German Sturmpanzer IV (Early) Sd.Kfz.166

Tristar 1:35 Scale Kit No. 35038
Review by Terry Ashley

The Sturmpanzer IV was a developed on the Panzer IV tank chassis to provide direct infantry fire support and included a fixed superstructure with the 15cm Sturmhaubitze (StuH) 43 L/12 gun which fired both high explosive and shaped charge anti-tank rounds. Thirty eight rounds with separate propellent cartridges could be carried.

Due to the high weight and recoil of the StuH 43 gun in the original design the chassis was overloaded and early vehicles suffered from transmission failures and were underpowered.

The absence of a machine gun made the early models venerable to enemy infantry to attack with the only close-in defence being MP40 sub-machine guns fired through firing ports in the side of the superstructure.

In October 1943 the superstructure as well as the StuH 43 gun was redesigned to address many of the flaws and a new and lighter version of the StuH 43 gun was produced, the StuH 43/1 L/12 with this gun being used from the second production series onwards.

A new superstructure was added in mid-1944 which featured a redesigned gun collar as well as a general reduction in height with this redesign also introduced a ball mount in the front superstructure for a MG34 machine gun with 600 rounds.

Production began in May 1943 and continued until March 1945 with a total of 298 Sturmpanzer IV built in four series with some built on new Panzer IV chassis while others were rebuilt using Panzer IV Ausf. E, F, G and Ausf. H chassis.

The Sturmpanzer IV (also known as Sturmpanzer 43) was given the nickname Brummbär ("grizzly bear") by Allied intelligence, a name which was not used by the German Army who used the acronym "Stupa" when referring to the Sturmpanzer IV.

The Kit:
Tristar have followed on from their previous Panzer IV kits with this new kit of the German Sturmpanzer IV with the kit representing one of the first 60 produced with the short barrel sleeve and Tiger I style drivers visor and is based on a remanufactured Ausf.E hull with features of the hull side 20mm armour plates and larger rear exhaust muffler. This early version which did not have Zimmerit added was first used during the Kursk battles of 1943 with later Mid and Late series deployed on most fronts including in Italy, Russia and North West Europe after the Normandy landings.

The kit consists of 640 parts in light beige plastic, 2 in clear plastic, 2 etched frets with 48 parts, a short length of steel wire and two sheets of thin schurtzen plates in a black vinyl type material. Apart from the running gear and suspension which is from the previous Panzer IV kits the remainder of the kit is new including a new lower hull tub in one piece instead of the multi-part hull tubs in the previous Panzer IV kits to make things a little easier from the start.

One thing to note with the contents, the box top says a figure is included but there is actually no figure in the box, maybe this was planned at some stage and the box top not changed when the figure was eliminated, so be aware you don't get the figure as shown on the box top illustration.

Etched parts
Clear and metal parts

Also noteworthy is the inclusion of alternate compressed front bogie springs as it has been noted in documentation the additional weight of the superstructure and gun overloaded the suspensions of the early Sturmpanzer IVs resulting in a nose down effect before the springs could be replaced. You are also provide a full set of “standard” suspension springs to use if desired and providing the compressed springs as a option is a nice touch leaving the choice to you.

Many of the sub-assemblies such as the superstructure and rear engine deck are in multiple parts which while allowing good detail definition and the option of open access panels/hatches will obviously require additional assembly time over kits with less parts breakdown.

The standard of moulding is very good overall with crisp details and the usual moulding seams to be removed as well as quite a few small plastic 'nodes' on the parts which help keep the pin marks at bay but require a little more cleanup. There is some very fine flash on a few parts and some mating surfaces will need to be smoothed out for a better fit but you could probably count those parts on one hand with majority of parts cleanly moulded plus a few instruction sheet bloopers to watch out for and I will highlight these to hopefully make assembly easier.

Dimensionally the kit matches available data very well in all respects with any discrepancies being well with acceptable tolerances although care is needed with some available plans that are incorrect such as with the Trojca references listed below.

