Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf. H
|Kit #: 5017|| Preview
by Stephen Brezinski
Edited by Rob Haelterman
This kit review covers yet another 1/72 scale German Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausführung H model kit (or Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf. H or Pz IV H for short in this kit preview). After exemplary 1/72 scale Revell and Dragon Pz IV kits, can Zvezda do as well? First we'll look at the box art, which I love doing, and see what is supposed to be within the box. I often recall the words of an art teacher of mine: "Before we can paint we must first learn to see."
In the above box art we see a very nice painting of a Pz IV medium tank. Beginning at the top we have a commander observing out of a cupola in which the all-round vision blocks are open. The single large cupola hatch is indicative of the Pz IV H and J; while the earlier Pz IV F and G had the split cupola hatch. The gunner's viewport on the left side of the turret front (our right of the gun) is also open. Left of the cupola we see the rooftop air vent. Right of the cupola we see the tops of the brackets for the turret skirt (Schürze) and the skirt itself wrapping around the turret. At the upper side corners of both the turret and the hull we have small lifting hooks.
Going lower on the stepped front driver's armor plate we see the ball MG34 machine gun mount on the tank's right side and the driver visor on the left side. I do not see two peep holes for the periscope vision device that would be located above the driver's visor. Beginning on the Ausf. H they were not installed; these vision holes can also be seen on the Pz III and StuG III. No welded or bolted on appliqué armor plating is discernible on the driver's plate nor the bow plate. On the bow and the glacis plate above it we have three lengths of spare tracks doubling as extra armor (of dubious value I understand). Two tow brackets on the bow plate indicate this is not an Ausf. J, but also keep in mind that production changes were phased in and vehicles were repaired so we could see new features on older tanks and older features on new tanks.
The Zimmerit antimagnetic coating all over the hull and Schürzen indicate this Pz IV was produced between September 1943 to about August 1944 Considering the other features it does not look like an old Pz IV Ausf. G that was coated in Zimmerit in the field. Where the missing skirt plate is, we see the spare roadwheel box visible on the tanks port side fender. At the left rear corner of the hull is the hollow rod radio antenna (no it is not a whip antenna like the USA used.
From the low bustle Sherman burning in the background, what the kit's painting guide states, and the fact that I've seen a photo of this actual Pz IV, we know this boxart to be set in the Normandy, France, battles of 1944. The vehicle is painted in a soft edge brown and green camouflage pattern over the base color of panzer yellow (Denkelgelb). The visible markings are a Balkenkreuz cross and a white outlined vehicle number on the turret skirt side.
Despite being quite shot up, we can learn a lot from this Pz IV in a photo out of an old LIFE magazine. I think this is a great photo and that we can learn so much from it. Keep in mind I know not where these photos were taken and when. (Ed.Note: if we can believe the internet, then these are vehicles of 26th Panzer Division, destroyed at Lanuvio, Italy in June 1944.)
Again starting from the top. The cupola hatch appears closed; the large curved structure visible behind the cupola is the lid of the open turret stowage bin. There appears to be a large shell hole left of the gun (our right) which took out the gunner's sight and his vision port. The starboard side 5-mm thick turret Schürzen looks like it took a large caliber hit which bent it back. Just behind the main gun is the roof-top air ventilator. In this photo above, the cupola vision ports appear closed, in the photo below they are open.
On the driver's front armor plate we see the bolted-on appliqué armor and prominent bolts. On this Pz IV and the one below there are no vision peepholes above the driver's visor. The two peepholes were typical of the Pz IV through the Ausf. J, which may be a good dating feature for these two tanks. There are many pictures of the appliqué armor being cut around the peepholes but I suppose they could have covered them over. The periscope peepholes were eliminated in the Pz IV H and J.
