Thursday, July 30

Construction review: Takom's Panzer III Ausf.M mit Schürzen in 35th scale

Clayton has already finished his 35th scale Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.M kit from Takom. With the accelerated "blitz" build process has meant just that in the outcome. He has paused here today to show us how the kit went together before a second forthcoming article in which he paints & weathers the kit. See the fit of the kit in this bit...

Construction Review: Panzer III Ausf.M mit Schürzen
From: Takom 
1/35th scale 
Kit No #8002
4 marking choices included from AMMO
Photo-etch + link & length tracks included
Hatches can be open and closed
Takom Website
The Ausf. M Model in real life...
In 1943 Daimler Benz adapted their Panzer III L's with more features, the Ausf.M model turned out to be the second last variant, with minor modifications of the Ausf. L such as deep-wading exhaust, for river crossing capabilities on the Ausf.M (250 built until early 1943), and since the beginning, fitted with Schürzen (armoured skirts).
The Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf M was the second of two interim versions of the Panzer III produced while attempts to fit a larger gun to the tank were underway. It was virtually identical to the Ausf L, with the same 5cm KwK39 L/60 gun and extra 20mm spaced armour on the superstructure front and mantlet, but with the addition of fording equipment, which allowed it to wade through four or five feet of water.

A command version, note the radio aerial
This was achieved by providing watertight covers for every opening below the turret, including the normal air inlets for the engine. While the tank was crossing water air for the engine was provided via the turret.
In June 1942 the short 7.5cm KwK L/24 previously used in the Panzer IV was fitted in a Panzer III, producing the Ausf N. The success of this version meant that the order for the Ausf M was modified. The original order for 1,000 Ausf Ms was soon cut down to 775. Of these 250 were completed as ordered, 213 as Ausf Ns, 100 were set aside for use as flame panzers, 165 were used as the basis for StuG IIIs and 47 never completed. The Ausf M was used to replaced front line losses, taking part in the battle of Kursk and the defence of Sicily, although by then its 5cm gun was of little use in tank-vs-tank fighting.
The use of spaced armour or "Shurtzen" on the Panzer III...
The Panzer III Ausf.L, and M models had an additional layer of offset 20 mm (0.79 in) homogeneous steel plate on the front hull and turret, with the M model having an additional 5 mm (0.20 in) Schürzen spaced armour on the hull sides, and 8 mm (0.31 in) on the turret sides and rear. This additional frontal armour gave the Panzer III frontal protection from many light and medium Allied and Soviet anti-tank guns at all but close ranges. However, the sides were still vulnerable to many enemy weapons, including anti-tank rifles at close ranges.

A typical set up of the extra armour is seen in the photo below (and all of these in the article)
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf M / Sd Kfz 141/1
Number produced: 250
Produced: October 1942-February 1943
Length: 6.41m/ 21ft
Hull Width: 2.95m/ 9ft 8in
Height: 2.50m/ 8ft 2in
Crew: 5 (Commander, gunner, loader, driver, radio operator)
Weight: 22.7 tons
Engine: Maybach HL120TRM
Max Speed: 40km/hr/ 24mph
Max Range: 155km/ 96 miles
Armament: One 5cm KwK39 L/60, plus one 7.92mm MG 34 in the turret and one in front of the superstructure

A preserved version (without sideskirts as you may want to make your kit in the present day...
TAKOM's Panzer III Ausf M 
In the scheme of things, the Panzer III, whilst it played a significant role in the German war effort is often overlooked by the modelling fraternity in favour of the heavy hitters such as the Panther and the Tiger. But for me, there is something appealing about the lightweights such as the III, II and even the Panzer I. I use the term ‘lightweight’ with the utmost respect, because in the early stages of the War the Panzer III held its own with the best the allies were throwing at it, but as the War progressed and the likes of the T34 and the Shermans became more prevalent the Panzer III was left wanting.  
This latest release from Takom is the Ausf M version of the tank. The Ausf M was essentially identical to the Ausf L, but with the addition of a deep-wading exhaust which allowed it to wade through water four to five feet deep. Both the L and the M featured the same 5cm KwK39 L60 gun and extra 20mm spaced armour on the front and mantlet.  This incarnation of the Panzer III also features the spaced armour or ‘Shurtzen’ used in an attempt to offer the tank additional protection from light and medium anti-tank weapons. The spaced armour was only 8mm around the turret sections and 5 mm on the sides, so in reality, it offered very little protection against anything at close range.  

This release is the latest in Takom's line of Blitz kits. The whole ‘Blitz ‘philosophy (as I understand it), is to provide the modeller with a simplified kit without having to sacrifice detail. The Blitz range have no interior (except for the simplified gun breach) and comes with link and length tracks. 

This is my first look at a ‘Blitz’ kit, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve built many Takom kits, so I have had some history with the manufacturer, so I knew it was going to be good, but I was still pleasantly surprised at the level of detail and the way the kit presented.  
Don’t be fooled by the term ‘Blitz’. The detail is excellent and there is still enough work in the build to keep an experienced modeller satisfied.  

