The Panzer III or Panzerkampfwagen III, Sd Kfz. 141 was a medium tank developed by Germany in the 1930’s. Initial production began in 1937 and continued through numerous models or marks until early 1943. The tank served on all fronts during World War II.
The Pz. Kfz. III Ausf. J represented a major point in the development of the Panzer III. Heavier armour and armament were to be the characteristics though the latter did not appear until the second production run. Basic armour was increased to 50 mm, the suspension, engine and various other components, were upgraded to handle the weight of the increased armour. While originally planned to mount the 5 cm L60 gun the initial 99 Ausf. J were armed with the shorter 5 cm KwK L42. Most of these shorter gunned versions would eventually be upgraded to the longer gun but a few still remained in the Wehrmacht list in late 1944.
With a crew of five and weighing 23.7 tons (21.5 tonnes) the tank was powered by a 12 cylinder, 300 HP Maybach HL 120 TRM gasoline engine. Top road speed was 24.85 mph (40 km/hr) and 11.8 mph (19km/hr) cross country. On average a range of 90 miles(145km)road and 53 miles(85 km) cross country were attainable. Main armament was the 5 cm L60 gun with 84 rounds being available. Secondary armament consisted of two MG-34’s, one mounted coaxially and one in the bow.
The subject of this review is the Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. J, 1/72 Armor Pro, kit #7372.
After opening the box one is presented with two large and two smaller sized sprues moulded in the standard Dragon Model
grey styrene. These are contained in one bag while the slide-moulded lower hull is bagged by itself. There is no standard Dragon Model
accessory card but one will find separate bags containing a pair of Dragon, DS plastic tracks, a single small photo-etch fret and a set of Cartograph water-slide decals.
A four sided instruction card is provided displaying a parts diagram, two pages with eight assembly steps in the form of exploded view line drawings with arrows for parts placement and one page showing painting and markings. The painting and marking illustrations are for two tanks in overall Panzer Grey. One is for a tank of the 5./Pz.Rgt.24, 24 Pz.Div., Stalingrad 1942 and the other for 1./Pz.Rgt.5, Pz.Gren.Div “Wiking”., Russia 1943. The colour references provided are for the GSI Creos Corp Aqueous Hobby Color, the same company’s Mr. Color and Model Master enamels.
The parts count is as follows:
Sprue ‘A’ - 46 (Panzer III Generic Parts)
Sprue ‘a’ - 11 (Panzer III Generic Parts)
Sprue ‘b’ - 16 (Panzer IIIJ Specific Parts)
Sprue ‘D’ - 44 (Suspension/Wheels)
Sprue ‘E’ - 2 (DS Tracks)
Sprue ‘X’ - 1 (Lower Hull)
Sprue ‘Y’ - 1 (upper Hull)
Fret “MA’ - 5 Photo Etch(Engine Screens Plus)
Total parts count is 126 with 17 styrene parts marked as unused.
Moulding of the parts has to be seen to be believed. This is evident right down to the cast on idler tensioning mechanism and delicate rivet/fastener detail. Not only the main gun but even the two MG-34 and exhaust pipes have hollowed out bores thanks to slide-moulding. Flash is all but non-existent and mould seams are for the most part light and easily removed with a scraping of a sharp hobby knife. There are a few light ejector pin marks but most live in areas that will not be seen after construction. Sink holes on my sample were non-existent.
Unlike other recent Dragon Model
kits this one has a somewhat higher parts count. Initial inspection showed that the lower hull casting and the ‘D’ sprue (suspension wheels) appear identical to the earlier Dragon Model
StuG III kits (#7254, #7283).
The main ‘A’ sprue contains the bulk of the Panzer III generic parts. A smaller ‘a’ sprue holds parts specific to the Ausf. J version. With the exception of the jack, all tools are moulded on the two fenders but a number of separate stowage items are available to adorn the fenders. Sadly, the tow cable on the rear engine compartment top is moulded on, as are the engine compartment louvers. Another very nice feature is that unlike with their Panzer III Ausf. N kit (7386), Dragon Model
has added tread plating pattern to the fender tops.
