IV Ausf. A
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
If the Tiger II and Maus can easily be considered the "maxi" extreme of WWII German armor development, the Goliath and Borgward engineer support vehicles can take their rightful place as the "mini" extreme. Both of them were the smallest armored vehicles to see service with the Wehrmacht during the war.
The Borgward company was responsible for the development of German combat engineering vehicles which were designed to provide the sappers with the ability to safely carry out tasks such as placing clearing charges from a distance without exposing themselves to enemy fire. Their first efforts, the Sd.Kfz, 302 Liechte Ladungstraeger (E-motor) (light charge carrier with electric motor) and the Sd.Kfz. 303 Liechte Ladungstraeger (V-motor (light charge carrier with gasoline engine), saw considerable service, including opposing the D-Day landings. However, both only carried relatively light charges of 75-100 kgs, and it was felt that a heavy charge carrier with a cargo capacity of 500 kgs was needed for major obstacles such as pillboxes or buildings.
After trials with a modified Pzkw. I, Borgward designed the Sd.Kfz. 301, which was a motorized chassis weighing 3.6 metric tons loaded and provided the size and range needed for performing these tasks via radio control. The little vehicle was usually just called the B IV.
616 were produced between May 1942 and June 1943, and the vehicles were used by four radio-controlled armored companies and two detachments. They performed good service at Kursk in German attempts to clear the Soviet mine fields and defensive works. A later design, the Ausf. C,, was slightly larger and more powerful with a bigger engine. The Sd.Kfz. 301 was later used by Panzerabteiling 301 (Tiger I) as a remote control charge delivery system with one Tiger directing three B IV vehicles.
Since the vehicle was motor driven like any other armored vehicle, a driver's position was provided with folding armored shields for use in less dangerous conditions, as well as self-deployment to the area of operations. Later in the war, the B IVs were adapted as makeshift weapons platforms, carrying items such as the 8.8 cm Panzerschreck and other antitank means. It was limited due to the fact it was only designed to carry one person (the driver).
DML recently released a "double kit" with a Pzkw. III controller and a B IV in their Imperial series, but now the B IV is available as a separate kit. The kit is billed as an Ausf. A, but the track provided is that which was introduced on the Ausf. B. It comes with "bits" for either version, but the instructions only provide for building one of the vehicles with the administrative driver's compartment with windshield. The armored covers (parts Z 30, 30, and 32) are included and could easily be substituted. A driver figured comes with the vehicle, as well as a simplified control compartment. This is not as big a problem as some would think, as it is smaller than the average fighter aircraft cockpit, and if the figure is used, there isn't much to see.
The model also comes with an optional charge bin which can be left open or closed, and mounted or emplaced. It should be noted these were usually filled by the engineers with charges to match the obstacle being destroyed, and do not appear to have been unitary fills like found in bombs or shells. I have not found good photos of what German charges of various types look like, so the reader is on his own to research that subject!
Four paint schemes are offered, and a tiny sheet of tactical markings is included. These cover vehicles in France 1944, Russia 1942, North Africa 1942, and Russia 1943.
The model is a gem, but one feature is sure to fire up partisan responses from modelers. The skeleton tracks are two part single link tracks which are very small and delicate. If assembled correctly the tracks work (articulate) and can be made to take an excellent sag per the photos of the real machine. But the entire vehicle is about the size of a big 1/72 or 1/76 vehicle, and the bits are TINY. Invariably, this results in lost parts and frustration by some less experienced modelers, and even annoys many who have been in the hobby for some time. The only advisement which can be offered is to work slowly and with a great deal of patience. Use of a slow acting liquid cement such as Testors will probably make achieving good results much easier than fast acting (Tenax R7 or Microweld) or ACC glues.
While it certainly can stand on its own merits, the B IV would make a great centerpiece for a diorama with either engineers or the control vehicles alongside of one. DML is to be complimented for a fantastic kit of a vehicle which, while common and well-used, is out of the mainstream of WWII armor.
Thanks to Freddie Leung of DML for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell AMPS
Review Copyright © 1999 by Cookie