Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:10 pm Post subject: DML #6474 Sdkfz 141/2 Pzkpfw III Ausf N w/ Schurzen
The final variant of the Pz.Kpfw. III, the Ausführung N, was produced from July 1942 through May 1943, and represented the culmination of how far the design could be taken in terms of upgrading the platform in light of changing battlefield conditions. The concept of the Ausf. N arose because the German Army had a surplus of 450 KwK 34 L/24 7.5cm guns that had already been manufactured, but which were no longer being fitted onto the Pz.Kpfw. IV due to its upgrading to the more powerful KwK 40 L/43 7.5cm cannon. Modifications were made to the active Pz.Kpfw. III production run to accommodate this larger caliber gun, including a revised mantlet and turret opening. The vast majority of the 614 Ausf. Ns produced utilized Ausf. L chassis, but a decision was made in November 1942 to halt the ongoing Ausf M production and finish off the remaining ordered vehicles as Ausf. Ns instead. While exact numbers of Ausf. Ns finished on the Ausf. M chassis are difficult to pin down, over 200 were produced and saw service before production of all Pz.Kpfw. IIIs ended once and for all in May 1943. DML (Dragon) kit # 6474 seeks to replicate one of these later-produced Ausf. Ns on an M chassis as a Smart Kit release.
The kit comes in the standard open-top cardboard box with the sprues packaged together in multiples per sealed bag, and consists of over 700 parts including:
• 19 sprues molded in gray styrene
• 2 sprues molded in clear styrene
• 1 fret of photo-etched brass
• 2 stamped metal Schürzen sheets
• 1 separate lower hull tub
• 1 separate turret top
• 2 bags each of 108 handed 40cm “Magic” open-horn track links
• 1 decal sheet
• 1 instruction booklet
This kit represents the second Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. N Smart Kit release by DML with the first being kit # 6431, the Pzkpfw III Ausf. N sPA 501 Afrika. This release utilizes many of the same sprues from that kit, but also adds quite a bit that’s new. Whereas the previous release created an Ausf. N built on an Ausf. L chassis, the current kit includes features for one built on the Ausf. M. Sprues are included from the earlier Pz. III/StuG III releases, as well as new sprues marked Ausf. M/N specifically for this model, along with sprues borrowed from the Pz.Kpfw. IV H Smart Kit.
The lower hull and suspension remain unchanged from the excellent design provided in the previous Smart Kit releases, and the tub provided has outstanding detail on all surfaces, as well as inheriting the suspension and road wheels from the previous StuG/Pz. IIIs. The road wheels accurately represent the tubular reinforcements on the actual vehicle, 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 detailing. Where the lower hull has been changed is at the rear where the characteristic Ausf. M deep wading muffler and air exhaust vent sealed covers are now provided. Options allow different styles of mounting, so check your references to see which is right for your build. The vent covers are designed to be positioned in the fully-open position, and have excellent detail on both the interior and exterior surfaces. With a little modification, the covers could be closed if you choose to, but the instructions don’t offer any guidance here.
The fenders have been replaced with all-new ones to accommodate the changes in the layout suitable for the Ausf. M, including the signature Bosch-style headlights at the front, and also the fitting of the side skirts or Schürzen. The fenders already have the small lower hooks for the Schürzen plates molded in-place, so if you choose to not fit the plates and rails, some surgery will be needed to remove these particular details. All of the pioneer tools include molded-on clasps complete with open square handles, although they are a little on the thick side, and some holes will need to be opened-up from the fender underside to fit these various items. Two options of gun cleaning rods are provided with different style holders, and which holes you open up and on which fender depend largely on whether or not you use the hull Schürzen mounts or leave them off.
The rear mud flaps include the option of mounting PE or styrene extensions if you want to pose the mud flap in the “up” position, and the option is also included to fit the early square-type Notek convoy light or the later tubular-style convoy light. If you choose the older style Notek, you will need to fit the square-cutout mud flap found on sprue A and marked as “not for use” on the instruction sheet in place of the round cutout part called for.
