Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:49 pm Post subject: DML #6431 Pzkpfw III Ausf N sPzAbt 501 Afrika
The Pz.Kpfw. III underwent many changes and evolutions during its service and the final variant, the Ausf. N., ultimately took the design as far as it could go. Due to the limitations of its turret ring, the Pz.Kpfw. III could not be up-gunned to accept the long-barrel 7.5cm guns being fitted to the Pz.Kpfw. IV but it could still take the short-barreled KwK 37 L/24 7.5cm gun now in large supply due to it being phased out of the Pz. IV production. The Ausf N. was not a true production variant in the sense that they were actually the result of conversions of existing Pz. IIIs with a total of 3 Ausf. Js, 447 Ausf. Ls, and 213 Ausf. Ms converted into Ausf. Ns. In addition to serving with regular Panzer Divisions, the Ausf. Ms were assigned to the s.Pz.Abt. Tiger units and the subject of this DML (Dragon) kit #6431 deals with those specifically assigned to s.Pz.Abt. 501 and saw service in Tunisia in 1942-43.
The kit comes in the standard open-top cardboard box with the sprues in individual sealed bags. The kit consists of over 750 parts and includes the following:
• 21 sprues molded in gray styrene
• 1 sprue molded in clear styrene
• 2 frets of photo-etched brass
• 1 separate lower hull tub
• 1 separate turret top
• 2 bags each of 108 handed 40cm “Magic” open-horn track links
Decals are provided by Cartograf and the marking options include 4 vehicles (07, 124, 242, 832) serving with the s.Pz.Abt. 501 in Tunisia 1942-43 and all are in Sandgelb finish. The instructions consist of 22 exploded-diagram style assembly steps with sub-assembly call-out boxes as needed.
This kit, released as a Cyber-Hobby “Green Box” in the US and as a standard Dragon release abroad, continues the “Smart Kit” trend of Pz. III family releases. Many of the parts included in this release draw on previous kit parts with sprues coming from the StuG III Ausf. G, Pz.kpfw. III Ausf. J, and Pz.kpfw. IV Ausf. G Smart Kits as well as the earlier IV Ausf. E “Super Kit”. As a result, there are many parts marked as “not for use” on the Instruction booklet and several sprues sharing the same name, so care is required throughout to make sure you’re working with the correct parts.
Starting with the lower hull, the tub provided has excellent detail on all surfaces and inherits the suspension and road wheels from the previous StuG/Pz. III releases. The road wheels accurately represent the tubular reinforcements on the road wheels and they, along with the return rollers, have the tire details and “Continentau” molded in place. The idlers include PE inserts for greater detail and the hull tub interior also includes torsion bars and details for those inclined to work with the interior. For the rear hull, the exhaust layout and configuration is that of an Ausf. J/L and not an M, so the characteristic deep-wading exhaust common to the N and often associated with the M is not included in this kit, limiting the options to building it as a converted J/L only. PE mesh screens are provided for the rear air vents and care is needed in handling them as the sheet is very thin and flexible.
The fender details include tread patterns on both the upper and lower surfaces with locater holes, pins, etc. in place for mounting the various gear and tools. All of the pioneer tools include molded-on clasps complete with open square handles, now a common feature on DML/CH kits. The rear mud flaps include the option of mounting PE extensions as well depending on vehicle you’re modeling. The antenna trough on the right fender is molded in three pieces and includes finely molded wood-grain detail.
The rear engine deck provides the option of mounting the integrated styrene tow-cables and mount hooks as one-piece installations or the mounting of just the brackets themselves without the cables. Many may choose to go the open-bracket route in order to add metal cables here in place of the kit parts depending on preference. The kit parts are particularly well molded with most of the nodes located on the clamps but there are still a couple of attachment points to the cables themselves that, even with the most careful clean-up, will still likely damage the cable pattern during the removal process.
The front hull and glacis include the layouts common to the J/L and feature the two automotive-style headlamps and supplemental Notek light with the option to build them with the black-out covers or with clear styrene for the glass. The MG-34 is the now-familiar multi-part assembly with interior details and includes a hollowed-out muzzle. The driver’s visor includes a clear styrene vision block and the ball-mount kugelblende has two options, one with a weld seam and one without. Both the driver’s and radio operator’s side vision ports can be posed in the open or closed positions and include clear styrene armored glass inserts and gray styrene mount frames. Additional armor plates are provided for the spaced hull-front armor introduced with the J/L and are a combination of styrene and PE parts. The upper hull itself is constructed from multiple assemblies to maximize detail on the weld beads and surface details.
The main armament of the KwK 37 L/24 consists of the same parts as used on the Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf E and prior kits with the mantle configured with the single vision port for the gunner and the coaxial MG34. The MG34 armored sleeve is presented as an option with the MG34 molded in or hollow to allow for the use of an AM replacement MG34 barrel if desired. Options are also provided for the end-cap of the recoil sleeve as would be found on different Pz. IV vehicles, imitating the different possibilities depending on the original donor vehicle’s configuration. A fully detailed breech complete with separate breech block, recoil cylinder housings, crew guards, and spent shell basket is provided.
The turret itself is finely detailed with weld seams and recessed screw heads represented on all surfaces. Interior details however are sparse with only the aforementioned gun details, a commander’s seat, and the fume extraction fan provided in addition to the details on the crew hatches. The split crew hatches include clear styrene armored glass block inserts and have finely molded details on both interior and exterior surfaces with no pin marks present. The lower turret half represents the turret ring detail as well with the whole turret designed to friction fit into the lower hull. The rear turret stowage box has the correct asymmetrical design and smoke grenade launchers are included for the turret front. The commander’s cupola consists of the familiar multi-part assembly utilizing clear styrene parts for the armored vision blocks and the option is provided to pose the exterior visors in the open or closed position. The commander’s hatch is the split type seen on the J/L vs. the one-piece introduced with the M and has accurate details on both interior and exterior surfaces.
Rounding out the details, the kit also includes optional PE and styrene parts to construct jerry can racks for both the turret roof and the hull rear as commonly seen on vehicles serving in N. Africa. Parts are included for 12 jerry cans that include the separate PE inserts to accurately represent the middle rib. The rear rack includes a wood base with finely molded wood grain detail. Only 2 of the vehicles in the finishing guide show both racks fitted, 242 and 832, so it’s possible to get some extras for the spares box in the bargain. The kit does not include schurzen for either the hull or turret as those were fitted only to the Ms that were subsequently converted to Ns. Last but not least, included with the comment that they are “Free Layout” are two small boxes and a pair of pickaxes that could presumably be mounted wherever you chose or reference photos supported for their placement. The two pickaxes do not have any clamps molded on them, making placement options truly up to the imagination to determine.
Overall a very well produced kit up to the standards we’ve come to expect from DML/Cyber-hobby. The kit will build up to accurately represent a converted Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf J or Ausf L to the Ausf N variant and the kit supplied markings limit it even further to those vehicles that saw service with the s.Pz.Abt. 501 in N. Africa, so this is more of a niche release as a result unless you resort to additional after-market modifications or kit-bash with the older Imperial Series kits. Even with that factored into the equation, the kit is highly recommended for those looking to add one of these vehicles to their collection. Thanks to my credit card and lovely spouse for the review sample.
A Build Log is available via the Forums to evaluate parts fit and assembly.