Decades ago when I was a youth, I spotted an unusual kit in a store. It showed some German "tank" with a crane on it which was removing the turret from the tank to be placed on a ground mount. It wasn't until 2007 that I saw this subject as a kit again with Dragon's release of their 1/35 Heuschrecke IVB kit, which is reviewed here
. I'm normally not one for kits of vehicles that never saw operational use, but I just had to get one. One of the big disappointments with the kit was that while Dragon provided the ability to have the crane frame in the elevated position, the gear for hoisting and moving the turret along the frame was not modeled. Fortunately, Voyager has come to the rescue with their detail set.
Included in the set are 4 frets of photo-etched parts specifically for the Grasshopper, 1 fret of photo-etched parts labeled "Nut & Bolts for Stug III", 1 metal 10.5 cm shell and 1 metal tube for a cartridge case, 3 plastic rods (.3mm, .5mm, 1mm diameters), 1 steel wire, 1 braided copper cable, and 2 resin "C" recovery hooks. Fret B, which mostly holds the parts for the hoist, is about twice as thick as the others. Most of these parts are not meant to be folded, but there are 5 that do.
In a quick overview, these are the parts that Voyager provides as replacements for Dragon parts:
Ammunition storage racks, Ammunition, tow cable mounts, idler levers, turret wheel mounts, turret wheel stowage mounts, Pioneer equipment straps, shovel blade, radio rack, convoy lights, engine grills, C hooks and holders, spare track brackets for bow and glacis plate, spare road wheel holders, jack top, jack holder, headlamp details, crane arms, hoist stops.
The Voyager set adds the turret hoist mechanism and a tow cable which are missing from the Dragon kit.
Note that online pictures of the set show metal fenders but the box cover clearly states that the fenders are not included (available separately in Voyager set #PEA130).
Dragon's floor racks could be assembled open or closed although their instructions don't show how to assemble them opened, and the racks are empty. Voyager's racks are also empty but the hinges on the doors of the rack are made to work so they can be shown anywhere between open and closed. Dragon provides 4 shells and Voyager adds 1 more.
Dragon's sponson racks (for cartridges) are partially filled and are duplicates of each other, whereas the Voyager racks are empty. Dragon provides 4 cartridges in their kit, and the Voyager kit provides 1 more. There are enough cartridge bottoms for the Voyager set if using their racks, but not enough for the cartridges molded into Dragon's racks. Another point to note, the Voyager instructions show the shell and cartridge together. Although this might make a nice display of a whole round, it would not be seen like this in real life as the shell and cartridge are loaded separately (with a variable load of powder bags between). Dismounted Turret Wheel Stowage Mounts
(lower rear hull plate)
Dragon supplies the vertical supports for the wheel mounts and the connecting tube as a single piece with separate end plates for the mounts themselves. Voyager provides the 4 vertical supports and 2 end plates but the modeler must provide the connecting tube. 4 holes also need to be drilled to mount the vertical supports to the hull lower rear plate. There are two problems with Voyager's directions here. First it says to remove two vertical molded-in brackets (for the tow cable) on the upper rear hull plate. That is mostly for the next step but you might not want to remove them (see next section). Another problem is that they show the wheel attachment subassembly as being glued to the dismounted wheel mounts. Remember that these go with the wheels so don't attach them in the dismounted position if you plan on mounting them on the turret! The wheel mounts themselves have some tiny pieces on them. There is the flat base of the mount, 3 tiny triangular pieces for webs, 2 small pieces of plastic rod (provided) and the hub must be made from plastic rod not provided in Voyager. You might try building one of these to see if you think it's better than Dragon's single part. This might be something you may want to skip if you value ease of assembly. Voyager provides a replacement idler mount lever which is longer on the longest side and looks more like what is on the real thing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG). I have no idea what this lever does.Upper Rear Hull Plate Details
As for the two tow cable brackets that Voyager provides replacements for, the Voyager ones are about a bolt head taller. It looks to me as if Dragon got the height right so you might want to skip this part. Also the "copper wire" referenced throughout the Voyager instructions should be "steel wire" since that's the only wire provided and nowhere in the Voyager instructions is "steel wire" mentioned. The tow cable is not provided in the Dragon kit but they do provide the ends of the tow cable. Voyager supplies a nice copper cable to complete it. Definitely use the lever for the small round hatch as there should be a flat tab on the hatch which Dragon left out. Voyager provides replacements for both early and late convoy lights. The early one is particularly nice in that you have the option of having either the convoy lights or the rear/brake lights displayed (a panel flipped over to show one or the other). Dragon's part shows the convoy side only.Engine Deck and Tool Stowage
Voyager's tool mountings are nice but many don't seem to match what is on the Heuschrecke at APG. Of course it could be that a lot of the tool brackets have gone missing over time but there are a lot of square brackets perhaps for holding down tool handles, not round ones. I don't see anything like the covers for the sharp end of the pry bars(?). I don't see any of the square brackets against which tool handles butt up against. I don't know if there are any period photos of the tool stowage on a Heuschrecke so I'd say choose what you like. The Voyager tie-down straps certainly look good as well as the shovel head they supply. Dragon and Voyager both provide photo-etched engine grills. The Voyager seems to be finer but until I see a good overhead photo of the engine deck of the real thing I can't recommend a choice here.Front Hull Equipment Stowage
The Voyager "C" tow hooks are visibly smaller than the Dragon hooks. Both kits provide photo-etch mounts so it's probably best to use the hooks and mounts from the same manufacturer. The Voyager tow hooks are a match for those included in Tamiya's Panzer IVH (Early) kit. If you assume that the Heuschrecke used Panzer IV hooks, go with Voyager's parts. If you think the Heuschrecke would have needed larger, stronger hooks, go with Dragon's parts.
