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In-Box Review
135
Panzer IV Ausf.J
Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J Initial/Early Production
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by: Karel K. [ FUSSBALL ]


_ORGINPUB:
Armorama

Introduction

The Panzerkampfwagen IV was the backbone of the German Panzer Divisions. It served on all the fronts and was even used in 1967 during the Six Day War. The Panzer IV was the most numerous German tank in World War Two, with about 8600 tanks in 10 different variants produced from October 1937 to May 1945. In addition, the Panzer IV chassis was used as a basis for many different vehicles such as assault guns, tank destroyers, self-propelled artillery guns and recovery vehicles.

This new kit from Cyber-Hobby represents the Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. J Initial/Early production vehicle. The Ausf. J was the last version in the Panzer IV family, production started in February 1944 as a replacement for the Ausf.H and the first ones entered service in June 1944. It stayed in production until March 1945 with 2970 produced by Vomag and 180 by Nibelungenwerke.

The main difference between the Ausf.J and Ausf.H is that the Ausf.J had the auxiliary electrical generator set for powering the electric motor-driven turret traverse removed, along with the associated exhaust muffler on the hull back plate. Having dropped the electric generator and motor, the turret had to be traversed manually by hand. The Ausf.J was armed with a 7.5 cm Kw.K 40 L/48 gun (75 mm gun, calibers 48 long), and had a crew of five men. The Ausf. J was powered by a 12-cylinder water-cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM gasoline engine. The official designation of this medium tank was Sd.Kfz. 162/2.

Contents

The kit is packed into the usual Cyber-Hobby box, with all the sprues packed in clear bags, with some of them containing multiple sprues (what is now looking to be a common practice for DML/Cyber-Hobby). On top of them all we have the usual “Dragon Card” with two separate bags of Magic Tracks, clear sprue, decal sheet, PE fret, photo-etched nickel Schürzen plates and braided wire. The kit contains 1107 parts, from which 304 are the track links and 139 are marked as “Parts not for use”.

The box is packed with the following:
• 1 light gray hull tub
• One-piece turret for Panzer IV ausf. J
• 22 sprues in the usual light gray DML plastic
• 1 PE fret
• Instruction booklet
• 2 bags, each containing 152 handed Magic Track links
• 2 nickel PE frets for the Schürzen
• 1 clear sprue
• Decal sheet
• 1 30cm long piece of braided steel wire

Instructions and Markings:
The instructions are the usual DML/Cyber-Hobby fold-out ones, with black and white exploded diagrams. The construction of the kit consists of 20 steps, with many small sub-assemblies. Before you start building the kit, you should examine the instructions carefully in order to build the correct version of Ausf.J you want, since the instructions can get a bit busy in some of the construction steps. Colour codes for Model Master enamels, GSI Creos Corp. Aqueous Hobby Colour and GSI Creos Corp. Mr. Colour paints are provided in the beginning of the instructions. The markings by Cartograf, are printed in their typical good quality.

The three marking options included are the following:
• 3.Pz.Division “Totenkopf”, Eastern Front 1944
• Unidentified Unit, Western Front 1945
• 6./Pz.Regiment.2, 2.Pz.Division “Das Reich”, France 1944

Review

This kit is marked as a “Smart Kit”. Many of the sprues are from DML’s previous kits, most noticeably from their Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H and Brummbär kits, but there are also new sprues for the Ausf.J only. This is also a 2-in-1 type kit, giving you the opportunity to build the initial or early production Ausf.J. After examining the instructions and my references, I came to a conclusion that the line between the initial and early type Ausf.J is really vague. The features between the initial and early production vehicles vary and they cannot be strictly bordered. I will take a closer look at those features in the following paragraphs. Now, having that said, I’d like to add that whichever version you decide to build you should keep in mind that all the vehicles produced before September 1944 had Zimmerit coating, so the builder will have to apply their own Zimmerit or will have to purchase an after-market set.

The moulding and detail quality on this kit is really the best that I have seen. I compared some of the pieces with DML’s Panzer IV Ausf.F2 kit, and I have to say that the details on the new Ausf.J kit are far more crisp and sharp. There is almost no flash nor visible knock-out marks on the parts, although there are some mould lines on the smaller parts which shouldn’t be too hard to remove with a sharp blade or with some sanding. The only downfall with some of the parts is that there are many small attachment pins that will need careful removing in order not to damage the details.

