Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.J Sd.Kfz.161/2

1:48 Scale - Kit No.32518
First Look by Terry Ashley


Tamiya continue to churn out their 1:48 releases at a rate of knots with the subjects evenly spread between Allied and Axis sides to keep most happy with this month seeing this kit and the M10 GMC hitting the shelves.

The kit represents an early to mid production Ausf.J but with a few later details thrown in to keep you on your toes. There is the early horizontal exhaust muffler only, no vision ports on the turret doors, an optional S-mine aperture on the turret roof, early J muzzle break as well as the tube style idler and the later cast idler wheels.

The kit has 183 parts in light beige plastic and the now standard die-cast lower hull tub plus a few poly caps and the decal and instruction sheets. The parts breakdown is very similar to their 1:35 Panzer IV J (kit 35181) with just some areas simplified for the smaller scale and I guess if you already have a respectable kit of the vehicle why re-invent the wheel?

Standard of moulding is very good as you would expect with a minimum of cleanup needed and only a few pin marks to contend with but there are few very small parts that will need careful handling during cleanup and assembly.

Lower Hull:
The die-cast hull tub is all but devoid of details with just basic bottom side channels and the return roller and idler mounts, the suspension bump stops on the sides plus the two fuel filler caps on the left side. There are plastic panels for the front and rear plates and once the suspension and Schürzen (not included) is added you won’t see much of the tub so this isn’t really an issue with this kit.

The running gear is made up of nicely represented two part drive sprockets that trap a poly cap between the easy fitting while you have a choice of idler wheels with the early tube idler and the later cast idler. Both have inner and outer wheels that simply glue together and used as required with the detail on the idlers being quite well defined.

The suspension units are a single piece each that fit snugly to locating holes on the hull sides and the two part steel return rollers also fit snugly into the hull side mounts with no problems during fitting. The road wheels also have inner and outer halves that glue together with the centre hub moulded in place; these are also straightforward to assembly and fit.

The final drive housings are also separate plastic parts that simply fit into place with a locating pin to ensure they are fitted at the right angle and that’s about it for the suspension which is all very straightforward.

At the front is a plastic panel that fits neatly to the metal tub to which is added the two tow shackles made up of three parts each and are quite petite for the scale while at the back is also a rear plastic panel with separate two part horizontal exhaust muffler, tow hitch mounting and idler mounting details plus the two rear lifting hooks on the upper hull sides for another simple assembly. 

The 40cm track is plastic link and length broken up in long sections for the upper and lower track runs with shorter sections between the lower run and drive sprocket and idler with individual links to go around the drive sprocket and idler wheel. The upper track run has subtle sag included which you have to line up with the return rollers when fitting.
Detail on the track is adequate but there are no cut-outs in the guide teeth and the lightening holes in the track links are solid but will probably look okay for the scale. No jig is provided so you will have to fully assemble the running gear before fitting the track directly in place and it may be an idea to do this in sections so you can remove the track once the glue has dried to make painting easier, but remember you a have to fit the track before fitting the Schürzen.

Upper Hull:
The upper hull is a single large moulding with the front ¾ of the fenders included with separate driver’s plate, hull hatches, rear side intake louvers and rear sections of fenders plus the upper rear panel. The engine deck doors are moulded in place as are the front brake inspection hatches but the central engine deck panel and front transmission inspection plate are separate parts to allow the fitting of the screws holding the upper and lower hull parts together. The fit of these two panels is excellent but of course will not be fitted until the hull sections are screwed together, also the metal posts in the lower hull are threaded which makes fitting the screws much easier but don’t over tighten the screws.

The rear intake louvers are added from under the rear upper hull and then the rear sections of the fenders and rear panel are added and the fit of these parts is very good although the side of the fenders don’t line up perfectly and some minor trimming for a better alignment will be needed.

At the front the driver’s plate is also a very good fit with the driver’s visor having a separate top guard and the MG barrel is also a separate part that will need the muzzle drilled out for a better look.

Other details added to the hull are the front and rear lights and a rather plain looking steel tow rope on the rear hull plate.

Some of the tools on the fenders are moulded in place while others are separate parts and removing the moulded on tools will be difficult as it will destroy the subtle tread plate pattern on the fenders, so unless after market etched fenders are released you may well be stuck with the moulded on look for these tools. The separate tools include the axe, shovel, three part jack, wire cutters and wrenches plus the tow hooks and fire extinguisher which all have moulded on brackets/clips and racks for the spare road wheels and tracks links.

Mounting brackets are provided for the Schürzen although these are a little on the thick side and could well be thinned out but no actual Schürzen panels are provided instead you are given full sized templates to cut out your own panels.
The Schürzen panels were 5mm thick on the real vehicle and this scales down to 0.1mm in 1:48 and no doubt someone such as ABER, Hauler or Voyager (or all three) will release a set of appropriately sized Schürzen for the kit to save you the trouble as working with such thin card will not be very sturdy, but of course perfectly doable.

Once the upper and lower hull sections are fitted together there is a small section under the fenders that is open allowing you to see up into the hull but once the Schürzen is fitted this probably won’t be visible but can easily be fixed by adding a small section of thin plastic card to the underside of the fenders.

This has two turret halves glued together with a separate roof panel that in turn has separate parts for the ventilator and optional S-mine aperture as well as a multi-part cupola which has separate open vision blocks and upper hatch ring exactly like it is in the 1:35 kit and of course the separate hatch. The side doors have the inner part for the hinges and separate later type hatch doors without the vision/pistol ports and these fit neatly into the hinges and there is also a separate upper rain channel for above the doors. On the inside of the doors are a couple of good sized pin parks but the only interior provided is a basic Commander’s seat so you probably will not have the doors open in any case.

There is no gun breech with the gun mounting being trapped to the back of the turret front plate with poly caps to allow elevation. The gun barrel is a single moulding with just a small mould seam to be removed with one half of the muzzle brake included with the other half as a separate part. The muzzle brake is the late H, early J type with oval muzzle brake and the barrel slips into the two part mantlet that in turn is attached the gun mounting, all very simple. The mantlet has subtle weld seam details and the separate co-axial MG will need drilling out for a better appearance.

A simple two part turret storage box is provided for the rear turret which simple attaches to the rear of the turret without any problems.

You are provided with curved turret Schürzen panels but again the mountings and the panels themselves are rather thick and will benefit from being thinned down or wait for the inevitable etched panels to be released. A nice little AA MG34 and mounting is provided as well as grab handles for above the doors to finish off the turret but note if you fit the S-mine aperture which requires the opening up of a locating hole in the roof that the ventilator cover must also be modified as this had a small cut-out to fit around the S-mine aperture. The kit parts don’t allow for this ventilator cover cut-out meaning the S-mine aperture is in the wrong place so it will miss the ventilator cover as supplied in the kit.

A small decal sheet is provided with typical Tamiya decals providing markings for three vehicles but no unit data is provided for these so you can basically finish the kit any way you please.

Another well done kit in this smaller scale with nicely defined details and the fit of parts is excellent resulting in an easy build OOTB. There are a few areas that could do with thinning for a better scale appearance but overall the “feel” of this kit is more refined that the Tiger I kit released earlier. The kit is also an open invitation to aftermarket etched set produces probably more so than previous releases.

Highly recommended

Decal sheet

The Sprues
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Detail images
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Kit courtesy of my Credit Card and the excellent service from Rainbow Ten.

Page created October 8, 2005

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