by: Cody K [ ]
One of the more anticipated armor kits in recent years is the first model by Border Models of the venerable Panzer IV Ausf. G. As I have previously reviewed, the Panzer IV medium tank was the workhorse AFV of the Wehrmacht and produced throughout the war, with over 8500 built, second only to the Stug III. With its long service history it has seen many upgrades and variants, with extra armor, up gunning as well as simplifications to ease production.
The Ausf. G is an up-armored version of the Ausf. F. Early Gs mount the same 7.5cm KwK 40/L43 of the earlier F2, and from 1943 March upgraded to the longer KwK 40/L48 (options in this kit). Additional armor on the front superstructure and hull could be welded or bolted on (options in this kit), and cupola are reinforced as well. Ausf. Gs started a series of simplifications which included the deletion of front superstructure periscope ports, signal ports for the driver hatches, side fender’s steps, turret vision port and smoke candle rack. Spare road wheel storage are added, and the introduction of Schürzen and appliqué armor to counter the threat of Soviet anti-tank projectiles.
This kit’s own history is probably as interesting. Initially the box art was revealed/leaked somewhere online and rumours had it that Takom was doing a Panzer IV. Presumably due to the Takom box art style? Later the rumour was quickly dispelled, but soon it surfaced that Border Models is the real company behind the scenes. Since no one heard of Border Models on the stateside, there were some suspicions that this was all a scam. In truth Border Models is a manufacturer of auxiliary modelling supplies in China, products include masks and various tools. A more interesting bit is that apparently Takom is strongly associated with the kit. I don’t want to speculate on their relationship, but the designers and factory producing the kits are the probably the same, as the kit has a very distinct Takom style to it such as the square liners and very unique style of gates.
An additional marketing stunt the company did was to call out and taunt Dragon. It’s quite true that the kit is trying to be a direct competition of Dragon, who is the reigning manufacturer with perhaps 30 or more Panzer IV variants, as you get this feeling that you’re building a “smart Smart Kit” in essence.
The kit’s first production run included two bonus goodies. A commemorative blade holder and a random masking sheet of 4 designs from TRANSFORM. I got one from Nr 212 of Rgt. 21, Witebsk. I’m not really sure hard-edged camouflage was a thing at this stage in the war however and I couldn’t find reference photos of this vehicle.
The first production run also includes a metal barrel (in black) and metal smoke discharger. The latter I personally like very much as I often replace the kit ones with metal, unfortunately the rims of these metal parts are very thick. The kit has limited photo etch and in fact most of them are the engine exhaust cover that are not used if you choose not to close them. Then there are the same Dragon’s glacis plate track bracket, and a small sheet with tool clamps from Voyager. Yes the maddening 3-piece tool clamps. You don’t have to do them as you have styrene equivalent, but read on.
The kit has no A and B sprues, Sprue F is the running gears. The kit comes with some spare accessories, including a good length of T34 tracks for armor, 4 jerry cans 2 buckets and 2 wheels that have no tires. The tires have nice "Continental" engraved..
Sprue G is more of the running gear and the link-and-length track. The tracks are sagged and looks great. In Dragon the drive sprocket armor is in 3 pieces, and this kit put them all in one. You start getting this “smart Smart Kit” paradigm with Border putting many subassemblies together for ease of assembly and fit. The tracks are *really* good and are virtually identical to magic tracks put together, with very deep cuts between tracks. There are shallow injection pin marks every 8 links or so, not difficult to handle.
Sprue D and E with OVMs and various vehicle armor plates. The tools are very well-rendered with both molded-on tool clamps as well as their bare variants. This was a good idea until you realize some of the tools weren't just attached using clamps but also other brackets, The shovel, crowbars and axe all required additional on-vehicle brackets to secure but BM didn't provide them. As a result if you don't want to go with AM PEs but want to use the kit's PE tool clamps, you need to clip and sand off the molded-on styrene clamps. This is very bizarre. Another unconventional thing they do is requiring the modeler to hollow out the handle part of the molded-on tool clamps. I suppose this is a trade-off because this gives you very accurately shaped clamp and handles (in fact most accurate I have seen), but you really need to have the right tools (square micro-files or sanding sticks) to exploit this feature. One possible option not mentioned in the kit is that you can probably sand off the molded-on handles and replace them with the PE handles .The stowage box had its "arms" that goes into the back of the turret molded on. In Dragon the side arms are separate, which means you have a bit of wriggle room and you need to work on making sure it sits level with the turret. Another example of thought that goes into easy assembly.
If you look at the close up of various armor plates, I would say they are at the same level of Dragon’s, but if you put them side by side Dragon seems to have deeper and crisper details, but Border tends to cast some of the finer pieces such as handles and hooks in a more refined manner. This also means they are easier to break so use caution when handling. The smoke discharger mount has a large depression in the middle for fit. In Dragon’s you have a much smaller guide and it was more work to fit. Another user-friendly feature. The aerial is not as fine as Dragon’s but it’s a very minor difference. I don’t think either are in-scale and either require replacement or thinning them down.
Sprue J and K are the turret and hull details. The turret has no interior aside from the gun breech. Some of the parts are very finely cast, including the tension adjuster and MG gun barrel that approaches PE level thinness at the muzzle. The fender supports are thinner than Dragon’s, but thicker than PE. I typically just sand them down. Unlike Dragon the main part of the muffler are cast in two halves and is the only part that requires seam handling. On the plus side the muffer’s exhaust opening is very thin, unlike Dragon’s which has much thicker walls that I needed to thin.
