by: Bruce Worrall [ ]
Following the fall of France in 1940, German planners were tasked with developing options for an amphibious invasion of Britain, codenamed Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion). One initiative that sprung from this challenge was the “Tauchpanzer,” or diving tank. Intended to be driven off invasion craft off the coast of Britain, Tauchpanzers would drive along the bottom of the Channel floor, sealed against water infiltration and brining in air for the crew and engine through a long hose that would float on the surface.
Although Operation Sea Lion was cancelled, the German panzer arm adapted in-service Tauchpanzers to deep-wading tanks in preparation for Unternehmen (Operation) Barbarossa , the German invasion of Russia in 1941. On June 22, 1941 Tauchpanzers of 18 Panzer Division crossed the Bug River northwest of Brest, Poland, and overwhelmed the Soviet 14th Mechanized Corp, proving the value of deep-wading armour in offensive operations.
After it acquired Tristar’s moulds in 2015, Hobby Boss wasted no time re-releasing some of their iconic WW2 tank kits, including the B, C, and D variants of the Panzerkampfwagen IV. The only early-war Tristar Pz IV kit that Hobby Boss has chosen not to re-release (so far anyway) is the original 2005 Pz IV (Tristar 35015), however this decision makes sense, as Hobby Boss 80132 allows the builder to construct a “normal” Pz. IV D or a Pz. IV D Tauchpanzer.
In fact, the kit allows to you build one of four different Pz. IV D variants – a regular Ausf. D, plus three versions of the Tauchpanzer – unprepared for wading (which the instructions refer to as “Transmission), preparing to submerge, or ready to submerge. This gives the builder a lot of options to portray a Tauchpanzer in various scenarios, including its natural habitat – wading across a river.
The kit is packaged in a very sturdy corrugated-cardboard box, a nice change from the traditional thin cardboard boxes of most kits. Evidently Hobby Boss purchased more than just Tristar’s moulds, as the striking illustration of a Tauchpanzer emerging from a river on the cover is identical to the one found on the older Tristar version of the kit. Without looking at the Hobby Boss logo at the top corner, you could easily mistake this kit for the Tristar one.
The box sides feature a brief description of the Tauchpanzer’s origins and an illustration of the tank’s profile on one side, and images of the kit’s decal sheet and photo-etch sheets, and box-tops art from two other Hobby Boss Pz. IVs on the other.
The fairly large box is bursting with plastic, containing no less than 39 separate sprue trees, although many of these are extremely small as we shall see. Sprues include:
A: Normal Ausf. D main superstructure upper, sides, and rear, plus engine hatches, hull sides and rear for all variants.
B: Normal Ausf. D turret front , plus turret bottom, gun, gun breech, and turret interior for all variants.
C: Normal Ausf. D muffler, plus hatches, mud flaps, smoke candle rack, and various hull and superstructure add-ons for all variants.
D: Antenna, antenna cradle, jack, jack, block, tools, and many smaller pieces for the superstructure.
E1: Internal bulkheads to support the hull sides during assem Normal Ausf. D ply.
E2, E3, E4, and E5 (x5): Four small connected sprues containing extremely small detail parts like individual bolt heads for the final drives and wing nuts for the tool clamps.
E6, E7, and E8 (x2): Three small connected sprues containing detail parts like handles, visors, and turret basket supports.
F: Lower hull.
H: Turret shell.
I: Tauchpanzer-specific parts, including alternate superstructure upper and front, turret front, air intake covers, waterproof seals and exhausts, and waterproofed mantlet. The kit does not include an optional part to portray a waterproofed commander’s cupola.
SG (x3): Three sprues of 36cm Pz. III/IV individual-link tracks.
S, S4: Two connected sprues containing the final drives, bogie assemblies, and springs.
S2 (x2): Drive sprockets and idlers.
W (x4) Inner road wheels and rubber tires for all road wheels.
Wb (x4) Outer road wheels and hubcaps.
Wc (x4): Return rollers.
GP1 (Clear): Headlights.
GP2 (Clear): Vision blocks.
PE: Photo-etch parts, including air intake covers, tools clasps and handles, and smoke candle chains.
Decal Sheets (x2): Decals for five options shown on the instruction sheet, plus a second decal sheet with markings for a Pz. IV Ausf. D not shown in the instructions.
