CONVERTING PANZER IV F to D.
The Panzer IV was the workhorse of the German army. It was the only tank to remain in front line service right throughout World War Two. It started as a support tank for firing high explosive shells in support of infantry, while the Panzer III was the main battle tank for engaging enemy tanks with armour-piercing shells. Later, the two tanks swapped roles.
The Airfix 1/76th scale kit of a Panzer IV is a good accurate kit. The version Airfix chose to make was the F. This was a fair choice, as it was a middle-period variant of the tank, and saw plenty of action in the deserts of North Africa and in Russia. However, I wanted a Panzer IV for use against my 1940 French in France. Thus was I motivated to do this conversion.
My sources of information were: German Tanks 1939-45 by Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, and John Batchelor (1975) - one of the Purnell's History of the World Wars series; Airfix magazine Guide Number 3: Military Modelling by Gerald Scarborough; and the Fuman/Bandai 1/48th scale kits of the Panzer IV D and H - including not just the kits themselves, but also details taken from the pictures on the boxes and on the instructions.
Top view showing my unpainted Panzer IV D conversion, next to a made-up-as-standard Panzer IV F2. You can see that you must carve off the grilles on the rear engine decking, leaving all the hinges and other details where they are. On the turret top, carve off the front circular air vent top. Carve some detail into the top of the barrel's base (the wide bit which houses the recoil mechanism - part number 63). This consists of a line encircling the recoil housing, two lines going back from that to the base of the barrel, and four dots either side outside of these lines. Note too that the front corners of the recoil mechanism have been cut off on the diagonal. This will show better in other pictures, perhaps.
You can also see in this shot how the later F variant had the top hatch for the hull machine gunner in the same place as the older D - slightly rearward. This means that you can leave the hatch where it is on the model. Cut back the hull front to just in front of it.
Next, you need to build a new ventilator cover for the turret top. This is a disc of plastic card with a smaller one on top of it, with a small square of plastic card, with a smaller square on top of it, placed behind it. Between this new construction and the similar little cover on the left hand side of the turret, goes a scratch-built rectangular hatch. This I made out of a simple rectangle of plastic card, with a couple of tiny rectangles for the hinges, and around the front three sides of this a square C-shaped piece cut from thicker plastic card, such that it stands taller on the turret than the hatch it surrounds. The gap between the hatch and its surround is a little too large for perfect authenticity here.
Front views of as-kit and converted Panzer IVs. Perhaps I should say now that I didn't make the F. From this angle, you can see that the bit added to the circular moulded detail on the turret top is actually quite tall. It is a bit of plastic rod with the top rounded off. Other turret detail includes that the end of the gun barrel has been drilled out; the vision port cover on the port side has been cut smaller; and a tiny rectangular hole has been cut between this and the barrel.
Part number 89 (the spare track) has had the length of track removed, but the towing brackets kept and glued on in the usual places. The locating lugs for the track section have been carved off.
The hinges and bulges (ventilator cowlings) have been carved off the two symmetrical covers either side of the front of the hull top (the final drive access panels, in case you need to know). New hinges have been made with little strips of plastic card, and two tiny discs of plastic rod have replaced the bulges, each with a dot pressed into its centre.
Part 90 (driver's visor) has been omitted and replaced with three right-angled-triangle in cross-section lengths of plastic. All three have one side of the right angle glued to the hull. The top two sections have the other half of the right angle on the lower side, and the bottom one has it on the upper. the actual width of the hole through which the driver saw was wider than the hole in the front of part 78, so this will be represented by black paint. Perhaps I should have cut a wider hole.
Part 91 (hull machine gun) is omitted. The hull has been cut back on this side. One piece of plastic card forms the new hull top, another the glacis plate further back, and another the little diagonal joining piece, which has a disc added to its centre (the cover of a vision port, I think). A new hull machine gun surround has been made out of a rectangle of plastic card with the corners rounded off, a rectangular hold cut in its centre, and four dots pressed into it at each corner. The MG itself is thin plastic rod.
The small headlamp on the starboard mudguard has been moved to the port side and replaced by a normal full sized head lamp (grey). Another headlamp has been added next to and slightly in front of the small one on the port side (green), and the covered lamp has been carved down a bit to a more realistic width, and placed on the far port side of the mudguard.
Here we see the suspensions of the converted and unconverted models. the rear idler wheel has been heavily modified. The roundness of the outer part of the wheel has been filed and carved flatter and more square in cross-section. Rectangular struts of plastic card have been added between each of the main spokes. these struts go the full width of the wheel, connecting parts 29 and 58 to parts 28 and 57.
A new centre section to the front sprocket wheel has been added, with a ring of dots to represent the nuts holding it on.
Two little circular hatches with little rectangular hinges have been made and added to the sides of the body, just behind the middle two return rollers. The Airfix model has a few slightly-raised discs moulded onto the sides of the body (parts 9 and 38) which I see nowhere on any pictures of panzer IVs, so I have carved these off. I think that they are there as part of the moulding process, rather than to represent anything on the actual vehicle. I would recommend that they be removed even if you are making the kits up as F variants. Between the rearmost two return rollers is a vertical line. I can find no source showing this, and fear that it may be a bit of spurious detail.
