Sd.Kfz.184 Schwerer Jagdpanzer "Elefant"
The Sd.kfz 184 started as the “Ferdinand” which was based on the prototype Porsche Tiger (P) chassis modified with an armored casemate and armed with a 88mm PaK 43 L/71 gun. Production began in January 1943, and 90 AFVs were built by May and deployed with the 653rd and 654th Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion in time for Operation Zitadelle.
By October 1943, 50 survivors were sent back to the factory for badly needed repairs and pre-planned modernization. Modernization consisted of the installation of a MG34 in the hull, improvement of armor protection, installation of wider tracks and installation of commander’s cupola (developed from that of Stug III Ausf G) which provided improved visibility. The AFVs were partially covered with Zimmerit, an anti-magnetic paste. Modernization was made in February and March of 1944 by Nibelungenwerke in Austria and modified Ferdinands were renamed Elephants. Officially Ferdinands were renamed Elephants in general order dated May 1st of 1944.
After modernization, 48 Elephants were grouped into schwere Heeres Panzerjager Abteilung 653 and the First Company was transferred to Italy in late February of 1944. They arrived in Rome by train via Salzburg, Innsbruck, the Brenner Pass , Trento and Florence on February 24th of 1944. They saw combat at Nettuno, Anzio and Cisterna as early as March 1st of 1944. Although the Elefant modifications improved the vehicles, some problems could never be fully fixed. In 1944 the Elefants served on the Italian front but were rendered rather ineffective, as their weight of nearly 70 tonnes did not allow them to use most Italian roads and bridges. Due to a permanent lack of spare parts most of the units were not destroyed in battle, but abandoned and blown up by their own crews.
In April of 1944, the Second and Third Companies of sPzJagAbt 653 was transferred back to the Eastern Front. In late Autumn of 1944, all existing Elephants were grouped into newly created unit - schwere Heeres Panzerjager Kompanie 614. This unit-- with some 13-14 AFVs-- saw service on the Eastern Front as late as early 1945 and eventually all remaining (4?) Elephants saw final service with Kampfgruppe "Ritter" in area of Zossen (south of Berlin) in mid April of 1945. When employed defensively in Italy and Russia, Elephants proved to be formidable opponents. As of January 1st of 1945, there were still 4 Elephants in service of which some took part in the defense of Berlin as part of Kampfgruppe Ritter.
The kit comes in an overly large box- especially considering the contents. There is plenty of extra room in the box, minimzing the chance for part breakage. Once again, Tamiya applies its magical touch to the molding of the kit parts. The kit includes five large Tamiya dark yellow sprues and two separate cast parts-- one for the lower hull and another for the large casemate. The kit tracks are molded on four sprues in a color closely approximating Tamiya JGSDF Brown. The choice of this color is interesting as it replicates a good base earth color that can be used for lower hull painting. The kit also includes the usual Tamiya poly caps and a length of heavy thread for the tow cables. The kit does not include any clear parts or photoetch-- really neither needed for this kit.
As can be noted in the below photos, Tamiya has also done well molded a rough cast texture on the hull and casemate parts. Further details are well cast on other parts; including the tracks and wheels. The bow machine gun muzzle is also open (no need to drill to avoid that .5pt AMPS judge penalty...). The figures are also cleanly cast, so no need for aftermarket resin figures.
2 SPRUES FOR SUSPENSION/WHEEL PARTS
4 SPRUES FOR TRACKS
As to be expected Tamiya has included easy to follow instructions complete with sidenotes. Very little time should be necessary attempting to decypher the instructions; this should be a fairly quick build if the parts do fall together. Tamiya has also include an information flyer on the Elefant and a color painting/decal instruction guide. The provided decals allow the build to build an Elefant from either the 1st (Anzio), or the 2nd or 3rd (Eastern Front) Companies of the sPz.Jg.Abt 653rd Heavy Anti-Tank Battalion.
Reportedly, if you shake a Tamiya box correctly the parts will fall together into a completed kit. For this build review in addition to reviewing the kit I am going to keep close track of the time for the build.
