Academy German Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär Ver. Mid
Academy's 2020 release of a mid-version Sturmpanzer, officially known as the Sturmgeschütz IV für 15cm Sturmhaubitze 43 (Sd.Kfz.166) Ausf. I - IV, is their first release of this unique weapon system, and joins previous releases by Dragon, HobbyBoss, Tamiya, and Tristar, some of which offered interiors and photo-etch. This kit does not have any interior, PE, or figures, but does have zimmerit decals. Called Stupa (contraction of Sturmpanzer) by German troops, and Brummbär by the Allies, there were, depending on the source you check, between 306 to 316 Brummbärs produced between 1943-1945. During my research, I found at least four translations of Brummbär: Grouch, Grizzly bear, Grumbling bear, or Growling Bear.
The Stupas were issued to Sturmpanzer Abteilungen 216, 217, 218, and 219, and first saw battle at Kursk in July 1943. They also fought in Italy beginning in February 1944, and Normandy in June 1944, and participated in suppressing the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Surviving units fought until the war's end in Italy, Poland, Hungary, and France, the Battle of the Bulge, and Germany.
At least two sources agree that there were four versions, early, early-mid, late-mid, and late, all based on the Panzerkampfwagen IV chassis. This kit most closely matches the characteristic of the mid-late: it has a driver's periscope. That's really the main difference between it and the first two versions, although the mid-late and the late also had steel return rollers. There is also the chassis type, ranging from Ausf. E, F, G to rebuilt and new H, and new J chassis. The final version had the ball-mounted MG34 over the driver's position, and that is the best and quickest way to identify that version. The early version had no zimmerit and rubber return rollers. As has been pointed out on other forums, the Germans faced severe shortages and disruptions to factory production of equipment and spare parts, so units could certainly use existing stocks of other Pz.Kpfw. IV parts to repair damage to the Stupa, thus possibly muddying the waters when studying photos from the war.
What's in the box?
A 20-page instruction booklet, a markings decal sheet, a zimmerit decal sheet, a length of string for the tow cables, two rubber band tracks, and eight sprues. Sprue A is the only Sturmpanzer-specific sprue, with the casemate (mine was actually bagged separately), gun barrel, armored sleeve, mantle, and driver's periscope "tower". The other sprues - D, E, G, and 4 x H - are all marked 1/35 German Pz IV. NOTE: Before starting the build, turn to page 16, which depicts which parts the different zimmerit decals go on to; some of the upcoming parts, for example the hull sides and front glacis and rear plates, should have their zimmerit decals attached before adding the wheels and spare tracks. I would suggest that almost every zimmerit decal should be attached to its respective part before attaching that part.
Last page showing sprues and unused parts. First page with color picture, icons depicting actions, and a list of recommended paints by manufacturer.
Page 2 shows various spots to drill holes for tools and schürzen plate brackets. Step 1 is attaching the rear hull plate, both hull suspensions sides, and installing two internal braces. While the rear brace could be portrayed as the engine firewall, the front brace will make scratch-building a driver position with transmission and final drives somewhat difficult. However, since there is no driver hatch, and the view through the casemate hatches will be limited, it is possible.
Page 3 continues with the lower hull, adding sprocket support plates and front hull plate, then the rear lower hull plate.
Page 4, Step 4 is building the four suspension arms per side, plus attaching bump stops, idler arms, armored final drives, rear tow hooks, and glacis plate. Step 5 is everyone's favorite - building up the sprockets, road wheels, return rollers, and idler wheels. Note that there are two types of sprocket and idler wheels; the ones the instructions suggest are correct. Page 5, Step 6 is attaching all those carefully painted wheels to their respective suspension arms. Step 7 is attaching the rubber band, um, I mean, flexible track to both sides. The instructions stress using instant cement instead of cement. Based on my experience with previous builds, leave the idler wheel off until after the track has been attached. You've been warned ... The track looks good, not too many knockout holes, but it is rubber.
Page 6, Step 8 is building up the main gun, the simplified ball breech assembly, the gun mount and attaching the gun assembly to the mount. Page 7, Step 9 is installing the gun mount assembly into the hull, along with the bottom front hull plate and a splash guard in front of the driver's position. Step 10 is attaching brake vents to the glacis access hatches, towing pintles, and spare track on the front hull and glacis.
Page 8, Step 11 - attach rear engine deck plate to engine deck. Step 12 - attach engine deck to rear fenders. Page 9, Step 13 is install engine deck and rear fender assembly to rear hull. Step 14 is attach rear upper plate, and inner fender/mudflap plates. Step 15 is attach exhaust support plate, idler adjustment mechanisms.
