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DRAGON MODELS LIMITED
6556, Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J Mid-Production, August-September 1944. 1/35th-scale injection-molded styrene/multimedia kit. Contains: 805 styrene parts (including 16 clear), two bags of individual-link Magic Tracks, three photo-etched brass frets, one piece of braided metal wire, four decal/marking schemes (with variations) and eight pages of instructions in 20 steps, plus leaflet.
DML is following up on the Cyberhobby initial/early-production Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J, with this latest variation, which they identify as a mid-production Ausf.J. As is the norm, some of the kits features can be deleted or changed by the modeler to depict production variations from a particular time frame that may be verified using references. Typically, a number of sub-assemblies come with optional variations, including the following:
Two different types of all-steel return rollers.
Two different types of idler wheels.
Two different types of idler wheel adjustment housings (three provided).
Two different types of drivers hatch lid configurations.
Three different types of convoy distance-keeping lamps.
Two different configurations for Schürzen mounting brackets (with and without them).
Two different types of forward-most Schürzen plates.
Two different types of hull-mounted Schürzen rails.
Two different configurations for turret Schürzen doors (opened or closed).
Two different types of KwK40 gun tube sleeves.
Four different types of KwK40 muzzle brakes.
Two different turret co-axial MG sleeve configurations (with or without MG34 installed).
Two different types of turret side doors.
Two different engine deck hatch lid configurations (with or without etched parts).
Two different types of radiator filler cap housing.
Two different types of superstructure rear plate.
Two different types of hull rear plate.
Two different types of tow hitch (three provided)
Two different types of bogie unit mounting plates (one not for use).
Two different types of bogie unit face-plates (one not for use).
Two different commanders cupola hatch lids (one to be used if opened, the other if closed).
Three different exhaust muffler configurations (two not for use).
Three different Nahverteidigungswaffe (close-in defense weapon) configurations (opened, closed and blanking plate).
Two different types of turret exhaust fan covers (three provided).
Two different types of turret front plate configurations (separate parts for opened or closed view-port covers).
These options number over two-dozen, and there are several areas where supplied photo-etched brass items can replace some styrene bits. In a word, this kit possesses latitude.
As this release is based to a great degree on previously used parts from the Cyberhobby Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J initial/early kit reviewed here at ToT, much of this review will be a cut-and-paste affair, with the new bits added where necessary.
The 40cm tracks included in this release feature a solid guide horn and tiny angled ice grips on the faces of the links. They are properly rendered as left- and right-handed items and come in two separate bags; one set is molded in lighter-colored styrene than the other, so dont open up both bags at once or mix them up. There is no clean-up involved, if the modeler can overlook the tiny and very subtle ejector pin marks on the inner faces of each link. They fit together easily, but will not stay that way unless cement is applied. The track assembly jig seen in some other DML Pz.Kpfw.IV kits has been omitted from this kit.
The road-wheels have separate hub-caps of the type initially introduced during production of the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H. The wheels themselves are the widened type first introduced on the Ausf.F, which along with the 40cm tracks were able to handle the increased ground pressure resulting from the weight of the thickened armor compared to previous models of the standard gun tank. Each wheel/tire assembly is conventionally-molded in one piece per side and includes manufacturers logo and tire size information on the rubber rim. A total of 20 complete road-wheels are given, which leaves four extras for spare stowage. The suspension bogies do not articulate, and are therefore less complicated to assemble compared to those given on the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.B, C, D and E kits from this manufacturer. The bogies themselves are in multiple parts, including separate ends for the leaf springs, and a separate hub, which in turn attaches to a separate mounting plate.
The final drive housings are single-piece moldings; these are the reinforced type first introduced on the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H. The drive sprockets themselves, also introduced with the new final drive housings, are presented in a conventional manner with inner and outer halves. There are two styles of all-steel return rollers provided, one of which has a reinforcing rib in two places.
