Takom- Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.N w/ Winterketten
The Pz.Kpfw.III was intended to be the mainstay of Germany's Panzerwaffe and became so in the early period of the war. As enemy armored vehicle technology advanced however, the Pz.Kpfw.III reached the limit of its capabilities, due in large part to the size of its turret ring which prevented it from being up-armed with a long-barrelled 7.5cm gun which was deemed necessary to combat newer enemy vehicles such as the Soviet T-34 and KV-1. The Pz.Kpfw.IV, originally intended for infantry support, assumed the anti-armor role, though it was supplemented but never entirely superceded by the Pz.Kpfw.V Panther. Subsequent Pz.Kpfw.III chassis production was largely diverted to the StuG.III assault gun, which also acted as a tank destroyer when armed with the long-barrelled 7.5cm L/43 and L/48 guns.
The Ausf.N was the final turreted variant of the Pz.Kpfw.III. In an ironic case of role reversal, it was armed with the same short-barrelled 7.5cm KwK L/24 gun originally fitted to the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.A thru F, and assumed an infantry support role. The 7.5cm gun fired a superior high explosive round compared to the 5cm L/60 gun in the Ausf.L and M, and could also fire a shaped charged armor piercing round with good anti-armor performance.
You can find a First Look review of this kit on the AMPS web site here. That review provides some additional background on the vehicle, along with an overview of the kit including sprue photos. In this review, we will focus on the assembly and finishing of the kit.
Assembly begins with the lower hull and suspension. Steps 1 and 2 have you attach the suspension swing arms, shock absorbers etc. to the right and left hull sides respectively. The mounting points for the swing arms are keyed to assist with alignment, but it's an easy matter to trim off the tabs from the swing arms if you wish to pose your model on uneven terrain.
There are two small seams where the forward hull side extensions (parts C6 and C17) meet the lower hull. While these would probably be invisible behind the drive sprockets after assembly, particularly when the model is weathered, I decided not to take a chance, and filled them.
Make sure you add part D36 to the inside of part C18, and part D43 to the inside of part C16, before adding parts C16 and C18 to the hull. Adding them afterwards will be quite difficult due to the narrow clearance.
Take care not to forget the rearmost fender mounts on each side (parts D41 and D43). They're clearly marked on the instruction sheet, but it's easy to overlook them among all the other parts.
Step 3 deals with the road wheels, return rollers and sprocket mounts. The instructions direct you to attach the road wheels and return rollers at this point, but I chose to leave them separate to assist with painting.
At this point, I jumped forward in the assembly sequence to Step 8, which deals with the sprockets and idlers. This allowed me to finish all the running gear in one session.
The road wheels and return rollers include the 'Continental' logo embossed on the tires. The road wheels lack the thin metal guards on the inner side of each road wheel half, but these are available as aftermarket parts from Aber if you feel the need to add them.
There was a small amount of flash on the ends of the reinforcing rods that run between the road wheel halves. I was able to trim it off with a sharp #11 blade, with no major incidents. Some reviewers have stated that the rods required trimming in order for the wheels to fit together. I did not find this to be the case.
The sprockets feature a seam between the inner and outer halves. Since this part is a single casting on the real vehicle, this seam should be eliminated for strict accuracy. However, since I planned to depict my model in the Leningrad area in December 1942, the sprockets would be plentifully weathered with mud and dirt which would obscure the seam, so I simply smoothed it out and didn't go to the trouble of eliminating it completely.
Step 4 mounts the spare tracks on the lower front hull. I attached the mounting bar but left the track links separate for easier painting later.
The spare track links have very fine ejector pin marks on their inner faces. I was able to remove these easily with a few scrapes from a sharp #11 blade. The instructions have you use 9 links of one side (part D5) but I decided to use 5 links from one side (part D5) and 4 from the other (part D6) for some variety.
Step 5 has you attach the rear towing shackle mounts and exhaust mufflers to the lower rear hull. This step is quite simple. Note however, that there are two lower hull plates in the kit. The one you need to use is part Q29. I didn't pay enough attention and glued the wrong hull plate in place, then had to cut it off again.
Steps 6 and 7 complete the rear hull assembly, adding the exhaust baffles and screens, and the rear hull plate. The kit includes the original smoke grenade dispenser unit mounted under the rear overhang (parts Q7 and Q17). According to Panzer Tracts 3-3, this unit was omitted from February 1942 onwards, so you may wish to omit it from your model. Even if you choose to add it, it will be invisible from most viewing angles.
At this point, I decided to attach the upper hull to the lower hull, in case I needed to make any adjustments. As it turned out, the fit was perfect.
Step 8 has you assemble and attach the drive sprockets and idlers. I had already assembled these components along with Step 3, and left them separate for painting.
Steps 9 and 10 deal with the link-and-length tracks. The tracks are molded with solid guide horns which matches numerous photos of Winterketten. The instructions have you assemble the track runs on the model, with the running gear already attached. I decided to assemble each track off the model to simplify painting, then attach them during final assembly.
Step 11 switches to the upper hull. The instructions would have you assemble the entire upper hull including all the small details, then attach it to the completed lower hull. This seemed like a risky proposition for a fat fingered fool like myself. I'd already joined the upper and lower hulls together when I finished the lower rear hull, but if you didn't do this already, now would be a good time, before continuing with the assembly sequence given in the instructions.
I continued with Steps 11 thru 15. Note that you must fill some small locating holes in the forward superstructure sides (parts D16 and D12) in Steps 11 and 13 respectively.
I deviated again from the strict sequence of the instructions, working my way over the hull top from rear to front, before moving to the fenders and doing the same. I've found this is the best way for me to avoid breaking or losing small parts as I go.