Lower Hull:
The lower hull tub with this kit is a “standard” tub unlike the individual part hulls from the previous Tristar Panzer IV kits and this makes for an easier starting point with the tub only having underside panel and bolt details with all other parts separate. The tub itself is extremely cleanly moulded with only the faintest of mould seam lines along the top and side edges which may not even need any attention as they are so minor.

The separate long suspension channels either side of the underside will need the mating surfaces cleaned for a better fit as there is a little flash present on mine. The return roller and suspension bump stop mountings are also separate and the left side fuel filler covers are in two parts allowing these to be shown open if you wish.

The 50mm upper and 30mm lower front hull plates are separate with bolt head details included and are moulded to scale thickness for a good appearance. There are also the additional 20mm hull side armour plates and these are also moulded to scale thickness of 0.57mm which makes them quite thin for again a good scale appearance. The rear lower hull fillet is also separate but is overly thick and could do with thinning as well as the separate idler wheel axles which are best left off until adding the tracks to allow proper track tensioning.

The front tow shackle mountings are made up of 4 parts each with fine etched chain added to the shackle pin for good detail definition, when using etched chain I give the chain a few twists to give a more three dimensional appearance.

The rear plate is also separate with additional separate parts for the idler mountings, central fillet, tow shackles and separate port covers and side mounted lifting hooks.

Inside the lower hull is the raised floor with tread plate pattern included for the fighting compartment that has the two raised fillets over the fuel filler ports and the rear engine bulkhead and this is the only interior detail apart from the gun mounting added later.

Suspension/Running Gear:
The main suspension parts come from the previous Panzer IV Wheels Set (kit #35014) and subsequent Panzer IV kits and has a number of alternate parts not used with this kit but you have to be really careful as to what parts you use as the instructions show the incorrect parts in some illustrations.

The drive sprockets are in the usual two halves with nice bolt head detail around the rims on both sides of both sprockets and good spoke detail and the final drive housings also have excellent details with separate parts for the armoured covers with everything fitting together without any problems.

For the road wheels, these feature excellent rib detail on the wheels with the small weld beads around the outer rim and have the separate rubber tyres with the full sidewall embossing of “Continental” and tyre data for excellent representations of the Pz.IV wheels.

There are alternate hub caps provided but you should use those applicable for the Panzer IV Ausf.E (part #Wd2), the instructions indicate this number on the first illustration but all subsequent illustrations of the road wheels show the hub caps for the earlier Ausf.C/D. so watch this to avoid confusion.

It has been pointed out to me the road wheels tyres in the kit should be the later 90mm wide type and not the earlier 75mm wide tyres and as always I am happy to receive constructive feedback. The wheels are in fact the thinner type with the actual width difference being 15mm which in 1:35 scale is 0.43mm (1/64th inch approx.) and this can be corrected by adding a shim disc of 0.43mm (1/64th inch approx.) plastic card to the inside of the rubber tyre section as this was widened but not the wheel istself.

The idler wheels are the later rod type which is correct for this model Sturmpanzer IV and feature excellent detail included cast effect on the central hubs. There is fine moulding seams on all the rods to be removed which is a little tedious but is normal for any kit part of this type.

On the return rollers they have the hubs and tyre in the one part with the “Continental” embossing on the sidewalls along with separate mounting posts added to the hull sides.

The kit includes three types of suspension bogie mountings and you should make sure you use the correct ones for the Ausf.E as indicated in the instructions correctly as parts S-24, S-25 and these again include cast texturing on the mountings for good effect.

As mentioned above there are alternate “normal” and “compressed” bogie springs for the first two stations and you can use whichever you want depending on your preferences with the bogies assembling in the same manner whichever set of springs you use.

The instructions have the incorrect numbers for the “normal” springs which should be (L) S15 and (R) S23 and not the S3-9, S3-10 as indicated but this should become obvious as there are no parts S3-9, S3-10 to find in any case.

