Here we have an IBG kit with a big yellow Easy Assembly label on the box. Until now IBGís 1/72 scale vehicle kits have been quite comprehensive in terms of detail with a relatively high parts count, including for example individual track links and separate tools. Recently they have produced some simplified kits to be sold with a magazine The World at War, avoiding the usual subjects one might have expected, going instead for a StuG III Prototype, PzKpfw II Ausf.A1, PzKpfw III Ausf.A.
This Bergepanzer III kit isnít promoted as part of that collection, but is certainly of the same type, with one piece track and wheel units, and identifiably shares at least one sprue with some of that range.
About the vehicle: as we mostly will know, the PzKpfw III was an able chassis but unable to keep up with the upgrades necessary to remain a viable front line gun tank. From early 1944 all PzKpfw III returning for factory overhaul were converted to armoured recovery vehicles. The turret was removed and a wooden boxed-in platform was mounted, along with a crane, unditching beams, and, mostly, the wider Ostketten tracks.
IBGís big box looks a bit empty with these simplified sprues (photo 1).
- Sprue A: hull bottom, rear plates, exhaust, wooden superstructure front and rear (2).
- Sprue B: hull top, front plate, wooden sides (3).
- Sprue C: track and wheel units, spare wheels, wooden base, beam parts (4).
- Sprue R: crane, wooden partition, beam parts (5)
- Sprue Q: jack, horn, front lamps (6)
The instruction sheet is four sides including the colour paint guide showing a bold three colour camouflage. The decal sheet is minimalist, with three crosses only, so no specific unit is identified.
As can be seen in photos 7, 8, the hull tub has the suspension arms including the vertical shocks moulded on, and big pegs for the return rollers, sprockets and idlers. The hull top has all hatches and vents plus one tool moulded in place (9). Included on the track units are sprockets resembling the later type, although the cut outs are solid and slightly more squared (10). The outward face of the idler features recessed bolt details, although the bolt details on the return rollers are so slight as to be virtually invisible, with none on the road wheels at all. Viewed from above (11) we see the road wheels and return rollers are rendered as one thick wheel rather than a pair sitting either side of the track guide horns; similarly the sprocket is like a thick toothed cog rather than two rows of teeth, and the idler is also a single thick wheel. The tracks inevitably are also greatly simplified, with no spaces or real detail moulded in, but solid rows of ridged links, that are however at least chevron shaped rather than flat bands, and do have reasonable looking solid guide horns.
Many photos of Bergepanzer IIIs show Ostketten fitted, and itís a shame that we didnít get that here, although moulding it in place might have been too much of a challenge. The escape hatches on the hull sides, the spacing of the return rollers, the ball mounted machine gun, and lack of bolt-on armour plate all suggest that the hull represented is from an Ausf.J tank.
Moving to smaller details (12) some are slightly soft, with the machine gun somewhat vaguely textured, and the side vision port lacking any slot detail (and not sure why there is only one Ė is that correct for some marks?), although the exhaust boxes are quite decent and the tiny lamps do have tiny slots on the front faces. The wooden platform sides are OK on the external faces, with the planks and metal frame quite well defined. Turning them over however (13) the internal faces appear as flat boards; I have no idea if that is authentic Ė sheets of plywood perhaps? I didnít find any photos of the interior of this structure on the real thing to be able to tell.
The base of the platform is also planked (14), and next to it are parts for two wooden beams. These are very square indeed, and have nothing to indicate that they represent wood, but thatís not necessarily bad. Above are the spare road wheels for the rear deck, which are also solid rather than two piece, something perhaps harder to accept here on the top of the tank where they are so very visible. The underside of the platform features a big ring that fits exactly into the hull top (15).
The plate with the driverís visor and the machine gun is fine, just missing the two holes above the visor (16). The air intake covers have a pretty good mesh texture and include the brackets to mount the crane optionally on either side. Note also the quite well represented rear lamp and Notek light at the bottom left of photo 17.
Finally, going back to photo 6, two front lamps with very short mounts (which gets a bit annoying later), a nicely detailed horn (which the assembly instructions fail to mention) and a pretty good jack.
Construction is certainly quick and mostly easy. Starting with the hull top on its back the two rear plates are cemented in (18, 19). The only issue is getting them at the correct angle, using a dry run with the hull tub to check it will all meet up. The tub and top are then brought together (20, 21). A potential pitfall is the most obvious join at the top of the glacis where both components have sprue tags that need to be carefully cleaned up and then the joint compressed as it is cemented to ensure an acceptable appearance (22, 23.) The rear view (24) also shows the visible join at the back corners where the twin rear plate sandwich fits between the side plates protruding from the back of the tub.