Separate, two-part bump stops are fitted to five stations on either of the hull sides, as are multi-part idler wheel axle adjustment housings; there are two configuration choices provided. Dont glue the axle in place until after the tracks have been fitted; this will prevent the dreaded one-too-few or one-too-many links phobia. There are two idler wheel types provided: welded-tube design and cast design. The former are provided as inner and outer halves with the hub molded in place; the latter are similar, but also have etched brass rings for their inner faces to properly represent the type. These assemblies feature excellent weld bead details or cast texture as appropriate, and, as mentioned above, can be adjusted on their axles in order to depict proper track sag.
The hulls belly plate has the fairings between the bogie units molded in place, again for simplified assembly. A multi-part slide-mold was used to render this part, so details have not been compromised. Rivets, bolts, panels, hatches and weld beads are all crisply-rendered, while there are separate fuel filler caps for the side wall. The final items are the parts for the hull side-wall seen behind the final drive housings. By making these separate, DML will be able to switch the parts to provide for the final style of tow hooks, which were merely holes drilled into extended hull side walls.
Modelers should note that there are three thick injection stubs on each rim of the hull side walls. These must be removed or the fenders will not fit. This is not mentioned in the instructions, although the drawing in that particular step shows the items in question as having already been removed. A separate internal bulkhead is fitted between the fighting compartment and engine compartment. It has no detail and apparently only serves a structural purpose.
On the bow, a separate plate is provided to which the front tow points are attached, along with their separate pins and bars to hold spare track links. The brackets for mounting spare track links on the glacis plate are also given as styrene or etched brass parts. On the stern, the hull rear plate is composed of several parts and through the use of a slide-mold, has properly rendered bolt heads where the upper and lower sections were joined together. The most prominent new addition to this kit are the twin Flammvernichter (flame-dampening exhaust pipes), first introduced during production of the Ausf.J, The one-piece, slide-molded tube section has complete internal detail, the external weld bead and the pipe attached to its bottom, all in one piece; a separate mounting base is then attached. The muffler for the turret traverse motor was eliminated on the Ausf.J. Originally, left-over Ausf.H plates were used, with a square plug covering the opening for the mufflers pipe. This kit provides the plate that was never drilled for the pipe, which is therefore smooth. The trailer hitch is then fitted, while the final items back there are the separate tow hooks for each hull side wall.
The track-guards are superbly detailed on both sides and havent a single knock-out pin mark on any surface. They include the L-shaped mounting brackets for the optional Schürzen plates already molded in place. The front and rear mud flaps are separate items and can be positioned up or down. They come from a slide mold so details visible on their sides are in place; separate springs are seen at the rear. However, if folded up, each mud-flap has several prominent ejector pin marks that will have to be filled, since those will be readily visible.
OVM items mounted on the track-guards include a multi-part slide-molded jack, jack block (with etched brass retaining chain), pry-bars, starter crank, fire extinguisher, spare antenna case and C-shaped tow hooks. A beautifully-rendered spare wheel tray, made from a slide-mold, is fitted with two spare road-wheels. The flaps that covered the engine air cooling intake louvers can be made from styrene or etched brass parts and they include separate tiny fasteners. A choice of three different convoy distance-keeping lamps and reflectors with etched brass details are provided, as is a multi-part Bosch black-out driving head-lamp.
A complete set of Schürzen plates and their hangers are included in the box. These begin with styrene mounting brackets and two versions of the styrene hanging rails, which are crowned with etched aluminum plates; the latter also have styrene parts attached for the mounting points. To ease the process, etched lines are seen on the inner faces of the plates where these are to be fitted. In addition, each plate is sequentially-numbered for accurate placement. The use of this media combination provides a balance between durability, ease of assembly and scale representation of this feature. Other styrene parts for this assembly include the smaller front-most angled plates (in two variations), and tiny pads that are put in place if the mounting brackets are left off.
The glacis plate has separate brake access hatch lids, which include the brake air cooling intake cowls as separate parts; if left open some work will need to be done to open the hole on the back of the lid that provided cooling air from the cowls. The spare track links and brackets are also provided to fit over the transmission access hatch lid; these include etched brass or styrene mounting points. A fender support bracket is provided as a styrene or etched brass assembly.
