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Trumpeter 1/35 scale PzKpfw IV Ausf D/E Fahrgestell

Kit: 00362
Scale: 1/35
Manufacturer: Trumpeter, from Stevens International, 856-435-1555
Price: $64.95
Comments: Injection-molded, 1,067 parts (240 photoetched, 2 turned-aluminum shells, individual-link or vinyl tracks)
Pros: First kit of this vehicle; good detail; lots of photoetched metal
Cons: Difficult crane assembly; poor cable; stiff photoetched metal
Trumpeter expands its growing collection of 1/35 scale military vehicles with its first kit based on the Panzer IV chassis. It's labeled "German PzKpfw IV Ausf D/E Fahrgestell," which is one German noun short of identifying it as a munitionsschlepper. This vehicle was an ammunition carrier for the Karl Gerät 040 or 041 siege mortar.

Actually, you can only build the D version accurately, as the E had different road wheel hubs, drive sprockets, and flushstyle brake-access hatches. Nevertheless, the chassis is well done with only a few nits for the picky. You have a choice of either injection-molded individual-link or one-piece vinyl tracks.

The kit includes several sheets of photoetched metal, most of which will replace injection-molded assemblies. Also included are two turned-aluminum shells, each in a different style.

Because the real vehicles displayed no markings, no decals are included. A welldrawn instruction booklet and a color five-view diagram are included.

Assembly begins with the chassis. While many of the parts are designed for this particular vehicle, it is clear that Trumpeter has left the door open for other Panzer IV-based kits. A nice touch is the fenders as separate pieces. They're a little on the thick side, but the front and rear parts can be replaced with photoetched metal. The photoetched metal is very stiff; heating it to remove its temper will make it easier to work.

To reproduce the bolts on the front drive housings, you must slice molded bolts off the sprue and attach them one at a time. The idlers have photoetched-metal rims, but Trumpeter missed the mark by placing them on the outside edges, rather than being inset like the real ones. The instructions mount parts D1 and D4 on the rear panel before installing the wood deck (E7), making it difficult to attach. I left off the fender assemblies until after painting and track installation.

Even though I planned on showing the ammunition caisson open, I test-fitted the panels in the closed position and found some fit problems. If you plan on building the caisson closed, do a lot of test-fitting.

Assembly of the crane is fairly easy until you come to rigging it. Trumpeter provides string for the cable that is too big, fuzzy, and white. The instructions are really no help in rigging the crane. I found a Web site (http://geraet040.web.infoseek. that was a big help. But no matter how I rigged the crane, the cables rubbed against the boom. The instructions have you rig the crane before adding the photoetched- metal pulley shields, but this won't work as the cables need to run through the shields. I had to leave mine off.

The vinyl tracks are very soft, flexible, and even have open guide teeth. But, like most Trumpeter kits, they're too long. I removed one link and that helped quite a bit. If you opt for the plastic link track, you will need to glue the links together for assembly. I test-fitted a short length and they fit well. If you choose to install the tools from the P and N sprues (they have better latch moldings), be aware that they do not always fit the holes in the fenders.

It took me about 27 hours to build my munitionsschlepper. A quick measure of the basic chassis closely matched the dimensions in the Standard Catalog of German Military Vehicles by David Doyle. The kit is a good value, especially considering all the photoetched metal, but if bending metal isn't your thing, only about a dozen of those pieces are really needed to build the kit. Trumpeter has done a good job on this unusual vehicle, and I look forward to more kits by them on the Panzer IV chassis.

- John Plzak


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