by: Bill Plunk [ ]
IntroductionAs part of its ongoing efforts to expand its line of PE upgrade sets, Griffon Model has begun packaging “Premium” upgrade sets for various kits on the market. This particular set is designated BPL35003 and essentially combines their set L35024 with their Pak 40 barrel with late muzzle brake set LB35004 into one big package, hence the name “Premium”. Part of the set deals with the ammunition racks and this is available as a separate mini-set, L35A022, if you’re only interested in dressing up that particular portion of the build. This set, like many of Griffon’s sets, is designed for use on a specific DML kit, #6464 Sd.kfz. 138 Marder III M Initial Production.
Contents The set comes packaged in the standard Griffon fashion of multiple individual plastic sleeves containing a sheet of cardboard to which the PE frets are taped. The frets are packaged 1 or 2 to a bag and each bag is secured to the cardboard header and backing packaging with industrial staples. Due to the sheer size, this does put a little bit of a strain and introduces some slight curvature to the cardboard inserts which in turn tends to make some of the thinner sheets a little concave but nothing that pressing under a couple of books wouldn’t straighten out. The set includes multiple lengths of wire, ABS rod, and copper tubing and these are all secured inside their own zip-lock bag in the final sleeve to keep them well protected. Also in its own bag are the machined brass parts for the Pak 40 muzzle brake and a small padded bundle which holds the very delicate resin MP40. The entire set consists of the following:
• 7 frets of standard PE brass thickness
• 2 frets of double-thickness PE brass
• 1 turned aluminum gun barrel
• 4 machined brass parts for the muzzle brake
• 1 clear printed film for the instrument panel
• 1 cast resin MP 40
• 1 ABS rod 1.5mm x 50mm
• 1 ABS rod 1mm x 50mm
• 1 ABS rod 0.5mm x 100mm
• 1 Copper Wire 0.7mm x 50mm
• 1 Copper Wire 0.5mm x 100mm
• 1 Copper Wire 0.3mm x 100mm
• 2 Copper Wire 0.2mm x 100mm
• 1 Copper Tube 1mm x 31mm
• 7 sheets of Assembly Instructions for L35024
• 1 sheet of instructions for LB35004
Review Upon first seeing the set, it is indeed an impressive amount of brass and multi-media that will address or enhance multiple levels of detail on the DML kit. Out of the 9 frets, 3 are reused from Griffon’s Flakpanzer 38t set and 1 comes from the Pak 40 barrel set while the remaining 5 are all purposely designed for the Marder III M. The set devotes quite a bit of attention to the interior driver’s compartment area and provides for accurate detail for the driver’s seat as well as foot pedals, a completely replaced set of steering levers, and an instrument panel complete with the film gauge faces. Detail is also provided for the interior faces of the driver’s hatch.
Quite a bit of detail is also provided for various areas inside and out of the fighting compartment and are too numerous to list, but some of the chief highlights are the provision for the total replacement of the inaccurate DML gun travel lock as well as intricate replacements for the radio racks. Griffon’s signature tool clamps are also provided for all of the pioneer tools, and many of the hinged parts are designed to be fully or semi-workable using the supplied lengths of wire.
The set also completely replaces the kit-supplied fenders and provides a very helpful diagram on how to produce the distinctive “kink” missing from the DML fenders using the set parts. Some filling in of mount points on the hull are called for in order to fit the replacement fender brackets and the brackets themselves are provided in double-thickness PE to give them added strength and dimension. The engine access hatches also have the ability to be constructed workable for posing them open if you’re careful but this is not something that should be attempted by the faint of heart. Aside from some details for the battery box though the set virtually ignores the interior of the engine compartment so those looking to dress up that particular area are on their own still.
The set also completely replaces the ammunition racks for both sides of the fighting compartment and each tube will need to be individually annealed and curved to the proper shape and the weld bead on the front added as a separate part. Separate multiple part straps are provided to show the racks either empty or with rounds secured in place with different parts provided for the left and right hand sides to accurately show the mirrored arrangements.
Provided in double-thickness PE, the parts provided to completely replace the Pak 40 gun shield have excellent counter-sunk screw head details etched into them. These will also require careful annealing to curve to the proper shape and soldering may be in order to get everything secured in a reliable enough fashion particularly for the top oval portion. The Pak 40 turned aluminum barrel is designed to fit to the DML styrene gun breech with some slight surgery required to remove the locking ring since that is provided already on the aluminum barrel itself. The muzzle brake itself is constructed from 10 parts, some of which are machined brass and others provided on the small PE fret. The brake is labeled a “late” style by Griffon and matches photos of the Initial Production Marder III M in “ Marder III and Grille” published by MBI.
Overall, the instructions presented are clear, although busy at some stages. Replacement parts are clearly called out in relation to the original kit parts they interact with and modifications noted where required. The instructions are organized in a mostly logical progression through the build so there will be little skipping around unless you decide to change up the build order yourself. The only draw-back in the instructions comes when it calls for the use of ABS rod, wire, or tubing in that it will call out the diameter of the required material, but doesn’t tell you how long that particular piece should be. This leaves you guessing a bit with only the instruction diagram to go by. I don’t know if they’ve built in any margin in the supplied material, but be sparing in its use just in case. Telling the difference in the diameter of the different wires is also going to require some patience at the outset, I recommend you ID them at the start and label them with small pieces of masking tape or similar to keep it straight throughout the build process.
Conclusion It’s clear from the outset that this set is aimed at the serious detailer who has the necessary advanced skills to handle a set of this magnitude. The price tag also reflects this with the set retailing anywhere from $45-$60 USD depending on where you shop, costing the same or more than the kit itself. The level of detail provided in the set is impressive and is definitely a “kitchen sink” approach, so not everything in the set may ultimately be used depending on your preferences vs. the kit-supplied styrene parts. There are some cases where the set asks for things to be done that may not ultimately add to the level of detail but are they “because they could” type of thing. This is not uncommon with large PE sets and this doesn’t happen often but there are a couple of places where you might recognize that or not depending on how you view things. Due to the sheer complexity of many of the assemblies, this set is not recommended for those just starting out with PE, or with limited tools/capability to handle a combination of soldering and standard gluing that will be required to get the most out of this set.