Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale '39-'45 Series No.6265; Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. D 3-in-1 Kit; 1,197 parts (679 in grey styrene, 288 "Magic Track" links, 187 etched brass, 28 clear styrene, 10 preformed steel wire, 2 turned brass, 1 turned aluminum, 2 twisted steel wire); price estimated at US $45
Advantages: another variant on a rarely modeled early war Panzer, based for the most part on an extant vehicle; details both inside and out on most parts, including the fenders
Disadvantages: "3-in-1" kit similar to recent Pzkw. IV Ausf. E releases; modelers noted on internet sites as wanting to "await" the "corrected" version based on previous releases and review comments
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all early war German fans
F I R S T L O O K
As DML continues to release one new German Panzer IV kit after another, the only thing that comes to mind for me is thinking back to the days when billiard champs like "Minnesota Fats" would demonstrate their skills. They managed to get one ball to carom off another to another until they sank the one they wanted. The new kits literally "carom" off each other as well, and now, hot on the heels of the two Pzkw. IV Ausf. E kits comes the Ausf. D.
The Pzkw. IV Ausf. D (also called the 4 serie Begleitwagen [BW] and 5 serie BW, or Sd.Kfz. 161) was in production from 1939 to 1941, and more of them were produced (231) than the Models A, B and C combined (211). This was therefore the first true series production model of what would become the mainstay tank of the Panzer divisions up until 1945. It was the first one to go to the external mantelet configuration and also upgrade to thicker armor protection. It was unique in that it had an extended "pulpit" for the driver that projected approximately a foot out ahead of the bow gunner's position, a change which was reversed in the Model F1. It was the last one to have the commander's cupola mounted beyond the rear edge of the roof, requiring a cylindrical fillet that blended into the rear of the turret wall. Late-model Ausf. Ds also had 30mm applique plates bolted to the hull and superstructure front and 20mm plates to the hull and superstructure sides. Tanks that survived service in France, the Balkans, Russia and the desert were later upgunned to the KwK L/48 gun but only for use as tank gunnery trainers.
DML was stung by some of the criticism leveled against the first Pzkw. IV Ausf. E release, and reworked the kit to produce the Pzkw. IV Ausf. E "Vorpanzer" kit. The molds have been reworked yet again to produce this kit, and Steve Zaloga notes that two gentlemen were sent directly to Aberdeen to measure down the APG Pzkw. IV Ausf. D with applique armor that was captured in North Africa in 1943. This kit reflects those measurements and assessments, so if it is not "correct" then the APG vehicle may be off. But I digress.
Six sprues covering 324 parts were redone or modified to produce this kit, as compared with the "Vorpanzer" kit from just two months ago. Another 59 parts are completely new, mostly dealing with the specific features found on the Pzkw. IV Ausf. D and not common with other Pzkw. IV family vehicles. This concentrates on the turret and the front section of the upper hull.
As before, the model has a wealth of detail. A pretty substantial basic turret interior and basket are included, and all hatches are separate pieces with interior detailing. The cupola now consists of an amazing 30 parts with options to display the visors either open or closed, as well as the hatches open or closed. All small details such as pistol ports and access hatches are separate and may be assembled open or closed. As is now pretty common on DML kits, you have a choice of a "slide molded" styrene barrel or a turned aluminum one. Both appear to come with rifling.
The running gear is no less detailed. For example, the drivers assemble nearly in the same manner as the original: core sections, toothed rings with 12 separate bolts each, and caps and spindles - each one requires 31 parts and a LOT of patience. Bogie assemblies still consist of 18 parts each. The same "Magic Track" with 144 links per side of snap-together tracks are provided, but as I noted with that kit they are "handed" with the pin heads on the inside and the "keepers" on the outside. They are bagged separately but you will have to use a magnifier to tell which side is which. A jig for setting "droop" is also included. One-piece "slide molded" idlers are again included, as well as the normal two-piece kind.
Two hulls are included; while this was not popular with the Ausf. E kits for some reason, since the Ausf. D was fitted with applique it seems to be a logical method of attempting to capture that detail and maintain scale and ease of assembly. The hull is pretty much the same as that on the E but comes with the different bits for the D in regard to its foredeck and muffler assemblies. The drivers appear to me at first glance to be about the right height - e.g. the sprocket faces (not the tops of the teeth) look to be level with the tops of the return rollers.
As with nearly all DML kits, you have the option of using styrene parts for all assemblies or replacing many of them with etched brass. The main ones where most modelers will probably opt for the latter are the louvers and slats on the rear engine deck in the "tropical" version and the cold weather flaps on the sides of the hull.
The directions are very busy, and I do wish DML would spend more time on them. It's not fair to a very good and detailed product like this to simply ram the directions on how to get it to all come together into something which can be simply run off on a two-sided sheet 350 x 920 mm and stuck in the kit after folding by machine when it makes reading and working on the various assemblies tedious or frustrating. Here the three basic versions - standard production, uparmored and tropicalized - are separated by the former being in blue ink, the middle one in black ink and the latter in grey. They are very busy and you have to be sharp to see the different call-outs.
A total of 11 different vehicles among the three variants offered are covered in the painting and markings section. For the standard production version, tanks from the 5th Panzer Division in the Balkans, the 10th, 2nd, and 6th Panzer Divisions in France, and the 7th Panzer Division in Russia are covered, all in Panzergrau. For the add-on armor versions, two vehicles from the 21st Panzer Division in Libya are covered, both in camouflage schemes. Finally, four vehicles of the uparmored tropical version are offered, two from the 5th Leichte Division, one from the 21st Panzer Division, and one from the 15th Panzer Division, all Libya 1941. This is a "targeted" decal sheet so the numbers all come preformatted, and no "number jungle" is provided with the kit.
Overall this is another lovely kit, but I do worry about the "volley fire" of similar variants tending to stun the market. It's a shame if they get passed by modelers either waiting the "ultimate correct" version or trying to figure out which kit will build into the vehicle they want to model.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.