The Panzer IV series of medium tanks was the only German tank to see continuous production throughout the Second World War. As battlefield conditions changed for the Germans during the war, so too did the Panzer IV: thicker armor, more powerful main guns, the introduction of spaced “schurzen” turret and hull armor plates. The modeler has been fairly well served over the years when it comes to Panzer IV kits in all the main scales. In 1/35th scale, Tamiya, Italeri, Dragon, Gunze Sangyo, Zvezda and Academy themselves have all done various versions of the Panzer IV in their catalogs. Academy, in fact, did a couple of Panzer IV Ausf H’s way back in 1984. The kit under review in this article has NOTHING in common with the 1984 releases. Not only is it from 100% brand new tooling compared to the 1984 versions, but it comes with zimmerit in the form of waterslide decals!
What’s in the Academy Box
- 9 sprues of injection molded tan plastic parts
- 1 set of “rubber band” type tracks
- 1 sheet of waterslide decals with 3 marking options
- 1 sheet of water slide printed “zimmerit” decals
- A Three-part instruction manual, with 17 pages of black and white assembly drawings covering 31 assembly steps plus a three-page set of color and marking instructions, a one-page sprue layout diagram, and a one-page zimmerit application diagram.
The quality of the parts included in this kit is first rate. They are crisply molded, devoid of sink marks or flash, and barring a few exceptions are minus visible ejection pin marks once the model is completed. I have been extremely impressed with the quality improvements that Academy have made over the past ten years, and I feel their kits are right up there with the best, such as Tamiya. And I am particularly impressed that they have been producing well-detailed kits, without going down the road of the hyper-detailed kits some firms have turned their attention to. “Average” modelers want, I believe, something that is detailed without being overly complicated. Something they can start to work on, and hours later they can see light at the end of the tunnel, rather than being only 10% of the way through. If you like “highly buildable, yet with good detail”, Academy’s latest kits are for you!
Academy’s instructions for this kit as mentioned earlier are divided into three sections. The very first thing these have you do is drill out holes from the “underneath” of the parts for later installation of other parts. Each part needing a hole drilled out is listed by sprue/part number, as well as in diagram form. I highly commend Academy for this simple but extremely useful information.
There are all sorts of alternative parts in this kit. The kit lists itself as an “Ausf. H Mid Production” version. If you “don’t care” about total accuracy, then simply follow Academy’s instructions, and build a really nice kit straight from the box. However, if you are a stickler for being as accurate as possible, then I would highly recommend purchasing a copy of the publication “Panzer Tracts Number 4-3: Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H & Ausf. J, 1943 – 1945” by Doyle, Jentz et al. This book covers the multiple changes that occurred with the production of the Ausf H, supplying very useful scale drawings and photos, and will allow you to make sure the parts you chose are correct for the time period you are after. Among the alternative parts provided in the kit are different glacis plates, rear hull plates, drive sprockets and idler wheels, and track return rollers.
Academy’s instructions are very well laid out, and each assembly step covers a relatively small number of parts, making it very easy to see where each part goes. I won’t go into a detailed build summary but will instead comment on items of note as one proceeds through the assembly steps. Starting with Step 1, and you will note that the side panels for the lower hull, parts D1 and D5 have a lot of ejection pin marks on the exterior side of the parts. This will cause you absolutely no problems and don’t need to be filled IF you are going to utilize the hull schurzen shields, as the latter will cover any evidence of the pin marks. If you are going to build a model without the hull schurzen, then you will need to fill and sand smooth these pin marks.
In Step 3, you will note that the idler wheel mounts are separate parts that can be adjusted to help with the track tension. I would suggest that you not install these in Step 3, but instead wait until Step 4/5 when the rest of the suspension is installed, including drive sprockets, return rollers and road wheels. Then glue together the rubber band tracks and see which position the idler mount needs to be in to give you the desired track tension.
Step 9 - I replaced the tow cable mounts with bent paperclip metal, cut to the appropriate size. This for added strength, and I also replaced the string “cable” with Eureka brand braided copper wire cabling. Step 13: part G10, the main jack unit, has three deep pin marks in awkward to remove places as well as a sink mark! So, you can either find a replacement jack part from your spares box OR you can just ignore it. How so? Because you will have to look awfully close to try and see these flaws once the jack is installed, and the hull side schurzen is installed.
Step 14 sees the installation of the driver and co-driver hatches on the front hull roof. There is detail on the inside and outside of the hatches, however, there is absolutely no detail within the hull. There is also a gap between the hull sides and the fenders such that if the hatches are left open, you could probably see daylight coming in the side of the hull. If this concerns you, it wouldn’t take much effort to cut out a suitably sized sheet styrene cover. If you are leaving the hull hatches closed as I did, and installing the schurzen, then you have no worries.
Steps 17 through 19 cover the installation of the hull schurzen mounting brackets and the schurzen shields. The shields come not as individual panels, but as one large piece. There is an option for the shape of the front shield plate on each side, so check your references. And there are a number of ejection pin marks on the inside of each set of plates, which should be carefully filled and sanded smooth. In Step 18, parts G17/18 are wooden boards that were installed to stop road dust coming up from the roadwheels.
