by: Peter Ganchev [ ]
IntroductionThe production of the Pz. III started in 1937. The tank was continuously up-armored and up-gunned until as late as 1943. More than 5500 examples were built, including 100 flamethrower tank conversions. Various modifications of the Pz. III (from B through N) served with the Wehrmacht and the SS in Europe and Africa till VE Day. Between mid-1941 and 1943 this tank formed the backbone of the Panzerwaffe. A number of captured examples were used by British and Soviet crews. The Soviets rebuilt about 200 Pz. IIIs with a fixed superstructure and armed them with a modified 76mm gun from the T-34.
The Pz. III chassis became the basis of numerous self-propelled guns, command and artillery observer vehicles, armoured recovery vehicles, etc. It did outlive the tank in production – more than 9000 SPGs were produced by April 1945.
The subject of this Dragon kit is the Ausf. L version with the long-barrelled 50mm kWk 39 gun. 20mm-thick armor plates were also added using spacers on the front of the hull and the turret. The Ausf. L has previously been kitted by Revell in this scale, and let me tell you the philosophy of the two companies couldn’t be any more different.
ContentsThere are 116 parts in the box – 108 plastic parts on 6 sprues (100 referenced in the build diagrams), 2 DS track runs, and 6 PE parts (4 used) on two frets.
The decal sheet is printed by Cartograf and includes markings for 4 machines – all for the Russian front:
• a whitewashed example from Pz. Rgt. 25, 7th Pz. Div., 1943 (see boxtop),
• a dark yellow tank with brown spots from Pz. Rgt. 4, 13th Pz. Div., 1942,
• a dark yellow tank with green splotches from Pz. Rgt. 33, 9th Pz. Div., 1942,
• a pure Dunkelgelb Pz. III from the Wiking division, 1942.
ReviewWe’ve come to expect high quality moulding from DML, and this kit doesn’t disappoint – no evident flash, imperfections or ejection pin marks are present.
Sprue A has the turret and upper hull, as well as most of the small details. The turret ventilator cover is solid and the side hatch doors are moulded closed. The commander’s cupola is constructed from two pieces, two more cater for its poseable hatch doors. The smoke-discharger clusters are cast as a single part each, and the antenna is presented in folded position.
Fenders are separate details here with the tools and towing hooks moulded on and no tread pattern. The complete set of lights, a pair of toolboxes, as well as the jack and its supporting block are all separate, nicely detailed parts.
All the wheels are well-detailed, with the return rollers being slide-moulded, one-piece parts. You can easily spot the spares due to the lack of hub caps. The DS tracks are cleanly cast, the instructions inform you they have 92 tracks each for a total length of 158mm a run when complete. [Note section in photo with purple marker added to highlight the details – ed.]
Sprue X is the one-piece lower hull, with integrally moulded suspension arms.
In their recent releases Dragon are obviously aiming more for limiting the build time than anything else, so the engine louvers and the tow cables are moulded on the engine deck rather than separate parts as in the StuG and Revell’s Pz. III series. The spacers for the hull frontal add-on armor are also part of the single-piece deck assembly (sprue Y).
Build ObservationsRight after taking the sprue pictures and chiselling away the moulded-on tow cable from the engine deck I decided to try the fit – about 11pm on a Tuesday evening. By midnight I had most of the lower and upper hull as well as the turret details removed from the sprues, cleaned up, test-fitted and glued. I had basically assembled the tank in less than an hour without any filler at all. The turret add-on armor literally clicked into place and I didn’t even have to use glue to fix it.
On Wednesday night I joined the upper and lower hull, and added the main gun, fenders, toolboxes, lights and spare roadwheel bases. Also, I got the handholds over the turret side hatches replaced by pieces of fine wire, and added the smoke dischargers. The antenna was left off till after the camo job was complete due to the tools underneath it requiring detail painting. The hull add-on armor was also left off so I could paint the Dunkelgelb area behind it.
Night 3 saw me assembling the wheels. I also used thin stretched sprue and liquid cement to simulate weld seams where I considered appropriate.
I painted the tank on Saturday morning using a mix of Vallejo Dark Yellow, Yellow and White. Once dry I added the front hull armor and noticed that I completely missed the PE plate joining that detail and the hull. Back to the spray room. Later on the brown spots were added using Revell enamel brown. The wheel rubber tires are Revell Dark Grey, the basic track color is Model Master Burnt Metal.
On Sunday morning the tank was taking its final shape. I’d already glued the wheels and fixed the right track to the roadwheels with superglue when it turned out to be about 3 mm short. Using tweezers I managed to stretch it just enough to fit. I stretched the left track a bit too much, providing for a spectacular sag.
Decals were applied using Gunze Mr. Mark Softer. I used pigments and dry-brushing on the hull and tracks to simulate wear, tear and dust. I applied brown wash to pick out the details on the hull, and sand-colored wash on the tracks. The model was sealed using Vallejo matt varnish.
ConclusionsIs the Dragon Pz. III L better than the Revell one? You can’t really compare them because as noted in the beginning the philosophy of the manufacturers is different. The Revell kit requires about 40 pieces more to complete – mainly due to its link-and-length tracks and multi-part hull. The German release has separate engine louvers and tow cable, spare track sections, tread pattern on the fenders, but the same moulded-on tools and closed side turret hatches as the Hong Kong one.
The Dragon kit provides PE grills (rather visible on the finished model), a one-part hull (no twisted suspension), separate shock absorbers on roadwheels 1 and 6 (a nice touch), one-piece tracks that you can fit while the fenders are off (remember they are separate in the DML release?). I also believe the lower parts-count has not hurt the level of detail on the model.
I’ve read quite a few unhappy posts about Dragon releases bordering on wargaming pieces and being unnecessary repetition of existing kits. After that it did take me a while to write this review, because I know my positive experience will agitate many of you.
My verdict is as follows: I’ve never had as much fun with a model kit before, period. To me this kit represents a quantum leap in “buildability” – without any issues in mould or fit, and net build plus paint plus weathering time of about 6 hours. This release does not replace the Revell kit, it complements it.
The only thing I can really complain about is the price – rather high for a model this small.