Early in the offensive against the Soviet Union, Germany discovered there was an urgent need for powerful anti-tank guns on a reliable mobile platform. The Marder series of tank destroyers were based on obsolete tank chassis, with the Marder III being placed on the 38t. The first variant of the Marder III was the Sd.Kfz 139 mounting a Soviet built 76.2mm high velocity gun in a lightly armored fighting compartment. The vehicle was very top heavy but highly successful. Shortly thereafter, the German 7.5cm PaK 40 was mounted on the 38t. Designated Sd.Kfz 138 Marder III H (H for Heckmotor, or rear engine), it mounted the gun into the fighting compartment of the 38t, allowing the gun to be placed lower. Armor protection was very thin and the fighting compartment was open to the rear and top. 243 vehicles were built new and 175 were converted from existing panzer 38t for a production total of 418 before production switched over to the Marder III M variant. Intended as a stop gap measure, Marder III of both variants remained in service until the end of the war.
released a kit of the Marder III H based on the 38t Ausf. G in 2006. Now, with some revisions to the sprues and some added detail, they have revisited the Marder III H with a variant based on the 38t Ausf. E/F hull.
Inside the box are 10 sprues in gray styrene, 3 small sprues of clear parts, one hull, three photoetch sheets and a preformed part packaged separately, a bag of magic tracks and a tarp made from the DS100 material. Suprisingly, all the sprues fit nicely in the box. Of the 453 styrene parts, only 35 are marked not for use, and some of those are debatable. There really isn't anything new in this kit as everything comes from previously existing kits just bundled together to create a different vehicle type, with the exception of the DS100 styrene tarp. Breakdown of the sprues is as follows:
A sprue, 38t Ausf. G:
This is the suspension. Bogie sets are assembled from 9 parts and are semi-positional. Added to the sprue from the original kit are leaf springs with a center cutout and idler wheels with revised lightening holes as optional. Photos I have seen show the earlier keyhole shaped holes on the idler and holes on the outer rim of the drive sprocket, but check references if you are building a specific model. All details on the parts are clear and crisp, with no flash present.
B sprue, 38t Ausf G:
Fenders and other superstructure detail for the Marder III. The fenders are straight, which is a cause of eternal debate with these vehicles. If you want them kinked, the material is thin enough to fix that. They feature nice ribbed detail. The antenna on this sprue is marked not for use, but all vehicles I have seen photos of show the antenna used. The radio set in the kit is shown mounted inside, and the bracket to mount the antenna is shown on the left hand superstructure of the fighting compartment, so it should be used.
B sprue, PaK 40:
Nicely detailed, with a plastic barrel included (there is a turned aluminum option with the kit, if you prefer.) Again, details are excellent, but the cases for the sight and cleaning rods and two support arms are shown not for use. Photos of the actual vehicle show them placed, so again, go with references.
C sprue, 38t Ausf G:
This is the actual fighting compartment with curved gun shield. Detail of these parts is outstanding. The gun supports, perforated rear deck and gun shields are cleanly molded with no flash. The ammunition tubes are molded empty. One set of four is shown not for use.
C sprue, ammunition and cases for the PaK 40:
It includes 8 rounds and 3 shell casings, four single round tubes with open ends, four closed, and two wooden crates that hold two rounds each. The instructions will tell you to assemble the crates with the rounds inside, but as they won't be seen, that would be pointless, unless you mold the crate open, which will take a little modification of the parts. Again, molding is good.
D sprue, 38t Ausf. G:
Lower hull, transmission, and new to this from the older release is a complete engine and compartment. Detailing is very good, with the modeler only needing to find a good wiring diagram to fully exploit the detail.
This is the hull for the 38t Ausf. E/F. The only difference I can see from the original release is the addition of rivet details on the hull sides. It is cleanly molded and detail is excellent.
The K and N sprues:
These are the on vehicle tools, molded without clamps, which are all etch in this kit.
Contains the radiator, jack, and some tools for the engine; grease gun, wrench and crank.
S and T sprues are both 38t Ausf E/F:
These sprues hold the plates for the front of the fighting compartment with excellent inner and outer surface detailing, and the muffler.
J and W sprues:
Are the clear parts for the periscopes and driver's vision block.
Etch and metal parts
are MA, MB, MC and MD, the last being the preformed cage for the rear deck.
are the magic tracks. Per the instructions there are 96 per side, plus spares.
The Z part
is the DS100 canvas tarp to cover the fighting compartment. It is nicely formed but does have a little flash, which should clean up with a careful application of liquid cement. Detail is basic as there are no cutouts for the periscopes or gun sight. If you wish to depict them you will have to cut it yourself.
Instructions are laid out in 27 steps, starting with construction of the ammo crates and tubes first, and then going to the suspension, external lower hull, internal hull, hull deck, gun and fighting compartment. I used the Nuts and Bolts Marder III reference I reviewed previously here:
N&B Marder III Ausf. H
to check both for scale (mainly an exercise for me as the parts appeared to match quite well) and placement. Most everything appears to be correct. The driver's compartment is well detailed with only wiring not present, and the driver's foot pedals. The hull mg includes a strip of bullets. Ammo storage is represented well, although there are only 4 partial rounds to insert into the tubes, so you will have to outsource to fill them completely. The flare box, radio and transformer box are all depicted in the correct location on the right inner shield of the fighting compartment, which is where the commander would stand.
As mentioned, two support braces for the gun and the storage tubes that mount to the inner front surface of the gun shield are not depicted as installed (marked not for use) which can be corrected by the modeler. Periscopes are included as clear and styrene parts. Etch parts add significant detail, although for those who fear to use it, there aren't any styrene options for most of the parts. One clear omission is the lack of a tow cable to mount on the vehicle rear. Tow cable ends are provided on the A sprue, so it can be sourced from string or wire.
The only real letdown with the kit is the decals. Complete decals are included for the ammunition but the only vehicle markings are generic balkenkreuze, with one vehicle option as overall panzergrau and the other overall dunkelgelb, both marked "unidentified unit". Dragon really could have tried harder.
In spite of the lack of markings, this is a very nice kit. Dragon has taken advantage of the accumulation of parts to issue a new variant of the Marder III H, which could be easily modified to represent the same vehicle from the previous release. It is very well detailed, inside and out, and appears to be very buildable.
For those who really want to go overboard there are some complete aftermarket etch sets to replace the fenders and gun shields. You can also add items like the intercoms and wiring if you have a good reference to work with. The instructions are actually fairly good. They will still take some studying, but are not nearly as complex and confusing as some from other kits. I'm looking forward to starting the build.
I purchased my kit online at Lucky Model at a sale price of $42.00 including shipping. Prices have varied from $38.00 to $45.00, so shop around.