Kit Preview : 1/76 Fujimi ex Nitto Panzer IV J
About the manufacturer
Fujimi is the only remaining active major 1/76 plastic injection molded kit manufacturer. They took on the Nitto range about a decade ago and have been re releasing their catalog gradually. Their latest kits include link and length hard plastic tracks. Be sure to check if the kit you are buying has the old rubbery tracks or the new ones. Just a hint: the cheaper ones have the vinyl tracks.
Henk of Holland has a very useful list of all the serial numbers of Fujimi and Nitto kits.
About the vehicle
The Panzer IV J is the last version of the Panzer IV. The main improvement, if it can be called an improvement, was the removal of the electrical turret traverse mechanism in favor of an additional fuel tank. Visible changes during the production run include the elimination of vision slits and pistol ports from the turret rear and side doors, a thicker turret roof and the addition of a close-support bomb thrower, new vertical exhaust mufflers, wire mesh hull skirts, and all steel road wheels. Later models had only 3 return rollers. 1758 were produced between June 1944 and March 1945. They were used in the final battles of the war from late 44 to the end. Given the production dates, I think they were too late for Normandy. Use the H version for that battle.
The Wikipedia entry on the Panzer IV is a good place to start if you want to learn more.
About the kit
This is a typical Fujimi tank kit. The track/wheel assembly is one piece with the guide teeth backed by a continuous strip of metal. I find this to be acceptable as it is hardly seen behind a dark wash. The idler wheels are molded solid and will need drilling out. The sprocket wheels need to be glued on. Contrary to the Fujimi Panzer III kits, there is molded suspension detail on the hull.
The kit looks dimensionally correct, as least as far as the hull is concerned. The only issue is that the sides extend too far out (red rectangle on picture #5). The giveaway is that the spare wheel holder only holds single wheels. The sides and parts 70 and 71 (hull side front on both sides) need 1/2mm removed and the wheel carrier extended in depth by the same amount (using plastic strip).
The side skirts are supposed to be mesh skirts, given the criss-cross motif. This is probably the weakest part of the kit. Either use as is, cut off the mountings and pretend the tank lost its skirts in combat, scratchbuild new ones or invest in the Part photo etch set. The Part set includes wire turret skirts, of which I have found no historical evidence.
The turret is a problem. The panels with the side doors are too short and the shortfall in length is 2 mm. It is best replaced with a spare. I will use the one from an extra Airfix Panzer IV F kit. The vision slits on the sides will have to be removed. The doors, cupola, gun and mantlet can be adapted from the Fujimi kit.
The turret side skirts are too thick. They will have to be thinned down. After checking the fit with a built Airfix turret I think the fit will be OK. The mountings are too thick and are best replaced with plastic strip. Hopefully they will be strong enough to hold the weight of the skirt. One idea is to only replace the visible upper part of the mountings.
There is something wrong with the hull hatches. They are too close to each other. It looks like they are too far forward, which causes the problem as the hull is narrower. The picture shows the MMS Panzer IV G, Fujimi J and Airfix F. I have a spare Airfix kit and will probably use the J specific bits on it (exhaust, late wheels, longer gun). If you don't mind the closed hatches, the level of detail is comparable. The jacks are uniformly ghastly.
Overall a very nice kit. It exceeded my expectations as it had no scale issues (apart from the turret). I do appreciate those thin skirt mountings as most resin/metal models have solid mountings for their late turret. This is why I passed on the MMS Panzer IV H. Milicast has a nice representation but since their Panzer IV E was woefully undersize, it casts a doubt on their entire range of Panzer IVs.