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1/35 Panther Ausf. A Early Production, full interior

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1/35 Panther Ausf. A Early Production, full interior
Takom
Catalogue # TAK2097

 

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The Panther is a German medium tank deployed during World War II on the Eastern and Western Fronts in Europe from mid-1943 to the war's end in 1945. It had the ordnance inventory designation of Sd.Kfz. 171. It was designated as the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther until 27 February 1944, when Hitler ordered that the Roman numeral "V" be deleted. Contemporary English language reports sometimes refer to it as the Mark V. The Panther was intended to counter the Soviet T-34 and to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Nevertheless, it served alongside the Panzer IV and the heavier Tiger I until the end of the war. It is considered one of the best tanks of World War II for its excellent firepower and protection, although its reliability was less impressive. The Panther was a compromise. While having essentially the same engine as the Tiger I, it had more efficient frontal hull armour, better gun penetration, was lighter and faster, and could traverse rough terrain better than the Tiger I. The trade-off was weaker side armour, which made it vulnerable to flanking fire. The Panther proved to be effective in open country and long-range engagements but did not provide enough high explosive firepower against infantry.

The Panther was far cheaper to produce than the Tiger I, and only slightly more expensive than the Panzer IV. Key elements of the Panther design, such as its armour, transmission, and final drive, were simplifications made to improve production rates and address raw material shortages. The overall design remained somewhat over-engineered. The Panther was rushed into combat at the Battle of Kursk despite numerous unresolved technical problems, leading to high losses due to mechanical failure. Most design flaws were rectified by late 1943 and the spring of 1944, though the bombing of production plants, increasing shortages of high quality alloys for critical components, shortage of fuel and training space, and the declining quality of crews all impacted the tank's effectiveness. Though officially classified as a medium tank, its weight is more like that of a heavy tank, as its weight of 44.8 tons puts it roughly in the same category as the American M26 Pershing (41.7 tons), British Churchill (40.7 tons) and the Soviet IS-2 (46 tons) heavy tanks. The tank had a very high power to weight ratio however, making it extremely mobile regardless of its weight. Its weight still caused heavy tank-esque problems however, such as an inability to cross certain bridges.
Extract from Wikipedia

The kit
Without a doubt, this is most certainly the year of the Panther. It must be a trait in armour modelling circles that those modellers are happy and grateful to see different companies try their hand at subjects such as this. If this was a Mustang or Bf 109, the whinge-fest would be on about everybody releasing the same subject. Personally, I am super-pleased to see new incarnations of the Panther, and in brand-new tooling also. Takom’s plans for the 2018 are very much Panther related, with 3 kits now in circulation, and a further five that will come to market, including two Bergepanther variants (cue the excitement with the latter!). We have been lucky enough to receive the Ausf.A Early Production, which we see in this review, and the Ausf.A Late Production which Jeroen Peters will look at in the very near future. 

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One of the hallmarks of these initial Panther Ausf.A kits from Takom is the austere box art. Printed on a plain white box lid, the illustration is a simple line drawing, with the kit title. However, on the sides, we have some nice colour illustrations of cutaway and interior sections of the new kit, definitely supplying a little eye-candy to proceedings. Now, lift that lid at your peril, because removing those contents and getting them back in again afterwards will be a task. The box is absolutely crammed with styrene, as you can imagine with this being a full interiorkit. Each of the TWENTY-NINE light grey sprues is packaged into a separate sleeve to protect the many small and fragile parts. As well as those, a turret and upper hull are included, as well as two track building guides that we’ll look at soon. To complete the package, we have two small decal sheets, a PE fret, lengths of copper cable, a flexible hose, and a very thick instruction manual. These last items are packed into multiple sleeves that are then packed with the manual. 

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One thing I simply can’t do here is to give a sprue by sprue résumé, due to the complexity of the kit. Instead, I will look at features and engineering break down of this release.

Getting started

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A quick look around the kit contents and you’ll notice a lack of the usual bathtub-style lower hull. For their Panther releases, Takom has chosen to break down everything into constituent components, such as the hull floor, hull sides and forward lower glacis, although the latter is fitted to an inner plate that is connected to the floor. The reasoning behind this is to make everything as accessible as possible to the modeller as they progress through these easy hull construction stages where the frames, transmission, brake drums and torsion bars are to be fitted. Unlike Rye Field Model, Takom provides the lower hull frames as plastic parts, as opposed to their competitor who supply these in photo-etch. Both options work great for me, with perhaps the plastic parts being easier to fit and align. They are also moulded, as with the rest of the interior, with huge finesse. 

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A few very light ejector pin marks are found here and there, but these seem to be hidden by subsequent construction. Before the sides are fitted to the hull floor, they are fitted out internally with the brake drums etc. These side plates are moulded with the torsion tube sleeves in situ, so there shouldn’t be any wall to wall alignment issues. With the walls complete, these glue into place. Takom would have you insert the torsion bars before this, and as they don’t extend to the hull exterior, it might be wise to do as they say, but dry fit them in case you have any minor alignment issues that could arise from gluing them in place from the start.

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The swing arms are next to be fitted, and to help with absolute positioning, two plastic jigs are included. These have alignment holes for the swing arm axles to fit into. Takom hasn’t designed this kit to have articulated swing arms, so if you want to pose the model whilst sitting on uneven ground, this is the time for you to look at that and mock things up for later.

