The Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5cm PaK40/3 Ausf. M (Sd.Kfz.138) represented the final improvements to the Marder III series and began production in the first half of 1943. The fighting compartment was moved to the rear overhanging the idler, and four sided armor gave the crew better protection. The engine was moved to the middle giving a more direct connection to the transmission. Only one return roller per side was used instead of the previous two. The Dragon offering of this kit is an initial version, with cast driver’s hood, internal exhaust pipe, and rear mud guards. The internal exhaust and the mud guards were eliminated early on, making this a fairly rare version. Dragon uses the Smart Kit designation for this kit though a good amount of mandatory PE needs to be used.
Well packaged in the familiar Dragon top opening box, the sprues arrive in individually sealed bags with the Dragon card holding the more delicate parts along with the decals.
Included in the kit are the following:
• 16 sprues in gray styrene
• 3 sprues in clear styrene
• 1 semi-tub hull
• 1 separate driver’s hood
• 2 photo etch frets
• 1 bag of Magic Tracks
• 1 metal cable
• 2 decal sheets
As is common in most DML kits, sprues are used from previous releases leaving a fair amount for the spares box. In this case sprues from the PaK 40, 38(t) Ausf. G, and the Flakpanzer 38(t) are included along with the new kit-specific sprues. The 2 decal sheets provided are printed by Cartograf of Italy and are of high quality. The kit instructions are of the exploded view type and contain sprue layout, paint chart, 19 assembly steps, and a finishing guide for 7 different painting/marking options. The construction steps can be quite busy at times and are broken down into sub-assemblies. It is recommended to study the instructions before assembly and to check references for which optional parts to use.
Painting/marking options are as follows:
• Unidentified Unit, Italy 1943
• Unidentified Unit, Italy 1944
• British Captured, Mozza Grogna, Italy 1943
• Pz.Jg.Abt. 113, Eastern Front 1944
• Unidentified Unit, Eastern front 1944
• 12.Pz.Div.”Hitlerjugend”, France 1944
• Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front 1943
Construction begins with the lower hull and suspension components and, as with previous 38(t) chassis based kits by Dragon, options are offered with no guidance of which to choose other than the box art. I’ll offer my recommendations, though references should be checked for complete accuracy on specific units. Sprue ‘A’ contains the running gear and DML has recently re-tooled this. This sprue now incorporates the revised road wheels with the two beads and the idlers with the larger round lightening holes. The keyhole idlers, as well as both styles of springs, are still included. Two styles of sprockets are offered, one being of the solid style and the other with the larger lightening holes. Both have excellent rib and bolt detail on the inside as do the idlers. The cable ends have been placed on this sprue as well.
Even with the re-tooling, some improvements could have been made. The lightening holes in the sprockets are too large, spanning almost the width of the face. The sprockets with the smaller holes that DML included previously were also incorrect, as the holes should have been closer to the outer rim, so a complete renovation should have been done while they were re-tooling this sprue. And to be real nit-picky, the idler holes on both styles could be a little closer to the outer rim as well. Otherwise everything on here looks excellent and a far cry better than the days of the Aufklarungspanzer 38(t)! With prudent use of adhesive, the suspension will function to a certain degree, which is especially useful if used in a diorama.
As for what options to use on the Marder III Ausf. M Initial Production, my recommendation would be sprockets with lightening holes, keyhole idlers, and solid bracket springs. But again, check your references.
The next steps deal with the included interior. The front mounted transmission and final drive are well detailed and assemble easily. The driver's hand controls are only offered in styrene and are a bit thick due to that and other details are missing which are noticeable if the driver's hatch is left open. Both the inspection and driver's hatches lack inside detail which can be remedied if so desired.
The mid-mount engine compartment includes a nicely detailed engine, fuel tanks, fan/radiator assembly, and even a PE battery holder. Both bulkheads have sharp details and everything fits together well. Further wiring and plumbing details can be added if the engine compartment hatches will be left open, though it looks very good as is. Part G25 is now correct on the instructions, though parts D23 and D16 are still shown reversed. The interior is a very welcome addition in this kit, well detailed on its own, or super detailed to whatever level you like.
