Dragon 1/35 Sd.Kfz.184 Elefant with Zimmerit




$62.00 SRP


5 options


Blair Stewart




The Elefant was a German tank hunter originally built as the “Ferdinand” in honor of its designer, Ferdinand Porsche.  The design evolved from cruder, improvised designs of 1941-42, as well as the later, but problem-ridden Marder designs. Porsche created the chassis from the 90 Porsche Tiger I models already built with new tracks and an all-steel wheel arrangement. Since the competing Henschel Tiger I design was chosen for production, the Porsche chassis were no longer required for tank production. The Germans therefore decided that the Porsche chassis were to be used as the basis of a new heavy tank destroyer, mounting Krupp's newly developed 88 mm Pak 43/2 L/71 anti-tank gun. This long-range weapon was supposed to take out enemy tanks before they reached their own range of effective fire. Krupp originally developed the L/71 as a replacement for the  88 mm anti-aircraft gun that had been successfully used as an anti-tank weapon in the North African campaign. The L/71 had a much longer barrel than the L/56 Flak 18 and Flak 36 guns, which gave it a higher muzzle velocity. It also fired a different, longer round. These improvements gave the L/71 significantly improved armor penetration over the earlier 88 mm. In the Elefant, the gun was capable of only a 25° traverse and a similarly limited elevation.

The Ferdinand’s suspension consisted of six twin bogies with longitudinal torsion bars. Porsche placed the engines in the middle of the hull to make room for the rear fighting compartment, which was a simple, casemate-style box structure, with slightly sloped sides, and placed on top of the chassis. The engines drove electric generators, which in turn powered electric motors connected to the rear sprockets. The chasis’ "slack track" setup used two drive sprockets per track, with the frontmost wheel sprocketed just like the rear drive sprocket. The driver and radio operator rode in a separate compartment at the front. Since the engines were in the middle of the vehicle, the crews in the two separated compartments had to communicate over a radio system.  

The vehicle’s two Porsche air cooled engines were replaced by two 300 hp Maybach HL 120 TRM engines powering two generators. The generators drove two electric motors which, in turn, powered the drive sprockets. The electric motors also acted as the vehicle's steering unit. This so called "petro-electrical" drive propelled the vehicle to a maximum speed of 10 km/h off-road and 30 km/h on-road. Unfortunately, this drive system had a high fuel consumption and required intensive maintenance (for example, the sprockets had to be changed every 500 km).

The vehicle’s armor consisted of a 200 millimeter front plate that added another 5 tons to the vehicle’s weight.

Ferdinands were first used in the Battle of Kursk, where they experienced  numerous problems. In fact, 38 of the 90 vehicles were lost due to mechanical breakdowns or anti-tank mines. More troubling, however, was the fact that each disabled Ferdinand had to be towed away by three un-armoured FAMO heavy half-tracks, an extremely difficult and intensive task under battlefield conditions that forced the Germans to abandon or destroy almost all of the damaged vehicles.

After Kursk, all surviving Ferdinands were recalled for modification. During October and November 1943 forty-eight of the surviving vehicles were modified by the addition of a ball-mounted MG 34 in the hull front (to improve anti-infantry capability), a commander's cupola (modified from the standard StuG III cupola) for improved vision and the application of Zimmerit paste. This and other minor armor changes increased the weight from 65 to 70 tons. These improved vehicles were then unofficially called “Elefant,” and this became the official name by Hitler's orders of May 1, 1944.

In 1944 Elefants served on the Italian front but were relatively ineffective, as their 70 ton weight 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. One company of Elefants saw action during the Soviets' January 1945 Vistula-Oder Offensive in Poland, and the very last surviving vehicles were in combat at Zossen during the Battle of Berlin.

When functioning correctly and used under the conditions for which it had been designed, the Ferdinand/Elefant proved a formidable weapon, able to punch holes through most anything within a range of 1500 meters with tremendous accuracy. Further, its thick armor provided exceptional protection for its crew, with the result that crew losses in Ferdinand/Elefant units were rather low. In the end, this much-maligned vehicle stands out as one of the war’s best tank hunters, with a kill/loss ratio of 10.5 to 1.  At Kursk alone, in spite of all their mechanical and tactical problems, the two Ferdinand-equipped anti-tank units managed to destroy 500 tanks, 20 antitank guns and 100 field artillery pieces.  


