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1/35 Dragon Sdkfz 234/2 "Puma" Kit Review

 

By Patrick Keenan - Editor

 

Basic Item Information

Item

Sdkfz 234/2 “Puma”

Stock Number

6256

Manufacturer

Dragon

Scale

1/35

Medium

Various

Kit Contents

534 Pieces (490 gray plastic, 16 clear plastic, 24 Photo-Etch Brass & 4 brass fender width indicators)

Retail Price

$45.50

Reviewer

Patrick Keenan

Review Date

December 12, 2006

Review Summary*

Review Type

In Box Review/ First Look

Basic Positive Features

Beautiful Casting, unbelievable detail, nice build options

Basic Negative Features

Kit is so detailed, instructions could be more user friendly; Side escape hatches molded closed.

Overall Rating

4.5 of 5.0

Kit Accuracy Rating

4.5

Parts Fit Rating

Not Rated

Parts Casting Quality/ Detail Level Rating

5.0

Decals, Marking/ Painting Information Rating

4.5

Instructions/Packaging Rating

4.0

Recommendation

Highly Recommended

* For information regarding the review terms, grading scale, etc. please go to the WarWheels Review FAQ/Key

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Detailed Review

Background

This review is only an "In Box" or "first look" review. I've done a rudimentary review where I closely examined the kit parts, instruction sheet, packaging, etc. I've provided comments of my first impressions gathered while viewing the contents. I did NOT construct the kit, but a full build review is forthcoming.

Without a doubt, the biggest modeling news to me this year was that Dragon was coming out with a new-tooled 1/35 Sdkfz 234 series of armored cars.  Normally, any information that indicates a new-tooled 1/35 armored car/wheeled fighting vehicle kit is coming out excites me greatly.  However, the 234 is one of my favorites, so I was more “geeked” than ever.  I bought the first two Dragon 234 releases right off the bat (Sdkfz 234/4 75mm & Sdkfz 234/1 20mm cannon armed vehicles) and I was well on my way to purchasing the 234/2 “Puma” when I received this review sample. Great modeling timing for once!  Incidentally, the name of Puma was never officially used, but I use it since many of us modelers know the 234/2 as such.  Plus, it sounds cooler; to me at least.

On to my review…  My first impression while looking at this kit was that it appeared Dragon had done a wonderful job.  That great first impression was only reinforced after going a bit more in depth, while closely inspecting the parts, reviewing the instructions and comparing the kit with my reference material.  I suspect that my positive feelings about this kit will only continue once I start the building process and probably even after I complete it. 

Again, Dragon provides a kit chock full of parts; there’s 534 of them!  That is simply amazing considering this is a wheeled vehicle, without tracks (and therefore individual track links).  The 8 wheels/tires each use 5 parts and the suspension is so detailed I didn’t even begin to count the parts with that sub-assembly.

Some highlights of options and general features that Dragon provides us include:

  • A photo-etch fret which contains 24 pieces including the inner jerry can weld seams, a star antenna and some hull lifting hooks.
  • (4) Brass fender width-marker poles;
  • When PE parts are supplied as described above, plastic parts are also provided for those who have an aversion to “fiddly bits”;
  • Clear parts depicting the periscopes and hull vision blocks;
  • A very nice basic interior is also provided.  If the hatches are displayed in an open position, it will look sufficiently “busy” without any additional work.  That is not to say that they’ve given us a super detailed interior, but it is more than sufficient for most modelers;
  • Options for closed or open engine air intakes and cooling vents;
  • Options for the 2 hole or 5 hole wheel hubs;
  • The tires/wheel/suspension is designed very much like the real vehicle, which makes leaving off one or more wheels possible.  At the end of the war, many 234’s had missing wheels so this can be depicted without any aftermarket sets needed or any additional work being done;
  • The clever molding design of the tires being attached only to the sprue at strategic locations (at the high point of tread only).  This facilitates the removal of the tires so as to not damage the tire tread pattern;
  • A very nice set of pioneer tools is provided, some of which are molded without straps to facilitate PE use (see note below though);
  • Well designed one-piece plastic barrel and muzzle brake (to alleviate seam marks, sanding and maybe even corrective puttying).

On the flipside, I’ve noticed only a couple omissions or strange choices Dragon has made with the Puma.  The ones that stand out are that 1) no photo etch straps are provided for the strapless pioneer tools provided and 2) the lower escape hatch is molded closed.  That’s it…

Neither of these two conditions should pose any significant problem to even basic modelers.  Considering what Dragon offers us in this kit, these are “nits I am picking”.  Normally things like this that are so minor they would not warrant me even mentioning them in a review.  However, I was trying hard to come up with something “negative” to counter all the positives of the kit I’ve discovered so far.  I had to come up with something; right?

