Dragon's latest Stug III release is marketed as a December ‘44 production time frame version. If you follow the instructions, you won't build a vehicle from the Dec 44 production run, but a somewhat jumbled mix with early, mid, and late production features. Fortunately, if you know what you are looking for, the kit includes the parts to build what is commonly accepted as a late ‘44/early 45 vehicle. With some exceptions.
The parts are molded in light gray styrene with crisp details and no noticeable flash. There are some very fine details like the fender tread pattern, hull weld beads, and rough texture on the cast mantle (Topfblende). This release is a bit of a mix-and-match from their earlier StuG III releases (notably the CH May ‘44 Mid-Late Production) with a few additional sprues from their StuG IV kits. A good portion of these parts won't be used and are blued out on the front instruction sheet. But don't be too hasty, you'll need some of those pieces.
The kit also includes three PE sheets with some very fine detail. These are used for small or thin parts where styrene won't do the job. There is a small length of braided wire for the tow cables, which is a nice addition. It also includes single-piece DS styrene 40cm tracks for those who don't want to deal with individual link tracks. The kit includes a small sheet of decals and four finishing options. The Schurzen hangers are included, but notably absent are the Schurzen which were common on vehicles from this time frame.
You need to be on your toes when you build a Dragon kit. The instructions can be tricky. Study them carefully and examine the kit contents thoroughly. Be aware there are multiple sprues with the same letter and this can cause confusion. Be sure to dry-fit the upper hull components. Mine required some trimming to fit properly. Actually, be sure to dry-fit everything, especially towards the end when putting the sub-assemblies together.
In Step 4, the instructions call out D11 to use for the lower bow armor. D11 is the thinner nose armor. The correct 80mm lower bow armor is loose in the box but not identified with a sprue. My sample was a little warped and had noticeable sink marks across the front. These needed to be filled.
The really nice single-piece hull was slightly bowed on the sides. The firewall straightens this out somewhat, but care is needed fitting the upper structures. The bottom hull also has six vertical molding tabs from the top edge. It is not mentioned in the instructions but these need to be removed to fit the upper structures.
Each exhaust should have two half-round notches to clear the tow bar mounting bolts. The tow bar wasn't often fitted at this time, but the mufflers did have the cutouts. These were easy enough to add with a small round needle file. The missing bolts were added from the spares. The kit includes the parts for the late war tow bar, but these are not called out in the instructions. I was going to use it but it looks a little small compared to scale drawings.
The rear upper plate has the correct two rows of bolts, so there should only be two interior support brackets. This area really isn't at all visible in the final assembly, but parts A6 can be omitted.
In Step 5, the small access plate needs to be shaved off part B15.
When I started working on the nose of the model, parts L16/L17 just didn't look right to me. These parts include the front tow loops and finish off the side and upper hull plate. They left a seam on the horizontal armor that needed to be filled. These parts should have features for an interlock weld with the upper bow armor, but they don't. The kit parts will work fine if you choose to use the fenders as they cover up the missing details, but I guess I just like to make more work for myself than necessary. I chose to show a continuous/non-interlock plate across the front since these were still in production. If you are trying to model a particular vehicle, check references. This change required a little bit of surgery, but nothing serious.
The roof layout is for the late style with the remote machine gun (Rundum Feuer) and close-in defense weapon (Nahverteidigungswaffe). It also has the correct five mounting points for the roof top Pilzen winch. Unfortunately, the holes for the Pilzen were not centered and they went all the way through the roof armor. They were also a little undersized, so I chased out the holes with a larger bit to center them. A little bit of putty was used to fill the holes from the underside.
Fitting the shot deflector B40 required one of the roof bolt heads to be trimmed so the part sat flush. I added the missing welds from epoxy putty.
The commander's cupola is a nicely detailed little assembly. It needed a few little modifications to bring it up to the suggested production time frame, though. The hatch should sit flat when fully open. I omitted gluing the bump stop and trimmed small clearance notches in the cupola ring to let the hatch sit flat. If you choose to show the hatch closed, a small disk of plastic will serve to replicate the short wooden block that was used instead. The hatch also needs a loop-type handle which was used to gain leverage and close the hatch. This was formed from soft steel wire and glued in place with CA. The small periscope hatch has a handle that is molded solid. I trimmed this off and used G20, an unused part, as a nice substitute.
Be careful with part Q5 in Step 1. These tiny bolts need special trimming from the sprue. They include one extra for each side in case they go flying. The instructions also include the option for a different style without the extra bolts. This area isn't that visible after the drive sprocket is assembled, so it’s your choice.
The instructions have you assemble the idler wheel to the idler adjustment and then assemble this to the mounting point, but this seems unwieldy as construction continues. I glued the idler mounts to the hull and made sure stuff aligned before the glue set.
The torsion bars can be made flexible, although a bit fragile, if you trim off the small pin that locates the road wheel arm. I chose to keep these fixed and followed the instructions for once.
The Dragon instructions use the earlier rectangular box tail light configuration. By this time frame, production had switched to the later tube style. Fortunately, the parts are included in the kit. Use parts G8 and J4. I painted the clear piece Tamiya Clear Blue and saved it to assemble after painting the model.