STEPS 1-4 BASE HULL CONSTRUCTION: 1 HOUR
Kit construction starts off fast. Within one hour, the first three steps were complete and the end result was a very well constructed hull and casemate that any treadhead would recognize as the "Elefant." All the parts literally fell togeter. For some of the assembly steps, the instructions highlight an assembly order which should be followed to ensure a tight fit. I speculate that Tamiya used the Aberdeen Elefant for dimensions on this kit; one of the give-aways is that the vision slits on the front hull sides are molded with weld beads-- much like the Aberdeen Elefant.
At this point, I spent another 30 minutes or so mounting larger detail parts on the hull that would be required for the next phase of construction-- adding the Zimmerit. For this build, I was going to use the Tamiya Zimmerit Coating Sheet for 1/35 Scale Elefant (Detail-Up Parts Series, Product# 12644). This item was reviewed separately at:
Tamiya Zimmerit Coating Sheet for 1/35 Scale Elefant
STEPS 5 AND 6 FENDERS AND LOWER HULL DETAIL: 1.5 HOURS
The fenders are mounted along with lower hull details. The fenders fit well together, but there are a few injection pin marks on the underside of the fenders. These will mostly be hidden once the tracks are mounted, and a little weathering mud will also assist. A strong glue is recommended both for mounting to the hull and during the alignment of all the parts; each fender side should also be mounted in a single sitting. Of note, the instructions do note the placement of part G25 upside down; the long end of the ‘L’ bracket should rest atop the fender.
Most of the rest of these instruction steps simply requires the addition of detailing parts. The parts are easily identifiable on the sprues and the instructions are easy to follow. All the parts require minimal clean-up and mount well.
STEPS 7-9 SUSPENSION CONSTRUCTION: 1.5 HOURS
Another thirty minutes of cut, filing, and building provides all the necessary suspension and drive wheels. These kit parts are very well detailed and come together easily and quickly. The drive sprockets align perfectly with the tracks easily fitting into the guide teeth.
The kit suspension arms are both well cast and a disappointment. The parts demonstrate a common tendency of Tamiya to have open gaps on parts that will be hidden after assembly. Admittedly, when the wheels are mounted on the suspension arms the open gap is well hidden. However, if the modeler were to build/display this kit in a scene with wheels off, then the gap would be obvious. The instructions indicate that part A17 should not be glued. Honestly, the subassembly does not hold together unless all the parts are glued.
At the end, the wheels are pressed onto the suspension arm axles. The fit is tight and they hold well; so well that I realized at the end of construction, I never went back and applied glue on any of the wheels (by then with mounted tracks).
STEPS 10-11 TRACKS: 3 HOURS
The kit tracks are a combination of individual links and lengths. The tracks are cleanly cast, very well detailed, clean up easily, and fit tightly. Some of the track lengths are cast with a pre-set curve to represent the curved drop/lift of the tracks resting on the suspension. The builder should pay close attention to the order/placement of the pieces and during cleanup keep track of which parts are which (there really isn't much of a difference between the parts with only a quick inspection). I will note that the plastic is quite hard and will take a generous amount of strong glue to assemble the track runs. I also assembled the track runs in sections over several build periods.
STEP 12 ADDITIONAL DETAILS: 1 HOUR
This step includes the assembly and mounting of additional rear-hull details; including a very well detailed jack composed of several different pieces. One recommendation on the rear mounted spare track links: for best mounting build the assembly with the exception of the top track which should be glued in place as the whole set is mounted on the spare track rack-- otherwise its difficult to mount the spare track set in a completed subassembly on the tight spare track rack. I actually proceeded to break the lifting hook for the casemate rear hatch when attempting to remove it from the sprue; which was replaced with formed brass wire.
STEPS 13-14 GUN BARREL AND HATCHES: 1 HOUR
OK, time for a kit criticism, and I hope kit manufacturers take note.... Why do kit manufacturers continue to mold gun barrels in 2 halves? A metal barrel is not necessary-- especially with modern gun barrels with thermal sleaves and fume extractors. Still, how difficult can it be to cast a single long straight piece of styrene to represent the barrel, which could be further detailed with other parts? Done editorializing now. Unfortunately, the kit includes two well cast straight pieces of styrene that are to be glued together to make a single barrel piece. That part is easy. Cleanup takes an unnecessary amount of time; involving careful, scrapping, filing, sanding, putty work, more filing, sanding.... I would also recommend not mounting the gun barrel until Step 15 after how the travel lock will be set up is decided and built. Assembly of the hatches is straight forward.
