by: Bill Cross [ ]
The Panzerkampfwagen IV (Pz.Kpfw. IV), known to English speakers as the Panzer IV, was the workhorse of the German tank arm in WW II. Approximately 8,800 were produced from 1936-45, originally as an infantry support vehicle (the lighter Panzer III originally had the role of tank killer). But after encountering the far-superior T-34 during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the army turned to the Panzer IV as its preferred AFV until it could develop the heavier Panther and Tiger tanks (though their limited production numbers kept them from ever being the decisive factor Germany hoped for). Especially once the IV had been up-gunned with the excellent KwK 40 L/43 75 mm. (itself later replaced by the longer 75 mm KwK 40 L/48), it was a match for anything the Soviets or Allies could throw at it.
Because of its wide service on all fronts, the Pz.Kpfw. IV remains one of the more-popular tank kits. Now a new photo etch manufacturer, Orange Hobby in Shanghai, China, has released an upgrade kit intended for the Dragon 6300 Ausf. H.
Simply stated, this is the most-complete PE upgrade I’ve ever seen (the only exception being some high-priced Voyager sets for the Tiger and Hummel). One of the knocks on most PE makers is the way they parcel-out the components over multiple sets (e.g., the turret bins, radio mast, cleaning rod and other “optional” parts). Not this time: the Orange Hobby set includes everything you will need to upgrade a standard Dragon Panzer IV kit (Schurzen are not-included, since not every Pz. IV had them):
7 frets of PE brass
1 brass radio antenna
4 brass rods for the gun cleaning rod components
3 brass rods for the turret side hatch hinges and spare track supports
Black thread for towing cable plus 2 brass end-rings and collars
Length of 2mm brass wire
1 brass turret cupola ring
1 resin jack “wooden” bracing block
1 sheet of decals for the fire extinguisher
3 pages of instructions in color with extensive labeling
In fact, the only thing missing was the tension spring for the jack wooden block. The kit includes thin brass wire to make your own, a process I don't look forward to.
As stated, the kit includes everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. Little touches like a radio mast (and detailed base), gun cleaning rod and tow cables mean you won't have to hunt down other AM products to bring your kit into its sharpest accuracy. The brass is good quality (though not quite as good as Griffon Model, whose brass is generally thicker and less likely to bend erratically or break) .Thin brass is easier to bend - sometimes too easy, and can get distorted during assembly. Breakage is also a problem, especially if you misread directions and bend something the wrong way. But the Orange Hobby brass pieces have excellent detailing, including rivet holes and other markings. Tool brackets look pretty standard, and will therefore bedevil most humans without heavy-duty magnifiers and very small fingers.
A big complaint I have with PE makers is the lack of information about the parts upgraded. Is that a hinge for a track tension lock or the jack? Is that a crowbar or the track tension adjusting tool? The instructions both clearly identify the pieces upgraded and are in color as well.
With photo etch increasingly a key AM desire for model makers, this kind of high-quality offering is sure to give other manufacturers a run for their money. In fact, I would say if you are planning on upgrading a DML Pz. IV, this is the only kit to buy.