by: Rick Cooper [ ]
The panzer IV/70 (A) was created as part of a response to the controversial decision to replace the StuG III family of vehicles with something mounting a more powerful gun among other improvements. The Wehrmacht wanted a tank destroyer vehicle with thicker armor, better ground clearance, more speed, as well as the aforementioned more powerful gun. As was typical of German Armed Forces procurement realities three different designs all went on to some level of production. The three were the Jagdpanzer IV with the L48 75cm gun of which something over 700 were built, the Pz IV/70 (V) with the same gun as the Panther tank of which over 900 were built by Vomag, and finally the Pz IV/70 (A), with the same powerful 75cm gun, built by Alkett with about 280 examples completed.
The Alkett version is sometimes referred to as the ‘Zwischenlosung’ version, or interim solution. This version can be easily identified by its blunt nosed appearance which it carries over from the Pz IV hull. In contrast to are the other versions of the vehicle which feature a very distinctive ‘V’ shaped lower front hull.
The focus of this kit from Tristar Model LTD. is the Alkett version, which seems a bit of an odd choice considering it is the rarest of the three versions built, but hey when did that ever seem to really matter to your favorite model company?
Tristar doesn’t release a kit a month to be sure, this is only kit number 48 for them in the past ten years, so when they do something they tend to take their time and do it right. This might seem like an odd choice with it being the least produced of the three versions of this particular vehicle. In Tristar’s defense it is a rather interesting vehicle with more than its share of the ‘cool factor’ which seems to be as relevant a reason as any, along with expected sales, to cut a new set of molds. In any case I’m glad that Tristar took up the challenge!
A whole boatload of sprues go into building this one up, and as if that wasn’t quite enough Tristar has included as a bonus a complete set of their second iteration of Panzer Grenadiers (kit 35005) complete with two sprues of individual weapons. All told you are looking at 18 sprues of injection plastic goodness, 2 sprues of vinyl , 2 frets of PE, 1 clear sprue, 1 decal sheet with options for three different vehicles, and 1 set of fold-out instructions to help put it all together.
While some of the sprues come from their earlier effort with the Brummbar (kit 35038) most appear to be newly tooled. Considering that Tristar has released several versions of Panzer IVs they could easily have cobbled together this kit but you have to give kudos to Tristar for taking the high road here.
The hull is a one piece affair that does come from the earlier Brummbar release but it is very well done with very nice bolt and panel detail on the bottom. The running gear bogies, rollers, sprockets and idlers all attach to the hull side in the normal way. Each of the bogie units is assembled with 7 different pieces, to which 2 wheel assemblies consisting of 6 pieces of their own are attached. With 19 pieces for each of the 8 bogie units you can see this is not a kit that you can assemble in just a couple of evenings. Of course the positive tradeoff here is that you will get a level of detail that is rarely seen in a plastic kit.
The kit does provide both the steel rimmed wheels for the front two bogie stations (my understanding is that this was done due to the excess weight of the main gun and extra armor that they carried) as well as the normal rubber rimmed wheels for the last two stations. In the past Tristar has molded the rubber rimmed portion of the wheels in styrene, but with this kit they have opted for vinyl rims. Never fear, these look very nice with the “Semperit” branding clearly visible (okay, I had to use the Opti-visor to read it, but only on low power, honest!) along with the tire data, but be careful when removing these from the sprue as they have three attachment points, I’d use a fresh, sharp hobby blade for this! You will need a total of 36 wheels including spares for the whole shooting match but Tristar provides enough for two vehicles which should leave your spares bin smiling. The idlers, drive sprockets, and final drive covers are all very nicely rendered with appropriately thin spoke details. One missing detail is the small bolt in the very center of the drive sprocket which is absent but should be easy enough to add for most modelers.
