Welcome to part 2 of the detailed build report of Dragon’s Panzer IV Ausf.F2 (G) ‘Smart Kit’.
Part 1 covered the building of the lower hull and suspension including the troublesome exhaust system. Part 3 covers the turret. This article describes the build of the upper hull and superstructure.
Step 4:Front Hull Roof
Time for this stage 3.5 hours (cumulative 16.5 hours)
At the extreme front of the tank between the drive sprockets is a section of roof that supports seven spare track links. This section of roof has two hatches and on each hatch is an air intake all of which fitted perfectly. The fit of the roof section to the tank was also spot on, although I did need to rework the front weld seem a little with poly-goop to hide the join line.
It was the spare track links that caused a few problems. Three of these links are special parts on a sprue and the remaining four are bog standard links from the bag of Magic Tracks. Unfortunately, I cut the three links from the sprue without noting their numbers which was a mistake because each one is slightly different and it took a while to figure out the exact position along the row of seven tracks where each one went.
The row of spare tracks are held in place by tiny brackets at each end of the row and in the middle. Dragon provide the parts for these in both styrene and brass photo-etch. The styrene parts are quite good but the brass parts are a better scale thickness so I used those. The difficulty was that these parts were minute and each one had to be bent 90 degrees and then glued to both the tracks and the hull roof with almost no contact surface for the adhesive. It was nothing short of a miracle that this was achieved without one of these parts shooting out of the tweezers and being lost forever.
At the one end of the row I drilled out the tracks and inserted a thin brass rod to represent a track pin and this held the two end brackets in place until I could fix them to the hull roof with cyano glue. For the other four brackets there was no alternative but to hold them in place one at a time and place tiny amounts of cyano at the contact points, holding them until the cyano took hold. I then used a OOOO size brush to lay a thin bead of poly-goop along each bracket where it touched the hull roof to represent a weld bead and also give extra strength. There was a lot of work for such a small area, but it is a very prominent feature on the tank.
Step 5:Fenders / Bulkhead
Time for this stage 3.5 hours (cumulative 20 hours)
I am not sure why this stage took so long, because it was really no problem and I suspect I may have become side tracked on test fitting later stages or something similar.
The fenders on each side of the tank are wonderfully cast with detail on both the upper and lower surfaces. At each end of each fender there are separate mudguards which can be positioned in the up position for diorama purposes if required.
Fitting these mudguards, including the tiny springs was a little fiddly, but no great problem. Ideally the mudguards should have been brass photo-etch to allow them to be scale thickness, but this is one of the compromises of a Smart Kit. Dragon have thinned out the edges of the mudguards to make them appear nearer to scale thickness, but they still seemed a little too thick to me so I spent some time shaving them away with a knife to make the edges wafer thin.
After the fenders had been fixed to the lower hull a large bulkhead is inserted that separates the fighting compartment from the engine bay. This slipped in so perfectly that I questioned the need to add any glue.
Time for this stage 10 hours (cumulative 30 hours)
This is where the build started to get very interesting.
Glacis plate, left and right hull sides
The front glacis plate contains the hull machine gun in a ball mount and the driver’s vision port.
The hull machine gun is a model in itself made up of eleven parts with the end of the muzzle already hollowed out. The ball mount can be made to move like the real thing, although I fixed it in place with glue. I suspected (correctly) that very little of the machine gun would be visible on the finished model, but made it up anyway for fun.
The same can be said for the driver’s vision port and the left and right hull side vision ports. All of these are provided in clear plastic with their internal supports and handles which are hidden from view inside the hull – never mind – I know that they are there. The left and right vision ports can be fixed so that they open and close. However, I found it difficult to get them to close properly, so glued them in the closed position. A few tools and other items were attached to the hull sides.
Fixing the superstructure
On the instructions, all of the superstructure is fixed in place at the same time which is a little scary. This includes the glacis plate, left and right hull sides, rear bulkhead and the main hull roof and engine deck.
I spent a lot of time with dry test fitting. This was to make sure that everything would fit together before any glue was applied, but it also allowed me to work out the best order to tackle this step. I found that the first stage was to fix the rear bulkhead and air intakes to the roof and then glue the roof to the lower hull. This provided a stable construction before the rest of the parts were added. It would have been very helpful if Dragon had shown this as two steps on the instructions.
The glacis and left and right hull sides were then added by holding them in place and then applying liquid poly cement with a tiny brush so that capillary action drew the cement into the join. By waiting a few seconds after applying the cement and then pressing the parts together a perfect fit was obtained without the need for filler.
Considering the complexity of the superstructure and the number of parts, it all went together remarkably well. I found that the locating ridges on hull sides were a tiny bit too long for the opening they fitted in, but the dry fitting had allowed my to reduce these so that when the time came to apply the glue they were a perfect fit.
It only remained to add the air intake vents plus the driver’s and gunner’s hatches and step 11 of the 18 steps on the instructions was completed.
It was tempting to leave the gunner’s hatch open so the machine gun could be viewed, but this would have also made the empty interior visible so I decided against this.
The main structure of the hull was now complete and it was time to move on to the tools and other details attached to the hull.
Step 7:Tools and Hull Details
Time for this stage 4 hours (cumulative 34 hours)
Four hours might seem a long time to add a few tools. However, the German Army never wanted to be caught out short of a tool and for some reason kept all of their tools attached to the outside of their vehicles. That makes for a lot of tools. A pity that nobody thought to buy a tool box.
Some modellers prefer to attach vehicle stowage before painting and some after. I do not have any hard and fast rule and make a decision with each object after answering the following questions:
- How easy will it be to hold and paint the object separately?
- How difficult will it be to get at the object when it is attached to the vehicle?
- How much more difficult will it be to paint the vehicle with the objects/tools attached?
I systematically worked my way around the circumference of the hull and about half the tools were attached at this stage. Where possible, those detail items that were not glued to the hull were attached to a piece of sprue or wire to make them easier to hold when painting them. Most of the tools and other detail parts are excellent quality, but the blade of the shovel was very thick and so was thinned by scraping with knife.
The jack is a model in itself made up of seven parts and can be made up extended or retracted giving it diorama potential.
It was at this stage that most of the photo-etch brass items came into play.
Every photo-etch part had a styrene equivalent, so it was a matter of choosing whether the photo-etch would be sufficiently better than the styrene part to make it worth the trouble of using it. In fact with the exception of the tiny rear light, I used the photo-etched parts in every case.
The one photo-etch part that caused a real problem was a bracket on the front right fender. It was difficult enough to bend into shape, but fitting it involved shaving off several plastic bolts from the hull and gluing them back individually after the brass part was fitted.
On the rear bulkhead of the tank are two cable holders made from styrene. These are very fragile and I broke one handling the tank so decided to replace both with brass wire which took no time at all.
In the end I counted 32 separate items that had to be attached to the hull not including the jack and spare track links.
So, after thirty four hours of work the hull is complete. One thing is clear – a Smart kit is neither a simple kit nor a quick kit. There may be fewer metal parts than with some Dragon kits and there is some simplification such as molded on tool clasps, but nevertheless this still represents a detailed and complex model kit.
Having completed the hull it is now time to move on to the turret, main gun and Dragon’s famous ‘Magic Tracks’. These are covered in Part 3 of this series.