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Mike

Panther Mid-Early Production Sd.Kfz.171 1:35

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Panther Mid-Early Production Sd.Kfz.171

1:35 Takom via Pocketbond

 

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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with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability,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 brand new tooling from Chinese powerhouse Takom, who came from nothing a couple of years ago and have created their own back-catalogue in that short time.  The Panther seems to be a popular choice at the moment, and there seems to be a trend of this duplication of effort between some of the Far Eastern operators, but as one company's Panther makes £0 for the other companies, we're spoiled for choice with newly tooled Panthers at the moment.  This is the Interior kit of the tank, which has all the greeblies inside that you would expect if you tore open a real one in service.  While this sort of attention to detail doesn't appeal to everyone, it's often said by modellers that we know the detail is there, and with the proposition of leaving hatches and panels open, or even doing a cut-away in museum stylee, there are plenty of reasons why one might want one of these uber-kits for your stash.

 

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Arriving in a deeper than usual white themed box to give a premium feeling, and accent its special nature, the box is rammed full of sprues as you'd imagine.  There are 28 sprues in mid grey styrene in various sizes, plus hull, turret and two track jig parts in the same shade.  There are also four braided copper cables in two thicknesses, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) grilles, a single piece of flexible styrene, and two decal sheets, plus of course the instruction booklet in a landscape A4 format.  My review samples had received a bit of a shock during transport, which had put a bend in the delicate engine deck supports, breaking a few of the protective sprues between them.  The damage wasn't permanent and you can possibly see the stress marks if you look hard enough, but it could have been prevented by bagging it separately from the two jigs, which did the damage.  That said, almost every sprue is either bagged separately or with a couple of others, so there's a lot of protection therein, so I suspect I was just unlucky.

 

Construction begins with the floor of the hull, adding scale armour to the underside of the glacis, a conduit and then framework that binds the floor to the sides, and the longitudinal ribs that hold the torsion bars in place.  The hull insides have stub axles moulded in for suspension and final drive housings to be added, and the detailed transmission fitted between them when completed.  The torsion bars are fitted to one hull side and offered into the slots, then joined by the other side, meshing together across the floor.   Externally, the swing-arms with their stub axles are fitted with bump-stops, and aligned using the jigs supplied whilst drying, after which the interleaved road wheels are installed, some in pairs and some singly.  Flipping over the hull to right-way up the various assemblies for the lower interior are constructed such as crew seats, ammo racks, radio gear and engine bay walls, then slotted into the hull in order.  Inner walls are added to the engine bay to form the compartments for the radiator baths, and a firewall is fitted to the front, through which the transmission projects, linking the transmission to the forthcoming engine.  The rest of the space in the lower hull is filled with upright boxes of ammo that have only the tips depicted to save styrene, as nothing of the lower parts can be seen.  The bottom surround to the turret basket is placed over the equipment, finishing off the lower hull details forward of the engine, save for some small parts added later.

 

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The tracks are of link and length variety, which can be built up on the aforementioned jigs just by using the drive and idler wheels.  There are longer lengths where the track runs are straight or gently curved, and individual links for the sharp curves around the ends.  It is interesting to note that the hollow guide horns that must be glued into each link have been moulded so that they fit perfectly into each link when applied as they are moulded in long runs.  There is a scrap diagram dealing with this clever aspect, so don't get carried away snipping them off the sprues individually, as you'll save some time by checking out step 15.  The runs are built up in a vague C-shape, with the bottom run left off until they are attached to the road wheels later, hiding any glue joints from view.

 

The Maybach engine is built up over successive steps, and fitted into the narrow bay where it is surrounded by ancillaries and pipework.  Careful painting here will really pay off, but you'll need to check forward a few pages as there is a full-colour page showing the completed interior with call-outs in the instructions using AMMO colour codes.  It also shows the demarcation between red primer and the pale bone-white used in the more crew-centred areas.  The sponsons are also added, and these are also covered with sloped ammo storage, going a long way toward explaining why crews got out of their tanks in such a hurry when hit.  The Panther was quite vulnerable at the sides due to weight-saving reductions in the armour thickness on the sponsons where all that ammo was kept.  The radiator baths and fluid tanks are added to the rear of the engine deck at this stage too, and is closed in by the rear bulkhead with its armoured exhausts and stowage boxes.

