Tamiya has yet again enhanced their venerable line of PzKpfw IV German main battle tank kits, tossing a few new bits into an already brand new Ausf. F(1) release, resulting in the long-barreled Ausf. F(2)/G model. The offering also includes five of the most detailed Tamiya figures to date, as well as a variety of personal equipment and bags to lay around on the upper deck. One thing is for sure – these last two kits are two of the finest armor models ever produced by Tamiya, and that says a lot.
The Germen PzKpfw IV was constantly modified throughout its service life, with Ausführung (variants) stretching from (“A”), which entered service in early 1936 to the (“J”) which was being built right up to the end of the war. The Ausf. F tanks that received the new, longer, KwK 40 L/43 gun were temporarily named Ausf. F2. Differences between the Ausf. F1 and the Ausf. F2 were mainly associated with the change in armament, plus other modifications, including an altered gun mantlet, internal travel lock for the main weapon, new gun cradle, new optics for the L/43 weapon, modified ammunition stowage, and turret mounted smoke grenades. Three months after it entered service, the PzKpfw IV Ausf. F2 was renamed Ausf. G.
Opening the Box
This is a Tamiya armor kit – which means it can best be described in five words: not many parts, perfect fit. As always, there is something for every kind of modeler in here. For those new to modeling, Tamiya kits are a snap to assemble and come with excellent instructions and sprues that are laid out and numbered logically. For those who enjoy the painting and weathering part of building a model most, Tamiya kits quickly and painlessly become excellent canvases on which to ply one’s artistic talent. For modelers who go for accuracy, Tamiya has the industry clout that ensures a variety of after-market products to enhance what modelers get in the box, products that these types of modelers would purchase anyway, no matter how accurate or inaccurate the original kit is. One thing everyone gets, however, is an enjoyable build and a perfect-fitting model.
It wouldn’t be a Tamiya kit without some oddities, however, such as nylon string tow cables, brass wire, figures and jigs to assist with proper track-sag. As with most of their latest releases, Tamiya has replaced their one-piece rubber-band track with link & length track, which fits together as well as I have ever seen. All in all, this is about as good as a model kit can get.
The contents of the box include:
- Lower hull packaged separately
- 7 sprues in soft, tan plastic, packaged separately
- 1 20-inch piece of string for use as tow cables
- 1 10-inch piece of brass wire to tie the tow cables or for wiring the headlights
- 6 polycaps to allow the movement of the drive sprockets during track assembly
- 1 small sheet of Tamiya decals, with excellent registration
- 1 20-page, black and white instruction booklet with 41 steps
- 1 6-page color foldout showing two paint schemes and decal placement - Paint callouts are made for Tamiya Acrylic Paints only.
Up front, Tamiya offers two build options identified with a capitol letter ‘A’ or ‘B’; nearly every step has alternate instructions (and images) to follow, depending on what version you are building:
- 21st Panzer Division, El Alamein, North Africa, Autumn 1942 (DAK Yellow)
- 12 Panzer Division, Northern Russia, Autumn 1942 (German Grey)
The CAD images are crisp and represent assembly from different angles to show exactly where parts are placed. Beginners will find the pages full of quick hints and images showing where to trim, cut, use tweezers for small parts, etc., etc. A complete novice could build a nice model from this kit using what is offered here.
While there is no parts map included for the seven sprues, there is a list of un-used parts to assist the modeler.
Looking through the instructions for my notes I find that there is very little written besides the occasional ‘Cool!’ and ‘Nice!’. The build simply goes right along without a hitch.
That said, almost immediately (in Step 2), the modeler is instructed to perform a very un-Tamiya-like task: drilling a hole for a trailer hitch. There are no go-by’s or indentation’s to help here – measurements are given in millimeters as to where exactly to drill the hole, although most can merely eyeball it and have it be reasonably accurate. The rest of the rear panel, as well as the chassis and bogies go together well.
In Step 8, Tamiya provides nylon inserts for the two drive sprockets. These allow the modeler to ‘fine tune’ the position of each sprocket when fitting the upper length of track coming up next.
