StuG. III Ausf. A Michael Wittmann, 'LAH' (Barbarossa 1941)
As I noted in my 'first look' review of this kit, it was my second Dragon build, and it is an impressive amount of styrene. I also recommended it for intermediate to advanced builders, and based on my experience, I'm sticking with that recommendation. I just attained the exalted rank of intermediate at the last AMPS International Show (do you have your room reservations yet? Yes, You!! AMPS wants you!), and I had several problems with the directions, getting parts to fit, and basically breaking a couple of the informal commandments of our hobby. Most, if not all, of the problems were due to operator error, not the kit.
Commandment I - Remember, this is a hobby - have fun!
Okay, I did have fun with this build, insofar as it challenged my skills and forced me to figure out work-arounds for some of my mistakes. As I go through this review, I will point out areas where I misunderstood the directions, or in one or two spots, would have done better to not follow the directions too closely. Bear with me ...
Commandment II - Follow the directions.
Step 1 is building the sprocket and idler wheel assemblies. Here's where I should have followed the directions exactly. Because I installed two small (but important) parts (B3/B2) backwards, I ran into problems when trying to install the idler wheels later on. I should not have attached the sprockets to the final drives (top). Here, I would recommend gluing the idler and sprocket wheel halves together, but not gluing them to their respective axle assemblies. I'll explain why in Steps 5, 6, and 18.
The tear drop shaped drive mount caused lots of angst. Because of a small part to be attached in Step 18, wait until then to attach sprocket wheels. Attach the idler wheels when the directions say to do so.
In Step 2, the road wheels and return rollers are glued together and painted. Small fender support brackets are glued to the lower hull, as well as four small bolt heads (Part R35) between the #4 and #5 road wheels only on the left side. As it was not clear from the directions where on the hull those went, I referred to Spielberger's book, Sturmgeschutz, pg 26, for correct placement. On the hull bottom, shave off six bolt heads and drill a hole for a round access panel, Part V64.
In Step 3, install the 12 torsion bars, and then cut out the middle part of the rearmost torsion bar on road wheel station 5, which is where the interior firewall between the fighting compartment and engine will be glued down. The torsion bars have a small slot keyed to the opening they fit into, so pay attention to that. Also install the two front return roller mounts, twelve road wheel arms, shock absorbers, bump stops, mud scrapers, front bottom glacis plate, and lower half of final drive plate. The directions also call out for cutting off six tabs along the top of the lower hull - I recommend waiting until Step 18, when you're preparing to install the three upper hull sub-assemblies. I cut them off, and had a little trouble lining up the sub-assemblies. In the picture below, you can see the four small bolts (R35) installed in the previous step. You can also see that I have already installed the rear hull plate, with the rear tow points, exhausts, smoke candle assembly, and idler wheel assembly guards, without first installing the idler wheel axle and adjustment assemblies - big mistake! See Commandment II ...
Four small bolts
Cut out third torsion bar from the left.
Shave off six bolt heads and add Part V64, round vent in Step 3
Commandment III - Always Dry Fit.
Step 4 builds up the rear hull panel with the exhausts, access panel, and rear tow points. I left Parts B39 (tow lock pins) off until later in the build, because I wanted to add tow cables after painting. I had a heck of a time lining the two parts of the tow brackets up, but because I followed the Third Commandment, finally got it right.
Step 5 is attaching the sprocket and idler wheel assemblies, road wheels, and return rollers to the lower hull. Here's where I ran into trouble, big time. I had not noticed it when building the sprocket assembly, but there are three tabs on the inner face of the assembly that prevent it from sitting flush on the hull. No problem-o, I'll just shave them off. Well, even after shaving them off, there was still a noticeable gap when dry-fitting. So, I tried trimming down the inner part of the axle on one side without any noticeable success, until there was hardly any axle left. I still ended up using a bit of putty to seal the gap. The other side did not cause the same problem, so I'm not sure where the fault lay.
The idler assembly was likewise a problem, because I'd installed those two small parts on backwards, I could not insert the idler axle into its mount and thread the adjustment bolt through the opening at the same time. I actually managed to get one idler wheel off the axle and remove Part B3 so I could install the assembly. I was not so lucky on the second one, breaking Part B2 in half. If I had followed the instructions and installed the wheel assemblies in step 5, or at least at some point before installing the rear hull plate as called for in Step 6, all would have been well. Read the directions. Always. Dry. Fit. Sigh.