 

Kit Accuracy

The accuracy level of the Dragon 234/2 is that is VERY high and close to the real vehicles I’ve viewed as well as the references I have.  Although I’ve never seen an actual 234/2, I did get a chance to take a peep at Ft. Knox’s 234/4 and Bovington’s 234/3. Many of the parts are identical to all three vehicles, so I believe my observations are probably fairly close when compared to reality. 

I compared the kit parts and instructions with my references and I found no major problems, omissions, etc.  To be honest, I found nothing wrong; although it is definitely possible I missed something.  Of course I don’t get too worked up over minor differences between kits and the real vehicles, but that’s just me.  The kit scales out almost perfectly to George Bradford’s AFV drawing of the 234/2 and compares VERY well to the photos and drawings I’ve compared it to in Thomas Jentz’s books “Museum Ordnance Special #24 – Schwerer Panzerspahwagen (Sdkfz 234)”  and “Panzer Tracts 13 - Panzerspahwagen (Armored Cars Sdkfz. 3 to Sdkfz 263)”.

 
Fit of Parts

Not Rated.

 

Quality of Casting/ Detail Level of Parts

The quality of the casting of the kit pieces is simply outstanding; Super-Crisp.  There is absolutely no flash present on the parts, and even the tiniest of pieces were almost flawlessly cast.  Also, there are very few sink holes present, and those only appear in the hard to see/reach areas, where no filling will be needed.  At first glance, it appears to me that the only clean up needed to parts would be caused by any mistakes I make when cutting the parts off the sprues.  If I don’t screw up, then no clean up will be necessary.

The detail level of each individual part is also superb.  Even the smallest of pieces contains a stunning amount of detail.  Finally, the overall detail level of the kit after construction looks like it will be unbelievable.  For instance, the suspension is literally eye popping.  The amount of parts and the level of detailing almost seems to be the same as with the real vehicle!  My first impression is that I believe aftermarket detail parts may not be needed for most modelers.  It looks like a super detailed model can be made right out of the box.
 
Decals, Marking Information and Painting Information

Yet again, dragon provides top quality Cartograph Decals which are thin, vibrant and printed in register.  The decals are crisp with no color overrun.  The decals provided cover the markings of 4 vehicles:

  • 20 Panzer Division – 1945
  • 2 Panzer Division – France 1944
  • Panzer Lehr Division – Normandy 1944
  • Unidentified Unit Vehicle – France

Also, the license plate decals are designed with individual numbers and “WH” prefix so that you can represent any Wehrmacht Heer (Army) operated vehicle.  No “SS” rune prefixes are provided for the plates though.

The markings/painting guides are one in the same, and come with three views of each of the 4 vehicles which decals are provided for.  The guides are understandable and can be easily followed.

 
Instructions/Packaging

The instruction sheet is “typical Dragon” and should pose no major problems using if you are an experienced modeler.  As I usually state, caution should always be used when following Dragon’s instructions.  This is not necessarily a negative point to me in that the “problems” encountered with Dragon instructions are not usually due to their low quality.  Any difficulties encountered are usually due to the fact that they provide a high level of detail in their kits (equaling many parts) as well as a myriad of vehicle versions, sub-variants, etc.  The more parts and options Dragon gives us, the more cumbersome their instruction sheets will generally be.  I’d rather have Dragon provide more detail and kit building options in their kits and get more “complicated” instructions rather than receiving a kit with outstanding/ exceptional instructions but only getting one vehicle version/option which is less detailed.

With all this being said though, some building sequences (i.e. the suspension) are very complex and Dragon only provides “exploded views” of the construction sequences.  I really think the construction of those few kit sub-assemblies would have been less confusing, if Dragon could have provided “after completion” diagrams too.

As usual, Dragon provides excellent kit packaging and “safety” by providing a box constructed of sturdy cardboard and following the practice of bagging all sprues separately. They also mount their decals, clear plastic pieces and PE frets on their signature black cardboard “slab” and bag them separately as well.

 
Conclusion

After looking the kit over, fondling the plastic and comparing it to my reference material it looks like it is an outstanding representation of the real vehicle.  Of course my impression could possibly change after I build it, but that is REALLY doubtful.

The casting quality, detail level of the parts and options provided in the Dragon’s 234/2 kit are amazing.  The only “negatives” I found were minimal at best, especially when compared to all the positive aspects of this kit.  I am really excited to get building this kit and it looks like it will be a great time.  Too bad I have a couple other things I need to work on first.

Highly Recommended

Thanks to Dragon Models and IPMS/USA for the review sample.

 
Copyright: Patrick Keenan - December 12, 2006