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6717, Pz.Kpfw.III (3.7cm) (T) Ausf.F Operation Seelöwe Smart Kit. 1/35th-scale injection-molded styrene/multimedia kit. Contains: 574 styrene parts (including 25 clear), two bags of individual-link Magic Tracks, one photo-etched brass fret, three DS100 parts, six pieces of formed metal wire, one water-slide decal/marking scheme and six pages of instructions in 17 steps
The English Channel has historically been the moat which protected Great Britain from most large-scale invasions. In the 20th-century, it presented a major obstacle to Hitlers German war machine, one which eventually was not to be overcome. As part of the initial planning for the invasion, various Panzerkampfwagen were modified and tested for submerged or floating operation. The Pz.Kpfw.II was fitted with pontoons to swim across. The Pz.Kpfw.III and Pz.Kpfw.IV were to be lowered onto the sea-bed close in-shore and would crawl up onto the beach. The latter Panzer were termed Tauchpanzer and Cyberhobby has now added 77 new parts to create one of the two versions of the Pz.Kpfw.III that was tested in early 1940. These are mostly conventional styrene (some clear) with the exception of three in DS100 flexible styrene and four pieces of metal rod. Note that this was an Ausf.F armed with the 3.7cm KwK, but it cannot be built as the standard tank due to the lack of certain critical parts. The modeler should consider this kit if he wishes only to build the Tauchpanzer.
These come loosely packed in two bags and are so-called Magic Tracks. They represent the Kgs.6111/380/120 38cm-wide links that had hollow guide horns and plain cleat faces. These tracks are also handed, so the modeler is cautioned not to open up the bags and mix things up prior to assembly; as an added bit of help, each sides links are a slightly different color of gray styrene. Being Magic Tracks, they have no sprue attachment points, which is a definite time saver since no cutting or clean-up in that regard is required. Each has a pair of extremely faint ejector pin marks on the inner face. These can be ignored or erased as the modeler sees fit. They fit together easily but quite loosely, and must be fixed together with glue prior to handling.
The road-wheels are conventionally molded in inner and outer pieces, with integral rubber tires. These are the same road-wheels from all previous StuG.III/Pz.Kpfw.III kits and properly represent the type with 95mm-wide tires seen on later and refurbished Ausf.Fs.
The outer faces of the wheel hubs feature perforations and weld beads where appropriate, while the tires have a facsimile of the manufacturers logo (ContinentaU) on their rims. On the inner faces, the tubes that helped join the wheel halves together are molded on, providing an unprecedented level of detail in this regard. Spare road wheels and spare track pins are also given for stowage. The return rollers are conventionally-molded in two parts (inner and outer halves). This kit has a pair of separate return roller mounts; these will allow the modeler to place the mounts in their original locations, or further forward as later modified (and seen on this particular version).
The drive sprockets come as conventional inner and outer pieces and are completely detailed; they are the type initially used for the 38cm tracks. The idler wheels are also in inner and outer parts, but feature separate hubs as well as etched brass inner rings. The idler wheels also have separate cranked axles that can be very slightly adjusted; the modeler is advised not to glue them in place on the hull until the fit and sag of the tracks have been worked out.
Separate internal torsion bars are given as are beautifully-detailed separate external swing arms. This will allow the suspension to be fixed in an articulated fashion if the modeler desires to place his work on a base with irregular terrain. To do so, simply cut off the pins that protrude from the hull sides, which are there in case the modeler wants a level, fixed suspension. Slide-molded shock absorbers with rubber boots on the top are given as well as properly-configured mounting plates for the final drive housings. Other separate parts include the final drive housings and bump stops.
Hull and Fittings.
The main part of the hull is based upon the 5.Serie/Z.W. Panzerwanne (armor hull); as such, it includes the side-wall escape hatches as separate multi-part assemblies that can be depicted opened or closed. Also seen is the simple all-bolted angle-iron hull/superstructure connecting strip. The hull is produced from a slide-mold so it is fully detailed on all faces. This detail includes mounts for the road-wheel torsion bar/swing arm units, idler wheel mount, bump stops and shock absorber mounts, as well as the various bolted strips that connected the hull to the superstructure. Panel seams and weld beads are also present. The belly has drain plug and access plate detail molded in place, plus bolts and rivet heads, as well as weld beads, where necessary. A separate circular access cap as seen on this version of the hull is provided, while the modeler is also instructed to remove some bolt detail where appropriate.
