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Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf.B 1:35


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Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf.B
1:35 MiniArt


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The Panzer III was a pre-WWII design that saw extended service throughout the war in many variants, although it became out-classed and redundant as a tank killer early on. The B variant was classed as a prototype with only 10 built, although some limited service was seen in the Polish campaign. It was lightly armoured to say the least with only 15mm on the front, 10mm on the sides, and a miserly 5mm on the underside. Later variants improved on this, as it was soon realised that the armour was woefully insufficient. Carrying a 37mm gun, the firepower was also inadequate, and later models again had 50mm and 75mm units installed, but the turret had already been designed to cater for the larger guns, so the innovative 3-man turret crew were able to do their job without distractions from multi-tasking. This was a legacy that soon propagated to the Allies, as well as future German tank designs.

With only 10 vehicles produced carrying terrible armament and armour, the B was soon removed from service, with development accelerated to counter the T-34. Despite its inadequacies against more modern designs, the Pz.III stayed in the fight until the end of the war, mostly as a infantry support tank. Production of the Pz.III ended in 1943, with many chassis re-engineered to become the feared StuG III.

The Kit
MiniArt craft a nice AFV, and this kit is of that ilk, having a huge part count of 1,127, although almost 500 of those parts are related to the tracks. Inside the box are three large sprues and eighteen smaller sprues in a mid-grey styrene, plus two hull parts and two turret parts, off the sprues. There are also eighteen sprues of track-links and a small styrene jig to track construction, again in the same styrene. A small sprue of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, and a small decal sheet complete the kit, with only the instruction booklet and integrated painting guide left to mention.

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The high part-count may put some folks off, but when you look at the tracks and their almost 500 parts, it's not that daunting, and you do get some rather nice interior detail in the turret area. It is a highly detailed kit though, so don't expect it to go together in an afternoon. The only part that leaves me scratching my head is the decision to provide one "multi-sprue" and then chop three more of the same sprue up to supply the rest of the parts, when only two small spruelets aren't used. I'd have imagined that it would be far better for the spares to languish in our cupboards than their warehouses – unless of course they have another use for them, or switched off those sections of the sprue to save styrene? Who knows.

Construction begins with the lower hull, which is made up from the floor, sides and rear bulkhead, to which the early leaf-spring suspension is added along with the necessary linkages, swing-arms and bump-stops. The drive sprockets are built up with their final drive bell-housings, which have a trio of PE parts added to the outside, and a little careful gluing will be needed if you want to keep the sprockets capable of rotation. The idler-wheels are two simple wheels with a small hub, and axle projecting from the rear, which attaches to a bulky track-tensioning device at the rear of the hull. The road-wheels are built up as pairs onto their bogies, which fit into a complex split-axle that will require very careful gluing to remain mobile after installation. Just in case, it is good advice to ensure that all the bogies are straight and level before they set up, or adjusted to any terrain you might be placing it on. There are four bogies on each side, plus three pairs of large paired return rollers, so you'll be painting forty four wheels in total, excluding the all metal drive sprockets and idler wheels.

The upper hull is composed of three main sections, the front glacis place with separate drive-train access panels, the rear engine deck with removable engine access panels, and the raised crew compartment, which has the turret ring cut-out in the centre. The main part has separate front and rear walls, with the bow-mounted machine-gun and driver vision slits added to it. The MG-34 is very nicely moulded, with a twin drum-mag and bag to catch the spent casings in, and an eye-cup sight attached to the inside of the ball-mount. The driver also has a side-facing window, which has a clear vision block added to the inside. The fenders are also separate from the upper hull, and are dressed with the usual complement of pioneer tools, as well as front and rear fenders, which have some PE fittings for extra realism. These are added to the brackets on the sides, and a pair of trapezoid filters sit on top parallel with the grilles on the engine deck.

