Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|Posted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 3:18 pm Post subject: DML #6631 Pzkpfw III Ausf E France 1940 Smart Kit
The Pzkpfw III Ausf E represented the first mass-produced version of the Pzkpfw III design and was armed with a 3.7cm KwK main gun along with two MG34 machine guns in the turret and a third MG34 in the hull. The production of the Ausf E overlaps with that of the Ausf F so specific production numbers are hard to come by, but the Ausf E production began in 1938 with the first accepted vehicle in December and completed by the end of 1939 while the Ausf F production began in August 1939. Ausf E and F vehicles produced in the same month share the same features and are virtually indistinguishable from each other unless you know the chassis number, making the number of “true” Ausf E’s produced somewhere in the range of 50 to 207. The major externally visible differences between the two consist of armored brake vent covers on the hull front and the installation of a turret ring splash guard on the F. Ausf E vehicles did see combat in both the 1939 Poland and 1940 France campaigns and DML (Dragon) kit #6631 is titled Pzkpfw III Ausf E France 1940 to reflect this.
The kit is packaged in the standard slip top cardboard box with the sprues packaged in clear bags, some of which contain multiple sprues per bag, so care is needed when removing them to avoid damaging some of the more delicate parts. The standard “Dragon card” is also included which has the separate bags of Magic Tracks, PE fret, decals, and clear parts sprues attached. The kit consists of over 680 parts with some of these marked as “Not for Use” arranged in the following:
• 25 sprues of light gray styrene
• 3 sprues of clear styrene
• 1 light gray styrene hull tub
• 1 turret top half
• 1 cupola base
• 1 PE brass fret (26 parts)
• 2 bags of 108 Magic Tracks links
• 2 pre-bent steel wires
• 1 decal sheet
• Instruction booklet
While the kit carries the “France 1940” designation, parts and markings are included in the kit to allow an Ausf E to be built that also served in the Poland and Greece/Balkans campaigns as well as the France 1940 campaign. The kit is a “Smart Kit” and builds on DML’s established heritage of Pzkpfw III family of kits (including the Ausf F produced as kit #6632) as well as including parts from other various existing kits and new parts specific for the Ausf E.
Suspension and Tracks:
The kit includes the early design narrow 75mm rubber road wheels, drive sprockets, idlers, etc. required to support the smaller 38cm skeleton tracks (36cm when not including the track pin) featured on early Pzkpfw IIIs. The instructions provide the option to fit a wider set of road wheels seen on later Ausf versions but those are designed for 40cm tracks and if using the kit supplied tracks you should stick with the Y sprue wheels to avoid potential complications. The kit includes the correct early style sprockets and idlers and the idlers include PE inserts for added detail for the inner surfaces. The suspension consists of the now-standard DML Pz III family approach of using torsion bars and separate swing arms and correct early-style shock absorbers for the Ausf E also provided.
The tracks provided are of the static Magic Track individual link variety and are handed and molded in dark grey for the left side and light grey for the right. While the instructions call for 98 links per side, the standard for Pz IIIs is 93 links per side and with 108 links per side provided, the kit has plenty of spares left over. Each link has small ejector pin marks on either side of the guide horn that will need to be dealt with and individual links may also have small amounts of flash requiring clean-up.
Hull and Fenders:
The hull consists of a large single piece tub with excellent molded detail on the exterior and interior portions including hull bottom detail. The instructions direct you to remove 6 small bolts from the hull underside and also require small pins to be removed from the hull sides to make it accurate for the Ausf E. The option of fitting a rear hull smoke grenade holder complete with separate grenades and PE pull chains is provided so check your references to see if it is appropriate for the vehicle you are building. PE parts are included for the hull front mud flap rests for added detail.
The fender layout is correct for a factory-standard Ausf E and the fenders require minor alterations in the form of various holes opened up here and there to accept the tools and equipment. Small sections at the rear of the fenders must be removed to be accurate for an E and this is called out in the instructions. The tools include molded on clamps with hollow handles although the handles are not in-scale thickness on some tools and could use a little thinning for a better appearance. Options are also provided for the rear fender flaps that include use of PE parts as the mini fender extensions when the flaps were raised. The fender fire extinguisher holder is provided only as a PE part that mounts directly to the fender.