The Schürzen mounting rails are provided as single pieces with additional supports along the hull side to install them. The hull has small notches molded in-place to insure proper placement of the rail supports on both sides of the hull, a nice touch since their placement has to be very exact in order to insure alignment, not just with the rail support, but also with the molded-on hooks on the fenders themselves. The instructions indicate you have the option to assemble either with or without the Schürzen, and if you choose the “without” option, parts are provided to plug these small notches thereby avoiding the need to putty and fill them yourself. The Schürzen plates themselves are provided in metal for scale thinness, and are stamp-cut instead of the usual photo-etched format modelers are accustomed to. Care will be needed in removing them from their metal frames to avoid bending them, and you may also need to flatten them a bit. My set had a slight concave look to them, which may go away once released from their frames.
The rear engine deck provides the option of mounting the integrated styrene tow-cables and mount hooks as one-piece installations, or mounting just the brackets themselves without the cables. 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 Ausf. M and feature the hinges for the transmission/brake hatches positioned on the inside vs. the outside of the hull. The MG-34 is the now-familiar multi-part assembly with interior details and includes a hollowed-out muzzle. The instructions provide an option for the superstructure front plate that allows for the driver’s twin periscope to be installed or not. This periscope was dropped in February 1943, and conical plugs were used to seal those holes in the plate, something the instructions have you replicate by simply filling-in the open holes with putty. Since Schürzen weren’t fitted until May 1943, the likelihood is very high that a vehicle with them would also have the conical plugs installed, but check your references. The driver’s visor includes a clear styrene vision block, and both the driver’s and radio operator’s side vision ports can be posed in the open or closed positions. They also 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 variants and continued with the M. The N had the spaced armor only on the lower hull and not the turret, and the hull plates provide the option of using either styrene or PE side covers for the gap between the spaced plate and the hull plate. The upper hull itself is constructed from multiple assemblies to maximize detail on the weld beads and surface detailing, and two styles of the track retainer fitted between the brake vent housings are also provided for your choice.
The Pz. III’s main armament, the KwK 37 L/24, consists of the same parts used on the Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. E and prior kits, this time with the mantle configured with a 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 that depended 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, along with detailing 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, including no pin marks. 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 is the later style with the single piece commander’s hatch introduced in March 1943, and is taken in its entirety from the recently-released Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. H Smart Kit. It uses the now familiar multi-part assembly with clear styrene parts for the armored vision blocks, and an option is provided for posing the exterior visors in the “open” or “closed” position. You can also fit the turret-mounted smoke dischargers or only the lifting hooks, depending on the timeframe and the vehicle you are modeling.
The turret Schürzen are provided as all-styrene parts (vs. the metal parts for the hull plates), and the rear Schürzen section is in one piece for added convenience. There is an option for fixing the crew hatch openings in either the “open” or “closed” positions thanks to different parts used depending on your choice. As with the hull, small notches are molded in-place to handle the support mounts, thus insuring accurate placement. Unlike the hull, parts aren’t provided to plug these notches if you elect not to mount the Schürzen at all. Photos do exist of Ns with only the turret Schürzen fitted, so it’s possible to mix and match with this kit depending on the specific vehicle you’re looking to model and still remain accurate.
The instructions consist of 25 exploded diagram-style assembly steps with sub-assembly call-out boxes as needed. A small decal sheet from Cartograf rounds things out, with the marking options including the following vehicles:
• 2.Pz.Div. Kursk, 1943
• 6.Pz.Div. Kursk, 1943
• 18.Pz.Div. Kursk, 1943
• Pz.Brig. Norwegen, Norway, 1945
• Pz.Abt.212 Western Front, 1944
Only the last vehicle is shown without the side Schürzen fitted, but it has the rails in place, so again a careful check of your references is a good recommendation before committing one way or the other.
This kit will build up to accurately represent a later version Ausf. N variant constructed on the Ausf. M hull, and has plenty of options for additional flexibility depending on the specific vehicle you might wish to model. Some of the features, such as the commander’s cupola with the one-piece hatch, restrict the timeframe slightly, but all of the markings options provided are for Kursk 1943 or later, so all the bases are covered there. Highly-recommended for those looking to add one of these vehicles to their collection.