by: Darren Baker [ ]
Originally published on:
The Stug IV, Sturmgeschütz IV or in English Assault Gun IV was a successful vehicle design manufactured in Germany during World War 2 on the chassis of the Panzer III and IV tank. It is my understanding that the Sturmgeschütz line of vehicles came about as a result of the German forces getting a rude awakening during the invasion of Russia when their armoured forces found themselves outclassed by Soviet tanks such as the KV 1, 2 and T-34; it was also found that anti-tank guns in German use also failed to deal with these vehicles. The Germans did have a 75mm Pak 40 coming into production, but the German tanks of that period did not have space in the turret to accommodate it. The gun ended up being fitted into the Sturmgeschütz, a series of vehicles that proved themselves very capable due to their low profile making them hard to spot and hit and the gun proving to be a very capable weapon for dealing with Soviet armour.
Academy has released a German Stug IV Sd.Kfz.167 (Early Version) in 1/35th scale and is the model I will be taking a look at and building in this review.
Academy once had a name for poor copies of Tamiya kits; however in the present day they have started producing some exceptional armour kits in 1/35th scale, I am thinking specifically of their M1A2 Abrams SEP V2 TUSK II, a model that is exceptional as regards value for money and ease of assembly. When this model of a German Stug IV Sd.Kfz.167 (Early Version) arrived I was pleased upon opening it as it has at first glance a well thought out approach and cleanly moulded parts that have been packed in a way that avoids damage to those parts. The quality of the mouldings is in my opinion suitably crisp and I like that there is not an excessive number of sprue gates on the parts.
There are some large but shallow ejector pin marks that I believe will not require any work on the part of the modeller as they will not be seen. The exception to this is the underside of the mudguards, the lower sides of the hull and rear of the Schürzen (should you utilise it) as far as I am aware at the moment. There is no photo etch in this offering and Academy has gone for vinyl rubber tracks; these tracks are quite good but I will use the individual workable tracks from MiniArt for this model as I feel they offer exceptional value for money and are superior in detail. A full check of the contents did find a Schürzen hanging bracket that has one end broken off and that part is not in the bag or box and so must have occurred prior to packing.
I will say from the start that I will be using items with this build that are not included with the model such as the MiniArt track links, but I will clearly identify what I have used, why I have used it and provide comparison when possible.
Construction begins with assembly of the lower hull tub; a prospect that normally bothers me when getting it square. Academy has provided internal supports for attaching the hull sides to the floor and I have to say the joint created is perfect in my opinion with just a small amount of Tamiya extra thin cement in my case (Your choice of glue may differ). The portion of the rear panel is also added at this point with an equally good joint, but there are some holes that need to be drilled in this portion and I am disappointed that Academy has shown the holes that need to be drilled but not the drill size. This element I drilled with a 1mm offering as that was the same size as the indentation.
This step involves adding a front and rear lower hull panel, again clean up after removal and attachment to the model went easily. There is a gap present below the rear panel which caused me concern initially but I found a part that fits into that gap later in the assembly.
This step sees the suspension fitted to the model. The fit is very good, but I struggled with the clean up due to having large hands that keep getting in the way. There are two pins of alternate sizes that prevent any placement mistake during construction, but it does mean that the chassis is locked and so not easily placed as if on an uneven surface. The front upper panel is also added in this stage and it is a very good fit, but I would have liked some options with the hatches rather than being moulded closed. The track tensioning arm at the rear is provided with a nice drawing that indicated the position it should be locked in; I am aware that most will leave this until they are ready to add the tracks, but I wanted to eyeball it with the drawing to see how it works out later on.
This stage covers the addition of the wheels to the model and is a stage where the modeller needs to take notice of the instructions as there are different wheels included in this offering from Academy. The road, idler and return wheels are easily accessed on the sprue and require minimal clean up. The drive sprocket caused me some difficulty due to limited space between the sprue and the part, but with a little clean up all is fine. Academy has included alternate drive, idler and centre hubs for the wheels and there is also an alternate return roller which is why I advise care with part location. I did have to glue the return rollers in place on the model, but the other wheels will stay put without glue and so makes painting and the adding of any tracks you choose easier.
This covers the addition of the tracks to the model that have been supplied by Academy in vinyl rubber, Taking a look at the tracks I have to say they are very good as this product type goes with only a few light push out marks on the internal surface. I have added a set on one side of the tank in order that you can assess them, but as I am going to use an aftermarket set from Mini Art I have added comparison photographs. For me the biggest improvements are the hollow guide horns and that it makes adding sag easy. It is at this stage of the build where add the base plate for the main gun which is a good fit. While talking about replacing the tracks I feel the MiniArt set are better in all respects other than assembly time; they also have the benefit of being a reasonable price. At the same time I suspect many will be happy with what is in the box.
Here we get to tackle the engine deck and mudguards. It is this area of the model that made me swear as the attachment of the rear portion of the mudguard, vents and engine deck is not made clear in the instructions which resulted in me cementing the engine deck to far back, a mistake I did not find until the next day. There are two ways to avoid this issue with the build that I have found.
One: You can make sure the two rear uprights of the vents sit in the box I have indicated in the photographs.
Two: You can use the fighting compartment to align everything as I can see nothing that needs to be done prior to its addition in the instructions.
