The Panther is considered by many to be the best medium tank of World War II by combining an excellent balance of firepower, armored protection and mobility. The first production Panther variant, the Panther Ausf. D, had many teething problems because it was rushed to production before it had been fully evaluated and developed. Hitler was anxious to get his new “wonder” weapons deployed in the East and in fact delayed the start of Operation Zitadelle (Kursk) in order to get as many of the new Panthers and Tigers to the battlefield as possible. The rush to production and deployment led to a very dismal debut for the Panther Ausf. D during Operation Zitadelle. Most broke down, caught fire or were disabled by mines. The biggest problem areas included the fuel pump (fuel leaks), engine overheating (due to inadequate cooling) and final drive failure (due to the Panther Ausf. D weighing significantly more than what was initially intended).
This is the third release from Dragon offering pre-molded zimmerit, the first being the King Tiger Henschel w/zimmerit and the second the 10.5cm Sturmhaubitze 42 Ausf. G w/zimmerit. Dragon has been one of the most prodigious producers of Panthers in all its variants, including versions which were never actually put into production. This can make it a bit confusing when trying to sort out all the kits in the Dragon Panther lineup. Basically it boils down to the original releases, improved Premium Editions with lots of photo-etch and other goodies added to the original kits, and finally the Smart Kits. The Smart Kits take advantage of slide mold technology to reduce the insane number of parts found in the premium kits while still maintaining a high level of detail and accuracy. This kit leans more towards the premium editions and seems to be based on their Panther D Premium kit. Included are lot’s of photo etch parts for the clamps, brackets and various gun travel lock parts.
The kit is molded in the usual light gray plastic we’ve come to expect from Dragon. Each sprue is individually bagged to protect the parts from scuffing. The usual Dragon card is included as well with small bags taped to the cardboard for all the miscellaneous goodies such as decals, photo etch fret, metal schürzen and more.Instructions
The kit instructions are the photographic style, as opposed to the usual black, white and blue line drawings most of you should be familiar with from Dragon. Some don’t particularly care for the photo style instructions and feel that they aren’t as clear and easy to understand as the line drawing instructions. Well, it appears Dragon is listening because these are a blend of both styles. The basic construction assemblies are covered with the photograph style, whereas busy areas with lots of small detail parts are done in the traditional black, white and blue as a small sub-assembly box. This really makes it much easier to see how those busy assemblies go together, although care still needs to be taken as some parts are shown already in place. Dragon should be commended for paying attention to customer feedback. Lower Hull/Running Gear
Construction begins with the wheels and running gear. The suspension arms are attached individually to the hull, but unlike other recent offerings from Dragon the torsion bars are not included. This won’t be a problem as you’d never see the torsion bars anyway unless decking out a full interior and making them viewable. The detail is good and the parts are crisply molded. Both metal and plastic tow hooks are included, however the instructions make no mention of the metal hooks what-so-ever. I would assume the plastic pins are used to hold the metal tow hooks in place.
The zimmerit is very fine and may be among the best yet, although it leans towards the “perfect” side as opposed to their waffle patterned StuH 42 Ausf. G w/zimmerit which was perfectly “imperfect”. The zimmerit looks even finer and crisper than that on their King Tiger w/zimmerit.
The road wheels included in the kit are modeled after the original 16 bolt wheel rims that equipped the Panther Ausf. D. Some Panther Ds were equipped with strengthened road wheels featuring rivets that were added between the bolts (16 bolts 16 rivets). Some Panther Ds had the improved 24 bolt wheels that were standard on the Panther Ausf. A, so be sure to check your references if this detail is important to you.Rear/Front Hull
The rear hull plate features zimmerit in all the right places. The jack assembly can be installed as is with the molded on plastic brackets or you have the option to trim them off and replace the whole bracket assembly with six separate photo-etch parts. The PE brackets will look very realistic when assembled and painted as photo-etch does a much better job of replicating the relatively thin metal than plastic ever will. The Panther D featured two single exhausts which are accurately represented here. Because some of the parts come from previous kits, the two exhaust pipes will need some modifications. The instructions require you to remove a small plastic bit on each exhaust and then fill the single groove which was designed to work with plastic clamps, not the much thinner and more to scale photo-etch clamps included in this kit.
