Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|Posted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:54 pm Post subject: DML #6394 Pzkpfw III Ausf J 2-in-1 Smart Kit
The Pzkpfw III Ausf J production run spanned the period of March 1941 to March 1942 and included vehicles armed with both the short barrel 5.0cm L/42 and the long barrel L/60 weapons. L/60 production began in December 1941 and was officially renamed the Ausf L in April 1942, technically making all previous L/60 Js now Ls after that date. Total production of the Ausf J reached approximately 823 vehicles, making it one of the largest batches of Pzkpfw IIIs produced during the war with many changes occurring during that production period. DML (Dragon) kit #6394 carries the full title of Pzkpfw III Ausf J 2-in-1 Smart Kit and attempts to provide the builder with the ability to build either a short barrel L/42 or long barrel L/60 in the same box.
The kit is packaged in the standard slip top cardboard box with the sprues packaged in clear bags, one sprue per bag unlike newer kits that often have multiple sprues per bag. The standard “Dragon card” is also included in its own plastic sleeve which has the separate bag of Magic Tracks, PE fret, decals, one clear parts sprue, and two gray sprues attached. The kit consists of over 690 parts with some of these marked as “Not for Use” arranged in the following:
• 13 sprues of light gray styrene
• 2 sprues of clear styrene
• 1 light gray styrene hull tub
• 1 turret top half
• 1 PE brass fret (28 parts)
• 2 bags each of 108 Magic Tracks links
• 1 decal sheet
• Instruction booklet
• “Inside Story” pamphlet
The 2-in-1 designation does not mean that two models can be built with the contents of the one box but rather that the modeler can choose one of two main options to complete a single vehicle. There are actually multiple options to choose from that can create more than just 2 variations in the kit and I will explain those in the following sections where relevant. For broad purposes the 2 options are whether or not to build an Ausf J with the short barrel L/42 or the long barrel L/60 within the production time period of December 1941-March 1942 when both were produced simultaneously with each other. If you are interested in building a short barrel L/42 Ausf J produced earlier in the production run, please see my review of DML kit #6463.
Suspension and Tracks:
The kit suspension follows the now-familiar DML Pz III family approach of using the sprues originally created for the StuG III G and includes torsion bars connected to the swing arms. The road wheels include excellent hub, rubber rim, and lettering detail. PE parts are included for the idler wheels to accurately represent their inner rim details. The idler mounts are of the fixed type design and are not adjustable for track tensioning or sag purposes.
The tracks provided are of the static Magic Track individual link variety and are handed and molded in different shades of grey to distinguish one side from the other. The 40cm tracks include the design changes introduced in 1941 to allow ice sprags to be fitted and have hollow guide horns. While the instructions call for 98 links per side, the standard for Pz IIIs is 93 links per side and with 216 links provided, the kit has plenty of spares left over, some of which are needed for the spare track runs mounted to the vehicle front since those holders were added in November 1941. The kit provides two different styles of holder, either of which is appropriate, for the short run on the glacis. 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 for various access hatches and ports. The rear hull underside includes the air exhaust deflector ordered as a production add-on in August 1941 as a three part styrene assembly and PE screens for the vents. The hull also features the front extension towing eyes introduced on the Ausf J as separate parts that are integrated into the final drive housing mount bases.
The fender layout is correct for a factory-standard Ausf J and the fenders have tread plate detail on both top and bottom surfaces. Options are provided for the small width indicator lights of styrene lights with blackout covers or clear lights without the covers fitted. 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. The kit-supplied fender fire extinguisher is the Tetra type first ordered installed in January 1942 so that technically limits the production run option by a further month but is a minor detail discrepancy in my opinion. The kit indicates the option of fitting the two spare road wheels to the left side fender but these should be installed regardless for accuracy’s sake as they were ordered as standard on all Pzkpfw IIIs beginning in August 1941. 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 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 includes clear parts for the armored glass insert and the hull MG34 provided has the armored sleeve feature and hollow muzzle. The kit includes two different styles of round kugelblende 50 MG mounts, B3 and G31, but only G31 is accurate for this kit as it has the dust cover ring standard feature that was added in June 1941. The side vision ports can be posed open or closed and also include clear armored glass parts for the driver’s side port.