Assembly of the bogie units is very quick and straightforward with the spring unit being glued into the main axle mount and the appropriate end cap added, the main axle mount is then slipped into the mounting and over the larger locating pin with the smaller inner axle mounting slipped over the smaller locating pin. The outer smaller axle mount is then glued with a small dab of glue to the inner axle mount and the round bogie cap is attached and it's all done allowing the suspension to articulate after assembly if you want to animate this for a diorama setting.

The assembled bogies fit neatly to the hull sides along with the bump stops and as mentioned you should leave off the idler axle until fitting the tracks to ensure proper track tension.

The kit has individual link 40cm track that are handed and these are marked L and R on the sprues so take care not to mix the links. Detail on the links is nicely done with open guide horns and well defined cast link detail with a very small amount of flash on the links in my kit and what little there is can easily be removed with a sharp #11 blade.

This flash is mostly along the shoe edge and some in the outer recess as well as a little in the guide horns but this varies from link to link with some having virtually none and others a little more. The tooth holes and outer lightening holes are basically free of any flash so any talk these links are filled with flash is simply false.

Images of four random track links, two before cleanup and two after cleanup ,
the flash on the link (right) is not on all the links and is easy to remove where present.


Each link has two sprue attachment burs that also need removing and are designed to clip together with small pins and corresponding holes for articulated track and these went together fairly easily although they tended not to want to stay together due to the small size of the pins. It is far better to fit the links together and then glue with liquid cement to hold them together after forming around the sprockets and for the upper track sag.

The glacis has separate brake and transmission inspection hatches with the correct intakes on the brake covers and brackets for the wire tow cable and while you can show these open there is no interior unless you add you own from any of the available resin sets.

There is one issue in that there should be a bullet splash guard on the glacis in front of the driver’s visor but this is not shown in the instructions although there are parts lurking on sprue E that appear to be the guards (parts E23, E24) and there are un-opened locating holes on the glacis undersides for the guards and open locating holes in the transmission hatch. Parts E23, E24 will need the ends squared off but otherwise will be okay for the splash guards.

The fenders are full length with separate mud guards front and back with additional side sections at the front with small plastic “springs” added at the guard join. The upper tread plate pattern is quite subtle but nicely done but there is no detail on the undersides of the fenders with indentations in the lower hull tub to properly seat the fenders when attached.

Engine Deck:
This is quite an elaborate multi-part assembly which does seem a little busy with the upper deck having cut-outs for the engine access doors and additional separate parts for the deck sides, intake louvers and rear plate as well as the doors with separate louvers.

Fitting the two side deck panels (parts D-1, D-2) to the upper deck saw some fit issues as I had to trim the undersides of the side deck panels and remove the locating lugs on the upper deck to allow these to align flush with the main deck as they should do.

The rear panel then fitted neatly in place without any problems as did the two part intake louvers either side. But note the part numbers are transposed in the instructions and part A-7 should be A-10, A-8 should be A-9 and conversely part A-9 should be A-8 and A-10 should be A-7 but once you sort this out they go together okay. You should ensure the louvers are fitted even with the bottom of the rear plate and some minor trimming may be needed to achieve this fit properly but test fitting will determine this.

The two doors have louvers included with additional inner louver panels to give the overlap of the louvers as they should be as well as the coolant access cover being in two separate parts along with separate locks and grab handle on the right door and you can easily show the doors open if you wished to add a resin interior.

There was a problem fitting the doors closed as they tended not to sit flush with the engine deck and some trimming of the inside sills was needed to get a flush fit with the assembled engine deck fitting to the rear hull without out any issues and the central locating strip/filler was added between the upper and lower rear hull panels.

Added to the rear plate is the 4 part exhaust muffler with the main muffler moulded in one piece with just the moulding seams to be removed and this has separate end plates and mounting brackets but there are a couple of small sink marks on the underside exhaust pipes leading into the muffler that should be easy to fill.

Another thing to watch with the muffler is the instructions shows to fit the upper exhaust pipe outlet (part D-29) facing inboard (to the right) but most photos have this facing outboard (to the left) but as the pipe is a separate part you can simply glue this facing outboard.

