If it’s one thing I think most people will agree on, it’s that small things are generally cuter than big ones. Humans, for reasons that evolutionists, psychologists and spiritualists can all argue over endlessly, generally have a soft spot for a “baby” something. It’s that “Awww… he’s so little!” instinct that crops up even when we see the baby version of something that’s somewhat hideous when full grown. (Like, say, Yoda.) Everybody loves the little ones, it seems. See, size matters, just not the way you thought it might.
Now, when it comes to models, the opposite has, by and large, seemed to be the case, at least of late. The current rise of the larger scales (1/32, 1/24, etc.) for aircraft seems to imply that no, modellers want things bigger. But, that’s not always the case. Sure, big kits are cool, impressive and for detail hounds, present a much more satisfying experience. But the problem is that not too many people have the room to store a lot of finished monster kits. So, with that in mind, a lot of companies, particularly in space-strapped areas like Asia, also tend to churn out smaller kits too.
One company that decided that smaller was better, and in a big way, was Dragon. I have a considerable number of 1/144 of aircraft. They’re mostly Dragons. But it wasn’t just in aircraft that Dragon decided to go small to go big. No, it was also in the world of Armour. Dragon has always, it seems, been keen to put out really impressive armour kits. However, at the price of a 1/35 tank, building up an army of them is a daunting proposition. What if you wanted a decent replica that took up less shelf space? Well, there are a number of 1/72 Armour kits, but Dragon wanted something even smaller and simpler. Something more along the lines of the bigger Micro Machines from the late ‘90s. Highly detailed but super-small.
The answer was the 1/144 Panzer Korps. (Of course, it has a “K”!) This was a series of simple, but surprisingly detailed, tank and armour kits that were around in the early 2000’s. The line was, apparently, prolific, and covered a vast range of subjects. While the kits won’t ever win the hearts of the hardest-core armour modellers who want to recreate every nut and bolt in aftermarket resin and brass, they are a very interesting and affordable way for someone who’s casually interested in armour to get a decent collection quickly and cheaply.
As you know, I love old Matchbox 1/76 Armour. For me, that size is just about right. However, I’m also a huge military Micro Machines collector, and I have almost every realistic military set from the 1991-1999 run (the bigger- sized ones). I always thought it might be cool to repaint some of the more fanciful colour schemes, but of course, I’m not about to deface a toy that’s over 20 years old! Then I encountered the 1/144 Panzer Korps. I’ve been picking these little kits up here and there since about 2015. I have a small collection, and I thought it would be fun just to post them here. I don’t see much about them, and I never see them at shows.
Why the Fuss?
I won’t lie: I love these things. They’re like the box of Smarties (if you’re in Canada, at least) you pick up at the cash register while buying salad fixings. They’re just good in an impulse way. I find them at toy and model shows, and they’re never around in great numbers; usually just onesies-and-twosies (at most). When I see one, I get the feeling of buying Micro Machines again! It’s all about “What weird vehicles are in this set?”, not about “Oh man, I really want a kit of <insert tank here>.” In case you’re wondering, I’ve never turned one that I didn’t have down.
Here’s what I love about them:
- They’re tiny! At 1/144, they don’t take up much room to store, and they’ll take up less on display!
- They’re in scale to most of my Gundams! HGUC (and other lines) are all 1/144, so it gives a cool scale reference. Also, WWII what-iffing with Zakus and Geara Dogas is always a cool plan.
- They’re well-detailed! For the size, these guys are packed with detail, and even come with photoetch, if that’s your thing. It isn’t mine, but it’s cool.
- They’re two-to-a-pack! I mean, it’s a steal! You get two tanks at once. What’s not to love?
