Considered to be one of the best tanks of the World War II, with it’s sloped armor and heavy 75mm gun, the Panther really stands out in the world of armor. The command version of the G model was bristling with antennas, and capable of communicating with other units in the formation. It also made them stick out like crazy, and become a prime target. “The best of the best of the best SIR !”
The biggest problem with the Panther series was that of maintenance, many were lost to just breaking down rather than to enemy action. Most of them wore out important drive parts after only 150 km! The interwoven wheels were almost impossible to repair in the field, requiring skilled engineers and specialized equipment that were hard to mass produce, especially with the constant bombing of industrial plants by the Allies. Prying off the outer wheels to access the damaged inner structure while looking over your head for incoming P-47’s must have been a real “blast”.
The antenna sections of the command tank could be added on as needed to lift the sending and receiving signal mast according to terrain. I would imagine these would be removed as fast as possible after sending out a signal. Some variants were used to coordinate air strikes, but most were used as armed mobile HQ’s. The Germans had this down to a science, and coordinated tank attacks were often devastating, with up to a 12/1 kill ratio in some theatres. Of course the massive number of Shermans and T-34’s just overwhelmed them, small consolation to the Allied tank crews that were on the receiving end of the German tanks.
The engineering that went into the manufacture of this tank was amazing, in fact, restorer’s today often have problems replicating the tight design specifications that were milled out in the 40’s. This was also the downfall to much of the German military armor construction. Though brilliant, it meant that every tank was somewhat custom built, instead of being mass produced like the bulk of the Allied armor. “Zippos”…but a lot of them…
The Panther’s 75mm gun actually had better penetrating power than the Tiger’s 88, and was hugely successful at long range. The sighting systems were far better than anything the Allies could field. The price of this, though, was the long barrel of the tank was ineffective in the hedgerows of France, and the combat often took place in close quarters, rendering the advantages of the Panther somewhat useless. However…in the desert?
In this case, I once again have gone into “46” mode, building a supposed command tank to be used in North Africa, as Rommel’s resupply had actually worked, and the Germans had been able to hold at Tobruk. I know, it was unlikely, if not impossible, but I live in my own world. Deal.
One of the new “smart kits” marketed by CyberHobby, this re-release of the Dragon basic Panther G kit really stands out. It includes some lovely photo etch, but is fairly basic in construction, and easy enough for a middle of the road dark-side (armor) modeler. The fit is nice, with a minimal need for the putty beast to have to crawl out from its bondo den.
The tracks are CH’s standard “magic tracks” that are reasonably easy to put together, and give you the ease to get that German droop to their slack track systems.
It does not have a turned barrel, but at least it is a one -piece unit, which means a heck of a lot less PSR to make a good cylinder. The photoetched bits are quite well done, and too large for the carpet monster to really be a problem. I did not care for the tow cables, though…they seem too rough and out of scale.
There are a lot of optional pieces in this kit, you could almost build a second one with the spare bits. 23 main sprues make up the kit, as well as two photo etch sprues, tow cables, and 90 (yep, that’s right) 90 magic tracks. The instructions are well printed, if a little uninformative. You will need some reference material to get the tank just right. There is a fair amount of information on the net, but a book might be a better route.
If you want a nice weathered effect, start by painting the sprues (see below in the painting section).
The road wheels are the biggest of the P.I.T.A. things about armor modeling. As in my other builds, I do them in sections, and use a black sharpie marker to mark the rubber part. This kit also comes with steel wheels, so make sure you pick one or the other. All of the reference pics I could find of this G variant had rubber road wheels, but that doesn’t mean that steel wheels were never used, you know how the Germans love to modify everything six ways from Sunday, and rubber was a scarce commodity at the end of the war.
As is normal for me, I paid little attention to the assembly sequence, preferring to get the large assemblies done first, and leaving the doo-dads off until the very end.
Back to the wheels: The tank kit has a number of slightly different suspension rods for the wheels, which means you really need to pay attention to what goes where. Some of the locations are a little bit dubious, so you may want to use a slow setting glue instead of a/c, in case you need to tweak a part in order to fit. I never glue in the rear sprocket until the tracks are on, just in case. I would suggest that you assemble the “magic tracks” now, and fit them over the road wheels and sprockets. Some fiddling about is going to be necessary to get the right droop. Once I had the tracks in place, I hit each joint with a small drop of a/c glue.