The attachment tabs on the upper hull lifting hooks suffered from very tight - overly tight - tolerances. The tabs did not fit into their locating slots on the upper hull. I cut off the locating tabs and glued the hooks directly in place.
I found that the rearmost ventilation hoods on the engine deck did not fit well. There are projecting pegs on the upper hull that should fit inside the hollow undersides of the hoods. However, the pegs are spaced slightly too far apart and the hoods will not fit down over them. I got around this by cutting off the pegs and simply gluing the hoods in place, aligning them with the Mk.1 eyeball. Note that this is only a problem with the rear two hoods (circled in red in the photo below). The three foremost hoods fitted perfectly.
Step 12 would have you attach the upper set of spare tracks to the glacis. I chose to add the mounting bar but left the tracks separate until after painting.
Step 14 has you add the photo-etched engine air intake screens to the upper sides of the rear superstructure. These attached without any problems, using my normal CA glue.
The remaining parts attached with no problems. Note that the spare wheels are dry fitted in place at this point, for photography purposes and are removable for painting.
Step 16 directs you to attach the front superstructure plate and the superstructure Vorpanzer (part D2). Since it would be difficult to reach the superstructure for painting after the Vorpanzer is attached, I primed the front of the superstructure and the inside of the Vorpanzer with black first, then attached part D2.
Step 17 starts on the turret. The turret shell is repurposed from TAKOM kit 8005 which includes schürzen, so the first step is to remove the base plates for the schürzen mounting brackets, along with several other raised details, and to fill the slots in the turret roof where the splash guard around the cupola attaches on the other kit.
While I was at it, I decided to remove the schürzen mounting bracket from the rear of the turret stowage bin.
Note that there are two stowage bins included in the kit. Use the one molded separately and bagged with the turret, and not the one attached to sprue M.
The stowage bin includes a separate front plate - the plate between the bin and the rear wall of the turret. The fit of this part was less than perfect, and it required some sanding and filling to get it into place. The result was not perfect but thankfully most of the area is hidden after the stowage bin is attached to the turret.
I then deviated from the prescribed assembly sequence once more, skipping forward to Steps 21 and 22 to assemble the main armament and turret front plate, then attach the assembly to the main turret shell before returning to Steps 17 thru 20 to add the smaller turret details.
There are also two commander's cupolas supplied in the kit. For a November 1942 vehicle, you should use the parts on sprue E, with the split hatch. The other cupola, on sprue M, features a single-piece hatch and, according to Panzer Tracts No.3-3, was fitted to Ausf. Ns from March 1943 onwards. The main section of the cupola (part E?) has ejector pin marks on its upper surface, which are visible after the upper hatch ring (part E?) is attached, so take care to fill and sand these.
The lifting hooks on the upper front corners of the turret are in two parts, and the hooks themselves (parts A36) are a very tight fit into their locating slots on the base plates (parts A35). I used the tip of a sharp #11 blade to open up the slots slightly, so the hooks would slide in easily.
Like the Vorpanzer on the front of the superstructure, the area between the turret stowage bin and the rear of the turret will be difficult to paint after assembly. I therefore airbrushed this area with flat black before attaching the stowage bin to the hull
Step 23 unites the turret with the hull, and the model was then complete and ready for paint.
I primed the model with Tamiya red brown primer, sprayed from a can. Once the primer was fully dry, I began working up the Dunkelgrau base coat using Ammo by MIG's German Grey modulation set. Even though I planned to cover most of the grey with white snow camouflage, I figured I would go for a full grey scheme first.
Note that the tone of the grey is overly light. This was deliberate, because I've done snow camouflage over grey before, and I've found the eye plays tricks with the color and the grey will appear darker than it actually is. Weathering would also darken it, so I wanted to start with a lighter tone.
The kit decals are well printed on a thin carrier film, and settled into place with no problems. I chose the second of the two decal options provided in the kit: a vehicle from s.Pz.Abt.502 near Leningrad in November 1942. I gave the decals a light application of Gunze Sangyo's Mr. Mark Softer, though this was probably overkill.
After I gave the decals a chance to set, I sealed them with matte varnish, prior to starting on the snow camouflage.
I then applied a very patchy coat of Vallejo Model Air flat white and before it had fully dried, I began attacking it with a damp Q-tip and brush to create scuffs and scratches, particularly on the horizontal surfaces where the crew's and maintenance personnel's boots would wear away the white camouflage. I followed this up with dry-brushed dark grey along the edges to simulate further wear and tear. I did this in several stages, and didn't get too concerned about consistency. Wear and tear is different, over time.
Now I'd gotten a base color and camouflage established, I went back and painted the tools, stowage and other items such as the exhausts in their appropriate colors, which helped provide some contrast to the grey and white.
I then primed the tracks with flat black, gave them an overspray of various rust colors and a final 'crud' effect using AK Interactive's Wet Ground mix. The kit instructions denote this marking option as 'November 1942' but given the very beat-up nature of the finish, I decided to apply a little artistic license and pretend it's the late winter.
All that remained was to attach the commander's hatch covers, the radio antenna and the spare tracks on the front hull. I used less spare track links than the instructions call for, to depict a model that's seen heavy usage, in keeping with the very worn snow camouflage.
With that, the model was complete. I do plan to add a figure to the commander's hatch, but that will be outside the scope of this review.
The sometimes problematical fit of parts, along with the minor but widespread flash, and the prevalent ejector pin marks, mean that this is not a kit for the absolute beginner. However, none of the problems should be beyond the skills of a reasonably experienced modeler. With careful assembly, the kit will reward the builder with a very nice rendition of the subject.
Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to TAKOM for this review kit.
Reviewed by Neil Stokes
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