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In-Box Review
135
Pz. III Ausf. H (early)
Pz.Kfw. III (5cm) Ausf. H Sd.Kfz.141 Early Production
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

introduction

Along with the Pz. IV, the Pz. III was one of two workhorses for the Wehrmacht. Tigers and Panthers were superior in almost every aspect, and both get waaay more attention than history justifies. Both concepts also benefited from lessons learned on the battlefield, and neither were produced early enough (and in sufficient numbers) to change the outcome of the war. The Pz. III on the other hand, was designed in 1935-1937 to be Germany's main battle tank (the Pz. IV was seen as an infantry support tank and initially fitted with the short barrel, low muzzle velocity "cigar" 7.5cm). Some 5,700 were produced prior to the shift over to using the chassis for the StuG. III tank destroyer in 1943 when it became evident the III had reached the end of its useful life as a tank. The Pz. III served in all campaigns and in all theaters of operation, and carried the weight of the work in theaters such as North Africa and the early stages of the invasion of the Soviet Union.

If the T-34 was the beginning of the modern tank design era, then the Pz. III might be said to be the culmination of the design and production values of the inter-war period. Originally fitted with a 3.7cm gun, the Pz. III was one of the first tanks to have a three-man turret crew, allowing the tank commander to focus on the battle and not do double duty as a loader for the main gun. An additional design innovation was its torsion-bar suspension. And like with many other German AFVs, the Pz. III shows a tendency towards over-design and even "precious" execution: the drive sprockets and return wheels look like something out of the Art Deco period, and reflect the elegant execution of railroad locomotives (that's no coincidence, given that Germany used its rail manufacturers to build its tanks instead of its automobile companies).

The Ausf. H is also the first Pz. III to be fitted exclusively with a 5cm gun to counter the heavier armor of the KV-1 and T-34. Dragon Models has already released a kit of the Late Production Ausf. H (reviewed here by Roman Volchenkov). So it was only a matter of time before they released one of the Early Production.

kit contents

Inside the usual Dragon box you will find:

19 sprues of gray styrene plastic
1 gray styrene hull tub
1 turret in gray plastic
1 bag of gray Magic Tracks (38cm variety)
2 sprues of clear styrene for the headlight lenses & periscopes
1 moderate-sized fret of brass photo etch
1 sheet of decals
6-page instructions & painting guide

the review

By 1940 when the Ausf. H first came into production, Germany commanded the battlefields of Europe with an army that was better-trained than its opponents, and which had superior doctrine. While there were some doubts about the ability of the Pz. III to handle the workload of Main Battle Tank, it was not until the shock of encountering the Soviet KV-1s - and especially the T-34 - after the launch of Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) that the Wehrmacht realized it could not compete 1-1 with their opponent's armor.

Their solution was to up-gun the Pz.III to a 5cm KwK 38, and switch the role of MBT to the Pz. IV, primarily because its turret configuration could support the superb 7.5cm KwK 40 L/48 (the PaK 40 anti-tank gun). The short 5cm KwK 38 gun added to the Pz.III Ausf. H was only slightly better than the 3.7cm gun it replaced, and was still too puny to take on the newer Soviet tanks. Only better doctrine, superior training and - radios in every vehicle - gave German tankers the edge through the first phases of Barbarossa.

Not long after these lessons began pouring in, production of the Ausf. H ceased at around 300 units (instead of a projected 800). It was replaced by the J with a "long" 5cm 5 cm KwK 39, though even that change could not hide the Pz.III's shortcomings. Its role became more one of infantry support, or serving in theaters like North Africa against equally-deficient British cruiser tanks.

Even before ending production of the Ausf. H, the Wehrmacht had begun to alter its procurement practices by simplifying the vehicle's design. The two Dragon kits of the Ausf. H nicely reproduce these changes, resulting in the case of the Early Production variant of an abundance of semi-identical sprues and enough spares it would seem to build a second tank (or at least part of one).

The most noticeable differences between the Early and Late Ausf. Hs are in the drive sprockets and idler wheels (sprues T & X, plus the PE). In the Early version, we still see the influence of 1930s design, including fluted fabricated stampings, and almost ornately-fashioned openings on the drive sprocket facings. In the later version, both sets of wheels were simplified (and lightened) with more tubular bracings instead of fancy stamping.