The ‘ultra slim’ technique by DML is used on the exterior armor where needed to give an excellent scale thickness without the need to bevel the edges. All the exterior panels are beautifully rendered and all the bolts/rivets are accounted for and in the proper places. The engine intake screens are done in PE and the louvers are molded in. As a side note, the louvers were warped in my kit as can be seen in the photo. From my initial contact e-mail to Dragoncare to the replacement part arriving in my mailbox took only five days. This was my first encounter with Dragoncare and I’m very impressed, to say the least.
The fenders have the ribs molded top and bottom with separate styrene brackets. Reference photos show a slight bend in the fenders though the kit-supplied fenders are straight. This can be easily accomplished if desired, by removing the alignment line on the hull and using the bending guide on sprue ‘B’. The pioneer tools provided are without molded on clamps so photo-etch clamps will need to be used. Due to this, no part alignment dimples are on the fenders and a bird’s-eye view of the tool placement are included in the instructions. The PE tool clamps appear to have larger holes this time, so unlike the ones included with the Flakpanzer 38(t), these may actually go together. The perforated grouser box is provided in styrene and PE as an option and both look good. PE straps are used to mount the jack and a metal cable is included as well as two well defined cable ends. The rear mounted exhaust uses a perforated PE heat shield which will need to be curved to shape.
A few of the items that make this an initial variant are the cast driver’s hood (later versions were welded), internally run exhaust pipe, and the presence of rear mud guards. The driver’s hood is a separate piece with a well done casting texture though it has a slight molding seam around the front edge. This can be removed carefully with a modeling knife and a bit of liquid glue to blend it all in. I still believe this sits slightly too high on the back edge but since a part of the front travel lock mounts to the hood, I'll be better able to determine this during construction. The rear mud guards are provided in PE with the crew step incorporated into them. A PE single crew step is also included as an option if the mud guards are omitted.
Along with a re-design of the superstructure from the Ausf. H, the radio (and its operator) was moved to the fighting compartment and consequently the hull MG (which was deemed pretty much useless anyway) was omitted. DML includes a nicely done MG 42 to be mounted in the casemate along with a couple of sub machine guns for local defense. Also included are gas mask cylinders with PE straps, periscopes, and crew seats. The crew seats could use a bit of work to make them look more ‘lived in’.
Ammo tubes are done in styrene with the racks constructed out of PE as well as the small tabs at the top, however the ammo restraining straps are not included. Although it looks daunting to construct, the finished product should be worth it. The tubes are crisp and clean, though a bit on the thick side as is expected with styrene parts and 10 specially sized rounds are included which can be fitted in place if so desired. Ammo crates, cylinders, ammo, and spent casings are included to bring more life to the finished model.
The PaK 40 includes a styrene barrel only, cast in a single piece with slight mold seams which will need to be carefully cleaned up. The breach block is movable and can be shown opened or closed. Three muzzle brakes are included, equally well detailed, so check references to determine which would be correct if building a particular vehicle. The gun cradle is highly detailed and should allow the gun to elevate and traverse. Two rear travel locks are included to portray the gun in use or travel mode.
The curved gun shield is close enough to scale thickness with the screw slots molded in a semi random pattern. There are four knockout marks on the inner face which will most likely need to be attended to. The lower curved shields attach to the engine compartment hatches and will really add another area of interest if the hatches are in the open position.
Non-handed Magic Tracks are used in this kit with the instructions calling for 96 links per side and the movable idler wheel allows for some flexibility with this number depending on the desired amount of sag. It's always a good idea to confirm for yourself just how many links are needed for each side. Each link has a casting number embossed on it which I doubt will be seen by the naked eye. The Magic Tracks are non- working links requiring a minimum of clean-up with ejector marks on the inner surface that will need attention. The instructions show the tracks being installed in the last step, which may be difficult if the mud guards are used, so check accordingly.
Dragons’ series on the 38(t) just keeps getting better and better, and there is definitely not much to find fault with in this kit. The part molding, packaging, and customer care in the form of warranty is top notch. Built out of the box it should produce an outstanding model. Add a metal barrel and some other small details for it to be even more impressive. Close examination of the instructions so as not to miss anything and checking references to use the correct options is recommended.
A Build Log
has been started on the forums to evaluate the kit construction.