DRAGON MODELS LIMITED
6543, Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.J (Tp) Early Production Smart Kit. 1/35th-scale styrene/multimedia kit containing 541 styrene parts (including 20 clear), one bag of Magic Track, one etched brass fret, three water-slide decal marking schemes and 10 pages of instructions in 23 steps.
The Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.J began its production run in 1941. The original Ausf.J hull introduced an armor basis of 50mm, while retaining the side-wall escape hatch lids from previous models. The turret-mounted short 5cm KwK L/42 sits behind an external shield that has two view-port flaps. Other modifications during production of the Ausf.J included re-designed engine deck access hatch lids for more efficient cooling in so-called Tropen or tropical climates. This particular kit features the early Tropen configuration where the two main engine access hatches had two-piece lids hinged to open fore and aft. Three of these lids had ventilation openings cut into their surfaces that were covered with an armored guard; the starboard-forward lid is flat. The two rear hatch lids had welded guards added over their newly-cut openings.
These physical modifications, accompanied by specific automotive modifications and a tailored paint scheme were the factory norm for a Tropen Panzer. This kit captures the salient features of this variant through an efficient use of in-production DML parts, accompanied by properly modified instructions and new water-slide decals.
These come loosely packed in one bag and are so-called Magic Tracks. They represent the 40cm-wide links that had hollow guide horns and plain cleat faces. Curiously, these tracks are not handed as are the tracks in other DML Pz.Kpfw.III and StuG.III. Being Magic Tracks, they have no sprue attachment points, which is a definite time saver since no cutting or clean-up in that regard is required. Each has a pair of extremely faint ejector pin marks on the inner face. These can be ignored or erased as the modeler sees fit. They fit together easily but quite loosely, and must be fixed together with glue prior to handling.
The road-wheels are conventionally molded in inner and outer pieces, with integral rubber tires. The outer faces of the wheel hubs feature perforations and weld beads where appropriate, while the tires have a facsimile of the manufacturers logo (ContinentaU) on their rims. On the inner faces, the tubes that helped join the wheel halves together are molded on, providing an unprecedented level of detail in this regard. Spare road wheels and spare track pins are also given for stowage, but it should be noted that this version of the Ausf.J did not have track-guard-mounted stowage racks. The return rollers are conventionally-molded in two parts (inner and outer halves).
The drive sprockets come as conventional inner and outer pieces and are completely detailed. The idler wheels are also in inner and outer parts, but feature separate hubs as well as etched brass inner rings. The idler wheels also have separate cranked axles that can be adjusted very slightly if they are modified a bit; the modeler is advised not to glue them in place on the hull until the fit and sag of the tracks have been worked out.
Separate internal torsion bars are given as are beautifully-detailed separate external swing arms. This will allow the suspension to be fixed in an articulated fashion if the modeler desires to place his work on a base with irregular terrain; to do so, simply cut off the pins that protrude from the hull sides, which are there in case the modeler wants a level, fixed suspension. Bump stops, slide-molded shock absorbers and final drive housings (as well as mounting plates for the latter, which have the holes for tow hooks) are also separate parts
The main part of the hull comes from a slide-mold so it is fully detailed on all faces. This includes mounts for the road-wheel torsion bar/swing arm units, idler wheel mount, bump stops and shock absorbers, as well as the various bolted strips that connected the hull to the superstructure. Panel seams and weld beads are also present. The belly has drain plug and access plate detail molded in place, plus bolt and rivet heads, as well as weld beads. The openings for the crew escape hatches on the side walls are covered with separate hatch lids; separate hinges and internal latches complete the area.
The bow plate is separate and its configuration represents the base armor of 50mm introduced on the Ausf.J. The hull rear plate is composed of many separate parts including the exhaust deflector, spacer plates, various access covers, tow points and exhaust pipe/muffler assemblies. These last come with opened pipe ends and separate mounts. Finally, an etched brass screen is provided to be placed under the superstructure over-hang.
Track-Guards and OVM.
Separate track-guards are provided, with the main parts being detailed on the top and bottom surfaces; neither is marred by ejector pin marks. There are a number of styrene and etched brass parts added to these main parts so that all braces, etc. can be depicted in great detail. A very nice touch are the two different rear mud-flap configurations provided; these will allow them to be raised or lowered without any accuracy or detail compromises.
