First To Fight

Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. D

Kit #: PL1939 - 073 Preview by Stephen Brezinski - sbrez1(at)comcast(dot)net
Edited by Rob Haelterman

A Very Little Bit Of History For The Modeler
The German Pz III Ausf. D was part of a line or progressive improvements and changes to make the Pz III competitive with their opponents. While the Pz IV started as the support tank, the Pz III was the battle tank, until switching roles in 1942-1943. Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran has an excellent series of videos on the Pz III and Pz IV and he emphasizes the innovative cupola and three person turret which allowed greater situational awareness and efficiency than the French, British and Soviet tanks of 1939 and 1941.

I always enjoy appreciating the kit’s box art. Starting up on the turret we have the all-around vision cupola used on the early Pz III and Pz IV tanks. To the right of the cupola, behind the white letters and looking like a periscope, is a signal lamp. The 3.7-cm main gun is a little off center and flanked by twin coaxial machine guns.

On the driver’s plate we see a hinged flap for the driver similar to that on the Pz IV Ausf. A. Above the driver’s visor are two small holes for the drivers binocular periscope. At right (our left) is the bow machine gun in a ball mount. On the glacis are two hatches used for brake maintenance and I understand the driver and radio operators could squeeze out of these hatches. These early Pz III with the eight small roadwheels and leaf spring suspension appear to have a longer glacis and overall length and these glacis hatches are larger than on the Pz III Ausf. E and later variants with the torsion bar suspension and six roadwheels that we are so familiar with.


Kit Instructions

The back of the First To Fight box gives us small 4-view drawings showing color and markings, exploded-view assembly instructions, and a short paragraph on the vehicle history in multiple languages. Below is a small sheet of water slide decals of four white crosses for a pre-war and early war Pz III. There are no unit markings or vehicle number. This is the same decal sheet as found in the FTF Pz III Ausf. E kit, just four early WW2 white crosses. Historical photos that I have perused commonly show white vehicle numbers on the turret. Panzers at this period also could have brown camouflage patches.

The kit exploded-view instructions are also located in a lower corner of page 7 of the booklet and look clear and accurate. Though larger than on the box art these are still too small for my preference and eyes. Each part is clearly marked with sprue and part number. At top center on the page are a front and rear-view drawing to help with painting & markings, and progressive photos showing painting and the decal markings. I do wish the booklet text were also in English and other languages.


The kit Parts
I counted 34 gray color, injection molded, styrene plastic parts on three sprues. There are no crew figures, no etched brass nor cast resin parts included. The parts are molded very well with no significant flash or sinkholes. The parts came in a sealed plastic bag though some of my FTF kits come in a ziplock closable bag; both bags are good, but I prefer the ziplock type bag.

The above sprue-D contains various hull, turret parts and the sprocket and idler wheels. At far left are several resin aftermarket sprocket wheels from OKB Grigorov that I hoped I might use on this model. The resin OKB wheels are unfortunately a little larger in diameter than the kit sprockets (parts D1 & D2) so may not fit well into the quick build track part. The 37-mm gun muzzle (part D10 at upper right) has to be drilled out with a very small drill; while the WaW Pz III model I have has a slide-molded open muzzle.

I like to compare and contrast things. Here is a comparison of four early model Panzerkampfwagen III all listed as 1/72 in scale. All four pieces are lined up with the driver’s plate so we can compare the glacis and engine deck sizes. From left to right we have a Pz III Ausf. B superstructure as interpreted by World at War (WaW) in pale gray styrene plastic. Next over we have the superstructure for the Pz III Ausf. D and Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf. D kit parts by First to Fight in a medium gray plastic and with a molded-on tow cable. Third from the left in darker gray styrene we see the First To Fight superstructure for their Panzerbefehlswagen III and Pz III Ausf. E kits. Fourth over in tan plastic is Revell’s Pz III superstructure for their Pz III Ausf. L and Ausf. M kits.

Until the Pz III E, the Pz III hull and superstructure went through significant changes with each variant. Before the torsion bar suspension, the Pz III hull appears to have been significantly longer, very noticeable in the glacis and larger brake maintenance hatches. All these hulls are about the same width and I think are all pretty close to 1/72 scale.

Here, above, we have three different 1/72-scale Pz III hull bottoms to compare. At far left we look at the pale gray color Pz III Ausf. B hull from World At War, and in the center the similar Pz III Ausf. D hull by First to Fight and subject of this kit review. Both the Ausf. B and Ausf. D are similar in having leaf spring suspension that is recessed into the hull side (reducing internal volume of the hull). The FTF hull bottom features actual detail similar to the Pz III E hull bottom at right. The WaW hull at left lacks any detail like maintenance panels. All three of these hulls are slide molded eliminating the need for a 4-part lower hull section like in the Revell Pz III kit.

Comparison of the FTF kit’s commander cupola (part A9) in the center, flanked by the plastic cupola in the World at War Pz III Ausf. B kit, and the cast resin OKB Grigorov cupola (at far right). Both plastic cupolas I find acceptable, but they have closed hatches, while the OKB cupola better portrays open viewports and interior detail visible in the open hatch.

In the above photo we have a closer look at the interesting way FTF does the quick-build suspension system and track for this model. Rather than molding the paired roadwheels as one thick wheel like many other quick build models, FTF molds the inner and outer wheels separately so they appear to be paired wheels after assembly. The Pz III Ausf. D used a 21 tooth sprocket with oval holes; OKB Grigorov makes a better detailed resin replacement sprocket, set 373, shown at far right that are unfortunately too large to fit well.

Below is a photo of the complete suspension set on sprue-B showing how FTF chose to simulate paired wheels.

A note on the related FTF Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf. D1, kit PL1939-075: this model represents a command version of the Pz III Ausf. D tank. This version contains additional radios with frame-antenna on the engine deck, a dummy main gun and dummy coaxial machine gun in a fixed turret. Since the turret does not turn, in order to open the engine hatches the turret was bolted to the superstructure further forward than the standard Pz III; the rear of the turret would meet the front edge of the engine deck plate, not overhang it. The bow machine gun is also deleted. The only weapon apparent is a ball mounted machine gun in the turret.

Another change this command tank has from the Pz III Ausf. D is the use of the 20 tooth drive sprocket with round holes, instead of the 21-tooth sprocket with oval holes on the Pz. III Ausf. D. Another interesting feature, among many, was only one hatch on the glacis for the driver and brake maintenance, and not one for the radio operator position. Based on the FTF box art it looks like they got these details correct.



  • PANZER TRACTS No. 3-1 Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A, B, C, und D. Development and production from 1934 to 1938. Thomas Jentz & Hilary Doyle (2006).
  • PANZER TRACTS No. 3-4 Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf. D1, E, H, J, und K. Development and production from 1934 to 1938. Thomas Jentz & Hilary Doyle (2006).

Review sample purchased by the author.


First to Fight products are available at Tracks & Troops

Back to First To Fight Kit List  

Article Last Updated: 26 May 2020

Back to Home Page