by: Vinnie Branigan [ ]
introduction Many people believe the Sd.Kfz.171 to be the finest tank of World War II. It had it’s beginnings in the month of October 1941 when German forces first encountered the Russian T34. The Germans were so shocked and impressed at that tank, that they set out to produce their own version, naming it the Panther.
Dragon have produced many different kits of Panther variants, but it is the Panther Ausf. D which has been chosen to be upgraded to the ‘Premium’ range.
the kit The original Panther D kit (6164) was released some years ago, and was well received even though it suffered some basic inaccuracies, and was limited by the technology of the time. I first saw this kit at the Dragon Expo event in Anaheim, California where they had one made up but unpainted. It looked magnificent………. as it does unassembled in the box! As normal, once the sprues are out of the box, it’s extremely difficult to get them back in again! The Dragon ‘card’ lies on top containing the etched brass, clear sprue, decals and assorted mini-sprues. The instruction at the bottom f the box, and in-between we have 13 large sprues of light grey styrene, a one piece moulded hub tub, and a small vac-formed black tray. In this tray are more goodies from Dragon, including an aluminium barrel, a long and a short brass width indicator, a small length of chain, four towing shackles, two brackets, and 6 brass smoke discharger's. There is also a small poly bag of ‘Magic Tracks’. I was told that apart from all the obviously brand new photo-etch etc., that 80% of the sprues had been totally re-tooled. Not having the original release I can’t confirm this, but looking at the new ones I certainly believe it!
the hull Not having the old kit to compare it with, I assume that the hull is a brand new one, and seems to have everything you would want including separate suspension and swing arms, and full underside detail. The rear wall is, of course, supplied as a separate part. It’s very difficult to know which parts are brand new and which were in the original release, when you don’t have one to compare it with, but obviously all the suspension is brand new, along with the track, road wheels, and all the photo-etch obviously. The travel lock for the main gun is supplied as photo-etch, and has to be constructed from 5 ‘layer’s’, giving a very realistic look to the chain component! The on vehicle tools are supplied in two versions, (with & without clamps) as in the latest Panzer IV release, and the schurzen are all supplied as pre-cut aluminium, which should be absolutely perfect for showing battle damage! Full marks to Dragon for not supplying them as brass!
the turret The turret appears to be new also, having separate pistol ports which can be modelled open, along with small photo-etched chains supplied. The mantlet has been re-tooled and now displays a fantastic cast texture. As mentioned, the smoke discharger's are supplied as pre-bent brass parts, there’s an aluminium barrel, and transparent parts for all the periscopes, although some of these parts aren’t ‘new’ in the sense that they have been seen in some of the newer Dragon kits. The MG34 for example, is the one with the pre-drilled barrel supplied in the latest ‘super kits’ from Dragon. The cupola is of the early D type, that is, the round, flat type, with 6 vision blocks, and no AA gun ring.
tracks Dragon supply a little polythene bag of individual track links for this panther. And to sum them up……….they are quite simply, the best injected track links I have ever seen. That includes those from the likes of Modelkasten. Take a look at the picture on the right. The guide horns not only have the correct hole in them, they have detail on the horn itself. Dragon making full-use of slide moulding technology here. There are two very slight pin marks on each link, but these should be easy to remove. Dragon even supply some separate links with separate guide horns on a sprue for positioning around the drive sprockets. Now I’m not completely sure why they have done this, since no matter how closely I examine them I can’t tell the difference between these and the links in the poly bag?
Photo-etch Supplied as photo-etch in the kit are the engine grills obviously, and again, these are some of the nicest you’ll find. They have a very pronounced 3-d effect. All the tool clamps and brackets etc. are supplied in two versions, photo-etch and plastic, and also supplied as photo-etch are all the locking pins and chains to hold various items of equipment in place and which were so characteristic of this vehicle.
instructions Now here I felt a bit let down. The original instructions were of the ‘real photo’ type. So are these. I much prefer the newer style of exploded line drawing type. Not only that, but where Dragon have included the photo etch on the photo’s, they have shown them painted, which makes it very difficult to see just what can be photo-etch and what is plastic. Careful reading will be the order of the day!
Markings There are 7 options provided for in the kit, only one of which is plain dark yellow, all the others being in 3-tone schemes, apart from on in 2-tone. None displaying Zimmerit. These are:
4./Pz.Abt.51, Kursk 1943
7./Pz.Abt.52, Pz.Rgt.39, Kursk 1943
4./Pz.Rgt. “Grossdeutschland”. Karachev 1843
Pz.Abt.52, Pz.Rgt.39, Germany 1943
Pz.Rgt. “Grossdeutschland”, Karachev 1943
Pz.Rgt.39, Kursk 1943
1./Pz.Rgt.24, France 1944
in conclusion It’s beginning to seem we live in the ‘Panther’ age! He imminent release of the new smart kit series beginning with the Panther G just continuing this trend. I for one am not complaining, especially when they are as good as this kit. If you use all the photo-etch supplied it should result in an absolutely stunning OOB. For the younger modeller, or beginner, the parts are supplied as plastic as well. There is so much that is new, that it should be considered a brand new kit. Exceptionally highly recommended!
My thanks to Dragon for the review sample.