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In-Box Review
Sd.Kfz.231 Panzerspähwagen
Sd.Kfz.231 Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (8-rad)
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by: Matthew Lenton [ FIRSTCIRCLE ]


The manual for the GS Fahrgestell series of 8x8 heavy armoured cars issued by Büssing-NAG in 1937 described how the purpose of these new vehicles went beyond the original needs identified when army units were first undergoing mechanization in the early 1930s: "they must be able to negotiate the most difficult terrain such as hills, ditches, sand, swamp, ford, etc. and still remain operational because they are depending upon themselves and due to the proximity of the enemy can’t depend on outside help. Even… where the horse failed and human power had to help, the Panzerspähwagen must under its own power be able to withdraw quickly out of range of enemy weapons without crew losses." (Quoted in Panzer Tracts 13-2, see references below). It was clearly intended that there would be no more truck based armoured cars stuck in ditches waiting to be towed out by other vehicles; the 8 rad series had to stand up on its own 8 wheels.

The subject of this review, the Sd.Kfz.231 (8 rad), can be regarded as the base version of the series, and was equipped with a rotating turret fitted with a 20mm automatic cannon and a coaxial 7.92mm machine gun. The 232, with more powerful radio equipment and a frame aerial that pivoted on the turret, was rendered by Dragon in the first of their GS Fahrgestell 8 rad releases last year, and was followed by the 263 with its larger fixed superstructure and frame and mast aerials. Both are the subject of Armorama reviews: Sd.Kfz.232 and Sd.Kfz.263.

what you get

In a smallish top opening box adorned with a painting by Auletta, the sprues are all separately bagged in normal thorough Dragon style, including individual bags for hull top and bottom and a zip lock bag for the little decal sheet.

Let’s look at what’s the same and what is different from the other two 8 rad kits:
Sprue A with the wheels and suspension units is common to all.
Sprue B with the big wheel arches and other small suspension and body parts is also common to all.
Sprue C small hull details common to all.
Sprue D – there is no sprue D… this one is left out as you don’t need the frame aerial from the 232 kit.
Sprue E, the turret parts, is present here, as it is in the 232 (but not the 263).
Sprue F is the zusatzpanzer add-on nose armour plus fuel cans, again, common to all.
Looking at photo 23 we see the photo from Russ Amott’s review of the 232 that shows the sprues C, D, E and F, and which I’ve labelled to show which of the four are included in each of the three kits. So in this kit, the 231, sprue D has been removed. In the 263 kit, sprues D and E were missing, but the upper hull body was different due to the fixed superstructure, and the parts for the two aerials plus additional body plates were on a new sprue. The only new thing, then, about this kit compared to the 232 kit is a new decal sheet and new finishing schemes. As with the other two kits, the finishing options cover both grey and dark yellow schemes, in this instance including grey finishes in Greece and Yugoslavia in 1941, and dark yellows for Russia in 1942 and ’43 and finally Sicily in ’43. With some relief I noted that the registration plates, although blank white plates, are at least provided with a couple of choices of ready-made serial numbers as well as the six rows of individual 1s to 0s, so you aren’t forced to go down the fiddly road of making up three plates from the tiny separate digits.

Construction sequence

The kit of course follows broadly the same construction sequence as the 232 and 263 kits. Both of the reviews I linked to above include full builds of those kits, so I would advise you to refer to them if you want full step by step details.

Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 are in fact identical, and still include the same ambiguities and errors: when components are similar to each other, Dragon habitually save space by labelling them, for example, B29(B30), but seemingly take no account of whether the parts are actually identical, or mirror images, as in this case, which is of course not the same thing at all – so make sure you know which way round the steering arms are going. To me it makes much more sense to label identical components with the same part number, while mirror image parts should be labelled separately. Again we have the erroneous uses of the "optional” symbol in step 2, when what is actually needed is two identical pairs to be made up.

Step 3 still shows the horn, part B22, mounted facing backwards, and still has you add on all the tiny delicate details prior to adding the mudguards to the body – but then we all know that instruction sequences are not always to be followed – and when building the 263 I found to my cost that the rear lamps are best added before the mudguards as it is virtually impossible to attach them afterwards. As I noted in that review however, I’m not convinced the brackets position the rear lamps in quite the right place. The flag staff, B18, is a fairly simple rendering that should be a frame rather than a solid plate, but for later vehicles it should be omitted in any case, and the locating hole filled.

Step 5 is the same as in the 232, and is the point at which a choice is made on the configuration of the rear body plate: spare wheel mounted on a hinged rack over the ventilation slats, or an armour plate cover. Unfortunately, as in the other two kits, there is no easy way to do what could be a third version, which would be to have just the ventilation grille without either wheel or armoured cover, as many early vehicles seem to have had, this being because there’s two rather big locating holes moulded into the grille.

So the final step, 6, is the same as in the 232, but without the frame aerial. Note that the turret does however still have small locating steps for the aerial on either side of the turret top, and though not noted in the instructions, these should be carefully removed. Regarding the zusatzpanzer nose armour, the finishing options are all 1941 or later, which means it can justifiably be fitted for all of the illustrated options; if you want to represent a vehicle operating before 1940 then it should be left off, though even many early production vehicles were back fitted with this armour after its introduction.


