by: Jacob Hederstierna-Johnse [ ]
The German Panther tank is one of the most famous AFV’s during WWII. It was developed as a counter part to the Russian T-34 tank, and it presented a brand new design in German armor, with its sloping armor plates and sleek appearance. Around 6000 vehicles were produced between 1943 and until the end of the war, and in spite of some teething problems in the beginning, it quickly became a force to be reckoned with. After the war some nations actually used recovered Panthers in their armed forces, with France being the biggest equipped nation, mustering a total of 50 Panthers in two Regiments from 1944 to 1947.
Before the production vehicles were produced, several designs were proposed from different manufactures, with MAN and DB (Daimler-Benz) being selected for the final evaluation. The MAN design got Hitler’s approval, and two proto types were built for trials, one with steel weights to simulate the weight of a turret (V1), and one fitted with an existing turret, which was developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig (V2) Initial production of the Panther started in early 1943, and around 200 vehicles were ready to take part in the Operation “Zitadelle”, the battle of Kursk, in July 1943.
Dragon Models newest Panther kit is of the Panther ausf D V2 “Verduchsserei”, and it depicts the unique features of this one in a kind vehicle. It comes in the standard Dragon sized box with box art by Mark Wick, and it contains as follows:
15 sprues in light grey styrene
1 slide molded hull tub
1 set of PE engine grills
1 small decal sheet with 3 Balkan croses
1 set of DS tracks
1 construction booklet
Dragon Models has provided us with a kit, which is built up of both old parts from earlier productions and new parts specially designed for this vehicle. There is still a lot of extras for the spares box, though.
As usual the construction starts with the assembly of the lower hull and the suspension and wheels. Since this vehicle was made in mild steel, and not armor, the details of the interlocking armor plates has to be removed and filled out with putty.
The road wheels are from an earlier production of the Panther A/D, but they still look very sharp. They are of the early batch with 18 rim bolts. The same is to be said of the idler wheels, which come in four parts and also looks nice. When doing the assembly of the idler wheel arms, leave these un-glued, as this will help you when the tracks are to be installed with the right tension.
Dragon Models provide the road wheel arms separately, which will come in handy, if you choose to depict the tank in an un-even terrain. The drive sprockets are new. They look a bit like Pz. IV sprockets, and are one of the unique features of this proto type.
Suddenly, in step 5, the commander’s cupola is to be assembled. This is the early drum cupola, and it consists of 6 parts, but there are unfortunately no interior details.
These next steps are where this build become a little complicated, both constructive and historical.
Due to a different lay-out on the lower rear hull, some cutting is needed. 5mm is to be removed from the bottom of the rear plate (A 14) and a strip of the rear bottom hull on the hull tub also has to be cut off, but Dragon Models doesn’t give any measurements on how much. As far as I can measure from the instruction sheet, you have to remove 6mm of the rear of the hull tub, which strangely enough will remove a drain plug from the bottom hull.
Dragon Models has also provided a couple of cutting tools/styrene templates for removing the rounded ends on the rear hull tub sides. These seems to be very useful for this purpose, but it would have made a lot more sense, if this cutting operation were done before the assembly of the running gear. If you’ve already glued on the idler wheels, this cutting off of the hull sides are downright impossible. This is a really stupid move from the engineers at Dragon Models, and if that’s not bad enough, they marked this operation for the front end, instead of the rear. SIGH!
The instruction sheet show that you’re to remove all the covers, which give access to the engine starter, cooling water and not least the track tension mechanism on the rear plate. This makes absolutely no sense at all, because all these things are vital parts and functions, which have to be accessible. Why would the German engineers, who were some of the best in making AFV’s in the world, neglect to incorporate such features on the prototype, only to let them appear on the production model? Also, these covers are depicted on the drawings for the MAN design, when proposed in 1942, so I really think this is a major mistake from Dragon Models, and I personally would leave these features on my build.
