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Mike

German Medium Tank Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.A late (TS-035) 1:35

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German Medium Tank Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.A late (TS-035)

1:35 Meng Model

 

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The Panther was Nazi Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarosa.  Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of the sloped armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger.  It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV.  It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled by the British 17-pounder fitted to the Sherman to make the Firefly.  The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak, and this area became the preferred target of engaging allied tanks, especially in urban combat where this was a telling issue.

 

Like most German WWII tanks it was complex to produce, so suffered in terms of volume produced, and this led to it being rushed into service with quite a tick-list of things still to sort out.  Later production solved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after failing during combat. Curiously, the Ausf.D was the first to enter production, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability, although this was never fully cured with a high rate of attrition due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires.

 

A Panther II was planned, which retained much of the look of the original Panther, while improving armour and suspension.  They got as far as creating a pair of prototypes before the war ended, and a destroyed but still substantial chunk of the Schmallturm (smaller turret) can be seen at Bovington.

 

 

The Kit

This is a complete new tooling from our friends at Meng, who never cease to impress with their products.  Their use of CAD for design is peerless, and they have mastered it to such an extent that their depiction of organic or random textures appear totally natural.  They also use advanced moulding techniques such as slide-moulding, and include parts in the box that were once considered aftermarket (and still are) by some producers.  Their recent kits have been modular, allowing the modeller to pick and choose whether to buy the base kit, add an interior, working track system, Zimmerit or all of the above depending on their level of interest, skill level or bank balance.  The box is typical Meng, with an attractive painting of a Zimmerit encrusted Panther on the front, with profiles, colour codes and information on the sides.  Inside are (for the most part) individually bagged sprues to minimise chaffing during transport, and plenty of parts.  There are seven sprues in a Primer Red styrene, three sprues in black for the tracks, one in clear, plus two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, one of which being nickel plated, a decal sheet, two lengths of twisted wire for the tow ropes, a turned aluminium barrel, two strips of poly-caps, instruction booklet, and a Z-fold painting and markings guide.  Very nice.

 

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First impressions are excellent.  The parts breakdown is sensible, whilst also somehow managing to be a bit cool and clever.  The detail is superb, with the rolled steel surface of the thickly armoured panels so nice that it would almost be a shame to slap Zimmerit on it.  The casting texture on parts like the mantlet (of which there are two) is well done, if a shade too neat, and the wooden texture on the unditching block is also worth a squint.  The instructions are typical Meng, offering crisp isometric views of the build with an uncluttered style that still manages to get the point across.  You are informed that there are seven decal options at the beginning, and advised that this will affect your choice of parts, so you should choose now.  At this point, it is highly likely that you might reach for your wallet to pick up just another Meng Panther, as the options are all so interesting, although some might test your camouflage skills.

 

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Construction begins with the road wheels, all of which have a poly-cap between the two dished wheels.  The three-part drive sprockets and four-part idler wheels also have poly-caps at their heart, so that wheels can be added and removed throughout the build.  In order to mount them however, you need a lower hull, so this is next, being made up from two sides and one floor part, with two bracing parts holding everything rigid inside.  If you're building yours with the Suspension Kit (SPS-049), you'll diverge from the instructions here and come back later once you've finished adding all the working metal torsion bars and workable track links.  Go on – get your wallet out and I'll meet you back here when you're done, but just in case you're not convinced yet, read the paragraph under this one.  If you're sticking with the base kit, the rear bulkhead, final drive housing and the many suspension arms are inserted into the hull sides, and for some reason the towing shackles are also clipped onto the torch-cut ends of the side plates at this stage.  The pre-prepared road wheels, idlers and drive sprockets are all slotted into place on the stub-axles, and an optional two hook can be fitted under the rear of the vehicle, directly below the jack, which is also installed now between the armoured exhausts, which gives you a choice of two identical single-tube units, or a triple-tubed port-side unit that resembles a pair of bagpipes.  Either side of these the distinctive stowage boxes are added, with separate tops in case you wanted to mess about with them.

 

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The tracks on the base kit are individual parts that are glued into track runs and draped around the wheels until they set up, while the aforementioned suspension set has workable links that will drape and move of their own accord, and include a huge quantity of tiny metal track pins!  Meng helpfully include a jig that will allow you to make up a length of tracks at the correct slope and sag for that return run from the drive sprocket to the second road wheel, which drops in a gentle curve and would be tricky to arrange without help from the jig.  Each track link is free from ejector-pin marks, and has a pair of guide-horns that you will need to glue into place.  This is a manual job, so prepare your tweezers and a good album to listen to whilst you plough through this necessarily tedious part, building up 87 links per side.  Each track link has six attachment points to the sprue, but the guide-horns only have one on their base, so it's swings and roundabouts.  Given the level of detail visible on the external side of each link though, it is worth having those six sprue gates to ensure there is no under-shoot on the detail.  A set of ice-cleats are included as an option if you are thinking of a winter scheme.