Rear Lower Hull: The fans go in fairly simply, but make sure you glue them well in place, because they are going to take a fair amount of knocking about when the whole tank is assembled. Don’t skimp on the păté ! (sorry for the vague Monty Python reference…)
I left all of the fiddly stuff off of the rear hull plate for the moment, as I could tell from test fitting that there was going to be some psr coming into my future when the hulls, upper and lower, were joined.
Upper Hull: There a number of options for the upper hull, vents open or closed, a seven part machine gun that isn’t visible, and some metal mesh guards for the engine intakes. Those of you who want to superdetail could make quite a nice interior fairly easily. Once again, I left off all of the extras until the base painting had been done (spare tracks, shovels, etc).
The Turret: This is almost a model just by itself. It took me a little while of test fitting to figure out how the gun fits into the breach assembly…hint, the locating pin goes on the port side. There are two different commander’s cupolas, one with a mg slide mount, but unfortunately, no gun is provided. So that is the one I chose, and scratchbuilt a mount using the otherwise invisible machine gun from the hull. I installed the simple stick gun supplied on the “J” sprue for the hull mg. The 75mm gun and mantlet fit into the turret like a glove. No psr at all !
Upper and Lower Hull Mating: Sounds like a nature special, doesn’t it? Well instead of doing it like they do it on the discovery channel, this takes a bit of gentle finagling. I aligned the back of the upper hull against the lower hull sloped plate, and wriggled it down as far as I could in the front. Yep, there is a gap. Break out the small c-clamps and tighten her down, then use a/c glue to join the two with capillary action. Set this aside to dry completely. Psr continues, then it is off to the paint stand !
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
As with most of my armor models, I started off by painting the whole series of sprues with Krylon aluminum. This is allowed to dry, then lightly spritzed with my owl spritzer. (spray bottle) Salt lightly using an old shaker and again let dry. As a side note: never use the salt shaker from your kitchen, trust me on this one (unless you are single). Now, apply the primer, in this case, a German “desert yellow” made by Tamiya. You have to use lacquer/enamel based paints to do this process, by the way…rattlecans work just fine. Let that dry.
Now scrub off the salt granules in some warm water. Note: Do not use the bathtub that your spouse likes to bathe in to do this bit. Big Trouble in Little Wherever-you-are. Let dry, and then you can start on the assembly.
Once the main hulls were mated, sanded and filled, etc…it was time for the paint job. I used a red primer for some of the markings, as well as a slightly pink primer for the camouflage over the desert yellow primer. I was going for a “Tobruk 46” sort of feel. I didn’t weather it all of too much, as I thought of the Panther G being fresh off the barge, and in the hands of a young commander who probably would have had his crew waxing the thing if possible. And, yes, I used the pink because I just have to, you know me.
Some of the decals were spares from an Afrika Corps build of yesteryear. The kit crosses went on smoothly, requiring no solvents at all, and perfectly in register. (a rarity, these days.)
Painting the Tracks: I wanted this to look factory fresh, so I didn’t age the tracks or rust them. Just a spray of matte silver, then a wash of Minwax wood stain(red oak) was enough to give them the look that I wanted.
|FINAL BITS (GREEBLIES)|
Now you can go ahead and add on the greeblies…the shovels, exhaust stacks, the bonbons, photons, whatever else. Leave the antennas off until you are completely done. Snap. I had to replace mine twice with evergreen styrene rod. The six -pronged upper antenna is delicate, be careful with it. I used some picture hanging wire for the tow cables, and was happy with the result.
The biggest difficulty in this build was installing the spare tracks and the holding racks. It looks simple in the instruction pamphlet, but takes a leap of imagination to get on correctly. Study lots of photos, and see how they actually put them on the tank before you glue away.
The tank was then sprayed with a matte clear coat, not a flat…as I said, I wanted this tank looking ridiculously brand spanking new. I did not apply zimmerit, as I doubt they would have used it in the desert, where long range combat was the norm, and the Panther would have really ruled.
A very nice tank kit, with lots of detail and a ton of options. I wish there was a cupola gun for the kit, and I didn’t care for the kit’s tow cables, but these are easily remedied. It is an impressive model that took about 30 hours to complete. Highly recommended.
Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit, via your editor. Get yours today at your local shop or on-line store.
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