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Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Early (BT-016) 1:35


Mike

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Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Early (BT-016)

1:35 Border Model via Albion Alloys

 

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Designed as a replacement to the successful StuG III, the Jagdpanzer IV was based upon the chassis of the Panzer IV as the nomenclature implies.  It went into production despite objections that the StuG III was perfectly adequate for the job going forward, and diversion of resources away from standard Panzer IVs was wasteful.  Due to shortages of the new L/70 gun, the initial production was fitted with the 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48, which had a shorter barrel and was less powerful than the Pak 42 L/70 that was eventually fitted, and can be quickly differentiated by the lack of muzzle-brake on the longer gun, with under 800 short-barrels produced.  There was an overlap in production between the two main guns, the last L/48 equipped vehicles leaving the factory at the end of 1944, the longer barrelled examples continuing until German industry ground to a halt in the spring of 1945.  The type wasn’t without its foibles, and could shed rubber tyres due to the weight of the vehicle on the ground, which sometimes led to installation of all-steel rims, and as rubber was a scarce strategic material anyway, that had its advantages.  The longer barrel also made travelling over rough ground problematic, as the increased overhang could result in the muzzle digging-in, thanks to the lack of turret and limited traverse preventing moving the gun around to clear obstacles.  Another reason for removing the muzzle-brake was that in dry weather, the gun kicked up immense clouds of dust that could give away its position, negating the benefits of its relatively low silhouette.

 

As the war situation deteriorated for the Nazis, there were efforts made to cease Panzer IV production in favour of the StuG III, as it was concluded that they had performed better at the crucial Kursk turning point of the Eastern Front campaign.  This effort failed, although the Pz.IVs were only produced at one factory during the closing months of the war, with StuG IVs taking over some of the production capacity freed up by the shrinking Panzer IV workload.  In typical fashion, instead of concentrating on one type and producing a large quantity that were simple to maintain, they manufactured three or four designs that were essentially carrying out the same task, all of which had their own training, parts, and maintenance requirements.  Thankfully for the Allies, this worked in their favour and they had to face fewer tanks on the march toward Berlin.

 

As an aside, my SO’s grandfather encountered a Jagdpanzer IV during WWII, and we have a photo of him and his colleagues sitting astride the barrel and superstructure, with a visible shell entry point between the sponson underside plate and engine bay side panel, which was probably the reason for its destruction or abandonment.  It would make a great diorama one day if I ever get the time and skills together in one place.

 

 

The Kit

This is a new tooling from Border, and arrives in a substantial top-opening box with a painting of a camouflaged Jagdpanzer IV passing a knocked-out Sherman Firefly, most likely somewhere in France due to the markings.  Inside are fourteen sprues, a crisply moulded lower hull and saukopf parts in grey styrene, a large fret of Photo-Etch (PE), a smaller nickel-plated fret on thicker gauge metal that contains a trio of Zimmerit application tools, two generous packets of two-part epoxy, a tiny decal sheet containing just seven decals, and a colour printed instruction booklet in A4 landscape format that includes colour profiles in the rear, as well as a detailed guide on how to apply Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste should you be feeling brave.  Detail on the sprues is excellent, with some dainty moulding and judicious use of slide-moulding to achieve increased detail without raising the parts count unduly.  There is no rolled steel armour texture moulded into the hull armour, however early Jagdpanzer.IVs were often coated with Zimmerit, so it’s unlikely to be seen, while the highly visible Saukopf mantlet armour and a few other appropriate parts are moulded with a sand-cast texture, as these parts weren’t subjected to the coating.

 

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Construction begins with the lower hull, which is well-moulded with plenty of detail on all external surfaces, and includes the cooling vents on the sides of the engine compartment, simplifying the build a little.  Suspension bump-stops and other components are added to the sides, and the rear bulkhead with idler axle mounts, exhaust muffler and jack block is fixed to the back, making up sixteen pairs of road wheels that slide onto the twin bogies, which the instructions tell you to make up in two pairs for each of left and right.  The step after next however shows four left and four right bogies installing onto the sides of the hull, which matches the making of sixteen pairs of wheels.  Four return rollers, the idler axle socket and final drive housing are attached to the sides first, adding the bogies, idler wheels and drive sprockets, following which the hull can be righted to install the two glacis plate panels, the upper part having separate inspection hatches with armoured hinge covers, while the front panel is inserted either clean, or with a length of spare track-link strapped to it with a bracket.

 

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This leads us to the rest of the track, which is of the link-and-length variety, offering the modeller a simplified variation on independent links, whilst easing the task of obtaining the correct sag, particularly to the upper run, which has sag moulded-in.  Eight individual links are installed around the drive sprocket along with a short length then three more individual links, with a similar process carried out at the rear, only with one link transferred around the idler wheel, and a slightly longer diagonal section.  Detail on the links is excellent, with just a few small ejector-pin marks on the insides of the longer lengths that you can hide if you think they’ll be seen through the muck and grime of weathering.  The fenders go on next, adding slide-moulded mudflaps to the ends, and short vertical fillets added at the front.  Small vents are also added to the glacis inspection hatches with the openings facing the rear.

