|Tamiya Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. L in Review
By Lawrence Goh
Among the attrition of Dragon/DML/Gunze Sanyo/Revell Germany's releases of Panzer III variants, the big 'T' still managed to fill a gap in between the range. Nevertheless, the Ausferung L (model L) kit is still a welcoming sight, due to the fact that this model has fought on many fronts: from the deserts of North Africa to the plains of the Russian steppes. And the fact that why Gunze did not milk this version out from their Panzer III mold and thus allowing Tamiya to nudge in really makes me wonder. Okay, I side-tracked. Now where was I? Oh yeah... Plus, it came with Tamiya engineering, which is light-years ahead of its competitors promising crisp molding and flash-free parts. Last but not least, with the notion of hassle-free construction built into it.
The box came with five crisp plastic sprues, lower hull, a pair of flexible track lengths (glueable of course), poly caps, decal sheet and instructions. One would expect a lot of similar parts from Tamiya's earlier release of its SturmGeschultz III Ausf. G. Having both kits at hand, the only shared parts I noticed were those of the lower hull, two sprues containing sprockets, idlers, return rollers and wheels, tracks, and poly caps. No kidding! That leaves the rest to be all new! Apart from that, molding was extraordinarily sharp. Details on the tools and equipments, bolts on the armor plate, and even the molded tow cable looked good enough without a need for replacements. The jack alone has five separate parts! Such intricacies would appear as appetizers before a 'big delicious meal'. Okay, enough talk. Lets dig in!
As the name suggested, you could only build one version from this kit. It does however offer you three minor choices. First off, you could choose either one of the two types of attachment ribs for the hull front spaced armor. Secondly, you could leave the splash guard on or off the top-front of the upper hull. Turret spaced armor could be excluded from mantlet to show off the hidden details of the armor mount. Further elaboration on these would be discussed during the construction process later.
Decal options came in quite a few. Five to be exact. Although the instruction sheet only illustrated three plan views for the location of decals, the remaining two were in the form of box-art on the box sides. The markings for the five are as follows (taken directly from the sheets and box-art):
A) Tank No. 133, sPzAbt 502 1st Company, Russia, September 1942
B) Tank No. 115, 10th Panzer Division, Tunisia, February 1943
C) Tank No. 200, 18th Panzer Division, Russia, Winter 1942
D) Tank No. II01, 11th Panzer Division, 15th Panzer Regiment, Russia, Summer 1943
E) Tank No. 02, Hermann Goering Regiment, Germany 1942
The Hull Assemblies
As usual, I stayed with the instructions as closely as possible. For beginners, this would be advisable, otherwise this kit would have been marked "for ages 3 to 10".
Suspension work around the lower hull details was, like most of the Tamiya's recent kits, a piece of cake. The only thing I took precaution of was to make sure that the alignments of the suspension arms were taken care of. I thought "a mutt with an injured rear limb" look should be avoided at best. Note worthy for those who would want a working suspension, this kit definitely has the room for it. The suspension arms could easily be made movable with proper alterations, but I leave that to the imaginations of each modeller. Mine was left as it was.
Third step covered the entire lower hull rear wall. Everything else was a smooth glide across the ice until I met the part about the extended engine housing with additional armor plating. Instructions at this point highlighted the need, if you want one, to attach photo-etched grille onto the bottom of the extension housing first before fixing the latter onto the rear of the lower hull. For those who didn't already know, a photo-etched grille set is also available separately by Tamiya meant for the earlier StuG III G, which is applicable for this kit also. Okay, I got mine those. Tee-hee... I just couldn't bare to watch the rear end naked. With the extension assembly completed, I made sure that the top edge of the housing was mated evenly in line to that of the lower hull.
Completion of the wheels, idlers and sprockets was what I would consider the most repetitive, monotonous but easiest task of any AFV kit construction. Why, you could even watch your favorite TV program, or start feeding that long neglected, pathetic pooch of yours while doing this!... After that, I attached the rollin' thingies onto the Mk III hot rod. At this point, there was one thing I would like to question Tamiya: "No poly caps for the wheelies?!" The poly caps provided were only enough for the front transmission covers. Thus, only the sprockets were movable. The rear idlers fit tight enough that I did not really need to glue them down. Folks who cannot control their hands from the 'shakes' should leave the twelve wheels off to be painted separately later, like I did... Time to cut the caffeine intake.
