Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Panzer IV/70 (A) and a Bit of Nostalgia

I apologize in advance for the dearth of entries lately - other projects outside of the world of miniatures have been taking up a fair portion of my time, and my computer lost one of its hard drives (of course the one with all of my data on it!). I had a back-up but it was a month or two old, but regardless it could have been much worse. The moral of the story is "always back up your data!"

For this installment I wanted to talk about an upcoming army I'm working on for Flames of War, but I also wanted to wax a bit nostalgic as this army will feature a vehicle that I've loved for a long time, but have never gotten around to building in either 1/35th scale or in 15mm scale for Flames of War - the Panzer IV/70 (A). Decent 1/35th scale kits have been around for quite some time, and Battlefront released their version (GE110) of the vehicle a few years ago with the Stalin's Europe releases. Sadly I've been sitting on my examples since then largely because there are things with the miniature that just aren't quite right.

My attraction to the Panzer IV/70 (A) goes back many, many years - to the February 1990 issue of Finescale Modeler magazine to be exact. In 1990, I was a sophomore in college and armor modeling was still in its infancy or "Bronze Age" if you will. Taimya had started to release some decent kits, but many of their kits were still the 1970's vintage kits set up for motorization with numerous compromises in accuracy and detail. That issue included master model builder Dan Tisoncik's article "Building a Panzer IV/70 (A) in 1/35 Scale" which promised "This straightforward conversion could be your first taste of kitbashing."

For me this vehicle represents in a microcosm Germany's desperate war situation in the Autumn of 1944. It was an ungainly vehicle designed to get a more effective gun into the field in an armored chassis by any means necessary. The magazine article included templates and instructions to take two Tamiya kits to create the ungainly Alkett Panzerjäger. The article would later be reprinted (along with many others) in one volume Armor Conversion and Detailing Projects. While the instructions were clear and seemed straightforward, what really attracted me to the vehicle was Dan's paint job. The oxide primer camouflage truly underscores the expedient nature of the vehicle and brings the subject together. His execution of the camouflage over red oxide primer phase of German war production was nothing short of amazing for the time, and it still stands up very well today. You can see some of Dan's more recent work (which is nothing short of amazing... period!) at the Finescale Modeler site.

A bit more is known about this elusive vehicle today, and there are a few minor inaccuracies in Dan's conversion (especially around the steel road wheels). That being said, the Battlefront version has a few issues as well. You can either get it as originally packaged with all rubber wheels or with an alternate track for the Panzer IV/70 (V) (GBX67) which gives you two (but not four) steel road wheels.

The detail on the steel rimmed road wheels on the Panzer IV/70 (V) is poor, and the Panzer IV/70 (A) went from a full compliment of rubber road wheels to four steel wheels in September 1944 according to Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer by Jentz and Doyle.  So clearly some sort of conversion is called for, but what to do?

I hit on the idea of running a unit from the October 1944 time frame.  This would allow me to use a variant of Dan Tisoncik's inspiring paint job on a full unit of Panzer IV/70 (A). I'll likely end up using the Feldherrnhalle Panzergrenadierkompanie list on page 140 of Grey Wolf. I'm not sure I'll actually represent Feldherrnhalle itself or another similar unit like 25. Panzer-Division which had formed a Kampfgruppe with several other units in the Warsaw area in October 1944. Obviously many of the core units would be similar, but for the 25. Panzer-Division version none of the Hungarian units would be attached.

Currently I believe my best alternative is to modify some of the newer plastic Panzer IV suspension pieces from Battlefront to create accurate running gear for the Panzer IV/70 (A). As the number of return rollers wasn't reduced to three until December 1944, the updated plastic Panzer IV Ausf H (GBX79) suspension seems to be a likely good starting point.  The idler has been updated with the correct number of spokes, it has the right number of return rollers, and the detail on the wheels and drive sprocket is quite outstanding.

Phase One will involve creating an accurate (as possible at this scale) steel road wheel. I'll then make several resin copies of it to attach to the suspension in place of the first four rubber wheels. Finally I'll cast up full suspension units for the Panzer IV/70 (A) miniatures.

I've already picked up a couple of the plastic Panzer IV Ausf H individually through special order, so now the hard part really begins. I'll continue to update you on my progress in future blog entries. In the comments feel free to highlight some of your favorite vehicles or sources of inspiration!