The Flakpanzer 38(t) auf Selbstfahrlafette 38(t) Ausf L (Sd.Kfz. 140), built between November 1943 and February 1944, was designed around the Czech built LT-38 chassis. Sporting a single 2cm Flak it proved to be no match against Allied Air Forces, though with its low elevation ability it was quite effective against enemy softskins and infantry. Production ended with 141 units including the prototype and DML's kit #6469 builds on their previous 38(t) family of vehicle kits in their latest release.
Opening the box of Dragon's Flakpanzer 38(t) Smart Kit is quite a surprise. With 3 photo-etch frets and the sheer amount of styrene it will have you wondering where the Smart Kit designation came from. The kit comes in the usual Dragon top-opening box, well packed with the sprues in individual sealed bags and the typical Dragon card holding the smaller and more delicate parts.
Included in the kit are the following:
• 24 sprues in gray styrene
• 1 sprue in clear styrene
• 1 semi-tub hull
• 1 separate driver’s hood
• 3 photo etch frets
• 2 preformed brass mesh
• 1 bag of Magic Tracks
• 1 metal cable
• 1 small decal sheet
Over 1100 parts are included with a good portion of them being delegated to the spares box. Many of the extra parts are from the 38(t) Ausf. G and the Flak 38 and are very usable, such as the trailer from the Flak 38, for potential use on other projects. The kit instructions are of the exploded view type and contain sprue layout, paint chart, 19 assembly steps and finishing guide for 6 different painting/marking options. The assembly steps are very busy and it is recommended to study them carefully as a result. Decals provided are printed by Cartograf and are of their usual high quality. Some markings however are missing such as those listed below for vehicle Red or White #13 based on reference photos and other details such as stencils for the spare gun barrel box and ammo cases are also not provided.
Painting/marking options are as follows:
• 21.Pz.Div., Normandy 1944
• Unidentified Unit, 1944, vehicle #13 This is a well-photographed vehicle which shows the vehicle number (13) also on the inside of the drop down armor plates. Unfortunately not enough markings are provided on the decal sheet to model this completely. They do however provide both the white and red options used by HJ but still DML lists it as "unidentified" unit.
• 12.Pz.Div. “HJ”, France 1944, with four different paint/marking schemes for this unit.
As with most DML kits this one starts with the lower hull/suspension, and the first step can be quite confusing. The kit offers 2 types of springs, 3 styles of idlers, and 2 styles each of road wheels and drive sprockets. I’ll give my opinion of which to use but check as many references as possible to suit your build if you want a truly accurate rendition. First up is the springs which have either an open or closed mount. I’m not sure which would be correct, though I’m leaning towards the open bracket style. The instructions also show that certain parts of the bogies should not be cemented, hinting at the possibility of articulated roadwheels.
Next we have the idlers, which DML has actually made the choice easy, they just failed to inform us which to use! On sprue A (black A, not blue A) are idlers with keyhole lightening holes, parts 5 and 6, and parts 21 and 22 with small round lightening holes. On the Dragon card are another set of idlers with larger lightening holes also marked 21 and 22, which are the correct version to use. I may have received an earlier version of the kit and DML may have these attached to sprue A in the future, so check carefully before committing to use. The idlers are cleanly molded and the details are well defined. The roadwheels are easy, the instructions call out for the DML improved version, part W1, which is very well done and has the two beads around the rim and tire and the bolt details on the inner and outer surfaces appear to be accurate.
Last up is the drive sprockets with two choices offered. One style has small lightening holes and the other has large holes. The latter has excellent inner rib and bolt detail. Unfortunately both are incorrect for the Flakpanzer as it was used in combat. While photos of the single prototype produced show this type of sprocket used, the production vehicles used a solid drive-sprocket without lightening holes. Fortunately ModelKasten produces a separate sprocket and idler set that can be used to correct this inaccuracy relatively cheaply. It's worth noting that this is a detail that the Tristar kit release got right but that DML did not and hopefully will correct in future kits using the 38(t) M chassis if they continue to expand the line.
The hull is a semi-tub, consisting of the floor and sides. It will probably be best not to attach parts B38 and G22, the front and rear, until the drivetrain and partitions are installed since flexing of the sides may be necessary. Detail on the hull is typical Dragon excellence via use of slide molding and bolt detail.
A mid-mount engine complete with fan/radiator and fuel tanks are included to produce a very detailed engine compartment. These parts are well molded and simplifies construction by keeping small parts to a minimum. Further details on the wiring and plumbing can be added if desired, especially if the engine access hatches will be left open, since this will give a clear view of the engine compartment.
