Box art

Introduction

I must say a big thank you to Ken Jones and My Hobby Store Ltd. For entrusting the latest Dragon Smart kit to me to review and blog.
 
As you may be aware, the 38(t) family of tanks is my favourite. From the original Czechoslovakian THPNS or LTvz. 38 to the Jagdpanzer 38 these vehicles have held a fascination for me ever since I saw the Fujimi 1/76 box artwork in the 1970s and got my hands on the old 1/35 Italeri kits.
 
If you are having a feeling of Deja Vu, there is a good reason for that, Dragon released the same model ref. 6331 some time ago. This kit appears to be, effectively, a reissue with the addition of a Dragon Styrene foul weather cover. I, for one, am glad of this release because I missed the earlier one. As I do not have the earlier kit to compare it with, I cannot say if any parts have been retooled. I have compared the instructions in this new kit with the instructions for the previous kit posted on the JP Hobbies website:

History 

The Marder III ausf. H was made up of two of the best weapons in the German arsenal the Czechoslovakian designed and built LTvz. 38, or Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) as it was known in German service and the formidable, new,  Pak 40 7,5cm high velocity anti tank gun.
 
The 38(t), as a gun tank, had come to the end of it’s effective front line life in 1942. The 3,7cm gun was no match for the KV1, T34 and M4 tanks which had appeared on the battlefields of the second world war. The Pak 40 on the other hand, introduced in February 1942, was able to deal with these threats, however what was needed was a mobile Pak 40.
 
The Marders, based on the 38(t), began with the Panzerjaeger 38(t) 7,62cm Pak 36(r) which mounted the Soviet 7,62cm antitank gun re-chambered for German ammunition. This vehicle is available in kit form from Tamiya. The MarderIII Ausf.H, the subject of this kit mounted the 7,5cm Pak 40 in a better protected superstructure and was powered by a more powerful 150HP engine.
 
Production began in November 1942 with 42 units produced and deliveries to units on the eastern front began at the end that month. A total of 275 were built from the (then) current Ausf. H chassis and another 336 were converted from returned gun tanks. Production or rather conversions  ceased in September 1943. In addition to being supplied to Wehrmacht and Waffen SS units, 18 were sold to the Slovak army in 1944, two of which were used in the Slovak uprising against the German forces and their allies.
 
Production of the Marder III Ausf.H overlapped the production Marder III Ausf. M (Tamiya & Dragon) which began in May 1943, which was in turn superseded by the Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer.
 
In addition to these, there was a prototype Sturmgeschutz 38 (t) which mounted a Pak 40 which is the subject of a Cyber Hobby kit 7.5cm Stu.Kan.Ausf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t).
 
The Marder III Ausf. H is best known for it’s service on the eastern front and in Italy, however they also served in North Africa.  In combat the Marder III Ausf. H was very successful, however it had a high profile, was lightly armoured and the superstructure was open at the rear which made the crew vulnerable to shell fire. Indeed, one photo which I have shows three of the four crew members wounded.

The Kit

This kit is one of Dragon’s Smart kits which are intended to be complete, need no aftermarket additions, with as much detail moulded in plastic as possible using slide mould technology, and can be built straight from the box. With that in mind, complex subjects such as this are ideal candidates for this kind of approach. This is an in box review, meaning that I am writing about the parts on the sprues. I have not assembled the kit, but I will be building this model in a blog soon.
 
My first impression, having examined the parts and the instructions is that I’m impressed! Moulding is excellent, with no sign of flash or misaligned moulds. There are thirteen sprues including clear parts, the slide moulded hull, three  sheets of photo etched brass, Dragon Magic Track links, a turned aluminium barrel and a preformed brass rear basket. Parts are moulded with detail on both sides.

Instructions

These are Dragon’s usual line drawing type. Dragon’s instructions are notorious for being a bit muddled and these instructions appear to be no exception with the assembly sequence jumping about somewhat. Any  discrepancies will not be evident until I’ve built the kit. 

The Running Gear Fenders and Hull

Unusually, construction begins with the loose shells, shell cases, ammunition boxes and steel tubes which can be modelled open or closed. Then the instructions move on to the  running gear and lower hull. Both types of idlers are supplied, the early with keyholes and the later idler with round holes. I will be using the early type which is the most common in contemporary photographs. Both patterns of drive sprockets and suspension leaf spring units are supplied.
 
The road wheels are detailed front and back. The individual Magic tracks are magic, they even have the casting numbers moulded in! Parts D29, covers for the track tensioning devices, should be fitted unless the models is to be shown in a maintenance scenario. There are two tow hitches;  an early hook style and the later quick release mechanism type.
 
