ARM: Review - 1/35 scale Pzkw. IV Ausf. F1 "Vorpanzer" Smart Kit

Kit Review: 1/35 Scale Kit No. 19 (Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale '39-'45 Series Kit No. 6398); Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. F1 "Vorpanzer" - Smart Kit; 793 parts (531 parts in grey styrene, 216 "Magic Track" Links, 30 etched brass, 15 clear styrene, 1 twisted steel wire); estimated price US$45

Advantages: the "other shoe" drops with a nice companion to the Ausf. F2; subtle changes in the sprues; includes parts for desert variant

Disadvantages: probably not enough etched brass or mixed media parts to suit some modelers

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: for all German armor fans

Following closely on the heels of the excellent DML Pzkw. IV Ausf. F2 "Smart Kit" is this effort from which provides a "boutique" version of the Ausf. F1 with the short L/24 gun.

DML itself last produced a Pzkw. IV Ausf. F1 back in 1997 (1/35 Scale Imperial Series No. 9044; DAK Pzkw. IV Ausf. F1; 694 parts (574 in grey stryene, 210 in steel colored styrene, 10 photo etched)) which was a totally different kit derived from Gunze Sangyo molds. Many modelers hoped for an F1 when the new F2 kit was released in March

2007 and now has honored their wishes.

This kit is basically the excellent F2 kit with the exception of some "sprue roulette" changes to the original kit. The kit boasts modified B, D and K sprues covering 58 parts and also has new L (the L/24 gun assembly) and T (the "Vorpanzer" applique armor array, taken from the Pzkw. IV Ausf. E "Vorpanzer" kit) parts along with two new frets of etched brass for a total of 49 new parts made just for this kit.

As I previously noted, this kit has a new hull pan which is complete less the stern plates, separate final drives, and much of the surface detail simulates screw or bolt holes; it also has an applique lower glacis plate. Drivers now consist of only four parts; the separate bolts are gone. Bogies are now nine piece affairs without separate tires.

The upper hull consists of a deck and framework with applique sides, front and rear engine intake components and fenders. The muffler has a central tube section and six add-on parts to complete it along with a "slide molded" exhaust pipe. This kit does provide both the "solid" engine deck access hatches as well as the "louvered" desert ones, which is a bit odd as only a single finishing option is provided.

All ports and hatches are separate parts so they can be posed open. While not detailed the hull does come with a rudimentary firewall for the engine compartment, and the various vents and louvers are also posable either open or closed. The bow also comes with a well-done machine gun and ball mount. Note that all ports have clear styrene inserts as well.

The turret is relatively conventional in its parts breakdown. The new version only uses the KwK L/24 gun so the options that are provided for the KwK L/43 gun go to the spares box. Other than the gun and a very well done commander's cupola of 18 parts (5 are optional) there is only a minimal interior for the turret.

Oddly enough for a "boutique" kit this one nearly has less brass than the Ausf. F2 kit did. Etched brass is kept to a minimum and only covers items such as the engine air intake louvers, some small brackets, and the flaps for the engine air intakes on the sides of the rear deck.

Tracks are the "Magic Track" snap-together-then-cement type, and modelers are advised to recall that when facing the head card the left side track links are on the left and right are on the right; glad DML simplified that as before I needed a 10x jeweler's loupe to tell which was which!

A tiny sheet of targeted Cartograf decals is provided along with but ONE finishing options: Unidentified unit, 1942. This tank is in overall grey (the directions state "field grey" but from what I recall that was a grey-green color and not a vehicle color) with the name "Hansi" on the lower glacis plate. The model does not come in any of the DAK or other options, which considering there were more than 450 built is something of a shame. Perhaps DML is planning to release the "straight" F1 as a separate kit.

I have one work of explanation to post with this review, and that is the use of the term "Panzerbraun." I don't coin terms in German, and as a point of fact got that one several years ago from noted German armor researcher Tom Jentz. He used it to differentiate between what he called "Panzerbraun" which was the standard sand color used for German armored vehicles from the factories and "DAK Braun" which was the desert color. Having seen the one alleged pristine vehicle in DAK paint - the APG Demag 1-ton halftrack captured in 1943 - it is more of a "Gulden's Mustard" color than the colors I often see at shows. Thankfully in some respects this model doesn't offer either color as an option, so that is probably better for my sake!

Unlike other kits this one has "parents" - credit is given to project supervision by Hirohisa Takada, technical drawings by Shin Okada and technical assistance from Tom Cockle, Gary Edmundson, Notger Schlegtendal, and Thomas Anderson. With these gentlemen providing input I believe them when they call the vehicle "unidentified!"

Overall this appears another short-run "boutique" kit from cyber- but hopefull DML will give it "legs" - and more finishing options.

Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.

Cookie Sewell

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