Step 6 is building up the smoke candle assembly and attaching that to the upper rear panel, which is then attached to the exhaust panel, which in turn is attached to the rear hull - and at this point, if the idler wheel assembly has been attached, as earlier shown in the directions, slips easily over the idler adjustment arm. Although the directions call for attaching the five PE chains to the smoke candles, I knew that if I did, I'd break them. Unfortunately, when I did try to attach them later in the build, I broke them all while trying to bend them in half, as called for. They are very fragile. Lucky for me, I had long ago bought Aber's PE set 35039 for the older Stug III A kit, and it had nine chains - five for the smoke candles, and four for the tow point pins - which all survived my ham-fisted efforts to attach them as the very last step in Step 18.
Step 7 is adding tools, tool box, storage box, lights, mud flaps to the right fender, The jack is built up and attached, and you have the option of two rear mud flaps, one folded up, the other in the down position. If you refer to the directions in the first look review, note the two tabs sticking out at the front and rear - the actual Part D1 does not have the rear tab, which may have helped with attaching the fender to the hull in Step 18. Later in the build I succumbed to AMS and added wire cabling from the front headlights to the horn and marker light.
Jack goes together very nicely.
Step 8 is likewise adding tools, fire extinguisher, storage box, rear mud flap, front and rear marker lights, fender brackets, and PE antenna bracket to the left hand fender, Part D18. Note that in the directions, the correct part number is given, B18, but it depicts a later rectangular light, not the correct round one, as mounted on the right hand fender. This illustration likewise shows a mounting tab at the fender rear, but, it's not there. You're also directed to fill four small mounting holes at the front - use very small amounts of putty or CA so you don't lose any of the non-skid pattern - see those light colored smears in the picture below? Too much putty. As in Step 7, you can choose to mount the mud flap up, or down, I also added some wiring to the light, using thin wire, in Step 18.
Tools are nicely rendered.
Note PE antenna bracket on storage box, PE bracket for fire extinguisher
Step 9 installs the driver vision plate and armor cover to the front of the upper hull, as well as the two MP-40 machine pistols attached to the fighting compartment's rear wall. I once read that some armor crewmen left weapon straps off so they would not snag if needed in a hurry, so I left the PE straps off, but did use the PE mounting straps wrapped around the weapons. I also added magazine pouches from the spare parts bin.
Driver's vision port and armored cover
Step 10 has several sub-steps. First, build up the commander's scissors telescope in either the secured or deployed form and attach to the left wall, above the radio. I chose deployed, and glued it in place later. The directions show building up and installing a transmitter-receiver set (Parts D12 and Q7) to be installed on the compartment rear wall, between the MP-40s, as well as the UKW-Empfanger h VHF receiver installed in the left hand sponson. As noted in the first look review, I did not find any references to Stug III Ausf A's having transmitter-receiver sets, so I left that off and installed just the single receiver. You also do some minor surgery on the radio antenna mount, and the directions show it being installed on the left sponson so it can actually be raised and lowered - I glued the mount in the up position, and left the antenna off until Step 18. Attach the right sponson and front left sponson, trim two hatches off upper hull roof Part C1, and attach the roof. Attach two lifting hooks and hand grips, and Step 10 is done.
There's a small slot centered above the radio compartment where a tab on the scissors telescope fits.
That's the antenna mount at the rear of the sponson.
The rectangle and triangle are cut off, to be replaced by the square hatches.
Step 11 has several options. Open or closed loader and commander's hatches; if open, install handles and hinges to Part Q15/Q14. If closed, use Q17/Q16, and add the second half of the lock bracket with PE parts MA8. Also add the gunner's hatches, Part R30, which are only rendered closed, so if you want them open, sharpen that saw!
Step 12 is removing handles from front brake inspection hatches and replacing them with PE, then gluing the hatches to the front top glacis plate along with hinges and splash guard.
Step 13 is building up the engine deck, adding hatches, air intake assemblies with very nicely rendered PE screens. Although the kit contains a nicely molded tow cable and bracket assembly, Part K1, that can be attached to the engine deck, it is not called out in the directions. Instead, the directions have you install ten brackets, which I did, because I wanted to use a tow cable stretched out front to rear, not coiled up on the engine deck. I also gave in to AMS again, and added small wire handles to the hatches.