Yet more odd things going on; the rear stowage boxes are depicted with vertical strengthening ribs on the front, which was a feature only on some very late MAN Panthers in the end of the war. The normal stowage boxes had the “X” shaped ribs, which was used by all the Panther manufactures. Dragon Models might be a little excused with this, because the earlier mentioned drawing from MAN is actually showing this particular detail.
It’s not all bad on the rear is it? The exhaust looks very much as the original, with the two exhaust pipes coming together in one horizontal cylindrical muffler, which is covered by a metal plate.
The construction of the front end is more straight forward, but there are still some issues. Both the cover for the MG port and the drivers visor needs some trimming to fit, and the “glass” in the driver’s visor come in light grey styrene instead of a clear part. Also the travel lock is off. The lock used on this proto type was symmetrical, but Dragon Models has provided the asymmetrical lock, which was used on the production models.
Fortunately, Dragon Model has provided some really nice and correctly shaped air outlet covers for the engine deck, and covers over air louvers on the engine hatch. Also provided is a nice looking set of PE grills for the air intakes, which really add to the realism of this build.
The turret of this proto type differs a bit from the production type; the ausf D. the most noticeable feature is the “bulge” on the turret upper side at the commander’s cupola, which was deleted due to it being a shot trap, and this vehicles’ main gun was fitted with the single baffle muzzle break, which normally is found on the Pz. IV ausf F2. Unfortunately Dragon Models has only provided the old two-piece gun barrel, which has to be carefully cleaned up to get it smooth, and when dry, the muzzle break has to be cut off, and exchanged with the two piece single baffle muzzle break instead. It would have been nice to at least get the slide molded Panther barrel, which is included in Dragon Models later kits.
The turret also features three lifting rings instead of the loops, which are seen on production types. Unfortunately you need to fill the small hole where the loops where meant to be located.
There are three pistol ports in the turret, one in each side and one in the rear, but Dragon Models has provided the plugs itself. This means that you can actually build them open and hanging loose, you just need to add a small length of fine chain to them. These plugs are located on the P sprue.
As on the early production model of the Panther, this vehicle is also fitted with three smoke launchers on each side of the turret. Dragon Models has provided some excellent molded launch pods, which are very thin and hollow, and they really look great. Only thing they need is some wiring, but this is not a feature in this kit. There are actually a full set of smoke bombs provided on the P sprue as well, so you can choose to build the launchers either loaded or empty.
Dragon Models has once again left out their excellent Magic Tracks and provided us with their much debated DS Tracks. Personally I’d rather have had the Magic Tracks, but for some modelers the rubber bands seems to work better. And, once again, I can only urge Dragon Models to include BOTH kinds of tracks in their offering. This will spare the company for all the discussions and negative feed backs.
Painting and Markings
There are four different paint schemes provided:
Unidentified unit, Hainberg 1942, all over Panzer grey.
Unidentified unit, Germany 1942, all over Dunkelgelb.
Unidentified unit, Germany 1944, three tone camouflage.
Unidentified unit, Germany 1945, all over red primer.
I must admit, that the red primer color scheme in 1945 seems a bit off. Why would anyone suddenly re-paint the vehicle at the end of the war to a red primer, instead of the standard color? It doesn’t make any sense at all.
Dragon Models has given us a one of a kind vehicle, which could have been a great opportunity to create a really special model, with some very special features, that could get this one to stand out from the crowd. BUT, instead of producing such a kit, Dragon Models has cut several corners, and left out some of the very distinct features of this particular AFV. In pictures of this vehicle, there’s a folding ladder located on the right hull side just behind the turret, the vehicle is fitted with the front fender extensions, like on the ausf D’s and while being a test vehicle, there’s a license plate mounted on the frontal armor. All these special features, which are missing plus the other fails already, mentioned in the review text, I really don’t think Dragon Models has given us a great kit. I’m actually quite disappointed with this kit and am not going to recommend it. And to think of this as being their second attempt on this particular vehicle, and then still not getting it anything near a success, is not impressive.