The upper hull is typical Tristar quality in that everything appears to be well defined as well as their penchant for using multiple pieces to achieve maximum results. Examples of this are the transmission and brake access panels in the front which are all separate pieces along with the cooling shrouds for the brake panels. On the rear deck Tristar has done an admirable job with the air intake vents which are molded as a multi-part assembly which are constructed from the inside out and attached to the underside of the rear engine deck. Along with this are the posts which secure the spare road wheels, these are inserted from the inside of the engine deck upward giving a nice secure attachment. The engine intake louvers are also constructed with multiple parts giving a very nice layered effect that enables the modeler to show them opened or closed in many different configurations. There are no parts included for the engine or engine compartment so if you wish to model these doors opened you will need to find something to go inside.
Most of the on board equipment is attached to the engine deck. The equipment is, for the most part, very nice. Detail nuts among us will be happy to know that the jack and its brackets are constructed with nothing less than 11 pieces to provide that extra bit of super detailing possibilities. I really like the jack block, it has wood grain on every exposed face, something most model companies’ neglect. While Tristar does provide a few of the brackets for the tools in PE it appears that all of the clamps have been molded in place on the tool itself. This is not entirely a bad thing as Tristar has come a long way from the molded on lumps of early Tamiya kits, these look like clamps, but they do suffer from the limitations of plastic molding and the more AMS afflicted among us may want to use some PE clamps to trick it out. In any regard however, all of the equipment is very well done to the very highest standards you will find among any of the plastic model producers.
The superstructure is constructed just like the real thing, from a series of plates with interlocking tabs. They need to be ‘welded’ together, or glued if you wish, and in case your ‘welding’ isn’t up to snuff, Tristar has thoughtfully included delicate weld beads along the plates in the appropriate locations. The roof is nicely rendered and includes such goodies as clear periscopes, lifting hooks, and a well done close-in grenade launcher. Oddly Tristar has the loaders hatch opening to the side rather than opening to the rear. The example at the museum in Saumur has it opening to the rear, I haven’t seen any period photos that show the side opening but I might be surprised.
The main gun is a plastic piece, clearly done with slide molding, and includes rifling on the inside but it doesn’t appear to have any twist to it. The gun breech, mount, and sights are all well done and nicely detailed; I’m just thankful that they are even included. The details on the gun mantlet and saukopf are a bit of a letdown; the heavy cast texture is completely absent and a rather heavy seam transverses the mantlet. The saukopf has the prominent horizontal weld seam but will need a bit of texturing as well. Some modelers will want to add some of the prominent casting numbers which are also missing.
Fenders and side skirt armor are something of a mixed bag. The fenders are the full length type with small pieces to add for the front and rear mud flaps, the small retaining springs, and the inner plates where the fender joins the front upper hull. There is no detail on the underside of the fender although the outer lip is appropriately thin. The upper surface has an understated tread plate pattern that is most probably more to scale than many other model manufacturers efforts. The mesh anti-grenade (?) screen was a bit of a disappointment, while Tristar provides a template to get the right size; the mesh itself appears to be simply a piece of aluminum that could have been cut out of my patio screen door. I have some serious doubts as to how well this will actually attach to the completed model, I have nightmarish visions of the stuff curling up at the ends, blobs of superglue, and never really looking exactly correct. Looking forward to seeing someone giving this stuff a go and making it work; if you do please pass along any tips you may have to the rest of us mere mortals.
The tracks are of the 40cm light weight, solid guide horn variety with additional ice cleats provided. They are handed left and right so pause a moment before you start cutting from the sprue to ensure you have the correct side. They don’t really appear to be workable however, they are very well done.
The figures are superb, Panzer Grenadiers in a variety of winter kit with three of the four in reversible parkas. I used this figure set on a Panther when they first were released several years ago and was very pleased with the sculpting and ease of construction as well as the equipment. You might want to replace a few pieces of equipment with some of the Gen2 stuff from Dragon, but for the most part this stuff holds up very well with very little discernible difference.
While this may not be the holy grail of the PzIV family it is a very well done kit. Some issues with the skirts and other odds and ends, but the positives greatly outweigh any negatives. I will definitely place this one on my build list, and if you have a good suggestion for dealing with the mesh skirts please share!
Panzers in Saumur No. 1