Monday, 5 April 2010

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf D/H

Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf D/H mit 7.5 cm KwK40 L/48


Production of the Panzer IV saw the whole of the war years with successive upgrades and improvements throughout that time. The first proper ‘production’ tank was the Ausführung D due to the number being assembled being much higher than former versions, however, later variants were made in successively greater numbers.

There were nine/ten recognisable variants of the Panzer IV: A, B, C, D, E, F1, F2, G, H and J. 229 units of the Panzer IV Ausf D were produced between October 1939 and May 1941. According to some sources the Ausf D remained in active service until 1944, but will have seen necessary enhancements to protect it from the increasingly powerful Allied tanks of the time.

The original design of the tank is still visible on the model that made here, but the final depiction shows a tank that could have seen active service throughout the war until the very final year.

The obvious features that make this model an Ausf D are the following:

* A breakfront upper hull bow plate (Ausf A, D & E)
* Single turret access hatches (vs. split hatches, which came in at Ausf F1)
* Signal ports in the crew hatches on the upper hull (removed after Ausf F2)
* The elongated and dual-chamber-style barrel exhaust muffler (earlier variants only)

The features included by Dragon that would indicate that this Ausf D would have been upgraded are:

* The later sprocket and idler wheels
* The armoured-style wheel hubs
* Zusatzpanzer (appliqué) armour to the front bow plate, lower and upper hull sides
* Vorpanzer (spaced) armour to the upper hull bow plate
* Turret skirt armour (Turm Schürzen)
* The intended 7.5 cm Kw.K.40 L/43 (actually not used here)
* Turret rear stowage bin (Gepack Kasten)
* Later version sprocket and idler wheels (from Ausf F on)
* The tools and their distribution on the vehicle

Additional features that I have included giving this AFV more ‘longevity’:

* A 7.5 cm Kw.K.40 L/48 with final muzzle break (used in the late Ausf J)
* Zimmerit
* Ostketten (wider duckbill-style tracks intended for use by Panzers on the Eastern Front during winter months or during the thawing season)
* Hull Schürzen brackets

I feel that the way this Panzer is depicted gives it potential to have seen pretty much the whole war out. It shows that the original Panzer might have been successively improved time and time again, the base-kit itself being a confusion of references, my input giving it even more contradictions. I understand that the original kit is based on a Panzer IV Ausf D to be seen at the Bovington Tank Museum in England, which is a controversial beast to say the least.


On the whole this is an excellent kit, but if the subject presents a moot point, it is only fair that the kit does as well. Taking into account Dragon’s current competitors the standard of moulding is second-to-none and the fit (on the whole) is great, however, I was surprised to see lack of some quality seen on current Dragon ‘Smart Kits’ depicting similar topics. At the end of 2008 I constructed a Cyber Hobby White Box Panzer IV Ausf F1 (Vorpanzer) and was highly impressed by the fine detail, the speed and ease of construction. At the time I thought that this was because I forgot how good Dragon Smart Kits were as I had previously built and upgraded three Tamiya Panzer IV base-kits in a row. Looking at this particular kit, I was not wrong in thinking that Dragon had really gone to town on that Cyber Hobby release; sadly some of the incredible slide-moulded detailing of that kit is missing on this release, however it is still a superior build.

Several more negative attributes that I noticed during construction were the variability of detailing, the occasional bad fit (the turret frontal armour was shockingly over-sized for the aperture) and the need to cut away a number of unnecessary mouldings in order to accommodate a proper fit in some places (e.g. a line of bolt detailing on the underside of the drip strip on the rear plate). Not wishing to be over-picky, but having visited Bovington immediately after building this tank I noticed that some of the original detail was lacking from the model including the variance of the exhaust outlet siting, the lack of wooden strips on the Gepack Kasten (to stop the antenna rendering the radio useless on contact – this would have predated the turret skirts) and odd photo-etch detailing on the turret side hatch rain gutters, which seems to avoid reality completely.

