Academy German Panzer IV, Ausf. H, Ver. MID
Academy's German Panzer IV, Ausf. H, Ver. MID is a nicely rendered kit of one of Germany's most important and most produced tanks, which saw action on three fronts during World War II - Sicily and Italy, the Western Front, and the Eastern Front. According to Panzer Tracts No. 4-3, Panzerkampwagen IV Ausf. H / Ausf. J, 1943 to 1945 (hereafter, PT 4-3), there were 2,322 Pz. Kpfw. IV Ausf. H produced and accepted between May 1943 and February 1944 by three different assembly firms (Vomag, Krupp, Nibelungenwerk), making it the second most produced version, behind the Ausf. J version (3,160). The Panzer IV was initially developed to provide support fire for infantry attacks, while the Panzer III engaged enemy tanks. Many WW II armor-related histories mention the shock the Germans experienced when their forces first encountered Soviet T-34/76 and KV-1 tanks in 1941. German engineers and industry scrambled to increase the armor protection and firepower of the existing Panzer III, Panzer IV, and Stug III variants, as well as design, develop, and produce the Panther and Tiger tanks. The Panzer IV, Ausf. H was the first of the family to use schurzen skirts, zimmerit, frontal armor thickness of 80mm, and the long barrelled 75mm Kw.K.40 L/48 gun.
What's in the kit?
The box contains nine tan-colored sprues, four of which are identical and contain the sprockets (two types), idlers (two types), return rollers (two types) and road wheels, schurzen brackets, bump stops, hubcaps, and suspension parts. There was no flash and very few knockout holes. Oddly enough, the lower hull side exteriors are where the few knockout holes are, instead of on the inside where they would not be visible. It also appears from the images in the directions that there is a visible gap on both sides where a sponson should be, so that looking through the turret ring you can see the top of the tracks. However, as long as the builder uses the side schurzen and keeps all hatches closed, or else fills those sponson gaps with sheet styrene, those gaps should not be visible. There is no interior detail, beyond a very simple breech; no crew figures; no clear parts; and no photo-etch; undoubtedly the aftermarket folks are hard at work coming up with all sorts of nice detail kits. There are two decal sheets, both rendered by DEF Models - one for the zimmerit and the other one has the vehicle numbers and balkenkruz for three tanks belonging to the 12 SS Panzer Division, "Hitlerjugend", Normandy, 1944. There are two rubber band type tracks and a length of string for the tow cable.
Sprue C - upper hull, turret parts
Sprue D - lower hull, engine deck, glacis
Sprue E - driver/RTO hatch area, fenders, mudflaps
Sprue F - main gun, mantlet, turret schurzen, turret stowage bin
Sprue G - hull schurzen, brackets, vehicle tools
Sprue H (x 4) - road wheels, return rollers, sprockets, idlers, wheel caps, bump stops
The instructions are divided into three "manuals". Most of the individual steps, with the exception of Step 4 (wheels), only deal with 3-6 parts, which makes the drawings uncluttered and easy to follow.
Manual 1 provides a paint chart for Humbrol, GSI Creos, Lifecolor, Testors/Modelmaster, Revell, and Vallejo. Next page is a diagram depicting where the builder is to drill holes for future steps, followed by steps 1 through 13 covering construction of suspension, lower and upper hull and attachment of the tracks over 8 pages.
The step before Step 1 directs the modeler to drill a number of holes, probably for schurzen supports and tools. I followed those directions on another kit, and then found out that some of the holes were not needed; I recommend the modeler make sure the holes will match up to subsequent steps before drilling them. Step 1 is installation of two support walls for the hull sides and the hull rear plate.
Step 2 - choose one of two lower rear hull parts, where the idler wheel axle will be attached. Although Step 3 calls for part D11 (brake inspection hatches), use part D16 instead for the Ausf. H - according to the line drawings in PT 4-3, D11 is appropriate for the Ausf. J, and part D16 is for the Ausf. H.
Step 4 covers construction of sprockets, idlers, road wheels and return rollers. Despite the fact that there are two different sprocket wheel types in the kit, I recommend using H52 and H53 as depicted in the directions, as that is the one pictured in all my references. The return roller choices are rubber-tired (manufacturer's name on it, but too small for my old eyes to read), or the steel rollers, which were installed starting in October 1943 (PT 4-3). There are also two choice of idlers: the cast idler (parts H50 and H51) was also introduced in October 1943, but not mounted consistently on all Pz.Kpfw. IV (PT 4-3). Most of the pictures in my references show the installed idler matching parts H66 and H67. Road wheels also have the manufacturer's name on it, but again, too small for me to read.
Step 5 - attach the tracks using instant glue
Step 6 is attaching engine deck, driver/RTO hatch area, driver view port/MG ball mount plate, front and rear fenders. Note that although there are two front plates for the MG ball mount/driver's view port, use part D18, unless you're building one produced between May - August 1943 when 30mm bolted armor was used. The driver/RTO hatch area calls for either E10 or E4 - as far as I can tell, they are identical; there is a hatch plate, E9, which is for a late H or J. Step 7 is attaching the upper hull to the lower hull.
