The Pz. III was the second most-important tank of the German Wehrmacht after the Pz.IV. According to the amazing Jentz & Doyle in their Panzer Tracts No. 3-1 - Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A, B, C und D
, the vehicle started out as the Leichttraktor
("light tractor") in development from Krupp and Rheinmetall in 1930. Seeing a photo of this tiny tank with its midget turret and large road wheels will help explain the evolution of the Pz. III and its first incarnation, the Ausf. A.
The Pz. III was originally intended as the main battle tank for the Wehrmacht with the Pz. IV intended for infantry support. But even before the outbreak of World War Two, its 3.7cm KwK 36 gun was judged too light. Up-gunning to the 5cm KwK 38 and long 5cm KwK 39 was found to be no answer against the Soviets' T-34 and its sloped armor. The Pz. III's turret was too small to take the more-powerful 7.5cm KwK cannon that made the Pz. IV such a formidable tank killer, so by mid-war, the Pz. III was gradually being phased out. Its last variant (the Ausf. N) was even reduced to using the stubby "cigar" gun found in the early Pz. IVs. But the Pz. III chassis was re-purposed as the platform for the StuG III self-propelled gun.
And ironically, the StuG destroyed more enemy tanks than any other German AFV during WW2.
Dragon for many years dominated the 1/35th Pz. III market with a full line of variants, starting with the Ausf. E and ending with the stubby-gunned Ausf. N. Conspicuous in their absence, however, were the first four variants: Ausf. A-D. While only 10-15 of each were built (except for 30 of the D), modelers have eagerly and vocally awaited the arrival of these variants in styrene for some time. Recently Ukrainian manufacturer MiniArt released the Ausf. B, C and D (reviewed on Armorama here
) to mixed reviews - the engine deck on the B & C has fit issues especially.
Now Bronco Models
has rounded out the series with the release of the Ausf. A.
Likely the reason that Dragon never released the A-D is the unusual suspension of these first four variants: from the E forward, the Pz. III had the characteristic torsion bar suspension of most German tanks. The Pz. III Ausf. A had five large coil springs per side, while the B-D used an array of leaf springs. All of that (and the large road wheels of the A) would have required separate, unique parts be added to the Dragon Pz. III series. Given how few of these tanks actually went into battle, I guess Dragon made a cost decision not to extend their Pz. III line.
There are reports within the modeling industry indicated that Bronco and MiniArt collaborated on this series. If so, the former has come out in better shape than the latter: MiniArt's Pz. III kits have been criticized for inaccuracies (e.g., a turret basket inside) and poor parts fit. Indeed, one after-market resin manufacturer has come out with "fixes" for the poor fitting parts of MiniArt's Pz. III Ausf. B & C. For whatever reason, it appears Bronco
avoided this trap, and may have the best of the four in this kit.
usual colorful box are:
6 sprues of light gray styrene
1 turret deck
1 turret shell
1 track assembly jig
1 commander's cupola
1 hull tub
1 sprue of periscopes and other clear parts
17 single row sprues of tracks
4 sprues of track pins
1 sheet of decals
1 small fret of photo etch
19 page booklet with instructions, a brief history of the vehicle, and four color schemes with markings
The kit continues Bronco Models's
recent trend of high-quality moldings. It includes only very basic interior details, mostly around the turret, and these focus on the gun and machine gun hydraulics, and the commander's and gunner's seats. The MGs and main gun are quite detailed inside, and thankfully Bronco
avoided MiniArt's mistake of including a turret basket (the floor that rotates with the turret, not the Rommelkiste
basket on the rear exterior of some later model turrets).
The singular feature of the kit that differentiates it from other Pz. III variants is the suspension. The coil springs are made of styrene, and I have some concern about how much clean-up will be required removing them from the sprue. The molding is crisp with no bad seam lines or halves-out-of-register, but I won't know how these will look until I complete the build portion of this review soon.
The road wheels have very nice detailing, though the recessed lug bolt holes in the wheels look smaller than in photos of the real thing. The drive and return wheels are 100% plastic, unlike the Dragon method of using PE enhancements to the styrene base in their later variant kits.
One area that has come under criticism in the MiniArt Pz. III kits is the front deck and hatches. Bronco
gives modelers the option of attaching them in the closed or open positions, but there is no interior in the kit, and none has been produced or even announced yet by any AM manufacturers. Would older resin interiors work? Your guess is as good as mine. I would rather have the option of open hatches than not, even if I plan on building the kit with the forward hatches closed. They will look better than molded-on, and scratchbuilders can have at it.
The tracks are totally fiddly, and modelers will have no option other than building them. The good news is there are no guide horns to attach, though I am frankly skeptical about the styrene track pins that must be inserted in the tracks themselves. When I add the build portion to this review, I'll report back.
The mud guards/fenders are nicely-molded with detail above and below. Tools are the usual molded-on brackets, and I would imagine sanding those off and replacing them with PE ones. The front mud guards have some amazing PE detail that looks like it will add nice realism to the kit.
The rear deck includes the usual PE screens, and some PE clamps for the tow rope (styrene). I will not be able to evaluate the fit (the biggest problem with the MiniArt kits) until I begin the build portion of this review. I'm concerned that the hull superstructure is composed of three pieces, which increases the potential for fit issues and getting them properly aligned.
The exterior detailing looks solid, and will be more evident when the build for this kit is added at a later time. Overall there is a minimal amount of PE (mostly screens and some fasteners as noted above), which should be enough for the majority of modelers. Super-detailers will want to wait for Voyager or Aber to release some enhancements.
As pointed out, one conspicuous feature of the kit is workable tracks. To that end, the kit even includes a small "jig" for assembling the tracks with their super-fiddly plastic track pins.
Decals & Painting
The good news is the kit gives you four options for painting and marking a variant that had no more than slightly over a baker's dozen built. One of them even includes the now-recognized combination of Dunkelbraun
Nr. 45 (dark brown) and Dunkelgrau
Nr. 46 (dark gray) that has been too long overlooked by manufacturers like Dragon and Tamiya. The bad news seems to be that only one variant has this duo-tone color scheme. This is likely because at least one of the other camo schemes likely derives from a photograph in the Panzer Tracts
volume dedicated to the Pz. III Ausf. A-D. In that undated photo purportedly from Poland, the tank looks monochromatic. But numerous authorities have pointed out that period photos often don't pick up the subtle contrast of dark brown over dark gray. In any case, your choices are:
Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1938-39: Panzer gray with disruptive patches of red brown
Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1940: Panzer gray
Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1940: Panzer gray
1st Battalion, 1st Panzer Regiment, 1st Pz. Division, Poland, September, 1939: Panzer gray
The kit looks to be well thought-out and should build up well into a variant that has been unavailable in styrene before. I will be completing a build portion for this review as soon as possible. In the interim, if you have been waiting for the very first Pz. III, then this looks like the kit for you.
Thanks to Bronco Models for providing this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering your kit.