In Step 7, the magic of Tamiya’s link and length track comes to fruition, starting with a plastic jig that is used to produce the correct track ‘sag’ along the top runs of track. Even though the jig is made of plastic, careful placement of glue will prevent the track pieces (also plastic) from sticking to the jig. I used thicker, Testor’s ‘black bottle’ liquid cement here for its longer drying time, even though the instructions call for using Tamiya’s Extra Thin Cement, which, presumably, will evaporate before sticking the track to the jig. Either way, what looks like it won’t work, actually works great. Have faith!
Step 10 finishes the track around the top run already in place on each side, and I have to say, these are the first runs of Link and Length track that I have ever assembled that ended up fitting perfectly – not even a half-link short or over. Follow the instructions and build them backwards – toward the rear of the tank, down around, along the bottom toward the front, and up and over to the top run. Piece of cake!
The next bunch of steps cover the main superstructure, the fenders and rear deck – which all come together without any problems. Make sure that you only assemble those parts that belong to your version (A or B). I actually crossed out every ‘B’ section first with a thick Sharpie to ensure that I didn’t start down a road I didn’t mean to.
Step 19 finishes the front and rear decks with hatches (as does Step 24, later). There is no detail provided inside the vehicle, or even on the inside of the hatches for that matter, so if you wish to model any of these open, you will have your work cut out for you.
In Step 21, when assembling the cables, measure the string exactly as shown in the diagram; you will find that it fits precisely and can be ‘tightened’ on the surface of the model by swiveling either Tow Cable ring slightly before gluing. Tamiya receives criticism for using string instead of wire, and some of that is justified, especially on WWII vehicles when the cables might be modified to show them in use.
While assembling them (with white glue) was easy when left to dry overnight, getting two complete cables wrapped around the delicate hooks in back was too iffy for me. I left one off, using more diluted white glue to fix the cable in place.
Tamiya provides a slide-molded, one-piece main gun barrel with a two-piece muzzle – a huge improvement from the long, two-piece barrels of days past. The barrel, as with most parts in the kit, fits only one way into the mantle, simplifying the sometimes-troublesome task of lining up the openings in the muzzle brake with the horizontal plane.
In Step 33, the commanders cupola comes together in no less than sixteen pieces. Fret not, however – the parts ‘chunk’ in to where the need to go. If they don’t, look at it again before you apply any glue.
In Step 37, if you are building the ‘A’ (DAK) version, Tamiya provides you with great fitting decals to replicate the white crosses signifying ‘water’ on the Jerry cans. Normally I would mask and paint these lines, but the fit and opacity of the decals are perfect.
That’s about all I can add about the general build steps. In Step 39, the five figures are assembled and directions are given for paint. The arms are created in such a way as to fit into the shoulder sockets only one way – purposely directing the poses so that they will rest correctly on the hatches and other surfaces. This is brilliant if you are like me and intend to pose them as Tamiya wants. You will have to do a little surgery if you want to do otherwise.
Painting and Finishing the AFV
I knew I wanted to depict the DAK version of this kit, but I wanted to make it a darker yellow than the ubiquitous faded German Yellow of all my other desert builds. Something about the iconic black and white Balkenkreuzen (German crosses) against a mustard-yellow background brings back childhood memories of the opening scenes of the movie Patton (even though the ‘Germans’ were depicted riding American M48s!). These days I have settled on Tamiya and AKI Real Color paints, which can be intermixed and used in exactly the same way, AKI’s line greatly enhancing the variety of Tamiya colors available.
Note: I thin all Tamiya paint and primer products 50:50 with Gunze Mr. Color Leveling
Thinner, which has its own retarder for airbrushing. If you haven’t tried it, you should. I use a Pasche-H Single-Action airbrush, Number #3 tip, at 20 lbs. pressure for everything. I use the same thinner for hand-brushing Tamiya paints.
I first created a sticky-board to hold the some of the loose parts for painting. Since there is no photo-etch in the kit, I didn’t feel it necessary to apply a primer first. Everything else was painted as assembled, using the following steps.
I started with airbrushing a pre-shade coat of Tamiya NATO Black for the sticky board and running gear, Tamiya Dark Iron for the track and track sectional track armor, and Tamiya German Grey (XF-63) along the panel lines and recesses overall.
