Monday, 29 March 2010

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf J (late)

1/35 Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf J (late)


Since I returned to modelling a few years ago my favourite build has been the Panzer IV: the more you build them, the more you find to detail on the next project. I have a number of builds of different variants of this tank under my belt, but this is a composite of the experience gained on those that I have already made, but I have not quite done any exactly in this way and I hope to show you the features of what I think is my favourite.

The Panzer IV Ausf J:

* Had two 7.92mm MG34’s, one of which could be used in the ball mount or as an air defence weapon.
* Had a crew of five.
* Weighed 25 metric tons.
* Had a fuel capacity of 680 litres.
* Had 7 gears; one reverse and six forward.
* Had 99 track links per side.
* Could cross a trench 2.3metres wide.
* Had a range of 320km on the road and 210km cross-country.
* Had a fording depth of 80cm.
* Had a Maybach HL 120 TRM V-12 water-cooled 11.9 litre petrol engine which had 265 HP @ 2600 rpm.
* Had a maximum speed of 38kph.

This model is a conversion from the standard 1/35 Tamiya Panzer IV Ausf J (35181) to represent a final model of the Panzer IV Ausf J production run, built in early 1945 and includes these features:

* Twin Flamentoter (flame suppressing) exhausts.
* Three late-style steel return rollers. The number of return rollers was reduced from four to three to increase speed of production in December 1944, furthermore the use of rubber-tyred return rollers had been stopped in October 1943 due to rubber shortages.
* Late production double-baffle muzzle break to the L48 KwK 75mm barrel.
* Thoma (mesh) Schürzen (introduced in September 1944) and grenade screens.
* Swivelling cupola hatch.
* Late Panzer IV tracks.
* As with all Ausf J’s this AFV would have had three turret sockets (Pilzen), which were introduced in June 1944 as standard for production vehicles.
* RAL8017, Rotbraun (primer red colour) was used as the main (base) colour, due to shortages of paint towards the end of the war.
* The armoured cover of the fume extractor fan in the roof of the turret was made larger in June 1944, so here the kit piece was modified (the crescent cut-out of this item started in October 1944 to accommodate the close-defence weapon (Nahverteidigungswaffe) in the turret roof. The extractor fan cover is a modified Dragon piece from a King Tiger kit.
* Standard Ausf J-style Sprocket Wheels.
* Older-style Idler Wheels (not typical, but common enough for a late Ausf J).
* Forged hub caps.
* Slanted rainguard above the gunsight on the front plate of the turret.
Cast bump-stoppers for the road wheel arms, which replaced the welded brackets.
* No vision ports on the superstructure sides of the turret.
* The vision and pistol ports in the turret doors still had been deleted.
* The bogie mounts sported less bolts than the previous variants including the early Ausf J.


The main references that I used for this are these two Osprey books;

* Modelling the Late Panzerkampfwagen IV (ISBN 9781846031120), Osprey Publishing
* Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf G, H & J (ISBN 9781841761831), Osprey Publishing
* Modelling Waffen-SS Figures (ISBN 9781841768373), Osprey Publishing

The Kit:

For this conversion I used the following items:

* Armorscale 75mm KwK 40 L/48 barrel with resin mantlet (B35-045)
* Eduard PE Mesh Schürzen (35595)
* Eduard PE upgrade (35326)
* Panzer IV Ausf H/J wheel mask (EDXT071)
* Trumpeter Panzer IV Turret Schürzen kept from a former build
* ModelKasten Late Panzer IV tracks
* Schatton Modellblau turned MG34 barrel (an absolutely stunning piece of micro-engineering in 1/35)

As with many Tamiya models, building the styrene base-kit was hassle-free and straightforward until the PE. I had to start modifying the running gear from the word go & used the Tristar Panzer IV wheel set for the suspension dampers to represent the late-style as seen on the Ausf J, furthermore there was a little modification required to the bogie housings (removal of two bolt heads per unit) and removal of two styrene and substituion of one (centralised) resin return roller per side, courtesy of the MR Models resin upgrade set donated by ny friend Dan, from the ‘States. The three return rollers are also from the Tristar Panzer IV wheel set and had to be measured specifically to accommodate the difference of manufacturers for the running gear; in fact the return rollers had to be ‘padded out’ with a 1mm wedge of styrene sheet cut out with a crafter’s punch.

The MR Models update set was easy to use with zero flash or warping, but the upgrade kit lacked abstract about how to use the resin items in the package, so if you can actually get hold of one I suggest that you do a little research as this is not just a cut & shut conversion.

The Eduard PE is a tangle of miniature parts that just has to be got through. The base kit does leave a bit to be desired, but with time, patience and an eye for detail should look pretty spiffing once all the metal is on, however, there are a couple of areas where I feel that PE leaves the finish just that little bit ‘two-dimensional’; notably the retaining screws for the engine intake louvers. Here I used a few of the Bronco ‘German wing-nuts’ from a set that I bought at Euromilitaire 2008, the only problem now being that I only have so many and stocks dwindle with each build.

