Dragon 6860 Sturmgeschütz III ausf A, LSSAH #5

Finished StuG III with the rather interesting spare track layout.

This was one of my earliest Dragon purchase and almost a year ago I wrote a brief build review for the kit. In retrospect this wasn’t a good beginner’s kit. The original tooling of this kit was based on ausf G, and to go all the way to A means a lot of changes piling on and you tend to get problems when Dragon was hacking its parts and instructions. It’s nice for your spare parts bin though as it has tons.

To supplement that build review, I discovered that 

  • the gun breech may be too far forward, which as a result caused the gun to be too much protruded. You may want to remove he attachment pins from the support so that you can reposition the gun. 
  • Also the super structure was not fitting well with the side fenders and lower hull, as there is a very noticable gap. I think you need to cut off more from the lower hull. Do a lot of test fitting and be prepared to trim to fit.
  • There were indeed no new sprues, but did have one new part in R30 which they added for ausf A’s unique roof configuration. 

Perhaps these were user errors. I have since then built their C/D and E which shared 99% of the same sprues, and they went on better. Without actually painting them however they may have had the same fit issues. 

The ausf A has a few unique features, including 

  • It was the only StuG based on the Panzer III’s older E/F chassis, which therefore hosted the round-holed drive sprockets and corresponding idler wheels. 
  • It has a unique roof panel configuration.
  • It spots the storage bins at the back. These probably weren’t unique to  ausf A as the Dragon’s R sprue shared with other versions, but I have not seen photos that suggested otherwise.

I was inspired to pick this kit up again due to the impending release of Dragon’s only missing version ausf B (6919), which is going to be based on this ausf A. They probably did this last to avoid direct competition with the very popular Tamiya ausf B offering. Question is though which vehicle was I going to build? It so happened that during this year Shinkigensha has released a new StuG III A-E pictorial. I love this series as they contain line drawings of photos so you get not only to choose interesting vehicles for your builds, but the details are all rendered in enough details so it saves a lot of time in research.

Only problem is finding the actual photographs, as I assume copyright laws prevented the book from publishing them.

Anyway given there were only 36 ausf As there weren’t a whole lot of choices, the book had 4 variations to choose from. I chose the LSSAH number 5, which is the same division as the kit’s presumed vehicle. Here are 3 photos I found of it and I think they were what the pictorial version was based off of. Here are the changes of this vehicle from the standard ausf A:

  • Notek lights; it was included as part of the kit.
  • Spare track holder between front lights, which I scratched.
  • A length of track between its front tow hooks in a “W” shape. There might have been stowage collected to give it that shape but I couldn’t figure it out and neither did the book
  • Front mud flaps were very bent. I heated a pair of pilers and proceeded to maul them. 
  • The left back light was a mutisignal light instead of the usual stop light. Also included in the kit. 
  • back mud flaps were lifted to horizontal positions. I used the Miniart Pz III tracks for these.
  • Crew improvised a set of guard rails at the back to hold stowage which I scratch built. The rails was a bit odd in how it holds spare tracks, but it seems a section of it was cut to do so. There were also a couple of jerry cans and a wooden box. The size of it is a bit hard to adjuge; the pictorial has it as a square box but in the photo it looks more rectangular. I created these with styrene shee
  • Front left superstructure holds a spare wheel bracket, as well as a grenade case. I scratched the former with styrene rod, which wasn’t that great of an idea as bending them at right angle took a bit of time and could break it. Brass rods would’ve been a better choice. The grenade case I commandeered off of a Dragon figure kit’s accessories. Originally I bought a Tamiya accessories kit for it and was very disappointed that the shape was way off and details missing. 
  • The jack block is not placed under the front right toolbox but behind it. I hacked the Dragon’s block for this. 
  • The right side of the super structure hangs a jerry can, which I used Bronco’s jerry can set for. 
  • Finally the back stowage also contained a lump of tarp, which I also replicated with a combination of sculptamold and Apoxie Clay. 

