Dragon 1/35 MBT-70 (Kpz-70)
After the Second World War, and following the Korean War, the US military had a "tank scare" and discovered that they lacked effective tanks to oppose the new Soviet tanks entering service. The USA reacted by developing the M-60 Main Battle Tank to counter the T-54/55 series of tanks. Meanwhile the West Germans developed the Leopard 1 tank as a counter to the same Soviet armored threat. By the early 1960's the Soviets upped the ante by introducing yet another family of modern MBTs (the T-62/T-64) and the M-60 and Leopard 1 were seen as unable to face the Soviet armor on equal terms. The West Germans and Americans agreed to work together, as a cost saving measure, to develop a new generation of MBT's, designed to counter the advances in Soviet weaponry. Thus the MBT-70/KPZ-70 project was born.
The new tank had a large number of advanced features employed in its design, including positionable suspension, a new 152mm main gun capable of firing conventional shells, and the US Shillelagh missile system for longer range engagements. The crew was reduced from the standard 4 man crew to three, with the introduction of a main gun autoloader. This allowed the entire crew to be stationed in the large turret. More powerful engines were to be utilized as well.
Because neither partner could agree on the new MBT's exact characteristics there were major cost overruns. Apparently there was even a dispute over whether the design was to use metric or SAE measurements! There were also major issues with the various new systems to be incorporated within the tank as the desire for newer, more advanced systems overreached technological capabilities. Testing of the new vehicle components began in 1965, but by 1970 the Germans withdrew and decided to go it alone on their own MBT program, which eventually became the Leopard 2. The US decided to proceed with a dumbed down MBT-70 after the cancellation of the joint MBT-70 program, the XM803, but in 1972 the US Congress pulled the plug on this venture as well.
The kit is officially listed as an "MBT-70 (KPZ.70)", but the components in the box only allow the modeler to build a KPZ.70. There are a number of significant differences between the US design and the German design, and this kit represents ONLY the latter.
8 Sprues of injection plastic parts (gray color) approx. 275 in number
4 lengths of DS100 track
1 small sprue of injection plastic clear parts
1 small decal sheet by Cartograph
NO photo etched parts
NO crew figures
I checked over the parts on the sprues and I found them up to the usual high standard we expect from Dragon Models. There is no flash, no sink marks, and no ejection pin marks in inconvenient places. Dragon's instructions start with the assembly of the lower hull, including the road wheels, road wheel suspension arms, etc. Dragon indicates, via diagrams only, that you can assemble the suspension in a "normal" set up or in a rear up, front down set up. Dragon provides a part, A45, for lining up the road wheels and suspension arms in this second setting, though there is no jig provided to insure that the wheels are lined up correctly on one side vs the other.
I suggest that if you wish to build the model in the front down, rear up mode you should find some good side view photos of how the vehicle "sat" in this configuration, and then carefully study the Dragon instructions to see how they suggest you do it. Then use part A45 to line up one side of the hull's road wheels. After you glue these parts in place and allow them to set up solidly, do the same for the other side. Measure the sit from various angles carefully throughout the construction phase using some simple measuring tools and templates.
The German KPZ.70 had standard smoke discharger units on the left and right side of the turret, ala the earlier Leopard 1 and later Leopard 2. Dragon supplies these in the kit, but do not include the prominent discharger cap retention chains in photo etch. Nor do you get screens for the prominent air intakes on the upper rear hull. I think this is a bit of a disappointment, especially given the kit's suggested retail price. Dragon even provides small PE sets in their 72nd armor kits today, and include them in their excellent WW2 German and Allied armor kits as matter of course.
Dragon provides the modeler with positionable hatches for the turret, but no crew figures . Many modelers would like at least one figure with their built models (to show relative size), and the lack of even a single figure is a disappointment, as it was with their earlier M103A1 kit. Suitable figures of late 1960's German tank crew are not exactly thick on the ground!
The kit provides a very nicely detailed 20mm Rheinmetall cannon, consisting of about 15 parts. The instructions indicate that this can be deployed in its firing position, or in its stowed position. Unfortunately, the instructions don't actually contain the diagrams showing you how to position it in the stowed position! WHEN will Dragon employ someone to thoroughly proofread their instructions? This has become a major disappointment over the years. There is in fact (as in their M103A1 kit) a small addendum instruction sheet, as the original instructions fail to note the correct installation of the tank commander's night periscope sight.
The kit tracks are made from DS100 "rubber". They are very well detailed and are the correct Diehl type. Interestingly they come in four parts, two per side. First you build up the running gear, and then check out the fit of the tracks. They are very easily and securely glued with standard model cement (I like Testors "thick" glue in the black plastic bottle with the metal applicator nozzle), so you can trim to fit by removing a link if necessary. They also take paint well.
The kit comes with a very tiny decal sheet, produced by Cartograph of Italy, perhaps the world's best manufacturer of decals. However, the KPZ.70 never entered service and the Germans produced a mere 7 prototypes/test beds. The decal sheet shows markings for the well preserved KPZ.70 housed at the Deutsches Panzermuseum in Munster, Germany, as well as a "generic" vehicle. Dragon also includes a nice four sided A4 sized color photo sheet within the kit; you can check out a number of the real tank's details for yourself. If you would like additional photographic reference, please find your way to the excellent "walkaround" at the Prime Portal web site.
Overall this model appears to be quite accurate, and it should build into a nice replica of the German KPZ.70. I believe it would represent great value for the money if the kit included a small photo etched brass sheet of parts to cover some key components, such as the smoke discharger chains and the rear engine air intake screens. As it is, these prominent components will need to come from an aftermarket set. I would like to thank Dragon Models USA for supplying Internet Modeler with this review kit. It comes highly recommended for anyone interested in Post WW2 German military equipment.