The bow plate is separate and its configuration represents the base armor of 30mm as seen on the Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.E. The glacis plate assembly includes the openings for the Einsteigklappen (driver and radio operators hatches), which are finished off with separate lids that include etched bras detail parts. The main glacis part incorporates fine molded-on hinge and weld details. The Entlüftungsstutzen (brake vent armor hood) assemblies are representative of the type associated with this hull. The glacis plate has to be opened up from the inside to fit these parts. Next, three-part Anhängegabel (tow eye) assemblies are installed, as are a pair of head-lamps with separate, slotted front covers; the latter are complimented by pre-formed steel wire parts that well-represent the power conduits. New styrene parts are provided to replicate the guards that kept the cables that lifted the Tauchpanzer from the mother ship, into the water, from damaging the head-lamps.
The rear hull plate includes molded-on mounts for the rear towing eyes; the latter are composed of three parts for each unit. A separate dome-shaped access plate is fitted low on the center of the plate. A separate intermediary-angled plate connects the rear wall of the hull to the belly plate; it includes weld and access port details molded in place. New for this kit are a pair of three-part exhaust pipes with Rückschlagventile (non-return valves); the standard mufflers with their exhaust pipes were dispensed with. Another new part seals-off the overhang below the Heckpanzer (rear armor) module.
Track-Guards and Fittings
The track-guards are detailed on the top and bottom surfaces; neither is marred by ejector pin marks. The well-rendered dot-pattern non-skid plates are complimented at one point with an etched brass part that continues the pattern at a right angle where it surrounds the engine cooling air inlet armored cowl. A number of separate parts go to make up the fillets where the track-guards met the hull; up front this includes etched brass parts. Separate mounting brackets and stiffeners are then added. There are two different rear mud-flap configurations provided; these will allow them to be raised or lowered without any accuracy or detail compromises. They are complimented by etched brass or styrene detail parts; the port-side assembly features the cut-out for the Abstandsrücklicht (distance-keeping tail-lamp), while the starboard side has an opening for the brake lamp. Separate Seitenlüchte (marker lamps) in two styles of styrene (clear or solid) are also provided.
The tools are all separate parts, each of which features nice molded-on clasp and bracket details. Two multi-part tool boxes are provided, one for each track-guard; a five-part jack, a two-part, slide-molded jack block and a one-piece fire extinguisher finish the fittings.
The track-guards are now fitted out with a number of stanchions to hold the flexible breathing hose in its stowed position; partially-molded holes on the bottom must be drilled out. There are three on the starboard side and one on the port side; each is composed of two parts. The flexible hose is made from DS100 soft styrene and is well detailed. It has a mold seam which will need attention; I have found in the past that brushing liquid styrene cement over these kinds of seams helps to paint them away. Each stanchion is connected to the hose (when it is in the stowed position) with two-part styrene clamps. The port-side also gets a pair of multi-part brackets whose purpose is un-clear to me.
The final Tauchpanzer-related parts in this area go to make up a depth-measurement device. This is composed of two pieces of flat styrene, one on each track-guard. These have styrene cross-braces and metal rod supports which brace them against the superstructure side plates. Each is uniquely-marked in 100-centimeter increments, each of which is colored red, white, black, purple and orange. Single-meter measurements are represented in white and are numbered two through six.
On the Pz.Kpfw.III, the Bugpanzer (front armor), and the Heckpanzer (rear armor) combined to create the Panzerkastenoberteil (armored superstructure). DML provides these as separate modules, reflecting how the actual Panzer was manufactured.
The Bugpanzer module consists of a core molding upon which is placed various panels for all-around detail fidelity. The separate roof panel features a turret ring with a properly-detailed race, devoid of the usual openings to bayonet-mount the turret. I prefer this, but this means the turret will not be especially secure on the finished model. The turret ring base shot deflector is also a separate part.
