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Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.D (TS-038) 1:35


Mike
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Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.D (TS-038)

1:35 Meng Model via Creative Models

 

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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with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability,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

After the initial release of the Ausf.A by Meng early this year (reviewed here (you might also recognise the preamble!)), we're now being treated to the D, which is the unreliable earlier version that first saw combat with all of its faults and problems.  I doubt this kit will have any of those foibles, especially it is based heavily on the Ausf.A tooling.  The box is the same shape and size, but with new artwork as you'd expect, and roughly half of the sprues are the same, augmented by newly tooled sprues that contain the parts not shared by the two variants.  There are eleven sprues in sand styrene, two runs of poly-caps, a clear sprue, three sheets of Photo-Etch (PE), two braided cables, a turned aluminium barrel, decal sheet, colour painting and markings guide, plus the instruction booklet, which is printed in greyscale on standard paper.

 

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The build is for the most part identical to the earlier/later model, with some important deviations for accuracy.  The instructions have also been reworked both to accommodate the parts differences, and as an apparent attempt to improve upon the construction process.  The most obvious difference is the sand coloured styrene, so although there are 6 common sprues, I've taken the photos again so it doesn't look like a patchwork quilt, and it also might show up some extra detail.

 

Construction begins with the wheels, which have rubber tyres as part of the suspension effort, before rubber became scarce and they were replaced by fully steel wheels.  This means you'll have to do some masking, or spin them on a cocktail stick with a steady hand.  Again, poly-caps are the means of attachment to the swing-arms later in the build.  The lower hull is built up with the axles, and a small hole in the rear is missed due to some rearrangements of the gear on the aft bulkhead.  Remaining on the bulkhead, there are the initial simple two-exhaust pipes with rounded armour covers, under which the jack hangs.  The tracks are assembled in the same manner, having two separate guide horns each, and as well as them now being moulded in sand coloured styrene, they have straight grips, rather than the later angled grousers that gave better traction in poor conditions.

 

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The next major difference can be found on the glacis plate, which has no Kugelblende!  There's no bow-mounted machinegun, and no armoured surround – just a little vision slot in addition to the driver's viewing hatch, plus of course the periscope blocks that are common to both variants.  The front stowage racks are slightly different, as are some of the fittings on the rear deck, most notable of which is the snorkel point that was deleted on later variants, and this can be posed either closed without its telescopic tubes, or with the protective cover swung out of the way and the tubes installed.  The square profile unditching beam is absent on the rear deck, and the crew ladder that was deleted later is present, and the towing cables are of a different configuration, while the barrel cleaning tool tube is relocated to the side of the vehicle.

 

The turret is fitted with a more complex rear hatch, pistol port and shell ejection hatch, and there are a trio of cheek-mounted smoke grenade dischargers either side of the main gun, which is now also provided with a short gun bag to replace the plastic muzzle brake that finishes off the metal barrel, and has a choice of two mantlet parts with binocular gunsight ports, one of which has a strange pattern on both sides of the gun, the having a rain guard over the top of the ports.  The early commander's cupola was welded, and had vision slits rather than periscopes, which left the commander vulnerable in case of a hit to that area, and has a choice of a standard pintle-mounted MG34 on a ring, or an anti-aircraft mount that enables the shooter to fire from the hatch.  The pintle-mount has a dump bag for the spent brass, while the AA mount does not.  Due to the busier turret sides, there is no space for extra track links or a spare road wheel, just a pair of angled brackets that seem to disappear in the following build steps.

 

 

Markings

Even though the earliest Panthers may have left the factory in Panzer Grey (RAL 7021), series production began at about the time the switch over to dunkelgelb (dark yellow) occurred, and all the decal options are based on this colour that was applied at the factory.  Before the introduction of the ambush scheme in '44, the camouflage colours were issued to the units to camouflage their vehicles to suit the terrain, thinned with whatever came to hand, so there were a lot of different schemes during this period, with a huge variation of skill and care taken in the application.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  1. No.232 1st Battalion, 15th Panzer Regiment, 11th Panzer Division, Eastern Front, Autumn 1943
  2. No.632 52nd Battalion, 39th Panzer Regiment, 10th Panzer Brigade, 11th panzer Division, Kursk, July 1943
  3. Command Vehicle, 1st Battalion, 4th Panzer Regiment, Italy, spring 1944 (this vehicle wore Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste on vertical surfaces)
  4. No.121 51st Battalion, 39th panzer Regiment, 10th Panzer Brigade, 11th Panzer Division, Kursk, July 1943.

 

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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.

 

 

Conclusion

Another excellent Panther from Meng, with lots of detail, some interesting camouflage scheme, and with the inclusion of three sheets of PE and a turned metal barrel, it represents a comprehensive package that will satisfy most modellers out of the box.  Having a Zimmerit coated vehicle in the decal options is a little disappointing, but with the appropriate sheet of 3D Zimmerit decal from Meng's range, it should relieve the pain of having to apply the paste yourself with putty and tools.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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