Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) In-Box Review and History

Introduction

I thoroughly enjoyed building a couple of Tamiya 1/35 kits from the 60s and 70s (The Panzer II and M41 Walker Bulldog, as you ask…). So, when I saw another Tamiya kit from the 70s in the Special Offer section of a kit vendor’s website, I didn’t hesitate. What I liked about those other kits was their relative simplicity, as well as the fact that despite being fifty plus years old, they still fit perfectly together to make a reasonable representation of the original.  

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I don’t much care for lots of tiny parts or a pile of PE. Not only is my eyesight a whole lot worse than it was when I first built kits in the late 1960s, my fingers seem to have got clumsier too and I seem to spend more time than productive on my hands and knees trying to find tiny parts that I have dropped. That’s one of the reasons these old kit appeal to me, but of course there’s a downside in that they’re just not as detailed as some more recent kits.

The mould date on this kit is 1975, which makes it one of the earlier vehicles in the Military Miniatures series. Unsurprisingly, it shares the lower hull, suspension, running gear, Schurzen side armour and tracks from the Tamiya Panzer IV Ausf. H (35054) released in 1975. Like most other Tamiya kits of this period, it was originally produced as a motorised kit and you’ll find holes for switches and mounting places for batteries in the lower hull.  As ever here in Model Kit World, the question is: does this forty-five-year-old kit deserve your attention and your hard-earned cash?

History

The Sturmgeschütz (StuG) IV came about, like many other things in the chaos of wartime Nazi Germany, by accident and at the whim of Adolf Hitler. By early 1943, the value of the StuG III as an anti-tank weapon was very obvious and production of that vehicle increased until it outstripped that of most other German AFVs. However, the continuation of intense fighting on the Eastern Front and the Allied landings in North Africa meant that more still were needed. Krupp, manufacturers of the Panzer IV, submitted a design for a new StuG using modified superstructure from a StuG III Ausf. F mounted on a Panzer IV chassis in February 1943, but this was rejected. The StuG III was considered perfectly adequate and Krupp were directed instead to concentrate on development of the planned Panzerjäger IV, another assault gun that would be equipped with the same 7.5 cm L/70 main gun used on the Panther tank.

A Panzerjäger IV. A fine anti-tank weapon, but relatively few were built due to shortages of the L/70 gun.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

However, a shortage of the 7.5 cm L/70 guns delayed production of the Panzerjäger IV and in November 1943 an Allied bombing raid on Berlin severely damaged the Altmärkische Kettenwerk (Alkett) works where the StuG III was produced. At a conference in early December, Hitler agreed that a proposal from Krupp for creating a new assault gun by combining the superstructure of the StuG III Ausf. G with the chassis of the Panzer IV should go ahead immediately.

A StuG IV draped with lots of spare track links in Ebling, East Prussia in February 1945.

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

Production of the StuG IV ran from December 1943 to March 1945 and totalled a little over eleven hundred vehicles. All were armed with the same 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 seen on the StuG III in a “Saukopf” (pig snout) mantlet and most were fitted with Schurzen side armour to protect against attack by hollow-charge projectiles and a rough, zimmerit anti-magnetic coating. By this stage of the war, most Sturmgeschütz (Assault Guns) were being as much used for their ability as tank-killers as for their original purpose of providing mobile fire support to infantry units.  No co-axial machine gun was fitted on the StuG IV but an MG34 on a shielded mount was provided on the upper hull. The StuG IV served on the Eastern front, in Italy and in Western Europe following the Allied landings in Normandy and it proved just as effective as the StuG III in the tank-killing role.

A StuG IV and crew

Image: Bundesarchiv via WikiMedia Commons

All German AFVs in World War Two were given an inventory number by the ordinance department. However and oddly, the StuG IV seems to have had two different numbers. This vehicle was classified as a Sonderkraftfahrzeug (Special Purpose Vehicle, usually abbreviated as Sd.Kfz.) and it appears on some versions of the ordinance department designation lists twice, as Sd.Kfz. 163, “Sturmgeschütz IV” and as Sd.Kfz. 167, “Sturmgeschütz IV mit 7,5 cm StuK 40”. I don’t really understand that as all StuG IVs were fitted with the same main gun but it probably explains why this kit is designated as “Sd.Kfz. 163” while almost all other StuG IV kits are shown as “Sd.Kfz. 167.” I suspect that Tamiya may have got it wrong here and the most common designation for this vehicle in Wermacht service seems to have been Sd.Kfz. 167.

What’s in the Box?

This box contains four sprues moulded in light brown plastic, the lower hull, two rubber-band style tracks, a set of soft plastic polycap retainers for the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets, a set of decals and the instructions.

The parts seem crisply moulded with good surface detail. A single figure in appropriate uniform is provided as well as Schurzen side armour and optional concrete block additional armour for the left and right sides of the hull front. No zimmerit finish is modelled.

Decals are provided for several units including 2nd Panzer Division, 9th Panzer Division, 116th Panzer Division and the Panzer-Lehr Division as well as three different Assault Gun Brigades. That covers vehicles serving on the Eastern Front and in Normandy, Belgium and Germany following the Allied landings. You can make up your own three-digit identification number because you are provided with several numerals in red with white outlines and a set of “kill” markings for the barrel are also included. The decal sheet actually references a different Tamiya kit – it’s from the Jagdpanzer IV kit (35088). But that kit doesn’t include side identification numbers, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here.  

The suggested colour scheme is overall “dark yellow” which sounds right as all German tanks after February 1943 were finished in overall dunkelgelb. The instructions also correctly note that in the field, tanks were often camouflaged with brown (rotbraun) and green (olivgrün) paint applied either by brush or by spraying.

There are a total of well over 200 parts here, and detail generally looks good though there is a complete lack of any items representing stowage on the rear hull.

The flexible vinyl tracks have reasonable detail on the external surfaces but rather less on the inside – presumably this is a legacy from this kit’s motorised origin.

The instructions are the usual Tamiya fare and are generally clear with good, three-dimensional views of all steps of construction. The text is somewhat clumsy in terms of English usage, but there is nothing here that should cause any major problems. The instructions also provide a some very brief history of the StuG III and IV.

Would You Want One?

A quick look at the parts in the box suggests that this shares many good things with other early Tamiya kits: there aren’t too many tiny parts, what there is looks crisply moulded with decent surface detail and, going on my previous experience of similar kits, I’d expect everything to fit together nicely.

The lack of stowage bins and items for the rear hull is a little disappointing, but crafting these from scratch or the spares box shouldn’t be beyond the capacity of most modellers. The lack of a zimmerit finish is also notable as many, perhaps most, StuG IVs, carried this distinctive, wrinkled finish.

There are a number of alternatives if you fancy a kit of the StuG IV in 1/35 but you want something a little more modern and with additional detail. Dragon do a very nice early production StuG IV which is available both with and without zimmerit finish. Smart-Kit versions of this kit feature individual link tracks, PE parts in brass and nickel and a part-count of over nine hundred! Academy released a new-tool version of the StuG IV kit in 2018 to replace a previous version from 1986. This is another very nice kit featuring high detail, some slide-moulded parts and detailed vinyl tracks.

The thing is, this Tamiya kit, like many of the other early kits from the Military Miniatures series, is available for considerably less cash than either of those others. Does that matter? Well, the price isn’t a deal-breaker for most of us I guess, but this is available at somewhere between half and one third of the price of the others. I like that and I’m sure that this old kit can be turned into something decent. I’m really looking forward to this build!

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) Build Review

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