The superstructure front plate is 80mm thick and includes a separate ball mount for the MG34 as well as a drivers visor; the latter features a separate cover that must be glued in place in the desired position. Some internal details are given such as a clear view-port block and a fairly complete, multi-part Gen2 MG34, which includes a pre-bored muzzle and proper cooling slit on the barrel.
The superstructure sides include subtle weld bead details; the openings for the view-port flaps have been deleted. Separate drivers and radio operators hatch lids are given in two variations; these retain integrally-molded internal latches. The superstructure roof plate is characterized by square hatch lid splash guards that are in three parts. It also features separate engine deck access hatch lids in two configurations, each with an etched brass or styrene part for the internal baffles. The small box seen over the radiator filler cap is a separate part and comes in two versions. The side vents on the engine compartment are provided as multi-part styrene moldings; the flaps for these vents are provided as styrene or etched brass items. Various fittings are separate parts. These include the antenna base seen on the rear corner of the port side, along with its associated rod antenna. A vent cowl, gun cleaning staffs and bore swab completes the fit on that side, while on the opposite side, spare track links and a shovel are stowed.
The rear superstructure plate comes in two configurations and features crisp details with molded-on fan clutch access cap and separate spare track links for stowage. The tow cables are made up of braided metal wire and styrene end-loops with holes already in place due to the use of slide molds; these attach to the upper rear plate using separate L-shaped hooks.
The turret was initially re-worked to delete both of the side-wall mounted view-port flaps and also featured a front plate that had only one view-port flap. The latter comes as a single part with molded-on view-port cover and rain guard, or another part with separate multi-part view-port flap with internal clear part for the vision block, and etched brass rain guard. The turret has been additionally re-worked to include openings for the Schürzen plate mounting frames. Other features include the up-armored rear section of the roof plate and Pilzen sockets for a jib crane. The enlarged armored guard for the vent fan cover comes in two styles: with or without a cut-out to permit full traverse of the Nahverteidigungswaffe, which is a two-part item. The Nahverteidigungswaffe can be shown with the bore opened or closed due to a slide-molded part; it can also be traversed. A blanking plate for when the close-in defense weapon was not installed is also provided. A splash guard and a multi-part commanders cupola finish off the roof. The cupola has a single-piece hatch lid and is the up-armored type with 90mm armor basis. The hatch lid comes in two forms, one of which has separate handles. Use that one if the lid is opened and use the other if it is closed. Optional etched brass or styrene commanders blade sights are provided. The cupolas view-port flaps can be shown opened or closed and each has a separate internal locking handle; there are clear styrene parts for the vision blocks.
New for this kit is a two-part Fliegerbeschußgerät (anti-aircraft MG mount), complimented by a Gen2-based MG34. The latter has proper cooling jacket perforations, pre-drilled bore and internal receiver group detail; a separate receiver cover finishes the assembly. Only an ammunition bag and belted 7.92mm rounds are needed to complete it. Note that the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J was only issued with two MG34s. When a weapon was needed for the AAA mount, it was removed from the co-axial mount. Thus part G-26, the slide-molded empty armored sleeve for the co-ax MG.
The split turret side doors are separate parts and include separate internal frames, hinges and clear vision blocks. The later type without view-ports or pistol ports is provided. Above these are grab handles and rain guards. Beautifully-rendered weld beads and screw head detail abounds.
The rear of the turret face includes mounts for the Gepakkasten (baggage bin). This item is correctly-sized and therefore does not match the drawings in Panzer Tracts No.4; on this point I corresponded with a member of the kits consultation team, who has assured me the DML part is dimensionally correct. The Gepakkasten comes from a slide-mold and incorporates fine rivet detail and separate lid; it is optimized for the fitting of turret Schürzen plates. Etched brass screens are provided to mount between the turret rear and the inside of the Schürzen plates, presumably as baskets for stowage
The Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J was armed with the lengthened 7.5cm KwK40 L/48, which is well represented using slide molds and multiple parts. There is no less than four muzzle brake variations provided in the box. The external sleeve for the KwK40 apparently came in a couple of variations (welded and cast), both of which are provided. Internal details for the gun include a fairly complete breech assembly with two-position wedge for the breech. The internal part of the roof-mounted exhaust fan is given as is a commanders seat. The mantlet includes a slide-molded MG34 muzzle and armored sleeve, or a sleeve without the gun in place. The latter part will be of use if fitting the MG34 on the anti-aircraft mount.