15cm Sturmhaubitze (StuH) 43 L/12 Gun:
The full gun breech and inner mountings are provided with the barrel in three parts that are moulded as single pieces with just the moulding seams to be removed resulting in cleaner finishes than if in two halves. The outer barrel section has the inner barrel sleeve that includes fine rifling although this is not that easy to see as the rifling starts further inside the barrel and not at the end like on many artillery pieces.

The breech and breech block are in 7 parts and after assembly there are some joins around the breech that have to be eliminated but the fit of the parts was quite good leaving just small seams to be removed.

Adding the lower gun trunnions saw a few fit issues and I had to trim the central mounting (part F-34) a little to get a good fit to the lower breech but nothing dramatic and the two side gun mountings have additional parts added that are quite small and will need care during cleanup and fitting.

The multi-part rod guard rails have fine moulding seams to be removed but fit together okay if a little tricky to get them all lined up okay and while attaching to the gun breech but with care all went together okay.

Additional parts for the gun mounting are the main sights with one part in clear plastic, the hand wheel and gunner’s seat for a fairly complete assembly but the fit of some of these parts was a little vague especially the seat which is a bit of a mystery where it actually goes as there are no locating points and the instructions are not that clear. The main sight mounting will also test your patience in getting in the right position as the instructions are again not that clear where it should go with two illustrations showing it in different positions and the actual sight has to protrude through the top hatch opening and so must be lined up correctly for this.

The assembled barrel fits through the large round gun mantlet and is offset correctly as it should be but there was a minor gap at the bottom of the barrel that should be able easy to remedy with liquid cement and the there is also a weld seam around the opening in the mantlet so don’t be tempted to remove this thinking it is flash or excess plastic.

To mount the gun assembly inside the hull there is a full mounting platform made up of six parts that go together okay and fits inside the lower hull without any problems with the gun mantlet fitting through the outer gun collar on the superstructure.

The large superstructure is another multi-part assembly made up of 8 main parts for the front, sides, rear and top plates with additional parts for the hatches, driver’s visor rear wall details.

The front plate is in two halves to allow detail to be included on both sides and includes the large plate join cut-outs on the side and the driver’s visor made up of an inner clear plastic part with etched hand wheel attached and four outer visor parts that have subtle cast texturing included. These all fit together without problems and are added to the front plate either before or after assembling the full superstructure.

Adding the two angled side plates sees a very good fit into the front plate join fillets with subtle flame cut effect that matches photos well with nice panel weld seams but these seem a little underdone when compared to photos and some may elect to enhance these further?

I found it easier to attach the two larger side panels to the rear plate before attaching to the smaller angled side panels as this is just a butt join without any locating lugs or pins and the resulting join while good is devoid of weld texturing and you will have to add this yourself using you preferred method for adding weld seams.

While the glue on the superstructure sides is still tacky you should add the inner top panel bracket (part C-4) and this clicked very snugly into place without any problems but check it sits flush with the top of the side panels or the roof will sit a little too high.

Overall the fit of the superstructure parts was very good without any trimming required providing you use due care when aligning the parts with the roof panel just sitting on top of the side panels but I did cut off the two small roof locating pins to make fitting easier. There is a little overhand of the roof plate at the front corners and marginally at the back but this is normal for the first series roof panels and you should not try and trim the roof level with the side panels.

Additional details added to the superstructure include the two side pistol port plugs which are separate parts with fine etched securing chain and etched brackets on the inside of the panels plus the large armoured intakes on the rear wall that have etched lower screens added. With the larger armoured ‘box” added to the rear wall this has a little ‘play’ when attached and it would be better to leave this off until you have attached the superstructure and engine deck to the lower hull top ensure proper alignment with both.