I recommend a combination of the two methods as the fighting compartment is a tight fit that is easier to get right before adding the engine deck and mudguards to the lower hull, and in combination with the lower hull it helps ensure that the multi-part mudguards are correctly set.
Providing you have taken note of the previous section and my comments about locating the parts the next stage will be a breeze. This just involves cementing the engine deck and mudguards to the lower hull. I stand by my decision to add the fighting compartment at this stage with one proviso: add the gun rotating plate and pin as while it can be done it will be easier prior to adding anything from Stages 6 and 7.
The next four stages all work on the rear of the Stug IV. This stage covers the addition of the inner portions of the rear mudguard, the rear of the engine deck and the idler wheel axle assembly. As you can see from the photographs this went without incident.
Here I got to add the tow cable mounts and cable along with some spare track links. Academy has provided the tow cable in string with slide moulded eyes, and they also provide a scale drawing for cutting the string to the correct size. Now I really dislike using string and so I used some RMG Resin Model cable instead, which I believe everyone will agree looks better. These cables have a very realistic look to them due to being made from twisted cables with a separate copper core and they stay in the shape you set providing you bend them a little further than required. I find string looks fuzzy when painted and ruins the effect it is trying to create. The connectors on which the tow cable hangs should I feel be replaced with 0.5mm brass bar as they bend far too easily in plastic.
The exhaust is next and I have to say I am impressed with what Academy has done here. The main body of the exhaust is made up of five parts that go together especially well, the outlet pipe has been slide moulded to a good depth and looks superb. The pipes that feed the gases into the exhaust are in this model with the protectors, I have not seen these pipes before in memory on a model but then again you cannot see them once fitted. The result is very pleasing.
This step covers the addition of the towing hitch and other than my big fingers the result is very pleasing again.
This is the stage where we are directed to add tools and equipment mounted on the mudguards. The tools do have the clasps moulded onto them, but looking at them closely I am content with what has been provided. Of special note is that Academy has provided a decal for the fire extinguisher, an aspect that is only usually covered by after market items. It is at this point that you are directed to add the rotation plate for the gun and I stand by my previous comment about adding it earlier in the build.
The instructions now cover the assembly of the rear of the gun. The section is functional with only a passing resemblance to the real thing, but with the limited view you will get it is more than adequate. The fighting compartment minus the roof and the gun is then added. I can confirm that there are no issues with adding the fighting compartment at the earlier stage I indicated. The mantlet has good shape and fits to the gun very well. I like that the mantlet has a nice subtle texture to it.
The roof of the fighting compartment is tackled here along with the drivers’ hole. The assembly of the various parts caused me no issues at all, but I do have some gripes in this area of the model.
1. The hatches in all respects are only covered in a closed position as far as the instructions are concerned, an aspect I find disappointing.
2. The machine gun guard should have a retainer for the hatch to latch onto.
3. The MG 34 has reasonable detail for a single piece moulding, but ammunition would have been a nice inclusion as would a more detailed connection to the shield.
4. The detail on the rear of the shield would benefit from extra detailing.
5. The periscopes on both the cupola and drivers box would be better with clear parts provided.
As you can I see I was a little upset at this area of the model.
Here we add more of the tools that are carried on the Stug IV and again while these have the clasps moulded on I am happy with the detail provided. As regards the actual vehicle you only add the front towing points and I was impressed that each side is made up of three parts and this approach makes it easy for the modeller to show a vehicle in the process of being towed.
Again more spares and tools need to be added which I am very happy with. The convoy light is quite well covered and easily added. The spare tracks are good and bad; the set hanging on the very front have hollow guide horns and so are good in my opinion, but the set that sits on the front deck have solid guide horns and so are poor in my opinion and as such I will either add some the links from MiniArt or do away with them altogether.
This step basically covers the addition of the aerial mounts and the vent at the rear of the fighting compartment which are easily added. I would have liked to see a guide as to the length of the aerials needed but I can forgive that. The cleaning rods added here are a little blocky I feel but again not the end of the world.
The end is near with this stage as regards the build. You get a very nice one piece barrel with limited clean up needed and this is topped off with a very nice slide moulded three part muzzle brake; I have not used the muzzle brake as I am going to use a resin cloth covered option and while I could add a cloth cover to this I will keep it for a future project. The plates added to the side of the main gun are a tight fit, but once they are got into place they are a great fit. Finally the Schürzen hangers are added and other than opting to cut down the panzer IV H hangers rather than messing with fixing the broken hanger German Stug IV Sd.Kfz.167 (Early Version) I am a happy modeller.
It is my opinion that this is a very good model of the German Stug IV Sd.Kfz.167 (Early Version), but I do feel that some extra work will ideally be implemented by the modeller to really lift it. As a starting point for a high quality Stug IV I do feel this is a good offering that could be easily lifted while at the same time meeting the needs of the average modeller (If there is such a thing). A weak area of the model is the instructions as they do not clearly indicate the location of parts and required some umming and arring on my part before adding them to the model. I would like to see Academy put more effort into the reduction of ejector pin marks, but they are not alone in that issue. The model I have in front of me is one that I am happy with even though I intend to make some changes before adding paint, so as such I do think this is a model worthy of consideration and does a good job of making the modeller reconsider their opinions of Academy as a company.