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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Introducing the Panzer IV

The Panzer IV was a medium tank of the German army in service throughout the entirety if the war, and consequently seeing action on all fronts. Its official name was Sd Kfz 161 or Pz. Kpfw IV. Due to its long service history, it went through multiple adaptations/versions, from Ausführung A to J, with the first models coming out in 1936. The initial model carried a low velocity 75mm gun, meant primarily to fire explosive shells against 'soft' targets in support of infantry, although -by pre-war standards- it did have some reasonable armor piercing capabilities when using armor piercing ammo, which inevitably turned it into a tank fighter when the Panzer Is, IIs, and IIIs proved inferior to some of the allied tanks.The earlier versions of the Panzer IV were a bit unique in that the turret contained a double hatch for the commander, one of them being on the side of the turret. By the time the war began, Ausf D was already in production, with greater speed and some armor improvements. By the end of 1941, Ausf F2 (later G) was upgraded to use a short barreled version of the 75mm PaK 40 high velocity gun which gave it better tank-fighting capabilities. The reason for the short barrel was to be able to accommodate the recoil within the existing turret. Later versions of the Ausf G, were produced a longer 75mm barrel after making adjustments to the turret, which removed the side hatch. Ausf H was further upgraded in terms of armor, with side skirts for the hull and turret being added (they had been prototyped with Ausf G). Finally, Ausf Jwas a 1944 model which saw some simplifications introduced to speed up production and reduce cost, in response to the manufacturing challenges of the late stages of the war. One of those simplifications being that the turret now had to be traversed manually. In total about 9000 Panzer IVs were produced across all models, making it the most popular tank of the German armed forces. In addition to these models, the Panzer IV chassis was found to be very versatile and it was further used for a variety of other vehicles such as self-propelled anti-tank guns and anti-aircraft guns. As far as production of scale models, both 21C Toys and Forces of Valor have released versions of this panzer. Unfortunately I only have those from FOV as shown below.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf F
This is one of my favorite FOV models. The paint job is realy nice with mud splattered where it should be and the rest of the tank seemingly covered in dust. The side hatch with a sitting figure and the short barrel give it a very unique look, and again, the metal feel to it makes you feel you have a real panzer in your hands.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf F - Cammo
Here is another variation of the same vehicle. In fact, FOV released this same model in at least one more color scheme with winter cammo paint (or maybe it's just meant to be snow?). Anyhow, the same good things to say about this one as for the previous one, although I do prefer the one above.  

21st Century Toys Panzer IV - Ausf D
21C Toys also released their version of the short-barreled Panzer IV. I bought this one second-hand, as they are no longer in production, and I suspect that the previous owner sprayed it with a greenish paint, because the pictures I've seen of the original show it in a 'purer' grey. In terms of detail it is OK, but not as nice as the one from FOV. For instance, the side hatch does not open. BTW, this vehicle was sold as a kit that you could assemble yourself. I guess it was an attempt by 21C Toys to keep costs down (or achieve greater profits) by letting the customer take care of the assembly.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf G
This is also a very interesting vehicle. The side and turret skirts give it a very unique look. The side skirts show some nice leve of detail with dents and bends caused by the fighting. FOV advertised this model as the 'Kursk' version. Note that the side hatch is no longer there, which as explained earlier, had to be removed to make room for the recoild of the longer 75mm gun.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf G
This is the same vehicle as above in a different color scheme. FOV does this with many vehicles. A good money-making strategy on their part. They sold it as an 'Easter Front' version. I actually felt that the tan color was better suited for the North African desert and remembering that Panzer IVs were part of Rommel's army, I decided to photograph it in such a setting. It was not until I was checking my facts that I realized that Ausf G was relased right about the time that the Afrika Korps was surrendering in May of '43, so I doubt that any such models ever reached them. But if you are willing to overlook that 'Ausf detail' it look just great next to some AK guys doesn't it?

Click here to see a post about the Panzer III
Click here to see a post about the Tiger I which came after it.

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