Converting a late war Panzerkampfwagen IV ausf J using Tamiyas Panzer IV ausf H
The Panzer IV ausf J was the last turreted version of the Panzerkampfwagen IV. Produced only at the Nibelungenwerke factory, 1758 were manufactured between June 1944 and the end of the war. Its differences between the ausf H model were designed to simplify construction and speed up production. First, the 2-stroke motor used for turret traverse was deleted and an extra fuel tank was put in its place. This not only increased the vehicles range, but also shortened construction time. In order to make up for the loss of the motor, a two-speed hand gear was provided for the gunner. Due to the standardization of turret skirts, the pistol ports and vision blocks on the turret doors were deleted. Also, the vision ports for the radio-operator and the driver was deleted from the hull. Wire mesh shutzen were used late in the production run to save metal and one pair of return rollers was deleted from the hull. Also, the angled towing pintles on the front plate were deleted and replaced with extended and drilled hull sides, much like the Sturmgeschutz III. Some very late vehicles used steel roadwheels on the first two positions, had the close defense weapon mounted in the turret and had vertical exhaust pipes in place the muffler. Many, but not all vehicles were fitted with anti-aircraft machine gun mounts. Finally, "Thoma screen" hull skirts were fitted at the very end of the production run. Instead of being sheets of armor plate, Thoma screens were actually steel screens. They were lighter and used far less metal, simplifying production and cutting production time. These differences made for the basis of my conversion.
Moving along, I used Tamiyas Panzer IV detail set for most of the tools. I continued on to the turret, replacing the gun barrel with one from Jordi Rubio. Ive never been all that enthused about the turret stowage bin provided by Tamiya, so this kit sports the turret stowage box from the Italeari Panzer IV ausf H, with the Tamiya rubbing strips (parts B21, B22 and B24). I then carefully removed the vision and pistol ports from turret doors and after some sanding, any telltale signs of their existence were gone. I used an old aircraft (eeewww!) modelers trick in this instance: I finished the sanding job by rubbing the doors with toothpaste. Toothpastes fine abrasives are perfect for polishing plastic. I used bent steel wire to replace the grab handles above the turret doors, too.
Now comes the tough part: the turret skirts. Tamiyas turret armor is way too thick. To solve this problem, I used one of Duane Phishers tricks: garage sale signs. Garage sale signs have several advantages. First, they are really thin and in this case, I was going to need this attribute as the rear piece was bent around the turret stowage box. Second they are readily available (hardware stores carry them). Finally, they are cheap (about $0.59 apiece). I used the kits turret skirts as patterns for my own and used the kits mounting brackets as they look OK. This whole contraption was superglued together, with the help of my trusty can of Zip-kicker. This left the skirt doors to contend with. I dug into my spares box and found I had a set of Italeari skirt doors. Not only were they the right thickness, but they fit! The AA MG mount was taken from Tamiyas Panzer IV Accessory kit. Finally, I scavenged the "Nähverteidigungswaffe" close-in defense weapon from the Tamiya late-model Tiger I kit.
My last hurdle in this conversion was the construction of hull skirts. I used the kits hull skirt mounting brackets for the same reasons as the turret skirts and instead of adding the toothed rail, I used a piece of Plastruct plastic rod with a metal rod inside. This would prevent it from warping over time. I then bent the ends, using the kit rails as a guide. This was then superglued in place. I then began the construction of the skirts themselves. Construction was pretty straightforward. I used nylon window screen and fine Plastruct "L" beams. First, I used the kit skirts as patterns cut out the proper shapes in the screen. Next, the L-beams were cut apart and super-glued together into the proper shapes. When they were completely dry (overnight), I glued hanger brackets together from PE brass frets. This completed the skirts.
The extra equipment came from a variety of sources. The spare track is from Minicrafts individual link set. The Jerry can is an Italeari accessory. Finally, the tarp on the stowage box, the bedroll on the fender, the box and tent are all from a set of resin accessories I picked up at Intrepidcon.
The model was painted using my Testors Modelmaster Airbrush and my Badger compressor. I used Tamiya acrylics throughout. The model wash first painted with their Military Brown and then striped with XF-60 Dark Yellow and XF-61 Dark Green. The decals were from one of the Tamiya decal sheets. The vehicle depicted was of 7th Company, II Battalion, Pz Regt 15, 11th Panzer Division in the Ardennes, winter, 1944.
This model has placed third at Grounhogcon in Runnemede, New Jersey and its one
of my favorites in my collection. A lot of people initially think that its
Tamiyas ausf J kit and are surprised when they find out its a conversion. I
feel that this kind of conversion is definitely fun. A simple job like this is great
introductions for those who have never tried non-commercial conversions before.
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