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Now for those tracks. The parts count will have some trembling already, but when you realise how quickly you're going to go through them, they suddenly seem a lot less daunting. You are going to have to cut around 180 of the links from their sprues, and these have five gates each, but in their favour, you can remove the stubs in either two or three at a time with a sanding stick, shortening the preparation process to a more tolerable level. You build the tracks in lengths of eight links on the small styrene jig provided, and using two runs of eight track-pins still attached to their sprues, you insert them into the finely moulded holes in the edges of the track. The sprue is then removed carefully, and that's when you'll need to apply some glue – again, very carefully. Having done a quick test run, I would leave the pins on their sprues whilst applying a small quantity of liquid glue, then nip each one off, and push them all home with a flat surface. Any rough ends can be lightly sanded once the glue is dry to give the best finish. I managed to get eight links done in 10 minutes or less, and that's bound to get quicker as you progress. I was also pleased to note that all my links were still workable, making attaching them an easier job. To close the track-run, just add individual pins to complete the job once the tracks are on the wheels. The result is definitely worth the effort, and the track pin detail coupled with the hollow guide-horns look great once finished.

Construction of the turret starts with the basket, which is a simple circular floor panel that is suspended by struts from the underside of the turret, and mounts three seats for gunner, loader and the commander. The turret controls are added to the bottom of the turret at the front, and these terminate with hand-wheels, linked together under the breech by connecting rods. The commander's cupola is akin to a raised dustbin festooned with rivets and vision blocks, which has been slide-moulded as a single piece, into which the clear blocks are added before the two-part clamshell hatch is added at the top. The coaxial machine-gun is actually a Zwilling, or twin on the early Pz.III, with two MG-34s mounted on a frame offset slightly fore-to-aft to allow closer fitting without the magazines interfering. They are held in place by an armoured shroud, with the eye-cup for the sighting mechanism over the top. These slide into the mantlet along with the main gun and its sight after completion of the breech is finished. A dump-bag is provided for both MGs and the main gun for the spent brass. Before the mantlet can be installed, the fixtures inside the turret must be added in the shape of vision blocks with clear lenses, the side crew access doors with PE frames, and some minor parts on the outside. The outer mantlet slides over the inner part, trapping the location pegs between the turret and itself, with a short shroud fitting around the base of the barrel. The cupola fits atop the turret in a slightly exposed position, and two armoured covers for both gunners' sights can be added swung up for firing, or down in the closed position.


Markings
The front cover of the instructions show the five options that decals are supplied for, all of which are the early war Panzer Grey, with only one sporting some dark brown camouflage to break up its outline. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • 2nd Battalion Unidentified Unit, Poland, Sep 1939 – white crosses and markings II01 on the turret.
  • Unidentified Unit, Chomutov, Sudetes, Czechoslovakia, October 1938 – 231 on turret sides and rear, and brown soft-edged camouflage on the upper surfaces.
  • Unidentified Unit, Poland, Sep 1939 - white crosses and 234 on the turret sides and rear.
  • 1st Battalion 1st panzer Regt. Poiland, Sep 1939 - white crosses and 222 on the turret sides and rear.
  • In service during the Poland campaign, 1939 - white crosses on the turret sides and rear.

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Decals are printed courtesy of Begemot, and are up to the job, although the white does have a distinctly cream hue to it. This probably won't notice on a grey surface however, and the fact that the printing is a little "off" adds realism to the usually hand-painted or stencilled markings that WWII AFVs carried.

Conclusion
A great package with plenty of detail for most mortal modellers, especially at a shade under £35. The interior is very nicely done, although it doesn't extend throughout, and the opening hatches on the engine deck and at the front would just expose the lack of detail, so are of limited value unless you plan a scratch-build or aftermarket interior. The exterior is very well done, as are the tracks, which even with my easily fatigued hands shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to do them. It's a lesser seen early variant of this major mark, but it has been done justice by MiniArt's kit designers.

Highly recommended.

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Review sample courtesy of
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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi one and all,

I was about to start mine when I casually stumbled into a thread on another forum pointing out that the rear engine deck is off being some 6mm too short and not very correct as far as the hatches and air louvers are concerned.A modeler with enough kits under his belt won't find correcting this fault an impossible chore but I nonetheless hope the AM guys will come to the rescue because the rest of the kit is very,very good!

Cheers

Manu

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