The turret skirts were a special item saved from a previous build of Trumpeter’s Panzerjägerwagen; I didn’t use the PE option that time, but decided to assemble the Schürzen for this kit using those two sheets of rather robust brass photo-etch. Adding these turret skirts took a bit of work, but I got there in the end with some trimming, Zap CA and Bob Smith’s CA Instacure.

Towards the end of the build I realised that I had not got the appearance absolutely correct, but by this time I was in full swing and the issues that I had identified were pretty much small beer, but also knowing that many tanks of the same variant differed like colours in a spectrum, I decided to plug on; so if you see any obvious clangers, don’t worry – they are genuine mistake, yet ‘intentional’ at the same time, as I don’t think that changing them on this build will be my prime concern, however, lessons learned will be taken forward to future projects.

Painting & Weathering:

This Panzer IV build is as close as I can manage to get to the Panzer IV on the front cover and centre pages of the Osprey Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf G, H & J book, but I decided not to represent that particular colour scheme, as I didn’t want the AFV to be a direct copy, rather something more ‘individual’ and almost a reverie following certain late-war Panzer painting principles. The colour scheme that I chose was inspired by a colour plate that I saw of a Jagdpanzer IV depicted in late 1944 in the Ardennes; a Dunkelgelb basecoat with blotches of circular dark brown in a Disc pattern. Working on the premise that during the latter stages of the Second World War paint supplies were running pretty thin in Germany I chose to paint the AFV all-over Rotbraun (wheels, running gear, lower hull and upper hull including turret). The vertical portions of the AFV sides were masked off with pre-cut packing box card (the most malleable, yet strong enough for the job was found to be the boxing of French Fancy cakes!) Once masked off, I created the dark yellow Disc-variant camouflage scheme.

The base colour of the Panzer was sprayed over the priming colour (NATO Black) using Model Air colours, the main choice being a very dark colour; ‘Primer Red’, however, this colour is so dark that it needed quite a bit of enhancement to give it tonal variance using Model Air reds including various red tones and a rust colour. The final touch to the base colour was rendered with a smattering of Lifecolor’s Rotbraun, a truly excellent mimetic paint that I think works very well here over the darker paints.

The Disc-variant camouflage scheme is applied to the rear mudguards, turret Schürzen, vertical Thoma Schürzen and bow plates. The colour is, in fact, Lifecolor UA 204 Dunkelgelb (RAL 7028) with Lifecolor UA 206 Olivgrun (RAL 6003) painted on the upper and lower aspects of the ‘runs’ and centrally highlighted with Tamiya Buff. Before the weathering this scheme looked pretty funky, but after chipping, MIG filters, washes and rain stains it beds in and comes into its own. At one point I was concerned that the camouflage on the Thoma Schürzen would be obscured, but when placed over the darker lower hull and running gear shows up quite well.

The Panzer looks pretty mucky; this is intentional. We have all seen various reference photographs of AFVs in action, those who see the heaviest wear seem to take a significant pounding. Remembering those excellent scenes from Kelly’s Heroes I thought: “Why not represent a tank that has driven through a house?” The effect of this was achieved using MIG Pigments (Europe Dust, Light Dust, Ashes White and Concrete). The pigments are loosely applied in a ‘random’ fashion with some over-scattering of lighter colours then fixed using MIG Thinner for Washes. The beauty of using the spirit-based Thinner for Washes is that there is still some play in the pigments after fixing, unlike MIG’s Pigment Fixer, or water for that matter. The bricks were kindly donated to me by a friend took several a random applications of pigments including the colour Brick Dust. When applying the bricks at the end they were sprinkled into place, where they fell their positions were retained, assimilating a random brick-fall of a wall, or whatever structure a whopping great tank might take out when careering through a house (without the commander on top at the time, of course).

Finally; the Panzer Commander is an Alpine Miniature, which I think sets the Panzer (codename ‘Bubbles’) off well. I find painting Alpine Miniatures’ figures a fantastic experience. The first day was a little scary, but after the trouser camouflage and jacket base colour was complete I was in the groove, which is often quite hard to achieve after concentrating on a vehicle for about three weeks. The Commander’s trousers in Autumn swatch of Oak Leaf camouflage was created using Citadel colours using Calvin Tan’s Modelling Waffen-SS Figures book, published by Osprey as reference.

I appreciate that some may say that I have over-weathered this Panzer, but looking closely at pictorial references on the web and in publications, tanks in warfare are very, very messy sometimes.
A very special thanks goes to my friend, Dan Reed of New York State, USA who donated the MR Models conversion kit for this build; nice one, Buddy.

Bill Hazard
Build completed in January 2009


  1. Has to be one of my favourite builds of yours Bill. Something about that disc camo that's just so mesmerizing, especially on the side mesh. The rubble and debris just finish it off perfect.


  2. Hi Jurgy

    I reckon this is probably my favourite - the best part of the process was post-priming. The pictures show the detail, yet give a certain 'Je ne sais quoi'...I now have plans to repeat the IV Ausf J and will try my best to improve not only the build quality, but also the painting outcome.