"Germaine" is written on the driver's visor. This Pz IV appears to be painted in an irregular green and brown over the panzer yellow base color. The bow plate appears to be primer red-brown due to the 30-mm bow appliqué armor having been blown off, which appears to have also wrecked the portside tow bracket (tow pintle). Note the remaining stubs of the bolts broken off the bow plate. Despite suffering several hits, the vehicle does not appear to have burned. With the starboard track missing we have a good view of the starboard side sprocket wheel.
The tank looks well battered and covered in crud but still I see no definite evidence of a Zimmerit coating pattern. Based on the Schürzen, the type of appliqué armor, type of bow tow brackets, and lack of Zimmerit coating, this appears to me to be a late Pz IV G, or early Pz IV H produced between May and August 1943. The vehicle number could be a white 613 but I think more likely 813 based on a nearby vehicle numbered 825.
In this companion LIFE magazine photo we have another battered Pz IV with turret Schürzen but no side skirts. Compare the open cupola hatch here with the open hatch in Zvezda's box art above. Panzer Tracts no. 4-3 states that in January 1945, the commander's hatch lid could be field modified to lay almost flat when open, such as here in this photo. This January 1945 date could be used to date this photo, or this tank could just have been modified by the workshop on their own? Both of these Pz IV have the L48 KwK 40 gun but on this one there is a curved antenna deflector going from the gun to the gun mantlet. The antenna deflector is characteristic of the Ausf. G and earlier, and earlier and would push the antenna aside as the turret turned.
At left on the starboard fender we see a Bosch headlight. On the superstructure driver's plate we see bolted-on 30-mm armor to bring the total thickness up to 80-mm. On the bow under the spare track is a plate of welded-on appliqué armor. Yes, we can have Pz IVs with both bolted-on, and welded-on, appliqué armor on the same tank at the same time. The spare track, port brake access hatch, and the center transmission hatch on the glacis have been removed, apparently blown away. On the glacis we see the four brackets for attaching the spare track links.
I notice the lack of the felt pre-air filter that was installed on the starboard fender beginning in May of 1943; either this tank never got one, or it was removed by the crew, or the filter got knocked off in combat? See assembly sequence 15-b in the kit instructions to see the pre-air filter, it looks like two cylinders with a curved pipe going in under the air intake. The pre-filter cylinders are kind of a defining feature for an Ausf. H. There is a side visor for the radio operator on the starboard side which is a feature of Pz IV Ausf. G and earlier variants.
Interesting and puzzling is what appears to be the lowered antenna mount on the starboard side of the superstructure, over the third or fourth roadwheel location, this antenna location was characteristic of the earlier Pz IV Ausf. F and Ausf. G. But the Ausf. F and some Ausf. G should have a split cupola hatch? Perhaps this is a rebuilt vehicle? My opinion is that this is a late Pz IV Ausf. G which I've read shared many features with the Ausf. H.
The above scan is of the bottom of the box with photos of the built but unpainted model kit with views of all the important sides. Note the notches cut in the very first plate of the Schürzen, I understand that that is a significant dating feature. This is a good view of the commander's cupola with the open visors; in fact with this view we can see all the way through the open visor ports to the other side. You would want to simulate some sort of glass vision block in each port, I like to use old plastic camera film. (Ask your parents if you don't know what camera film is.)
Scan A above contains the turret and superstructure parts. Zvezda apparently does not use slide molding like Dragon and has not gone the way of simplified wargaming kits and greatly reduced number of parts. At the center is the gun barrel (part A39) which should have the muzzle drilled out. Left of center is the glacis plate (A42) with open brake vent cowl and the brackets for the spare track: nice attention to detail. There is screw detail on the turret roof (parts A14) and bolt detail all over the hull bottom (A1), another nice touch. The driver and radio operators hatches on the superstructure roof (A2) are also molded shut.
The cupola hatch (part A9) is molded closed and the cupola bottom (A8) has a solid bottom; combine this with the solid turret roof (A14) where the cupola glues on. We'll have to cut a lot of plastic to insert a commander figure. The turret does come with separate side doors (A31 and A33) so they could be cut apart and detailed on the inner surface if we wish to model the doors open. A great touch is that the tools (parts A20 A35, A36, A53, B73, B87) are molded separately and close to in-scale.
