|1/35 Pz.Beob.Wg.IV Ausf.J|
|Kit Number: HC9105|
|Reviewed by Michael Novosad, IPMS# 6721|
German World War Two armored vehicles have a universal appeal to many modelers and collectors. I am no expert on this topic, but when given the opportunity to review and build the new Cyber Hobby Pz. Beob. Wg. IV Ausf.J I accepted. Before the review kit arrived I took some time to undertake some research into the vehicleís history and specifics. I was somewhat familiar with the Panzer IV and its many variants, but the Pz. Beob. Wg. IV Ausf.J was a bit of a mystery to me. My sources include the "Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two" by Peter Chamberlain, Hillary Doyle and Thomas Jentz, plus what I could find on the Internet.
The Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf J was the last variant of the Pz Kpfw IV. 1,758 of the Panzer IV J were produced from June 1944 until March 1945. 97 Pz Kpfw IV Ausf Jís were converted to the Panzerbefehlswagen (armored command vehicle) configuration, and 90 Pz Kpfw IV Ausf Jís were converted to the Panzerbeobachtungswagen (armored observation vehicle) configuration. The specific features for the Pz. Beob. Wg. IV Ausf.J include an additional radio mast at the right rear hull plate included an armored housing, relocation of the aerial to the Turret roof, and a rotating mount for a periscope was located on the left side of the turret roof.
The kit comes packaged in a sturdy cardboard box, with the typical Cyber Hobby profile of the subject vehicle on the top and side. Four figures from Kampfgruppe Peiper (Ardennes 1944) are included as a "bonus". One of the long sides of the box has the observation periscope, armored antenna mount, including the star antenna, and the magic tracks featured.
The instructions are printed on the usual glossy paper, and consist of eight, foldout pages. The first page has the sprue layout, with the count for the multiple sprues, plus all the parts not to be used in the build are highlighted in blue. During the actual build there were several parts not high-lighted that were not used. The suggested paints are listed and include Aqueous Hobby Color, Mr. Color, and Model Master Color paints.
Markings and color schemes for three vehicles are shown on the seventh page of the instructions. Two vehicles are from the Eastern Front, and one from the Ardennes.
Sprues and Packaging
According to the instructions there are thirty grey plastic sprues, the hull bottom, and one clear sprue included. There is a small sheet of plastic mesh, a small fret of photo etch parts (two parts), and two bags of the Magic Tracks (72 parts per side). Several of the included sprue are shared with previously issued Panzer IV and Jagdpanzer IV kits. Sprue "C" is from the Stug III G, and it would appear the instructions are incorrect as to all the parts not to be used in the Pz. Beob. Wg. IV Ausf.J build.
The four figures are molded on a common sprue. Each is a model in itself: the lower torso of each figure is made up of two parts, the upper torso, two arms with hands, the heads and the headwear. The side arms are separate parts, as are the binoculars. There is even a rendition of a pair of folded gloves draped over one of the figureís hands. The stuff one discovers when we read the instructions!!
Included with the figures are plastic parts for two wooden road signs, including the support posts. All parts required for the signs have a fine raised wood grain molded into the parts. A small slip of paper is also included that have the two road sign faces, plus three maps for the figures to hold.
The first step addresses the road wheels (18 pairs are required), the drive sprockets and the return idlers. I glued the hubcaps to road wheel parts E1, and mounted the 36 road wheels on round toothpicks for painting later. This was done to facilitate the painting of the base color and rubber portions of the road wheels. I did glue the drive sprocket and return idlers halves together and also mounted those parts on tooth picks. This is the most tedious part of building the Panzer IV kits. I spent about four hours with this task. The return idlers are from the new sprue "G", whereas the earlier versions included on sprue "F" go to the spares box.
Hull and Fenders
Step 2 calls for several holes to be drilled into the upper hull fenders for the installation of tools and accessories, but I did not do this and filled these openings with styrene rod. I planned to use PE tool clamps to hold the tools in place. The underside of the fenders has the appearance of a Lunar landscape: several small holes and larger ejector pin marks.
The sides of the lower hull have several engraved patterns for the road wheels axel mounts, circular maintenance hatches and the stops. I am not fond of the engraved locations, as I find the parts have a tendency to "drift" a bit when set on place on a spot of solvent. You need to watch the alignment of each small part.
The fenders are thick, and would benefit from PE replacement parts or thinning of the plastic. Step 4 shows the exhausts assemblies and installation. It is best if the exhausts are not installed until after all the painting is competed and decals are placed.
