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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Battlefront's New Ferdinand - A Design Study

I received my new Ferdinands in the mail yesterday, and imagine my surprise to discover that the whole resin miniature as well as the tracks had been re-done for this new release. I chalk the confusion up to the fact that if you look at the box art on the new Ferdinand Tank Hunter Platoon box (GBX127), the cover art is all of the original GE131 Ferdinand miniature. In this blog I'll go through the details of the new miniature as compared to the old miniature, line drawings of the real thing, and photographs of the Ferdinand in action at Kursk. In many ways the new miniature is an improvement over the old miniature, but there are some notable gaps!

The Front

So let's start right up front looking at the forward view of both miniatures as compared to a line drawing. In the image below, the new miniature is on the left, the old miniature is in the middle, and the line drawing is at right. It's immediately apparent that there have been a lot of changes. The rivet count on the new miniature is correct - the old miniature had too many bolts on the front armor - though the side angles look a tad closer to the real thing on the old miniature. The track width is also more proportional on the new version, and it includes the headlights. The mantlet width of the new miniature is also better.

The old miniature includes the rain gutters on the front superstructure armor which are missing from the new vehicle. Looking only at the line drawing this would appear to be correct, and this is indeed how the vehicles were delivered from the factory. However, most Ferdinands appear to have been field modified with the rain gutters before the start of the Battle of Kursk, as shown in the photos below. The old miniature also retains the front fender flaps which have for some reason been deleted on the new miniature.

The Top

Moving along to the top of the miniature, from this angle the new version really starts to shine. The engine deck and front hatches are better detailed on the new miniature, and are much closer to the actual vehicle than the old miniature. Small details like the top vent, periscope flap, and weld lines are also superior in the new miniature. The only issues I see are the deletion of the travel lock and the fact that the jack block appears to have been rotated by 90 degrees (as compared to the drawing and old miniature). I haven't performed an exhaustive search, however, and it is at least possible that the jack block orientation varied.

The Sides

The sides are where we see a major issue crop up for the new miniature, though it is confined to the metal tracks. Looking at the resin components, overall this appears to be excellent for the new miniature. The detail is far more crisp than the old version, but there is one flaw. The hammer which is stowed on the left hand side of the vehicle is missing its head on the new miniature.

This brings us to the biggest failing in the new version of the Ferdinand. While the metal track width is better scaled than the old version and the drive sprockets (okay, technically only one drive sprocket at the rear and a toothed idler at the front) are better detailed than the old version, the road wheels themselves are a mixed bag. As you can see from the photo above, they appear to be better scaled to the drawings than the original, but the detailing leaves much to be desired, as discussed below. The photo below also shows one other minor error on the vehicle - the tool box on the right side should have two latches (like in the old miniature) not three (like in the new miniature).

The photo above highlights the issues with the new miniature's road wheels. The original vehicle has rather shallow wheels with prominent axles at three of the six stations. The depth of the new miniature's road wheels appears to be too deep, and the axle detail is too fine and is lost completely. The old miniature's wheels are a bit large, but they better capture the effect in scale than does the new one, which sort of looks like someone has pulled the original wheels and replaced them with low profile mag tires.

The Back

The back of the vehicle is pretty much the only "clean kill" for the new miniature. Literally everything about the hull and superstructure rear is superior on the new version. The hatch and bolt detail is better, the details are better in scale, and the lower hull is actually detailed in the new version. It is clear a lot of work went into this portion of the miniature.


I'm honestly a little torn at this point. I've built up a lot of the old Ferdinand miniatures and may spend a little time correcting some of its more egregious errors, but overall it builds up into a serviceable vehicle. I think the overriding feeling I get from the new miniature is "disappointment." In many ways it is vastly superior to the old miniature and it is clear that a huge amount of work went into creating a quality product - which makes the errors that much more frustrating. The few inaccuracies in the resin are easily overcome, but the tracks leave much to be desired which would be incredibly difficult to fix at this scale without building a completely new track run and casting it up.

The Battlefront offerings are generally superior to the competition, though. The Zvezda Ferdinand has better road wheels than the Battlefront one, and it has the correct gun shield, but that's really about "it" - everything else about the miniature is far inferior to the new Battlefront offering.

For my old Battlefront Ferdinands, I may fix the bolt detail on the front hull and add a little detail to the top, but that's likely as far as I'll go to improve them. For the new miniatures, I'm in a bit of a quandary at this point. Maybe I'll pick up a Zvezda version and try to transplant some road wheels...

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