The fenders are detailed top and bottom and all the tools are included with separate etched stowage belts, with the exception of the wire cutters which have the German style clasp. The belts are correct as this vehicle was built in Czechoslovakia and German tool clasps were not generally used at this time.
 
The rear deck has hatches that can be posed open or closed and a multi part rear grill shutter assembly, complete down to the wing nut. Both the early and late exhausts are included.

The Interior

This starts with attaching part A18, which was a wooden floor mat and should be painted accordingly. The gearbox transmission and driver’s controls are next up. The driver’s control levers are a plastic one-piece moulding, the photo etch option, present in other kits, does not appear to be included in this kit. All the armoured glass vision units are present moulded in clear plastic, but have a rather thoughtful frosted effect on the areas to be painted, along with their opening mechanisms for the vision port covers,  drivers instrument panel, switches etc.  The ammunition stowage is supplied and looks the part with the stowed shells tapered to fit the stowage tubes.
 
Then we move on the engine, radiator, battery and the rest of the engine compartment fittings which includes all the tools which were in the engine compartment. The level of detail has to be seen to be believed, right down to the battery box which can be opened or closed. If you will be building this model with the engine access panels closed, put these parts aside for a workshop scenario, they are too good to be hidden away.

The superstructure

The superstructure is nicely moulded with the rivets and bolts crisply rendered, not just on the sides but also underneath the overhang at the sides. I checked the thickness of the superstructure and it scales out at 30mm which is the correct thickness of the armour.  There are sink marks on the interior which look as if someone at the factory has tried to remove them with a scratch pen. The interior looks pretty complete with the exception of the gun sight stowage tube which was mounted on the interior of the gun shield. It may be that the instructions have missed it out and the parts are in the sprues somewhere. There is an optional photo etch stowage on the exterior of the right side which is also shown on the box artwork. This stowage is shown in a photograph of a Marder III, taken in the BMM factory yard. This feature is not commonly seen on contemporary, in service photos, it is more common to see just the mounting bolts for it. There is a radio mounted on the interior and the armoured cover for the aerial on the exterior of the opposite wall, but no mention of either the aerial or it’s base! The Dragon styrene foul weather cover is very nicely done and I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks on the completed model.
 
Moving to the rear the perforated side platforms are very well executed and finished off with a preformed brass basket at the rear. 

The Gun and Mounts

On the bottom of the box there is a picture of what is titled a bonus aluminium gun barrel, which was not present in my review sample. There is a slide moulded barrel which is more than adequate.  The aluminium barrel however did turn up later as Dragon kindly replaced the missing part.
 
The gun is very well detailed, with the option of three styles of muzzle brake and having the breech open or closed. The gun travel lock can be made in either position; travel in action.

Accessory Parts

There is a sprue of eight complete shells, thee empty shell cases, eight tubular ammunition containers (of which four can be assembled open) and two metal type ammunition boxes. There are no items of personal gear such as helmets etc. included.

Decals and colour

This is where Dragon really do themselves a disservice, there are only three Balkan crosses for the vehicle. These vehicles often had names painted on them such as Mammut, Lowe, Buffel, Adler and others, in addition to tactical and unit markings. There are plenty of stencils for the ammunition tubes and boxes. The colour options are for two unidentified units on the eastern front, one in grey and the other in dark yellow. This really surprised me as the Marder III sported some of the most colourful and interesting camouflage schemes seen on German vehicles.

Conclusion

As we would expect from Dragon, an excellent kit with state of the art features, with instructions which could be a lot better.  

I was very lucky to be given this kit to review and I think the question which I must answer truthfully is: Would I have bought this kit with my own hard earned money? The answer is yes, but only after I’d had a long hard look at the Tristar kit first. I think the preformed brass basket would tip the scales in favour of the Dragon kit.

I would highly recommend the Nuts & Bolts book, listed in my references, to anyone building one of these.
References used for this review, listed by title, publisher and authors:
Nuts & Bolts Volume 18 “Marder III” & 7,5cm Pak 40 Andorfer, Block, Nelson & others
Czechoslovak Armored Fighting Vehicles 1918-1948, Schiffer, Kliment and Francev
Panzer Tracts No.18 Panzerkampfwagen 38(t), Panzer Tracts Doyle & Jentz
PRAGA LT vz.38/Pz.Kpfw. 38(t), MBI, Francev and Kliment
Encyclopaedia of German Tanks of WWII, Arms and Armour, Chamberlain Doyle and Jentz
Panzerjager in Action, Squadron Signal, Feist
Pzkpfw 38(t) in Action, Squadron Signal, Kliment & Doyle
German Anti-tank Guns 1939-1945, Almark, Gander
German Self Propelled Guns, Concord, Rottman
Allied Axis No.16, Ampersand, Various
 
For full information on all Dragon products, please see their website, Dragon Models Ltd.