Separate side and front superstructure panels are then fitted. These feature separate, multi-part Sehklappen (view-ports), which include clear parts for the vision blocks; naturally they can be modeled opened or closed. Additionally, the starboard side features a rod antenna and its mount, while the associated two-part stowage trough, complete with wood-grain effect is mounted above the starboard side track-guard.
The 30mm thick superstructure front plate has the two openings for the drivers K.F.F.2 binocular periscope in place. The Fahrersehklappe 30 (drivers view-port for 30mm armor) is comprised of three parts externally to include either a styrene or etched brass rain-guard. The latter is provided with a styrene former attached to the V sprue for ease in obtaining the proper shape. The view-port is covered by a new part as part of the deep-wading system. The radio operators MG34 is not provided due to the inclusion of a two-part deep-wading seal; this is composed of one solid and one clear styrene part.
The Heckpanzer (rear armor) module is a separate part and is configured much like the original; the entire assembly can be left off to depict an engine change. Coming from a slide mold, it has details on all faces including various styles of plate and weld detail as well as attachment flanges and bolt heads. The four hatch lids are separate parts, with proper coaming detail around the hatch openings, and separate hinges.
Separate parts for the Heckpanzers lifting hooks are also given for maximum detail fidelity. An all-styrene tow cable is provided for the engine deck, but Id have preferred the option of a wound wire/etched brass/styrene option for better detail and flexibility. The modeler can go that route with an after-market set if so desired, as DML also provides alternate empty mounting brackets. Engine cooling air intake vents are provided; these include etched brass screens, but they are covered with styrene sealing panels and are best retained as spare parts. The multi-part rear section properly represents the configuration seen on the Ausf.F, to include a separate Verschlussklappe für Andrehkurbel lid, with the hinge on the bottom.
There were at least two configurations of the Tauchpanzer, one of which had the air hose connected to the engine deck. The other had it connected through the turrets signal port opening, and this is how this kit is configured. Therefore, what is described as a hockey-puck-shaped balsa-wood buoy, topped by a thin breathing tube is provided. The 15-meter-long air hose ran from the turret and entered through the bottom of the buoy. The entire assembly consists of seven parts, to include separate L-shaped rests for when the device was stowed on the Heckpanzer module. However, according to photos in reference 4, there should be a semi-hemispherical cap over the buoys breathing tube, topped by a standard flexible rubber base and a 2-meter rod antenna. This is not provided in the kit.
The upper shell is a one-piece affair, created from a slide mold, and is also new for this kit. It matches drawings in Reference 1, page 3-2-31, and is identified as a 5./Z.W. Turm mit 3.7cm KwK. The molded-on detail is crisp and complete, including counter-sunk screw head details, weld beads and signal-port splash guards/openings. Certain screw heads are filled in for this version and it should be noted that other patterns are seen on variations of this turret, which suggests a later version with 5cm gun is in the works. The signal-port openings each gets a separate Signalklappen (signal port flap), with the one on the starboard side having a Tarnklappe (fake periscope cover). An etched brass or styrene commanders blade sight can be fitted to the roof as well as a pair of grab-handles above each side-wall hatch. The Signalklappen on the starboard side of the turret is where the flared air intake tube is now fitted, while up forward on the turret roof, a new plate helps seal the mantlet from above.
The side walls of the turret include openings for the separate vision port flaps; these include interior hinges and clear styrene parts to represent the glass vision blocks. Separate splash-guards are then fitted in front of each of these assemblies, using location-assisting dimensions provided in the instructions. The side walls have openings that are complimented by multi-part hatch door lids. These are the two-piece type and they feature clear styrene for the vision ports armored glass, plus a new lid for one-half of each hatch opening. Separate hinges and separate coamings complete these assemblies. Other openings on the side walls receive detail parts such as lift hooks and door latches. The rear wall incorporates openings to mount a pair of separate MP-Stopfen (pistol ports), as well as proper model-specific rivet details. The separate turret base has a gear pattern on the ring race and a commanders seat. A new part is also provided to seal the turret base for deep-wading.