One final thing which I think impacts badly on Dragon’s accessibility is the abundance of sprue parts. Initially one might think that they are good to have in the spares box, but having constructed a fair few Dragon Panzer IV variants I find recurring themes of redundant plastic. It would be better if Dragon took a more streamlined approach to packaging as most of the ‘spares’ are of little worth.

The additional detailing that I gave to the model were:

* Zimmerit
* The gun
* The tracks
* Hull Schürzen brackets

The Zimmerit is appliqué resin from two manufacturers; the horizontal ridges being cut from a generic sheet produced by Cavalier and the crisscross raked version being left-over from my recent StuG III build and was made by ATAK. Here my approach with the mixed Zimmerit patterns might be questionable, but I thought that the horizontal ridges could have been applied at the time of a factory refit and the raked version a field modification; some pictorial references of field-applied Zimmerit show that it was not necessarily applied following strict protocol, so I suspect the raked pattern could have been possible. Using both the Cavalier and ATAK Zimmerit sets I find that ATAK is far easier to work with as it does not curl or distort after the application of cement, whereas Cavalier does and the ATAK cuts/breaks much more easily to shape. Both resin Zimmerits were glued on using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and later bonded permanently with a lick of Zap Extra Thin CA.

The 7.5 cm Kw.K.40 L/48 gun is a prominent part of this build. I chose a ‘recession busting’ RB Models turned aluminium barrel with multi-part brass muzzle break. This work of art is a feat of engineering in its own right and worth every penny. I had to do a fair bit of drilling, sanding and cajoling to put the barrel on, but with a careful eye I replaced the original styrene barrel by countersinking the aluminium one into the breach mechanism, making the fitting into the mantlet as easy as it would have been if I had not converted it. In 1:35 the length of an L48 barrel is 1cm longer than an L43 one; I used my recently built Panzer IV Ausf J (Wall Breaker) as a template for barrel length.

Finally, I thought – why if this Panzer IV has Turm Schürzen does it not have Hull Schürzen? Sure enough, the horizontal (Ausf G) mounting brackets are present, but the support arms are inevident in the kit, making it unviable to mount the kit ones without a bit of scratching/PE or nabbing from another kit. I thought that maybe I should give the Panzer a reason why it hasn’t got side skirts; the answer was obvious - Ostketten. The tracks I chose to use are Accurate Armour’s resin Ostketten, which come as a ‘semi-flexible’ two-set of tracks. Even though the Panzer does not have Schürzen I did decide to give it brackets to support them, which were taken from the spares box and are of the Ausf H/J variety (yet another possible confabulation).


In summary the construction may very much look like the current Panzer IV releases, but a more intimate involvement with the sprues shows a variety of standards from Dragon. I believe that the twist-screw heads are poorly moulded and a little ‘fatter’ than in previous releases; I wonder why this might be (I am being very picky here, I know). It is barely perceptible, but is an issue when these items are used for super-detailing the Panzer (funny how the instructions still don’t even mention them). That said, I believe that some of the moulding on the OVM tools is stupendous; the styrene tool clasps are more 3-D than ever before and nearly as good as photo-etch without the hassle. Overall the fit is exceptional, save one or two areas already mentioned. I think it is a crying shame that this kit leaves out the correct brackets for the Schürzen hangers, which are included. The two spares that I do believe are well worth squirreling away are no less than two scale German AFV antennae with rubber mounts and wing-nut screws. These items are found on the Cyber-Hobby Early Brummbär sprue and will go towards two of my upcoming Tamiya/Gunze upgrades being just as good as the turned brass antennae from Armorscale (and free!)

In all I think this kit was a great deal of fun. The fact that the base kit is a bit of a unique amalgamation it lends itself to further embellishment; if it doesn’t it is a dead-end as the upcoming Panzer IV Ausf H Smart Kit release will knock this model into a cocked hat. So far I have seen a multitude of references on the web of the same vehicle currently held in the stock of Bovington Tank Museum and one pictorial reference of NSKK ‘Black 50’ with Cyrillic script in a Russian publication, sadly my Russian is too rusty to glean much from it, but nevertheless building and researching this model was a blast.

Bill Hazard
Build completed in June 2009

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