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Sd.Kfz. 184 "Ferdinand"

by Ian Robertson


Sd.Kfz. 184 "Ferdinand"


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What do the German Tiger tank and Ferdinand tank destroyer have in common?

Both vehicles had their origins in a competition to become Germany's premier heavy battle tank of WWII. Two designs were submitted for Hitler's consideration in April 1942, one by Henschel and one by Porsche. The Henschel design won the competition and soon gained infamy as the Tiger I tank. The Porsche design, on the other hand, was produced in limited numbers and modified into a tank destroyer (named the "Ferdinand" in honor of its creator, Ferdinand Porsche) that by most accounts was a bitter disappointment.

Ferdinands first saw action in Russia during the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. Although the Ferdinand was a successful tank destroyer when engaging targets at long range, its complete lack of defensive armament made it extremely vulnerable to close-in infantry attacks. According to Squadron's "Tiger in Action", Ferdinand crews sometimes resorted to firing an MG 42 machine gun down the barrel of the main gun to counter infantry attacks!



Following the German defeat at Kursk, surviving Ferdinands were returned to Germany and retrofitted with a commander's cupola and a bow mounted MG 34 machine gun for protection. These vehicles were redesignated as "Elefants" for service in Italy during 1944. Once again, however, the Sd.Kfz. 184 Ferdinand/Elefant was not up to the task and suffered heavy losses.



The Kit


Dragon recently released both the Sd.Kfz. 184 "Ferdinand" and "Elefant" (kits 6133 and 6126, respectively) in 1/35 scale. While my experience is limited to the Ferdinand, my praise for the kit should apply equally well to the Elefant since it is the same kit with minor modifications.

The only significant criticism I have of the Ferdinand kit was the poor quality of the decals (very thick, with clear parts that were not very clear). Luckily, "Trakz" makes a beautiful set of decals for the Ferdinand/Elefant, including many different number codes and unit badges (however, there are no instructions for camouflage or decal placement).

The following modifications were made to my model: (1) tow cables were made from nylon string and parts from a Tamiya kit, and (2) replacement steps and hand holds on rear and upper hull made from wire.





The Dragon Ferdinand is straightforward to build, particularly if no modifications are made. I opted to reposition the road wheels, a modification that required nothing more than cutting a few small alignment pins on the suspension. However, this simple modification made life difficult when it came to assembling the individual track links that come with the kit. To assemble the tracks, my first step was to attach the drive sprockets, idler wheels and road wheels temporarily to the chassis using Uhu tac (which is similar to blu-tac). Then, small stretches of track, approximately 15-20 links at a time, were assembled with Tenax liquid glue and fitted around the repositioned wheels. Once the glue set sufficiently to maintain the track's shape, I would add the next stretch of track until eventually the entire track was complete.



Care was needed to ensure proper sag of the upper regions of the track before the glue set completely. Once the tracks had dried completely they were removed along with the wheel assemblies and set aside for painting. [Note - This procedure is well illustrated for the Dragon Ferdinand in the November 2001 issue of "Military in Scale" magazine].



Painting and Weathering


I began by preshading the model's panel lines, angles, and recesses with black and dark reddish-brown. I then sprayed a base coat of dark yellow (Tamiya XF-60). The green lines were sprayed freehand using a mixture of Tamiya XF-58 (field gray) and XF-61 (dark green) using photographs as a guide for the general camouflage pattern. Once the paint had dried I applied several washes of burnt umber and raw sienna (Model Master enamels). Minor battle damage was simulated by scratching the hull in places with the tip of a #11 exacto blade, coloring the scratches with silver pencil, and then applying a wash of burnt umber and raw sienna to the affected areas to tone down the shine of the pencil marks.

The tracks were painted a mixture of Polly Scale dark brown and black, followed by several washes of light brown and black until the desired look was achieved. As a final touch, a very light (emphasis on VERY LIGHT) dusting of SnJ metallizer polishing powder was rubbed with a cloth on the tracks to give a metallic sheen to exposed areas.


Prior to the addition of decals, the entire model was given a clear gloss coat of Future floor wax. Once the decals had dried, a wash of burnt umber and raw sienna was applied to the decals to tone down their bright appearance. The model was then given a final coat of Polly Scale clear flat acrylic.





The groundwork consists of a base layer of celluclay covered in fine sand, moss, and simulated grass. For the grass I used Heki "Wild Grass Matt", product #1574. The Heki line of diorama supplies can be purchased through European and Australian mailorder companies, and perhaps others - use a search engine and enter the word "heki wild grass" or something similar.

I fixed the model permanently to the groundwork to enhance the illusion of the vehicle's weight.





Images of the completed model were taken outdoors with a SONY digital camera set at its highest picture resolution (2048 x 1536 pixels). Other camera settings were as follows: 200 ISO film speed (it's an option on my digital camera), 800-1000th/sec shutter speed, F-stop 8.0, and fixed focus distance of either 20 or 30 cm. Images were cleaned up using Adobe Photoshop 6.0 for the Macintosh. Specifically, the resolution of some photographs was enhanced using the "sharpen edges" tool. Sharpening images in such a way helps to restore some of the clarity lost during image compression.





  • Cornish, N. 2002. Images of Kursk. Brassey's, Inc.

  • Culver, B. 1989. Tiger In Action. Squadron/Signal Publications.

  • Healy, M. 1993. Osprey Campaign Series #16 - Kursk 1943. Osprey Publishing.

  • Pollard, S. 2001. Military in Scale, November issue. pp 22-27.



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright 2003 by Ian Robertson
Page Created 29 October, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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