Dragon provides a nice plastic front hull track bracket. Voyager provides an 8 piece photo-etch replacement. Again, I think those who favor ease of assembly could skip the Voyager parts. As for the brackets for the glacis plate spare track links, I honestly can't see much of a difference between the photo-etched ones provided by Dragon and Voyager. The holes in the Dragon parts are bigger. Voyager's left side corner brackets have an extra square notch in them whereas Dragon's corner brackets are the same. I have not seen any good pictures of the left side brackets so I have no idea which to use.
Voyager provides a replacement for Dragon's plastic jack top. Unfortunately, the jack holders on the APG Heuschrecke have been badly mangled. I would say the Voyager parts are thinner than the Dragon plastic parts so might look nicer. The other thing in Voyager's favor is that I don't think Dragon has the correct position of the jack holder. The jack holder should be behind the holder for the C hooks, right beside the spare road wheel holder. You can see the position in the period photograph of the Heuschrecke in Militär Fahrzuege 1/2008, page 31 as well as seeing the mangled forward jack holder in photographs of the Heuschrecke at APG.
The Voyager spare road wheel holders are more accurate as they use a wire instead of Dragon's flat strap to hold the wheels.
Here's a strange thing, both Dragon and Voyager have a strap that goes around the back of the headlamp but there is none on the real thing at APG. Voyager says to saw off the ring on the front end of the lamp but it looks like the ring is there on the real thing. I'd say use the Dragon part and remove the strap going around the back.Radio Rack
I'd say Voyager's photo-etched radio rack makes a nice scale replacement for Dragon's plastic one. Overhead Crane Arms
I have not seen any good photos of the crane supporting arms themselves so I don't know how thick they are. Voyager provides photo-etched replacements for all 4 arms, so if you think the Dragon arms are too stout, use these. Voyager also provides replacements for the 4 hooks that prevent the hoist bridge from running off the ends of the rails. They are fret B so they are thicker than normal which might make bending the kink in these parts a bit challenging.Crane Mechanism
There are two parts to the crane mechanism. The bridge is the part travelling back and forth on the rails and the hoists hang from the bridge. Unfortunately, Voyager doesn't specify what size plastic rod to use for the bridge. However, the length of the rod should be the distance between the inner edges of the rails. One of the rail wheels can be glued on and the rod length adjusted by fitting on the rails with the other rail wheel. The diameter of the rod should not be so big that the hoists won't hang from them. If you want the bridge to actually move along the rails, you will have to add spacers between the outer side of the rail wheels and the inner side of the actuating gear wheel so the gear wheel will clear the ground mount stowage brackets on the outside of the crane rails. To finish the bridge off, you will need to add chains to the actuating gears.
The hoists themselves look pretty good. There are the actuating wheels; for which the modeler must provide chains, and the lifting wheels; for which the modeler must also provide chains (thicker than the others). There is no information on how the hoist chains are arranged. I've only seen one picture of the hoist in action and the details of the hoists are hidden behind the crane arms. It's such a shame as it is the crane/hoist that makes the Heuschrecke so interesting.
For me, the set is worth getting just for the missing turret hoist mechanism. I just wish Voyager had provided the chains for it.
- Militär Fahrzuege 1/2008: "Heuschrecke und Panzerselbstfahrlafette IVb"
Has a period picture of the hoist in use.
- Pictures of the Heuschrecke at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the Gallery at www.svsm.org.