The hatches on the Early version also have more-detailed frames (sprue K), a luxury Germany could no longer afford as the balance of power gradually slipped from its grasp in the snows before Moscow during the Winter of 1941. Other changes include a different suspension (sprue Z).

Many of the other outstanding features of the kit are common to its Late Production twin, including a late-model MG 34 (with smooth cooling jacket instead of the early one with perforations), a single coaxial MG in the turret, and one in the glacis (nicely-executed as usual with Dragon tanks). The turret bin has detailing on the inside of the lid, a nice feature if you want to show it open. The gun is complete inside & out, and the engine hatches are separate, though as usual, Dragon has not included an engine.

The kit doesn't break any new ground, but it gives fans of the Pz.III a visually-distinct variant from the Late Production kit already released. Since Dragon has released all of the Pz.IIIs in the major variants from the Ausf. E through the final Ausf. N, there should be no issues with building of this kit.

[b]UPDATE:[/b]
Modelers building the kit say that its larger 40cm tracks don't fit the early drive sprocket supplied. If so, this will mean that you will need to come up with a Friulmodel drive sprocket to handle the wider tracks.

decals & painting

The decals and painting allow for five Panzer Gray variants, only one of which is the dreaded "unidentified unit":

1st Pz. Division, 1941
2nd Pz. Division, Balkans 1941
7th Pz. Division, Russia 1941
Unidentified Unit, 1941
Pz. Rgt. 3, 2nd Pz. Division, Greece 1941

conclusion

Unless you are a Pz. III nut like me, I could not see most modelers who already have the Late Production kit going out and purchasing the Early Production variant. That having been said, the 1930s "feel" of the fabrication, the ornate design of the various parts, and the knowledge that this was perhaps the zenith of the inter-war tank design paradigm, all make this a very interesting and welcome kit.
SUMMARY
Highs: DML's usual high-quality production values. Excellent molding, flash-free with few seam lines or other things requiring clean-up.
Lows: Pricy, and limited by their earlier release of the Late Production H. Apparently the 40cm Magic Tracks won't fit the supplied drive sprocket.
Verdict: Highly-recommended for Pz. III lovers and a good building kit as well.
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6641
  Suggested Retail: $54.95
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Sep 22, 2013
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 90.08%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 86.19%

Our Thanks to Dragon USA!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright 2017 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. 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

