by: Darius [ ]
There is no need to introduce German Panther tank to armor modelers. Desperately pushed into the production to counter soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks, initial version Ausf.D suffered in terms of mechanical reliability. Many important changes have been introduced during its production period (January to August 1943). In August 1943, production of Panther Ausf.A started. It was created by mounting an improved turret on the Ausf.D chassis. Just like with the Ausf.D, modifications continued to be introduced during production run of the Ausf.A. From March to July 1944 Factories started to shift their production to the final version – Ausf.G. During this one year production period, 2200 Panther Ausf.A tanks were built.
In 2018, Takom has introduced their line-up of the Ausf.A Panthers. They have released early, mid-early and late versions, plus mid/late version with zimmerit. It is important to note, that anti magnetic zimmerit coating was introduced in September 1943, and dropped one year later. Therefore, almost every Ausf.A produced, rolled out from the factory with zimmerit on. The subject of this review is mid-late production tank with zimmerit, kit number #2100. I should add, that it’s not entirely clear what features mid-late should include. Naming production month would have been much better choice.
What’s in the box
The kit comes in big box fully packed with sprues. You get 29 bagged sprues, bag with separately molded hull, turret and track/suspension assembly jigs, instruction manual, two decal sheets, two PE frets, two lengths of soft cooper wire for tow cables, an molded hose for fume extractor.
Quality of the molding is exceptional. The mold seems are almost invisible (check picture of one piece gun barrel), and in most case the only cleanup needed will be removal of the sprue gates. The gates themselves are very well placed on most of the parts. A very good example of molding crispness is the lettering on the road wheels.
Link and length tracks look very well done, and when finished, they will look as good, if not better than Magic tracks for example. Track link horns are probably smallest parts of the kit. Luckily, instructions tell that you can attach multiple track horns at once, before removing track links from the sprue. This is excellent idea, will see how it works in practice.
All sprues wave see through identification, which is very nice. Part numbers are well defined, and easy to read (numbers on some other manufacturers kits are nightmare to read). All parts are laid out in numeric order (easy to find!).
No tiny parts. This is excellent, as clever molding ensures same level of detail of built kit, and reduces frustration during cleanup, alignment and searching for the lost small parts.
The photo etch included grills offer excellent definition, star antenna is also very nice.
Zimmerit moldings. When I saw zimmerit on the Kingtiger released by Takom, I thought you can’t get better than this. Well, you can now. Zimmerit on the #2100 kit is very nice.
Decals. Initially, they look bit at thick side (this isn't great when you have to apply them on delicate zimmerit pattern). Definition on ammunition stencils and dials is poor.
What is missing with parts? Width indicators. Drawings do show them, they are present in some pictures too. Is this important? I'm not sure, you don't use ones for driving in the bush.
Wooden block has no texture. You will have to carve some yourself. This is not a real problem. Wooden blocks where not manufactured from wooden beams aged for centuries. They should not have very well defined wood-grain structure, same goes for tool handles and any other wooden parts on the model. It just makes the painting them easier.
MG barrels will need to be hollowed out or replaced.
There are no shurzen lock plates, they are just hanging freely on the mounts. Despite thinned out edges, they are still on the thick side. Real plates are 4mm thick, witch is slightly more than 0,1mm in 1/35 scale.
In total, you get 96 complete rounds(50% HE 50% AP), plus 36 "half rounds" to be mounted in storage containers on the hull floor. Oddly later ones are Pzgr 39/42 only. While this might be not very important, most of the rounds in sponsons will have to be HE rounds, as crews usually carried 50/50 mix. This is not a real drawback (you can always cut, and use full rounds), just one more thing to care about, if you are striving for the accuracy. Few wooden boxes for dumping extra ammunition would be excellent addition.
Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the kit. The drawings themselves are clear and easy to read and follow, steps are logical and well laid out, but they are not without their mistakes.
