The Pz.Kpfw. III was proposed in 1934, and developed from a Daimler-Benz prototype with the first production models rolling off the assembly line in 1937. Intended to be the main battle tank for Germany's emerging mobile warfare doctrine (with the Pz. IV intended as an infantry-support tank), the Pz. III was intended to be fast and lightly-armed (the 3.7 cm KwK 36 L/45) so it could race through breakthroughs in enemy lines and disrupt communications and supply.
Despite the myth of Germany's armored columns decimating the Early War Allied forces, very few German tanks took part in the conquests of Poland and France. As to the combat history of the first four variants of the Pz. III (Ausf. A-D), only a handful were built and fewer still heard shots fired in anger. Part of this had to do with problems in the early leaf-spring suspension chosen for the vehicle (versions E onward employed an ingenious torsion-bar array). In addition, unlike later variants, Ausf. A-D used eight small road wheels on each side. These do make the Ausf. A-D distinctive from their later cousins.
Modelers have had literally dozens of Pz. III kits in 1/35th for decades stretching back to several Tamiya variants first sold in the 1970s. But the first four Pz. III variants have been conspicuously missing in styrene until now. Ukrainian manufacturer MiniArt
has released the Ausf. B and C, and now the Ausf. D (an Ausf. A has been announced from Bronco, who often works on projects begun by MiniArt
such as the new Horsa glider).
Inside the usual MiniArt
cardboard box are:
23 sprue trees in gray styrene
1 turret deck
18 strips of track links in gray styrene
1 small fret of PE
1 sprue of clear parts for periscopes
1 small sheet of decals
16-page booklet in color and B&W with build instructions and 4 painting & marking options
While only 30 vehicles were produced before the switch to torsion-bar suspensions, the Ausf. D did see service in Poland and then as a training vehicle for tank crews. The first three variants had proved too lightly-armored with only 15mm of steel on all sides. By the Ausf. D this had been doubled to 30mm. The 3.7 cm KwK 36 L/45 gun issued to infantry units was adopted in order to reduce logistical problems, though it proved only adequate against French tanks like the Char B1-bis and SOMUA. One advantage it did possess was a turret large enough for a gunner and a tank commander, a role combined in most other tank designs.
All three MiniArt
Pz. III kits released to-date employ a series of recurring parts, along with unique sprues for the individual variant. One area where differences are noteworthy between the three is the suspension and the side panels of the hull tub. As the tank's developers tinkered with the leaf spring array, they made small but visible changes to its configuration.
The large number of parts insures a detailed build, with none of the common simplifications that we might expect from a Tamiya or even the current Dragon designs. Hatches can be shown in either and open or closed position, and the turret includes lovely internal details like the twin MG34s mounted to the right of the 3.7cm main gun.
also has tackled the problem of realistic workable tracks by including a novel track & pin method that includes a small plastic "jig." The instructions show the tracks placed in the jig, where the modeler can then insert the track pins without having to remove them from their sprue, thus guarding against the "carpet monster" eating up these small parts.
One caution for beginner or even intermediate builders: the tow cable mounted on the rear deck is not provided in styrene, nor has MiniArt included scale string for attaching to the cable "eye" ends.
However, the biggest problems with the kit are fit and accuracy. While I have not built this review sample, indications are the engine deck doesn't fit properly, and at least one After Market resin maker is bringing out a fix.
In addition, the kit includes a turret "basket" (the "floor" attached to the turret that revolves with the turret and provides the loader a place to stand). Turret baskets are ubiquitous in 1/35th Axis tank kits, and it's no surprise all three MiniArt
Pz. III kits released so far include a turret basket. The problem is that research shows turret baskets weren't added to the Pz. III until much later (see this photo
for what the interior should look like). Simply put, this kit's turret basket is a fiction.
The good news is that modelers can build the kit with the hatches closed, thus avoiding the problem. But it's disappointing that MiniArt
did not do its homework on this detail, since modelers might be tempted to show the hatches open to show the kit's nice internal details, and think the turret basket floor will hide the absence of a full interior. This isn't a catastrophic error, and is less-noticeable than the alleged engine deck fit problem outlined above. But it shows MiniArt
need to pay more attention to references and not make assumptions about a vehicle's interior from later variants or other models.
Despite these issues, I'm pleased that MiniArt has taken on the job of filling out the Pz. III family. Apparently Dragon, who otherwise has owned the Pz. III franchise, chose not to bring out these four vehicles because of the extensive new molds required for the Ausf. A-D suspension system. So it's really fantastic to have them available now for fans of this platform.
Our thanks to MiniArt for providing this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed on Armorama when ordering.