This is a true multi-media kit: it includes resin parts, photo etched brass, turned brass and turned aluminium, all packed in a cardboard box and complete with a nice instruction sheet with pictures (in black and white) of the completed model.
But first of all, do not be surprised. This kit does NOT represent the Panzerbeobachtungswagen IV Ausf H, but the Ausf J. Why ? Because, it does not have the muffler for the auxiliary engine on the back (the transverse mechanism for the turret of the Ausf J was by hand, while in the H it was powered).
So what do we get ?
1. Resin parts for
hull (basically everything except the bottom plate). The upper hull was badly warped in my specimen, but Armo actually tells you in the manual that this is to be expected and how it is to be solved. Still, I am not sure whether it will work out for this large piece. These (and most other) parts are copies of the corresponding Revell parts (with some small parts already fixed to it), but with a very fine Zimmerit pattern added to it (see pictures). It also has the housing for the additional antenna on the right of the rear plate. Strangely enough, the bogies on the port side are all tilted, as if the tank was driving on a washboard. The starboard side has the axles on the same level.
Rear fenders with Zimmerit.
Turret. This is a one piece casting, apart from the mantlet. It also has Zimmeritt applied to it, and the necessary modifications to the roof for a Beob.Wg. All hatches are moulded closed. The small rod is supposed to represent the observation periscope.
Mantlet and gun housing with Zimmerit.
Some small parts that I haven't been able to place yet.
2. Etched parts for
turret Schürzen with attachment, but not for the hull.
A very complex subassembly for the distance indicator (backlight)
No pieces are provided for a star antenna.
3. Turned brass for the return rollers. Very, very nice
4. A turned aluminium barrel, unfortunately without muzzle brake.
Because the main identification feature that allows you to tell the Beob.Wg. apart from the Pz.Kpfw. is the StuG copula used on the former, and this is fixed to the turret, which has Zimmeritt applied to it, you are basically forced to build a Beob.Wg. with Zimmeritt, which was only carried between September 1943 and September 1944.
Also, if you want to add Schürzen to the hull, for instance the aesthetically pleasing Gitterschürzen (Thoma Schürzen), that were introduced in September 1944, you better get them elsewhere (Part for instance). But you already see that the possibility of having these two features (Zimmeritt & Thoma Schürzen) on one vehicle would be extremely rare, if built at all.
So what production model is it then ?
The Zimmeritt squarely puts it into the September '43 – September '44 bracket. OK, I know, the Ausf J only entered production in February '44, but you never know you want to backdate it to an Ausf H. In that case, take into account that a single prototype of the Pz.Beob.Wg. IV was built in January 1944, and it only entered series production in April 1944, when the Ausf J was already installed on the production lines. Now, a number of overhauled Panzer IV's were rebuilt as Beob.Wg. so it is possible.
It still has the old style of side armor plate, without the tow eyes in the extended sides, and four return rollers which makes it a pre-October 1944 model. (The four return rollers make it a pre-December 1944 model anyway.)
The turret has Pilzen for the jib crane. These were introduced in June '44, but were also retrofitted.
You are going to use the welded idler of the Revell kit, which was partially replaced by the cast idler in October 1942, and the horizontal muffler which was also partially replaced with the vertical Flammentöter exhausts in August 1944.
It has no pistol ports or vision ports in the turret doors, and the vertical rectangular filler cap for the radiator (on the engine deck), so it should be post April '44.
So, taking into account regulatory retrofits and partial implementation of some modifications, but not the possible field modifications or use of old stock, the model should make for an Ausf J produced between April and September 1944. If you believe the Pilzen were factory installed that narrows your time slot to June-September 1944, and so on.
The real strength of this kit does not lie in the resin parts, how nice they might be (although they avoid the tedious Zimmeritting work), but in the photo-etch and turned pieces. If you look at the price, those pieces alone would set you back for the same amount. Still, it's a pity you don't get a muzzle brake.
Apart from that, you can always just steal a StuG III copula somewhere and do the Zimmeritt yourself. The complete StuG III from Revell is cheaper than this kit, for instance, and with most conversions for the StuG that are on the market, you would have an extra copula anyway. That copula, the extra antenna mount and the periscope are basically all you need if you want to build the Beob.Wg without Zimmerit.
So, in closing, if you need a Zimmeritted Beobachtungswagen, and you are lazy, go for this conversion. If not, it's easy enough for a DIY job.
 PzKpfw IV, Osprey, New Vanguard 28
 PzKpfw IV Ausf G,H & J, Osprey, NewVanguard 39
 Panzerkampfwagen IV, Panzer Tracts No 4
 Panzer IV SdKfz 161 Vol 1, Kagero, Photosniper 16
 Panzerkampfwagen IV, Dainippon Kaiga, Achtung Panzer 3
 Der Panzerkampfwagen IV und seine Abarten, Motorbuch Verlag, Militährfahrzeuge 5