 With the Elefant, Dragon continues its trend of issuing either totally new kits or upgraded, improved versions of its older kits. Kit #6465 is an upgraded version of Dragon’s Ferdinand kit (# 6133 – for a detailed look at this kit, see Pierre-Andre Boillat’s recent, excellent build). This upgraded kit addresses several of the older kit’s drawbacks with the addition of: a metal gun barrel and towing cables; some photo-etched detail; Dragon’s one-piece, high-tech (Dragon Styrene 100) rubber tracks in lieu of individual link tracks; and, best of all, molded-on Zimmerit coating (I know: here I go again with yet ANOTHER concrete-coated vehicle. But the added detail is spectacular!). As always, you will end up with several unused parts, due to the different options provided in the kit and the unused Ferdinand-unique parts.


Grabbing my trusty pencil (to mark off each completed step) I followed the step-by-step assembly sequences in the Dragon instructions. Per all Dragon kits of late, one must remain focused on the “version” or options you are including in your particular model, as the numerous parts can throw you if you don’t do this.

As with most armor kits, I finished the lower hull, the suspension and all the running gear first. I then moved to the rear hull and fighting compartment. The rear engine exhaust contains nicely done, photo-etched screens, but these are hard to see once the vehicle is fully assembled. I used superglue to secure them to the vehicle. As usual, Dragon supplies PE mounting hardware for the externally mounted equipment (such as the shovel and jack); but, in my opinion, given Dragon’s excellent molding technology, one can opt to not use these PE parts and achieve just as stunning results.

I then started assembling the front of the lower hull, and here I encountered a problem: the instructions show parts M9 and M3 joined together, but it is not clear HOW these parts should be joined (i.e., butted together, overlapped, and at what angle?). It took me several dry fittings of the two parts onto the hull before I was satisfied, and once I decided to apply glue, I still was not sure I had chosen the correct, intended installation. After this, I used superglue to install the two metal tow hooks on the vehicle’s lower front.

Although both the main gun and hull-mounted machine gun are rather intricate, there is no other detail in either the fighting compartment or the driver’s compartment, so if you opt to model the vehicles with closed hatches as I did, you won’t see any of the detail associated with these weapons.

I then moved to the commander’s cupola, which is a kit within the kit. The cupola consists of 7 gray and 7 clear plastic parts, and is extremely detailed. I then attached the numerous detail parts such as hatches, hinges, and lifting hooks to the fighting compartment.

The aluminum main gun barrel is a beautiful piece, and I used superglue to attach the muzzle brake to it, and then superglue to secure the barrel to the breech mechanism and gun mount. The kit includes wire to make a tow cable, and this looks very realistic when combined with the plastic ends. I made up one long metal cable and attached one end to the front tow cable hook, and then draped the cable around the hull. Again, I used superglue to hold the tow cable down and close to the model for a more realistic look.  


Once everything was assembled, I headed to my basement paint booth. After reading Mike Rinaldi’s great missing-lynx.com article describing Adam Wilder’s “Color Modulation” painting technique, I decided to try this intricate methodology on this kit. Fortunately, Mike used the Dragon Ferdinand kit as his example for the article, so I could get some idea of how mine might turn out. Since Mike suggests using Tamiya acrylics for the initial steps, I was somewhat terrified, as I have been using lacquer/enamel-based paints for the past 50 years (this is especially difficult since old dogs cannot be taught new tricks!). But once I discovered that Mike recommends cutting Tamiya acrylics 50-50 with lacquer thinner, I was immediately returned to familiar territory, so I decided to make the plunge. Since all of the versions represented by the kit have the Panzer Yellow base, I opted for this paint scheme, with some minor dark green camo.

The color modulation approach requires three main levels of color - light, medium, and dark – to provide gradation in the vehicle’s color. Per the article, I applied an overall coat of Tamiya XF-64 Red Brown lightened with a few drops of XF-60 Dark Yellow. Once this dried, I airbrushed a coat of XF-60, making sure to limit the amount of this paint on the darker, lower areas. I then added XF-55 Deck Tan to XF-60 to further lighten the color, and tried to again limit the spray to the upper areas of the model. The contrasts between the dark and lighter areas were now starting to become noticeable. For the final stage, I mixed X-2 White to that mixture, and then sprayed the upper half of the model again.