The mounting brackets for the turret Schürzen are well-rendered and are very thin, especially when viewed edge-on. Fine mounting bolt details are present in the proper areas. The plates themselves come in several styrene sections and include the option to open the sides or keep them closed.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
Molding overall is excellent, while fit for such a relatively complex kit is rated as outstanding. There are a few ejector pin marks that may need attention (not counting the tracks, of course) and the turret interior has several pins that will need to be cut off. Flash is non-existent, while mold part seams are subtle and easily dealt with. Weld bead and recessed screw head detail is especially noteworthy, as is the wide use of slide-molds for enhanced detail or ease of construction.
As far as accuracy is concerned, the kit matches drawings in Panzer Tracts No.4 to well within acceptable limits. It should be mentioned here that certain details seen on the kit are not shown in the cited drawings, but are seen in contemporary photos; the Gepakkasten has already been addressed above.
The instructions are well-drawn but as always for DML, they are very busy.
Decals and Markings Information.
Water-slide decals for four different mittlerer Panzer are provided by Cartograf of Italy. They are in perfect register, have crisp edges and excellent color saturation. They depict the following:
Panzer-Abteilung 115, 15.Panzer-Grenadier-Division, Western Front, 1944.
Panzer-Abteilung 2111, Panzer-Brigade 111, Western Front, 1944.
7.Kompanie, unidentified unit, Western Front, 1944 (with variations).
French 1er Groupe Mobile de Reconnaissance FFI, France 1945.
All of these are finished with a base color of Dunkelgelb, with both Rotbraun and Olivgrün used for the disruptive camouflage pattern. Which vehicle may have had Zimmerit is not called out in the instructions, but its likely that some did considering the time period of construction as stated on the box.
It seems that DML is on a quest to produce kits of almost every major and minor variation of the Pz.Kpfw.IV, which may be vexing to some modelers because their favorite subject has yet to be kitted in any form. This is an entirely understandable view-point. However, that should not be allowed to obscure the fact that this is an outstanding, state-of-the-art rendition of this variation of the Ausf.J.
Now, if only my pet Ausf.J version (lets call it the late-final type) gets released, I too will be a happy camper.
Frank V. De Sisto
References consulted for this review included the following:
1. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of WW2, Revised Edition; Arms and Armour Press, by P. Chamberlain, H. Doyle & T. Jentz.
2. Panzerkampfwagen IV; Achtung Panzer No.3.
3. Pz.Kpfw.IV; Sturm & Drang No.4.
4. Panzerkampfwagen IV, Grosstraktor to Panzerbefehlswagen IV; Panzer Tracts No.4, by T. Jentz & H. Doyle.
5. Panzer IV and Its Variants; Spielberger Series Vol. IV, Schiffer, by W.J. Spielberger.
6. Pz.Kpfw.IV in Action; Squadron Armor No.12, by B. Culver & D. Greer.
7. Panzer IV; Squadron 6081, by K. Hjermstad, D. Greer & E. Cumpain.
8. Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.G, H and J 1942-45, Osprey New Vanguard 39, by T. Jentz, H. Doyle & T. Bryan.
9. Sd.Kfz.161, Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.G/H/J; Trojca, by W. Trojca & F14.
10. Modelling the Late Panzerkampfwagen IV; Osprey Modelling 38, by T. Cockle & G. Edmundson.
11. Panzer IV, The Wehrmachts Armoured Fist; AFV Collection No.2, AF Editions, by C.C. Jurado & L.M. Franco.
12. Panzerkampfwagen IV in Combat; Wehrmacht Special No.4006, Tankograd, by M. Zöllner.
13. Panzerkampfwagen III and IV, 1939-45; Concord 7065, by T. Cockle & D. Jameson.
Reviewers note: Since May of 2005, I have been working on books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DML. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reviews.
DML kits are available from retail and mail order shops. For details see their web site at: www.dragon-models.com.