by: Jacob Hederstierna-Johnse [ ]
introductionThe Pz.Kpfw. III ausführung J was produced from March 1941 until July 1942. While in production, changes were made to the armament, so that vehicles made after December 1941 (late version) received the 5 cm. KwK39 L 60, instead of the shorter and less powerful 5 cm. KwK38 L 42, which were installed on the first batch (early version).
Both versions were used in North Africa and on the eastern front. In North Africa, the British troops named the up-gunned version “Mark III special”, but the only special thing on this model was the longer and more powerful gun. All other features were the same as the early ausf. J’s.
contentsThe kit comes in the old familiar Dragon sized box, with a nice box art from Jameson. On the side and bottom of the box, there’s depicted the numerous special features of the kit. The sprues come in clear sealed plastic bags, and the whole kit contains 690 parts and includes the following:
• 15 sprues molded in grey styrene
• 2 sprues molded in clear styrene
• 1 separate hull tub
• 1 separate turret top
• 1 bag with 216 40cm. track links (hollow guide horns)
• 1 fret of photo etched parts
• 1 decal sheet
• 1 instruction booklet (Not in color)
Review Dragon has released this kit as a “SmartKit”, which means that the details and parts are simplified, and should be easier to assemble. Thus simplified, it doesn’t lack details; on the contrary, this kit has loads of crisp and well engineered details. Even under the turret and on the underside of the fenders there are nice surprises to be found. As a Dragon tradition, there are also a lot of parts, which are for other Pz. III (and even some Pz. IV) kits, and therefore not to be used on this kit. Many more things for the spares box, indeed.
The assembly starts with the drive sprockets, idler wheels, return rollers and the road wheels. These are from Dragon’s earlier StuG. Ausf. G kit and they are nice and crisp and very well detailed. Especially the road wheels and return rollers, which even have “Continentau” (the last u should be made an “l”) molded on and the hubs on the road wheels also have the screw for filling and controlling oil. A well thought detail. The track tension mechanism is made up of 3 parts, and looks so much better than the “lumps” in the old kits from back in the ‘90’s.
Next is the hull assembly, which starts with inserting the torsion bars, which is a neat feature, followed by the escape hatches. These can be made either open or closed, and have nice details inside, such as bolts and handles. Beware though, there’s two nasty punch marks on the inside of each hatch. The lower hull tub is a masterpiece itself. If you for some reason want to portray the vehicle turned over, the bottom of the hull is loaded with details, even very realistic weld seems! The road wheel arms, buffers and shock absorbers are also good looking, and these comes from Dragon’s StuG. G kit as well.
Step 4-6 is the assembly of the rear hull plate, which holds two 3-piece towing eyes. The exhaust pipes are hollowed out for you, so they look like the real deal. The drive sprocket, idler wheel, return rollers and the road wheels are fitted, as well as the rear hull plate, the smoke candles, the etched mesh and the rear top armored plate.
Next up are the fenders, which in my opinion are excellently executed. There’s just as much detail on the underside as on the top side. The fenders are made thinner at the ends, so they look more in scale, and even the small hooks for holding the mud flaps in place are included both in styrene and etch. The tools are very nicely detailed, especially the jack, which come in no less than 10 pieces. I really like the tool clamps, they are a huge improvement over the old “lumps” from the dark ages. The Bosch head light come in three pieces! Be careful to remember to drill the right holes in the fenders for some of the tools. It’s very annoying to discover that these should have been done after you have glued the fenders on.
The assembly of the upper hull deck starts with the engine cover. Again Dragon gives us the option fitting the tow cable or not. The cable is molded in styrene, with all the holders molded on to it, and these holders are cast very fine. If one chooses not to use the pre-molded cable, the alternative is using just the holders, which are small and delicate styrene castings from the “A” sprue. All the hatches on the engine deck can be glued in either open or closed position, and they are fully detailed on both sides. And these hatches have no sink marks! The same goes for the inspection hatches for the transmission, which also can be set open or closed, but on these the handles are molded on the hatches. The headlights can be built either as black-out (the ones with only tiny slits), or as fully open ones, with a clear styrene part for the glass lens.