Takom's new kit statistics...
Name: Panzer III Ausf.M mit Schürzen
1/35th scale 
Kit No #8002
- Photo-etch is included - but as part of the "blitz" line, this will be minimal, and mostly for the side skirts of the tank.
- No interior on this kit, though we will surely see full interior kits of this type in the future 
- As with other kits or recent and in this Blitz series, the link & length tracks with a track jig included
- The hatches can be open and closed

- The kit comes with four schemes developed by the people at AMMO to choose from: 
- 3rd SS Pz.Div. Totenkopf II5 - Battle of Kursk - July 1943  
- 11th Pz.Div. 421 - Battle of Kursk - July 1943 
- 2nd Pz.Div. 521 - Battle of Kursk - July 1943 
- 6th Pz.Div. 601 - Battle of Kursk - July 1943

The scheme that appealed to me the most was tank #421 from the 11 Pz.Div. The recognizable patches were something a little different from the norm. The tank itself is pretty well documented and offers the modeller some excellent reference images. There is a noticeable stowage box at the rear as well as additional armour in the way of spare tracks fitted to the front sections of the tank.  In saying all of that, my bench is overflowing with projects at the moment, so in the spirit of the ‘Blitz’, I made the decision to build it straight from the box and resisted the temptation to start chasing the references.  

The Build 
Construction begins with the lower hull section and the torsion arms and suspension sections. There is no movement in these pieces, so the tank will need to be positioned on flat grounding when complete. The link and length tracks mean that is the only thing that is possible anyway, so it is probably a moot point.  

The placement of the parts is a little ‘indefinite’ if that makes sense… There was a little bit of play in the positioning, so be sure that all of the arms lay on the same plain before the glue sets, otherwise, the wheels will not sit flush with the ground.  
The lower section is now painted in Dark Yellow 2 from Tamiya. I painted the piece at this point to ensure a good coverage over the sections that would soon be obscured by wheels and the like.  
The wheels are now assembled and painted with the aid of a spraying template. Whilst the road wheels were made up of only two pieces, I again found the fit a little ‘indefinite’. The locating trench and peak are quite soft in the moulding and I had to ensure the pieces sat cleanly and evenly against each other.  It wasn’t a big deal, just a little frustrating. Sanding the pieces helped the fit.  
The running gear is now dry fitted to the hull. The tracks would follow, but we can also see at this stage that the road wheels are all evenly touching the ground.  
The link and length tracks are pre-painted on the sprue using a mix of Flat Black and Rubber Black. Most of this paint work will be hidden in subsequent steps, but it serves as an insurance policy in-case parts are obscured during later steps.  
The link and length tracks are now attached to the model. I have had mixed results with link and length in the past with fit issues, but in this case, the fit was pretty close to perfect. 
The upper section of the hull now becomes the focus of the build. The parts have a really refined level of detail and the welds seams, in particular, are really lovely. The side rail support arms really fought me hard to get them in position, so be prepared as patience is required, but once in place, they look great.  
Construction continues with the various pioneer tools, tow cables and engine vents. Again, I found the positioning of the vents to be a little ‘indefinite’ (I can’t think of a better word than that…). Just study references and be mindful of these pieces during the build and you should avoid the issue.  
Support rails for the Shurtzen are attached as well as the cradle for the aerial 
The two sections of the hull are now attached. The fit at the front of the model was very clean however the rear needed a little persuasion and quite a bit of glue. I found the hull had a slight warp in it that prevented good contact with the upper section, so I added a brace to support it.  You can also see additional texture was added to the exhaust by stippling Tamiya putty on the piece with an old stiff brush. 
Now, on to the turret...  
Construction begins with the gun. The piece includes a simplified breach section. Here you also get a good look at the 20mm spaced armour on the mantlet that featured on both the Ausf L and M.  
The turret section has some of the fine detail we saw on the hull. The weld beads are really lovely. There are some small, fiddly parts, so just be patient and understand what it is you are trying to build. That will make the placement of the parts make a little more sense.  
The stowage bin and gun sections are now attached to the turret housing. The commander’s cupola has the option to pose the vision ports open or closed.  
The cupola is now attached as well as the smoke grenade launchers and the brackets for the Shurtzen for the turret.  
The hatches are dry fitted for painting and the turret armour is glued in place.  
The side armour is supplied in the kit as photo-etch pieces. I removed them from the carrier plate and lightly sanded then. This will give the paint a better surface to adhere to.  
The side skirts are then literally hung in place and the model is ready for paint. A walk around of he built up model now...
A makeshift mask was made using painters’ tape to protect the painted wheel sections from overspray and the model was primed using Grey Printer and Microfiller from Alclad. Priming is an essential part of the painting process given the large photo-etch side armour.  
As I mentioned earlier, don’t be fooled by the term ‘Blitz’, this isn’t going to be as ‘Blitz’ as some might think. There is enough of a build challenge to keep most of us interested. If you are like me, the painting is where I find most of my enjoyment in the hobby, so the fact I don’t have to get tied down in building and detailing an interior that will be lucky to see the light of day is a nice break from the recent trend. Don’t get me wrong, I think the inclusion of full interiors is a great thing and has been overlooked for a long time, but I have no doubt it would exclude some modellers from buying a kit and sometimes we just want to simplify the process and get some runs on the board. 

There were a few minor fit issues with the kit, but nothing worth harping on. The detail is beautiful, and the kit is very reasonably priced (at least in my part of the World). I’m really looking forward to painting this now it’s built, and I have no doubt I will be searching out other kits in the Blitz range.  

More of this kit at this link where Clayton paints & weathers and finishes it to a high standard...
Clayton Ockerby 

Thanks to Takom for this kit to build and review

Clayton used AK Interactive product in this build - see more about them on their website
See more of Clayton's amazing works on his modelling website "Workbench Hobbies" or his FB page