Sunday 10 May 2015

1/72 WWII - Dragon Stug

Three is a magic number...

Having just built three Tiger I models over the recent half-term, I was surveying my rapidly-shrinking stack of unmade models, and wondering what to make next. I picked the Dragon Stug. It was only some time into building it that I realised that this will be my third Stug. So in a way this build follows quite neatly from my recent trio of Tigers. 

But whereas I made all three Tigers back to back, I've had a big break between this and the previous two Stugs. The first Stug I made was an old Airfix kit (I don't think I've posted that build yet?), and I built mine whilst my dad built his version of the exact same model. Shortly after that I put together a Revell Stug. Whilst I still like both models, the Revell was clearly way better, in terms of both detail and quality of moulding/fit of parts, etc.

As mentioned in my posts about the Tigers, I was mildly underwhelmed by the Dragon Tiger I, and felt that, on balance, the Trumpeter and Zvezda were both as good as, and the Zvezda in some ways better than the Dragon model. Dragon are a new brand to me, and internet hype around their products (admittedly much of it singing the praises of their 1/35 models) lead to high expectations on my part.

Another new development in models since my childhood days is the advent of such additions as resin or photo-etched parts. The Dragon Tiger I (late prod. mit Tiger Aces!) had a few metal parts. This Stug doesn't. But it does have DS - 'Dragon Styrene' - tracks. Oh, and decals, of course (extremely minimal, confined only to Balkankreuz!). So this model is pretty simple, being essentially nowt but plastic. Despite the lack of markings options, and the absence of funky little metal parts, I'm happy to say that building this Stug really delivered on the alluring legend that is Dragon.

First of all the level of detail is, to my eyes, stunning. So also is the quality of moulding, and the fit of the parts. The kit is also very cleverly designed, with some lovely touches, such as the road-wheels that come as two parts, allowing one to paint the two elements separately before combining them. Very clever, and very satisfying to construct, which, when building a model, is so very, very important.

There are several steps that are optional, and this results in the spare parts generated by the build exceeding the two parts marked up as such on the instructions leaflet. The instructions are similar to those for the Tiger I kit. Printed in full colour, and showing what appears to be the real kit in various successive stages of assembly, these are certainly amongst the most beautiful instructions I've yet encountered.

I must admit though that there are a few places where the more old school black and white line illustrations favoured by most manufacturers might have been clearer. But then again, as Dragon kits seem to be so well designed, what might be a little unclear on the page is usually abundantly clear in practice, thanks to such elements of design construction as locator pins, holes, and suchlike.

As regards detail, you've got to love it when pieces such as the periscopes are fully moulded, such that you know that although it can't be seen once built, yet nonetheless inside the vehicle these scopes are beautifully realised! Several hatches are supplied in such forms as to let you choose to model them open or closed. If you were to model them open, some additional work on their in- or under-sides and the interior might be entailed. As some hatches are open on my other Stugs, I opted to have all the hatches on this vehicle closed.

Further elements that set my model-making maw a-droolin' were such parts as the tow-cable hooks, the commanders cupola, and the Several little doodads whose names I don't know, all of which are, thanks to the design and construction of the model, just... well, rather special. Also, the way the various elements of the hull and body are built up, it's both beautiful and highly satisfying. What could be better than that? 

Pictured above and below is the construction of the rear hull plate, and late-model design exhausts. Once these are in place the traditional running-gear first routine unfolds. The detailing and crisp clarity of the parts is a joy to both behold an assemble. The spiked idlers are just lovely!

The front hull plate goes on. The level of detail on the hull, as afforded by the multiple parts, and as depicted on the underside of the hull, are simply fabulous. 

Another aspect of this build I enjoyed immensely was where you're presented with the options of keeping the integral front-hull tow-rope anchor points, or chopping them off and fitting others of a different design. To have, built into the basic build of the kit, elements of what feels like a conversion, adds another layer of pleasure to the act of construction. I know I'd definitely like to make some more Dragon Stugs, but perhaps different iterations, e.g. older or different types. 

I set aside the next steps, relating to building and painting all the main road wheels, intending to return to them at a future/later point. This lead me on to the construction of the low-profile casemate. Once again the supremely high quality of the detail and moulding are simply wonderful.

The turret cupola is exquisite. And the gun on this kit puts all the others, but especially the really rather poor Airfix model, firmly in the shade. 

Above and below are 'above and below' shots of the internal gun mount. 

More exquisite detailing, in the form of the rear hull row dale mounts, and the superb vented paneling over the engine compartment.

I opted to use both periscopes, simply because they're such nice little details, and so well executed by Dragon.

One of the only gripes Imhave with this model concerns the fit of the bin for the spare wheels. The angle of the back of the bin and the bottom is 90(degrees), whereas the angle between the mudguards and the side of the casemate is more obtuse. This results in a poor fit when positioning the bin:'shouldmitmsit flat on the mudguards, and therefore not meet the casemate; or should it lie against the casemate, and thereby not sit flat on the mudguard?

Having more or less competed construction of the upper and lower portions of the build,Mir was time to bite the bullet and paint the road wheels. These were are all sprayed or airbrushed, in matt black and dunkelgelb. And then glued in position, once some paint had been scraped off to allow the solvent to bond the plastic.

The tank undercoated in math back, ready to receive the wheels. After that, it'll be time to mount the DS tracks... another new departure!

Having made the subject of doing things in threes part of the theme of this post, and having built three Tiger I models, and subsequently this, my third Stug, my next three might just be to build my third Dragon kit, such was the pleasure this afforded! If I go that route, it'll be their Brummbar. And as it happens I have Dragon's Brummbar in both 1/72 and 1/35. I think I'll stick with 1/72 for now, and save the 1/35 for later!

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