The port-side track-guard mounts a three-part Tarnscheinwerfer-Notek blackout head-lamp, marker lamp (clear or opaque styrene), wire cutters, S-hooks, two part tool box, pry-bar, five-part jack, fire extinguisher, slide-molded jack block and a two-part convoy tail-lamp. The tools have nice clasp details, while the tow cable mounts and jack mounts are separate parts. The starboard track-guard mounts a horn, marker lamp, two-part tool box, axe, engine starter crank, two-part rod antenna stowage trough, shovel and brake lamp.
This version of the Ausf.J was not yet fitted with factory-installed spare road-wheel holders on the port-side track-guards. These parts, common to some of DMLs Pz.Kpfw.III kits, do not appear to be present in this release.
The engine deck is a separate part and is configured much like the original; the entire assembly can be left off to depict an engine change. Coming from a slide mold, it has details on all faces including various styles of plate and weld detail as well as attachment flanges and bolt heads. The four hatch lids are separate parts, with proper coaming detail around the hatch openings and separate hinges. The air intake cowls that surmount the hatch lids are separate parts as are their mounts. Separate parts for the lifting hooks are also given for maximum detail fidelity. Two all-styrene tow cables are provided for the engine deck, but Id have preferred the option of a wound wire/etched brass/ styrene option for better detail and flexibility. A separate rear plate with separate access cap is also given. At the side are separate air intake vents, with the correct means of attachment to the walls, including their internal openings. These are topped by etched brass screens.
There are two different roof plates, one of which is configured to mount Vorpanzer (spaced armor). Both feature a turret ring with a properly-detailed race, devoid of the usual openings to bayonet-mount the turret. I prefer this, but this means the turret will not be especially secure on the finished model. The part is finished with more separate lift hooks as well as a turret ring shot deflector. While the modeler is instructed not to use the Vorpanzer parts, photos show the Ausf.J fitted with them, so if the modeler wishes, these can be used.
Separate side and front superstructure panels are then fitted. These feature separate, multi-part view-port flaps that include clear parts for the vision blocks; naturally they can be modeled opened or closed. The starboard side features a rod antenna and its mount; the antenna can remain movable as it is a press fit into the mount. The radio operators MG34 features complete internal mount detail and is a Gen2 molding with pre-drilled muzzle and slotted armored sleeve. The Vorpanzer is then fitted if desired, using styrene and etched brass parts.
The separate glacis plate is of the type with two hatch lids, one slightly wider than the other; these can be depicted opened or closed. The bases for the head-lamps are molded in place, and clear lenses are provided for them. Separate, two-part armored cowls are given to cover the brake cooling air openings and two optional configurations are provided for the spare track stowage bracket.
The upper shell is a one-piece affair, created from a slide mold. The detail is crisp and complete, including counter-sunk screw head details, separate view-port flaps (with clear vision block inserts) and side wall access doors. The roof gets a two-part vent cover, a separate signal port flap and separate grab handles; the separate turret floor has a gear pattern on the ring race. The commanders cupola features optional two-position view-port covers, clear internal vision blocks and separate hatch lids.
The Gepäckkasten (baggage bin) on the turret rear is also based on a slide-molded part; therefore it is completely detailed on all faces. It also comes with a separate lid, which can be shown opened up; finally, its rear wall is a separate part. It also purports to be the first accurately-configured bin in styrene, showing the subtle differences in the contours at either side; this last item is confirmed in photos, but does not appear in the cited scale drawings. More separate lift hooks, as well as separate pistol port covers complete this area.
