Panzer III Ausf M with Wading Muffler
This is a multimedia kit comprised of 650+ styrene parts on 17 sprues, magic tracks, one braided metal wire (which is very stiff even after annealing), one photo-etched fret, decals, and the set of instructions that need to be reviewed very carefully before gluing any parts together.
Most Dragon models today are a collection of old sprues with new sprues added to create a new kit variant. In this case, Dragon has done so and you will have some sprues with the same letter but are called out by the color or upper or lower case (see Sprues Black G, Blue G and Black g).
Step 1. This step is the assembly of the idler wheel, drive sprockets, road wheels, and return wheels. There are no problems here other than the removal of the mold line which is noticeable on the road wheels.
Step 2. This step is the chassis build. There are 4 mold stubs on the top of the chassis tub that need to be removed. If you don’t remove these stubs the fenders will not fit.
Step3. In this step, you will insert the torsion bar suspension. Be careful not to mix A1 and A2 torsion bars, as they are specifically for one side. Also, the torsion bar retainers are mostly part A4, except for one at the front end driver’s side and that retainer is B18. You should also glue part D11 front armor plate to the chassis before gluing parts B13 and B14.
Step 4. This step is the detailing of the rear plate. You will need to choose which of the two wading mufflers you want to install. There is not much difference between the two. When gluing the tow pintles in, dry fit and determine which part goes on which side. I believe that B24 and B26 should reverse sides.
Step 5. This step adds the running gear to the hull chassis. No choices here. I left them off at this time for ease of painting.
Steps 6 & 7. These steps attach the rear panel that has the wading muffler that was attached in Step 4. The rear spacers have two tabs each that need to be removed before attaching the panel.
Step 8. This step adds the watertight hatches to the bottom of the rear panel. They can be shown in the closed position with a little work.
Step 9. This step adds most of the on-vehicle tools and support brackets to the right fender. It asks you to drill 4 holes in the fender G11, but I could only find materials to go into the bottom 2 holes. As with all Dragon instructions, read carefully and look several steps ahead to make sure you are getting everything in its proper place. The photo-etched part MA17 needs to be glued in at this time as, after you attach the fender, you can’t get this part in. The shovel shows the front pin (under the blade) going to the wrong placement hole. The pin from the rear clasp should go to the hole the front pin is pointing to. There is no hole for the pin of the axe blade to drop into. Either drill a hole, or just cut the pin off and be careful in your placement of the axe. A subassembly to the fender is the addition of the rear and front fender extension and the locking clamp. Make sure you add the locking clamps A26 and A23 before attaching the fender to the body.
Step 10. This step adds the on-vehicle tools and support brackets for the left fender. In this step, you will need to make a few choices: the style of jack base, type of rear fender flap, and style of rear tail light. The photo-etched part MA16 needs to be glued in at this time as, after you attach the fender, you can’t get this part in. The instructions show the fire extinguisher at an angle; however, it needs to be parallel to the fender edges so the jack can fit into its place. The wooden jack block is shown to be added here. You probably need to leave it off the model until close to the end so you can paint the two tow shackles that are stowed beneath it.
Steps 11 & 12. These two steps add the rear deck covers and hatches and the hatches to the front deck. There is one choice to be made between showing the tow cables in place or not.
Step 13. This step builds the hull-mounted machine gun. You will need to make a choice between three different styles of front panel. If you have the tank buttoned up, you can leave off most of the MG parts and only show the barrel where it protrudes from the hull.
Steps 14 & 15. These steps adds the vision visors to the two side panels. If you are careful, you can make these workable, but the instructions don’t indicate that. You also mount the antenna in this step. However, I left it off to keep from breaking it off during handling and painting. There are some sub-instructions to drill two holes in the right side panel near the antenna mounts. I could not find anything that would go into these two holes, so I recommend that you not drill them.
Step 16. This step adds all the prior subassemblies to the chassis. There are two holes in the subassembly K (the front deck) that do not show anything being glued in them. I recommend that you fill these two holes prior to gluing the deck to the chassis. There are two options in this step: glue the turret ring splash guard to part H18 hull top or leave it off, and what type, if any, of spare track holder you want to use on the top of the front deck. I suggest that you leave the spare tracks off the model until after painting the hull and the tracks separately, then, towards the very end of the build, add them to the track holders.
