by: Darren Baker [ ]
Dragon Models Limited has been working its way through the vehicles based on the Panzer IV chassis for some time now, and have now got to the last version of the Panzer IV Ausf J with mesh armour. This version came into service in 1944 and was to some extent a backward step as the turrets electrical traverse was removed and a hand operated traverse brought back in. This modification did however reduce the weight of the vehicle and made room for a 200ltr fuel tank increasing the Panzer IV's range. Mesh armour was introduced as it further reduced the weight on an already overtaxed chassis.
The Pz.Kpfw IV Ausf J Last Production model is supplied in the now standard DML packaging format and contains;
• 24 light grey sprues.
• 1 clear sprue.
• 6 pre cut mesh armour panels.
• A set of Magic Tracks, which are sided.
• 1 large photo etched fret.
• 1 sheet of decals
• 1 set of instructions
This instruction sheet is in the typical Dragon style, this means they are a little busy and care must be taken to avoid problems. Some of you may notice that, on the sprue images at right, I have shaded out the parts that are not used. As you can see there are a great number of parts that are not used in this build, but it should be noted that not all of the sprues are laid out as indicated in the instructions.
The instructions guide you through the build in 22 stages using the line drawing format favoured by most manufacturers currently, it should be mentioned however that most of the stages have several sub assemblies in the mix which add to the complexity of the model.
Painting and Markings:
The painting and decal application supplied with this model covers 8 possible vehicles which are;
• 11th Panzer division, Germany, 1945.
• Panzer regiment 31, 5th Panzer division, East Prussia, 1945.
• 6th Panzer division, Czechoslovakia, 1945.
• Unidentified unit, Germany, 1945.
• 11th Panzer division, Germany, 1945.
• Unidentified unit, Silesia, 1945.
• 2nd Panzer division, Germany, 1945.
• Panzer regiment 33, 9th Panzer division, Germany, 1945.
Moulding quality is as expected of Dragon first rate with no obvious issues noted as yet. The moulded detail is crisp and sharp and also of a very high standard. One area of real note is the track guards which have excellent detail mouldings on both faces that should appeal to the purest and novice alike.
The Build Sequence:
Stages 1 through 5
As anyone who has built one of Dragons Panzer IV variants will know the suspension and wheel assemblies are very thorough, and take up the first 5 steps in the instructions. The rear hull assembly and front glacis plate are included in these steps but the majority of the work is still on the suspension and wheels.
Stages 6 through 10
These steps cover assembly of the upper hull body and sponsons, and despite it being an included part in all German tanks from Dragon the bow machine gun is a highlight of this portion of the build. The detail is exquisite and in my opinion the best offering from any injection moulded plastic manufacturer.
Stages 11 and 12
These two stages cover the addition of the tools; the negative here is that all of the tools have their mounting brackets moulded on to the tools, I would have liked to see the tools provided with and without bracket detail. We know that this tool option is possible due to the inclusion of the tools minus mounting brackets included in a number of other products, however to finish this portion on a high the jack is worth mentioning as a highpoint due to the very nice detail.
Stages 13 through 17
These stages cover assembly of the turret and main gun. This is one of the easiest portions of the build to follow with the commanders copula being an area that shines due to the excellent moulding and high level of detail. Another area that will need your attention is that this kit offer a choice of 4 different muzzle brakes, so if you are building a specific tank pay special attention to this area of your reference.
This stage covers assembly of the turret armour and applying it to the turret. There are a few options in this stage that appeal to me which are that the rear turret bin, side turret doors, and the armour covering the side turret doors can be left open or closed. These options do give the model builder a great number of display options either as a static model or as a part of a diorama.
This is where you add the spare wheels and have to make the decision of either having the mesh side skirts or not, for myself I would question the reason for buying this model if you are not going to add the mesh side skirts but choice is always good.
This stage covers the addition of the frames and mesh that run along the top of the side skirt brackets down each side of the hull of the tank. My only real concern about this step is that having looked at a completed build of this model there is a real risk of the mesh guards obstructing the turret.
This stage covers assembly of the mesh side skirt which I will admit concerned me at first glance, but Dragon have a supplied 2 pieces of plastic that are used to shape the photo etch portion of this stage which should make life a lot simpler. This 'form shaper' that Dragon has included involves placing the designated photo etched pieces into the lower part of the former and then apply the top portion of the former and applying pressure. Very well thought out Dragon.
This stage covers making the Magic Tracks and application of the tracks, turret, and side skirts. This leaves just the addition of paint and decals to give you what should be a very interesting looking Panzer IV.
This should build into a great looking Panzer IV with a lot of high points to the kit worthy of mention. The fore thought by Dragon to include a former for the photo etch frame that goes around the mesh portion of the side skirt is an excellent addition worthy of praise. The one area where I would really like to see Dragon pay more attention to is the instructions, which due to the stages having (in some cases) several sub assemblies it can make them confusing and easy to mess up, this oversight I am sure deters some people involved in the hobby from tackling some Dragon models. That aside I highly recommend this model to you.