Thursday, March 4, 2010

Project: 1/48 Panzer III Ausf. M Conversion

By 1943, the Panzer III was starting to show it's obsolescence. Although the 50mm KwK 39 L/60 was still capable of knocking out a T-34, it was outclassed by many of the newer and heavier tanks then coming into service (such as the older KV-1 and the much more effective KV-85, not to mention the JS-II coming into service in the spring of 1944). Nonetheless, the Panzer III continued to serve into 1943 in a frontline role, and till the end of the war in peripheral theaters.

The Ausf├╝hrung (model) M, produced between 1942 and 1943, was a minor upgrade of the Ausf. L model, equipped with deep wading gear. Only 250 vehicles were produced, with some incomplete chassis being redirected to StuG III manufacture, due to the obsolescence of the model.

Tamiya has produced a very nice kit of the Ausf. L version of the tank, but no such parts exist currently to make an Ausf. M. to the rescue comes Hauler. Long a very firm supporter of the 1/48 scale, Hauler produced two conversion kits for this model: both an "early" variant as well as a "late" variant. I chose the latter as it incorporated some of the features I wanted on my model.

Originally, I had intended to use the skirt armor from Tamiya's Panzer IIIN (many of which were not equipped on vehicles serving in North Africa), but unfortunately, the decal sheet I selected for this project (from Echelon Fine Details) only had markings for an M without skirt armor (in this case, the Regimental Command tank 2.SS-Pz.Rgt "Das Reich") serving in the Battle of  Kursk in 1943 (note: on the Wikipedia article site, another Regimental command tank for "Das Reich" can be seen, this model being a short-barreled Ausf. J variant). So be it: the decal sheet also has markings for an Ausf. L "Das Reich" machine with skirt armor, so that'll go to a future project!

The summary of parts I'm using for this project include: Tamiya's Panzer III Ausf. L kit; Hauler's Panzer IIIM "Late" conversion kit; Hauler's Panzer III stowage bin, and the Echelon Fine Details decal sheet.

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