- They’re a good value! I’ve never paid more than $10 for one of these, and that was the Leopold. Mind you, eBay seems to want more…
- They’re super simple! Most of the tanks only have a few pieces, and are just painting exercises, essentially. I love painting, so that’s great for me. The bigger artillery pieces are more involved, but not immensely so.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what I’ve managed to amass in the last few years…
Tanks A Lot…
I’ve managed to pick up two sets of German WWII tanks and two sets of more modern armour. The German tanks are things I have in larger scales (like, 1/76), but this affords me a chance to do different paint schemes for next to nothing. I don’t have much newer armour (I mean, Matchbox stopped making new tanks in the ‘80s I think) so the Leopards are awesome (and have a Canadian connection, too). The British stuff is subjects I’d never spend serious time and room on, so it’s cool to have a little bit of it represented in a simple format.
I love the way they come packaged; you get a good look at the finished subjects on the box front, and the so-retro “Matchbox parts window” on the back. There’s not much to see, but you get a feel for the detail. That most of the tanks come with PE is incredible and the decal sheets blow me away. There are more decals for these little guys than for all my Matchbox planes COMBINED!
Each tank comes in its own little styrene tray, and there are only a few parts. Painting is the focus here, and I wonder if these were intended for some kind of tabletop gaming use, too? I know Zvezda has a line like that. I also love that I should be able to melt the trays down in glue to create a thicker “liquid plastic” type filler/glue (like I used on the BRAT). It’s so thin, it might make awesome reactive armour for a Gundam, too!
Have Guns, Have Fun(s?)!
I can’t say I have a lot of artillery models. Towed artillery isn’t my thing (except that Revell Pak 40, and that’s because it started as a Matchbox Orange Range kit), but bigger guns… I can get behind those. Of course, when it comes to big guns, nobody seems to be able to outdo the ridiculous creations of the Third Reich. Gustav aside, there were plenty of other resource-draining superguns in Hitler’s time. One of the most numerous was the “Karl Geraet”, a huge siege mortar that came in long and short barreled forms.
Thankfully, Dragon kitted both forms! I got them years apart, but I was happy to find them both, as they make a neat set. Sure, the guns in both are almost identical, but the tanks they come with are not! That’s right, even the more deluxe heavy gun sets come with a little tank. In the case of the long-barreled Karl there’s an artillery spotter version of a Panzer III, while with the shorty there’s a spotter Panther, which was apparently fitted with a dummy gun to fool enemies into backing off! Sadly, the Panther isn’t moulded with the same “hat rack” type aerial as the Panzer III.
Of course, even in small scales, you can go bigger, and that’s where the Leopold comes in. While there are some larger scale replicas, those are just ridiculously huge. At least this gun is still shelf-viable! It only comes with one subject though. However, it does include some 1/144 crew and a cool rail bed to park it on. Shades of the mini diorama bases?? Great ideas never die…
If you’re curious as to how good such a small kit can be, and why I say they’re good value, then check it out: there’s an aluminum barrel for the Leopold. Right in the kit! You don’t have to spend huge cash on a separate piece to “detail-up” your super-gun – it’s included as standard! Hell, the barrel is likely worth what I paid for the entire thing! So, with PE, a turned aluminum barrel and a diorama base, and at a cost of $10, I can’t say I really feel ripped off that there’s only one vehicle in this super-set.
I think these are fun, neat and different. They’re maybe a bit finnicky for small hands or someone who’s new, but for someone with good tweezers, good light and a steady hand, they’re perfect. I think they’re a great way to just do something “fun”.
Too often, as modellers, we just forget to enjoy ourselves with our hobby. We get sucked into the “latest and greatest”, the gobs of aftermarket and the pressure to be better-researched, more detail-obsessed and more manic than the next guy. These little guys give a straight up middle finger to that mentality, and for that, I love them even more.
Want to build something fun, fairly cheap and easy that you don’t have to worry about if it isn’t perfect? Got a lonely Gundam that wants some armoured company? Want to build an army that fits in a shadow box? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these, then try to find one of these 1/144 Panzer Korps sets, and see if it doesn’t just brighten your day.
Have Your Say!
Which of these kits do you think is the coolest? Which would you build first? Be sure to click on a choice in the poll below!