Dragon 1/35 Pz.Kpfw III ausf J

KIT: Dragon 1/35 Pz.Kpfw III ausf J
KIT #: 6394
DECALS: Eight options
REVIEWER: Blair Stewart
NOTES: Smart Kit version


 Check the Boss' in the box preview for a good historical summary and a quick look at what’s in the box. I’ll just skip to my impressions of the kit and the construction process.


This is my second Dragon Smart Kit, and I have to say they have really set the bar high with these new kits. Not only do you get 8 gazillion parts, but they have mastered injection molding to the point where you don’t even have to drill out the gun barrels or the exhausts anymore: they’re already essentially drilled out for you via the molding process! They achieve this and other molding wonderments (such as reduced seams) through a process called “slide molding” (I’m sure one can find a website that explains this process in detail, so I won’t go into it here).

 Needless to say, I wasn’t as shocked this time when I opened the box and found 16 plastic sprues, the separately molded lower hull, a bag of Dragon’s separate link Magictracks, and a set of photoetch. The good thing about the slide molding process is it allows Dragon to mold things in plastic that were heretofore only reproduced in the correct proportions via the dreaded photoetch process (maybe someday I’ll learn how to work with this stuff without gluing my fingers together). Other than a couple of mislabeled parts (e.g., A59 and A61), the instructions are relatively easy to follow, although there are 23 separate assembly panels. I advise keeping a pencil close by and crossing off each part or subassembly to avoid confusion if you are like me and take a while to build a model like this. In addition, you will end up will a boatload of leftover parts that are for other Panzer III models or the one version you do not construct from this kit.

 The early Tamiya Pz.Kfpw.III was the first armor kit I built upon returning to the modeling hobby in the early seventies from a long hiatus, but I can tell you that this kit far surpasses the Tamiya kit: if for no other reason than the parts count (if I recall, I built the Tamiya kit in an afternoon – of course, I had much more energy and better eyesight in those days!).


 Like most of my armor kits, I like to build in subassemblies, and this kit was no exception. Per the instructions, I started with the lower hull and suspension system. These latest Dragon Smart Kits include the torsion bars in the suspension system. I also assembled the road wheels and put them aside to dry. Once I had the finished the lower hull and the rear of the tank, I placed all the road wheels, the return rollers and the drive and return sprockets on the hull, but did not glue them.  

The next subassemblies were the left and right fenders. There are quite a few parts on each of these, so I tried to take my time and make sure that I didn’t miss anything. I like to glue the tools on the tank and then hand paint them later.

I then assembled the rear deck. This is where I used the first photo-etched parts: the grill covers for the side engine intakes. The next subassembly was the front glacis plate. The next subassembly was the middle top of the hull that supports the turret.

 At this point, I decided not to construct the spaced armor version, but did opt for the long barrel 5cm Kw.K L/60 main gun. I assembled the gun, which is complete all the way to the breech mechanism, and then mounted it to the turret. I then assembled the turret as the final subassembly.

 At this stage, I decided to tackle the separate link tracks. I used methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) to glue the long straight lower sections of track, then switched to regular plastic cement to build the sections of track that would bend around the drive sprockets. I then assembled the top tracks, using a few reference photos to try and get the right amount of track sag in for a stopped vehicle. I ended up with about 5 separate sections of track for each side (this is important later on when you assemble the painted tracks).

 I essentially built the kit straight out of the box, except for the antenna. I used the kit supplied plastic antenna, but decided it was too thick, so I clipped it off, drilled out the antenna base, and then replaced it with a length of guitar string that was more appropriately sized.



Once I completed all of the subassemblies and the tracks, I was ready for the paint shop. I opted for the standard panzer gray paint scheme (I was a little weary of the German three color camo scheme). All of the subassemblies received a good spray coat of Pactra Panzer Gray (yes, this paint bottle is over 25 years old, and it still is good!). I painted the tracks with Pactra steel. By the way, I am finally using my Iwata airbrush after 30 almost exclusive years using a Paasche, and I am beginning to like the brush.

 Once everything was dry, I tackled the rubber on the road wheels and return rollers with a Testors acrylic paint marker. This seems to work fairly well on these and makes the job go a little quicker than it does using a paint brush.

I next gave the tracks a shot of dark brown, but not a thorough coat. I then lightly sanded the track cleats to give them that worn look, but I wasn’t satisfied with the result, so I took a silver artist pencil and marked all of the cleats plus the outside parts of the links to provide a better bare metal look.

 I then assembled all of the subassemblies, and then used superglue to glue the track sections on the vehicle. Once these are glued on, you can then superglue all of the road wheels and drive sprockets on the tank, but leaving them unglued helps align and position the tracks as you assemble them.

 I decided not to gloss coat the entire vehicle, so for the decals, I placed a puddle of Future Floor Polish where each decal was to go, and then slid the decal into those puddles. This works really well, and actually obviates the need for setting solution. 

 I then used a small paintbrush and Model Master Wood paint to paint the handles on the axe and shovel as well as the jack support box. I painted the rest of the tools on the fenders with Testors Steel.

I then began the weathering process, starting with a wash of Delta Creamcoat dark burnt umber acrylic paint (you can get this stuff at any craft store). Next, I dry brushed the vehicle with Polly S Fantasy Goblin Flesh to simulate rust (ever since Floquil stopped making their rust wash, I have found it difficult to locate a paint that actually looks like real rust. This fantasy paint is about as close as I have come lately). The final weathering was to take a number 2 lead pencil and rub it on sharp edges where there normally would be wear to simulate bare metal.


Another great kit from Dragon. For the money, they are about as good as it gets. I highly recommend these Smart Kits to all armor aficionados, but be prepared for a lot of small parts and a little bit tedious construction process. Have fun!! 



1.   R. Stern, “SS Armor: A Pictorial History of the Armored Formations of the Waffen-SS,” Squadron Signal Publications, Inc., 1978.

2.   B. Culver and B. Murphy, “Panzer Colors,” Squadron Signal Publications, Inc., 1976.

 Blair Stewart

February 2008

Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit. Get yours at your local shop or have them order it for you.

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