Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:26 pm Post subject: DML #6606 Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. N w/Winterketten s.Pz.Abt. 502
The final variant of the Pzkpfw III, the Ausf 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 the changing battlefield conditions. The concept of the Ausf N arose due to the fact that the German Army had a surplus of 450 KwK 34 L/24 7.5cm guns that had already been built but which were no longer being fitted to the Pzkpfw IV due to it being upgraded to the more powerful KwK 40 L/43 7.5cm gun. Modifications were made to the active Pzkpfw III production run to accommodate this and the vast majority of the 614 Ausf N's produced had Ausf L features as a result. DML (Dragon) kit # 6606 seeks to replicate one of the earlier produced Ausf Ns on an L chassis in service with the sPzAbt 502 around Leningrad in 1943 as a Smart Kit release.
The kit comes in the standard open-top cardboard box with the sprues packaged with multiples sprues per sealed bag. The kit consists of over 660 parts and includes the following:
• 15 sprues molded in gray styrene
• 2 sprues molded in clear styrene
• 1 fret of photo-etched brass
• 1 separate lower hull tub
• 1 separate turret top
• 2 bags each of 108 handed 40cm “Magic” solid-horn Winterketten track links
• 1 bag of 72 ice sprag cleat inserts for the tracks
• 1 decal sheet
• 1 instruction booklet
This kit represents the third Smart Kit Pzkpfw III Ausf N release by DML with the first being kit # 6431 Pzkpfw III Ausf N sPzAbt 501 Afrika and the second kit #6474 Pzkpfw III Ausf N with Schurzen. Since this release is based off the L chassis, it utilizes virtually all of the same sprues from kit #6431 with the key differences being the inclusion of the Winterketten “Magic” tracks and ice sprag cleats to produce a winter-specific vehicle and of course the elimination of the desert-themed parts for that release. There aren’t any new sprues for this kit with all of them coming from earlier Pz III/StuG III Smart Kit releases and Pzkpfw IV Smart Kit for the main gun armament. The lower hull tub is now of the early L type with the escape hatches present, a feature that started to be eliminated in June 1942 but wasn’t fully phased out until October 1942 in production, while the suspension remains unchanged from the excellent design provided in the previous Smart Kit releases.
The fenders have the standard L layout and parts are provided in clear or regular styrene for the marker lights however this feature along with the horn was dropped from L production in June 1942, the first month that N production began, and while the instruction diagram in Step 7 shows mount holes for these to be fitted they aren’t actually present on the fenders provided and appear to be a legacy item from earlier Pz III J kits carried over to this one. The kit does include the horn as part A52 but this is marked as not for use and the instructions don’t show it or the marker light being installed on the right fender. Compounding the confusion, the box art and the finishing guide diagrams do show these features installed…but again, the fenders provided don’t actually allow for it without some scratch-building/modifications made by the builder and only the very first few N's in June might have had this to begin with, so it’s up to the builder to decide how big an issue this really is in the grand scheme of things.
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. 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.
Additional armor plates are provided for the spaced hull-front armor introduced with the J/L and continued with the N. 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 details and two styles of track retainer fitted between the brake vent housings are also provided for your choice. 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 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. Options are also presented to use either the blackout covers or clear styrene insert parts for the main headlights for additional choice/detail. An option is also provided to install the bullet splash guard for the turret ring, a feature no longer needed due to the Vorpanzer armor fitted to the front hull and gradually phased out by October 1942 in the L production run.
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 however it’s worth noting that this feature wasn’t introduced until September 1942, so DML also provides the option of fitting just the standard lifting hooks here as well. The commander’s cupola uses the now familiar multi-part assembly with 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 instructions consist of 22 exploded-diagram style assembly steps with sub-assembly call-out boxes as needed. Rounding things out in the decal department, a small sheet is provided by Cartograf and the marking options include the following 2 options:
• s.Pz.Abt. 502, Leningrad 1943 in whitewash
• s.Pz.Abt. 503, Eastern Front 1942 in panzer gray
Considering that the kit is billed as a specific sPzAbt 502 vehicle, the inclusion of the sPzAbt 503 option is an interesting one and no doubt aimed at broadening the appeal slightly for this particular kit.
Clearly this kit is designed to be a companion offering to the kit #6600 Tiger I Initial Production sPzAbt 502 release and it will fill that role admirably. This kit will build up to accurately represent an early version Ausf N variant built on the Ausf L hull in the June-October 1942 timeframe despite the hiccup on the fender lights/horn configuration and has plenty of options to provide additional flexibility depending on the specific vehicle you might wish to model. The inclusion of the Winterketten Magic tracks is a first and provides further interest but does limit this to a winter setting only and of course the limited decal markings restrict that even further unless you resort to aftermarket tracks and/or markings.
A Build Log is available to evaluate part fit and assembly.