Each fender has three pieces of PE brass that need to be attached. The long thin fender return pieces MA5 and MA6 are too long and required almost 2mm to be trimmed from the straight end, according to references. They can't extend past the armored air intake boxes or they will get torn up when the fighting compartment is installed.
I chose to install the small gussets MA2, MA10, and MA11 after the fenders had been installed. Those little PE parts probably wouldn't survive the final alignment steps.
The PE brackets included for the tow hooks did not fit the kit parts at all. I built the small frames from .01" strip styrene and a small bolt – not totally accurate, but better than what was provided.
If I were to do this again, I'd leave the jack assembly and wire cutters (G46) off until the Schurzen frames are installed. The jack needs to be installed just right for the best fit. I had to pop the part off, glue the rail frame, and then glue back the jack.
Box art and illustrations show the correct later-style muzzle brake, but the kit only includes the early cast acorn style. If you choose to use the kit barrel parts, some modifications will be needed. The kit barrel sits on the end of the cast mantle. This isn't exactly correct. When fired, the barrel recoils back and there should be a small clearance around the barrel. If you use the kit barrel, you'll have to extend the base of the barrel, match the taper, and open up the hole in the mantle. I replaced the kit barrel and brake with a more suitable aftermarket version I picked up at Nationals in Loveland. The kit mantle needed to be drilled out to accept the new barrel.
The area behind the mantle was covered by a protective tarp to keep out rain and dust. This isn't included in the kit and will have to be scratchbuilt. I made mine from tissue paper, but foil or epoxy putty will work, too. I couldn't make this missing piece until later, after assembly of the main parts.
The vehicle hanger frames for the Schurzen are included and called out in the instructions, but no schurzen or brackets are present. I've seen photos of this late of a vehicle with no frames at all, so that's always an option if you don't want to mess with them. Be sure to leave the fender hangers off, too, if you go that route.
The included piece of wire for the tow cable has a lot of springiness and will be a bit of a challenge to keep in place while glue dries. Before I glued on the tow loop ends, I annealed the cable by running it through the flame on a gas stove burner and letting it cool. I had to perform this several times until the wire relaxed enough to behave and stay where I put it. The kit calls for cutting two different lengths, and the tow loops orient in a certain direction, so pay attention to the instructions.
The kit tracks are one-piece DS tracks. I dry-fitted the tracks and they looked like they need to be trimmed a little for the correct length. The DS tracks are made of a flexible plastic that can be glued with plastic cement and are far easier to work with than the old vinyl type. The detail is nice enough on the tracks, but they represent an earlier production style with hollow guide horns, so I chose to use a set of Dragon Magic tracks that represent a later style with the solid horn and track chevrons. I used extra link to add a little detail.
The final assembly is a tricky affair, and Dragon has a lot going on in the last steps. I experimented a lot to determine the best sequence and this what I finally learned:
- In Step 8, Leave C12 and C22 off until later. This will ease loading the sub-assembled gun and gun mount.
- Install the fighting compartment floor and firewall.
- Install the rear deck sub assembly.
- Install the upper fighting compartment with these omissions – Roof, C12, and C22.
- Install the main gun. To do this, tilt the gun mount down/back, slide the assembly down through the opening from the top (I had to trim a little flash off to clear), tilt the mount under the hull plate, and locate it with the two pins. I found it easier to install if I trimmed a little off the forward pin.
- Now attach C12, C22, and the Roof from Step 10.
- Install the fenders. I had to trim a little height off the front brackets B19 and B20 and the fender rear tabs for best fit.
- Install the Schurzen hanger brackets.
- Then install all the little stuff that would have broken off or been in the way while trying to get the larger pieces to align properly.
Paint and Finish
The instructions include four paint options, two unidentified units and two vehicles from the 185 StuG Brig. The included decal sheet is very small but nicely done.
I chose to finish the model as an unknown unit on the Eastern Front with a paint scheme inspired by a color photograph. The model was primed with Tamiya Fine Grey Primer from a spray can. Over this I pre-shaded with Tamiya Flat Black via an airbrush. The first color coat was Vallejo Calvary Brown, which is a good match for the German Red Primer. Over this I applied two thin coats of hairspray and let these dry. The main color is a custom mix of Tamiya acrylics. The base color was chipped and allowed to dry overnight. I then applied two more light coats of hairspray and then airbrushed the camouflage colors with Tamiya acrylics. I lightly chipped these colors, too.
Weathering was achieved through multiple layers of oil paints, pigments, and enamel paints. The little stowage box was the final little extra detail. This was another nice little item I picked up at Nationals in August.
Except for the tracks and barrel, this is an out-of-the-box build. I'm not claiming to be a Stug III G expert knowledgeable in all the nuances, but I did consult a good reference book to double-check many of the small running production changes. The kit hits most of the identifiable late-production items – cast mantle with coaxial MG, remote MG, five-point crane hoist, and close-in defense weapon – which should make most late war German armor fans pretty happy. So, aside from a few detail inconsistencies regarding minor production changes, this is a really nice kit and does a good job representing a late ‘44 production batch. With some exceptions.
Thanks to Dragon Models USA and IPMS/USA for the review sample.
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