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It’s now the time for the interior to be fitted out, and this is no quick task. Apart from the many ammunition shells and their storage racks, you also have what is probably the busiest detailed interior that I’ve seen in any kit thus far. Work progresses with the installation of the crew seats (moulded rear spring detail unlike the PE of the RFM release), interior walls and bulkheads, radio sets, drive shaft, and turret floor. Also of note are that the boxed ammunition shells only have the protruding tip as a part, with the box below them being hollow. Certainly makes more sense that depicting the full ammunition body. 

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I hope you didn’t throw away the swing arm guides as these are now used to create the shape of the tracks. Onto the guides will plug the drive and idler wheels (no glue!) and then the tracks can be formed over the curves of the guide, with the drive/idler/track assembly being transferred to your lower hull. FOUR sprues of track links and associated parts are included, incorporating several completed sections of track, along with many separate links. None of the track links have moulded horns. These are provided as separate parts that are moulded to a tree that you install as a single piece, and then when dry, snip away the tree from the tracks. That’s a smart move that will save some swearing. 

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The Panther’s Maybach engine is faithfully reproduced and is a project in itself, complete with its plumbing that interconnects to the engine bay walls. This, along with fuel tanks, engine cooling apparatus and more internal framing. This is a model for which you will need to carefully plan each painting and weathering stage ahead of getting to that part. 

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A single-piece upper hull is included with sections missing for the crew compartment, engine and engine cooling. These are moulded as separate parts, thus maximising the opportunity to show the interior of the model to its fullest potential. Even so, you would still be limited, under normal circumstances, to pose these off in any realistic way, unless you created a factory diorama of the Panther being built. Still, we know all those detail goodies are in there, so that’s all that reallymatters. 

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That turret is obviously the main feature of this kitty, and this of course is resplendent in amazing interior details. The turret itself is moulded as lid and sides, with the front and rear plates being separate. Plate and weld seam details are superb. Of course, there is an amount of moulded detail within the roof interior, pertaining mostly to electrical conduits etc. I find it most odd that Takom chose to mould, in raised detail, the kit year and serial adjacent to the actual details! Working hinges are provided for the escape hatch on the rear face, and the cupola is supplied with a single-piece ring that contains the shrouds for the periscopes. With this glued in situ, the ring can be cut away, leaving the shrouds in the correct position. 

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External detail is again excellent with the cupola mounted MG, etc but the interior is spectacular. If it’s supposed to be in there, the chances are that Takom has faithfully reproduced it, including turret traverse motors, gun counterbalance, hydraulic drive, loader/gunner/commander seats, azimuth etc. The gun breech is superbly detailed, and like it or not, the barrel in this release is plastic, albeit single part, with separate three-piece muzzle brake. A flexible hose is supplied for the turret interior. Where RFM added a little extra was by means of showing any plumbing and wiring that would be in this area so that the modeller could add it him/herself. You’d be best to avail yourself of the required information and add it yourself from lead wire too.

 

PE

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For such a comprehensive kit, there is surprisingly little PE in this release, with Takom opting to create many of the finer parts in standard injection plastic. Only six pieces of photo-etch are included in this release, and these are for the engine cooling grilles on the rear top deck. The mesh is certainly fine enough to pass muster, and the quality is excellent.

Decals

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Two small decal sheets are included, with one for the various external numbers etc. and the other being for the many pieces of ammunition and other internal details. There is no printing manufacturer on the sheets, but they are very thin with solid colour, minimal carrier film and in perfect register. The four schemes in this release are:

  • Panther Ausf.A, ‘701’, Panzer Regiment 23
  • Panther Ausf.A, ‘18’, 16 Panzer Division, Russia, 1944
  • Panther Ausf.A, ‘233’, Pz.Lehr. of 1. Kompanie, 12 Julio, Normandy, 1944
  • Panther Ausf.A, ‘221’, 16 Panzer Division

 

Instructions

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A 34-page A4 manual is included (landscape format) which breaks the Panther down into 64 constructional sequences. Don’t let that fool you though, as you can probably triple that number with the addition of sub-stages per sequence. As I said, this is no quick project. The cover of the manual gives a history of the type and we then get a comprehensive parts map showing each sprue, decal sheet and PE fret. Most of the constructional imagery, provided as shaded illustrations, is printed on matt paper except for where corresponding leaves are printed on gloss for the numerous colour illustrations, courtesy of AMMO. These images provide priceless info on interior painting and will save us countless hours trawling the information either online or in books. Painting reference is also provided in AMMO reference codes. The last pages of the manual are given over to the four schemes provided with this kit, printed in glossy colour and with more AMMO paint references to negotiate. Inside the manual, a small correction sheet is included for the track building section. 

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As the basis of this kit is the same as for the other two Panther’s in this specific Ausf.A range, a number of parts in this kit won’t be used. I would have liked to have seen the redundant parts shaded on the sprue map, but they aren’t.

Conclusion
As an extra to this article, I’ll build this model straight from box and leave it unpainted, so you can see how things go together and gauge the construction for yourself. I’ll add any relevant notes as I go along and mention if I encounter any issues that you should be aware of. In all though, this is another epic release of 2018, along with the slightly earlier Rye Field Model kit. For the sheer amount of plastic that you get though, and the pleasure you’ll derive from this build, the cost is pretty hard to beat, especially as I compare this against aircraft kits that I usually build. Armour certainly seems to provide more value for money, and at the moment, more detail for your buck!

Very highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to the good folks at MBK Distribution for sending us this sample. 

 

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