As the Panzer IV was upgraded during the war, it was asked to carry more and more weight. Pictures of late Panzer IVs show them sitting very low on their suspensions. You will notice that the main bogey wheels of the tank are mounted in pairs. Each pair has a lamination of leaf springs which bends under the load of the vehicle, and with each jolt as the tank goes over rough terrain. There was a danger that these leaf springs would bend too much, and to prevent this, there were "suspension stops" added. On the Airfix model, you can see two of these either side of the rearmost suspension springs, and one in front of each of the others. You need to remove all but the most forward and the most rearward.
This photograph also shows the spade in its correct storage position (later, putty straps will be added for holding it there), the little aerial mount, and the channel for holding the aerial in the down-position, which is a strip of thick plastic card, with a line scored deeply into its top surface.
The side of the turret. An entirely new hatch has been made (to replace part number 72). A thin rectangle of card has been cut out. The corners of this have been rounded off (more so at the back than the front corners), and this has formed the main part of the hatch. Little rectangles have been used to form the hinges at the front edge. In the middle, a vision port has been made out of a rectangle of thicker plastic card, left full thickness in its centre, but with the top and bottom edge cut thinner. Beneath this, is a dot put there with a spike. Above the hatch, a thin line of plastic card arches over the top. A tiny triangle forms the rear catch on the door.
At the front corner of the turret another tiny triangle represents a lifting point, and another is at the front top corner of the curved rear part of the turret.
In front of the rectangle moulded on the side of the turret is a vertical line of card the same height as that rectangle. Above this, three dots in the formation of a "therefore" symbol. Just beneath the main side hatch are three more dots pressed in with a spike.
On the rear curved surface of the turret is a small circle of plastic, cut from the end of some plastic rod. There is one dot above it, and two below. In this picture, you can see the square notch on the turret rear, which is where the rear turret bin (part number 71, omitted) of the F variant would locate. This notch will have to be filled in with putty.
This picture also shows how I have carved up the commander's cupola (part 61). I have shaved off the slight prominences around it, and carved new notches into the top half of the cupola.
On the top of the mudguard, I have glued some metal mouldings of German helmets and packs (by SHQ). These hide the holes left unfilled by the holder for the spare wheels (part number 80, omitted). Behind this, out of bent wire, I have created the step that would help men to climb onto the tank. It is usually pictured in the folded-down position, but I thought that this would be a bit delicate for a wargaming model, so I have modelled it in the up-position. Little rectangles of plastic card represent the hinges. It is glued on with super-glue.
At the far bottom right of the picture, you can see not quite the whole of a small rectangle of thick plastic card, glued onto the top of the mudguard to represent the little formation of four lights that most German military vehicles had. If the driver following the vehicle at night could see all four lights distinctly, he was too close. If he could see just two lights, he was the right distance. If he saw all four lights as a single dot, he was too far away. Strictly speaking, the box should be on a little stalk, but for strength I have glued the box straight onto the mudguard.
Here you see the aerial deflector which goes under the barrel. It is an awkward thing to have to make. It is an A-shape with an extra bit sticking forwards and another sticking back. I made it by gluing strips of plastic card to each other as they lay on the taut surface of polythene stretched over a new unopened video-tape box. Once dry, the whole construction could be lifted off the polythene with a scalpel, because nothing sticks to polythene. The function of this thing was to knock the radio aerial out of the way as the turret turned, otherwise there was a risk that the gun could blow the aerial off. With the later longer barrelled versions of the tank, this wasn't needed.
You can also see in this picture a sign of my laziness. The scored line encircling the recoil housing of the gun does not traverse the underside fully. I didn't think many people would scrutinise this bit.
The back end of the beastie. The jerry-can has been omitted and its locating lug carved off. The little light on the end of the rear left mudguard has been removed.
A towing pin has been added, as have little details, like Spock's eyebrows, on the little prominences inside of the rear wheel axles. These details are common to all Panzer variants, not just the D.
Part number 83 has been omitted. In case you are interested, this is the exhaust for the motor that drives the turret traverse. Parts 84-87 are also omitted (the main exhaust). You can see two square holes in the rear of the conversion, where the brackets for the Panzer IV F's exhaust would locate. These will be filled in with putty.
You have to make a new exhaust. It is bigger than the F variant's exhaust. The main body of it I made from some round-section sprue, with the ends rounded off with a file. The brackets holding it up are cut from hollow plastic rod. The bands surrounding it, which you see here have little green stripes on them, are cut from a drinking straw. On top of the main cylinder, is a smaller one of plastic rod, and this has a little hose connecting it to the prominence on the far left of part number 82; and a little stub of rod on its other end. The main cylinder also has a little stub of plastic rod sticking out towards its left-hand end.
This picture also shows how the struts in the rear idlers go the full width of those wheels.
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