Step 17. This step adds the spaced armor to the front upper hull. I believe the called out part C4 is incorrect, it should be part C20. You have the option of plastic or photo-etched side plates, but only photo-etch for the top cover (M18).
Step 18. This step adds small photo-etch (MA4) or plastic bolts and the tracks. These are Magic Tracks that require no cleanup unless you want to remove the ejector pin marks on the inner face of each track. These appear to be the proud type that will clean up with a swipe of the sanding stick or a sharp blade. These are not workable tracks so you will need to glue them together.
The method I use to glue the tracks together is as follows:
- I use a track jig that is adjustable. I place it on the work surface and put a strip of yellow Tamiya tape down with the sticky side up. If you don’t have a jig, you can use a ruler. Just tape it down and use it as a guide to keep the tracks straight.
- Then I “assemble” the track using the jig and tape to hold all the parts in place.
- I prepare the tracks one side at a time by adding a dab of Tamiya thin glue at each joint and letting this set for about 3 to 5 minutes. This will allow the glue to set enough to hold the tracks together but still be flexible enough to put sag into the tracks.
- Here I use a new tool from Hobby Trax, Part number HT 014. This is a track form that allows you to drape the glued, but not yet set, track around it. I taped the tracks down to the form to ensure the sag will be formed into the track.
- Let them dry.
- Remove the tracks. Paint and weather them off the vehicle.
- Mount the tracks to the model, along with the drive sprocket and idler wheels.
- When you are happy with how the tracks look on the model, glue the drive sprocket and idler wheel into their permanent position. Make sure that the tracks are correctly aligned. One of the biggest mistake armor modelers make is to have tracks that are toed in or out caused by the improper alignment of drive sprockets and/or idler wheels.
Steps 19 & 20. These steps build the gun mount and gun. There is a choice between armored machine gun mounts, one with the barrel, and one without. This step is pretty much straightforward.
Step 21. This step adds the spaced armor in front and the breech and other parts to the inside of the gun. Part P1 vision block appears to be extraneous as there is no hole for the vision block to use, so I left it off.
Step 22. This step builds the armored commander’s hatch. You can display it with the armored blocks either open or closed.
Step 23. This step builds the turret and adds the gun subassembly. You will need to choose between the lifting hooks and the smoke grenade launcher. Check your references if you are building a specific model to determine which to use.
Step 24. This is the final step to mount the turret to the chassis. This is left unglued so you can pose the turret.
The drawings found in the references listed below show the kit to be basically accurate. Since I’m not a rivet counter, I don’t go beyond that. I model for fun.
I found the molding to be clean, with no sink marks and few ejector pin marks. The mold seams were easily removed and I saw no flash. Dragon makes extensive use of the pin nodes to keep ejector pin marks on the parts to a minimum. However, you will need to handle the removal and clean up of the parts with care.
As with all Dragon’s instructions, read them carefully and plan what you want to do ahead of construction. Check the fit over and over and over again to make sure that all items fit together.
Painting and decals
The color call outs are for Testors Model Master enamel and Gunze paints. I continue to see a weakness in the painting instructions from all kit makers. Instructions for the small parts like the pioneer tools and travel lights are never listed or shown. Here you have to guess or mimic what someone else has done. The decals are by Cartograf and are up to their usual high standards.
This is a well engineered and molded model. If you make sure that the instructions are correct, the model goes together very well. It is a good mix of styrene and photo-etch. I can recommend this kit to all WWII modelers.
References for this variant are included in the following books:
- Panzer III & Its Variants; Schiffer, by W. Spielberger..
- Panzerkampfwagen III, Ausf.J, L, M und N; Panzer Tracts 3-3, by T. Jentz & H. Doyle.
- Panzerkampfwagen III; Achtung Panzer 2.
- The Panzerkampfwagen III at War; Concord 7010, by M. Jerchel & W. Trojca.
- The Panzerkampfwagen III and IV 1939-45; Concord 7065, by T. Cockle & D. Jameson.
- The Panzerkampfwagen III; Osprey Vanguard 16, by B. Perrett, D. Smith & M. Chappell.
Of course, there are others available.
Thanks to Dragon Models USA for the review sample and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to write this review.