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New Review: Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. F Sd.Kfz 161


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Review Author: 
Patrick Brown
Tamiya

Bottom Line Up Front: Even though Tamiya's "new tool" release of the venerable Panzerkampfwagen IV does not disappoint with nice detail, clever engineering, and three figures that are well rendered in unique and interesting poses.  Even though this kit uses the hull and suspension from the 1994 Panzer IV releases, the vast majority of the kit is brand new and up to modern standards.  This is not merely a reboxing of an old obsolete kit.

History

The Pz.Kpfw.IV began manufacture in 1936 with the Ausf. A, and went through a number of specifications before what was perhaps the definitive short barreled infantry support variant started production in 1941: the Ausf. F. It had reinforced armor and updated hull designs, as well as an L/24 75mm gun. About 460 rolled off of the production lines, mostly serving on the Eastern front but also in North Africa, Italy, and France.

Vital Statistics and Scores

Detail: 3.5 out of 5
The details on this kit are good, but there really wasn't anything that reached out and "wowed" me.  Don't get me wrong, there is a lot to like about the kit detail-wise, but there just wasn't anything that popped for me.

There's very nice interior detail on the hatches.  A sprue of clear parts would have been nice for the prominent vision blocks in the commander's cupola and the turret side hatches but what Tamiya provides still works. 

There is a simplified interior section for the short-barreled L/24 main gun which makes it possible to pose the loader's and gunner's side hatches open.  This is good.  In the past Tamiya has completely ignored the interiors of their AFVs so kudos to the project manager who pulled this off.  The coaxial and bow machine gun barrels need to be drilled out.

The tracks are the now standard Tamiya link-and-length tracks which are probably the most trouble-free track sets on the market today.  They always fit, and they always complete the track run with no gaps and the appropriate sag.  These links have the correct hollow guide horns.

It seems as if Tamiya was going for simplicity at the expense of finessed detail with this kit.  The tool clamps are molded on.  The detail is good, but the tools are so prominent on all Panzer IV variants that the option for a PE fret would have been nice here.  The same thing goes for the spare track links on the front glacis.  The brackets are molded on, making the spare tracks all one piece. 

The figures are the star of the show with this kit.  There is a loader and gunner posed sitting in the turret side hatches and a commander standing in his cupola.  The commander's pose is a bit stiff, but the loader and gunner are both very well done.  Their poses are natural and relaxed, and they have been engineered to fit in the turret perfectly. 
 

Engineering: 4 out of 5
It's because of kits like this that the name "Tamiya" has become synonymous with expert engineering.  When I judge armor at contests, the first thing I look at is the suspension.  Getting all those road wheels to align and sit on the ground is often the most challenging part of building a tank.  Mistakes here usually knock a kit out of contention for a first, second, or third place.  On this kit though, everything fell together like a dream with no effort on my part.  All eight road wheels went right on the suspension perfectly the first time and all touched the ground like they actually had a 25-ton armored vehicle sitting on them.

One engineering feature that I did not appreciate engineering-wise" was the tools.  The locator holes for the tools are enormous on this kit.  I assume Tamiya engineered them this way in an effort to make the kit more buildable, but in doing so they made it much more difficult to alter the configuration of the tool layout or to use aftermarket clamps.

Fit: 5+ out of 5 (I would give it a 6 if that were possible)
As far as fit goes, this kit is a dream.  Tamiya provides an extra structural part to ensure that the front glacis fits in the hull correctly.  There is a large trapezoidal locater pin on the turret that helps you line up the odd angular facets of the turret so that it goes together like a Lego set. Even the figures have large locater pins in the torso to ensure they will sit in the hatch posed naturally.  All these "dummy-proofing" features make this kit a very fast build.  I completed the construction phase in just a few hours.

The kit did require some cleanup.  The road wheels all had mold lines that needed to be sanded off, and there were knock-out pin marks in annoying areas like the interior of the hatches, engine louvers, and track links.

 

Instructions: 5 out of 5
Tamiya gives you their standard, well thought out, well-illustrated, multi-lingual instruction sheet and a glossy color trifold with painting suggestions.  It will be very difficult to get lost with these directions.

Markings: 2 out of 5
Maybe it's a harsh judgment, but I'm getting more and more disappointed with Tamiya's poor-quality decals and the unimaginative suggestions they give for color schemes.  This kit provides markings for the 7th and 19th Panzer Divisions, both in Russia in 1942.  With the Ausf. F having seen action all over Europe and Africa, it's a shame that they didn't go that little extra mile and provide for DAK markings, or maybe a whitewashed camouflage scheme.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, but waterslide decals seem to be Tamiya's Achilles heel.  I just don't get how they have such high standards everywhere else yet seem to give up when it comes to markings. The decals have great color and are always in perfect register, but they are so thick that it's almost impossible to get that "painted on" look with Tamiya decals.  A much better option is to go with one of the many available aftermarket decal sheets from companies like Kagero or Archer Fine Transfers, which is what I did for this build.

Conclusion
This kit is a light year jump ahead of Tamiya's older, but still solid Panzer IV kits and builds on their reputation for bold and expert engineering.  While it provides a relaxing, trouble-free build, it might not be the best platform for aftermarket sets, but the potential is still there. 

The standout feature of this kit is the crew figures.  I will be interested to see how they fit in Pz IV turrets from other kit makers.  Tamiya would do well to release these figures as a stand-alone set. 

Many thanks to Tamiya and IPMS USA for the pre-release review sample.

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