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Tamiya 1/35 scale Marder IIIM

Kit: No. 35255
Scale: 1/35

Manufacturer: Tamiya, distributed by Tamiya America, 2 Orion, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-4200, 800-826-4922, www.tamiyausa.com
Price: $39
Comments: Injection-molded, 210 parts (6 vinyl, 1 photoetched metal), decals
Pros: A good representation of a mid-engine Panzer 38 chassis, great detail, excellent fit
Cons: No rounds for the magazine racks, one-piece tracks
Although the original Marder III based on the Czech 38(t) chassis proved valuable, it had serious drawbacks. With the gun on top of the chassis, the vehicle was difficult to conceal, somewhat unstable, and provided limited protection for the gun crew.

In 1943, production started on the Marder III Ausf M using the new mid-engine chassis developed for the self-propelled infantry howitzer (Grille). By moving the engine forward, the gun could be mounted in the rear. This made the vehicle more stable and provided better crew protection. Room was provided for the driver by adding a rounded cast cupola to the front plate. This was later changed to a welded rectangular cupola. Almost 1,000 Marder III Ausf Ms were built before the Hetzer replaced it on the production line. Marders were used throughout World War II, and some 300 were still in service at war's end.

I expected Tamiya to produce variations on its excellent Marder III Ausf H kit issued last year, so I was surprised the Ausf M version was the first one. Since it is based on the mid-engine chassis, all the parts in this kit are new except for the running gear.

Molded in Tamiya's usual "panzer yellow" plastic, the parts show excellent detail. A small photoetched muffler guard is included along with fine wire to install it.

All of the major parts for the fighting compartment are there, including a well-molded 7.5cm Pak 40 gun. The 16-page instruction booklet contains excellent diagrams. There are assembly and painting tips throughout the instructions, and many of the parts are called out by name as well as number. The decal sheet provides markings for five vehicles. One figure is also included.

Like the earlier Marder, the hull is made up of several flat pieces. The fit is excellent, with only minor cleanup required. The hull can be assembled in minutes with no filler needed.

I like to build as much of a model as I can before painting, but open-top vehicles present special challenges. I added as many of the details as I could, but left off the running gear and most of the tools so they could be painted off the vehicle.

The fighting compartment comprises several complex panels, but each fits tightly. I left off most major details to make the fighting compartment easier to paint. Tamiya provides a few ammunition rounds (and a few spent casings), but they don't fit in the ammo racks. You could pare down the shells and fill a few of the spaces with ammo, but I left mine empty.

The gun assembly went smoothly. I left off the shield for easier painting. I rolled the photoetched steel muffler guard around brass tubing to shape it. Tamiya's steel is harder to shape than brass, but it is less prone to distortion. The shaped guard was attached to the muffler with the fine enameled wire provided.
With the major subassemblies built, I sprayed the vehicle with a mixture of Tamiya's dark yellow, desert yellow, and white. I've airbrushed several camouflage schemes on German armor lately, so this time I brushed on a field-applied scheme. I tack-glued the forward gun shields (E3 and E7) in place with spots of super glue; they must be removed to install the gun, but I wanted them in place while applying the camouflage.

I carefully brushed the irregular rectangular scale-like pattern on the lower hull, using Tamiya's dark green lightened with a little white. The pattern on the upper shields was small crescents. When the paint was dry, I applied the decals over a brushed-on coat of Future floor polish and treated them with Solvaset. A coat of Polly Scale clear flat blended the decals into the paint.

Adding the detail parts to the fighting compartment after painting was a bit trickier than I had expected, but with careful use of tweezers I eventually had them all glued in place. The model was given a wash of a mixture of burnt umber and black oil paints, then dry-brushed with the base yellow lightened with white.

The forward armor panels were popped off and the gun installed in its mount. Finally, I added the tracks and running gear to the hull. One track had two attachment links broken from one end, but the damage was easy to repair because the tracks are the type that can be joined with glue.

The finished model matches the dimensions in the Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two by Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle. Photos of many of the vehicles specified on the decal sheet can be found in Squadron/ Signal's PzKpfw 38(t) in Action.

The Marder project took 24 hours - a little longer than a usual armor kit because of the complexity of the open top and the camouflage. Although nothing was particularly difficult, I recommend this for modelers with at least some experience. Once again, Tamiya has provided a great kit of an interesting vehicle. Now that Tamiya has kitted the M chassis, I'm hoping we will see a Flakpanzer 38(t) Ausf M, or maybe a Grille.

John Plzak

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