Test fitting revealed the main hull parts would not form a good fit and clamping of parts was required in step 7 to eliminate gaps as the solvent cured.
In step 8 several small parts are to be installed without the benefit of locator nubs or openings. The spare tracks mounting brackets were installed after the short length of track was tacked in place with white glue. This allowed for a better placement of the brackets. The lift handles for the transmission maintenance hatches were replaced with brass wire, and placed using a template as there are no locators offered with the kit.
Steps 8 through 11 address the installation of the miscellaneous tools and accessories. I installed PE tool clamps where appropriate, using each tool as a guide for placement. The spare road wheels rack, part A27, has rather thick, out-of-scale side panels. I sanded these to be a bit thinner and fixed the part in place.
Looking back, the wood jack block should have been replaced with balsa wood, or a plastic block, along with the holding frame. I realized too late that I should have replaced the frame with spare PE, along with the wood block.
The armored pot for the extra rear antenna has no mounting locators, but placing and gluing in place was no problem. When fitting the upper hull to the lower portion the rear tow hooks needed to be pushed inward to allow the upper portion to fit. This was a tight fit.
The kit-furnished fender springs would require cleanup of mold lines that would be difficult, and would risk obliterating some of the coiled spring detail. I wound fine copper wire around a short length of steel tube (from a defunct Touch-N-Flow solvent applicator), and cut each spring to match the length of the kit parts. The springs were fixed to the fenders with Gorilla Super Glue. Small discs of styrene rod were placed to represent the spring attachment points.
Steps 12 and 13 cover the turret assembly, less the skirts. Part A26, turret face, was not a good fit for me and some filler was required. I used bent brass wire to replace the plastic grab handles parts Z9 (two parts). Side hatches are single pieces and cannot be posed open as offered.
The gun barrel is a two-part plastic affair and some cleanup is required to eliminate the seams. A small PE flange is added to the base of the extended periscope. I glued the gun and mantel in place, as the mounting method is too loose and the barrel would droop.
The commanderís cupola was a bit of a challenge. The base received a PE band inside the opening: what purpose this serves is a mystery, and will be completely hidden when the hatch is installed.
The hatch can be posed open or closed. If left open a periscope can be placed in the open hatch. If closed, the fit is too loose: I need to bush out the opening with a whisper thin styrene strip.
The turret skirt supports are thick and out-of scale. I thinned each part by scraping and sanding until I was satisfied with the appearance, but they still look too thick.
I deferred installation of the antenna and extended periscope until later in the work to avoid breakage. I did break the star antenna and needed to fabricate a new assembly.
Magic Links Tracks
I assembled each side and formed around the running gear temporally set in place. Once the tracks had set up hard, I airbrushed a home brew track color, applied an oil wash and dry brushed the high points with silver Rub-n-Buff. I am always concerned that there are not enough links to complete each side, but so far this has not happened.
Side Mesh Skirts
Steps 16 through 18 address the mesh skirts fabrication and installation. The plans included several template for cutting the plastic mesh to the correct shape. I did not include this work into this build, but these steps would create an interesting vehicle.
Although not included in this review, the figures are a new sprue, and have detail that is comparable to resin figures. These will be fun to build and paint. This kit offers potential for a diorama or vignette of a historical event.
I first fixed the turret and hull to a wood clothespin for ease of handling during the painting process. The parts were primed with Rustoleumís Painterís Choice white, sandable primer. After this dried thoroughly I airbrushed red oxide primer over all the surfaces.
I decided to paint this vehicle to represent a Pz. Beob. Wg. IV Ausf.J for the 12 Panzer Division, Ardennes 1944. I like the three-color scheme, plus this version used most of the marking offered on the decal sheet. All paints used were from the Tamiya acrylic line. Paints were mixed with 90% isopropyl alcohol. An overall wash of burnt umber oil paint thinned with odorless thinner was applied. Streaking was done using miscellaneous oil paints. Corners and edges were rubbed with graphite for the "metallic" look.
Future floor finish was used to provide a glossy base for the decals and oil paint pin wash. After decals had cured a flat base using Floquil flat finish was applied.
Thanks to Dragon Models USA for the opportunity to review and build this interesting vehicle. Although the details might be a little soft in areas and lacking some parts mounting locators, this kit is recommended for those willing to accept those minor shortcomings and wish to add this unique vehicle to their collection. This was a fun build, with some challenges for basic building and finishing skills.