Dragon 1/350
German Destroyer Z-31

Reviewed by Timothy Dike
Z31 was the lead ship of the 1936A (Mob) class launched in May 1941. These were modified versions of the 1936A type. Know by the Allies as a Narvick class, they used the same basic design with some improvements. When the ship entered service late in 1942 the twin 15 cm (5.9") turrets were not yet ready so a single 15 cm mount was installed forward. The Twin mount was eventually installed in 1943, but when the ship was damaged in 1945 so badly that the twin mount had to be replaced. All that was available at the time was a 10.5 cm single mount. The ship operated for the remainder of the war with this configuration. 

The Z-31 was stationed in Norway and the Baltic Sea during the war. She was a part of the unsuccessful Operation Regenbogen in Dec 42. Operating with the Hipper, Lutzow, and five other destroyers as they attacked British convoys. Later the Z31 was assigned to Altafjord with the battlegroup consisting of Tirpitz, Scharnhorst , Lützow, and a host of destroyers including sisters Z31, and Z33. One of the missions involved an attack on the  allied base on Spitzbergen. Z31 was seriously damaged on January 28th 1945 by a British cruiser and was sent to Horten for repairs. Z31 was involved in covering other capital ships in shore bombardment. 

She survived the war only to be taken over by France for war reparations and renamed Marceau. She was finally scrapped in 1958.

Dragon has continued their Smart Kit line with another Destroyer version. This one uses many of the parts in the Z-39 and adds a few new sprues to allow for this variant. The kit is portrayed as she was in 1943 and earlier.
The upper hull is molded waterline style with a sharp and distinct bow. The kit is packed with a plastic protector to prevent damage in shipping. 
Portholes are deeply recessed into the hull with rain gutters commonly called eyebrows molded on. The shape appears to match the drawings of the ship very precisely. 
The lower hull includes slide molded bilge keels and even a sonar dome. Fit with the upper hull is almost exact and the modeler will have very little work to do to join the two parts for full hull display. The upper deck fits nicely into the upper hull and has some nice surface detail. Mine rails are molded onto the deck and include the cross ties. 
Recessed sockets are included for the superstructure assemblies to plug into making for a smart fit that will allow you to pre-paint them for easier assembly. Also on the sprue are the rudders, props and breakwater for the bow. All are sharply molded. 
SPRUE C New for Z31
This sprue includes much of the upper decks and superstructure parts. Two of the deckhouses are molded using three slides so that open doors and surface detail can be included on a single part with no seams. The funnel caps include grills on the top and one piece hollow bodies tanks to more slides in the mold. The other end of the sprue also features a slide that allows for one piece prop shafts and an open door on a superstructure part. 
Bridge wings have detail on both sides and include molded supports. The funnel air intakes feature some stunning detailing and when combined with the included PE shown below will make for a most realistic assembly.
This sprue has the mast and yardarm parts and features some really thin molding. These parts are delicate so use a sharp knife to remove them, but they are nice enough that you will not have to replace them with aftermarket parts. A crows nest and even little weather vanes and antenna are included. Some of those parts may seem a little extreme as they are very tiny, but you don't have to add them if you don't want to and it is so much easier to leave them off than to cut off overscale blobs like those found in some kits. 
This sprue is similar to the Z-39, except it includes only some of the parts that are not changed on the new sprues. The bridge face and other parts are included on this sprue with yet another slide molded deckhouse.  The detail is very fine and I was surprised at how nicely these part went together with barely a trace of a seam. interior and exterior detail is molded onto the open bridge walls. 
There are two of these weapons sprues with the best looking torpedo launchers I have ever seen in this scale. These have very fine detailing with air cylinders and piping being distinctly molded. But the real plus is the use of slides in the mold to give the tubes and open appearance. The range finders, searchlights, and other fittings are molded to the same level of detail that we have come to expect from the Smart Kits. 
Check out the mine winch assembly molded in one piece yet with exceptional detail. Cable reel assemblies, and individual Marx floats are also very well done. 
Two sprues featuring the ships boats are provided. The large launches are almost separate kits in themselves with really cool detail. The separate roof allows for an open cabin and a slide allows for a one pieced hull with a molded on rudder and room for a propeller if you propeller if your really good with tweezers. An open decked boat is also included. Fine wheels are included to mount on the capstans on the bow. 
Two of these weapons sprues are included with the light anti aircraft guns included. Like those on the larger Scharnhorst kit, these are also incredibly detailed. The ends of the barrels feature hollowed out tips thanks to slides in the mold. I hope to see these weapons offered separately someday as they are the best on the market and could be used to upgrade other kits. 
Weapons include are the 127mm single, twin Flak 38 LM43, 20mm Naval-vierling, and 3.7 twin anti-aircraft guns.
SPRUE J New for Z31
This sprue contains the new deck and bridge parts specific to Z-31. These are molded to the same level of detail as the other parts. Slide molding is utilized to achieve maximum surface detailing. Doors are molded open to use the included separate doors. 
There are two sprues of the single 5" mounts. These also feature one piece 3 slide molded shields with the only seam being on the underside where it will not be seen. Footrails for the base of the gun are included to mount to the deck  This mount has some really nice rivet detailing on the surface. The only thing that I can complain about here is the racks for the Marx floats as they look a little thick. 
A new base for this kit has been designed based on how most modelers like to display their ships in full hull mode. The stands which resemble lamp finales are even slide molded so they can be done without seams.
  • Fret MA features grills with shutter assemblies for the funnel intakes. These can be opened up or displayed closed. Footrails for the funnel will also help dress up the kit. Radar antenna give you an option in case you don't want to use the plastic ones. 
  • Fret MB provides the shields for the light anti aircraft guns. Handwheels and seats are also included if you wish to add extra detail. You don't have to use all these parts but they are there if you do. 
  • Fret MC includes the watertight doors relief etched in two different styles.
  • Fret MD is actually a small brass rod that one of the figures uses. It is easy to overlook. 
You will need to supply the majority of railings. But there are many photo etch companies that sell these. Dragon wanted to keep the cost down on this kit for those who don't typically add extra photo etch. 
Two decal sheets are provided. One includes the German flags.

The second sheet includes hull numbers, draft markings, and other nicely rendered markings. Only the number 31 is included so you will have to supply your own numbers if you use this kit to do a sistership. 

Instructions are eight pages showing bill of materials, sub-assembly views, and painting guides.  The assembly has been changed a bit to reflect the steps typically followed by modelers. I am glad to see Dragon listening to modelers and putting the extra time and effort into their instructions. 
Dragon has included some stunning bonus figures. These figures are not CAD designed but are mastered using the same sculptures that are responsible for Dragons well known figure line. These are provided in realistic lifelike poses and will add a nice touch. The detail on these figure is almost insane. You can make our their facial features, and the wrinkles in their clothing. Some of the figures are shown handling shells for the guns. 
My only complaint is that you only get a few. 
This is Dragon's third German ship in the Smart Kit line. A nice follow-up to the Z-39. Rob McCune the same 3D Designer who created the CAD for that kit, is at it again with his second destroyer. Dragon has taken his work and produced this stunning recreation of this large destroyer. The molding is first rate, and test fitting shows that this kit will go together with a minimum of fuss. 

This is kit number DRA-1054 with a suggested list price of $49.95. It is a tremendous value for the modeler when you consider the detail, and hours of enjoyment you will have building it. These ships should be showing up in your hobby shops soon or order your direct from Dragon USA.