The front access single piece hatches that first appeared with the Ausf J variant 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. The front headlights include the option of adding clear styrene lenses or standard blackout covers. The rear deck features the single-piece access hatch design modification added in December 1941 along with the standardized armored vent openings originally used only on Tropen-designated vehicles beginning in February 1941 but made standard for all vehicles regardless in December 1941. PE grills for the side air intakes are provided and the option included to install the tow cable holders empty as separate parts or integrated with the tow cables as two pieces.
The kit includes the option to install the spaced armor or Vorpanzer features to the turret front and hull front. Due to supply issues, Vorpanzer was added on an irregular schedule to the Ausf J production run with variations including some with only hull spaced armor appearing in November 1941 and those with both hull and turret armor appearing consistently later starting in March 1942. Adding further variation to the mix, some were also shipped with only the support frames installed for the turret armor and the plates added later in the field when available. This opens up several different possibilities for the modeler as Vorpanzer can be fitted to either the short barrel L/42 or L/60 versions in a variety of different mix-and-match combinations as you prefer.
The kit provides different upper hull superstructure roof parts depending on whether Vorpanzer is fitted or not and the hull glacis plate has two holes that must be drilled out to accept the Vorpanzer base support plate if you go this route. The top cover plate is provided only in PE while the option for the side gap plates is provided in both styrene or PE. For the turret Vorpanzer options, a different recoil housing for the main gun is provided and the option of either PE or styrene side gap plates included. The turret frame supports show the bolt impressions/holes that would be visible when the plate isn’t present, a nice touch if you decide to show the frames in place without the external plate installed.
The turret comes as a one-piece half with a separate base and front plate. The 5.0cm 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 and no provision is made for the canvas exterior dust covers commonly used in North Africa if you decide to build a vehicle for that theater. Clear parts are also provided for the mantlet vision ports but test fitting first is recommended if you decide to attempt posing one or both of those ports open to be sure they won’t interfere with the port hinge mechanism. The option is also provided to mount the coaxial MG sleeve with the MG included or empty.
The commander’s cupola is very nicely detailed and includes 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. A rear turret stowage bin is included in the kit and is very finely detailed.
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 23 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 8 possibilities:
• 5/PzRgt 24, 24 PzDiv., Stalingrad 1942 overall gray (L/60 vehicle, no vorpanzer)
• 1/3 PzGrenDiv, Stalingrad 1942 overall whitewash (L/60 vehicle, vorpanzer)
• 2/PzRgt 18, 18 PzDiv, Russia 1942 overall dunkelgelb (L/42 vehicle, vorpanzer)
• 23 PzDiv, Eastern Front 1942 overall dunkelgelb (L/42 vehicle, no vorpanzer)
• 5/PzRgt 1, PzGrenDiv “LAH”, Kharkov 1943 overall whitewash (L/42 vehicle, no vorpanzer)
• 3/PzRgt 7, 10 PzDiv, Tunisia 1943 sand brown (L/60 vehicle, vorpanzer)
• 1/PzRgt 5, PzGrenDiv “Wiking”, Russia 1943 overall gray (L/60 vehicle, no vorpanzer)
• 3/PzRgt 8, 15 PzDiv, Tobruk 1942 sand brown (L/60 vehicle, vorpanzer)
Note: Some of the kit recommended finishes are suspect considering that overall dunkelgelb was not ordered until February 1943 and two-tone Tropen schemes were the norm for vehicles in North Africa with two different Tropen schemes authorized, one (2/3 RAL 8000, 1/3 RAL 7008) from March 1941-March 1942, the other (2/3 RAL 8020, 1/3 RAL 7027) from March 1942 to February 1943 when dunkelgelb was standardized. Builders interested in accuracy are encouraged to check references for their chosen vehicle before committing to a particular paint scheme and markings option.
Overall the kit is very nicely detailed and features production design changes appropriate for Ausf Js produced between the December 1941 and March 1942 timeframes. As a 2-in-1 kit, there is added value to the builder interested in having some choices in terms of which type of Ausf J to build and the ability to add or not add Vorpanzer ups that value tremendously. The decal options provide some range as well depending on your choice. Highly recommended.