Takom Panzer III Ausf. M / Blitz 8002

Released earlier in 2020, this Takom kit is one of the first Panzer IIIs that re-attempted to break Dragon’s stronghold on the line. With Takom however their build tried to be simpler and more Tamiya-like, let’s see how it holds up. Finished gallery images are here.

The kit includes marking for the very well-photographed “421” of Pz. Pgt. 15 in Kursk. With some readily available references here I’ll build this vehicle.

Not much point in laying out the sprues but I’ll point out a few features of the kit. My expectation for the kit isn’t very high as I read that it has some fit problems and the level of details is compromised for quick-buildedness.

As everyone has noted the box is small – it is the size of the old tristar/hobbyboss 38(t). One thing I note of these new moulding is that they identified one problem with Dragon kits, which is the main assemblies are somewhat tricky, so their focus is to cast those into one piece. This reduces the difficulty of the kit, but not necessarily time, since the various details still needs to be put on.

The upper hull piece already has the fenders and glacis/engine deck molded together. That’s pretty impressive and I do agree that this saves some amount of work.
The lower hull also tells a similar story. The moulding is good and sharp, but perhaps not as thin as Dragon had them.
The tracks are link-and-length, here you can see the built-in sag.
The stowage bin is pretty fancily cast, elimites some tricky edge-to-edge assembly that Dragon kits have.
The OVMs and armor plates. The tool clapses are pretty crude but I’m going to try the MJ Miniature’s anyway.
The wheels with CONTINENTAL. And it seems they have the rubber seams which is a nice touch.
The cupola.
The turret shell.
The jack and other details.
The PE fret. Not a whole lot of anything, mainly the Schurzen.
There are markings for 4 vehciles.
One of the criticism of the instructions is that it is too small. While environmentally friendly, it could be hard to see where the locator pins are supposed to go to which hole.
With a lot of simplifications the assembly was supposed to be a breeze. You have to watch out for the flash however. The suspension arms go into a slot, but it seems the peg had some flash and the hole was supposed to fit the peg perfectly, so you see a small gap. This turns out to be a prevalent problem in the kit, and you’d do best if you sand the edges of these pegs. Here is an example of how the problem looks like. They can cause a lot of grief when you assemble the road wheels. Each road wheel has 6 spokes in the middle, and I found initially my wheels didn’t line up in parallel. I had to sand the spokes down.
The back piece is pretty ingenious, with the “covers” for the idler’s arms enveloping the adjusters. With Dragon kits this is often a bit of a hassle to fit and then sand smooth. The adjuster fit is very tight, so you have to wiggle a bit to get the back plate into position.
One thing I did wrong was to close the air outlet louver covers A7. They stay open on the ground. It is quite confusing how A38 and A7 goes together in the instructions, but I’ll get to that in a later step.

I’d also recommend leaving D41 and D42 off until you put the upper and lower hull together as the fit could affect whether your fenders would sit properly or not.

The tow eyes C10-13 fitted very loosely on D14. I also find this a feature of the kit, that the female parts of a mating surface are often wider than the male part, so you get a lot of play. This is rather strange.

Will deal with the tracks after I have the lower hull painted. Now I’ll skip forward to the upper hull. 

One of the strange moulding choice is the side observation port, I have no problem with them having the cover molded shut, but there are visible troughs around the cover which I’m sure would be either non-existent or just barely noticeable on the real vehicle.
The MG port is another piece that requires some work. The ball D54 doesn’t sit deep enough into D17, so the cover D28 will not fit flush against D17. I dremeled out plastic from D17’s depression. The MG 34 part D10 requires drilling out the nozzle.
There aren’t much photoetch in this kit and TP5 that sits between the fender and the air intakes is one of the significant pieces. They fit fine but I have a nagging feeling that it’s just slightly too long, since I had a hard time getting it to sit flush.
The fender spokes A41 and A42 are very tight fit, as you can see I had a hard time getting it to sit level. The trick I found later is to sand the square end of these parts a bit.

Other than that the upper and lower hull fits really well together, which is good news.

The tracks were your typical link and length tracks, the instructions had single links running along the sprocket and idler wheels and they were 10 pieces each EXCEPT for the left front which had 11. This makes the left track to have one extra link which is weird.

The front sprocket wheels had a nub to fix their positions. I understand they want to be exact, but I don’t really like it as it doesn’t give you any way to adjust. I kept wondering if I should remove it but decided to leave it on.
Time to round off the upper hull to prepare for painting. Unlike earlier Pz IIIs,Ausf. M only had short sections of running wires, but you still would need to add them to the headlights.

The details are generally more coarse than Dragon or even Border. The lifting hooks are pretty thickly molded for instance. The tool clasps had their handles molded in solid plastics (similar to how Border had theirs), I’m going to replace the visible ones with the MJ’s. Someone still need to create good 3D prints for the jack brackets,not that Dragon’s were stellar but at least they were not as thick as in this kit.