Sprue C of appliqué armor and top of superstructure plus engine deck. The curvature of the back turret appliqué armor is insufficient and you need to bend them. The armor edges are in-scale thin. The engine deck has the doors molded shut. As mentioned in my Dragon review these engine doors were very tight in Dragon’s and some may struggle to get a perfect fit, so Border addressed that here. Of course you cannot open it as a result.
That's about it with the sprues, there aren't a lot of them. The hull has to be the highlight of the kit. I have never seen anything like this, with the hull almost completely molded, and part of the superstructure as well on the sides. These were the tricky spots in Dragon’s build and Border really targeted these pain points.This thing alone were tens of parts in Dragon. As an engineer I find this piece demonstrating the marvel of modern slide molding and ingenuity of CAD design. This is not just a gimmick however, because these crucial pieces were not the easiest to obtain perfect fit in other kits. The e stowage bin cover with some internal details, but big ejection marks. You probably want to close them. In general the kit has pretty big ejector pin marks on hidden surfaces, but in some instances they have to be taken care of, such as the inside of the appliqué armor and driver's hatches should you choose to pose them open.
The kit is billed as a mid-late production 2 in 1 vehicles and attempted to provide options for them, but due to a number of missing options such as air filters and rear placement of aerial, it is difficult to model an accurate late vehicle without AM additions. And the instructions don't tell you which part goes with which version, you may want good references to target your vehicle. Another issue with the kit is the lack of options for a vehicle that does not utilise Schürzen plates.
The instructions are generally clear but there are some mistakes. Most of the text is supplied in English but some isn't. The assembly starts with the optional parts curiously.
In step 2 they have a confusing diagram for the engine bay exhaust covers. With the PE parts you can pose them closed, otherwise use the styrene parts G5 and G6 which they didn't label. In fact it's puzzling why they're asking you to do it here, because the cover sticks to the tiny hinges which is guaranteed to come off until you have the side fenders in place. So I recommend holding these off until later. They also ask you to remove a couple of conical pins below the side view ports, the diagram was very confusing. You need to keep the two vertical bars next to these pins for the Schürzen.
Steps 3-6 have you assemble details on the hull. The side view ports have no periscopes inside so I'm not sure why they don't just give you the covers for it. There are two options for barrel cleaning rods
Steps 6-9 assemble the wheels and rear plate. The wheels are cast nicely without mold seams in the middle which makes clean up a breeze. The suspension parts F38 and F39 have a bit of play unfortunately and they may not cause the wheels to not align completely. I recommend gluing F40 and F41 to the hull first and let F38 and F39 snap into them without gluing. They have a very tight fit so you don't need to worry about them falling off. Then adjust the wheels so that they are level before you glue everything in. There are two choices of auxiliary mufflers in the back. The kit provides copper tow cables for the back.
Steps 10-12 are side fenders and front. As mentioned earlier you need to hollow out the handles if you use the molded-on tool clamps. You have a choice of welded-on or bolted-on armor for the front hull. I recommend you jump to the tracks first before adding the side fenders, it would make the whole thing easier. The Bosch lights have the cables molded in which is awesome.
Steps 14-15 constructs the rest of the hull and superstructure.
Step 16 are the tracks. It was hard to read but you want 9 H4 for the idler wheels vs. the 8 for the drive sprocket. My approach to doing the track are as follows, using Tamiya quick setting glue: First glue all the H4s around the idler and drive sprocket. You can just glue them a bit curved and fit them onto the curved surfaces to set. I then worked on the top so that the top part of the track will drape correctly over the return rollers. I then attach the H4 curves and finish the bottom.
Steps 17-19 are the Schürzen and brackets. The brackets are very thin so be careful don't break them, I did break a couple of pieces while sanding. The rear mudguard springs F30 looks incorrect, with one end sticking to the bottom of the mudguard rather than the side.
Step 20 and 21 are the turret assembly. This is where the kit seems to have a number of issues. First the side hatches have an opening F6 that seems incorrect if you want to pose the hatches open. The hinges themselves are also in accurate, their tops should have the axle protruding. Then the hatches themselves don't fit in the space alloted for F6, you cannot close them without sanding down the hatches themselves. The hatches are also missing the fine nubs at the bottom for padlocks. I recommend using the styrene smoke discharger rather than the metal ones if you don't use AM parts since you can thin the rims; the metal ones are too thick. Finally you have a choice of L43 and L48 barrels, the metal one is L48. If you use the metal barrel, it is missing the part that goes into the gun breech assembly K37. You have a few choices, either omit the gun breech altogether with a buttoned up tank, or cut the missing part from styrene.
Step 22 is the rest of the turret. Note that in the "Q" diagram the part K5 was drawn flipped.
Step 23 is the appliqué armor. The armor pieces all have ejector pin marks on them and you want to deal with them. The curved piece E25 was not curved enough in my kit so I had to heat and bend it with a hairdryer. However I'm quite impressed by their user-friendly feature of putting a ledge at the bottom of the bracket attachment groove, it makes the fitting more precise.
Painting and markings
The color-illustrated guide has scheme for 10 vehicles, but their veracity are questioned. In particular the Nr. 420 has the bear illustrated correctly but printed incorrectly on the decals (they are handed). The final 4 hard-edged schemes are available with Transform brand camo masks.
This is an excellent effort by the first-timer Border Models. The molding is great and some of the details are very well done. Perhaps the most impressive of all is the amount of effort they put in to make the kit easy to assemble without sacrificing details. Perhaps targeting some of the tricky aspects of Dragon Panzer IVs it combined difficult to align pieces together into single pieces, but there are other aspects that make this a very pleasant building experience. The most distinguished features for me is the incredibly engineered hull and the very easy-to-work-with and awesome-looking link-and-length tracks. There are however some minuses, such as mistakes in the instructions, and some minor issues focused around the turret.