by: Rob Harvey [ ]
Following the success of the SAS during the Western Desert campaigns, the SAS had proved themselves a successful and formidable fighting force. They went on to take part in the Italian campaign and in 1944 1st and 2nd Regiments joined other units in the newly formed SAS Brigade of the Army Air Corp, in preparation for the Normandy invasion.
The Brigade took part in numerous operations in France, linking up with French resistance and disrupting German supply lines, supply dumps and communication points and conducting hit and run raids. Notable actions include Operation Houndstooth and the ill-fated Operation Bullbasket, in which 34 members of 1st SAS were captured and executed. During the closing stages of the war the Brigade was involved in efforts to capture key Nazi targets as well as raid and capture vital German facilities.
Throughout their time in Europe the SAS continued to make use of the venerable Jeep, which had become the iconic tool of their trade in the desert. The gun Jeeps played a vital role of the successful conduct of their missions, especially in inspiring the resistance to cooperate at the sight of the heavily armed Jeeps brisling with guns.
The Jeeps featured a number of modifications and improvements from the desert vehicles. Gone were the radiator condenser, side channels and extensive fuel and supply loads (ease of access to supplies negated the need to such stowage), although the front grill still had most of the slats removed for airflow. One major improvement was the addition of the traversing and elevation mechanism for the weapons, which allowed the guns to be locked into specific elevations and provided improved stability. Typically out of a Jeep section one would be armed with an ANM2 Browning .50, the standard aircraft version of the 50 cal, twin and single Vickers as well as a U.S. Bazooka. Other Jeeps would be armed with two sets of twin-Vickers and driver’s side mounted Bren or Vickers gun.
After the Normandy campaign the Brigade and Jeeps underwent a re-group and refit. Two self-sealing fuel tanks were added to the back of the Jeep along with frontal protection and bulletproof glass shielding for the driver and gunner. The radiator also had armoured louvers added. On the rear wall of some Jeep’s, was also added stowage basket for extra flimsy cans and general stores.
This is the fourth ‘Jeep’ kit from Dragon Model and as with the previous three releases, has thankfully been updated from the horror that was the original Cyberhobby ‘Desert Raider’ kit; Many of the original most glaring mistakes having now been rectified. Dragon Model’s basic kit depicts a Willy’s MB with the characteristic rounded front chassis cross-member.
Over twelve sprues there are roughly 200 plastic parts, as well as a photo-etch fret containing 30 pieces. A small decal sheet is also provided with generic number stencilling, some dashboard dials and SAS emblems. As an added bonus, Dragon Model has also included in this package their ‘2nd SAS Regiment France 1944’ figure set, first released around 2004.
The kit and breakdown of parts means that one can build an SAS jeep with varying types of modifications, for example the earlier type sans gun shields. Pleasingly a varied selection of weapons is also provided, with the possibility to depict either Vickers or ANM2 armed versions (although the instructions don’t expressly highlight this).
Initial inspection reveals typical high quality moulding on the parts characteristic of a Dragon Model kit. The sprues are packed out with a high parts count on each. Thankfully mould imperfections are largely absent as are mould marks on most of the visible faces of parts like the body or gun shields. Naturally there are some mould lines to contend with on some of the parts, generally though compared with other manufacturers these are very fine and can be removed easily with a sharp blade. One thing I’m not especially keen on is the size of the sprue attachment points; on some of the smaller pieces these are quite substantial. One may find it difficult removing such parts without damaging them or at least compromising the surface on the part itself.
Part A is the main jeep body, moulded as one single piece with separate rear panel, radiator grill and hood. A section of sprue remains on the rear face of the wheel wells, which is very chunky and should be removed with great care; otherwise the top surface of the wheel well could be damaged. As with the previous 3 releases (6714, 6724 & 6748), Dragon Model have now corrected the profile of the transmission cover, however the incorrect square fire wall remains as does the irritating ledge along the bottom of the side panel inside face.
Both the bottom of the body and inside faces of the side panels lack any of the bracing detail, however this is largely hidden on the finished kit. The floor of the body features locating holes for the seat frames, which are oversized and best filled with new holes drilled in place. On the outside face of the side panels is some very fine rivet and screw detailing. Grab handles are moulded as very fine separate parts.
Sprue B contains the generic Jeep parts, in particular the chassis frame, suspension and drive train, engine parts, hood and body detailing. The suspension and drive train parts are very fine with heaps of detail. Other reviews of previous Dragon Model Jeeps have suggested the rear axles are slightly too wide, meaning the wheels stick out too far, so this is something to watch out for (the parts here are identical to previous releases). An engine block complete with transmission is provided and is well detailed, however the Jeep hood lacks any interior detailing and actually has a number of mould plug holes on the inside face, somewhat limiting the potential to model the hood open with engine on show (that is without additional work).
The front grill provided is the correct part with accurate dimensions and comes with the slats cut out characteristic of SAS jeeps. Looking at reference photos of wartime Jeeps the slats appear to have been cut fairly crudely leaving pinched ends of varying heights, some even have the stubs filed right down. One may wish to modify the very uniform finish on the kit part.
Of particular note is the radiator, which comes with the headlights and marker lights moulded integrally on the side. Depending on the time frame, it appears SAS jeeps in NWE had the marker lights removed and just one repositioned on the right fender.