The upper hull assembles in a modular fashion with the fighting compartment composed of a base frame and panels added to the sides and front. The driver’s front plate features the clam shell type shutters that can be carefully posed open or closed and the option of a PE or styrene rain shield. A small jig is provided on the back of the V sprue to help bend/form the PE shield into the correct shape. The hull MG34 provided is unarmored and correct for this Ausf with the muzzle molded hollow and has nice perforation detail on the cooling jacket. Some Ausf Es didn’t have a view port on the radio operator’s side of the hull and the kit provides the option of a side plate with or without the visor present. Both the radio operator’s and driver’s side visors can be posed open and the driver’s side visor comes with a clear insert for the armored glass. The superstructure roof does require some slight surgical modification to remove four mount posts intended to mount the turret ring splash guard since this part was designed for the Ausf F feature present.
The front access hatches have excellent detail on both top and bottom surfaces, a nice touch if you decide to add an interior and want to show it off through the hatches. Pre-bent steel wires are provided to create the electrical wiring conduit to the main headlights. The rear deck includes PE grills for the side air intakes the option to install the tow cable holders empty as separate parts or integrated with the tow cables as a single piece. Several holes must be opened up on the underside of the rear deck to allow the tow cable mounts to be installed.
The turret comes as a one-piece half with a separate base and front plate. The turret roof requires that some molded-on slot screws be puttied over as the molded design is from the Ausf F kit. This will require some nerves of steel and/or a good magnifier to aid in the process as some of the unneeded screws are tiny and close together to screws that need to stay. Of course the option is always there to just leave them as-is if you don’t care about that particular accuracy element. The 3.7cm gun assembly includes a detailed breech, recoil guards, and spent shell basket to fill up the turret interior. No other interior detail is provided aside from the commander’s seat. The kit provides two standard infantry-style MG34s that have the stock molded on for the twin guns mounted next to the main gun and surgery is required to remove the stocks along with the molded on upright sights. This is somewhat of a strange approach given that DML provided an MG34 sprue for the hull that didn’t require this surgery. The MG mounts are quite detailed and mount separately in their own mantlet from the main gun just like on the real vehicle.
The commander’s cupola is taken from the Pzkpfw IV “Super Kit” line and is very nicely detailed with interior and exterior details. Options are provided to pose the armored shutters in either open or closed positions and clear glass inserts provided for added detail. The turret side vision ports also include clear parts and may be posed open or closed. Last but not least, the turret side hatches include clear parts for the armored view ports and may also be posed open or closed.
Instructions and Finishing Guide
The kit instructions follow the standard DML mode of fold-out black and white exploded diagrams and sub-diagrams and consists of 19 steps for full assembly. The decal markings are printed by Cartograf and are clear and in-register. The Painting and Markings guide provides for the following 7 possibilities:
• 1 PzDiv, France 1940, two-tone gray/brown scheme
• 5 PzDiv, Greece 1941, overall panzer gray scheme
• PzRgt 36, 4 PzDiv, France 1940, two-tone gray/brown scheme
• Unidentified Unit, Poland 1939, two-tone gray/brown scheme
• #332, Unidentified Unit, France 1940, two-tone gray/brown scheme
• #132, Unidentified Unit, France 1940, two-tone gray/brown scheme
• II/PzRgt1, 1 PzDiv, France 1940, two-tone gray/brown scheme
Overall the kit is up to the usual DML standard we’ve come to expect from their Smart Kit line of Pzkpfw III vehicles. The molding of the kit parts is excellent and highly detailed. The kit markings provided focus heavily on vehicles serving in France 1940 and it’s nice to see DML including the two-tone authorized scheme in the Finishing Guides (straight Panzer Gray wasn’t ordered until July 1940). The surgery requirements for the turret MGs is a little disappointing but not a deal breaker for modelers with decent skills and abilities. Highly recommended for the early-war Pz III enthusiast.