Make sure you drill out the appropriate holes on the superstructure pieces for the Schurzen brackets if you want them.

To be honest I’m not a big fan of Schurzen – they make the kit more difficult to handle during the building and painting process and they obscure a lot of details in the final product. Anyway I’m going with them here, and I installed the brackets. 

The vehicle “421” I’m building has this metal bar to keep additional spare tracks on the glacis plate so I added that. In step 4 the lower spare tracks had you build 15 links, it doesn’t fit on mine so I think 14 links would make sense.
“421” has a large wooden box placed above its engine deck, and it was supported by a metal bracket welded to the back, so I added it.
I started noticing “421” has a different Schurzen arrangement than the kit provided. I think for the other 3 vehicles the kit supplied arrangement was correct, just not “421”. Here the AP book shows the two different variations and “421” had the second type.
Bummer, I had to rip out the brackets and readjust them. I also needed to cut corners on one of the plates on each side. Since the lower Schurzen hooks were molded on, there were more surgeries required.
With that taken care of I moved to the turret. I like some of the details they took care of, such as the smoke candles’ support, they molded some details behind them.
I kept coming back to compare this kit with Border’s Pz IV., because in my mind their molding was so similar that I kept wondering if they were tightly related to Takom. Anyway the side hatches opening were a surprise, they had the correct bolt details on top of the hinges (unlike Border) and the fit was excellent with the turret (also unlike Border).

The kit has no clear parts. I don’t mind it for the cupola and driver’s window, but if you have side hatches open like I do, A50’s observation block would have an empty hole which is a bit unsightly. I may replace them with spare Dragon’s.

The turret MG E22 also required drilling out the nozzle. It seemed a bit oversized if you compare it with the hull’s.

The turret had several fit issues. The fit between E43 and E34 leaves you with a gap, sanding down the raised guides on E34 would give you better fit. Same for E33 and E7. The mantlet armor is a tricky 4 piece side-by-side assembly, if you run quick-setting along each edge and build them one-by-one, you can get away with no filling. The fit between the turret top and bottom are always tricky with that triangular fit, in my kit the tips of these triangles on part E36 were not sharp enough to fill all the gaps in the final assembly so I needed to fill them.

Perhaps the worst fitting of them all was the stowage box. If you don’t sand down the edges you are going to get very visible gaps on all sides. I leveled down the bevels on these edges quite a bit to make it possible to have parts E42 and L fit without gaps.
I then glued all the turret Schurzen together for ease of painting and installation. They have PE latches TP6 for closed Schurzen positions, but these PE pieces were not guided so you are bending them at your own discretion. Yikes.
Anyway here the main assemblies are done and “421” is ready for priming and painting.

This “421” had a camo scheme that had “patches” of green and brown on the Schurzen, so I’m replicating that onto the main body. I used Tamiya’s red oxide primer as base, did hairspray and put a coat of MMP-019 Dunkelgelb on top. Then I sprayed another layer of HS and put Olivgrun and RAL-8017 on top. The one thing I don’t like about MMP for this application is that for very fine sprays it doesn’t do very well because of drying tips, and they have no retarder. However I’ve read someone deduced MMP has the same formulation as Createx paints and the latter has a retarder in their line. Anyway I had a lot of trouble freehanding this camo, but I lived. Then I did a round of light chipping and filters. I’m developing a workflow where I modulate with filters and oils.

I want to highlight the fact that Takom has definitely improved on their decals. They still have these matte surfaced printings but the film appeared to be thinner than the other previous Takom kits I worked with, good job.

For this kit I’m using Miniart Panzer crew 35167. I’m a bit unhappy with this set because the seam lines of the figures’ heads are in the middle of their faces! Also the quality of the face sculpts are quite variable, with some figures having big lower lips. Anyway they aren’t resin figures and they don’t cost like resin so you learn to live with it. This set has the requisite side-sitting crews. While the left figure was fitting quite well, it’s not clear why the left figure’s left hand was posed pressing something, so I had to modify it to be grabbing a hatch door. I think they might have designed these for Panzer IVs and for Panzer IIIs they don’t completely fit, if I were more serious about the build I’d have to change their poses more. Not this time…

As an addendum here is how the rear exhaust panels were built open. I had the parts A38 locked between the spokes and their “legs” attached to the panels.

I usually do figures last but for this kit the figures need to be painted and seated properly before I get the turret Schurzen on, so I processed the figures here. I’ll try to do a bit of step-by-step this time. I’m also preparing another couple of figures for a Maus kit so I included their painting here.

First I painted the figures in base colors. I mixed Tamiya flesh, white and deck tan into a pale flesh color that I airbrushed on, and the uniforms I handbrushed with Vallejo paints. I found their German tank crew highlight I color quite suitable for the tank crew shirts, giving a grey with a blueish hue.