The turret side hatches are moulded in place but the commanders two piece hatch has the option of being posed open or closed. Quite surprisingly, there is actually a few turret interior details present but nothing substantial. The radio antenna and its storage tray are moulded as one piece and it can only be displayed in the stowed position. One glaring omission is that while the box cover shows stored track in a rack on the tanks bow and on the drivers front plate, no spare links are provided in the kit.
Sprue attachment points (gates) size and locations vary in this kit. While some smaller parts have correspondingly small attachment points, other large parts have excessively large, numerous and/or poorly located sprue gates. A few pieces possess a fairly prominent ‘V’ shaped gate that overlaps three sides and will require tedious cleaning up.
As this reviewer has found with Dragon Model
kits, the instructions are less than 100% accurate. As an example, in both Step 5 and 7 the upper hull superstructure is show as having applique armour attached at the front. There is no other reference to the use of this/these parts being an option or any parts numbers associated with them. Further, supports for this armour will be found moulded onto the superstructure roof while the box top and painting instructions do not show them present. Indeed, on the sprue layout diagram the major styrene part in question (A17) is marked as unused.
As with any kit, the builder should study the instructions prior to building. This process may not be as rewarding as glue meeting plastic but can save one time by foreseeing an evident problem.
Note: As the basic hull and its construction are near identical to the PZ. Kfw. IIIN (Dragon Model
kit # 7386, please find additional building images using the link at the end of this review.
Step 1 is quite busy and mainly deals with preparing and placing parts that make up the suspension components and adding a few lower hull details. While the return rollers are slide-moulded as pairs of wheels, the other running gear components are two piece affairs. The only issue here is for the builder to make sure that the inner and outer halves are properly aligned.
Four shock absorbers (A12) should be glued on before anything else, as placement after other components would impede the process. The return rollers have a pin that fits into a hole in the hull side and the fit was quite loose. The road wheels halves have locating features but no alignment tabs. I chose to make sure that all the lightening holes lined up with each other by eye. The sprockets and idlers have alignment tabs but they are a bit vague in fit. This is a case where the builder will need to make sure that the spokes of each respective part line up. Fit of the idlers and sprockets into the holes in the hull sides was satisfactory. The road wheels on the other hand were a tad loose and care will need to be taken to make sure their orientation remains correct.
During this step the front spare track holder/rack is added. Attention then focusses on the hull rear area. The first PE part is required to be placed at this point and is the rear engine deck lower grill (MA-3). The instructions for its placement are at best vague and my example did not fit properly and required trimming. Three rear plates are to be placed and the upper most one, A33, has no locating features and must be aligned by eye. Similarly plate A10 placement is the same. The last lower plate (A5) has a protruding section that must fit into a depression in the hull. The protruding section needed to be sanded down as the depression was too shallow.
With Step 2 the mufflers (a1, a2), a muffler guard (a11) and a tow pintle (A24) are attached to the hull rear. From dry fitting it became apparent that the mufflers are incorrectly numbered in the instructions. A1 belongs on the right side and A2 on the left when looking at the illustration of the inverted rear hull.
Step 3 has various detail pieces added to the two fenders. Spare wheels, boxes, Notek light, jack and such all have locating holes and fit well for the most part.
In Step 4 work on the upper hull superstructure begins. The easiest job was to place the two PE intake grill screens (MA1) into their locations. Next an internal support piece (A6) is glued to the upper hull deck (Y). Part A6 required some judicious sanding to fit acceptably. The forward vertical sides of the superstructure (A14, A15, A16) were the next parts to be added. Each of these parts had some nasty sprue attachment points to clean up prior to their placement. The gates overlapped a stepped locating feature and the parts would not fit flush until the extra plastic was trimmed. This was a tedious process required time and a steady hand.
The last part to be fitted was the bow machine gun barrel (A2) I did not fit this part at this time and it should be up to the modeller to determine when best to attach it.
