Monday, July 5

Build Review: Miniart's 35th scale Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf. H Vomag. Early Prod June 1943.

MiniArt's latest Panzer IV range is further expanded with this new version of the Vomag  production vehicle from June in 1943. This kit features no interior for a speedier build, decals for five variants plus lots of other features. Paul Lee has taken this build on and chosen one of the variants for the kit as his subject. See how the kit builds up in his build review...

Build Review: Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf. H Vomag. Early Prod June 1943.
From Miniart Models
1/35th scale
Kit No #35302
All Hatches Can Be Posed Open & Closed
Full Ammunition Included
Metal Surfaces And Weld Lines Accurately Represented In The Model
Engine Included
Workable Tracks Included
Clear Plastic Parts Included
Decals for five variants 
The Subject: PzKpfw IV Ausf H (Sd Kfz 161/2) Vomag...
This was a new production model which introduced several mechanical and constructional features when introduced in mid 1943. The 7.5 cm KwK L/48, first introduced on the late Ausf G was standard, as was the thickened ( 100mm) cupola, which had a single flap rather than two half flaps. On some vehicles a V-shaped splash plate was welded to the turret roof forward of the cupola. Like the late Ausf G, the Ausf H had extra 30mm armour plates welded or bolted to the nose and front vertical plates. A new eight-spoked driving sprocket of webbed pattern was fitted, and the gearbox was changed from a ZF SSG 76 to an improved type, the ZF SSG 77. 

British Officer examines a burnt-out Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. H in Italy, September 1943.
The very late production Ausf H had entirely new armour disposition, a single thickness of 85mm replacing the welded or bolted layers, and the armour plates were of interlocked construction. Very late vehicles also had a new idler wheel of webbed and welded construction, the return rollers were of all steel type, and simplified limiting stops were fitted for the bogies. New vehicles were all fitted with Schurzen as standard, these being intended mainly as protection against hollow-charge projectiles of the bazooka type and anti-tank rifles of which the soviets had plenty of. 

One of the first Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H produced by VOMAG in May of 1943. The front hull applique armour is bolted on and there are still two headlights. The only giveaway that this is an Ausf.H is the new drive sprockets.
The side skirts were mild steel, 5-9mm thick, hung from rails attached to the vehicle sides. These plates were removable. The turret skirting was similar but was a permanent fixture, with hinged panels opposite the turret side doors. Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste was a usual covering on new vehicles in the 1943-44 period. A semi-circular rail, Fliegerbeschussgerät, was fitted to the front of the cupola in most vehicles to take a MG 34 mount for AA defence. Output of the Ausf H was huge, Nibelungenwerke being the major producer with 46% of production. Krupp and Vomag built 27% each. Chassis numbers: 84001-90000 in at least six production bands.

Another VOMAG tank, this time June 1943 production. This tank has only one headlight, the driver's combat driving sight is gone, but the turret platform and hull still have applique armour attached with bolts.
Vomag Panzer IV H:
The Panzer IV was originally intended to be used only on a limited scale, so initially Krupp was its sole manufacturer. Prior to the Polish campaign, only 217 Panzer IVs had been produced: 35 Ausf. A; 42 Ausf. B; and 140 Ausf. C; in 1941, production was extended to Vogtländische Maschinenfabrik ("VOMAG") (located in the city of Plauen) and the Nibelungenwerk in the Austrian city of St. Valentin.

Panzer IV Ausf H Korsun Pocket 1944
In 1941, an average of 39 tanks per month were built; this rose to 83 in 1942, 252 in 1943, and 300 in 1944. However, in December 1943, Krupp's factory was diverted to manufacture the Sturmgeschütz IV and, in the spring of 1944, the Vomag factory began production of the Jagdpanzer IV, leaving the Nibelungenwerk as the only plant still assembling the Panzer IV.

