by: James F. Zilvitis Jr. [ ]
Dragon has released another fine example for the Pz.Kpfw IV series. This time we're treated to one of their latest Smart Kits in the WWII 1939 - 1945 series. This version of the Pz.Kpfw IV is the Ausf. H Late Production. It is chock full of goodies as you would expect from any Dragon release.
Of the 3,935 Ausf. H chassis produced, 3,774 were completed as Pz.Kpfw. IV, with 30 used for the first Stug IV and 130 for Brummbar assault guns. The basic change from the Ausf. G was a new transmission. Frontal armor was increased from 50mm to 80mm interlocked with the hull sides.
Modifications and improvements during the Ausf. H production run were external air filters, all steel return rollers, new idler, AA mount on the cupola, one piece cupola hatch, and deletion of the side vision ports for the driver and bow gunner. The Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. H was armed with the 75mm L/48 Kwk40. It was in production from April 1943 to July 1944.
The kit consists of over twenty sprues as well as the upper and lower hulls and turret. Also included are four very nicely printed photo etched frets, two of which are for side armor. Also with the kit, as expected from many Dragon kits, there are lots of spare parts.
The parts list breakdown is as follows:
21 gray sprues
2 bags of Magic Tracks
4 Photo Etch Frets
From the Ground Up
The lower hull is a little simpler than some of the other Pz.Kpfw IV kits on the market from Dragon. The only one I have to compare it to is the Pz.Kpfw IV E Vorpanzer kit number 6301. On that kit all the underside suspension parts are separate pieces and can be a bit daunting. Here they are nicely molded right into the lower hull. The lower hull seems to be very sturdy. On a few of the older molds that I have from DML their hulls seemed a bit flimsy. Now Dragon appears to have a better method of making them nice and solid with little or no give what so ever.
The Running Gear:
On the previous kit I mentioned, the Pz.Kpfw IV E Vorpanzer, the running gear was also much more complex. Here on this kit the parts count has been scaled back a bit so it is also not so daunting. The torsion bar supports are molded as three-piece assemblies as opposed to the ones in the Vorpanzer kit, which are six-piece affairs. The roadwheels are also simpler as they are one piece in the back and two up front as opposed to two, and three-piece assemblies respectively.
The front drive train assembly parts are fewer as well. This must be Dragons attempt at making a model much easier to assemble, as the parts count is much smaller. There are however the same amount of smaller items to attach to the hull. Bump stops as well as the torsion bar supports are again separate items.
You have two choices of return rollers as well as two choices for the rear idler. One is a two piece assembly and the other has four including PE parts.
The front and rear plates of the lower hull are typical of Dragons previous releases. Lots of little pieces to bring us lots of fantastic details. in the front end, all the tow bar pieces are separate including the plates. In the rear the muffler is in seven separate pieces. The rear idler mounts takes four pieces to assemble, as opposed to the eight-piece offerings on the Vorpanzer kit. As a bonus here you have three different rear idler mount sets to choose from.
The tracks are typical Dragon Magic Track. Two bags are provided as they are handed left and right. They are very nicely molded except for the pin marks. Other than that they are very crisp with detail. This particular set has ice cleats on them, similar to those on the later style Tiger Is and Panthers.
The Front End:
The front glacis plate has nicely molded detail and lots of goodies. It sports separate transmission doors for the left and right, while the middle door is molded in. The front plate also has some photo etch for a spare track set up.
Down below in front is the typical front tow bar assembly and more spare links that are stored in a bar between the tow bars. The tow bars each have a chain to make them stand out even more.
To round out the front end are some T-34 tracks for extra armor as well as a machine gun and a visor port. One of these tracks is actually molded with half of it missing to go around the visor port on the front of the turret mantlet.
On to the rear on top we have three more spare links and a tow bar. Then you have a pair of muffler assemblies. Down below you have your rear idler mounts as well as other small details such as the rear tow bracket and an access hatch. Both the muffler assembly as well as the small pipe underneath it have chains made of PE brass to dress them up just as the front tow bars do.