The L/42 gun tube is slide-molded and pre-bored. It features a complete inner breech. A separate recuperator housing is given, with an exquisitely-rendered slide-molded sleeve for the gun tube provided as a separate part. There for-use gun-shield configurations features two view-port flaps, which are separate and feature internal details; the single view-port version is also in the box. Also not-for-use are etched brass and styrene parts for the Vorpanzer and its frame. For the latter, there are three different armor configurations offered, but two appear identical. Finally, the pre-bored coaxial MG 34 is furnished, mounted in its armored sleeve; a second sleeve is provided, but without the MG in place.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
DMLs designers have gone to great lengths to provide a level of detail on the styrene parts not often previously seen. Although not a new technique (it is as old as injection-molding), slide-molds have been used in a very intelligent way either to allow for better detail rendition, or for ease of assembly. On visible surfaces, not a single ejector pin mark was found and there was no shrinkage of any kind. Fit of major parts was excellent and mold seams were faint and easily dealt with. As usual, the road-wheels and return rollers will require the most effort to clean, since there are 24 of the former and 12 of the latter; all have seams around their middles as well as sprue attachment points. I have assembled enough of these kits to state that fit should not be an issue.
Currently available scale drawings appear to confirm that this kit is very accurate dimensionally and in its details.
Decals and Markings Information.
The decals are the usual excellent Italian product from Cartograf. They are crisp, in register and have thin, closely-cropped carrier film. Markings for three tanks are given as follows:
White 113, Panzer-Abteilung 190, North Africa, 1942.
Black/white 712, 21.Panzer-Division, North Africa, 1942.
Red 123, 5.Panzer-Division, Ostfront 1941.
As given in the instructions, the painting information is a bit sketchy, since the vehicle should have been finished in the 1941 or 1942 Tropen scheme; these colors are nowhere to be found. The numbered color call-outs in the painting guide often do not coincide with the call-outs listed at the beginning of the instructions. In addition, these vehicles should not be seen, at this time, with either Dunkelgelb or Feldgrau as a base color, as listed in the instructions. In short, this segment of the instructions is a mess; references must be consulted if accuracy is the desired end result. Although they follow convention, using the references cited below, I could not photographically confirm any of the markings. The 5.Panzer-Division scheme is seen as a color plate in reference 16.
These are in the usual drawn style and except for the color information, appear to be well-done. As usual, they are busy, and there are many steps-within-steps. Modelers are cautioned to proceed with care, especially when considering which physical options go with a particular markings scheme.
This version of the Ausf.J saw service in North Africa and on the Ostfront, so markings options are relatively vast. It has some options, not noted in the instructions, that will be useful to a modeler with good references. Straight from the box, this kit will build into a very highly detailed and accurate replica.
Frank V. De Sisto
References consulted for this review included, but were not limited to:
1. Panzerkampfwagen III, Ausf.J, L, M, und N; Panzer Tracts 3-3, by T. Jentz & H. Doyle.
2. Panzer III & Its Variants; Schiffer, by W. Spielberger.
3. Panzerkampfwagen III; Achtung Panzer 2.
4. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Revised Edition; Arms & Armour Press, by P. Chamberlain, H. Doyle & T. Jentz.
5. The Panzerkampfwagen III at War; Concord 7010, by M. Jerchel & W. Trojca.
6. Armor of the Deutsches Afrika Korps; Concord 7021, by T. Cockle & A. Wrobel.
7. Panzers in North Africa; Concord 7043, by J. Healey & J. Restayn.
8. Panzerkampfwagen III & IV 1939-45; Concord 7065, by T. Cockle.
9. Panzer III in Action; Squadron Armor 1, by U. Feist.
10. Pz.Kpfw.III in Action; Squadron Armor 24, by B. Culver & D. Greer.
11. The Panzerkampfwagen III; Osprey Vanguard 16, by B. Perrett, D. Smith & M. Chappell.
12. Panzerkampfwagen III; AFV Profile 2, by W. Spielberger.
13. Panzerkampfwagen III Ausführung J; Bellona Military Vehicle Prints Series 32, by W. Spielberger and H. Doyle.
14. Panzerkampfwagen III in Combat; Tankograd 4005, by M. Zöllner.
15. The Panzerkampfwagen III and IV Series and their Derivatives; ISO-Galago, by P. Chamberlain & H. Doyle.
16. Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.J/L; AFV Super Detail Photo Book Vol.6, Model Art, by M. Tarada & Tank Boy.
Note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reports.
DML kits are available from retail and mail-order sources. For information and images see their web-site at: www.dragon-models.com.
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