A new 1/35 kit by Airfix? Let’s have a look inside…
In 2019 Airfix surprised the modelling world by launching a large selection of 1/35 WW2 kits onto the market. And alongside the Shermans, Tigers and T-34 came this Panzer IV Ausf. H. Of course Airfix didn’t just make all of them by itself, but rather they entered into a widespread cooperation with Korean manufacturer Academy.
Back in the 80s Academy had entered the modelling industry with a mediocre copy of the ancient Tamiya Panzer IV, which is still widely available today. Thankfully Academy decided to release an all new Panzer IV family kit series starting in 2018, which so far includes this Ausf. H as well as a Sturmpanzer IV and Stug IV. Luckily, Airfix has chosen this new kit for their rebox.
Airfix treats us to a large sturdy top-opening box with full colour artwork all around. The sprues are packed in plastic bags and upon opening I found no loose or damaged parts. There are nine tan sprues, two runs of vinyl track, decals and a piece of string. No photoetch or clear parts are included. The box says “mid” version, but the optional parts that come with the kit allow for a much wider variety of Ausf. H builds – more on that below.
The box contents are mostly unchanged compared to the original issue. The most notable change are two new decal options, more on those below. It also omits the Zimmerit decals provided by Korean aftermarket company Def.Model. This might contribute to the fact that the Airfix version tends to be a bit lower priced compared to the original, at least as far as Europe is concerned.
The lower hull is built up in the traditional manner from side, rear and bottom parts. For reinforcement there are large support plates included that would need to be omitted if you were to add an interior to this kit. Out of the box the kit comes with no interior parts worth mentioning, so it’s not much of an issue. Right at the start I have to point out the one serious issue I found with this kit so far:The lower hull sides are dotted with several large pin marks, which is an absolutely insane thing to happen on a modern kit. It would have meant no extra effort to flip these parts around and have the pin marks on the inside. Perhaps someone thought the side skirts or Zimmerit would hide them…
The leaf spring suspension is non-workable, which still is fairly common on Panzer IV kits these days. The wheels feature finely moulded manufacturer’s markings (“Semperit”) and come with optional cast and pressed hubcaps, as both were used interchangeably from mid-1943 until the end of Panzer IV production. There are also both early and late bump stops included as well as a wide selection of steel and rubber tyred return rollers. On the hull front you once again have the option of using early or late parts, the latter featuring interlocking armour plates that were introduced in December 1943. Note that if you choose to build an earlier model you need to use the shorter hull side extensions, parts D2 and D3. There’s also the option of using a hull front with integral 80mm armour or the earlier 50mm version with 30mm of applique armour bolted on, which was only used on a handful of very early Panzer IV Ausf. H.The hull rear features several optional parts depicting various production versions, including a filler part for the straight hull bottom introduced in late 1943. There are optional parts for the early and “mid” towing attachment included, but the Ausf. H only used the version depicted in the instructions. Both the regular muffler and flame dampening exhausts are included, but the latter are obviously not used on the Ausf H.The tracks are the mid-type 40cm type with solid guide horns and no ice cleats. Details are fairly good and the moulding is sharp with virtually no flash. This type of track would be appropriate for most mid-production Ausf. H. Personally I would have preferred individual track links, but if you add the side skits the lack of sagging isn’t much of an issue. Spare track links are included, with separate guide teeth, including both hollow and solid types.
The forward part of the upper hull comes with a large part of the fenders attached, which makes construction a lot easier and provides a sturdy framework for the finer details. For the forward hull roof there are three separate pieces with differently shaped splash guards, which once more allows the modeller to easily depict a time-appropriate version.
The forward fender segments are slide-moulded, which adds a lot of detail that would otherwise needed to be added manually. Of course those so inclined will still find ways to improve the finish, especially the little coil spring.The upper hull also features the Ausf. H-appropriate selection of equipment, especially the Filzbalgvorschaltluftfilter (say it with me!) and the now surplus wooden antenna rail, retained for a while to store spare antenna rods for the new flexible mount at the left hull rear. The side skirts are the later type with triangular hangers introduced in September 1943. The whole run of plates is moulded as a single piece, with reasonable taper around the edges. The kit makes no provisions to leave them off, even though one of the decal options didn’t have them mounted. The lower support brackets come with wooden filler plates often seen on the Sturmpanzer, I have a feeling they are not entirely appropriate for a Panzer IV.
Just like the lower hull, there’s a front plate with the bolted applique armour available. On both options the ball mount for the hull machine gun is moulded solid with no option for posing. Side visors for driver and radio operator are included, to mount them you need to open a locating hole on the inside. They were phased out in spring 1943 but continued to appear sporadically until later that year.
To simplify the moulding process the turret shell features separate side pieces. The turret roof comes with finely detailed weld seams and screw heads, though they are all at the same 45 degree angle. The commander’s cupola has optional open and closed vision ports, but as there are no clear parts included it’s probably better to leave them closed. The same is true for the turret side doors. On a side note, there are also the simplified final doors without vision ports included, which points towards a future Ausf. J release. The cover plate for the Nahverteidigungswaffe introdcuded in January 1944 is not included, so unless you have a spare at hand, building a final H or early J isn’t an option.The commander’s hatch has a few shallow pin marks, which might prove difficult to remove. The locking handles are moulded to the hatch lid, which is also a bit unfortunate. The gun barrel is moulded as a single piece with parts of the gun breech and recoil mechanism at the rear end. Two slide-moulded muzzle brakes are included, but only the earlier oval version was commonly seen on the Ausf. H.
The turret skirts are moulded in five parts, with the entire curved rear section as a single large part. The side doors are moulded shut, with no option to open them besides heavy surgery or scratchbuilding them. Like the hull skirts their edges are smoothly tapered, which should look adequate on the finished model.
The small decal sheet is sharply printed and features two marking options, No. 634 of Panzer Lehr Division in Normandy 1944 and No. 433 of what is described as “3rd of 20th” Panzer Division, Poland 1944. In fact the latter tank belonged to Panzer-Regiment 35 of the 4th Panzer Division. The instructions point out some uncertain markings and give options for their placement, encouraging the modeller to do their own research. No. 634 was lost during the battle of Villers-Bocage. It appears to have been used without the side skirts, though some of the supports were still attached. Most of the equipment on the right hand side is missing, most notably the Filzbalgvorschaltluftfilter, which was ordered to be removed in February 1944. Other features are steel return rollers, cast idler wheels and pressed hubcaps, which places this tank’s manufacture in late 1943.No. 433 appears to be of similar vintage, though the side skirts hide most of the tank’s features. Note that the tracks appear to have open guide horns, but are filled with mud.
The kit’s instructions come as a nicely printed full colour A4 booklet. The steps, 33 in total, are not overcrowded and should be easy to follow. Optional parts are called out, but there is no indication which belong to either of the options provided in the kit. The lack of skirts on one of the tanks isn’t pointed out either. Oh well, read before assembly, as they love to say. The only colours pointed out are by Humbrol, but do you really need a conversion table for German standard colours?
Compared to other recently released Panzer IV kits, this one seems a little simple in places. This is by all means not a bad kit, but some simplifications might deter the more ambitious modeller. In that case, Rye Field, Border Model or even Dragon got you covered. Personally I don’t mind putting in a little extra effort, or maybe just enjoying a relaxing built out of the box. Just how relaxing it will be shall be determined in a build log in the near future.
The amount of optional parts is a big plus for me, since I really appreciate being able to build a wide range of production versions without having to hunt for appropriate spare parts first. In most areas this kit is priced similar to the 90’s Tamiya kit, but offers a lot more features for your money. Highly recommended.