The roof and rear superstructure hatches are free of inner pin marks and have separate small grab handles and latches and separate pistol port plug on the rear door and again care will be needed when removing these from the sprues and in fitting. The hatches can be mounted open or closed as you wish to show off the inner gun mounting details and the assembled superstructure fits neatly to the lower hull/fenders without any problems. There are additional etched join fillets for between the superstructure and engine deck which you obviously don’t fit until everything else is in place.

Additional details:
Added to the fenders are the Bosch head light in 4 parts, the jack block and a quite detailed jack made up of 11 parts and this has the main body in two halves with the central ‘leg’ having racket groves included and you can assemble this fully retracted or extended along with the two end plates separate. Added to this are two small grab handles and two part handle winder as well as very finely moulded attachment clips for one of the best detailed vehicle jacks yet included in a kit.

The large wrench added to the rear engine deck sides has etched tool clips and the fender mounted fold up step is in three finely moulded parts and you can attach this step raised or lowered as you wish.

The large storage box mounted on the right rear of the engine deck has the embossed X correctly but the two outer hinges appear to be slightly too far outboard when comparing to available box photos but this is easy to fix if you think it an issue?

The separate side schurtzen panels are provided in very thin die cut plastic/vinyl type material that is flexible yet holds it shape well although adding battle damage may be a problem if you wanted to do this; the panels are also to a scale thickness being about 0.15mm thick with the real schurtzen panels being 5mm thick.

There are attached to the hull sides by way of etched mounting brackets and you are provided with a plastic jig for bending the etched brackets to shape ensuring all are the same size and shape, a nice touch.

The long mounting strip added to the brackets is in quite thin plastic with the plate ‘hooks’ also small plastic parts that will need care removing from the sprues and the schurtzen just hang on these hooks like the real panels for a realistic appearance and as each side has the five separate panels you can easily remove one or two for a different look if desired.

Added to the rear hull plate is the racks for the two spare road wheels using the same multi-part wheels as the main road wheels for good detail definition and the crank is added to the rear plate with the aid of etched clips and finally the wire cable provided is added to the plastic end shackles and positioned on the glacis inside the fine plastic clips provided.

These are the usual exploded view type with good clear illustrations that are easy to follow but note the few bloopers mentioned above that you may want to update before commencing.

Overall there were no problems following the sequences but as usual you should study these carefully to avoid any problems along the way.

The small decal sheet is well printed and gives you markings for 4 vehicles although only 3 are illustrated on the instruction painting guide.

There are all from Abt.216 at the time of the Kursk battles in 1943 with the choice of vehicle numbers and three balkenkreuz.


Overall this is very nicely done kit of the early series 1 Sturmpanzer IV and captures the early features well and the new one piece hull tub removes any issues with this as with previous Pz.IV kits with only a few parts exhibiting any flash which is easy to remove.

The multi-part superstructure and engine decks will require additional assembly obviously but the overall fit was very good apart from the engine deck issues outlined above. The fit of the major components of lower hull, fenders, superstructure and engine deck was also very good not requiring and trimming although there is scope for problems if you are not careful with the multi-part assemblies as mentioned.

There are few minor fit issues with some smaller parts that is quite easy to deal with and some weld seams will need to be added on the superstructure but the full gun mounting is impressive even you can’t see much of it unless you leave all the roof hatches open.

The suspension bogies are a standout feature with superb details and the option of standard or compressed front springs add to the overall effect if you wish to add this?

Overall an accurate and well detailed kit that will require some basic modelling skills to get the best result.

Highly recommended 8/10

For another opinion on the kit see the review by Paul Owen on Track Link.

Also see the Panzer IV subject page for addition kit and accessory set reviews

The Sprues:

Click on thumbnails for larger view
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Detail Images
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-s.Pak to Sturmmoerser

Panzer Tracts No.8
Ground Power Magazine
#059 - 4/1999

GALILEO Publishing Co.,Ltd
Jagdpanther & Brummbar

Achtung Panzer No.4
Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär
Sd.Kfz.166 Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär
Sturmtiger & Sturmpanzer in Combat

Thanks to Tristar Models for the review kit.

Page created June 26, 2008