Steps 8 and 9 are attaching rear fender braces, rear upper plate, track tension adjustment units, three spare track link carriers, and tow cable and cable brackets. According to PT 4-3, the mounting of three spare track link carriers on the rear is an identifying feature of a Nibelungenwerk-produced tank.
Step 10 covers building and attaching the large exhaust muffler and its supports, as well as the small exhaust muffler (C28, C30, C31) for the turret traverse auxiliary engine. Step 11 covers installing the tow pintle and an armored plate to the lower rear hull.
Step 12 is installation of lifting hooks, wooden antenna trough and support brackets, track tension adjusting tool. Step 13 is building and installing the felt air pre-filter, which was installed on all Panzer IV H until February 1944, also building and installing the jack, shovel, and engine starter crank handle.
Now moving on to Manual 2, step 14, install driver/RTO hatches, either open or closed (NOTE: there is detail on the inside of the hatches, but no interior details in the driver/RTO compartments), air inlets for the brake hatches, and the rack for the two spare road wheels on the left side. Step 15 is installing two runs of spare track on the front glacis, the spare road wheels, engine deck handles, wire cutters, crowbar, and wrench. NOTE: According to line drawings in PT 4-3, only one handle was installed on the rear engine deck, so install E40 and leave H49 off. As always, check your references!
Step 16 is installation of gun cleaning rods, rear convoy light, long crowbar, wooden jack block, RTO's MG34 barrel, drivers armored vision port cover, front tow points. Step 17 is attachment of axe, track tool, fire extinguisher, C hooks, antenna mount, Bosch light, and side schurzen frame supports.
Step 18 - attach side schurzen support rails, and wooden boards which were intended to block clouds of dust thrown up by the tracks. Step 19 is adding U-brackets to back of side skirts in order to hang the skirts on the support rails. Note, these are not individual schurzen plates, but a solid piece with indented lines between plates.
Step 20 - build the breech and gun mantlet, attach the one-piece gun barrel. Of the two muzzle options offered, E46 and E29 look like the muzzle shown in PT 4-3 line drawings for the Ausf. H.
Step 21 - attach finished gun/mantlet assembly to lower turret ring, then attach the upper turret. Step 22 - attach turret sides.
Step 23 - attach two lifting hooks to the turret rear. Step 24 - build and attach the rear stowage bin to the turret.
Step 25 - attach turret side hatches, either open or closed. NOTE: There is detail on the inside of the hatches, if displayed open. Step 26 - attach turret schurzen supports. Step 27 - attach side hatch rain shields, hatch stops, lifting hooks, and rear turret schurzen.
Step 28 - attach side schurzen. Step 29 - build and attach commander's cupola. NOTE: There is detail on the inside of the hatch, but no turret interior details. Move on to Manual 3.
Manual 3 ends the build with step 30, building and installing the anti-aircraft MG34 mount on the commander's cupola, and lastly, step 31, installing the turret on to the hull.
Manual 3's next page is the zimmerit decal placement directions. In the build review, I will try to leave the decal in the water only as long as necessary to release it from the backing sheet, and will use a decal setting solution for the first one to see how the decal reacts.
The next three pages show the colors used for painting the three different tanks and decal placement.
Decal sheet for three tanks, fire extinguisher markings, girlfriend names for 615.
Parts location diagram and list of unused parts.
Academy first released a 1/35 scale Panzer IV H in 1984, and since then, there have been several 1/35 Panzer IV H versions released by Academy, Dragon, Italeri, Tamiya, Testors, and Zvezda. What is in the box looks like it will build an accurate Ausf. H. My references do not specifically address what determines an early, mid or late Ausf. H, but PT 4-3 does list at least 30 different major and visible changes during the Ausf. H's 10 months of production, and provides a number of photographs, line drawings, and descriptions of changes made, so it would be an invaluable reference to have on hand for any Panzer IV H or J build.
References that were helpful during this review were:
Panzer Tracts No. 4-3, Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H/Ausf. J, 1943 - 1945, Hilary Doyle, Lukas Friedli, and Thomas Jentz, Volume 55, 2016
PzKpfw IV in Action, Squadron/Signal Publications Armor Number Twelve, Bruce Culver, 1975
Achtung Panzer, PzKpfw IV A through J, edited by Hiroshi Ichimura, 1989. Japanese text, English captions, excellent line drawings and photographs, many in color
Panzer IV and Its Variants, Walter Spielberger, Hilary Doyle, Uwe Feist, Thomas Jentz, 1993
Panzerkampfwagen IV, David Doyle, 2017
NOTE: There have been some reviews posted on other armor-related forums, in which the reviewers have made what appear to be good suggestions about which of the optional parts to use for which version. However, please pay careful attention to the part call-outs the reviewers mention, as in a couple of instances they have referred to incorrect part numbers or have suggested a part being used at a certain time which is contradicted by PT 4-3.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Model Rectifier Company for this review kit.
Reviewed by Joseph "Mac" McDaniel
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