 

The upper hull has a number of rectangular holes in the front, sides and top, with only some of them making sense initially, until you realise that the glacis and side walls are added separately to give you all that lovely tooling detail. The circular radiator vents are separate too, as is the engine hatch and the two crew hatches at the front of the tank.  The crew get clear periscope blocks, while the perforated engine deck vents are covered from the inside by inserts that well-represent the radiator baths and the fan in the centre.  The small wedge-shaped skirt at the rear of the sponsons are also added from separate parts, and the underside of the sponsons are closed in by two plates that sit on turrets moulded into the upper hull part, and holds them in place while you add all the brackets for the Schürzen parts, which were fitted to pre-detonate shaped charges.  These nickel-plated parts are fitted later, and if scraped gently after painting should reveal some of their bright metal under the paint.  The upper hull is then detailed with all the usual parts you would expect, such as the armoured periscope covers; mesh screens on the engine deck; stowage bracketry; spare track links; pioneer tools; gun cleaning kit; towing cables with plastic eyes and wire ropes; a big square profiled unditching beam with excellent wood texture; lifting lugs and so forth, after which the two halves of the hull are combined into something distinctly tank-like.  The mudguards are able to be fitted in a complete or missing state, the latter achieved by using the stub parts and omitting the curved guards and their width indicator "lollipops".

 

The turret is constructed on a sketeton framework using individual panels that are detailed up during the build.  The rear has a hatch added that can be posed open or closed, front has a letterbox slot for the gun and mantlet, while the sides are undecorated until later.  The gun's breech is depicted in three parts, with a pair of poly-caps linking it to the two pivot points that cap either end of the inner mantlet, which is then hidden by one or other of the two cast mantlets that are included.  The barrel fits snugly into a keyed slot in the mantlet, and has a three-part flash-suppressor added to the front in styrene, plus the very stub of the coaxial machine gun fitted through from the inside of the mantlet.  The Anti-Aircraft (AA) machine gun that fits to the commander's cupola is an MG34 on a simple ring-mount with a belt-feed of ammo into a cloth bag, and that is glued onto the ring after it is fitted to the top of the cupola once the clear vision blocks and hatch cover has been put in place.  The completed cupola fits into the roof of the turret with a key ensuring correct alignment, then more track stowage hooks are added to the sides, and/or brackets for spare road wheels at your whim.  The track parts come from the spares included with the kit, as do the spare wheels.  The turret has a three-lug bayonet fitting, and the gun can be locked in place by using the supplied travel lock, which has a length of simulated chain wrapping over the top.

 

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Markings

You are treated to seven markings options with this kit, some of which will require you to either purchase the Zimmerit decals I reviewed recently here, or to apply your own the old-fashioned (and sometimes messy) way.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  1. No.534, 5th Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Kovel, VOlyn, Ukraine, Summer 1944
  2. No.113, 1st Battalion, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Eastern Front, Autumn 1944
  3. No.135, 1st Battalion, 31st Panzer Regiment, 5th Panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Kowel, Poland, June 1944
  4. No.613, 6th Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Kowel, Poland, Summer 1944
  5. Sd.Kfz.268 Befehlspanther No.96, 3rd Panzer Regiment, 2nd Panzer Division, Wehrmacht, Normandy, France, Summer 1944
  6. No.011 Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, SS Panzer Division Wiking, Summer 1944
  7. No.503, Panther Tank Company Under Command of Gds. Lt. Sotnikov, 8th Guards Tank Corps, Soviet Red Army, Warsaw, Poland, August 1944

 

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Decals are printed in China, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  Option 5 is a Befehlspanther, which is externally identical to an ordinary Panther, but has a reduced ammunition complement in order to accomodate the additional radio gear that is carried by this control tank.

 

 

Conclusion

All personal bias aside, this is an excellent representation of a Panther Ausf.A from the box, but add the suspension set and some Zimmerit, and it will make up into a stunning model.  Detail is exceptional, and the build should provide plenty of pleasure due to the fit and finish usually associated with Meng kits.

 

Very highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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Thanks for the OOB review.

 

I'm in the process of building this kit and I can attest that the fitting of the parts are excellent for the most part. However, I found difficulty attaching the road wheels to the suspension arms because the polycaps were too small for their axles. Trying to force them in with brute force was not an option as the arms are rather skinny and would warp under pressure. In the end I chopped about 3/4 off each arm and attached the wheels directly to them with cement. Also, the tracks with their 6 sprue attachment points in dished areas, are a bit of a pain to clean up.

 

I also bought and applied Meng's zimmerit decal sheet. It goes on really well with Mr Mark Setter and Mr Mark Softer. For stubborn spots, a touch of Tamiya Extra Thin cement worked really well to make the zimmerit adhere to the plastic surface.

 

Mark

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On 1/19/2018 at 01:11, madcat911 said:

 

 

I also bought and applied Meng's zimmerit decal sheet. It goes on really well with Mr Mark Setter and Mr Mark Softer. For stubborn spots, a touch of Tamiya Extra Thin cement worked really well to make the zimmerit adhere to the plastic surface.

 

Mark

Mark, did you put the decals straight onto the plastic, or did you prime it first?

 

Thx

 

Julien

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13 hours ago, Julien said:

Mark, did you put the decals straight onto the plastic, or did you prime it first?

 

Thx

 

Julien

 

Applied straight to bare plastic.

 

Mark

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