No esoteric vehicle is to rare, no drawing board oddity to strange for Dragon or Cyber-Hobby to put their collective imprint on. Seriously, it is a great time to be a fan of German WWII armor because almost anything and everything can now be built in 1/35 scale. With that in mind Dragon Models recently, through their specialty imprint of Cyber-Hobby, released the latest in their onslaught of panzers, the Sd. Kfz. 141/3 Pz. Kfw. III (FL) flamethrower version of the Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. M. The vehicle is commonly simply referred to as the Flammpanzer III or the Panzerflammwagen III.
This kit, Dragon item no. 6616, Cyber-Hobby white box no. 79, is brought to us using the common Dragon practice of taking well done moldings and sprues from very recent kits, mixing and matching them as need be with the addition of whatever extra parts would be needed for the newest iteration of panzer they are kitting out. This flamethrower version of the Pz. III M is no different; all the sprues come from earlier releases except for one small sprue which provides the flamethrower gun and extra armor plating for the front of the vehicle.
The concept behind the Panzer III was that it would equip the new panzer divisions as the main battle tank providing the armored punch that German theorists deemed crucial. With the invasion of Russia however it quickly became apparent that the Pz. III armed with only a 37cm main gun was woefully inadequate to deal with a combat environment with the KV and T-34 series of vehicles. German attempts at catch up with the Pz. III were never fully realized and the vehicle was quickly superseded by the larger, better armed, Pz. IV family and later the Panther as the vehicle of choice.
Despite its obsolescence the vehicle continued to be upgraded and modified until 1943 with the Ausf. M and N models and actually was able to soldier on until the end of the war. The chassis had proven robust and reliable and many were eventually converted to Sturmgeshutz III vehicles.
Some of the Ausf. M series of vehicles, about 100, were equipped with a 14mm flamethrower gun. The flamethrower version carried a reduced crew of three and about 1000 liters of Flammol, flammable oil. The gun was mounted in place of the main armament thus providing the vehicle with 360 degrees of traverse ability. Further the flamethrower was hidden in a large tube to give the appearance of the normal gun. It was intended that the vehicles be employed in the Stalingrad fighting but events passed quicker than the vehicle could be completed. Instead they appear to have been issued to various Panzer divisions on the Eastern Front with a few destined for Italy. The concept apparently never proved its worth and most ended up being rebuilt to Ausf. N vehicles however, 10 of the original 100 remained in the flamethrower configuration with AG South until April, 1945.
- 16 light gray sprues
- 1 hull tub
- 1 turret shell
- 2 small clear sprues
- 1 set of DS tracks
- 1 photo-etched fret
- 1 set of decals
- 1 set of instructions
The kit is virtually identical to the earlier release of the Panzer III M, kit no. 6558. To get a good idea of what that kit includes check Bill Cross’s excellent review here, (http://www.armorama.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Reviews&file=index&req=showcontent&id=7191 ).There are only a few differences between the two kits; the Magic Track have been dropped in favor of the DS single run tracks (gets my vote!), a new decal sheet, the extra sprue for the flame version, and the short barreled 50cm KwK 38 L/42 gun from the Pz. III H kit no. 6642 has been included although it is not intended for use. Other than those changes the kit is identical to the earlier release.
The new sprue provides the flamethrower gun and collar, two additional armored plates that were fitted to the lower hull front and front glacis plate and a few small pads that lift the spare track bar enough for spare links to fit after the addition of the new armored plates. Apparently the extra armor plates were fitted because of the limited range of the flamethrower meant that the vehicle had to move much closer to its intended victim, none of whom took kindly to the manoeuvre and tried to destroy or disable the vehicle, hence the extra armor plating, go figure.
The new decals provide divisional markings for the 1st, 6th, 14th, 24th, and 26th panzer divisions besides marking for the Grossdeutschland division. This along with generic red turret numbers with white outlines should provide a good number of vehicle marking possibilities, the only unit that operated the Flammpanzer III that is not represented is the 11th Panzer Division. However, the instructions call out for none of these, instead employing the tried and true “unidentified” unit with no markings.
The other change to this kit versus the other, earlier release is the inclusion of the DS single piece tracks. This is one of those back and forth kind of issues, half of us love the time saving while the other half love the added realism of the link to link style tracks. I guess it would be nice if Dragon put both inside the box, but barring that there is always someone around on the forum that you can swap with if you really want the other style. Personally, I like the DS tracks, makes life scads easier, besides the fact that most German tanks actually kept the tracks properly tensioned meaning that the DS tracks are great for most situations.
Short of rehashing everything Bill pointed out in the earlier review let me at least say a bit about the rest of what is in the box. First is that the kit is, for all intents and purposes, virtually flash free. The moldings are all state of the art with great detail throughout. Engine deck hatches are all superbly done and position able to boot. The on board equipment is all first class with well-done tool clasps molded in place. The suspension, wheels, sprockets, idlers, swing arms, return rollers, everything that keeps the vehicle moving forward is all very well done, detailed front and back. The upper hull and the extra armor are also state of the art moldings as is the entire turret assembly. In short, this is a very, very well molded kit that clearly shows why Dragon is the industry leader.
Another winner from Dragon/Cyber-Hobby. Some modelers will be disappointed in another panzer but for fans of German vehicles this is a great addition to the stable. The kit is labeled as the flamethrower version but all the parts are in the box to build the earlier M if you want to go that route. Why Dragon providing only the single paint scheme of only one unidentified vehicle while providing markings for 6 different possibilities is a bit baffling to me. If you have any interest in this version I would advise grabbing one quickly as with many of the Cyber-Hobby releases this one will probably disappear much too quickly.