Captured Panzer IV Ausf H code 831
The Kit: Miniart's 1/35th scale Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf. H Vomag. Early Prod June 1943.
MiniArt came to market with their 1/35th scale (non-interior) kit of the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf. H Vomag. Early Prod June 1943 early this year. This kit has five marking choices (two more than the full interior kit). Of course there is a decal sheet and five markings are included on it and photo-etch for the tank and for the sideskirts is also supplied for the modeller.
The build...
I’m not the biggest fan of full interior kits so I was a little disappointed when MiniArt released their first Panzer IV kits with a full interior. However, based on previous experience, I also knew that it would only be a matter of time before they would release a standard kit without the interior and here we are! This is definitely one I was looking forward to after their delightful T-54 I built I worked on a while ago... 
With all the intricacies of the Panzer IV, this is definitely one you should do some research into before getting into construction. The biggest question that comes to mind about this kit is whether zimmerit will need to be added, and with the kit being advertised as an “Early Production June 1943” version, so zimmerit is not necessarily mandatory. 
Schemes in the box & the choice for this kit:
The kit gives you five marking schemes, the first two being all over dunkelgelb, one that was in Kursk which is pre-zimmerit, and the second being from an unidentified unit in Italy in 1943, which was probably delivered without zimmerit at first, but had it applied later. 

Unidentified unit before Operation Citadel, Summer 1943
Unidentified unit in Italy, 1943
The next two schemes are interesting though, being whitewashed vehicles over the dunkelgelb base, based around Kovel in the Ukraine in the spring of 1944, so these will need zimmerit in my opinion, since zimmerit was applied from August ’43 to Sept ’44 (Depending on your sources).

Pz.Rgt.35, 4.Pz.Div, Ukraine, Kovel District, Spring 1944
Unidentified Unit, Ukraine, Kovel District 19
The fifth scheme was quite curious to me, but it was also the pick of the bunch having a dunkelgelb hull, and turret and schurzen featuring a green mottle over dunkelgelb. 

