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Dragon - German Panzer crew & Panther G Early – “Achtung Jabo” France 1944 (DN7363) _________(EXT)

 

Manufacturer Dragon Models Limited
Scale 1/72
Set Code 7363
Year 2008
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items 1 Panther G
Aspect Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Light Gray
Flash Level Low
Glue-ability Excellent (polly-cement)
Convert-ability High
Optimal Period 1941 -1945

 

Review 

In the 1/72 scale, as well as in other scales, Dragon Models Limited (DML) emerges as one of the most respected and appreciated manufacturer, not only its complex inventory in the field, but also the high quality of products imposing the company on a top position in hobbyists’ preferences. Although one of the most prolific 1/35 figure maker, only in 2008 DML has acknowledged the potential of 1/72 figure market and started issuing scaled down versions of their brilliant 1/35 figure range. Moreover, dissimilar to the upper scale brothers, where the plastic soldiers generally come in individual sets, for the 1/72 scale it has been adopted the policy of combined kits, the box incorporating both figures and a vehicle. In conformity to DML’s announcements, the Figure Pro combo sets should be regarded as figures ones, the comprised vehicle representing a bonus granted by the manufacturer. The statement is debatable while the price asked for few mass production figures, sometimes just four, being quite high. In fact, these combo kits emerge as an excellent strategy for selling even more vehicles, indeed at a lower price than the one required for the same item sold on its own.

For the WWII German Army soldiers establishing a direct contact with the vehicle, a laudable decision was to include in Figure Pro series exactly the type of vehicle appearing in the photos that might provided insights to the sculptor when crafted the minis. Likewise, the extended titles received by the combo sets describe the place where the action took place and occasionally either the unit the troopers belonged or what intend to express.

In spite launching in 2008 the so-called “Figure Pro sets”, DML’s initial 1/72 WWII German Army figures attempt dated 2004 when “Maus” and “E-100” came out on the market. Delivering two Panzer crewmen, identical minis are integrated in both kits. Benefitting by fine sculpture but casted as single pieces in soft plastic, there are major distinctions between them and the new generation of DML minis which are multi-part and made of hard plastic.  

The first DML 1/72 German tankers requiring assembly, are available in “Achtung Jabo”, practically a pantograph version of 1/35 figures included in a kit issued under the same name (6191). As both the artwork and title clearly describe, the figures aim portraying a Panzer crew scrutinizing the skies, searching for the greatest enemy of medium or heavy Panzers. The subtitle printed on the box informs modellers that the manufacturer targeted a scene happened in Normandy during 1944.  

Like other few companies such as Preiser or Pegasus Hobbies, DML bases its figure poses on video and photo materials shot in the period, such approach corroborated with fine sculpture and hard plastic bringing a key contribution at the enormous success of the manufacturer. For “Achtung-Jabo!” several quite known photos might be appraised as inspiration sources for the sculptor, although the plastic soldiers turn out to be close but not identical with the stances adopted by the real ones. Though not depicting the same crew, all those images share some common points such as troopers monitoring the sky, similar attire and most important, the Sd.Kfz 171 Panzer V Panther, all crews being photographed mounted or near that type of tank. A great merit of DML rests in the inclusion of a Panther tank within this combo set, increasing its accuracy and directly linking the 1/72 crew and vehicle to the real models.

Coming in the larger model of 1/72 DML box, the kit shares not only the same figures with the 1/35 edition but also its name and artwork, a smaller image of the original 1/35 artwork being emplaced in the right corner of the 1/72 box. Actually, a fraction of a Panther turret had been selected as accessory for the 1/35 crew, but the here supplied entire vehicle reiterates the advantages of 1/72 scale, its fans receiving minis at identical quality but the whole tank, not just a piece of its turret. Because the 1/72 kit makes available a complete Panther G with zimmerit, its drawing was set in the middle of the box, so not only the kit is combined, but also its front artwork. The back of the box displays three distinct photos with the figures put together and split in parts as well as one with a spure of separate gear, common for all the other DML 1/72 Pro Figure Series, but not included here, despite its advertising. Perhaps the manufacturer initially wished to supply it and either forgot or thought that having no belts, it would be impossible to add pistol holsters or other items on the figures. Furthermore, due to Kar98K bandoleers, the image of the sprue in case belongs to the German Paratroopers sets, similar spures of other Figure Pro kits coming obviously, without bandoleers. On the upper side of the box the manufacturer slotted in tiny images putting in valour the fine details of the vehicle as well as photos of the etched parts, metal tow cable, decal sheet and DS tracks while on the bottom side it further insists in the mistake with the gear sprue, posting another photo of it.