Running Gear:
The running gear consists of the usual parts: the tracks, the suspension, the road-wheels, the idler wheels, return rollers, drive wheels and idler adjusters. The “Magic Tracks” provided, are the later 40cm wide tracks (type Kgs. 61/400/120), with ice tread and solid guide horns. They are the same tracks, which are also included in DML’s new StuG IV, Panzer IV Ausf.H and Brummbär kits. There are 152 links per side (dark grey for the left side, light gray for the right side), from which you only need to use 99 for each side along with ten links as spare track on the lower hull front. The other links can be used as an extra armor or for some more spare tracks or you can add them to your spare parts box. As usual for Panzer IV “Magic Tracks”, most of the links have two ejector pin marks, which will have to be removed.
The suspension parts are really nicely moulded, with crisp details.

The leaf springs have central mould lines, which will have to be sanded. Some of the road-wheels have a bit of flash, but the flash is easy to remove. The road-wheels have weld beads around the outer rim and correct late type hub caps. The rubber tyres around the road-wheels have the usual “Continentau” markings, which are easy to correct to “Continental”. Interesting to note, that DML/Cyber-Hobby have used the rubber tyre from the Panzer IV at Bovington museum as an example for the markings on their rubber tyres.

There are two types of idler wheels provided with this kit. One is the earlier tubular welded type, and the other is the later cast type idler. The tubular idler wheels have nice weld marks and the cast idler wheels have very nice cast texture on them. The cast idler has two PE rings for you to use. I suggest using the cast idlers, because they were more commonly used on Ausf.J’s. Also, there are two options for the return rollers. Both of them are steel ones with of them being reinforced and the other without reinforcement. The drive wheel details are very crisp and sharp. This kit has the dished drive sprocket with very good bolt head details. The final drive housing also has well-defined bolt heads. The kit has three different types of idler adjusters, be sure to use the right ones, B14 and B15.

Hull:
The hull tub is moulded very nicely with great bolt details and weld seams. The lower hull front plate has detailed towing shackles with the correct style retaining pins. The glacis plate has open hatches, and brackets for spare-track in both plastic and PE. The one piece upper hull has opened crew and engine hatches. There are two options for the driver’s and radio operator’s hatches. Both of them have internal details, although I would suggest using parts C22 and C23 since these represent the late style hatches with welded-on hinges. The other choice is to use hatches numbered E22 and E24 depicting mid style hatches with bolted-on hinges. Unfortunately, the kit hatches don't have the bolt details, so I cannot recommend using these.

The engine hatches have PE parts for the inner intake louvers. There are two different layouts for the engine deck, the Initial version has one grab handle on the right hatch and the raised housing over the radiator filler caps has slanted sides. The Early version has two grab handles and the raised housing has squared sides. These kinds of modifications were introduced in May 1944 so only few Ausf.J’s had the initial version layout. Most of the period photos show the early type engine deck layout.

Moving on to the hull back plate we have two more options between the initial and early type production vehicles. The initial production back plate has a welded-on plug over the hole that was left, after removing the traverse engine muffler and a place for three spare track links. The three links have small pin marks on their moulded-on brackets that will need careful removal in order not to damage the details. The early version parts have the plug omitted and there’s no place for the three links. After taking a look at my references, I can say that you can use parts C7 and C8 for both initial and early production vehicles. Part E39, with three spare links, most likely should not be used in my opinion, due to the fact that I haven’t located any pictures where Ausf.J’s would carry spare links on their back plate.

There are two different rear towing shackles with one being simplified, seen more on late-war vehicles, and the other being a bit more complex. Most of the Ausf.J had the simplified late-war shackle, although if you wish to portray a very early production Ausf. J, produced around February or March 1944, then you can use the more complex shackle.The large cylindrical exhaust muffler has nice weld marks and hollowed-out exhaust pipe. The one piece side fenders are moulded very thinly and include the folding brackets used for hanging a mesh apron when the wider Winterketten were used. The front and rear mudguards have heavy pin holes underneath them, so if you want to show them folded up, you should fill them with some putty. The fenders have the correct tool layout, and the jack included is a multi-piece affair. All the tools have moulded-on clasps with the option of replacing some of the brackets with PE parts.

Unfortunately, all the tools have central mould lines that will have to be removed. The front superstructure piece has a ball-mount MG34 and three part driver’s armored visor. The MG34 has a hollowed out muzzle. The separate side panels have nice weld marks. The spare-wheel and -track racks, meant to be attached to side panels, are nicely detailed. Once again, the side armor spare-track links have the two usual pin marks on them. The side air-intakes have the option of using PE or plastic parts as the covers.

Turret:
The turret consists of the main gun, newly designed turret shell, lower turret ring, commander’s cupola, turret interior, turret storage bin and all the hatches and ventilators as separate parts. The main gun, a Kw.K 40 L/48, has a one piece barrel that extends from breech to the separate piece muzzle brake. The barrel has a central mould line, that needs to be removed and there are four muzzle brakes for you to choose from. The muzzle brakes have rifling inside but they also have mould lines to remove. The gun housing has sharp details and nice weld seams. There are two options for the gun sleeve and two options for the co-ax MG armoured jacket. One jacket has a MG muzzle moulded in and the other is without the muzzle, in case you want to use an AM muzzle instead. The gun recoil guard parts have many attachment nodes that will have to be removed carefully.

