Dragon 1/72 Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. N DAK
The Panzer III was designed to be the main battle tank of the German Army, with the first production example rolling off the lines in the spring of 1937. Improvements and changes came quickly, though, and by 1939, the vehicle was already up to the Ausf F variant. While the Panzer III performed well in the limited engagements on the Western Front, the shift eastwards and exposure to the Soviet T-34 and KV tanks showed the PzKpfw III to be inferior all around. Although armor and armament improvements increased the success of the Panzer III, it was still not enough, and the Panzer IV took over the role as the primary tank.
This shift relegated the Panzer III to infantry support, and the last variant, the Ausf N, was built for that purpose. Equipped with the short-barreled 7.5cm KwK 37 L/24 cannon and the extra armor found on the Ausf J, L, and M variants, the Ausf N performed well both in Europe and in North Africa. The Panzer III chassis also got an extension of life in the form of the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun, which was highly successful and was most-produced armored vehicle in Germany.
Dragon's latest small scale armor kit covers the Panzer III Ausf N, and for those familiar with Dragon's line, this really should come as no surprise. With a quality StuG III in their lineup, we knew the rest of the Panzer III variants would not be far behind. This kit contains quite a few parts that are found in the StuG III kit, but also includes the various parts needed for a straight Panzer III. The kit is molded in the standard Dragon medium gray plastic, with a couple small frets of photoetch and a decal sheet with several options.
Construction starts with the main hull, and this one will be both simple and complex. Simple, because the main hull is done in one piece. This one-piece casting is absolutely stunning, with crisp detail on all sides. It gets complex, though, because there's quite a bit of stuff to add on. Additionally, there is a bit that needs to be removed, although the instructions don't mention this. There are outlines for two hatches on the lower hull side. The Ausf N did not have these hatches, so these outlines will need to be removed.
The suspension will be fairly straightforward, with all the various wheels built up from separate halves. The drive sprocket gets a separate housing to add to the hull and there are some additional struts to put in place. While much of this could have been molded in place, this modularity allows for many variants to be built from the same basic hull. There are add-on pieces for the rear and front hull, again to cover the variant differences. The tracks are provided in the DS format, which are quite fun to work with. Simply count off the 92 links and make sure that the length is 158mm. If it's a bit short, you can stretch these with little effort.
Moving to the upper hull, this is split into a couple sections. The forward piece has accurate hatches for at least some early Ausf N examples. Later ones had the hatch hinges moved to the inside. This is a simple change to make, though, as one would only have to slice off the hinges and rescribe the hatch line. The main upper hull has separate side and front pieces, with additional armor for the front. Photoetch provides the engine intake grills. With that done, the upper hull can be attached, and the fenders put in place.
With the main hull finished up, the next step is the turret. There is a separate cupola provided, with the proper example for the Ausf N provided. The gun is quite nice, with both the main gun and the machine gun having hollow barrels (truly remarkable in the case of the machine gun). While the kit does include the added armor mantlet piece, all the Ausf N photos I've seen show the regular piece, so toss that extra one in the spares box.
As this is a DAK Ausf N, the decal options provide a couple examples from Tunisia, both from sPz.Abt. 501, and both finished in overall Desert Yellow. The first one has red numbers, with options of 07, 04, or 03. The second option is more specific, being Black 242. This vehicle has the name "Mäuseauge" painted on the turret. Both feature the sPz.Abt. 501 white panther emblem on the hull front.
This is a great extension of the Dragon Panzer III/StuG III family, and I am sure it will go together easily. I am looking forward to building it up, as the Panzer III family has always been a favorite of mine. My thanks to Dragon USA for the review sample.