Pz. Kpfw. III Ausf. N with Winterketten

Published: October 18th, 2010     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: 
Michael Novosad, IPMS# 36721
Scale: 1/35
Company: Dragon Models
Price: $59.95
Product / Stock #: 6606

History and Performance

The Panzerkampfwagen III was one of the workhorses of the German army during World War II. The development order was issued in 1935 for a full-tracked vehicle in the 15 ton class. The Ausf. A model was manufactured in 1937 and was armed with a 3.7 cm main gun. Ten of these vehicles were produced but were withdrawn from service in 1940 due to insufficient armor and poor suspension. Several other variants were manufactured in subsequent years with armament increased to include 5.0 cm and ultimately 7.5 cm main guns. There was also a model equipped with a flame thrower. The Panzerkampfwagen III saw service on all fronts during the war, but the improvements in armament and armor never quite matching its opponents.

The Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf N was manufactured from June 1943 until August of 1943. Six hundred and sixty-three vehicles were built with an additional 37 vehicles converted from rebuilt tanks. The Ausf. N weighed in at 23 tons. The Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. N supported the Tiger in the heavy tank companies. There were ten Ausf. N's for the nine Tigers in a heavy tank company.

The severe weather conditions on the Eastern Front created many problems for the German military. Bottomless mud and frozen surfaces often brought the German vehicles to a standstill. Winterketten were track extensions that protruded from the ends of the tracks and were developed in 1942 for use in winter conditions on the Eastern Front. These are recognizable by the long triangular extensions and were found on the PzKpfw III, PzKpfw IV and StuG III but could also be seen on Hummel, Hornisse and other vehicles. Ostketten were used during the mud season. This model is equipped with the Winterketten tracks.

The Kit

All parts are in the typical grey Dragon plastic and are crisply molded with the fine detail we have come to expect from this manufacturer. There are fourteen sprues, one clear parts sprue, one PE fret, one bag each for the right hand track links, left hand track links plus ice cleats. There are three "A" sprues, and two "B" and "D" sprues (see below for clarification). The gun barrel actually has rifling included. The slide mold technology has been applied to the turret, engine deck, lower hull, turret rear storage bin, and shock absorbers. Torsion bars are molded onto the hull bottom. The turret and hull hatches may all be posed open. There is limited interior detail, but the main armament includes the breach detail and guard, plus the front hull machine gun has multiple parts. Extra armor for the upper hull is also included. The road wheels are finely detailed with six through bolts molded on the interior wheel. The interior surfaces of the road wheels will need to be painted before assembly.

Instructions

The instructions are typical Dragon. There are eight fold out pages with 22 major assemblies shown plus several sub-assemblies. The sprue breakout is shown on the cover page where the unused parts are identified. The last page covers two camouflage schemes: the all-white scheme for the 1943 Leningrad Front and the panzer grey scheme for the 1942 Eastern Front.

Reviewing the instructions thoroughly before beginning the assembly is recommended due to the sometime complex and confusing construction. Several of the assembly steps offer alternative details. Good reference material is also recommended to assist in the decision on which alternate parts to be used for a specific vehicle that is being modeled.

In many of the assembly steps parts numbers are shown with either black or blue designations. Looking back at the sprue breakdown layout on the first sheet I noted that there were three "A" sprues designated with a blue "A". This was also true for the "B" and "G" sprues. This should help eliminate some confusion during the assembly process, and is a good argument for reading the instructions thoroughly. Paint colors are also suggested for several of the detail parts.

Running Gear and Tracks

two bags of dainty, individual track links, plus ice cleats are provided. There are 108 links for each side, and the links are handed. The instructions actually identify dark grey track links are the left side tracks and the light grey are the right side tracks. The instructions also show three alternatives for the ice cleats. This is the first time that I can recall seeing the color clarifications in the Dragon instructions. This is progress!

Each swing arm has a raised seam on the outer face: this is not a mold line and should not be removed 

Decals and Markings

There are decals for three vehicles, although only two are shown on the instruction sheet.

