Unimodel 1/72 Sd.Kfz.138 Marder III Ausf.M Build Review
By Llarry Amrose
|Date of Review||December 2010||Manufacturer||Unimodel|
|Subject||Sd.Kfz.138 Marder III Ausf.M||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||344||Primary Media||Styrene & Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Nice detailing||Cons||Poor directions, vague decal placement|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$13.99|
When Nazi Germany annexed Czechoslovakia in the late 1930’s one of the prizes was the Skoda tank works, maker of the fine LT35 and LT38 light tanks. Production was continued, and these designs entered Wehrmacht service as the PzKfw 35(t) and 38(t) (“(t)” standing for Tschechoslowakei, the German spelling). They served well through the beginning of the war, filling a need between the Panzer II and III. Eventually, Allied armor and armament improved, and the tanks were withdrawn from frontline units.
However, the chassis was seen to still have value, so a number of other vehicles were designed based on it. This included self-propelled artillery and tank destroyers. The “Marder” (Marten) series of tank hunters were built on different older chassis designs, the Marder IIIs using the 38(t). There were three versions of the Marder III, the first to enter service was the Sd.Kfz. 139, which mounted the Soviet 76.2mm gun, which had been captured in large quantities early in the Russian campaign, but re-chambered for the standard 75mm shell. the Ausf. H (Heckmotor – rear engine) was the middle design, and, while not actually the most produced, it is probably the most recognized. The subject of this kit is the Ausf. M (Mittelmotor), the final version. The engine was moved to the center of the hull for stability, with the driver in front and the fighting compartment in the rear. The Marders worked well enough, but eventually showed three areas which could be improved: they had a fairly tall silhouette, an open crew compartment, and a better 75mm gun became available. The JagdPanzer 38(t) “Hetzer” was the result.
Many years ago, ESCI released the Marder III Ausf.H, a fine kit, especially for its time, and which has been reissued by Italeri. For a long time, that was it for 1/72 Marders. More recently, Attack has kitted all three types, though their kits are generally harder to find and more pricey. Now UM has come to the rescue with all three versions. Having built the other two, I just had to get this one as well.
Inside the standard blue end-opening UM box are four sprues: two copies of A, which contain the wheels and tracks, and B and C which contain all the rest of the vehicle. UM has kitted all three versions of the Marder III, though the others use different C (or D) sprues. The decal sheet also seems to contain the markings for the other variants, as well as for the schemes in this kit. Finally there is a small fret of photo-etched brass, providing fender brackets, a perforated muffler cover and an intake cover box.
The hull went together easily, along with the rear idler and the main suspension springs. Unlike the other Marders, the upper hull over the driving and engine compartments goes on at the beginning, rather than waiting until after the tracks. One of the photo-etch parts is the muffler cover, which needs to be wrapped around the exhaust, part 23B. I definitely recommend annealing (flame heating) this piece of brass to make it easier to shape. Interestingly, UM has included part 252B, which is a form to use to shape the muffler cover.
At this point I needed to paint the road wheels and their rubber tires, as well as the hull that would end up behind the road wheels. The road wheels went on next, but the drive sprockets needed to wait until they could be properly lined up while the tracks were being assembled.
I have to admit, I really like link-and-length track, yes, even in 1/72, so I’ve become a big fan of these UM kits. This is the fifth 38(t) variant I’ve built, so I’m pretty comfortable with these parts by now. A little care is needed to make sure that the drive sprocket and rear idler wheels are aligned and spaced properly to fit the tracks.
The fenders come next, along with all the bits in the fighting compartment. It is much easier to install the ammo, seats and other details before building up the superstructure. Just be careful to not leave parts sticking out in the way of the outer panels. Part 75C is the base of the gun mounting, but it doesn’t really have a good positive alignment, so I decided to hold it off, mount the gun to it, and wait to mount it on the hull at the end while adding the superstructure panels.
The 75mm gun must be assembled, which makes up all of step 7 in the directions. It is then to be mounted to the gun shield, but I found it better to include the aforementioned base, part 75C at the same time and make it all one big unit to mount at the end.
Finally, it’s time to finish the assembly with the superstructure. The large side panels line up nicely with the hull sides and rear. Be very careful when attaching the radio to the inside of the right side that you get it far enough forward to clear the ammo racks. The angled front panels and the gun and gun shield should be positioned together so that everything lines up nicely.
Painting and Finishing
There are three schemes to choose from – sort of. The back of the box has a machine in overall Dunkelgelb (Panzer dark yellow), but no identity is given and no markings are noted.
The instruction sheet has two schemes, for which the decals actually contain the right markings. The first is listed as 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”, based in France, July 1944. It is in Dunkelgelb with irregular lines of Red-brown and Olive-green.
I chose the other scheme, which is also on the front of the box. It’s described rather simply and non-specifically as “Eastern Front, 1944”. It’s Dunkelgelb with a few Olive-green patches and an interesting set of kill markings on the gun shield. I used Lifecolor and Vallejo paints, and Tamiya Weathering Masters pastels.
The decals are exceptionally matte, and handle well. The exact positioning of the markings is an estimate, as UM’s instructions are not particularly precise.
While I won’t claim to be an expert on the Marder, comparing the finished product to photos, it looks every bit the part. Comparing it to measurements from various sources, it does seem to be no more than about 5-10cm (scale) too small in each dimension, and that’s not too bad. The fit and detailing is good, and even sprue A, which is used in every 38(t) variant kit seems to still be in good shape. The directions are better than in the Ausf.H kit, and the fighting compartment goes together better than in the other kit.
I love UM kits, I really do, I’ve built a number of them and have more in the stash. I can recommend this kit, though it will help to have a bit of prior experience with short-run kits and link-and-length tracks. The result is a nice little build of a less well-known vehicle.