I finally took a look in the Dragon Nashorn 3-in-1 kit... Yes, it does have the modified III-early sprockets, along with a set of the standard later III type. Turns out that probably relatively few Hornisse and Nashorn came along with the modded early - certainly the less-common configuration and generally seen only in the early production vehicles. Not common in war-time photos of the type As many know, the German vehicle industry practiced "FILO" parts-stocking and usage... newest stuff added into the pile got used before old stock did... which does allow that even later-production Nashorn could occasionally have those early-type sprockets. But only seldom. So... IF you have the 3-in-1 kit, AND you want to build your Nashorn with the more-common configuration... you have some modded early sprockets for your early H. @Richard C.; Adding a spacer to the idler? I'm not sure! That idler in the III-H kit should already be in position for the correctly-supplied 40cm tracks, right? So replacing the erroneous early sprocket with the necessary wider "modded" sprocket should already be accommodated, I would expect. But stranger things (not limited to kits needing "AM" modded 40cm early sprockets to fit their supplied 40cm tracks) have of course happened in the scaly world of the Dragon! PS: About that kit supplying "correctly-sized" later-type sprockets along with the wrong early types... well, "so what?"! The art shows the early H with its widened early-type sprockets, and I would guess many of us would love to have that distinct different appearance on our build. I, for one, would expect to build it "early-early" so that it does look distinct from later H, etc. Bob
APR 26, 2014 - 03:36 PM
Hi Bob ... I'm not sure if you need a spacer or not but I'm thinking that you better test fit the tracks so that the track tooth lines up with the middle of the idler before gluing everything together... As for the later sprocket ...I agree that it's not a solution to the problem but at least if someone has already bought the kit and does not want to spend money on an aftermarket sprocket...The kit can be built as an actual vehicle that existed ..I guess you'll need new decals. It was just to give people another option.. Rick
APR 26, 2014 - 04:45 PM
Rick; I'm NOT taking any sort of shot at what you said! I AM, however, taking yet another shot at the D. They sell this kit with what I believe is clear intent to say you can build the visually-distinct early H from this box - and "nicely provide you the option of building a later vehicle" - while not providing you what you need to make what you wanted when you bought this one! "You can always build a later H, if you "WISH"! A squishy sort of b*tt-cover so that builders might not squeal as much! You are absolutely right about the track n wheels question... I, too, would heartily suggest doing some checking and fitting of tracks - the more so given that they did do this actually odd-seeming gaff with a narrow sprocket! I do assume that the sprocket can actually be floated out on its little stub-axle the 12 - 15 thou needed to center it in the wider track... but a spacer would ensure that it did get fixed in place. As long as one is checking positions of things... the return rollers might need a tweak, as well. All the wheel goods need to be centered perhaps 15 thou further out from the hull-side to accommodate that wider 40cm track (or there is already enough space for the wider track to fit closer to that hull...). Cheers! Bob
APR 26, 2014 - 07:00 PM
Hi Bob ...Didn't think you were at all ...lol I understand completely... I do think the wheels and return rollers will be ok since they are already the later (wider type) so they should be fine with the 40cm tracks .. I enjoy this kinda post ..and I bet it has been a while since a review has got over 1000 views..lol I think we have done a good job letting people know what to expect on buying this kit .. That's what forums are for.. Rick
APR 26, 2014 - 09:38 PM
As I see it looking over the instruction front pages of 6641 early H and 6642 late H the two kits are almost identical. 6641 has all of 6642 except the turret stowage box the so called Rommel box and adds the dubious early sprockets and of course both kits have diff decals. Now 6642 has everything 6641 has except those sprockets and you get the Rommel box . So since the Early sprockets are wrong you are better off getting 6642 as the Rommel box is nice to have and this new tooled Dragon one is the best Styrene one on the market in my opinion. There just isn't enough offered in the newer 6641 , yes 6642 was first even though the numbers say otherwise . Oh one other small note in 6642 you get an actual bent wire for the front headlight Dragon has since in 6641 made it plastic. So overall unless you need those decals or just want those Early sprockets I see 6642 to be the better kit. Just my two cents. Brian
APR 27, 2014 - 04:09 AM
Hi Brian.. With all this talk of Panzer IIIH's going on here, I took out my late (6642) last night and started it .. It really is a nice kit.. One thing you don't get in the late kit are the early shock absorbers.. both kits have a Z sprue but looking at the pictures they aren't the same . It is nice to see everything else but the Rommel box in the kit to "desertise" the early .. I suppose it won't belong before they do a specific desert early H kit and that might be the time for them to correct the sprocket! One thing that bugs me about the late kit is it is focused mostly on desert vehicles (decals)but don't give you any optional diagrams on how the stowage was changed when they added the spare wheels to the fenders ..I've been trying to figure out where to put everything .. Even Ron Volstad's art has the wheels on the fenders ... Come on Dragon !! Have a great day everyone Rick
APR 27, 2014 - 08:41 AM
Hello Richard, What you need is the new PanzerTracts book specific to the E thru H models. Has a ton of pictures and a lot of great drawings showing diff configurations. I personally love PT books I think they are the best and they don't cost an arm n a leg. If you are wanting a spaced larger Early sprocket set I would trade you a TWS set for your Early 36's. Brian
APR 27, 2014 - 10:01 AM
Hi Brian .. I already have the PT books (got them all and love them ) as for the sprockets ..I'm fine I've got an early Nashorn kit .. Thanks for the offer..You might ask Bill if he's interested.. I'm sure he would be. Rick
APR 27, 2014 - 10:20 AM
So Gents (especially Bob), to sum up: You can build the kit with the later sprocket without problems, but if you want to use the earlier, more "ornate" and "distinctive" sprocket, you're going to need a spacer or an AM replacement. Is that correct?
APR 28, 2014 - 04:36 PM
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