Step 14 builds up the three ammunition bins, and the gun breech assembly, to include recoil guards. There is no call-out for a shell basket, and I could not find mention of one in any of my reference books or the internet, so maybe the Ausf. A did not have one.
Step 15 continues construction of the gun assembly, with addition of the gunner's seat, controls, and trunnions, as well as the breech assembly. The floor of the fighting compartment is built up with the firewall, commander's seat, gun platform, and front brace, which involves some minor surgery.
Breech assembly added to trunnions, recoil guard, gunner's seat and controls.
Floor and gun platform
Minor surgery removes the leg (on the left) from Part E8 and glues Part C17 on. Looks weird, but necessary.
I forgot to take a picture of the finished gun platform assembly prior to installing in the hull, so here it is installed:
Step 16 is building up the 7.5cm Kanone L/24. First, cut off about 2-3mm, leaving a 10mm section at the rear of the gun (the direction's illustration will clarify), then glue the two parts to the gun shield, and add the mantlet parts.
Step 17 is adding two of the ammo bins (rear and right side) to the gun platform assembly.
Step 18 is finishing the build by adding the third ammo bin; gun platform assembly; the three upper hull parts (glacis, fighting compartment, engine deck); the main gun; both fenders; tracks; front tow points; headlight assemblies (which can only be depicted with covers on); and two small parts (A15/A14, together with B9/B10) that provides the inner portion of the fender assembly where it meets the glacis. The illustration does not depict that part's placement very clearly, and I initially glued it too far back, before realizing my mistake and getting it off before the glue set. The sprocket wheel gets in the way here, which is why I advise leaving the sprocket wheels off until A15/A14 are installed.
I installed the assemblies in the following order: gun platform assembly K; ammo bin assembly Q, engine deck (V57); glacis plate (D7); left (D18) and right (D1) fender assemblies; upper hull crew/fighting compartment (R31); gun assembly N; front tow points; headlights; A15/A14; tracks.
I dirtied up the floor and added gas mask carriers, chipped the gun mount. Interior is painted with Model Master 4805 Panzer Interior Buff.
I used Vallejos 70.603 German Panzer Grey primer, followed by Vallejo's Dunkelgrau Dark Grey set (Dark Grey 054, Dark Sea Green 053, German Grey 052, Light Grey 050 for highlights, and Satin Varnish 522) in order to try out the color modulation method. Directions say to not use Part C12, gun cleaning rods assembly, but my references depict it on the left fender, so I added it in Step 18
While adding the left hand DS track, I stretched it too far, and tore the small tongue that attaches the two ends, so I ended up pulling the track as close together as I could get it and gluing each end to a road wheel. The right hand track went on with no problem, but there's no sag between return rollers. I may try the old school trick of tying a sag in using thread, if I can get my knockwurst-like fingers to cooperate.
I used Micro Set and Micro Sol to apply the decals depicting Michael Wittmann's Stug III Ausf A, which are very simple - two white crosses, a white oval front and rear, and a white key symbol on the rear, apparently in honor of the LAH's first commander, Josef Dietrich (German for skeleton key). After adding the decals and finishing the painting, then and only then I added the smoke candle chains, the towing cable, tow point pins and chains, and radio antenna.
I used Lifecolor UA 906, Old Track, plus AK Dark Steel pigments on the exhausts, and Lifecolor UA 905, intermediate wear, for the tracks.
I painted the tools on the kit (a first for me, and man, was I nervous), using Tamiya XF-56 Metallic Grey for gun breech, tool heads, the jack, tow cable, and dry brushing the tracks. I used Tamiya Flat Brown XF-10 for tool handles, straps, MP-40 hand guards, grenade wooden handles.
Its difficult to see, but road wheel and return roller tires are painted in Tamiya Rubber Black Tires, XF-85.
Aber chains for the tow point's pin
I added thin copper wire for the cables running from the headlights and marker lights and siren, thin paper for the straps.
I used the following references:
If you're a beginner and ready for a challenge, then try this kit. Hopefully, all my mistakes noted above will save you from any aggravation. Remember, this is a hobby and it's fun. If you don't already belong to AMPS, please consider joining, or at least, attend a couple of meetings. There's an amazing amount of talent and knowledge in the clubs, and most AMPS members I've talked with are more than happy to share their knowledge, laugh about their mistakes, and encourage beginners.
Recommended for Beginners ready for a challenge, and Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Dragon for this review kit.
Reviewed by Joseph "Mac" McDaniel
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