 

Before the casemate can be built, the main gun breech must be made up, taking several sub-steps and many parts to create a detailed depiction of the L/48 breech block, aiming mechanism and the protective frame to the rear.  The casemate's frame is bulked-out with an internal layer to the front, with some small holes drilled in the engine deck while inverted.  The gun-mount bulge is built from two halves, adding the top from the outside, dropping the breech into the recess and closing it in with the bottom half, taking care to apply the glue sparingly, as this is the hollow in which the gun elevates and traverses on a peg that meshes with a hole in the bottom, although there is only around 15° of traverse left or right.  The casemate roof is separate, and is detailed with periscopes, hinges for the two main hatches, the pop-up hatch for the commander’s binocular sight, and the curved sliding hatch near the front of the roof.  The periscope and its mount are provided, allowing you to pose it deployed or omit it and leave the hatch down.  The small rear bulkhead is slotted into place from within, then it is inserted along with the driver’s vision port and two domed covers on the front.  The pioneer tools are scattered across the remaining deck space in the next step, including the jack, spanners, track tools and a long pry-bar.  The gun barrel is a single solid part that is found next to the 4mm longer L/70 barrel that has a slide-moulded hollow barrel.  The earlier L/48 barrel has a choice of three styles of muzzle-brake, each of which are made up from three parts, and the barrel should be inserted into the breech along with the Saukopf mantlet armour.  Barrel-cleaning rods are applied to the rear of the casemate, with two stacked pairs of road wheels on brackets over the left vents on the engine deck, and another length of spare track on a bracket on the top rear bulkhead, or another pair of stacked road wheels if you prefer.  The upper hull can then be mated with the lower hull and the ends of the fenders detailed with lights, fire extinguisher, convoy light, return springs for the mudflaps, and a pair of towing eyes on the lower glacis.

 

Most Jagdpanzer IVs were fitted with schürzen down the sides, and you are provided with two styles of brackets that fix to the fenders and along the sides of the casemate.  Once the glue is dry on these, a diagonal PE sheet is applied over the rear sides of the engine deck over a large wrench, then the main run of four sections of schürzen and their angled returns with styrene brackets glued to the rear with super glue are suspended on the vertical portions of the brackets.  Remember that these sheets were intended to pre-detonate incoming shaped-charge rounds, and weren’t case or surface hardened armour in the traditional sense, so were prone to damage from incoming rounds of larger calibre, as well as damage from collisions with other vehicles and the surrounding countryside, so were often bent, mangled and even missing in places.  That gives you liberty to have a little fun crafting a history into those sheets of metal, bending, breaking and losing them as you see fit.  Go nuts!  Annealing the brass before going to work will make the metal malleable and easier to work with, which can be done with a lighter or candle flame, applying heat until the metal is discoloured, then letting it cool naturally to retain the softness.  Candle flames generally contain soot as a by-product of combustion, so if you have a lighter to hand, it’s the cleaner option.  If I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs however, I apologise.

 

 

Zimmerit

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Zimmerit was a grey paste made up from various chemical components and sawdust that was applied to vertical surfaces of German tanks to prevent magnetic mines from sticking to them due to distance, which the Germans thought was a real danger during the early stages of their withdrawal from Russia.  It turns out that their fear was unfounded, as mines of this type were uncommon in Soviet units, the realisation dawning on the Nazis in October 1944 along with another unfounded fear that the paste could ignite if hit.  Initially, it was applied at the factory with tools that gave it a texture of horizontal lines or waffle pattern, with several variations fielded, which could often pinpoint the factory from which the vehicle originated.

 

The kit includes two packs of putty, which when mixed in equal quantities will create an epoxy putty that will dry in a couple of hours at room temperature.  In colder weather curing will take a lot longer, so it’s an idea to place it somewhere warm to cure if you‘re impatient like me.  The kit also includes three application tools on a thick PE sheet that can be chucked into an X-Acto style knife handle to make shaping the putty easier.  There are detailed instructions at the rear of the booklet with text and pictures to assist even the novice Zimmerit engineer in getting the job done well.  You start by mixing the two halves thoroughly, then apply it evenly and thinly to the appropriate armour panels, keeping it moist to prevent premature curing.  Using your references and the tools supplied, imprint the pattern appropriate to your decal option, removing any build-up with a knife or tweezers to prevent bogging down of the tool.  It also advises that some small details such as raised rivets and bolts can be removed with a knife as they were buried  under the coating, and it will make your job easier.  Zimmerit occasionally chipped off in use, and many modellers depict the exposed interior of the paste as grey, although there was an ochre colour added to the mix at the Chemische Werke Zimmer & Co in Berlin, which also gives you a big hint where the name came from.

 

Another few pages at the rear show you how to create a rolled-up tarpaulin and strapping from any excess putty, using various additional tools that your average modeller already has in order to personalise your model.  The putty in the instructions is coloured rust red so that it shows up well in the pictures, but the packs in my example will mix up into an off-white colour, very similar to Milliput Fine.

 

 

Markings

There are three options on the tiny decal sheet, differentiated mostly by their camouflage schemes, which are all based on Dunkelgelb (Dark Yellow) as applied to German armour later in the war.  From the sheet you can build one of the following:

 

  • Pz.Div.LAH, 1944
  • Unidentified Unit, Normandy, 1944
  • Pz.Abt 228, 116 Pz.Div, Normandy, 1944

 

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The sheet contains seven decals, but one is white and can barely be seen against the pale blue backdrop of the sheet.  The rest of the decals are printed in black and white, with good registration, colour density and sharpness, plus a matt carrier film cut relatively close to the edges of the printing.  If you are applying it over Zimmerit, use plenty of decal softener and a gloss surface to get it to snuggle down into the grooves and avoid silvering.

 

 

Conclusion

A fine rendition of an early Jagdpanzer IV with the shorter L/48 barrel, with plenty of detail on the exterior, and the breech should be visible through an open hatch, giving you options despite it being officially an exterior-only kit.  Seldom do you see epoxy resin and tools included to help you with applying Zimmerit, and never have we seen instructions included in addition.

 

Highly recommended.

 

Available in the UK in all good model shops.

Review sample courtesy of

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