This was followed with an overall coat of hairspray to assist with chipping later.
Next, I laid down a careful coat of Tamiya Desert Yellow, creeping up on the pre-shade, careful not to cover it all. My sticky board also received everything the tank hull and turret did.
I then applied a filter using thinned Mig Wash Brown Oil paint to tone down the yellow a bit. Since I had used Tamiya paints and enamel/oil weathering products so far, I didn’t bother with laying down a glossy coat for the decals – I had a satin sheen on the model already.
Decals went on well using the Micro-Sol/Micro-Set (Blue/Red) decal solutions, although I had to work at getting the red Unit numbers to lay down over the vision slots on the sides of the turret. Poking holes in the decals followed by repeated applications of Micro-Sol (Red) did the trick. Tamiya provides white ‘cross’ decals for Jerry Cans (identifying them as containing drinking water, not gasoline or diesel fuel), which laid down beautifully, preventing the need to mask and paint these very visible items.
Next, I went over the entire vehicle, dry-brushing Old Holland Warm Sepia Extra, focusing on the barrel, Jerry Cans, wheels, fenders and generally any hard-edge that I could get to.
I then set about painting the wide array of on-board accoutrement that adorns German Mark IVs:
- Jack Block – Vallejo Panzer Aces 310 Old Wood treated with AKI Wash for Wood
- Fire Extinguisher – Thinned Vallejo Model Color Cavalry Brown 70.918 with Uschi Chrome powder highlights.
- Metallic surfaces and Jack – Tamiya Dark Iron treated with Uschi Chrome Powder
- Wooden Surfaces – Mix of Vallejo New Wood and Vallejo Buff, treated with Mig Wash Brown Oil Paint
- Track and Tow Cable – Tamiya Dark Iron treated with Uschi Chrome Powder
- Misc. Bags and packs – Vallejo Panzer Aces 314 Canvas
- Hatch pads – Vallejo Panzer Aces 312 Leather Belt
- Turret and hatch Interiors – Mission Models Elfinbein
I then dry-brushed the tires and other spots here and there using Mig 502 Abteilung Buff Oil, after allowing the linseed oil to leech out on to a piece of cardboard.
Once satisfied with how everything looked, I airbrushed all the spots that should not be shiny with Mig Ammo’s Lucky Ultra-Matt varnish, which leaves surfaces dead-flat straight form the bottle.
I am not a figure painter so my entire approach to painting figures is to get from here to there as quickly as possible, resulting in ‘just enough’ to pass muster. To that end I use rattlecan Grey Tamiya Primer, an airbrush, and Panzer Putty to paint everything except the faces and arms, following the suggested colors in the instructions. For example, for the pants, once the primer was dry, I masked off the blouse using the putty and held the figure head down and laid down the base color (in this case, Khaki). From that angle, most of the recesses were hit pretty well. I then add a few drops of white to the color cup, and flipped the figure right side up, spraying the lightened shade from top down. This approach, in effect, adds ‘darker’ paint to the recesses, and ‘lighter’ paint to the raised surfaces. The Panzer Putty simply helps to set the demarcation line and limits what gets painted and what doesn’t, since I start with a completed figure.
For the arms and faces, I carefully hand-brush the #1 Base color from Andrea’s acrylic flesh line, and that’s it. Once everything is dry, I apply a thin wash of Mig Dark Wash (aka Burnt Umber) to the entire figure, and then dry-brush Mig 502 Abteilung Buff Oil to pop the highlights. I probably spend less than 5 minutes on each figure total, and if I can do them in batches, so much the better.
What more can I say about Tamiya kits? There is something for every kind of modeler in each kit; the fit is perfect and the instructions are excellent. I was thrilled with the fit and look of the link-and-length track, the single-part main gun barrel, and the excellent figures included in the box. I literally have no complaints.
I recommend this kit for all modelers; Beginners to Advanced. This is one fun model to build.
I would like to thank Tamiya USA for providing this kit for review, and to IPMS USA for giving me the opportunity to build it.