On sprue C are the wheels, which are the standard combat rim with bar grip tyres. The wheels are made up of a complete outer face with an insert for the rear face and separate brake drums. These are a very good representation of the wheel with fantastic detailing on the rims. Two spare wheels are included.
Sprue D contains the clear parts for the headlights, marker lights and gun shields. The glazing on the parts is very good and the headlights will look perfect with some proper reflective metallic paint.
Unfortunately a major let down on this kit is that the armoured glass gun shields are in fact incorrect. The armoured glass on the real Jeep is almost like an oval shape with the bottom rounded part cut off; this glass is enclosed within a two-part metal frame with nut and bolt fastening. This allowed for damaged glass to be removed from the frame and replaced. Unfortunately Dragon Model has mistakenly just moulded the top part of the glass shield which ends up being a half circle, without any of the bottom frame part. For anyone who is concerned with accuracy this renders the shields more or less useless without modification and compromising the clear plastic. Interestingly it seems Dragon Model made the same error on their large 1/6 Jeep, however Ron Volstad got these correct on the box artwork.
Sprue G is a new sprue unique to this kit, which contains the additional parts specific to a NWE SAS Jeep. Included are the self-sealing fuel tanks, exquisitely detailed parts for the Vickers gun traversing and elevation mechanism and some flimsy cans. The radiator armoured-louvers are moulded as a single piece to place in front of the radiator and is absolutely hopeless. Firstly this is totally unacceptable as a single moulded plastic piece, the louvers are crying out to be replicated in photo etched parts, secondly Dragon Model has moulded the wrong number of louver slats (eight vs. five in reality).
The armoured shield plates for the Vickers guns are quite poorly done as well, being simply too thick (best done in PE). Interestingly the instructions also call out for filling in the openings for the gun barrels?? The armoured plate for the driver and gunner has been moulded much thinner, which begs the question why Dragon Model couldn’t do this for the gun shields. The rear panel armour plate, added on some SAS Jeeps, is again sadly over-scaled in terms of thickness.
Four flimsy cans are provided which have moulded on solid handles, thankfully Dragon Model do provide photo-etched replacement handles, all one must do is chisel of the moulded on parts. These are for placing into a basket on the rear panel, which is made of plastic and photo-etch parts. From examining photos of wartime Jeeps I have struggled to find any evidence of this, the only stowage baskets I have seen are much longer cargo bins that extend the whole length of the rear panel.
On six smaller sprues are parts for the weapons and mounts (actually marked up as Sprue C as well). These are undoubtedly the highlight of the kit and are absolutely stunning. There are eight separate Vickers gun’s included all with hollowed out barrel ends. There is some flash evident on the inside trigger and hand grip area, easy enough to remove. One improvement I would make would be adding the carry handles to the magazine drums. Included as well are two ANM2 Browning 50cal, although the instructions make no mention of them. They come with separate ammunition feed cover, cocking handle etc. The sights have been moulded atop the barrel but lack the retaining ring.
Finally there is a small photo-etched fret, containing small T-latches for the hood, various bracing parts and two frame bins for stowing first-aid kit satchel’s. The instructions calls for one of these on each fender, however references suggest only one was in fact mounted on the right fender.
The decal sheet contains generic number stencilling for some ‘unknown’ vehicles, data plaques, dashboard dials and the SAS emblem marking often seen painted on the armoured shields.
The instruction sheet is a bit of a mess with some assemblies located seemingly at random, for example step one consists of constructing the wheels but also the flimsy rack and parts of the drivers armoured shield. Paint options are provided for 3 different Jeeps, all ‘unknown’. Be aware that two of the options call out for a ‘micky mouse pattern’ camouflage. In reality it seems all Jeeps were just painted standard green, this could be an error based on a fictional scheme painted on a modern replica.
As an added bonus the kit also includes the ‘2nd SAS Regiment France 1944’ four figure set. These have been reviewed many times elsewhere so I won’t go into any detail here, except to say these are typical of early 2000 figures from Dragon Model. The moulding is fairly good, nicely detailed weapons, but pretty hopeless heads. I would have preferred the crew figures depicted on the box.
This is certainly not a bad effort from Dragon Model; the quality of moulding is very good as is the finesse of parts. It’s a nicely detailed kit and generally sticks to the ‘Smart Kit’ ethos on having a sensible parts count and fairly logical assemblies without overblown and tedious breakdown of different parts. I probably wouldn’t recommend the kit for beginners though, some of the sprue attachment points are heavy and will cause problems when trying to remove small parts, whilst the gun mounts are fairly complex as to prove quite challenging for anyone not used to working with such fiddly assemblies.
There is some heaving moulding on parts such as the armoured plates, admittedly a limitation of plastic moulding, yet strangely Dragon Model managed to mould the armour panels much thinner than the gun shields.
Unfortunately the kit suffers from some continuous errors left over from their previous Jeep kits with additional problems on some of the NWE SAS specific parts. The incorrect armoured glass shields and very poor radiator louvers let the kit down. These could be overlooked but shouldn’t have to be on a modern kit of this price. If the box artist can get these correct then so should they.
One can build a respectable and nicely detailed kit from this, however it feels like Dragon Model have cut corners and compromised on certain areas, which easily could have been addressed.