Pz.Rgt 24, 24 Pz.Div. Poland, late Summer 1944 - this would be the choice for my build...
Having never seen anything like this before, I went for a look through the internet and found these images which I believe are of the vehicle MiniArt has depicted here. Now the photos aren’t clear enough to say definitively what the colours are, so I’ve decided to go with MiniArt’s interpretation. 
The construction process:
Construction starts with the lower hull which comes in flat panels to get detail on the inside and outside surfaces which show this kit’s origin from the full interior kit. The interior firewall helps give the hull some rigidity, and the fit of these pieces is great, although for some reason they didn’t seem to fit as perfectly as the T-54, but this may just be a case of remembering history with rose coloured glasses because I was so impressed by the T-54 kit. There is some photo etch to be added although I will add this later because I know I will knock it off if I attach it at this stage. 
Construction then moves to the upper superstructure, which like the lower hull comes in flat panels but fit is almost perfect, except the for the roof which needed just a small amount of putty for the join between the turret ring and driver and radio operator’s hatches. All the vision hatches can be posed open or closed, and with such a limited amount visible from those, the lack of inside detail is not an issue at all. I chose to simplify construction for myself and fully close up everything. 
Mating the upper superstructure to the lower hull was not problem at all, but I skipped a few steps ahead to the suspension and running gear instead of adding details to the hull. The leaf spring bogie suspension is fully workable if you remove two nubs from the rear face of the bogie. Pay attention to the back of the bogies (pieces Be 39 and 40), my brain told me they were the same, but they are keyed to the relevant side they’re supposed to go on. The air filter is portrayed in the marking scheme I chose, however these were removed fairly early on because they were found to gather dust so I didn’t include it on my model. 
The tracks MiniArt provides you with are individual link with a pair of pins to hold them to the next link and are workable to make use of the workable suspension, and the pins are moulded by their heads, back to back in rows of ten. A jig is provided for you to insert up to eleven links at a time, and then insert the row of ten pins into the appropriately spaced links. Easy! In theory. The main issue I had is that this requires the pins to be absolutely perpendicular to the sprue, but given their size, this is easy to damage, and if one pin refuses to go in, then your hole row of pins won’t go in either. When this happens, you can count on the other pins bending out of alignment. There was also the occasional bit of flash in the holes where the pins are supposed to go, so guess what that does to the relevant pin? The occasionally there was the hole that seemed too big so the pin would just come out. Not the most pleasant modelling experience I’ve had, but I ended up working in sections of four tracks doing three pins at a time which helped with trying to get everything aligned properly. I ended up using glue to try help out with the loose pins, although I was a bit too heavy handed with the first run and the run wasn’t quite as flexible as it was supposed to be. 
Moving back to the upper hull, it’s a shame that I wasn’t able to use the beautiful set of PE schurzen provided in the kit because of the marking option I chose. The schurzen rail is correctly provided in the kit as the early type without the triangle bits located on top, however these won’t be used either and I had to remove the lower mounts moulded onto the fenders. It is worth rummaging through the box to see what pioneer tools are in there because the instructions only mention the ones with clasps moulded on. The instructions tell you that the PE provided can be used to show empty tool clasps but obviously these can be used if you insert the tools inside them.
I’ve sometimes wondered why kits provide the main schurzen in PE but turret schurzen in plastic, but the thought of trying to bend them into the perfect angle may have something to do with that. Regardless, the plastic schurzen on the turret look fine to me. Construction of the turret is relatively straightforward, and you do get the gun breech and some elements of the interior so there is enough for you to have the hatches open, although I chose to close my ones up. 
Paining:
For the relatively simple paint scheme, I started the basecoat with my favourite Dunkelgelb Gunze’s H403, and then modulated it with a few drops of white on the horizontal and misting it over the vertical surfaces to give some tonal variety. The marking guide shows a very thin green mottle along the very top of the upper hull, but this didn’t make sense to me about why a tank would be camouflaged this way, so I chose not to follow the instructions here. With only two crosses to apply on the hull, the decals were an unsurprisingly quick process. 
The green mottle on the turret is definitely an “interesting” interpretation by MiniArt for this kit, and while the photos are inconclusive on the accuracy and what the colours may be, the question is why it could be? The only reasonable explanation I could come up with, was that it was a swapped turret from another tank to salvage one tank from two damaged ones. How plausible this is, I don’t know, but it works in my head so on the mottle went. The instructions give Tamiya XF-62 Olive drab as a suggestion, however I went Tamiya XF-61, but in the end I don’t think either colour would have made that much difference. 
The photos of the tank I am doing are clearly of a wreck in what appears to be some fairly heavy mud, but the instructions say that this vehicle is from the late summer of 1944 in Poland which seems a little contradictory. so I decided to give this vehicle a dry dusty look. I started out with a heavily diluted black wash which darkened it quite a bit, but also gives a nice grimy and dirty look. Adding a bit more black to the wash, I then used it as a pin wash to bring out the various details. I sprayed some flat earth on the lower hull and tracks, and finally used a buff wash to simulate accumulated dust in particular areas. 
And here we have the finished model...
We modellers can be interesting creatures at some times. On one hand, we want easy to build kits that fall together, which inevitably leads to kits that may simplify some details, while on the other hand we want those kits to be as detailed and therefore as intricate as possible which obviously gives you a much more involved build process. 
For mine, MiniArt have almost achieved this perfect balance of buildability and detail. While I would not classify this as a simple build due to the small pieces involved, the fit is pretty much perfect and have no traps at all. The only exception is the tracks but their experience is nothing different to my other experiences of styrene link and pin track sets. This is one beautiful kit and I’m sure the other remaining unreleased variants will be following. 
Highly recommended

Paul Lee

Thanks to Miniart for sending this kit to Paul to build and review. You can see more about all of MiniArt's kits on their website...