The front-mount transmission and final drive are equally detailed and, again, construction is easy due to Dragon’s injection techniques. The driver’s area is a bit lacking and could use some upgrading though I’m not sure how much of it will be visible. The instructions show an open/close option for the transmission hatch but not for the hatches on the driver’s hood. There is no interior detail on the driver's hatch and photos show a thick padding was present, something to keep in mind if you opt to have them opened. All in all, the interior gives a good base to bring the details up to whatever level you desire.
The exterior panels are beautifully formed and detailed. Bolts/rivets are all accounted for and in the proper places. In case there are a few missing or you accidentally sand some off there are extra rivets provided on sprue K for just such a contingency. The engine intake screens are PE and the louvers are molded in and very well done. The two superstructure parts (M11 and M13) have slight ejection marks in the area of the engine compartment that will have to be dealt with depending. If the engine hatches will be left open, these may or may not be visible so dry-fit and take a peek to see if they will need to be filled/smoothed. The driver’s hood is a separate piece on the Dragon card with a nicely done casting texture though it has a faint molding line on the front top section which needs to be carefully removed. The vision ports slits are molded open, a nice touch that I always appreciate.
The fenders have the ribs molded top and bottom with separate brackets. Reference photos show a slight bend in the fenders though the kit-supplied fenders are straight. Even though they are very flexible I’m not sure how the mounting brackets will line up if given a little bend, something to try during a build. The pioneer tools provided are without molded on clamps so photo-etch clamps will need to be used. Due to this, no part alignment dimples are on the fenders and a bird’s-eye view of the tool placement are included in the instructions. Edit..... After progressing with the build of this kit I found that the PE tool holders were not usable and since no pioneer tools are provided with molded on clamps, some will need to be found in the 'spares' box or aftermarket ones used. As a consequence of this the final rating has been lowered slightly.
The perforated tool box is provided in both styrene and PE as an option and both look good. A metal cable is included though there is no mention of the cable length or where to mount it in the instructions. Use the cable ends from sprue W and coil the cable on the rear using the 3 straps, parts MA11 shown in step 13, to hold it in place.
The fold down armor panels in this kit are extremely thin for styrene and are designed to be more in-scale as a result. This is a new process for DML and will hopefully be seen in upcoming kits. Gone are the days of thick styrene beveled at the edges to appear thinner, now we get the real deal or at least a lot closer to it. Details are achieved with styrene and PE and these panels can be positioned in either the up or down configuration.
The fighting compartment is just full of goodies including the raised mount for the Flak, ammo boxes in the correct locations, radios, and a Gen 2 sprue (GA) with personnel gear to further enhance the compartment. All the components are well molded and, as long as they fit together well, the fighting compartment will be very impressive.
The 2cm Flak 38 is a bit of an enigma in that it is an early model which was used on the pilot version. Some late model components have been included in this kit, such as the gun sight on sprue R, which was most likely used on the Flakpanzer 38t. The lower gun shields with angled corners are also included on sprue R and parts of the gun shield can be done in photo-etch though not all of it. Without actually building this it is difficult to determine which of these options will look better, but a choice will have to be made. Additionally, the spent shell basket is a delicate affair comprised of a styrene frame with PE mesh wrapped around it while the catch basket itself is preformed brass mesh. It looks like great care and patience will be needed to assemble this and if done correctly should look fantastic.
The gun can be placed in one of four different elevations, 0°, 20°, 40° or 60°, using a specific combination of parts for each but is not positionable after assembly, so choose wisely before committing. Due to how the gun mounts into the vehicle, your choice of whether the side panels will be up or down will also influence the corresponding choice of gun elevation to insure it clears the compartment, possibly ruling out the 0° option at a minimum . The barrel is nicely detailed for styrene, with a hollowed out muzzle and will require a minimum of clean-up. The gun cover is offered in 3 options, parts J2, J3 or J4, representing different styles used throughout the production run of the Flak 38. From what I can gather, part J2, which is the ribbed cover is shown with the early style handwheels and either part J2 (ribbed) or J4 (smooth) is shown on an in-service vehicle with a late model Flak, so check your references if concerned about accuracy on this point.
Non-handed Magic Tracks are used in this kit with the instructions calling for 96 links per side however it's always a good idea to confirm for yourself just how many links are needed. Each link has a casting number embossed on it which I doubt will be seen by the naked eye. The Magic Tracks are non- working links requiring a minimum of clean-up with ejector marks on the inner surface that will need attention. In an unusual twist, this is one of the few kits that actually have the tracks assembled and installed in the last step of the instructions.
Even with the noted flaws, Dragon has done an outstanding job on this fairly complex kit. It appears to be dimensionally correct and should build out of the box into an impressive model. The inaccuracies can be corrected easily and further details added if so desired . As with other Dragon kits the part molding, packaging, and presentation are excellent. The instructions require a bit of examining by the builder so as not to miss anything and use the correct options.
A Build Log
has been started on the Forums to evaluate the kit construction.