Some of the minor details I added to the base kit:

  • The wires to the lights, done with 0.5mm styrene rods. I’m not sure if you can use B26 and B27 for these as base given how the Stug lights are different than Pz III’s. 
  • There is a tiny handle at the bottom of the gun, used to hold the gun cover. 
  • The PE chains for the smoke dischargers weren’t great, and mine broke during painting, so I replaced them with miniature chains. These should be around 14mm in length. 
  • Replaced all tool clasp handles with Voyager equivalent
  • Replaced the DS tracks with R-model’s metal equivalent. These are the early 36cm Panzer III tracks. At the official 86 links per side it’s long, so I reduced them to 85, which still gives some very noticeable sag. At 84 links the sag would be completely gone.

Markings

I managed to lose the decal sheet (but found it later). It eventually mattered little: the Balkenkreuz could easily be done (and should be done) with masking, although even when I have two sets of German markings masks from DN models, these LSSAH vehicles had a large white BK that did not match any masks. The only other markings were at the back, a vehicle ID “5” and a wolf’s head.

The reference photos showed the head pretty clearly which I eventually hand painted on. The Dragon decal had a very bizarre bird or chicken head 🙂 The 5 I did with a stencil-painted decal, as the spot was too tight for direct stenciling. 

Painting

I noticed that the reference photos had the vehicle in light colors, especially when you compare them with the crew’s darker uniforms. This could all be caused simply by reflection, as it was pretty noticable that all surfaces that catches light are very light in colors and vice versa. However this still gave some license for lightening the surface substantially.

Following the lessons I’ve learned from building the Befehlspanzer III ausf H, I tried to lighten the Panzergrau naturally so that the finish isn’t so dark. The darker finishes reduced all the visual interests.

The other thing I agonized over is what to do with chipping. The usual chipped grey exposing primer isn’t very visible and tend to not look very good. There are also finishes where the modeler would chip with a lighter grey. This time I chose to basecoat with the regular XF63, then gradually build up lighter greys that I’ll chip to expose the darker underlayer. 

Another problem I had on all my kits are the lack of contrasts as I often tried to apply the same effects to the kit everywhere. The flip side though is that local contrasts attract attention and it could look artificial. 

I think I was able to achieve a better finish than the Befehlspanzer at the end with better local contrasts and varying shades of Panzergrau. I regretted a little to not have went further with having even lighter shades of grey as the contrast is often lost in further layering. I thought the pigments would bring out the contrasts, but you can’t do too much lest it overpowers the vehicle finish. In the end I also used oils to darken certain parts to create contrasts, but they don’t look as nice as creating the same effect by exposing the darker base coat. 

Here let me first explain the white blob, which is the beginning of what I was going to create for the pile of tarp. Since I didn’t want to spend too much time kneading putty to make the pile, I created some volume using Sculptamold. In retrospect that’s not necessary, and this lump made it a bit difficult to create naturally folded tarp. 

With this kit I spent a lot more time doing OPR (oil paint rendering). I’m getting a better sense of what I was supposed to get out of OPR in creating tonal variations, not just by creating light and shadows of the base layer, but also perform a large portion of the weathering with dust and grease. The mind wants to compartmentalize the sequence of weathering into steps, but being a highly artistic process OPR allows one to go back and forth on adding and subtracting different effects. Here I was quite pleased with the dusty appearances created by oils, but in retrospect I could’ve tried to apply tonal variations to larger surfaces to create subtle color shifts. 

I spent more time on the layering on the undercarriage and I’m happy I had done a better job as well, with better “caking” effects using splashed on pigments clumps. The effect required control as the end result was a lot of accidental over-splashing especially on top of the vehicle, but at the bottom the random pigment deposits was very nicely diverse. When I applied the pigments by dusting they don’t distribute this way. I also had learned a bit better control with splashing oil to vary the tone of pigments. 

In addition, this time I tried to add more color tones to the overall finish. Here I made the storage boxes, including the grenade case, more black as they appeared darker in the photos. The pigments helped give a more red/yellow tonal shift as well as the green tarp. These combination of shifts seems to bring out the bluish nature of the Panzergrau better than how I did it for the Befehlspanzer. 

I was also surprised how much the interior was visible with these large open hatches of StuGs. I did a bit of weathering with interior washes and streaking. 

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