Construction

  • Lower hull - Dragon provides torsion bars for each road wheel swing arm. I dry-fitted the torsion bar with each swing arm, and when everything was fitted in place the solvent was carefully applied. The alignment for each swing arm was perfect. I question the need for the torsion bar assembly, but if the interior is to be detailed by the modeler the kit offers a great foundation for this additional work. The small crew access hatches on the lower hull sides have separate hinge parts and may be posed open if so desired. I left mine closed, but the precision and fit of the small parts was quite impressive.
  • Fenders - The fenders are superbly molded, both top and bottom surfaces are finely detailed with no ejector pin marks anywhere. In construction Steps 7 and 8 a small PE strip is added to the rear portion of each fender. The PE seemed extraordinarily thin, and when cut from the fret took a slight bow. Those PE parts were a bit tricky to set and fix in place, but with care and patience they eventually fit. Neither of mine were quite perfect, but I felt the slight misalignment would be lost in the added detail as the construction proceeded, and it was. I test-fit both fenders to the lower hull and found they would not fit. The fenders have alignment tabs near the front and rear, and the center of the fender set above the hull mounted edge. The problem lay in a vertical tab on the hull center, about mid-point. In reviewing the drawing the tab did not appear in any of the construction steps. I cut the tabs off and sanded the surface smooth to match the adjacent edge. Another test fit and the fenders fit. I never did determine the purpose for those tabs.
  • Upper hull - There are several steps to assemble the upper hull and the all parts fit well. The armored intake covers were a bit tricky to install as the mating surfaces are concealed. The solvent was applied to the underside of the hoods and the hoods were set in place. Luckily the solvent was placed correctly. Step 15 addresses the installation of the spaced armor in front of the driver and radio operator's position. This is a combination of plastic and PE parts. I elected to use the plastic sides as I never have much luck fixing a butt joint with the thin edge of a PE part against a flat surface. I did find that with part C3 in place the spaced armor would not fit. After removing part C3 the subassembly fit perfectly.
  • Turret and armament - The assembly for the commander's cupola is shown in step 16, and this subassembly is fitted to the turret in Step 21. Care is required to orient the cupola correctly so the hatch opens to the sides. The hatches join line must align front-to-rear. A very neat and tiny fume extractor is also included, but I found the cover would not fit properly with the extractor in place, and therefore I omitted the extractor. The side hatches are a rather tight fit, so care is again required to prevent the parts from pinging off into the great unknown. The turret roof is finely detailed with all the screw heads finely molded. The instructions also call for the periscopes to be installed as part of the turret assembly. I held off on the installation of the clear parts until after the painting and weathering was complete: I was concerned that masking of the upper glass would be too difficult considering the small opening in the turret. Getting the periscope in place later did prove to be a bit of a challenge, but it was doable. Next time I would leave the commander's cupola off the turret until painting was completed, install the periscopes, and then fix the cupola to the turret. Live and learn.
  • Running gear and tracks - Each return roller is comprised of three plastic and two PE parts (MA-11). The PE parts are flat rings that fit on the inside face of the inner and outer roller wheels. I was initially concerned that the PE rings would be difficult to remove from the fret without damaging the parts, but that proved not to be the case. The attachment burrs were carefully removed with a sanding stick. The rings fit perfectly in place and were permanently attached with super glue. The road wheels and return roller rubber portions have the "Continental" logo in fine, raised letters. The individual link tracks are finely molded, but there are two faint ejector pin marks on each that require attention. A few strokes of a sanding wand quickly eliminated the offending marks. The track links fit together perfectly. I normally assemble the bottom run of links, and when the solvents has firmed up, I assemble enough links to wraps around the rear idler. Once that has set up, I assemble the front and top run. I have yet to run out of links, and even with the additional links used on the front of the tank, I have plenty of spares left. The ice cleats have three optional locations, every third, fourth or fifth link. Note the instructions for the orientation of the cleats. I chose the fifth link option. Each cleat dropped into place perfectly, and a touch of solvent fixed each permanently. Once painted and weathered the track sections were carefully inserted in place and the ends fixed together with solvent. The individual link tracks do take some effort to prepare and install, but the realistic look is well worth the effort.
  • Miscellaneous details - It appears that Dragon adds more parts to the jack with each new kit! There are six parts to this jack, plus four mounting brackets. An optional lift head is also offered. The tools provided include molded-on clamps. There are two tow cables with integral clamps provided. The cable detail is quite realistic.

Finishing and Painting

Having never done an armor winter scheme before I felt it was about time. I primed the model with Rustoleum "Painters Pride" white sandable primer. The primer was allowed to dry for at least 24 hours. The application of the primer revealed a lot of the detail on the parts. The bottom of the hull has exceptional detail, and although this will all go unseen when the model is displayed, it certainly reflects Dragon's attention to detail throughout the model. I applied a blend Tamiya acrylic paints for the Panzer grey base color. A gloss finish was applied where the decal markings would be applied. After the decals were applied and sealed with a gloss coat, the winter white wash paint was applied. Weathering was done with oil paints.

The final step in the assembly is setting the turret onto the hull. The turret is placed in the opening without benefit of tabs or a keyway, and therefore is loose. Care is required when transporting the model as the turret can easily come off. A touch of glue might be in order here.

Decaling

I chose the marking for a Pz. Abt. 502, Leningrad, 1943. After a short bath in water each was removed from the backer paper and applied in place with the benefit of MicroSet. The decal film disappeared with an application of MicroSol. With proper surface preparation the Dragon decals work very well.

Conclusion

This kit is more suited to the experienced modeler: the many small parts require skill and patience for the removal, cleanup and placement, and the busy instructions with the many subassemblies may not be for the faint of heart. The molding is crisp and the detail is abundant on all exposed surfaces. Not much in the line of detail has been overlooked. The fit is mostly perfect. I am always concerned when a kit offers so many parts and subassemblies with several small parts: something is bound to go wrong down the way, but not with this kit. Parts fit like a glove, and the end result is a gem. I found only two small spots where a bit of filler was required. The instructions are complicated, but it is always recommended to carefully study each step and dry fit the parts before applying the solvent. Dragon kits often include optional parts, and therefore good references are required to determine which part is appropriate for the vehicle being modeled. I appreciate when the kit manufacturer includes plastic parts as options to the PE. There are some areas for the installation of PE parts that I may never master. It is nice to have an option.

This is an expensive kit, but the value is contained in the number of parts and detail offered to the modeler. This kit was an absolute joy to build and paint. I had no problems with the kit. I highly recommend this offering to any serious armor fan.

Thanks to Dragon USA and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to build and review this kit.

  • Instruction front page and color guide on back page
    Instruction front page and color guide on back page
  • Sub-section of  instruction sheet page
    Sub-section of instruction sheet page
  • Typical kit sprue
    Typical kit sprue
  • "Magic Track" and extras included
    "Magic Track" and extras included
  • Bottom view of lower hull
    Bottom view of lower hull
  • Top view of lower hull
    Top view of lower hull
  • Top view of finished kit
    Top view of finished kit
  • Upper side view from starboard
    Upper side view from starboard
  • Upper side view from starboard back
    Upper side view from starboard back

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