Page 10, Step 16 - attach lower tow pintle bracket, then upper tow pintle bracket, and tow pintle. Step 17 - attach the exhaust supports, build the exhaust and attach to supports, and attach engine crank to rear hull. Note that all the tools have molded on straps. Step 18 - attach the rear lower casemate plate, followed by installing the gunner's and commander's periscopes; continuing on to page 11, attach handles and pistol port to rear casemate hatch doors and install on rear casemate. Install loader's hatches. Add grab handles and the MG34 to the front loader hatch. Next, attach the commander's hatches, the armored ventilator cover, lifting hooks, the gun collar, and pistol ports. Finally, attach the casemate to the fenders and attach front mudflaps to the fenders.
Page 12, Step 19 is attaching the casemate/fender assembly to the lower hull. Step 20 is attaching the headlight assembly to the left fender, the driver's periscope assembly to the front casemate, and a short crowbar to the right fender. Page 13, Step 21 is attaching the jack block, tanker bar, engine hatch vent, bracket, and then using the included thread or the material of your choice, build up two tow cables and attach to the right side. Step 22 is building up a dual filter system and the jack, and attaching them to the right fender. Attach the rear convoy light to the left rear fender.
Page 14, Step 23 - build up and attach the antenna bracket to the right rear casemate corner, two spare wheel brackets to the rear of the engine deck, and four schürzen brackets on the right side. Step 24 - paint, build up and attach four spare roadwheels to the brackets, fire extinguisher to the left lower casemate, armored step over the exhaust. Step 25 - build up and attach the storage locker on the left rear engine deck, and four schürzen brackets to the left side. Page 15, Step 26 - attach the two schürzen rails and two long "wooden" boards used to cut down on dust. Step 27 - attach ten hangers to the schürzen plates interiors, then hang the plates. The plates are not separate, like the real thing, but it may be possible to carefully cut them apart and use just two or three per side, as is often seen in photos of tanks with schürzen.
Page 16 shows the various parts and where the zimmerit goes on that respective part. Note that every part that gets the zimmerit has molded on details that have to be worked around, such as the three rear hull plates, the glacis, and both hull sides - not to mention how hard it would be to work around the wheels and tracks. Speaking of the hull sides, there are several noticeable knockout holes that will have to be filled and sanded, as they are not covered by the zimmerit. The gun collar, part A33, gets nine decals! Page 17 shows the color scheme and decal placement for a 217th Sturmpanzer Abteilung vehicle in Normandy, August 1944.
Page 18 depicts a 216 Sturmpanzer Abteilung vehicle in Italy, Spring 1944. Page 19 shows another 216 Sturmpanzer Abteilung vehicle in Rome, June 1944.
The cutout in the lower left front is for the driver's armored position
The gun mantle and gun collar, which gets nine zimmerit decals
The 15-centimeter (5.9 in) Sturmhaubitze (StuH) 43 L/12 gun on the left, its armored cover on the right
Sprue A - the only Brummbär-specific sprue
Sprue D - hull, sides, engine deck, braces, glacis. Note on the far right the unused Panzer IV driver visors and MG ball mounts plates
Sprue E - fender parts, brackets, smaller parts. Note the unused driver and co-driver hatch plates at the top.
Sprue G - schürzen plates, brackets, rails, spare tracks, three rear plates, two unused.
4 x Sprue H - Road wheels, return rollers, sprockets, idlers, suspension arms, final drives, brackets.
Front and rear views of the tracks - just a couple of spots that need clean up
Decals for four Stupas
The kit parts I checked did not have any flash, and the only knockout holes I noticed were on the hull sides. Fortunately, the lower holes will be covered by the zimmerit, and the remaining upper holes should be easily filled and sanded, and with a good coat of paint and weathering, unnoticeable.
The lack of an interior means either scratch-building, kit-bashing, or buying an aftermarket set to furnish your Stupa. There are any number of aftermarket metal or resin Panzer IV tracks out there, if flexible tracks leave you cold.
When I built the Academy Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. H Mid for an AMPS review (http://www.amps-armor.org/SiteReviews/ShowReview.aspx?id=14232) a couple of years ago, the zimmerit went on nicely, with one small exception. Fortunately, there was actually a spare for that small piece, so no harm done. I don't think there are any spare zimmerit pieces on this sheet, so I'll have to be careful with them. The major problem with the Pz.Kpfw IV build was gluing the tracks together - that build also called for instant cement, but neither liquid nor gel CA could get the tracks to stick together, so I ended up stapling them together and hiding that behind the schürzen until I could replace them with AM tracks.
Panzer Tracts No. 8 Sturmgeschütz - s.Pak to Sturmmörser - Jentz, Doyle
Panzer IV and Its Variants - Doyle, Jentz, Spielberger
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brummb%C3%A4r#cite_note-1
Sturmpanzer site - http://sturmpanzer.com/Default.aspx
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders, pending the full build.
Thanks goes out to Model Rectifier Corporation for this review kit.
Reviewed by Joseph "Mac" McDaniel
If you liked this review, consider joining AMPS. Your annual membership
includes six copies of AMPS's magazine, Boresight,
and helps to support our ongoing reviews.
Click here for more information about joining AMPS