by: Sean Langley [ ]
The Nashorn probably needs no introduction: a huge 8.8cm anti-tank gun mounted on a hybrid Pz Kpfw III/IV hull, in an open-topped box with balance problems. Typical of German SP artillery during the war, really. This is a blessing and a curse for modellers: lots of lovely detail inside and out, and, er, lots of awkward bits inside and out.
Dragon kicked off their obsession with German armour way back in the early 1990’s with their original Nashorn kit, no.6001. The new one resembles that as chalk resembles cheese. There are no parts in common. Even the plastic is different: clean, solid grey, instead of a strange soapy-looking substance. This shows just how far Dragon has come over the years. In between, they re-tooled the thing twice, and the latest is a development of the Premium Edition kit rather than just a re-issue. Perhaps now they can stop messing about with it?
Anyway, just for fun, I’ve included a few pictures of the original kit parts side-by-side with the new parts to show you just how good the new one is.
The kit depicts three versions: Initial, Initial modified, and Early. Yes, I’m confused too, especially as I thought the “early Nashorn” was called the Hornisse. Dragon offers no explanation. Technically it should be called a “one of three” kit rather than a “three in one” – I always expect to get three full vehicles out of the box when it says that. There are two colour options for each, all on the Eastern Front except for one training unit:
• Initial: s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt 655 (dark yellow with mottled green and red-brown) and s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 (dark yellow with a green network)
• Initial Modified: s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt 655 and s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 (both dark yellow with green and red-brown squiggles)
• Early: Pz.Jg.Ers.u.Ausb.Abt (plain dark yellow) and s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 (dark yellow with full-length dark red waves)
Being a Smart Kit, it consists mostly of plastic. There’s still a small photo-etched fret, mainly for interior details; a one-piece metal gun barrel to which you attach the plastic breech, muzzle brake and travel lock; assorted tiny metal parts that include two springs for the gunner’s seat (bicycle style) and locking springs for the feet of the travel lock legs on the later two variants; and clear parts for the periscopes etc.
The sprues are a mixture of earlier parts, parts borrowed from other kits (most notably the suspension, and weapons from infantry sets), and new parts.
• slide-moulding for the side louvres, muzzle brake (in three parts), breech components, and a few other bits;
• Dragon’s “Razor Edge” approach to the sides of the fighting compartment and the gun shield. This essentially just means very thin plastic, probably as near to scale thickness as it’s possible to get and still free the parts from the mould;
• Magic Tracks, which are little masterpieces – every last little hole faithfully depicted, plus the end pins;
• any number of parts for the spares box – for instance, a full set of sprockets and final drive housings, one-and-a-half gun barrels, and loads of tools and infantry weapons;
• choices for the various versions
• glacis plates, exhausts, spare wheel stowage, travel locks
• temporary templates to help you locate the attachments for the side plates
By my reckoning the total part count is 937 (your mileage may differ), of which you stow / throw away 200. The kit pretty much fills the box. It took me several minutes just to get to the bottom of it, and it’s hard to get the lid back on. Pigsty’s top tip: throw away the bags and you can fit everything in a little easier. As some of the sprues ditch nearly everything for the sake of one or two parts, I do wonder if these kits might not be a bit cheaper if Dragon arranged their sprues differently and gave you less superfluous plastic. Another problem is that there are two Sprue A, two Sprue B and two Sprue K. They’re identified in the instructions by the use of different colours, but I shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that you have to hunt for parts from time to time.
The lack of PE means that a lot of fine details that we now take for granted are omitted. For instance, there are no separate brackets for the few tools that you use, and the lifting handles for the floor panels are just moulded in. Personally I don’t mind, as the kit parts look fine and will be much easier on the eyes. But this means there may still be scope for even more detailing if you fancy it.
There’s no interior other than the fighting compartment. All the front end is locked down. The hatches can be opened, but after that you’re on your own.
The instructions are a bit of a low point, but you may be used to this with Dragon kits. They give every appearance of being compiled by throwing images onto the page, and they seem to be inviting the same approach to constructing the kit. You will need to pay close attention to what you’re doing and, as always, check your references. There are also errors. A sample at random: you’re supposed to use part C20 for the fighting compartment periscopes, despite these being blanked on the sprue map and the kit including them in clear plastic.
Moulding quality is generally first-rate. Fine details are very well represented, a particular high spot being the scalloped plates that join the fighting compartment plates and the track guards. I’ve included a photo of one of the unused final drives, just because it struck me as such a nicely moulded part. Even the underside of the hull features better, finer detail than a lot of kits give you for the bits you can see. Mind you, it’s not all perfect. There are sixteen 8.8cm rounds (an improvement on earlier kits) but they’re moulded in one piece and each has noticeable mould seams. I think they’re still round, but it’s a little bit of fallibility. Almost a relief, really.
As the suspension comes from recent Pz Kpfw IV kits, the tyres have “Continentau” moulded on them, remarkably finely. You can of course shave off the tail of the U if you want the proper name to appear. Hmm … did people trudging across the battlefields of Europe really think “Oh, that’s interesting – must get some Continentals for the KdF-wagen when I get home”?
Kit no.6386 is Dragon’s latest version of the Nashorn – I believe it’s their fifth crack at it. It follows on from the Premium Edition kit of 2006 (no. 6314) but comes out in the Smart Kit format. And it’s very nice.
The earliest Nashorn kit had a dreadful reputation for fit. This shouldn’t. A quick test-fit of some major hull parts reveals that all is well on this front. Still, there are a lot of parts, so at all stages you’ll want to check that you have your alignments right and nothing is poking out where it shouldn’t.
Unfortunately we do need, yet again, to talk money. In the UK, the Nashorn seems likely to retail at £49.99. That’s an awful lot for a kit with relatively little non-plastic parts. I know all the arguments, but I still find myself blinking when I learn of a price so high.