I paint flesh with Abt. 502’s flesh color set. I mixed basic flesh with flesh shadow and did wash on the flesh parts.
Then I blowdryed the wash and used a filbert brush to wipe away the wash in light spots and blended the oils in shadowed spots.
I then used their dark shadow for the eyes, and shadow + dark shadows for the darker shadows such as eye sockets and either side of the nose bridge and cheek bones, as well as their faded skin which is a reddish flesh color on the chins, nose tip and lower lips. I also used the dark shadow + flesh for the shaved area around their mouths.

I also used oils to drybrush their uniforms as it allowed more control and blending so that you don’t get stark ridges. It took the weekend to do all 5. I always dreaded doing blondes because I always got the color wrong, but this time I used Vallejo Japanese uniform as base coat and drybrushed Abt. 502’s light sand colored oil which is a creamy yellow on top, it looked convincing enough that I did 3 blonde figures this time. Another interest observation I’ve made this time is that often figures’ hands appeared oversized, that seems to be caused by overly accentuated shadows between the fingers. By doing it very carefully this time I think the hands were mostly in-scale, although the Miniart hands were still a little crude.

The fit of the figures to the turret was challenging, but even more so with the Schurzen having to wrap around them. The fit of the Schurzen was ok, it wasn’t very precise so expect a couple of brackets needing adjustments.
I actually started liking this build now that everyone is onboard, it’s quite interesting.

I finally opened my MJ Minature’s tool clamps to give it a try. They indeed are very fine and truly match the thickness of PEs.

There are two issues working with these: how to get them out of the base and how to install them onto the tool.

The plastic used to mold these are not brittle. I used the Tamiya 123 sprue cutter carefully and I managed to not break anything. Others mentioned razor saw, which would definitely be a safer option.

One thing that was not mentioned is that the package has clamps with 2 sizes. The smaller sized one is good for tool handles, I worried about them being too loose but indeed they’re just right. The larger one can be used for wire cutter.

On certain tools you can’t just slide the clamp in, such as the crank. In that case I cut open the clamp’s bottom which is invisible and still slide it in from one end.

I managed to break one of the handles, but they can be replaced with voyager’s handle set, no problem at all.

They look every bit as good as PE with a lot less work. I have a lot of Griffon PE tool clamps stocked up as they’re the best of the bunch, but I don’t see myself using them except in emergencies, like when you order another 3 boxes of these MJ clamps and DHL delivered them to your neighbor, which happened yesterday #$!$ I suppose the main downside is the cost, as per-package there are not a lot of clamps – 30 small and 30 large to be exact – and already this Ausf M. only needs 6 while other vehicles may need up to 10.

After installing the OVM and did a round of OPR on the hull, I added pigments on the lower hull before installing the tracks and wheels. Remember earlier I mentioned the tracks were longer on the left than the right… it bugged me so I was anxious to see how it played out.

I think they probably got it wrong, it should have been the same on both sides, meaning 10 links on each of the sprocket and idler wheel sections of the tracks. With some super glue and bending I got the tracks to stay with the wheels. I haven’t weathered the wheels yet, only chipped the sprockets and idler wheels.

One thing to note about the spare wheels. Since this vehicle has at least 3, I commandeered one from a Dragon kit, and a side-by-side comparison shows how much better the Dragon rendition was, with the wheel cap a separate piece, whereas Takom’s looked caved in. I could’ve replaced Takom’s with Dragon’s, ah well.

One of the special accessory for this “421” is the big storage box at the rear, I made it out of styrene. I got this Dspiae angular sander to get my styrene strips properly angled. I’m not very good at working with styrene and always wondered how folks get straight edges with thick sheets.

The first version of the box was too tall unfortunately!
I did a bit more cutting so that the box sits lower. I would also need to lower the rear bracket used to hold this box later.
This time I tried to blacken the Schurzen plates with darkening fluid, they look pretty awesome. I sprayed a light coat of Tamiya red primer on top, applied hairspray, laid a coat of Dunkelgelb, chipped and proceeded to paint the camo following the reference photos. This division has pretty interesting camo that looks like nuts.
After the Schurzen most of the kit is basically done. I procrastinated over trimming down the box in the back since it was too large, finally got it done and installed, using voyager’s box clamps. I also installed the track armor onto the front as per reference.

Then I did a few rounds of OPR, streaking and pigments on the Schurzens. The Takom decals were really too thick. I couldn’t sand it down well this time due to the camo. There was also a third spare wheel on the left.

For the base I went with Model Scene mat again. With my vignettes I used very small strips of them, with the middle filled with Sculptamold. This “late summer” mat with less saturated grass and rocky ground looks more realistic than my previous Sherman’s base.

 To sum up the kit, it wasn’t terrible but the flash and fit really killed it for me. Very good price and looks popular with many Youtube modelers building it. Accuracy is questionable, particularly with incorrect Schurzen for this kit-provided “421”. The spare wheels didn’t seem to have the correct shape. I quite enjoyed the build though now that I’ve finished it. Finished gallery images are here.

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