Academy- German Panzer III Ausf. J "North Africa"
For the First Look review of this kit- check out the link- https://www.amps-armor.org/SiteReviews/ShowReview.aspx?id=14632
Every so often, a modeler finds a kit that can become so enjoyable and immersive, that they forget all about stopping to take the occasional progress pic. My apologies ahead of time as this was one of those times. I did take notes on the instructions as I went though so I can at least provide input and feedback through the steps even without the photographic evidence to back it up. When I first started as the reviews coordinator, it seemed then to be the year of the Panther as everyone was releasing kits of various versions, some even with interiors. 2020 has not been the best of years for more reasons than I can list- but one of the good things to come out of it (at least for me) is that it seems to be the year of the Panzer III. With Takom's release (and future release), this newly tooled kit from Academy, and one with an interior due out from Rye Field Models, it has been something to celebrate. So let's get to it...
The directions start by pointing out the parts that need drilling out and the positions to drill out. There is no indicator of which size bit to use, but I used the indentations on the parts as a guide. From there you start assembling the lower tub of the hull. The two sides, front, rear, and a couple of spacers inside start things out- and the directions shade in red the areas you should apply glue. From there, you add the air cooler frames, lower hull hatches, and suspension arms, which are keyed to make alignment easy. This takes us through to step 4 where you assemble the road wheels, return rollers, rear idlers, and sprockets. I left the road wheels off until later to aid in painting. And this is my only in-progress shot....apologies again.
Step 5 is all about assembling the tracks. They are link and length, but the only "length" is the bottom side...the top side and links around the idler and sprocket are all individuals...and that makes things a bit tricky. It is not impossible to overcome, but this is where the Tamiya kits with molded curvature to their top lengths, or jigs like Takom releases with their tracks make those kits a slight step above. The Academy tracks fit together nicely, but to get the right alignment and sag is a real challenge. Every link also has a pair of knockout marks that are real evident but not a joy to remove when you are talking 55 links per side (one side actually took 56). I used Tamiya Extra Thin to get lengths of the links together and after a short wait, shaped them around the curves. I then set the track lengths aside for later painting.
Step 6 & 7 add the track guards, front hull plate, and fenders. We then move on to building the turret casemate with all it's small details. Step 8 adds the front spare track length, headlights, and if you're adding it (depending on what version you do)- the casemate front cover with add-on armor. I didn't do that version, so left it off. Other small details- blackout lights, siren, side supports, toolboxes, and pioneer tools bring us to step 14. Be careful though-- as steps 10 and 13 are only for versions 1 & 2, and steps 11 and 14 are specific to versions 3 through 5.
Rear side plate and details take up steps 15-17. Again- pay attention to which variant you are building as instructions are different for each. The directions are quite clear on where to add the PE details here. Step 18 involves all the parts to add to the rear deck- including engine hatch covers, vents, tow cables, and lift hooks. The PE screens for the topside intakes are also added here.
Step 19 assembles the turret armor plates to the main part, as well as the mantlet and gun barrel and breech. You have the choice of the long or short barrel depending on which scheme you build. Modifications, including details needed to be removed are indicated based on what version you build. The remaining steps- 20-23 add the details to the turret, including hatches, hooks, rear toolbox, commander's cupola (with options of open or closed vision ports), and grab handles complete assembly. The turret then snaps and locks into place, so be sure you are happy before attaching.
Painting and Finishing
I chose a short barreled version-- #3 which represents a J from Panzer regiment 8, 7. Kp Company, Panzer Division North Africa Front/ Libya 1941. I used a custom mix of Tamiya paints that a good friend recommended and sprayed it on a Panzer grey primer coat and hairspray. Decals were few- but went on without a hitch. I used AMMO desert washes and IDF pigments to weather the beast. There were quite a few spare parts on the sprues left over, including smoke grenade launchers and frames...not sure if that indicates future kit releases of other variants, but it sure does hint at it.
What more can be said-- this kit of one of my favorite tanks was a real treat. The minor nagging about the interior sink marks on the track links and the lack of some sort of jig for the track lengths are easily overshadowed by the crisp details and fit of the kit. The lack of interior detail will be addressed with the Rye Field Models kit, but for those looking to spend less and end up with a nice fitting, enjoyable build. I would only suggest you don't get so lost that you forget to take progress shots like I did! This Academy kit was enjoyable to build in the scarce spare time I have had as of late, but it was time well spent!
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Model Rectifier Corporation for this review kit.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves
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