Inside the box there are provided in separate sealed plastic bags the vehicle parts as well as the etched ones, metal tow cable, DS tracks and decal sheet. Due to the fact that this Panther model is the one with zimmerit, except the necessary ones, the hobbyist will find on the sprue several uncoated, reminiscences of the version without zimmerit which was used by DML for generating the new vehicle. Even if subtitle refers to France 1944, the decal sheet proposes four options for markings, obviously one for Normandy (1944) as well as other three for the Ardennes (1944), Warsaw (1944), and East Prussia (1945). The single sprue of figures appears somehow astray between the huge number of vehicle parts. Particularly here, a kit mainly dedicated to figures and where the plastic figs are accommodated by a secluded small sprue, definitely DML had to apply the same principle as for Fallschirmjager series, offering two spures of figures as well as at least one with gear. Normally, the instruction sheet for figures is identical with the one published for the 1/35 edition, giving both assembly and painting guidelines. The instructions for the vehicle are printed on the other side and a table with the necessary colours released by different companies is comprised, too.

Assessed by many specialists as the best tank of WWII, the medium/heavy Panzer V Panther was developed in several models, the type from here being the G early production version with zimmerit. The vehicle is not the subject of the present review, but it must be mentioned this DML’s Panther G, despite featuring few inadvertences, is perhaps the best available on the market. The zimmerit finish and the plied photo-etched brass parts for the engine deck screens clearly emphasise the efforts carried out by the company in making available an accurate and highly detailed model kit, able to satisfy the desires and expectations of extremely exigent hobbyists.                 

The endowments of the heavy Panzers conferred great protection against Allied ground weapons but had almost no chance versus fighter-bombers planes. No matter their skills, against the enemy from the air the Panzers crews were nearly uncovered and mean-less, the MG34 mounted on the cupolas for aerial defense offering rather moral than effective protection. Even Michael Wittmann, the greatest tank ace of all times with an impressive score of 138 tanks, 132 anti-tank or heavy artillery cannons and hundreds of light vehicles had no chance versus a fighter-bomber. His Tiger 007 was completely destroyed in Normandy, at a couple of months distance after he smashed alone in a single mission 27 enemy vehicles from which 12 were tanks at Villers-Bocage. In spite the rush of many Allies tank units in claiming Wittmann’s Tiger, the German official version was a Hawker Typhoon attack. Later examinations of hull demonstrated that it was not penetrated by any projectile, the only damage being a big hole in the rear, near the engine deck. The attack came from the air and the rocket exploded in the the engine compartment, inflaming the stored ammo which exploded. The second blast killed the crew and disintegrated Tiger 007.

Bearing in mind the field conditions, with an almost inexistent Luftwaffe and an omnipresent enemy in the sky, during Normandy campaign German armoured and transport vehicles were forced to travel by night and with heavy foliage for additional camouflage, as most reference materials show. The good abilities and weaponry of fighter/bombers airplanes had the direct effect of losing a huge number of vehicles and the 1944 France battlefield is the first terrain announcing that the short but glorious tank epoch was ending. The Panzer crews were terrorized by the enemy pilots, in case their vehicle was spot and hit by a Hawker Typhoon, P-47 Thunderbolt or other Allies ground attack plane, the chance to survive was very low. For instance, only on August 8th, the Allies fighter-bombers succeeded to destroy 135 Panzers, including Michael Witmann’s Tiger. Except foliage camouflage and travels at darkness cover, an unusual measure adopted in Normandy was a crewmember to stay outside the tank and monitor the sky. The frighten of enemy bullets was less than its air rockets and of course, in case the vehicle was caught in open land, the only option for the crew was abandoning the vehicle before the air fighter-bomber started its deadly attack. There is easily understood the fear Panzer crews lived in and the special procedures taken for being them the first spotting the air enemy. Such an image wishes this set to depict, with almost all crew outside the vehicle, monitoring the sky and letting the impression that they had already spotted a danger, at least for the moment at a pretty safe distance.

Like all medium and heavy WWII German tanks, Panther had also a crew of five, but DML limits itself in offering only four of them. Nevertheless, at their turn, the reference images that seem to serve as models do not reveal the entire crew, perhaps the driver was still in his place and normally could not appear in those photos that are taken from the back or right side of the vehicle.