So the third of Dragon’s 1/72 scale 8 rad offerings produces another of the Schwere Panzerspähwagen series, but as noted, you could quite easily have already built this 231 version from the 232 kit simply by leaving the aerial off. All we have here is one less sprue and a new decal sheet; this will still however build up into another fine looking model of a “fascinatingly ugly” vehicle type. For me, the real highlight of these kits is the lower hull and the suspension, both of which are beautifully rendered, and makes me think that someone ought to produce a small diorama with one of these flipped over on its back, or perhaps being repaired with some of the wheels removed.

The engineering of these kits is top drawer, with the lower hull in particular being a superb example of slide moulding, and the fit is very good indeed. If there’s any disappointment it is perhaps that these vehicles actually went through various changes during their six year production run, but the kits haven’t been designed with that in mind, but armed with the Panzer Tracts book, for example, particular marques could be represented. Those with a mind to could certainly up the level of detailing: width indicators and indicator guard bars could be improved, and the tow cable moulded on to the nose armour could be removed and replaced by a separate item; perhaps some vendor will come up with some knobblier off road tyres, and in the meantime, I’m anticipating that the next in this series may be the more drastically different 233.


Panzer Tracts No.13-2 Schwerer Panzerspaehwagen (Sd.Kfz.231, 232, & 233) and Panzerfunkwagen (Sd.Kfz.263)by Thomas L Jentz and Hilary Doyle
Squadron / Signal Amor No.4 Panzerspähwagen In Action
German Armoured Cars of WW2 by John Milsom and Peter Chamberlain (A&AP, out of print)
Highs: Superb chassis and suspension. Parts fit in this series excellent. Ugly in a good way – every WW2 German braille armour modeller needs one of them.
Lows: Basically the Sd.Kfz 232 with a sprue missing. Errors in instructions haven’t even been corrected during the edit. Regrettably no versioning options designed in.
Verdict: It makes another very good 8 rad variant model – but with very little new effort from Dragon.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:72
  Mfg. ID: 7483
  Suggested Retail: £18.50
  PUBLISHED: Feb 23, 2013

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About Matthew Lenton (firstcircle)

Earliest model memory is a Super Sabre my grandmother bought for me around 1972. Have always dabbled in painting and making things, and rediscovered doing that with plastic in 2008. Vowed then to complete the 30 year old stash, and have made some progress. Hobby goes hand in hand with BBC Radio 3...

Copyright ©2021 text by Matthew Lenton [ FIRSTCIRCLE ]. All rights reserved.


Matthew, Very concise and effective review of this kit. Interesting how Dragon is recycling spruces in the same manner as the did with their recent four wheeled Spahpanzers. I am very happy to see that they are now providing some optional "full" number sets for these vehicles, as opposed to the digit by digit only option. I've had the displeasure to do three sets of these "roll your own" type plates and they are a monumental time consuming drudgery. As I have a 263 version awaiting construction, I will most certainly be referring to the excellent reviews here on this site. My thanks to you and others that provide these helpful reviews. Cheers, Jan
FEB 23, 2013 - 05:54 PM
Thanks Jan. Looking forward to your long-promised rendering of the 263 Dependent on any competition rules that you might want to comply with, it would be interesting to try to get some of the thin components down to more in-scale thickness. Regarding the "recycling" - this one is a bit disappointing in terms of there being no new components at all; I'm not sure if that has happened in any other kits in the range, or indeed in the 1/35 range. Still, in the "old days" of course, modellers might have been forced to create all of the 8rad vehicles from a single base kit, such as the infamous Airfix SdKfz234, so at least Dragon are leaving a bit of work for us to do...
FEB 25, 2013 - 01:04 AM
In time, Matthew, in time. I haven't really looked at the kit parts except in your review pictures to see what might be doable. If it will potentially be entered in an OOTB category then the options are extremely limited. I'm sure that we've seen this quite often by now, including the "Lego" scale kits. The Dragon Shermans, Panzer IV chassis, T-34 variants and especially the four wheeled (4 Rad) vehicles. This latter most category has the kits come with a large sprue that contains a huge number of parts that are specific to the 222 variant including the full interior and exterior of that versions turret. As another example, the SU-85M came with numerous parts for an early T-34. including the entire upper body casting as can be seen as marked unused in the instructions below. Would it be unrealistic to presume that we might see a slew of 234 variants from Dragon! Perhaps even a Puma? Cheers, Jan
FEB 25, 2013 - 04:11 AM
Jan, though it is certainly commonplace for kits to be created from other kits by adding sprues in, and leaving the whole other kit contained within the new, I suppose the point with this one is that the 232 was released first, and that to make the 231, parts were subtracted, rather than added. I suppose it's no different really, though seems a little odd when you think about it that way. Of course Airfix released their Mark I Male around 47 years before getting around to adding the sprue for the Female - but the Male costs less than the Female as it contains less plastic; these Dragon kits cost the same as each other. I think it's inevitable; notice that the wheels and suspension arms are on a sprue of their own, separate from the wheel arches which will need to be replaced by the one piece fenders for the 234. On top of that, they just released the 1/35 Sd.Kfz.234/4 Panzerspähwagen this month, which means they've got all the CAD drawings done for that, and recently they have been following up 1/35 with 1/72 (like the Panzerfahre )
FEB 26, 2013 - 11:46 AM

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