The Fenders and Tools:
The fenders are made up of five pieces per side including the long main section, a rear plate, as well as two pieces up front plus the spring for each side which I am sure some of you with the skills will replace with a nice piece of wire. Dragon claims that the fenders are super thin but I beg to differ. They seem just as thick as the ones I have in my Vorpanzer kit.
As this is a Smart Kit and not a Premium Kit there is not very much PE for the tools, in fact there is hardly any. Only the C clamps and the axe have PE brackets for them, everything else has molded on clamps.
The left fender has from front to back; a fire extinguisher, light, the C clamps and bracket for them, a set of wrenches, pry bar and bolt cutters up front. In between the front and rear set of tools lies a vision port, as well as a rack for two sets of spare roadwheels typical of later Panzer IV variants. In the rear are another longer pry bar and a gun cleaning rod broken down into four sections, as well as an antenna and a rear light mounted to the rear upper hull.
On the right fender there is an axe, an engine starter, jack, as well as a shovel and a long wrench on the backend. Again the shovel is mounted to the side of the upper hull.
On both fenders in the rear there are PE vent covers as do many other Panzer IV variants from Dragon.
The Upper Hull:
The upper hull is broken down into several pieces. There is the main piece, which is the top then the front glacis plate, two side panels, the vents, and back plate. The engine deck has several options including some nice options of choosing plastic or PE covers for the vents. Also for the upper hull is the front hatches and the items I discussed earlier for the front glacis plate.
For the non armored version there are several brackets that need to be mounted to the upper deck plate. These brackets are available in both plastic and PE.
Arming The Hull:
The hull is finished off with side skirts and brackets for said skirts. The brackets for holding the panels however, as well as the rails themselves, are in plastic. The last step includes mounting the side panels as well as the T-34 tracks I mentioned above.
Starting from the top of the cupola there are five visor ports that are made up of three pieces. You can position the visor ports open or closed. The cupola itself has a total of over twenty parts. There are top and bottom rings, which are both very comprehensive. Inside the top ring is another ring where the hatch sits. The hatch can be opened or closed. If left open it has three handles for the inside.
The mantlet has the later style gun barrel that is typical of H and J model Panzer IVs. There are two choices of gun sleeves to install. You also have the choice of adding a MG from the mantlet or not. There are two separate pieces for that assembly as well, one with and one without the MG.
There are four choices for the muzzle brake. The center ring is the same but the muzzle brake itself has three pieces no matter which one you chose. Nice touch from Dragon. The main gun is the 7.5cm Kw.K.40 L/48. The gun itself is molded in plastic and has a full interior set up including the breach block. As usual it appears that you can elevate the barrel and not glue it but that is not indicated in the directions. It appears to have the same type of mechanism that is on the Tiger Is, with a slot on both sides of the mantlet for the gun to slide into and I assume that you can install this to move up and down, if not you must certainly be able to elevate it.
The turret itself is finished off with the brackets for the outer armor and the rear turret bin. It also has some handles and two vents on top as well as two hatches, one on each side. The side armor has a nice option to open the doors or leave them closed, as do the escape hatches on the side of the turret itself. The escape hatches also can be installed in open or closed positions. Dragon provides two sets again one in several pieces and one set in one piece. The rear bin has three brackets for mounting it to the turret and two parts for the bins lid.
There are five sets of markings for this kit. Two from the 2nd Panzer Division in Normandy in 1944, one from the 3rd Division in Ukraine from 1943, and two unidentified units, one from the Vistula River in Poland from 1943 and the other from The Eastern Front in 1943.
This kit is a very nice addition to Dragons venerable Panzer IV series. Some modelers will want to add more details like PE brackets and fenders and maybe some aftermarket tracks. Being a Smart Kit and not a Premium Kit, it does lack some of the bells and whistles but makes an attractive looking addition to any collection of Panzer IVs. This should be complemented by the newly mentioned J Smart Kit. The addition of the T-34 tracks gives this Panzer a great twist on a classic subject.