher and bracket in the cockpit; this should be easy to source from a well-stocked spares bin. The scale drawings in reference 1 are often at odds with the parts in the box; I have no idea which is correct.
These are in DMLs typical line-drawing style. Colors are keyed to Testors Model Master and Gunze paints.
Decals and Markings Information.
As usual, DML has contracted Italys Cartograf to produce the water-slide decals. They are crisply-printed with closely-cropped, matte carrier film. Registration is also fine and color saturation is very good. Five schemes are provided for. Extra numbers, WH (Heer), WL (Luftwaffe) and SS prefixes along with one set of blank registration plates are given. It should be noted that only two of the five schemes are provided with a specific registration number, although both of them must be built-up from individual characters.
Unidentified unit, Ostfront 1943.
Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 33, Ostfront 1943.
Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 12, Ostfront 1943.
4.Panzer-Division, Ostfront 1943.
White 28, 22, or 23, Driver Training Unit (Fahrschule), Germany 1942.
As usual, the color information is based on hobby manufacturers paint descriptions, which are not the best way to go. Four vehicles are based on Dunkelgelb, with post-March 1943 supplementary colors; one also has a winter wite-wash pattern. The last vehicle is overall Dunkelgrau; this is the only one I could confirm in photos, but it is incomplete. It lacks the Fahrschule plaque on the front bumper, wind-shield markings and the large number 28, seen on the tail-gate; all of these markings are easily apparent in photos seen in reference 1. No tire pressure markings for the front wheels are provided; again, these are apparent in photos. Finally, both number 23 and 28 feature tail-gates that do not have the slat extensions on their upper edges; this part is provided as an option, but is marked as not-for-use and is ignored in the instructions.
In general, DML/Cyberhobbys basic Opel Blitz kit is more refined than what has come before. In particular, the cab details are more complete especially regarding the doors. The two-position engine compartment covers have cooling slots that are open all the way through and there are separate cover stays for when they are closed. None of the visible surfaces of the finished kit have any knock-out pin marks. The included masking material is pre-cut and decals are provided for the instrument panel dial faces.
The new parts for the Maultier version are very well-done, with especially nice road-wheel details. It is now past time to put the old Italeri kit out to pasture. Judging by the parts layout, it appears that another Maultier version might be in preparation; one can also hope the armored Panzerwerfer is not far behind.
Frank V. De Sisto
References consulted for this report included:
1. Gleisketten-LKWs Maultier (Sd.Kfz.3); Nuts & Bolts Vol.28, by J. Baschin.
2. German Military Transport of World War Two; Hippocrene Books, by J. Milsom.
3. Opel Blitz in Detail, Special Museum Line No.1; Wings & Wheels Publications, no author listed.
4. Opel Blitz in Detail, Special Museum Line No.39; Wings & Wheels Publications, by F. Koran, J. Mostek & A. Vesely.
5. German Half-Tracked Vehicles of World War 2; Hippocrene Books, by J. Milsom.
6. German Half-Tracks of World War Two; Concord 7054, by F. De Sisto & L. Lecocq.
7. German Half-Tracks of World War Two, Vol.2; Concord 7067, by F. De Sisto & L. Lecocq.
8. German Halftracks in Action; Squadron Armor No.3, by U. Feist & K. Reiger.
9. Halbkettenfahrzeuge, German Half-Track Vehicles 1939-1945; Wehrmacht Illustrated No.4, Almark Publications, by J. Williamson & K. Jones.
Note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reports.
DML kits are available from retail and on-line shops; for details visit their web site at: www.dragon-models.com.
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