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Sd.Kfz.139 Marder III

Unimodel 1/72 Sd.Kfz.139 Marder III Build Review

By Llarry Amrose

Date of Review December 2009 Manufacturer Unimodel
Subject Sd.Kfz.139 Marder III Scale 1/72
Kit Number 349 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice detailing Cons Thick photoetch
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $13.20

Background

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  Eventually, Allied armor and armament improved, and the tanks were withdrawn from frontline units.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 Sd.Kfz. 138 Ausf. H and Ausf.M, using the 75mm PaK40 gun, and the Sd.Kfz. 139, the subject of this kit.  Actually the first of the three to enter service, it mounted the Soviet 76.2mm gun, which had been captured in large quantities early in the Russian campaign, but rechambered for the standard 75mm shell. 363 were built starting in March 1942. 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.

The Kit

MarderMany years ago, ESCI released the Marder III Ausf.H, a fine kit, especially for its time, and which has just 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.

 Inside the standard blue end-opening UM box are four sprues: two copies of A, which contain the wheels and tracks, and B and D which contain all the rest of the vehicle.  A and B are common to all of the UM kits based on the 38(t) hull.  The decal sheet contains plenty of markings not all of which are included in the instructions.  Finally there is a small fret of photoetched brass, providing a selection of fender brackets, an intake cover box and much of the basket at the rear of the fighting compartment.

Construction

MarderThe lower hull went together easily, along with the rear idler and the main suspension springs.  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 fourth 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.

There is a simple interior, with nothing more than a nicely textured floor, but that’s okay since not much will be visible through the fighting compartment past the gun.  German tank interiors were generally in an off-white color called Elfenbein (RAL1001).  Open topped vehicles tended to have the interior done in the exterior color.  I used an off-white for the interior of the hull, reasoning that it was far enough inside, but did the inside of the superstructure with the exterior panzer dark gray.

MarderNext came the fenders and the rear crew deck on top of the engine compartment.  The gun and gun compartment come down to three distinct steps.  First, the gun must be assembled, which makes up all of step 10 in the directions.  Mounting the gun to the hull is contained in step 11, but I recommend treating it as two separate tasks.  The gunshield is four parts.  It can be assembled with the gun dry-fit in position; the gun can then be removed and reinstalled later, to allow access for painting and a few small detail parts.

MarderThe outer armor can be added afterwards.  It’s made up of 9 major parts.  Parts 100D and 101D have hinge detail that lines up with similar marks on the rear hull so you can start there to get a good fit.  I recommend using an adhesive with some working time on these parts so you can tweak them around to line up right.

Finally, a word about the photoetched brass parts.  They are exceptionally thick, and will need some care in handling.  The fender brackets are no really trouble, as they require no bending before installation. The air intake cover and the rear basket are another matter.  To get them into shape will require annealing them.  Heating the fret in a candle flame -- get it to red-hot but without letting it burn up -- and then letting it cool will soften the parts and make it possible to shape them with a minimum of frustration

Painting and Detailing

MarderThere are two schemes to choose from, both in overall panzer gray.  Both are from 1943 on the Eastern Front.  One is from Army Group Center; the other was captured at Kursk and has makeshift Soviet markings.  The front cover of the box has a machine in overall Panzer gray marked with a white number 112.  This scheme appears nowhere in the instructions or the decal sheet.   

I chose the Army Group Center machine, its side markings include a name, “Heidi”, a crew affectation I’m not used to seeing too often on German vehicles.  I used PollyScale 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.

Conclusions

MarderWhile 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.

My sincere thanks to Squadron Mail Order for this review sample!

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