The plastic mouldings are extremely sharp, with crisp edges, smooth surfaces, beautiful rivet and countersunk screw detail, and virtually no flash. Ejector pins marks are hidden on the reverse side of large parts (although purists may choose to fill the pin marks on the undersides of the fenders), and the kit’s fine filigree parts are sharp enough to render after-market photoetch upgrades unnecessary for all but the pickiest modeler. The tools lack moulded-on handles, but the included photo-etch sheet includes handles and some optional clamp pieces if you choose to use them over the included plastic clamps.
The instruction sheet is clearly-printed with high-quality isometric line drawings of each step. The builder will have to study the instructions carefully however, as alternate steps to build the four possible versions of the kits are not always obvious.
Step 1 illustrates the assembly of the road wheels, bogies, final drives, idlers and drive sprockets. Tristar kits were famous (or perhaps infamous) for the complexity of their suspensions (they sold separate suspension upgrade sets for less-detailed kits using the parts included in this kit), and the intermediate or advanced modeler will appreciate the four-part bogie and three-part leaf spring assemblies, along with the separately-moulded rubber tires for those who want to have crisply-painted wheels or build a burned-out tank.
Eyes will be strained and the carpet monster well-fed, as the bolts on the armoured final drive covers need to be cut from a separate sprue and glued on individually. The instructions call for a choice of three different bogie mounting caps (left/right part pairs S 9/10, S 16/17, and S 18/19), but give no explanation as to which option is suitable for a Pz IV D. This is likely a holdover form the use of this sprue on Tristar’s Pz IV suspension upgrade kits, but the instructions offer no help. A question posted to my favourite Pz. IV Facebook group netted the answer – while caps were used indiscriminately on different Pz. IV variants, parts S 18 and S 19 are most-suitable for a Pz. IV Ausf. D.
Step 2 includes the assembly of the four-part hull tub and attachment of the bump-stops for the bogie springs. Two internal bulkheads ensure that the hull goes together squarely. Step 3 adds detail to the bottom and read of the hull, while Step 4 includes attaching the bogies, idlers, and drive sprockets.
The side armour, mud flaps, and driver’s vision port are attached to the main superstructure in Step 5, and this is the first time that the modeler has to choose between a Tauch or non-Tauch Pz. IV D, as the upper superstructure differs. Steps 6 to 8 direct the adding of the superstructure hatches, tow points, and front superstructure armour (again, either Tauch or non-Tauch versions). The individual-link tracks are assembled, and the superstructure is attached to the hull in step 9.
Step 10 includes option of regular muffler or small Tauch exhaust pipes, along with the rest of the rear-hull detail. The gun and breech are assembled in Step 11, and the appropriate version of the turret front selected, including an option for a waterproof mantlet and capped 75mm gun. The rest of the turret is assembled in Step 12 before moving on to Step 14 – almost two pages of instructions on assembling the tools, adding optional PE clamp parts and handles, and attaching the tools to the fenders.
The instructions showing the addition of the antenna and its cradle to the right side of the superstructure are particularly confusing. The words “Not Include” (sic) appear above the image of the cradle being attached to its support brackets, but the cradle (part D 24) appears below in the same image, so this does not look like it will be an issue. The build ends with the attaching of the tow cable and smoke candle rack to the read superstructure in Step 15.
Painting and Decals
All vehicles portrayed by this kit are panzer grey. The instructions provide five marking options:
1. Pz. IV Ausf. D, no turret number, 2 Panzer Division, Semols, 1940
2. Tauchpanzer, turret number 933, Pz. Rgt. 18, Russia, 1941 (there are photos of this tank after it was captured by the Russians)
3. Tauchpanzer, turret number 342, Pz. Rgt. 18, Russia, 1941
4. Tauchpanzer, turret number 231, Pz. Rgt. 18, Germany, 1940
5. Tauchpanzer, no turret number, unidentified unit, undated
A second decal sheet offers another non-Tauch Pz. IV D option not shown on the instruction sheet: turret number 321 of 7 Panzer Division, France 1940. A quick Internet search reveals some interesting diorama possibilities for this marking option, including pictures of the tank being inspected by General Rommel, and several pictures of an incident where it threw a track and slid down an embankment.
This kit is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. The high quality of the moulding and attention to detail make it look like a great kit for Pz. IV enthusiasts, while the option of portraying it as a Tauchpanzer presents a lot of interesting diorama opportunities. The care needed to interpret the instructions and the intricacy of some portions of the build (especially the suspension) make this a kit suited for intermediate or advanced modelers. Beginners wanting to tackle a Pz. IV would have a much more enjoyable experience building one of Tamiya’s superbly-engineered, albeit less-detailed, Pz. IV kits.