Step 5 sees the attachment of the front glacis plate (A3) to the front upper hull. The headlights (a7, a8) were then fitted to this part and these parts are side specific. Also during this step the upper superstructure (Subassembly ‘F’) and the fender subassemblies (‘D’ and ‘E’) are to be attached. Part A3 was attached first and required minimal sanding. After dry-fit experimenting, I chose to glue on the superstructure (F) to the hull. Again, some necessary sanding was required to achieve a proper fit. Even so, clamps were required to hold these pieces in place until the glue dried. I chose to leave the fenders off to facilitate painting.
Turret construction is the focus of Step 6. Starting with the gun mantlet, it is made up of four parts. Part A20 is the inner most piece and fits mostly in the turret proper. It surprisingly has some internal detail on its innermost surfaces and is designed to allow some elevation. This in turn fits into part A26 which is primarily the turret front. This part had some larger sprue gates to deal with. Next in turn is the mantlet face (A25) and all three of these pieces form the bulk of the mantlet. Care will need to be taken when combining these parts as their general fit was rather loose.
Once the main mantlet pieces were glued together a main gun extension piece (A13) needs to be glued to the front most piece (A25). Here again the fit was a bit loose. With this done the main gun barrel (b1) is to be attached and it also did not possess the most positive of fits. The final piece of the mantlet to add is the MG-34 barrel. This has a rather unusual attachment arrangement with a stepped end of the barrel meant to mate with a stepped protrusion on the mantlet.
With the mantlet attached, the turret lifting hooks (b5) or optionally, smoke dischargers (A22, A23) can be attached. Both of these are side specific and had a nice clean fit. The commanders cupola was glued on and did not have the surest of fits. The builder would follow its attachment with the hatches being glued in the desired orientation (open or closed).
The last items to deal with are those that make up the turret rear storage bin (A27, A28). The use of this bin is marked in the instructions as optional. Part A27 represents the main storage bin piece and A28 the back of the bin located closest to the turret rear. While the fit of the two pieces was acceptable the A28 part had required a bit of sanding on the edges to fit better.
Step 7 sees the attachment of the turret to the upper hull. Unlike most Dragon Model
turrets, there are no locking tabs on the turret ring to stop it from falling off if inverted. The turret is held in place by a modest press fit.
With Step 8 we see the two DS tracks attached to the suspension. As with recent Dragon Model
kits an information box appears in the instructions detailing the length of track required to be used and the properties of its material. According to the information provided the track should be 92 links or 158 mm in length. A quick measuring showed that the length provided in the kit was exactly that.
After gluing the track ends together the track was dry fit over the suspension components. The two tracks fit fairly well with one being a bit taught and the other just a tad loose. As the information in the instructions suggests, the track can either be slightly stretched or trimmed and re-glued with normal styrene cement as needed. While the DS tracks have superb and fine detail, care will need to be taken when stretching them as they appear delicate in nature.
While an interesting subject and in many ways a beautifully detailed kit, this offering from Dragon Model
is rather perplexing. It is as if two separate minds or purposes designed this kit with one opting for the minute Dragon Model
detail pieces of the past and another introducing attempts to limit parts and speed assembly. To this reviewer it seems that we end up with a compromise between the two schools of thought that may not satisfy some builders who prefer one or the other.
While the box top shows the front hull festooned with spare tracks and a spare track rack is provided on the bow, no separate links are provided in the kit. While the earlier StuG III kits feature separate nicely detailed engine louvers, this kit (as the others in these recent Panzer III series) settles for plainer cast on versions. Moulded in place tools will also disappoint many. On the other hand, the fender tread pattern added to this kit version will be gladly welcomed by the majority.
This kit is not quite a “quick build” nor an advance from previous Dragon Model
offerings. In this reviewers opinion, the kit is at best a compromise between the two with a step backward as far as some sprue attachment points are concerned. This kit will require the builder to take it slow and be prepared for some not pleasant surprises. With some care it will create an attractive representation of this vehicle.
Bellona Military Vehicle Prints, Series 32: Panzerkampfwagen III Ausfuehrung J (5 cm KwK 39 L/60), Model and Allied Publications LTD, 1972.
PZ. Kfw. IIIN