A plus point of the figures is that they are full ones, and not from torso or half legs as many sets targeting Panzer crews use to deliver. Each figure arrives split in head, torso, arms and legs and the parts are numbered on the sprue, so no problem in mistaking them. Still, if intended a standard assembly, attention is recommended when detaching the parts from the sprue for avoiding a potential mix. In this light, it might be better removing within the same session all parts of a figure and put them in separate corners on the modelling table before start gluing. In normal approach all parts excellent fit in places and the hard plastic used for casting those immediately glue for a strong bond. However, conversions are at their home here, the separate body parts and the material facilitating plenty of diversity. The standard poses are awesome, but in case of two or more such kits, then it would a pity not trying various alterations with or without slight modifications on the pieces. Except the classical heads, trunks, arms, and legs mixing, a simple and virtually impossible to spot cut done on the underarm completely change the position of any limb when this is glued on the figure, the same being valid for torsos, legs and necks. Likewise, other DML or Preiser body parts, especially heads and palms, might be easily used for achieving some interesting and lifelike alterations. On the other hand, having no belts it is virtually impossible to add any item on the minis, but scratch-built belts made of melted sprue are at hand and easy to adjust in their position. With their support, the outstanding DML and Preiser pistol holsters, map cases or even MP40 ammunition pouches could endow the eventual conversions carried on this Panther crew.  

Concerning poses, DML describes them on the back of the box as “Panzer crew is on the alert for enemy fighters/bombers in the distant sky”. Although slightly modified than the original models, the stances loom extremely natural, impossible not to capture the attention of any viewer when set on a Panzer or elsewhere. Figures certainly express the desired action and interact between them, one crewman pointing in the sky a potential enemy airplane and his comrades looking in the indicated direction or performing interlinked activities. The mini pointing the sky is the only one to which has to be added a separately delivered M43 cap, all the others wearing M36 overseas caps, sculptured directly on their heads. A crewman tries shadowing his eyes with the left palm for better see what is in the distance while another was caught exactly when twisting to the indicated direction. The last figure put forward by the kit wants to depict a crewman getting out of the turret, possibly warned by his colleagues about the enemy airplane. This is an interesting figure from another point of view, the artwork and instruction sheets portraying him with binoculars in the right hand, but the item is not delivered within the kit. Even without binoculars the pose looks very fine, but for fully respecting manufacturer’s will, hard plastic binoculars could be seized from a spare equipment sprue furnished by DML, Preiser or Caesar in a large number of figure sets. Supplementary efforts have to be performed in order to pass the legs of the figure through the hatch opening and in this light, easier would be only his bust to be fixed in position.

Concerning garment, a post on the left side of the box informs the customer that “Panzer crew is shown in the German 2nd pattern denim uniform and herringbone twill” which means M41 HBT Panzer uniform. All DML’s Panther G crewmen wear shirts under tunics and shoe ankle boots while for head cover three chose M36 overseas caps and one put on a M43 cap. None wears belts, so no pistol holsters or other specific items for Panzer troopers might be hung on the figures. Anyway, such thing does not contradict reality, as an enormous range of reference materials confirm, not only when carrying out maintenance activities, but also in combat, Panzer crewmen often did not put on belts or pistols. Due to often breakage, the crews, especially the medium and heavy tanks ones, rather wear in combat working cloths such as overalls or HBT outfit than the well-known Panzer black uniform.

Nevertheless, a main attraction of these figures rests in their attire, quite uncommon for 1/72 mass production minis, but often encountered on the front line and in other places. Taking into account that the classical black wool Panzer uniform was not very suitable during summer as well as that in case that the crews were forced to leave their vehicle, the black colour did not confer proper concealment, it has issued another made of Herringbone Twill (HBT). The first version of the HBT Panzer wrap tunic was almost identical in cut with the standard black wrapper (Feldjacke). Likewise, on May 5, 1941 it was introduced the second version of HBT Panzer attire. The tunic featured two rows of buttons, one permitting a tight fit when worn in summer and another row giving more room in case it was put on over the black Panzer tunic either for camouflage or warming in cold environments. In this way, the two rows of buttons allowed both a tight or loose wear. The back of the wrapper was constructed of two panels and came with a middle guide tunnel for the back ties in order to give a snug fit to the trooper. Moreover, a large front pocket was featured on the left side, so the second version of HBT tunic can be immediately recognized. The M41 HBT Panzer trousers had two asymmetrical flapped pockets in front, two flapped rear pockets as well as a large pocket on the left thigh, pretty similar with the one on the tunic. Generally, the M41 HBT Panzer uniform was available in two colours, namely reed green or mouse gray and a feldgrau version of the uniform was issued for assault artillery units. In addition, tailored similar cut attire made of camouflage cloth in various Wehrmacht or Waffen SS camouflage patterns appear on the front line. Initially the 1941 HBT Panzer uniform was issued only for Wehrmacht units and particularly because of the front large pockets, both the tunic and its matching trousers were tremendously popular among front line soldiers and even in Waffen SS units such attire was very desired and appreciated.