Next, we move onto the assembly of the turret. The main gun barrel is a one-piece unit, which is great, as you don’t have problems with misalignment of two halves, as with many kits. There is, however, an ejection pin mark that needs taking care of. Also make sure you mount part F11 correctly, as it is possible to get it wrong! Check your references as there are alternative parts for the muzzle brake for the main gun. Step 26 - attachment of the turret schurzen mounting brackets: start with the rear turret brackets, parts F1 & F2. Glue these in place, and while the glue is still setting, but you can move the parts, check out the mounting of schurzen shield part F18. Adjust parts F1 & 2 so that part F18 lines up precisely. Then mount brackets F4 & F30, and likewise while the glue is setting up, test fit schurzen shield F7. Repeat with the brackets and shield for the other side of the turret. Beforehand, however, note that schuzen shield parts F23 & F24, in Step 28, have heavy pin marks that need removing.
Regarding the turret interior parts: other than a simple gun breach, there are zero interior parts. Thus, if you are to leave the turret hatch open (it is position-able either open or closed), you will be able to see daylight again, so mount a chunky tank commander in the turret cupola opening. There is also an ejection pin mark that needs removing on the commander’s hatch if it is to be left open.
Over the past year or so, model firms have begun producing zimmerit decal sheets. They print the zimmerit atop waterslide clear backing film, such that it acts just like any other waterslide decal: dip in water, wait a short time, and then slide the zimmerit decal onto the appropriate area of the model. Academy’s zimmerit decals in this Panzer IV kit are produced by DEF Model, a South Korean producer of aftermarket parts for armor models. Lately, they appear to have teamed up with Academy to help them enhance their kits. In the color and markings section of the instructions, a full page is devoted to applying the zimmerit decals. A color photo of the decal sheet appears atop a list of all the parts needing zimmerit decal application, with part drawings, so you know which decal goes on which part.
I would actually advise the modeler to apply the zimmerit decals to the individual parts BEFORE they glue all the parts together. This will allow you to handle a small part, rather than having to handle the whole model. Carefully cut out the decals, and dip them in water. While you are waiting for the decal adhesive to soften so you can slide it onto the model part, have a little container of “Future” brand acrylic floor coating handy, and a small model paint brush. Paint a liberal amount of Future onto the part where you want the decal to adhere. I say this because I have read a couple of reviews of this kit that say the adhesive DEF used for the zimmerit decals didn’t stick well, and so the decals had a tendency to peel up at the edges. The Future I used acted as “additional glue”, and seemed to work well, as only a couple of decals peeled ever so slightly. I fixed any peeling issues by applying a tiny amount of watery superglue to the offending areas. Once the decals have set for 24 hours, trim any edges where necessary.
Once the kit was fully assembled, I took my favorite rattle can primer, Tamiya’s superb “Fine Surface Primer: Light Grey” item # 87064 and applied a few light coats to the model. I let this fully cure for a few days before moving onto the color coats. For the main color, Dunkelgelb, I used MMP-011 Dunkelgelb RAL 7028, from the Mission Models acrylic paint range. For the red-brown and green mottled camouflage pattern, I utilized Tamiya XF-58 Olive Green and XF-64 Red Brown. The whole model was then given a coat of X-22 Gloss Clear, in preparation for applying the unit markings.
Academy supply markings for three vehicles: All are from the 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”, Normandy 1944. The decals are very well printed, with good color saturation, and commendably thin. They went on over the zimmerit surface fairly well, and when in the correct position, I applied some Tamiya decal setting solution. Once they had snuggled down into the zimmerit groves, I applied some more Tamiya setting solution, and then dipped a Q-tip into the same solution, and pressed the damp cotton bud straight down on the decals to squish them further into the grooves. After allowing the decals to dry for 24 hours, I applied another few light coats of X-22 clear gloss over the decals. The next day I mixed up some suitably colored dark brown oil paint, and some odorless mineral spirits, and applied it across the entire model to pick out the raised detail and the recessed detail of the zimmerit. I must say that this really helped to highlight the zimmerit, and I for one am very impressed with the DEF Models zimmerit sheet!
Once the oil paint wash had sat for 3 days to ensure it was good and dry, I applied my favorite matt clear, AK Interactive’s Ultra Matt Varnish. I then took some foam and cut out a few small squares, and started to “distress” the paintwork, by “chipping” the paintwork using Vallejo Dark Rubber acrylic paint, dipping the foam in the paint, and dabbing it about the model. I particularly worked on the rear and side mufflers. I then repeated the process using Vallejo “Track Color” paint and then to the mufflers with Vallejo “Rust”. I then worked on the mufflers a little bit more using Lifecolor’s Color’s acrylic set “Liquid Pigments” rust-colored washes.
I hand painted the main track with Vallejo “Track Color”, as well as the tracks mounted on the rear hull plate, and on the glacis plate etc. I highlighted them with some of the Lifecolor rust washes. The hull machine gun was painted Dark Rubber and then highlighted by rubbing a graphite pencil over it and polishing. The road wheel rubber rims were also painted with “Dark Rubber”. Finally, I got some Tamiya XF-57 Buff, thinned it, and airbrushed “road dust” over the entire model, and then added extra around the lower hull, road wheels, and hull schurzen sides.
Well, this was an extremely enjoyable project, I must say. Academy’s Panzer IV Ausf H is well detailed, without being overly complicated in this day of 1,000 part kits with tons of photoetch etc. All the parts went together very well, and the finished model looks great. You are left with a ton of extra bits to help stock up your “parts bin” as well. What’s not to love! I can therefore highly recommend this kit to modelers of all skill levels looking for a really fun build. I would like to thank Model Rectifier Corp for providing IPMS USA with the opportunity to review