STEP 15 TRAVEL LOCK: 1 HOUR
The instructions provide two options for building the travel lock-- travel mode or fighting position. I selected travel mode. For either, the kit provides detailed parts which assembly easily. Still, care should be taken in assemblying the travel lock and I recommend assemblying it in section allowing parts to dry before finalizing it.
STEP 16 FIGURES: 1.5 HOURS
While the figures can be quicly assembled in a matter of minutes, I decided to further detail the figures with some wire for the earphones and a strap (GC Laser) for the commander's binoculars. I thought the earphones were quite large for the heads, but I don't have any references to verify the size. So, I assembled the figures in such a manner to mask the size of the earphones and impart some motion (e.g., the commander earphones and lose wiring).
STEP 17 FINAL ASSEMBLY: .5 HOUR
The final assembly step includes adding the figures and creating/mounting the two side-mounted tow cables. The instructions clearly define the length of provided thread to be cut for the tow cables; don't worry there is plenty for both. The thread does like to unravel so cut cleanly and quickly; followed by a drop of superglue to hold the end before inserting into the end loop parts. Both the figures and the tow cables will be mounted on the Elefant after painting/weathering.
So after 12 hours of build time- an additional 3 hours for the Tamiya Zimmerit Coatin Sheets- we've reached the grand total build time of 15 hours. This kit is definitely a candidate for a weekend build project. (I just wish I had that sort of modeling free time to devote an entire weekend-- but there is this thing called 'real life'....)
Here are images of the completed and unpainted/weathered build-- including the Tamiya Zimmerit Coating Sheets. As can be noted, Out Of The Box (OOTB), this is a very good looking build and meets the expected high quality standard for Tamiya products.
PAINTING/WEATHERING AND DECALS
Time to pull out the Airbrush.... In keeping with the Tamiya tradition-- and following the instructions-- Tamiya colors of Dark Yellow, Red Brown, and Dark Green were used. Further depth of the Dark Yellow was used by applying other Tamiya shades and shades mixed with the Dark Yellow (pseudo-modulation). I will say that I find the raw Tamiya colors to be a little dark on application. I decided to break away from the painting instructions and add some variety by painting the mantle shield in Hull Red and leaving the gun barrel in primer grey-- representing a recent replacement of both parts (I know historically inaccurate especially for '102'...).
The kit provides decals for three different AFVs-- one for each 1944 company: 1st in Italy, and 2nd and 3rd on the Ostfront. The 1st Company vehicle represents '102' which was captured by the Allies and sent back to Aberdeen for evaluation (Elefant Fahrgestell Number 150071). I selected this vehicle for the decals-- especially as I had earlier selected the star pattern for the zimmerit as was reportedly applied to this vehicle.
Initial weathering was performed with the application of filters, oils, and washes. Some chipping was applied as well. Thereafter, the AFV received a heavy dark earth coating on the lower hull and a dirty/dusty coating on the upper hull. Historically the 1st Company had to slog it through the mud of Italy, and I wanted to emulate such a muddy AFV.
The Tamiya Sd.Kfz.184 Schwerer Jagdpanzer "Elefant" was a fun and fairly quick build-- as can be noted by the build time. Honestly, I spent more time painting/weathering the Elefant than actually building the kit. Straight out of the box the Tamiya kit is well detailed and makes a great representation of the Elefant. The kit doesn't have any of the extras like photoetch and clear parts seen these days, but that really isn't missing especially as the Elefant really doesn't have any details crying out for the extras. As noted above, probably my biggest gripe with the kit is the gun barrel-- two plastic halves really need to go-- especially in cases like the Elefant that have a long and dramatic barrel. I noticed after the initial paint coat the classic seam running down the barrel; so really to get more out of this kit (and for it to have a chance at the AMPS judges table, this kit needs to go back to the workbench for a few more hours of work.
Based on well molded parts, easy-to-follow instructions, well molded parts, and strong details, the Tamiya Sd.Kfz.184 Shwerer Jagdpanzer "Elefant" is;
I would like to thank Tamiya for provided the the Tamiya Sd.Kfz.184 Shwerer Jagdpanzer "Elefant" to the AMPS Review Crew for our assessment.