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In-Box Review
135
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. M (Fl)
Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. M (Fl) w/schürzen
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by: Jacob Hederstierna-Johnse [ HEDERSTIERNA ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction

The German armed forces fielded several versions of self propelled flamethrowers from half tracks to light and medium tanks. The Pz.kpfw. III Ausf. M (Fl) was converted from the normal Ausf. M, with a flamethrower mounted instead of the main gun. Two containers of flame oil with a capacity of 1020L, were fitted inside the combat compartment, together with a two-stroke Koebe pump. The flame could reach between 50 to 60 meters, but even though this weapon had a major psychological effect, these vehicles didn’t really deliver any satisfactory performance, and the reminder of the Flammpanzers were converted into normal tanks or tank destroyers. 100 Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. M (Fl) were produced from March – December 1943.

Kit contents

This kit comes in the old familiar Dragon Models sized box, with a nice box art from Filip Zierfuss. The numerous special features of the kit are depicted on the sides and bottom of the box. The sprues come in clear sealed plastic bags, and the whole kit contains 450 parts, and includes the following:

  • 16 sprues molded in grey styrene
  • 2 sprues molded in clear styrene
  • 1 separate hull tub
  • 1 separate turret top
  • 1 pair of DS Tracks
  • 1 small bag of Magic Track links (Only for spare tracks)
  • Hull side Schürzen in Aluminum
  • 1 fret of photo etched parts
  • 1 small decal sheet
  • 1 instruction booklet (Black and white)


Review

Dragon Models has released this kit as a “SmartKit”, which means that the details and parts are simplified, and should be easier to assemble. Thus simplified, it still doesn’t lack details; on the contrary, this kit has loads of crisp and well engineered details. Even under the turret and on the underside of the fenders there are nice surprises to be found. As a Dragon Models tradition, there are also a lot of parts, some of which are for other Pz. III (and even some Pz. IV) kits, and therefore not to be used on this kit. I’d estimate about 30% of the parts are not used in this kit, so plenty for the spares box.

Running gear

The assembly starts with the drive sprocket, idler wheels, return rollers and the road wheels. The drive sprockets and idler wheels are all new tooling, and depict these early Pz. III features beautifully. The road wheels and return rollers are from Dragon Models earlier StuG. Ausf. G kit and they are nice and crisp and very well detailed, which even have mis-spelled “Continentau” (the last “u” should be made an “l”) molded on the rubber rims, and the hubs on the road wheels also has the screw for filling and controlling oil, a well thought out detail. The track tension mechanism is made up of 3 parts, and looks so much better than the “lumps” from the old kits from back in the ‘90’s. This kit also has the workable torsion bar system, which if you are very careful with the glue, does work!

Lower hull

Next is the hull assembly, which starts with inserting the torsion bars and road wheel arms. The lower hull tub is a masterpiece itself. If you for some reason want to portray the vehicle turned over, the bottom of the hull is loaded with details, even very realistic weld seams! The shock absorbers are of new tooling, and these are truly small gems, very well detailed, and with a minimum of clean up.

The assembly of the rear hull plate, which holds two 3 piece towing eyes, is a straight forward build. The exhaust system is of the late deep wading type, which allowed the vehicle to operate with the entire hull under water without drowning the engine. It’s a very well executed part, which gives this vehicle a slightly different look than the earlier versions. The drive sprocket, idler wheel, return rollers and the road wheels are fitted, as well as the rear hull plate.

Next up is the fenders, which in my opinion are also very well executed. There’s just as much detail on the underside as on the top side. The fenders are made thinner in the ends, so they look more in to scale, and even the small hooks for holding the mud flaps into place are included both in styrene and etch. The tools are very nice in detail and I really like the tool clamps, they are a huge improvement over the old “lumps” from the dark ages. The Bosch head light comes in 3 pieces! Be careful to remember to drill the right holes in the fenders for some of the tools. It’s very annoying to discover that these should have been made after you have glued the fenders on.

Tracks

Dragon Models provides us with a set of DS Tracks, which I personally see as a huge step back in model evolution. I guess Dragon Models has done some thinking on this issue, I just don’t agree with the outcome. Let us have the Magic Tracks back again, PLEASE!

Upper hull

The assembly of the upper hull deck starts with the engine cover. All the hatches on the engine deck can be glued in either open or closed position, and they are fully detailed on both sides. And these hatches have no sink marks! The same goes for the inspection hatches for the transmission, which also can be set at open or closed, but on these the handles are molded on the hatches. Dragon Models also supplies some nice PE grills for the air intake, and give the modeler the option of adding the towing cables or just the cable mounting brackets.

The front glacis is fitted with the ball mount Kugelblende 30, which comes with the excellent manufactured MG 34. Dragon Models has really pulled off a great resemblance of this awesome machinegun in its mount. It is just a shame that it can’t be seen when the tank is fully assembled. The driver’s vision slot has a clear styrene part for the armoured glass of the vision block.