According to what has just been pointed out, the hobbyist holds plenty of options for painting DML’s Panther G crew. In this regard, reed green and mouse gray for Panzer units, feldgrau for assault artillery units or even Wehrmacht and Waffen SS camouflage patterns for both units set out as suitable. Anyway, black is not appropriate for the M1941 HBT Panzer Uniform and perhaps the most recommended Waffen SS camouflage pattern is Pea Dot. Additionally, one of the rarest colours for the M41 HBT tunic is white, but tailored versions existed and on the front line, not for parade reasons.    

Thanks to sculptor’s carving skills and knowledge in terms of WWII German attire as well as DML’s high precision moulds, all of the earlier pointed out characteristics of M1941 HBT Panzer Uniform could be noticed on the figures such as pocket flaps, panels and middle guide tunnels, stitches, buttons and even button holes that in reality were machine sewn. Although the decals for Normandy refers to a Waffen SS unit, the breast eagles clearly attest this crew belongs to Wehrmacht and if modeller wishes to enroll them in Waffen SS than it is necessary removing the breast eagles and eventually, but not necessary, painting the similar symbol on the right arm. The here depicted attire featured shoulder and collar boards but in many cases, because it was also a working uniform, the M41 HBT Panzer tunic miss them as well as other insignia. However, the presence of shoulder and collar boards, breast eagles and other symbols are possible, so no reason for raising a stink about sculptor’s decision to reproduce them. Except the fine points already highlighted, the cloths possess natural creases and the boots raise the level of detailing to high standards, with authentic shape and splendid soles, heels and shoestrings. The ideal proportions of bodies, limbs and heads confers to figures a faultless anatomy while the incredible facial details with perfect noses, mouths, eyes, eye-brows and ears as well as hair cuts individualise the figures and concord with the expressed actions and emotions.

The size of the minis is appropriate for the tall side of 1/72 scale and a perfect match for Panzer crews released by other famous mass production and cottage industry manufacturers such as Preiser, El Viejo Dragon, Miniatures Alemany, CMK, Warriors etc. On the other hand, their garment makes them suitable for staying next to troopers wearing standard Panzer uniform, working overalls, shirts and pants or even winter cloths, reference images undoubtedly attesting a large assortment of clothing within the same Panzer crew.       

DML’s hard plastic not only glues very fast and in an extremely strong bond, but also excellent accepts enamel, acrylics and artistic oils. Moreover, the material does not influence the paints attributes and maintains them even after heavily handling. Flash level is extremely low while excess of plastic is purely inexistent. The kit does not provide any base, a normal approach bearing in mind it mainly addresses to diorama builders and collectors. Anyway, it should be also considered the Panther tank represents in manufacturer’s vision the emplacement allocated for the crewmen.  

Brilliant in their simplicity, the figures instantaneous charm the viewer through amazing quality of small details and perfect anatomy. Simply nothing remained neglected or disregarded, sculptor’s care and attention being felt everywhere. Its attributes, corroborated with the superior DML mould impose the product as one of the finest available on the market in terms of 1/72 WWII German tankers. This is more than honouring bearing in mind the great competitors and the top class of related products issued either by mass production or cottage industry companies. The price of the kit might emerge pretty high, but definitely the report price-quality is more than fair, especially if considered also the Panther G “bonus” tank, at its turn, one of the best offers in Braille Scale. The funny aspect is if lined up, the Panzer crew seems attending a modern disco party, everybody dancing and feeling the vibe. However, this emphasises the naturalness of the moves and when returned in positions on a tank or elsewhere, the cruel face of war strongly returns. Definitely, the whole kit provides the chance to depict a spectacular war scene of a dramatic reality at par to 1/35 quality. 

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 10
Poses Quality 10
Details Quality 10
Mould Quality 10
Sculpture 10
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s opinion 10