Starting production in September 1938, Krupp completed only 134 from the order for 300 PzKpfw IV Ausf C by August 1939 before it was superseded by the Ausf D. Compared to its predecessor Ausf B, the external differences of the C were mainly visible on the turret, with coaxial machine gun armour being added, and a redesigned gun mantlet.
This kit dates all the way back to 2003ís release by Tristar, who having built a reputation for decently researched and moulded kits, unfortunately went out of business in 2011. Trumpeterís purchase of the moulds has resulting in several ex-Tristar kits becoming available again over the past few months under the Hobby Boss label. Creative Models Ltd in the UK have supplied Armorama with a sample, so let us take a look at how it breaks down.
The Tristar name is apparent on some of the sprues, and the box art is the same as Tristarís original release, although it no longer features the blue scroll with the words ďLimited EditionĒ; Iím not sure how limited that run was, but in any case, it is now back. As the second of Tristarís early Pz.Kpfw IV kits, following the D, a few parts are marked as unused, and it will pay to note that some of the unused parts have only very minor differences from the parts that are to be used.
- Four main sprues A Ė D hold the generic early Pz.Kpfw IV parts
- Multiples of sprues E2-5 consist of separate bolts and other very small detail parts
- Sprue E1 is the internal bracing for the hull bottom, F; hull sides and ends are on sprue A
- Sprue H is the turret
- Multiples of smaller sprues carry the running gear and track links, including specific idlers and return rollers on sprue I
- Sprue L contains details specific to Ausf C that are to be used in place of some parts on sprues B and C
- Pack of brass wire, two clear sprues with vision blocks and lamp lenses, decal sheet
- Photo etched sheet of mostly tool clamps, chains and the jack block rack
- Instructions are black and white booklet type, with Tamiya and Mr.Hobby paints listed.
From what I can tell the content of the box is virtually identical to the original Tristar offering, the only exception being the omission of a sprue (G) of specific spare track links. Otherwise, the tracks are now in metallic grey styrene instead of sand, and the decal sheet is the same as before just with Hobby Bossís name substituted in place of Tristar.
Starting with the wheels, the tyres (photo 22) are separate, to slide onto the road wheels, and have the size 470/75-395 and CONTINENTAL moulded on. Immediately you are faced with a choice of three different styles of covers for the bogie mounts: S9 and 10, S16 and 17, S18 and 19 (photo 17). The differences between them, particularly 9/10 and 16/17, are very slight, and frankly I donít have detailed enough references to be able to offer advice on deciding which to use. Another option provided at this stage is to use the two part return rollers from sprue Wc (photo 21), which will be a later type, the same as provided in the Ausf D kit, or the three part items included on sprue I (photo 20) which the instructions describe as Early Type. Both also have the CONTINENTAL makerís mark moulded on. The difference is quite apparent in photos of the real tanks, the earlier Ausf B style rollers having a more inset centre hub, the later Ausf D style having a shallower appearance.
Still on the wheels, some of the separate bolts are used to add finishing touches to the final drive cover. The instructions then specify using the specific Ausf C idlers from sprue I (photo 19). Although the rim on the Ausf D items is a separate piece, without assembling both sets of idlers, Iím struggling to see what the difference is. Note that I have read a build log of this kit where these idlers presented something of an issue to the builder, so at least we have two sets. I think by now youíll get the impression of Tristar having been pretty pernickety over the details with this kit.
Moving on to another area that has apparently caused some difficulties for builders in the past, is the assembly of the hull bottom plate (photos 15, 16) to the sides and rear (photo 4), with two cross braces to help keep everything square Ė and that is the issue, apparently Ė ensuring that the tub is all true. I believe the key may be to get the cross braces in first and allow the cement to set before adding the side and then the rear, but I also think that Iíd be checking the shape against the hull top and the upper nose plate to make sure it all lines up. In their later Sturmpanzer kit Tristar went for a one piece hull tub and so eliminated potential difficulties.
Some small details get added to the lower hull and then thereís a choice of brake inspection hatches that go into the front plate A10 (photo 5, and not the subtly different C40Ö). Note that both types of hatch have internal details, including a separate locking mechanism, so can be modelled open, although of course there is nothing to see inside the hatch as there are no interior details with this kit. Once again, the differences between the two hatches is very
subtle, and comes down, I think, to the latch detail (photos 31 and 32Ö spot the difference).
Having attached all the running gear to the lower hull, we turn to the upper hull. The front straight driverís plate and the side plates have the option of the visors being modelled open with the clear vision blocks visible, and, again, there are details to go on the insides of the hatches.
Tracks are specified as being assembled without glue, though whether that is truly possible remains to be seen. Part C50 is a turret ring (photo 8), moulded with sixty odd cross headed screws, to be used only if you are not fitting the turret! Another ďLate VersionĒ option is to add a strip (K1) to cover the join at the nose; I couldnít find any photos that show this particular detail though I found an apparent reference to it possibly being a 1940 retrofitted reinforcement on some Ausf Cs.
The gun breech is the one minor interior detail to assemble, followed by the exterior gun detail, using L7 (photo 27, five rows of screws) and not the similar B23 (four rows). There are optional gun barrels, with and without aerial deflector, and also optional muzzles, with or without protective cap in place. The turret top is a specific Ausf C part (smaller screws, but more of them than on the Ausf D part). The commanderís hatch can be modelled open with its interior detail and the cupola vision slots can be rendered open or closed. Turret side hatches also feature interior detail, ideal for modelling those crew men riding out the side.
Then weíre into familiar end stages with lots of small turret and hull details, cleaning rods, jack block (six parts in itself), steps, tools, brackets, tow cable etc. Spare track links taken from the missing sprue G are shown being fitted with brackets in the instructions, but with only 98 links per side for each track run, out of 108 links on sprue SG, provided you donít break too many you should have some left over for stashing on top of the track guards. Thereís then the final flourish of fabricating the fiddly smoke candle rack that sits on top of the long exhaust muffler, complete with etched metal chains.
Moulding of parts seems very good, as can be seen in some of the close up photos, where screw heads and weld seams are clearly rendered. I donít know if Hobby Boss have made an effort to improve the moulds, but for something created over ten years ago, the standard is very high, and there was no significant flash beyond the normal mould seams.
Three finishing options are provided for: 1 Panzer Division 1940, 6 Panzer Division 1940 (both all white crosses), and 2 Panzer Division 1941 (black and white crosses). Great for practicing an all grey finish.
Definitely not a kit for beginners then, nor one to build in a hurry, with lots of small detail parts to make sure you donít lose (like individual bolt heads) and some potentially tricky assemblies (like the main hull tub, possibly the tracks). Despite no interior details within the hull, the kit comes with internals for all the hatches, options on the vision blocks and even that detailed turret ring, so if you wish to source or scratch a proper interior, some of the details are already taken care of.
The details provided suggest some very serious research indeed was conducted (note even the long full title of the kit), with a surprising number of options included when you consider that, on the face of it, only one mark is being modelled, the Ausf C, and of which only 134 were ever built. I regret that I was unable to obtain sufficiently detailed references to be able to fully understand all of the subtleties of change being represented within this impressively detailed kit. I can really only trust the designers and their consultants, and assume that the kit is highly accurate. On top of being an impressive kit, the price Hobby Boss are offering it at makes it seem very good value indeed: £27.99 in the UK.
Bruce Culver, Don Greer PzKpfw IV In Action
Peter Chamberlain, Hilary Doyle, Thomas Jentz Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two
(Arms and Armour Press, 1978)