by: Tim Sloan [ ]
By 1942 the Pz III had already proven itself to be a reliable and well designed tank, yet showed that a more powerful gun was needed. Thus the order was given to up-gun the ausf. Jís with the 5cm KwK L/60, and changing the designation to Ausf. L. In addition, those sent to the African campaign were given the Tropen, or tropical design, to the engine.
Fast forward to 2009. After its release of the Pz. III Ausf. J initial, Dragon decides to 'up-gun' it as well, giving you the Cyber Hobby 'white box' exclusive of the Pz. III Ausf. L Tp. So what does the Tp mean exactly? To break it down into simpler form, this kit is a conjunction of two recent kits from Dragon, the Ausf J and the initial Ausf J. Kit-wise, itís an Ausf J late, using the engine deck layout from the Ausf J initial, and given the 'Ausf L' designation due to having the L/60 main gun. The major difference of the Ausf L and the Ausf L Tp is internal, with the engine changes in the cooling fan reductions as well as filter types for the engine and cooling system. Unfortunately, all that isnít included in the kit! Noted externally are the engine hatch layouts and their armored covers, being of the initial Ausf. J.
This kit being a 'White Box' for Cyber Hobby makes it a limited edition release. Even though itís a limited release of a rare vehicle, it still stands up to Dragons high quality of injection molded parts. Which is no small amount, 18 sprues consisting of 526 styrene parts including 19 clear, one photo etch fret which has 19 parts , 3 DS parts for the 'Bonus" cacti, a 6 page instruction book with 22 steps, and only 1 decal option printed by Cartograph of a unit with the 5. Panzer Regiment Libya 1942. The box is of the usual white box edition with a colored profile of the only given marking option.
The tracks come in the controversial Magic Track form, individual links, which are handed and color coded for left and right, with the instructions pointing out which color is for what side. They are the 40cm links with hollow guide horns without cleats. These have ejector pin marks which will require attention.
The road wheels are the ones provided in the Stug III G smart kit. Nicely detailed and accurate with weld lines and the "Continentau" logo. The drive sprockets and idler wheels are both highly detailed on the front and back. The idler wheel is designed to be adjustable for when the tracks are ready to be installed. The suspension is not workable, but can be adjusted, if the modeler so desires, with the removal of a small pin on the hull.
The hull is one piece of slide mold technology, having detail on all sides as well as the bottom plate with access panels for drain plugs as well as bolt details. Comparing the hull to 1/35th scale drawings it appears to be dimensionally accurate. The rear of the hull assembly includes detailed exhaust deflector plates, exhaust mufflers with the pipe being slightly hollowed out for realism, though it could use a little deepening with a small drill bit. There is also the smoke grenade dispenser as well as a photo etch grills for underneath. The muffler guard is injection plastic, and although it is molded thin, Iíd rather have this as a photo etch piece as seen on previous kits.
The engine deck is where this kit is different in respects to it being the Tropical version. Having the same layout as the initial Ausf J with the two piece engine access doors, and armored covers placed front and back, versus the late Ausf J and L having a single piece door and armored covers positioned left and right. It also has the smaller vent covers on the radiator access doors as seen on the initial Ausf J. The doors are accurately detailed inside and out with the option of having them open to show a potential aftermarket engine. The hinges for these are molded separate to allow the option, though they are not workable hinges. The kit includes the option of having the tow cable mounted , which is provided as plastic cable with molded on brackets, or the brackets come as separate parts as well.
Moving on to the track guards, these are very detailed on top and bottom. They do have molded indentions for the tools to be mounted, but even if using photo etch replacements they will easily be covered up without having to fill the hole. Separate multi part mud flaps with proper details which have the option of having them positioned up or down with the inclusion of the photo etched brace for underneath the flap. Flap locks are also provided as photo etched parts. The tools provided, while nicely detailed, have molded on clasps with handles that are a little too thick. These could easily be cut off and replaced with PE or scratch-made parts, if not replacing the whole clasp itself.
The hull top has the turret ring molded in, without the locking tabs that we're used to seeing on older kits. This will allow it to be modeled with the turret removed and not have to add those details to the plate ring. It also includes lifting hooks as separate parts for better detail, as well as the shot deflector.
The glacis plate is provided with separate hatches, which have proper details inside and out. Headlamps are provided as clear parts or you can use the covered type. The MG-34 is provided in complete detail with a pre-drilled muzzle and workable ball mount. Visor ports are molded separate, with the vision block coming as clear styrene. These can be made workable, but itís a very tricky thing to try, and most of the time I end up gluing them anyway.
The turret comes in two main parts; the large upper shell and the lower base plate. The top shell has great detail on the outside, including recessed screw heads, but the inside of the roof is plagued with ejector pin marks. The lower plate also has sprue connectors on the interior surface which will need to be cut off and sanded down, especially if any hatches are to be open. The turret ring is molded with the proper gear details, which again, allows it to be modeled with the turret removed.
Both side view ports are provided as separate assemblies with clear parts for the vision blocks. Crew access hatches also come as separate parts, with great details inside and out. The commanders cupola is a tiny model in itself. With separate armored view ports, which can be assembled open or closed and include vision blocks in clear styrene. The two piece hatch has proper details inside and out, which also can be modeled open or closed. Though the turret does not include the full interior, there is a nice start if you want the hatches open.
The turret stowage bin comes as 3 parts, a slide molded tub , the front plate and the top door, with details inside and out. The instructions suggest to remove the isolation wood strips as an option, though Iím not sure this would have been done as this kept the radio antenna from grounding out.
The 5cm KwK L/60 has inner breach details including the spent shell basket and recuperator housing , though not complete, it has enough details to allow the hatches to be opened with something to see inside. The main gun tube is a slide mold single piece barrel with the bore hollowed out. It also has a separate sleeve with proper details. The mantlet includes two separate vision ports which can be positioned open or closed with interior details like the hinge arms and clear vision blocks. The MG-34 is provided with a slide molded sleeve and pre-drilled barrel, or you can use the optional sleeve without the MG mounted.
Having built the Ausf. J kit 6394 out of the box and winning a Gold Medal with it, I already know this kit will build into a very fine model. All the parts coming from previous kits with already proven records, this is simply another addition to an ever growing number of fine kits. Having said that, if only Dragon had included the needed early J hatches with kit 6394, the need to buy this kit would have been avoided as you would have had everything you need for an ausf L Tp.