KIT: Tamiya 1/48 Panzer IV ausf J
KIT #: ?
PRICE: ¥1700 from
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


      Numerically, the Pzkw IV series of medium tanks were the most important German tanks of the Second World War, remaining in mass production from 1937 to 1945, and appearing in ten different tank versions as well as providing the basis for several other armored vehicles.

      The concept of a tank with all of the characteristics later incorporated in the Panzerkampfwagen IV was originally laid down in early 1930 by Heinz Guderian. In 1934, Krupp, Rheinmetall-Borsig, and MAN were ordered to develop a Begleitwagen vehicle with an overall weight of  18 tons, top speed of 35 km/h and a 75 mm gun as the main armament. In 1935, Krupp was ready to start the production of the Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf A, featuring a suspension system composed of drive sprocket, idler and 8 road-wheels on each side of the hull, paired in 4 assemblies on each side and attached to longitudinal twin quarter-elliptic leaf springs bolted to the hull. The vehicle was operated by a 5-man crew - commander, gunner and loader in the turret, with driver and machine gunner/radio-operator in the forward hull.

      The invasion of the Soviet Union brought the Pzkw IV Ausf D up against the T-35/76, and the German tank was found wanting, since it was primarily designed to support infantry and not for tank-vs.-tank fighting.  Most particularly, its low-velocity 75mm KwK L/24 75mm gun was no match for the high-velocity 76mm weapon used by the T-34. 

      The answer was the Pzkw Ausf F.  The first 462 Ausf Fs had slightly wider tracks to improve maneuverability on the soft ground of the Russian steppes.  At first, these tanks were still armed with the low-velocity 75mm KwK L/24 75mm gun to support infantry. Production was postponed for a month so that changes could be made to allow operation of the accommodate the hard-hitting high-velocity 75 mm L/43 cannon. The Ausf Fs with the short gun were renamed Ausf F1, while the following 175 with the long gun were designated the Ausf F2. This improvement in armament was the critical turning point for the Pzkw IV, which could now engage the T-34, and many earlier models were retrofitted with the L/43.

      The most-produced version was the Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf H, which entered production in April 1943 as the Sd.Kfz.161/2. Production continued until July 1944, with a production total of 3,774.  This version was basically a late model Ausf G with six-speed ZF SSG76 transmission. A double-baffle muzzle brake was installed to allow use of the even more powerful 75mm KwK L/48 and two MG 34 machine guns were mounted.  The power plant was the 12-cylinder water-cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM gasoline engine, producing 265hp at 2600rpm. In June 1943, an addition 30mm plate of front armor was added to the standard 50mm structural plate to provide 80mm on the front hull and superstructure. The weight of Ausf H was 25 tons, and maximum road speed was 38km/h, with average road speed of 25km/h.  The Ausf H tanks were issued to Panzer Regiments in Panzer Divisions and were used in that role to the end of the war. The majority of Panzerkampfwagen IV tanks used in France after the invasion were Ausf H.

      The final variant of Panzerkampfwagen IV tank family, the Ausf J, Sd.Kfz.161/2, entered production in July 1944, and continued until March 1945, with 2,970 produced solely by the Nibelungenwerke.  The Ausf J simplified the Ausf H. The main change was the deletion of the electric turret drive with auxiliary generator set, which meant the turret had to be traversed manually, with the space formerly used by the generator taken by 200-liter fuel tank, which increased combat range to over 300km. Crews disliked the change, which made fighting other tanks more difficult, while the panzers in general now faced serious fuel shortage problems. As production continued, modifications included deletion of the turret visor and pistol ports, installation of Pilze 2-ton crane mount sockets, introduction of Flammentoeter mufflers, conversion from plate skirts to wire-mesh type, and a reduction to 3 return rollers per side from 4,and cessation of applying Zimmerit paste.

     In spite of its high, boxy appearance with many shot traps, the Pzkw IV was the only German tank in production throughout the war, a clear testimony to what was definitely a sound design for its time. Its hull and chassis were also used for assault guns and self-propelled artillery pieces. It had a spacious interior and was generally liked by its crews because of its reliability.

      Interestingly, the Pzkw IV was also the last German tank of the Second World War to see post-war combat, fighting its last battles in the Six Day War of 1967, when it was used in fairly large numbers by the Syrian Army during the fighting in the Golan Heights.  While it was superior to the standard Sherman, the modifications made by the Israeli Army to allow the Sherman to use an 85mm gun meant the Syrian Pzkw IVs were outgunned as well as outfought.


     As with all the other new Tamiya 1/48 armor, this kit uses a diecast lower hull attached to the rest of the model with screws.  Again, all the parts are crisply molded in tan plastic.  The kit does not include the Schurzen, though the point is made that the Ausf J largely dropped use of these.  Decals are provided for three different tanks, one with three-color camouflage, and two with two-color camouflage of red-brown blotches or a red-brown “wave-mirror” pattern over the overall “Panzer yellow” color.  Two of the markings are for Pzkw IVs used in France in August 1944. 


     From what I can determine as a non-expert regarding armor, this makes up into an accurate model of the final version of this famous tank, which is fully deserving of a prominent place in any collection of armored vehicles of the Second World War.

January 2006

 Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan - get yours at “Japanese prices” at

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