Academy 1/350
DKM Graf Spee

Reviewed by Sean Hert
The Deutschland class of Panzerschiffe, or Armored Cruisers, comprised three ships; the Deutschland (later re-named Lützow) laid down in 1929, Admiral Scheer laid down in 1931, and the Admiral Graf Spee in 1932. Designed with the Treaty of Versailles limitations, these diesel powered ships carried a heavy armament for their displacement of 6 280mm/54 (11") and 8 150mm/55 (5.9") guns and 8x533mm torpedo tubes. Reclassified as "heavy cruisers" by the Kriegsmarine, these ships were somewhat derisively called "pocket battleships" by the British media; the name stuck in the popular consciousness and persists today. 

Academy has released the Admiral Graf Spee in 1/350. This is the first time this ship has been offered in 1/350 plastic. This kit appears to depict the Graf Spee in an "as sunk" configuration, late 1939.

Academy has produced another kit with a two-part hull, with nice scuttle details, raised armor belt and stowed boat booms molded on. The hull features a waterline option, a scribed line running the length of the hull on the waterline. This will require cutting the hull along this line. There are interlocking waterline plates on sprue B to stiffen the waterline hull.

Dimensionally, the hull appears spot on. The anchor hawse detail is a bit soft. There are a line of nubs down the side of the hull the purpose of which is unclear. The hull does have the waterline boot indicated with two raised, molded on lines. Academy did a good job keeping the unique flared shape of the hull intact. Along the bottom of the hull are two thin spots which will need opening to allow the display base posts to be inserted in the hull.

Sprue A carries a lion's share of the meat of the kit; the decks, the torpedo tube mounts, and the main turrets for Spee. The 280mm barrels are slide molded, and have open muzzles on them- a nice touch. The deck pieces have nice, if somewhat regular, planking detail and treadplate. They also feature molded on anchor chains, but these don't appear too bad. There are 6 small guns on pedestal mounts- believed to be 2CM AA guns. The torpedo tube housings are lacking detail, and the range finders for the main guns are hollow underneath. 
Sprue B contains the waterline plates, bilge keels, 2 of the 3 105mm AA guns, propeller shafts and the propellers themselves. The props have an odd appearance, and the hub looks to be the wrong shape. The propellers themselves are more than a tenth of an inch to small in diameter (.37" vs .49"). This sprue also contains the 150mm secondaries and gun houses, as well as more of the single AA pedestal guns from sprue A. 

The 105mm AA housings appear too large, and are lacking periscopes and fuze setter details. The kit 150mm gun houses are open to the rear, whereas Spee had double doors fitted, as well as additional armor plating and openings in the front of the gun house- all details which are missing.

This sprue has many of the deck detail items. Boat and float plane cranes, ship's boats and float plane, and searchlights. Also of interest is the diesel exhaust stack, and the rear gun director. The remaining AA guns, cradles and such are here as well. 
Sprues D&E are joined together, so we'll treat them as one sprue. These sprues contain the remainder of the parts for the kit; the armored citadel style bridge, and rest of the forward superstructure parts and decks. 

The masts and yardarms included in the kit do not match the actual ship, but shouldn't prove to much of a challenge for most modellers to correct.

Academy's plastic railings. While they have a good shape, they do not compare to photo-etched railing. They should prove adequate for the casual modeler, and act as a template for shaping photoetched railings for the more advances modeller. 
A two post stand with nameplate.
This decal set provides the modeller with many markings, from naval insignia, jacks, details for the float plane and a ships crest. None of these markings include the Nazi Swastika, keeping with the laws in certain legalities which ban the display of the symbol; but there is a black "+" sign, with some extra arms- draw your own conclusions.
The instructions consist of a single sheet with multiple folds; a single page of info and 7 pages of instructions. This is no text; the instructions rely on solely on graphics and pictographs- which should not be an issue for most modelers. As always, read through the directions, and each step, before construction.

There is an additional sheet with a sprue listing and painting instructions. Academy has 6 different paint types referenced, but not all colors have a recommended match. 

Interestingly, there are 6 part numbers listed as "not used" in this kit. Hopefully, this means some of Spee's classmates are slated for release at a future date.


Academy has beaten the competition in releasing this Graf Spee in September. Some competeting companies have also announced a 1/350 Graf Spee, but being first to market is a great advantage, as well as the MSRP of $49.00. This kit should prove to be adequate for most of the modelling public, and a gem for the aftermarket crowd to superdetail. 

Thanks to MRC for the pre-release review sample. These kits should be showing up in your local hobby shops soon (September 2009). MRC is the US importer for Academy model kits.