The turret front plate has an opening for the visor with inner bracket details. The commander’s cupola has very good details, and can show the visor covers in the opened or closed position with the inner vision blocks included in clear styrene. The cupola has the single piece hatch with inner details. You can choose between two hatches with one having latches moulded-on and the other one having the chance to add them as PE parts. The turret interior includes the commander’s seat and roof ventilator. The turret shell is very nicely moulded, with all the weld seams and bolt head details in the right place.

Now, here we have the last three choices to make between the initial and early production vehicle. The first one is between choosing the ventilator covers. After checking my references, I can say that both options are suitable for initial and early production vehicles. The second choice is whether or not to depict the three sockets welded on to the turret roof for mounting a 2-ton boom. The order to weld on the sockets was introduced in June 1944, so all vehicles produced prior to June didn’t have them.

The third choice to be made is choosing the turret doors. In May 1944, an order to remove the vision and pistol ports from the turret doors was introduced and the kit does have doors without them for early production vehicle and doors with them for initial production vehicle. But this modification was not carried out on all Panzer IV’s by the end of the war, so there are pictures of late war Ausf.J’s with vision and pistol ports welded shut (that the kit doors also accurately represent) and also vehicles with one door having a vision port and the other being a plain door without the pistol port.

All the other small parts for the turret (grab handles, splash guard surrounding the cupola, lifting eyes, direct sighting bead in plastic or PE) are all nicely moulded. The stowage bin has well defined riveting on its sides and a two part hatch cover. A nice addition from Cyber-Hobby are the two PE storage mesh on the turret side between the turret schürzen and storage bin.

Schürzen:
The turret schürzen is made in plastic. Schürzen parts have really good bolt details and weld seams and they are in pretty good scale thickness. The schürzen side doors can be positioned opened or closed. The schürzen mounts are a bit on the thick side but nothing too serious. They also have a faint mould line to sand away. The hull schürzen plates are made of photo-etched nickel with the rails and mounts made of plastic. The nickel plates are really nice with plastic brackets for mounting them on the rails. There are two different front plates for the schürzen. One is the early type triangular one and the other is the later type one with a notch cut into the bottom. The mounts all have attachment nodes and mould lines to remove. The kit also has two different versions of rails included. The earlier type rails have all the teeth triangular but the later ones have the first three tooth tips flattened.

Conclusion

Cyber-Hobby has released another highly accurate and detailed kit. Although the kit doesn’t have Zimmerit and some of the features between the initial and early production vehicle are questionable, I still highly recommend this kit to all German and late war AFV fans. Just make sure you hold your reference beside you.

References:
Panzer IV & Its Variants by Walter J. Spelberger, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
PzKpfw IV in Action by Bruce Culver, Squadron/Signal publications
The Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank, 1939-1945 by Kevin Hjermstad, Squadron/Signal publications
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. G, H and J 1942-1945 by Hilary Doyle and Tom Jentz, Osprey Publishing
Panzer IV Sd.Kfz.161 vol.1 by Krzystof Mucha, George Parada and Wojciech Styrna, Kagero
Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936-1945 by Bryan Perrett, Osprey Publishing


A Build Log has been started on the Forums to evaluate the kit construction.
SUMMARY
Highs: Very accurate. Lots of sharp details. Good price in my eyes.
Lows: No Zimmerit. Some mould lines to deal with.
Verdict: Very good kit. Highly recommended to German AFV fans.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6549
  Suggested Retail: $41.99 USD
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Nov 03, 2009
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 78.20%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 87.43%

Our Thanks to Dragon USA!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Karel K. (fussball)
FROM: HARJU, ESTONIA

Copyright ©2019 text by Karel K. [ FUSSBALL ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.



Comments

NIce kit. Got mine yesterday.
NOV 02, 2009 - 03:27 PM
Excellent review of what appears to be a fantastic kit.
NOV 03, 2009 - 06:58 AM
Thanks for the comments James and Bowman. I'm really appreciated. Karel
NOV 05, 2009 - 02:37 AM
A very good in-depth review of a nice kit, Karel. I also find DML's/CH's Panzer IV kits to be very accurate except in regards to the Zimmerit issue. Because they have recently released the Brummär Mid. with Zimmerit I'm sure the Panzer IV will follow shortly. Maybe it's just strategics.
NOV 05, 2009 - 02:47 AM
   

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