For example, in step 15 (track assembly), instruction name track sub-assembles F, but when you assemble entire runs it becomes C.
It is not clear where to attach the turret ring in step 64. (turret? Or hull?)
In case you are building command tank version, you might use antenna extension. Unfortunately, it is not clear where to attach antenna extension tube, one must consult the reference materials in order to do it correctly. As well, it is not noticed in the instructions, that you should remove extension tubes from the part A2-7 (step 38-1) if tank is displayed with extended antenna (you cant have it in both places at the same time).
There is no comments whats so ever in the instructions, not a single advice or part/assembly name. From past experience, I know its next to impossible to apply decals on the zimmerit without decal softening solution. And there's no word about it in the instructions. In the end, you don't need to reinvent something Tamiya has done for decades.
If instructions do have flaws, paint guide is even worse :(
Lets begin with interior. There is no color call out. Color guide only gives Ammo color reference number, but no color name or alternatives. It suggests to use RAL 7021 for subcontracted components, while references say that RAL 7009 should be used instead. It is worth to note, that from late 1942 it was ordered to leave all components in lower part of the tank in red primer. It was possible, that some stockpiled components were still available in early 1943, but this falls out from the Ausf.A production timeline. Although gray red gives nice contrast to the interior, one should decide if he wants kit to look nice versus historically correct. The Research squad book also shows red/gray interior, but colors used seem to be different from Takom/Ammo suggested. I hope other members with better knowledge can share their opinions on subject review comments.
MG ammunition bags, fabric hull ammunition storage container sides are also shown to be painted Panzergrau, while those should be Feldgrau (fabric parts). Gun sight is shown to be painted in A.Mig-101 color, that does not exist in their catalog.
Ammunition colors. Included with the kit, are two types of ammunition Pzgr 39/42 armor piercing round, and Sprgr 42 HE rounds. Paint guide suggests both projectiles are painted in black, with identical stencils on both round types. This is strange, as all German HE rounds (ww2 era) are supposed to be painted field gray, or in some cases – yellow. Armor piercing rounds on the other hand, were always painted black. This is essential for quick identification of rounds in battle conditions. (reference picture of both ammunition types can be found in Thomas L. Jentz book “Germanys Panther Tank The Quest for Combat Supremacy” page 125). Note, that even tip of AP projectile seems to be painted black in most period photos I came across.
For the exterior paint schemes, you get 5 options:
1) Panther A, Regiment Grossdeutschland, Jassy Romania, April 1944 (tank number -01)
2) Panther A, Stab I Abteilung SS Pz. Reg. 2, France 1944 (tank number 99)
3) Panther A, 4 Kompanie SS Pz. Reg. 2 Mont Ormel, Italy 1944 (tank number 421)
4) Panther A, 3./SS-Panzer Regiment 1, France 1944 (tank number 328)
5) Panther A, 3 Kompanie, Pz. Reg. Grossdeutschland, France, June 1944 (tank number 321)
I have found picture proofs for the 1, 2, 3 and 5th paint schemes so far. Unfortunately only black/white numbers, no flashy red ones or other interesting marking schemes are provided. As with interior paint schemes, the only suggested colors are Ammo, but to make matters worse, paint schemes are printed on glossy paper, dark yellow background, they are rendered realistic, with shadows etc and they are small. Seriously small (check picture alongside interior paint guide). I can hardly imagine using those profiles while spraying paint on my kit. I prefer gray-scale paint guides, but there are good colored ones too, take paint guides done by Meng as an example!
Despite several drawbacks, its still excellent kit. Its molding is crisp, level of detail is outstanding. In the end of the day, we enjoy building models, and not cleaning and gluing 50 part cooling fan assemblies. For beginners, even if painted in wrong colors, model will look outstanding. More experienced modelers consult their reference material before shaking paint anyway.
This review does not cover dimensional correctness, and fit issues of the kit. I plan to add these, along with additional errata as I will build this kit. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to get my hands on it!