I begin with construction of the lower hull. The plastic parts all go together with no problems, but then I try to fit the large PE grill that goes on the underside of the rear hull, and it just doesn’t seem to fit. I trim it down until it does, but then discover that it fouls the exhausts, so I make an executive decision to leave it off. That leaves an opening under the rear hull but, on the completed model, this would only be visible from underneath, so I’m not too concerned.
Then I assemble the various parts on the track guards. Some are really tiny, but location is clear and fit is good, so that’s OK.
I then add the track guards to the lower hull. Again fit is very good, though it takes some careful positioning to get these straight.
Then I complete the upper hull by adding the PE parts. Happily, both grills fit perfectly, though the instructions are a little vague about where the upper armour plate on the upper hull front goes, so it takes some squinting at images of actual Panzer III Ausf. Ls to figure this out.
The upper and lower hull fit together very nicely indeed with no gaps and no need for filler anywhere.
Construction of the turret is straightforward, though it’s a little tricky to get the rear stowage bin straight and level and you do have to be careful to get the mantlet/armour/gun assembly to line up.
I check the fit of the turret on the hull, and everything looks fine.
Hey, it feels like I’m making good progress here. So far, the build has been OK – a bit fiddly in places, but fit is generally good. Then I start to work on the tracks and running gear and it all goes a bit pear-shaped. The first problem becomes obvious when I join the two halves of the sprockets and idlers and then offer these up to the hull (I want them temporarily in place so that I can check the fit of the upper and lower runs of the tracks). There is a pin on the rear of the hull, but no locating hole on the idler (you can see the lack of a hole in the idler in the image below). Similarly, there is a pin on the sprockets, but no corresponding hole in the hull. It isn’t a disaster – I simply drill 1mm holes in the right places and everything goes together, but the instructions don’t mention a need to do this. That does seem odd to me – is this normal on Dragon tank kits?
Then I offer up the upper and lower track runs, and it gets even odder. As you can see from the image below, both are too long. I mean much too long, with perhaps nine or ten links more than is required, top and bottom. According to the instructions, the upper run should extend from the centre of the sprocket to the centre of the idler and then you should use the individual links to create the curve where the track passes over the sprocket and idler, which is a pretty standard approach for link-and-length tracks. The ends of the lower run will be bent up outside the area of the roadwheels, so it does need to be a little longer, but not this long! I do a quick search online and find a decent image of the link-and-length tracks for the Revell 1/72 Panzer III Ausf. L, and the top run there is 32 links long. Here, it’s 42 links. I don’t get it – these are clearly 1/72 Panzer III tracks which look nicely to scale in terms of link size and spacing, but the upper and lower runs provided don’t fit and I can’t just cut them down or they won’t engage properly with the single links.
After a bit of head-scratching, I decide to adopt the simplest possible solution. Fortunately, the upper and lower track runs are thin and quite flexible, so I start by wrapping the front nine links of the upper run round the sprocket and I glue these in place. That will leave the free end of this track run extending as far as the centre of the idler at the rear.
Then, I also glue the front of the lower run to the sprocket, bend it into position to fit round the roadwheels and then bend it round the idler and glue it in place. Obviously, you do need to be patient here and to frequently check what you’re doing by placing the whole assembly on the hull to ensure that everything lines up. This is what I end up with, and I only needed to use one of the single track links to join the gap on the idler between the upper and lower runs.
Here are the tracks in position on the hull and with the roadwheels temporarily in place (and you’ll see that I have tried to include some sag on the top run). I don’t think it looks too terrible, but it takes time and a fair amount of fiddling to get there and this isn’t how the instructions say the tracks should be constructed. I have looked at a number of reviews of other small scale Dragon kits that use Neo Tracks, and I haven’t seen this issue mentioned. Has anyone else come across this? At least this does leave me with plenty of spare single track links which I can assemble into a short run and place in the front hull stowage area!
With the tracks on both sides finished, that’s construction pretty much done so I can begin painting. I start with the hull sides, running gear and tracks. I’m using Vallejo German Grey for the base colour. This seems to be a good match for Dunklegrau, though it is rather dark and in real life this paint seemed to quickly fade to a much lighter colour, so I will be lightening it and adding even lighter dry-brushed highlights. And of course, I’ll be painting the tiny roadwheel and return roller tyres, not one of my favourite parts of building any tank kit! The tracks get a dark grey base coat, then gunmetal highlights on the treads.
These tracks were a real chore to build because of the over-long runs, but I think they look all right now they’re finished and painted. Then, it’s on to the hull and turret. Everything gets a base coat of lightened German Grey, then I add some drybrushed highlights on sharp edges and raised areas.
Then I paint the tools on the track-guards and tow cables on the rear hull, And that’s a bit of a pain because they’re so tiny.
Then I add the decals, the spare roadwheels, jack, headlights and spare tracks and give it all a coat of matt varnish. I am using a different varnish here. Previously, I have used AK Interactive Matte Varnish (AK 190) and while it’s OK, it sometimes gives more of a satin finish. This time, I’m using Vallejo Premium Airbrush varnish, and even brush painting, I notice that this gives a totally consistent, truly matt finish. Then, it all gets a wash with a dark grey oil to emphasize shadows and grubby everything up a bit and finally I add some dust with artist’s pastils and that’s it done.
After Action Report
In my In-Box review, I wondered whether Neo Tracks might be the answer to my continuing track problems? On the basis of what I found here, the answer is no! I still have no idea why the upper and lower track runs here were much too long. And that’s a problem because it means you can’t really build the tracks using the technique suggested. The result looks sort of OK, and these tracks are accurate in terms of detail, but the finished result isn’t notably better than you’ll find in other kits with link-and-length tracks.
Otherwise, this kit is pretty good. Fit is great just about everywhere and it does seem to build into a very accurate representation of the Panzer III Ausf. L. OK, it would have been good if the tools and tow cables were separate parts, and perhaps the five vent covers on the rear deck too – in reality, these didn’t sit flush with the deck, but slightly above, and this isn’t shown here. I tried to paint areas of shadow round these vents to suggest that they’re separate items, but still, actually having separate parts would have been good.
And, contrary to what I claimed in the In-Box review, the exhaust, smoke launchers and other bits and bobs are included here that will allow you to finish this as an Ausf. M if you want (though this isn’t mentioned on the box or in the instructions) . You could even use the suggested Dunklegelb finish with that version… Overall, this is a perfectly reasonable little kit. It’s not perfect and it does seem a little expensive for what you get, but it builds into a nice representation of the Panzer III Ausf. L (or M).