 

The upper hull is next, with the spaces on the engine deck filled by the cast radiator covers with their mesh, the front aperture by the access panel that houses the two crew hatches for driver and machinegunner, and the main engine deck with mushroom vents, smaller access hatch, and the large cast radiator inlets either side of the circular exhausts.  The small triangular side-skirt is fitted at the rear and the pioneer tools are draped along the sides, with the towing ropes made up from styrene eyes that have slide-moulded holes to accommodate the ends of the braided cable.  An inner skin is glued into the rear of the glacis plate to give a scale armour thickness, which has the bow machinegun, some driver controls and the vision port mechanism added inside, travel-lock, front fenders and vision blocks  from the outside, before it is mated with the lower half.  Schurtzen on stand-off brackets are fastened to the sides, towing shackles to the rear, and a sturdy hitch under the rear of the tank completes the hull.

 

The turret is moulded with its roof and sides already together, to which vents, lifting eyes, the commander's cupola and other hatches, vision ports etc. are added, with the commander's cupola having armoured covers on his periscopes, which can be glued in place as one by leaving them on their circular sprue in much the same way as the track links.  The corresponding interior parts are fitted, which includes three pistol ports, and once the rear face is brought in, the aft hatch with armoured hinge.  The commander gets a ring-mounted MG34 machinegun, which is probably best left off until later, after which the attention turns toward the turret floor, most of which is taken up by the gaping hole.  Around it are fitted raised edges, small chunks of equipment and the turning mechanism, and it is then put aside while the mantlet and gun breech are built up.  The mantlet is multi-layer, with sighting gear and gun tube projecting through, which hinges at the sides.  The outer mantlet fits around and protects the inner assembly, and has two more examples on the sprue that will be used in later boxings.  The completed breech with recoil guard plug into the rear of the assembly, and it too is put to one side.  The turret basket floor is circular and receives the crew seats which is then fitted under the lip of the turret floor, in readiness for installing in the turret later.

 

A flexible corrugated hose glues into the interior recess for the fume extractor in the turret ceiling, and is later hooked up to the turret basket later on, but first the mantlet is fitted to the front of the turret, and is joined by the barrel, which has a solid core and hollow three-part muzzle.  The commander's lift/swing hatch slots into place on his cupola, the turret floor is glued to the underside, which then leaves the turret to drop into its aperture in the hull, with an optional turret ring fitting between them.

 

 

Markings

The decal options are hidden away in the double-folded rear page, and are printed in glossy full-colour using Mig's AMMO paint system for colour call-outs.  The two decal sheets are split between internal stencils, which are on the larger sheet, and external numbers and crosses on the smaller sheet.  Both sheets are well-printed with good register, colour density and clarity, with instrument decals adding realism to the driver's station.

 

From the box you can build one of the following three options:

 

  • 3. Pz. Div. Totenkopf, Poland 1944 – green cloud pattern over dunkelgelb.
  • 23 Pz. Reg., 23 Pz. Div., Eastern Front, 1944 – Green/brown camo over dunkelgelb.
  • 26 Pz. Div., Italy 1944 – all over dunkelgelb with sprayed brown stripes on the schurtzen.

 

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Conclusion

Panthers are good sellers, and this kit has plenty to recommend it, such as the level of detail packed inside, with a sensible and straight-forward construction process that for the most part mimics the way a modeller that plans to paint the interior would build in assemblies at different stages.  The tracks may not appeal to all, but they are detailed and uncomplicated, plus the inclusion of casting/rolling texture on the exterior armour is good to see in a modern kit, although some may want to improve it so that it shows up more under paint.

 

Very highly recommended.

 

Review sample courtesy of

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A beautiful, super-sharp, modern kit.... but I have a suspicion that sorting out all those track-horns might well push my already-shaky sanity "over the edge" (notwithstanding the comments about Stage 15). 

 

I'm sure these will sell like hot-cakes on a snowy day.

 

Thanks for the review.

 

Chris.  

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2 hours ago, spruecutter96 said:

A beautiful, super-sharp, modern kit.... but I have a suspicion that sorting out all those track-horns might well push my already-shaky sanity "over the edge" (notwithstanding the comments about Stage 15). 

 

I'm sure these will sell like hot-cakes on a snowy day.

 

Thanks for the review.

 

Chris.  

Yes as good as thse tracks maybe I think aftermarket maybe the way.

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Excellent review, thank you!  I can't wait to get my hands on mine!

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