The Panzer III began as a concept in January 1934, when General Heinz Guderian proposed two new panzer types. The first would be a "light medium tank" at under 20 tons, have good mobility and speed, and be tasked with destroying enemy armor. The second would have heavier armor and armament and be for infantry support. Designated Panzer III and IV respectively, they were to be the backbone of German armor for most of the war.
The Panzer III was designed by Daimler-Benz and went into production in 1937. The first four types, A-D, were produced in limited numbers (10 ausf. A, 15 each of B and C, and 30 D) and were experimental designs not suited to mass production. Each tested a new type of suspension, primarily leaf spring designs. Armor varied from 5-15mm. Some were used in the Polish campaign where their thin armor became an issue.
The Ausf. E introduced new 30mm armor on the hull front and sides and turret, a new engine and transmission, and most importantly, a new, torsion bar suspension. 96 vehicles were produced before some small modifications to the engine, transmission and hull were made. Designated the Ausf. F, it was the first vehicle to go into mass production, with 435 total units built.
Armament came as a compromise. Guderian wanted the tank armed with a 5.0cm gun, but Army staff insisted on the 3.7cm PaK 35/36 L/45 gun which was already in wide use with infantry forces, as it would simplify supply and parts issues. The 3.7cm gun was installed but the turret and ring were designed to mount the heavier gun. The first 335 tanks had the 3.7cm gun installed. The last 100 were armed with the 5.0cm gun, which was also retrofitted to the previous tanks. All tanks were equipped with an intercom communication system which allowed the five crew members to talk to each other, as well as a radio so multiple tanks could coordinate with each other.
The Ausf F was too late to see action in Poland, but was used in the Battle of France, in Greece and was the most numerous type available for Barbarossa. It was in France that the 3.7cm gun was found to be inadequate against the heavier armor of the Matilda and the Char Bis. In battle against the T-34 and KV-1, it was badly outclassed, but due to superior training of the crews and tank ergonomics it still performed well.
kit #6632 is a scale model of the early 3.7cm armed Panzer III Ausf. F, accurately representing the 30mm hull and turret armor, with new tooling for the hull, turret and 3.7cm gun.
The box art, by Ron Volstad, depicts a panzer III F in Greece, driving past a group of British or Commonwealth prisoners. Inside the box are 26 sprues carefully packaged to protect the parts. A sturdy card holds two magic tracks (left and right handed), three small Gen 2 weapons sprues, three small clear parts sprues, a photoetch sheet, two preformed conduit wires and decals. Dragon does go to great lengths to protect parts for shipping, and with over 600 parts in the box, none were damaged that I could see, and only two were knocked off the sprue. I could not find any sink marks and no ejector marks on any visible surface. There was also no flash present. There are mold seams, some of which are prominent, but they are, for the most part, easily removed.
Instructions are a large foldout showing assembly in 19 steps. They are a little crowded and should be studied carefully before you begin. Multiple sub assemblies are called out in small boxes throughout, and there are some parts are to be removed, holes to be opened, and the optional parts are indicated. Colors are called out for GSI Creos Aqueous hobby color, Mr Color, and Model Master paints. Based on some of the parts present, it appears Dragon may have a late variant Ausf. F and possibly and Ausf. E in the works, allowing them to maximize the molds.
Parts in the kit are as follows:
Sprue A, marked StuG III G, two of these are included and hold the road wheels and torsion bars. Parts 23-26 are new T handle clamps. Detail is excellent, and weld seams and bolt heads are well presented. The six support bars between the two tires are present, as is the "ContinentaU" on the tires. They are the 95mm wide type, and I don't know if they are correct for an early vehicle.
Sprue A marked Panzer III is a new sprue. This contains the upper hull, hatches, bullet guard, tools and very small hooks and attachment points. The hatches have interior details.
Sprue B, Stug III G, here we have the suspension arms, exhaust and towing hook mounts are used. With the torsion bars, the suspension arms can be positionable to place the tank on rough terrain.
Sprue B, Panzer III, is a newly tooled sprue. The fenders have texturing on the top and bottom surfaces, and hinges and bolt heads are again shown very neatly. The tow cable is molded in plastic, but can be replaced with string or wire cable as the kit includes empty clamps to be placed there.
Sprue D, Panzer III has the breech for 5cm gun. Only some hinges and grab handles are used from this sprue.
Sprue G holds the basic tools and jack. The clamps are molded on and the jack is a multi part affair for extra detail.
Sprue G, Panzer IV, the hinges, hatches and antenna are used from this sprue. Again, interior details are present on the hatches.
Sprue H contains a very nice smoke candle rack.
Sprue J is the Gen 2 hull machine gun. This is a multi part assembly including the pouch for spent shell casings.
Sprue K, Panzer III J, only the hatch bases, hinge points and pry bar are used.
Sprue M holds the clear blocks for cupola.
Sprue P has more clear parts, this time the headlamps and vision blocks.
Part P is the hull tub. The interior and exterior details are beautiful, and has the openings on the hull sides for the escape hatches.
Sprue Q, panzer IV, contains 25 parts that make up the cupola, not including the clear vision blocks. Detail is outstanding, and this can be built in open or closed positions.
Sprue R, the third clear sprue with more vision blocks.
Sprue S, marked Panzer III, includes new parts. The turret base, mantlet, 3.7cm gun with full breech, front lower hull and parts for final drive are attached to this sprue. The toothed turret ring has no locking tabs to mate it with the hull, so take care if you’re in the habit of picking up the model by the turret.
Sprue T holds the new drive sprocket with inner and outer surface details.
Part U is the cupola core.
Sprue V, panzer III, also contains new parts. The upper hull plates, hatches, clamps, idler adjustment, along with the cast brake vent covers. The forward hull plate has the openings for these on the lower side, but they have to be drilled out, perhaps indicating an Ausf. E.
There are two Sprue WC, which holds the Gen 2 MG 38, both are intended for the two coaxial MG.
Sprue X has the new idler wheel with inner and outer surface detail. There are etch inner rims included on the photoetch fret.
Sprue Y is the turret upper.
Sprue Z are the newly tooled shock absorbers.
Magic Tracks, both left and right handed, 108 of each. Small nubs are present which should be hidden by assembly. For this type of vehicle they represent the tracks much better than single length tracks.
The photoech sheet also has covers for the air intakes, rain guard, chains for the smoke candles and clamps.
There are two pre-formed wires for the conduit going to the extra lamps mounted on the forward fenders.
Markings are for 3 vehicles, Pz, Rgt, 3, 2nd Pz Division, Greece, 1941 (depicted on the box art), 1st Pz. Division, Russia 1941, and 14 Pz.Division, eastern front, 1941, all in Field Gray color scheme. Check references as to accuracy of the markings depicted.
As mentioned above, parts detailing is excellent, with many small parts included. Vision ports in the turret appear to be moveable. The kit looks impressive and I am anxious to build it. I don't know if there are any issues with the instructions yet, but most kits have an error or two. In particular, watch for those parts indicated as left(right) as sometimes they are reversed. This appears to be a very good, accurate depiction of the early Panzer III Ausf. F.
In comparison with the last few kits I have built, I consider it to be above average. I would have liked some detail to show through the open hatches in addition to the full breech, maybe a couple of jerry cans, and more space in the instructions, but it still looks great. I recommend the kit.
A Build Log
has been started in the forums to evaluate the kit construction.