|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Panzer I marked the first production tank design in Germany since the conclusion of World War I. In 1932, specifications for a light (5-ton) tank were made and issued to the German industrial manufacturers Rheinmetall, Krupp, Henschel, MAN and Daimler Benz. In 1933, the design by Krupp was chosen. It was based on the British Carden Loyd Mk IV Tankette, two of which had been secretly purchased from the Soviet Union. The Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from producing any tanks, so these versions were referred to as "Landwirtschaftlicher Schlepper" (agricultural tractors). The design was modified in late 1933 to combine the Krupp chassis with the Daimler Benz turret design. In 1934, the resulting tank was designated the Panzer I Ausf A (version A), and production began in July.
The original Panzer I was designed as a light tank for reconnaissance and infantry support duties. However, the most important goal of its development was to provide a vehicle to begin forming and training a German tank force. It was to be replaced in the Panzer divisions as soon as possible by more capable purpose-designed combat tanks, although as it turned out, by the start of World War II, the Panzer I was still filling a significant role in these units due to extended time in getting more advanced tanks produced. As with all German armor, there were radio tank versions, the Lichte (Funk).
The tank itself was produced in two primary variants. The original PzKpfw IA was underpowered and was replaced in production by the PzKpfw IB, with a more powerful engine and other improvements. The B model can be identified by the slightly longer hull and extra road wheel necessary for the larger engine. For the most part, the two versions were similar in operation. A few attempts were made to make a heavier armed tank or one able to participate in airborne operations, but few of these were made. By the time of the replacement of the Panzer I, it was long obsolete in any combat role, and thus many of the surviving chassis were converted to other roles. Most attempts to mount guns were less than successful due to the small size of the vehicle, but it was successful as a turret-less tractor, both for training of tank drivers and carrying cargo and munitions to front line units.
Molded in light grey plastic, there is obviously no lack of polythene bags in China as most sprues are individually packaged. The detail level is just superb. Even the springs on the suspension parts show no sign of a mold seam. I found no ejector pin marks that would be visible once the kit was built. Included are ready to assemble individual track links (87 per side) that you generally find in Dragon's 'Smart Kits'. A nice photo etch fret for engine grilles, muffler guard and small external pieces is included. There is also a smaller fret (not shown), that is a rack for one of the radios.
There is an etched fret for muffler covers and intake screens. Options are provided for open or closed cupola windows and hatches, and there is a full interior supplied. This includes the transmission as well as the racks for the radios and the radios themselves. This isn't a big tank, being about the same size as a 1/48 Sherman, but the detail is there in abundance. Here is all the PR info on the kit.
Instructions are superb with well drawn construction steps and a layout of the parts. All the areas that require filling and drilling to replicate this version are clearly shown. Build steps also have some detail drawings to help with parts placement. Markings are provided for three vehicles. All are prewar with one in overall Panzer Grey, one with brown sections and the third in green, brown and tan. Decals are simply insignia; none of which are shown as used on the markings guide.
This just adds another very nice kit to the huge catalogue of vehicles produced by Dragon. It is not your standard armor subject, but one that was just as important as the versions with the guns to the Wehrmacht.
Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. You can find this kit at your favorite hobby shop or on-line retailer.
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