Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:24 pm Post subject: DML #6632 Pzkpfw III Ausf F Smart Kit
The Pzkpfw III Ausf F represented the second mass-produced version of the Pzkpfw III design and was initially 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 F overlaps with that of the Ausf E and the Ausf G so specific production numbers are hard to come by. The Ausf F 3.7cm-armed version production run began in August 1939 and ended in July 1940 with an estimated 250+ total produced before production switched to the 5.0cm-armed version. Differences between the Ausf E and F are small with the major externally visible differences consisting of armored brake vent covers on the hull front and the installation of a turret ring splash guard. Ausf F vehicle production ran until April-May 1941 and F’s saw combat in France, the Balkans, North Africa, and in the early stages of Barbarossa in both the 3.7cm and 5.0cm-armed variants. DML (Dragon) kit #6632 is titled Pzkpfw III Ausf F Smart Kit and seeks to represent one of the 3.7cm-armed vehicles in the series.
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, pre-bent wires, 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:
• 21 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
DML released this kit before they released their kit #6631 of the Ausf E and there are key features that are different between the two kits. This kit does not include the earlier style “narrow” 75mm rubber road wheels or the option of excluding the radio operator’s side vision port, and has markings for vehicles all serving in the 1941 timeframe only. Aside from that, all of the parts provided are exactly the same as what is in the Ausf E kit.
Suspension and Tracks:
The kit includes the wider 90mm 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. This feature was introduced in May 1940 due to excessive wear on the narrower wheels and limits the accuracy timeline of this kit to vehicles produced in the May-July 1940 timeframe, although vehicles were seen with a mix of the wider and narrower wheels initially, so there is some technical wiggle room here. 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 F 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 F. The rear hull smoke grenade holder comes complete with separate grenades and PE pull chains. PE parts are included for the hull front mud flap rests for added detail.
The fender layout is correct for a factory-standard Ausf F 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 F and this is called out in the instructions. The option is provided in the instructions to install either the round brake light or the rear Notek convoy light on the left fender however this was a feature introduced in March 1940 to the production run. Given the wider style road wheels and the 1941 markings options provided, the Notek fender option is the most correct for accuracy’s sake. 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. 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 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 four of the small molded-on slot screws be puttied over to create the correct arrangement for an Ausf F. This will require some nerves of steel and/or a good magnifier to aid in the process as two 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 and which wasn’t created specifically for the kit. Surgery aside, 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 3 possibilities:
• PzRgt 3, 2 PzDiv, Greece 1941 overall panzer gray
• 1 PzDiv, Russia 1941 overall panzer gray
• 14 PzDiv, Eastern Front 1941 overall panzer gray
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 lack of the earlier style road wheels limits the range of application for this kit and the limited decal markings are a reflection of that fact. The surgery requirement for the turret MGs is a little disappointing but not a deal breaker for modelers with decent skills and abilities. Recommended for the modeler looking to build a 3.7cm-armed Ausf F serving in the 1941 campaigns.