The sides of the upper hull are fitted with vision blocks and once again cleverly designed so they can be set as opened or closed. The antenna mount is going on the radio operator’s side, but I strongly suggest not gluing the antenna on until the rest of the vehicle is assembled. I would definitely break that thing of several times, before I would have finished the model.

Turret

Now it’s turret time, which starts with assembling the gun and mantlet. Dragon Models actually gives you the option of building either the Flamm version or the normal Ausf. M version with the 5cm Kw.K39 L 60 main gun. You just have to be a bit careful when removing the sprue so there won’t be a dent in the flamethrower or the gun barrel. I will suggest using a very sharp knife and then a fine file. The gun comes with a superbly cast recoil housing with some really nice details. You can set the armored visors in either open or closed positions. The gun has some really nice details on the recoil cylinders, crew guards and the gun breech, which also can be built open or closed. The bag for spent cartridges has some nice looking texture on the outside, but does have four punch marks in the bottom on the inside. This might be an issue if the commander’s cupola is left open, but on the other hand, the missing interior would probably be a bigger problem than four punch marks.

When building the Flamm version there’s no interior for this weapon at all. It would have been nice, if Dragon Models had provided at least some sort of flamethrower look-a-like construction in the turret, along with the oil containers and a pump.

The top part of the turret comes in one slide molded piece, and looks quite good. Dragon Models has done a wonderful job on this. Great weld seams and some really minute screws on the top. The only punch marks are inside on the roof part of the turret, but these will be very hard to spot once the whole thing is assembled. They can be filled and sanded, but if you going to do this, I suggest doing it before you’ve started the assembly.

The commander’s cupola is from Dragon Models PZ. IV kit and is built up from no less than 14 pieces. It’s very well detailed, and both the hatches and the vision slits can be made either open or closed. The vision blocks are made from clear styrene, which will look very cool, if being careful when painted. The hatches have no sink marks, so no worries there.

Dragon Models gives you the option of adding some great looking smoke dischargers on the turret sides. The rommelkiste, or stowage box is well detailed, with countless small rivets, beautifully cast clasps and some really nice wooden aerial insulation on the sides.

The final stage is the construction of the hull side Schürzen, which come in thin aluminium, and looks very nice indeed. A great thing about this is that you can leave some of the armor plates off, as if they had been lost in action. There are plenty of pictures showing some of these were missing. These are optional, though.

Painting and markings

Dragon Models gives you the following options for painting and markings:
  • 6th Pz.Div., Eastern front 1943 in a three tone camouflage.
  • Unidentified unit, Eastern Front 1943 in a Dunkelgelb base color with wavy dark green lines. (No Schürzen on this vehicle)


Conclusion

This is a really nice and well executed kit. It represents the Pz.kpfw. III Ausf. M (Fl) very well and it can be produced into a great kit straight from the box. Dragon Models has paid a lot of attention to even the smallest detail, which in the end will make this kit top of the line. I highly recommend this kit, and I’m sure Dragon Models will keep pressing on to give us these and maybe even more impressive kits in the future. I thank you for this fine review sample.
SUMMARY
Highs: Very cool subject with great features such as aluminium Schürzen.
Lows: DS Tracks and it would have been nice to have some interior detail for the flamethrower.
Verdict: Another great version of the Pz. III series, which builds up into a very fine model out of the box. Dragon Models keeps on giving us highly detailed kits and leave less and less for the AM producers to add. I highly recommend this kit.
Percentage Rating
92%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6776
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Apr 23, 2015
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.11%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.19%

About Jacob Hederstierna-Johnse (Hederstierna)
FROM: NORDJYLLAND, DENMARK

Copyright ©2017 text by Jacob Hederstierna-Johnse [ HEDERSTIERNA ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of TankRat's. All rights reserved.


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Comments

would you prefer link and length tracks over the DS ones?
APR 23, 2015 - 05:31 PM
Excellent review Jacob. Thanks for taking the time to do this.
APR 23, 2015 - 05:43 PM
Deathdork: None of the above, but I'd love if Dragon Models would provide their Magic Tracks insted. The overall best solution would be to include boht Magic Tracks and DS Tracks. This would probably satisfy most modellers Best regards Jacob
APR 23, 2015 - 06:49 PM
Jacob, another detailed and informative review!
APR 24, 2015 - 02:05 AM
Thanks Bill, glad you liked it. Jacob
APR 24, 2015 - 03:21 AM
They should really do some serious price drops, reboxed plastic can‘t be more more valauble than a completly new tooling by Meng etc.
APR 25, 2015 - 01:46 AM
In these day, the optional separate track kits are more and more popular. IMHO above situation has something to do with dragon's DS track policy.
APR 26, 2015 - 03:04 AM
I doubt anyone would disagree with you.
APR 26, 2015 - 08:02 AM
Timithy: This is not a re-box of the old Flammpanzer, Imperial series I think, but it's based on the newer Pz. III kits, which is guite good. Jacob
APR 26, 2015 - 11:28 PM
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