The next phase involved painting all of the smaller details (e.g., hatches, covers, vents, grills) with lighter yellow and tan shades to make these details “pop.” For this stage, I used inexpensive acrylic craft paints, purchased from a local crafts store, and a relatively wide modeling brush to get smooth coats on the model.

The next phase uses oil paints on the light and dark areas to provide additional gradation and further break up the surface. Mike suggests using a cardboard pallet to blend your oil paints as well as to soak up the linseed oil in the paints so they will dry with a matte finish). I mainly used the oils around the upper edges of the hull and external boxes. Once applied, I blended these with a flat brush dipped in a small amount of thinner. (The caution here is to not use too much thinner so that you avoid turning your carefully applied oil paint into a wash). I also used this technique on the shadows and darker areas of the model, and added dark shadows to the very prominent weld joints on the Elefant. Mike says to let the oil paints thoroughly dry over several days, but since I live in “dry” Colorado, I was able to proceed to the next step in a day.

Next, I sprayed a very light coat of Tamiya X-24 Clear Yellow over the model. This is done to provide the correct yellow hue to the model. I then moved to “chipping,” which, I must admit, I have yet to master. Mike’s approach is to lay down small areas of light tan to sharp edges on the model and areas that would receive such wear. Mike recommends a small sponge, but I opted for a detail brush for this step. I then used the same brush to apply dark brown in the center of each chip area to try and replicate exposed metal. I am not sure my results are very convincing, but I hope with much practice, Mike’s approach will eventually help me produce convincing chips on my future models.

Here, I deviated slightly from Mike’s technique. I coated the entire model with Testors Glosscote, and then applied both dark brown and black washes to the entire vehicle, including the tracks (which I had sprayed with Testors Steel). I keep a Q-tip handy to quickly wipe away any excess wash that gets on the model (this is much easier than waiting until it dries!).

I then applied the kit decals with Solvaset and let them dry. At this stage, I was ready to restore the model’s matte finish, so I shot the entire model with Testors Dullcote. Next, I applied the camo: a step that is out of sequence for me. I used a very light air pressure setting to add small stripes of dark green to the vehicle’s sides. I must say that I think the technique worked quite nicely, as the camo is very subtle, and actually adds to the battle-worn look of the finished model.

Since the marking options are all for late war Panthers with a base Panzer Yellow finish, I covered the entire tank with Model Masters Sand Gelb (close enough for me to Dunkelgelb), and when this was dry, I began to create the camo pattern using light (15 psi) air pressure and a very low nozzle opening on my airbrush.  I used Model Masters Dark Green and Testors Dark Brown for the camo pattern.

Once again, one of the minor drawbacks of the DS flex tracks is simulating the sag in German tank tracks, particularly Tigers and Panthers. Surprisingly, the track teeth fit snugly in the gap between the road wheels, and pushing the teeth into this gap produces realistic looking track sag.

The final step in painting the model was to brush paint the sledgehammer on the vehicle’s rear and its wooden handle. Since I had already mounted them to the turret, I also opted to hand-paint the spare track links. I then highlighted prominent edges on the model with a silver artist’s pencil to simulate worn metal.

The final touch was to cut a length of guitar string for a radio antenna and superglue it to the antenna mount on the front deck. 


Call me a concrete nut, but these zimmerit coated Dragon kits are the cat’s meow!  The Elefant is an unusual subject and a great addition to one’s armor collection. I highly recommend this kit to anyone with a concrete addiction!


1.      Boillat, Pierre-Andre, “Dragon 1/35 Sd.Kfz 184 'Ferdinand',” Modeling Madness, June 2009.

2.      Elefant,” Wikipedia, 2009.

3.      Rinaldi, Mike, “Ferdinand Painting, Color Modulation Style,” missing-lynx.com, June 14, 2009.

Blair Stewart

July 2009

Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit. You can get yours at your local shop or on-line retailer.

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