Step 6... Phew! When would I get to the turret part?! Step 6 was chicken feed, except for the highlight on the sheet to attach more photo-etches (also available from the previously mentioned PE set): side intake grilles; and 2 other fender pieces directly below the intakes.
Skippidy-skip. Nothing worth mentioning until step 8: options for the frontal spaced armor assembly. This section allowed you to pick part labelled D5, or partial of part D5 combined with D4. This was actually about an earlier version of the attachment ribs for the frontal armor versus the later version which has additional armor plates molded on (D4). However, there was no other indications on the plan-view drawings as to which vehicle used which. So I took the liberty of choosing the latter, built the assembly, and attached it as per requested. The rest were more on-vehicle equipments (OVE) attachments. Commenced skipping...
Halt! I slowed down for step 10 which covered the splash guard option on hull top front: to leave it off or not. I loved to use every available parts, so I went for it. Okay, blame it on greed.
Another smooth ride towards the end of the hull assemblies until it was time to put on the flexi track bands. Watch out for the track directions! Make sure ya don't wear your shoes on the opposite!
Yee-haw, finally! Da beef! It was pretty straight forward putting the 5cm gun together, including the mantlet assembly. However, it seemed all too easy before mating the two together! Smelling a stinky fish, I decided first to dry fit the recoil tube housing, 5cm gun, and spaced armor assembly against the mantlet. Hmmm... a case of uneven and unwanted gaps around the spaced armor crevice where the L/60 gun poked through. I got all eagle-eyed and started doing the following procedures. First, I centered and attached the recoil housing onto the mantlet. The 5cm gun assembly was centered to the mantlet next. I also made sure the gun tube was also dead center against the recoil housing before the mating. Finally, on went the spaced armor assembly. Dicey, but nevertheless completed.
All other parts for the turret went along without a glitch until it came to two parts of A32. These were pistol ports situated at the left and right of the turret's curved rear armor. I almost made a big boo-boo here. Be sure to face the two semi-round pieces in the same direction: the cropped edge facing right!
Noticed that I have two identical kits in the pictures. Sorry but the first one was just way too much fun! Anyway, painting was pretty much the same standard procedure for both vehicles, except for the differences in decals and camouflage color. For the first, I chose decal option A, while the second with option D. Option A required a camouflaged paint job of dark green spray wrigglies over dark yellow base, while the latter was similar except for red brown instead of dark green.
To keep the painting process simple and problem-free, I adopted the use of dual paint type system. In my case, Tamiya acrylics for base, camouflage and gloss coating. And Testors/Humbrol enamels for dark washes, small parts painting, matt coating and drybrushing. Spraying was done with my trusty Badger 150 dual-action airbrush.
Although I have not built any of Gunze's Panzer IIIs, I would still find Tamiya's offering simply yummy, complete with cherry toppings. With basic modelling skills, anyone could have completed this kit without much stops. The building process was like clockwork, no mess, no fillers needed and certainly no swearing necessary. It was a testament of Tamiya's philosophy in their recent kit designs. For the beginners, there is no question about the accuracy and ease of building for this kit. For the geeks and the Indiana Jones of AFV modelling, building an Ausf J or Ausf M out of this kit isn't a question of possibility.
A) The Panzerkampfwagen III at War by Michael Jerchel and Waldemar Trojca, printed by Concord Publications Company - This book is one of the best and most affordable picture references for the Panzer III tanks. Cool color plates and evenly spreaded photo coverages for each Panzer III variant.
B) Achtung Panzer No. 2 on Panzerkampfwagen III put out by Dai Nippon Kaiga, also commonly known as ModelGraphix - This reference in my oppinion is the best for those who are into the nitty-gritties. Averagely priced and very in-depth into the minute differences and details between the Panzer III range. A must if you want to super-detail the heck out of the Ausf. L kit.