The front glacis is fitted with the ball-mount Kugelblende 50, which comes with the excellently manufactured MG 34. Dragon has really pulled off a great rendition of this awesome machinegun in its mount - just a real shame that it can’t be seen when the tank is fully assembled. The driver’s vision slot has a clear styrene part for glass part of the vision block.
The sides of the upper hull are fitted with vision blocks, once again cleverly designed so they can be set as opened or closed. The antenna mount goes on the radio operator’s side, but I strongly suggest not gluing the antenna on until the rest of the vehicle is assembled. I would definitely break that thing off several times before finishing the model.
Step 13 is the final assembly and completion of the hull. I think it would be wise to put the tracks on first; this will make it much easier to install the tracks, because these kind of tracks can be a bit fiddly to get on when the fenders are in place. The tracks are Dragon’s Magic Tracks, which in my opinion are excellent. They are pre-cut and require only a minimum of cleaning. I know some dislike these tracks, saying that they won’t get the right kind of sagging between the return rollers, but I never had any problems with them. When assembling the rest of the upper hull, I would suggest dry fitting these parts before starting gluing them together.
Now it’s turret time, which starts with assembling the gun and mantle. The KwK38 L 42 main gun is beautifully slide molded, which means no visible mold seems on the pre-hollowed-out barrel. You just have to be a bit careful when removing from the sprue, so there won’t be a dent in the gun barrel. I suggest using a very sharp knife and then a fine file. There are several options on the mantle. You can choose from two different recoil housings for the coax MG 34, one of which is empty (no MG!), and you can set the armored visors in either open or closed positions. The gun has some really nice details on the recoil cylinders, crew guards and the gun breech, which also can be made as open or closed.
The commander’s cupola is made up of 14 pieces! It’s very well detailed, and both the hatches and the vision slits can be made either open or closed. The vision blocks are made from clear styrene, which will look very cool if you are careful when painting. The hatches has no sink marks, so no worry there.
The rommelkiste, or stowage box is well detailed, with countless small rivets, beautiful cast clasps and some really nice wooden aerial insulation on the sides. You can choose to remove the insulation, but this is a real shame because they are so nicely executed.
The top part of the turret comes in one slide-molded piece, and looks quite good. Dragon has done a wonderful job on this. Great weld seems and some really minute screws on the top. The only punch marks are inside on the roof part of the turret, but these will be very hard to spot once the whole thing is assembled. They can be filled and sanded, but if you’re going to do this, I suggest doing it before you’ve started the assembly.
The interior is ok. Personally I’d have liked a little more, but compared to the earlier products they’ve come a long way, and as a “look through the hatch” it at least shows some sort of “business”. Well, we can’t have it all, can we? The armored visors on the side of the turret and the pistol ports on the rear can both made open or closed. From personal experience I know how hot it can get in an armored vehicle, so given the option to build these visors and hatches open, it really adds to the realism of the kit.
Step 20-21 is the final assembly of the turret and mounting the turret to the hull. Again there are a whole lot of nice details. Especially the lifting hooks on the top side of the turret are really great. They come in two pieces, and they really looks like the real deal. The escape hatches on the side of the turret are also high quality, with nice and crisp details both inside- and out, and do I have to say, that they can be made either open or closed?
markingsThe decal sheet gives you markings for three different vehicles:
• 5. Pz.Div., Russia 1941
• Pz.Abt. 190, Africa 1942
• 21. Pz.Div., North Africa 1942
Conclusion This is a really nice and well-executed kit. It represents the Pz.Kpfw. III ausf. J very well, and it can be turned into a great model straight from the box. Dragon has paid a lot of attention to even the smallest detail, which in the end will make this kit top of the line. I highly recommend this kit, and I’m sure Dragon will keep pressing on to give us even more impressive kits in the future.