The tow bracket and the two exhaust mufflers are added, all fitting well, and the pipes were drilled to look more pipe-like (25). The instructions are to attach the wheel and track units at this stage, but obviously we donít want to do that unless we want a hard time painting it.
We start to add what few fiddly hull details there are (26). The one side only vision port is attached to the left of the driver position, noting there is no locating mark, so itís just done by eye. The air intake / crane bases fit very well, and then the rear lamp is cemented on, leaving its sprue tag in for now, it being easier to clean it off once it is set in place. As with the tracks, the jack and spare wheels are also put to one side rather than attached now.
Continuing with hull details (27, taken after priming) we see the machine gun (A2, not great) and the Notek light (B3, very good). The front lamps (Q1) were a bit of a nightmare to fit because the hull has the merest of dimples into which the shortest of mounting stalks must locate, and they sit between the track guard front and the covers on the sloping front plate, which means manipulating these ball like components into the narrow gap with tweezers. The small lamps on the track guards (A9) were easier to fit, and the nice looking horn (Q2) just needed a hole drilled in the track guard to fit in to, noting again that there is no mention of it in the instructions, but I see no reason not to use it.
The construction of the wooden structure is very easy, just an open topped box (28, 29). We are now instructed to mount one of the big unditching beams to the side of the box (30) which signals that some thought and a decision is needed; the way that IBG have moulded the brackets to the beams means that they can only be fitted evenly, as it were, there is no opportunity to slide the beam along inside the brackets in order to change how far it overhangs at front and back. Although not indicated until two steps later, you are given the choice to mount one beam plus the crane either way round, so beam left, crane right, or vice versa, or you can choose to leave the crane off and mount both beams, one either side. The reason you canít have both beams and the crane is that the rear of the beam overhangs the crane bracket. UnlessÖ
I decided I wanted both beams and the crane, partly because I wanted something for the horizontal jib on the crane to rest on; the box art shows it in mid-air not apparently supported. In photos 31, 32 we see the crane mounted on the right hand side. Apologies for not taking progress photos of this part, but photos 33 and 34 show the result. I sawed the rear overhang of the right hand beam off and stuck it on the front, so that the front overhang was doubled and rear flush with the bracket, allowing room for the crane. It seems to me that this might have been done in reality, rather than removing one beam every time the crane was used. The resulting hole in the back of the beam was filled with putty and I also added a small amount of texture and battering to the beams. The join at the front of the beam is slightly visible, but I donít care because thatís the mark made by the clamp. Obviously here I have also primed everything black and started to paint the beams.
Turning to the track and wheel units, all there is to do for now is to clean up the mould seam, although I didnít do it that well, mainly concentrating on the external faces of the track, and then mounting it on a cocktail stick for painting (35).
With construction mostly done I painted the three colour camouflage over the three sub-assemblies (36, 37, 38). The kit provided decals were applied and I managed to force an old dry transfer I had on to the front of the track guard, representing a tracked recovery unit (thinking this might be the only opportunity Iíll ever have to use it). The beams were treated with streaked oil paint to provide a woody look, a dark brown pin wash was applied over everything and tracks and tyres were touched up for any colour overspray from painting the wheels.
Final construction was very easy with the wooden structure fitting perfectly into the turret ring, just needing to be aligned straight, and the two ugly spare wheels were cemented into the locating holes on the rear deck. Although I had taken the precaution of masking off all of the contact points to allow the cement to work, I didnít bother gluing the track units on as the dry run I tried showed that the fit was so perfect, firm and straight that there was no need for anything else to be done. The last item added was the crane jib with the end resting on the beam.
Although this is a great subject I donít think itís especially appealing in this form to modellers interested in detail, but Iím sure it will be of interest to wargamers and those who like a quick build, and is of course great as a starter kit.
This one piece style of track and wheel units is increasingly common in this scale, and while the detail achieved here is no better than we have seen before, the final fitting of the track units to the hull was far easier than any other kit like this that I have built.
Apart from the simplification of the wheels and tracks and some hull details, the crane isnít provided with any pulleys or lifting hooks, but what there is of the crane looks very acceptable, and thereís certainly scope for adding those details, along with chains, cables and so on. By adding the running gear from another PzKpfw III kit it would be possible to build it in to a highly detailed model, and the interior of the wooden structure could be filled with fuel drums and cans, cables, wedges, tarps and the like.