The turret and hull parts could use some weld seams scribed in; otherwise surface detail is very good The side and turret Schürzen are a little thick for this scale. The Schürzen (parts B67, B69, B69, B70, etc.) could be replaced with etched brass parts or scratchbuilt with thin plastic card. If you use aftermarket hull skirts, please be sure to overlap them properly using your references.
This scan of Sprue-B holds the superstructure and hull parts. At far left and right are the one-piece side Schürzen (B67 & B70) representing the six overlapping 5-mm plates per side. I notice on the driver's front plate (part B57) that the visor is recessed into the armor plate, resembling a front plate with welded on appliqué armor, but what I suspect is going on here is a 80-mm front plate machined and recessed to accept a visor made for the 50-mm armor plate (Panzer Tracts No. 4-3, Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H / Ausf. J, 1943 to 1945, page 7); interesting.
The mudguards in the center (part B71) come as one big unit that attaches atop the assembled hull sides (B56, B59, B61).
At top are the hard plastic track with good detail (sprue-D). We are supposed to use regular model cement to glue the track down. I watched a video of a gentleman assembling this model and the track broke when bending it around the sprocket but it was easily repaired and the other run went on fine. I recommend always starting by fitting the track into the sprocket wheel teeth.
two small sprue-C hold the leaf spring suspension bogies (parts C3
and C4); there are four of these sprue-C and each holds bogie and
wheels for a left side and a right side bogie. The roadwheels (C1
& C2) look reasonable good though the spokes may be a little small.
The way the eight return rollers (C5) are molded, the outer face of
the roller lack depth and correct detail; if we build the model with
the side skirts we won't see them though.
This scan compares Zvezda’s Pz IV H superstructure, with the superstructure from Dragon's Pz IV H kit #7497 in the pale gray plastic. Both compare well in features, such as the screw marks on the superstructure roof and hatches. Both have the hatches molded shut. Both appear about the same length and width. This is a good opportunity to note how the Pz IV turret is not centered on the hull, the turret ring is more to the port (left) side of the superstructure and hull. At the lower port side of the Zvezda hull is the radio antenna mount particular to the Pz IV H and J.
The scan above is a little comparison of some parts of Zvezda’s interpretation of the Pz IV H tank in plastic, with Dragon's Pz IV H kit #7497 in the pale gray plastic.
Both turrets include reasonable screw detail in the turret roof. Both have the raised exhaust fan on the roof but suffer from them being too low; they should be raised with a gap underneath. The Dragon turret has a cover bolted over the location for the internal close range defence weapon next to the vent; a feature lacking on Zvezda's turret. The Dragon turret is a milimeter or two wider but I've not measured either one so will not pass judgement on the correct dimensions.
models give us the late cast sprocket wheels used on the late Pz IV
H and the Pz IV J. Zvezda supplies the tubular welded idler wheels
(A49, A51) while Dragon gives us the late style cast idlers (parts
12 & 13) more common to the Pz IV J.
The kit instructions are clear, exploded-view type with fifteen steps. Step 15-b below shows assembly of the pre-filter that mounts on the port fender.
Below are the water slide decals and one of the two painting guides: one for a tank in France and another on the Eastern Front. Missing are the brackets mounted on the fenders to secure the Schürzen. Missing here and with all other smallscale Pz IV Ausf. H models are wood boards mounted between the fenders and the side Schürzen to keep dust down and away from the engine air intakes.
There are a lot of brass and resin aftermarket conversion and detailing parts available such as brass Schürzen, resin cupolas, resin tracks, resin wheels, decals markings and aluminum gun barrels. These were for the Hasegawa kit or the Revell Pz IV Ausf. H kit that should work with this kit as well. See here for further information on aftermarket accessories.
Review sample purchased by the author.