The Kommandantenkuppel (commanders cupola) represents the type with part number 021 B 9261, as seen on page 3-2-33 in Reference 1. Featuring the two-piece hatch lid and ring as a conventional styrene part, it can only be modeled in the closed position. It is then surrounded by a DS100 part that represents the water-proof cover. The cover, in turn, is fitted with five clear styrene parts to represent the windows that the commander used for external viewing. The entire assembly is complimented by a separate splash ring for the base of the cupola, on the turrets rear face.
The front plate is based on the 5./Z.W. Turm (turret) with a 30mm internal Walzenblende (gun mantle). This is covered with another DS100 part that represents the frame and water-proof canvas cover. This is further embellished by two clear styrene parts for the view-ports as well as a conventional styrene part representing a covered 3.7cm KwK. All of the parts used to depict the entire armament package are present in this box; they can go into the spares bin.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
Like many of their recent new-tool kits, DMLs designers have gone to great lengths to provide a level of detail on the styrene parts not often previously seen. Slide-molds have been used in a very intelligent way either to allow for better detail rendition, or for ease of assembly. In other areas, multiple parts make up assemblies that require this approach. DS100 soft styrene has also been well-used; the only challenge will be the removal of the mold seam along its entire length. This can be painted away using liquid styrene cement as I have found to be the case with other DS100 parts. However, care and patience will be needed. On visible surfaces, not a single ejector pin mark was found and there was no shrinkage of any kind. Fit of major parts was excellent and mold seams were faint and easily dealt with.
Where I could match the kits components and dimensions against reliable scale drawings from Reference 1 and 2, below, I found no discrepancies of any import. Physical details compare well with available photographs, with the exception of the omitted radio antenna mast and base, as noted above.
Decals and Markings Information.
The decals are the usual excellent Italian product from Cartograf. They are crisp, in register and have thin, closely-cropped carrier film. Markings for one Tauchpanzer are given as described above; there are also several white-outline Balkenkreuze national insignia provided. These are not visible in any of the photos seen in references 2 and 4, below.
These are in the usual drawn style and appear to be well-done. As usual, they are busy, and there are many steps within steps. Modelers are cautioned to proceed with care, especially when considering which physical options may go with a particular markings scheme.
This is a very unusual variant of the Tauchpanzer, which, although it did not service in this specific configuration, will still make for a very interesting display piece. It is beautifully-molded and with the exception of the single omission mentioned above, is quite accurate. Those modelers who wish to have a well-rounded Pz.Kpfw.III collection would do well to consider this kit.
References consulted for this report included, but were not limited to:
1. Panzerkampfwagen III, Ausf.E, F, G und H; Panzer Tracts 3-2, by T. Jentz & H. Doyle.
2. Panzerkampfwagen III Umbau (including Pz.Kpfw.III (T); Panzer Tracts 3-5, by T. Jentz & H. Doyle.
3. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Revised Edition; Arms and Armour Press, by P. Chamberlain, H. Doyle & T. Jentz.
4. German Armor and Special Units of WW II; J.J. Fedorowicz, by W. Trojca.
5. Panzer III & Its Variants; Schiffer, by W. Spielberger.
6. Panzerkampfwagen III; AFV Profile 2, by W. Spielberger.
7. Panzerkampfwagen III in Combat; Wehrmacht Special No. 4005, Tankograd, by M. Zöllner.
8. The Panzerkampfwagen III and IV 1939-45; Concord 7065, by T. Cockle & D. Jameson.
9. The Panzerkampfwagen III at War; Concord 7010, by M. Jerchel & W. Trojca.
10. Panzer III in Action; Squadron Armor 1, by U. Feist.
11. Pz.Kpfw.III in Action; Squadron Armor 24, by B. Culver & D. Greer.
12. The Panzerkampfwagen III; Osprey Vanguard 16, by B. Perrett, D. Smith & M. Chappell.
13. Pz.Kpfw.III; Wydawictwo Militaria 11, by Z. Barowski & J. Ledwoch.
14. Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.J/L; AFV Super Detail Photo Book Vol.5, Model Art.
15. Panzerkampfwagen III; Achtung Panzer 2.
Note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to Cyberhobby. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reports.
Cyberhobby kits are available from retail and mail order shops. For details see their web site at: www.cyber-hobby.com.