The front hull features the correct early rectangular machine gun port on the front right and can be posed open with the MG mounted through the port. Later variants of the Panther utilized a ball mounted MG. The zimmerit is very fine molded and certainly looks good although it doesn’t vary as much as the outstanding waffle zimmerit on their StuH 42 Ausf. G.Upper Hull
The upper hull is well detailed and includes a decent amount of photo-etch. The external travel lock can be installed as is with the plastic chain, or you can use the photo-etch parts consisting of 6 layers of fine PE that are sandwiched together much like the real thing. Two different sets of the locking chain are provided so you can model your Panther with the travel lock stowed or deployed.
Starting in July of 1943, the two headlights on the Panther D were reduced to a single lamp on the front left of the hull. The kit has the single headlamp and includes a clear part to represent the light bulb assembly which is certainly a nice touch, however it will be difficult to see with the cover in place because the slit is so thin.
The spare track links include separate hollow guide horns which will need to be attached to each link. Photo-etch brackets included for securing the spare track links to the hull. The tools can be attached to the hull “as is” with pre-molded plastic brackets, or you can remove the plastic and use the photo-etch for added realism.
The engine deck is well detailed and matches my reference photos, including the two different circular shaped vents. Separate parts are included for the engine access hatches and handles as well as great looking photo etch grill screens, all of which really enhances the look of the engine deck. Turret
The turret includes molded zimmerit and certainly looks like the real thing when compared to my reference photos. Separate parts for the pistol port plugs are included so you have the option of modeling them in either the closed or open position dangling from the chain down the side of the turret. Smoke discharges, a feature seen on early Panthers and other German tanks around this time period are included. Later, many crews removed the smoke dischargers as it was found that small arms fire or shrapnel could set them off, thus blinding the tank.
The commanders cupola is the drum style which was fitted to the early batches of the Panther Ausf. D. It is interesting to note that beginning August 1943 there was supposed to be a ring welded around the top of the cupola for the anti-aircraft machine gun mount. Since zimmerit was introduced in September of 1943 it would seem likely that many Panther Ds with zimmerit would have had the AA ring welded to the commanders cupola, so as always, check your references.
The Panther D was armed with the excellent 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 and at least externally is well represented here. You have the option of using either the two piece plastic barrel which includes the muzzle break or better yet a single one piece turned aluminum barrel with a 3 piece muzzle break. Only the exterior of the gun is modeled as there is no interior in this kit nor is there a gun breach assembly. Unless you plan on scratch building or buying an aftermarket interior, your best bet would be to keep the hatches shut. Fenders and Schürzen
The fenders attach separately to the upper hull and include individual brackets for mounting the schürzen (side skirts). The schürzen included in the kit are made of very thin metal which looks much more realistic and to scale than if they were plastic. The thin metal plates can be easily bent and tweaked to represent damage. You’ll want to take extra care when installing the holding brackets for them to make sure they will be aligned properly, otherwise your side skirts may look askew. The schürzen were designed to defeat Soviet anti-tank rifles and not hollow charged weapons as some would have you believe. They proved to be effective in their intended role by causing the anti-tank rifle round to break up before it had a chance to impact and penetrate the thin side armor of the hull. Tracks
Breaking away from their recent trend of including individual link “magic tracks”, this kit includes one piece flexible lengths of DS (Dragon Styrene) tracks for each side. Dragon Styrene has been specially formulated to give you the advantages of both polystyrene and PVC vinyl. This allows the tracks to be easily worked with when cutting, filing, or sanding are required. They can be easily glued using liquid plastic model cement. Supposedly, the mold parting lines on the DS tracks can be easily removed using a bit of liquid model cement. Many will like the simplicity of this track design, others may not if they prefer the added realism of individual track links. I must say these tracks are certainly better than the rubber or vinyl tracks that used to be the norm and still are for many manufacturers. At the very least they will greatly simplify the construction and painting process. The tracks represented are correct for the early Panther D and do not include chevrons (ice cleats) which weren’t made standard until September 1943. Painting and Markings
Because the kit instructions are printed on high quality, glossy paper in full color, the painting and markings guide is absolutely gorgeous! It is much easier to see what the paint scheme is really supposed to look like when it is in full color. Only two schemes are included with ho-hum markings. That’s too bad, surely they could have found some more interesting schemes to include. If you decide to get aftermarket decals, be sure to check your references as some Panther Ds featured the later Panther A style commanders cupola and 24 bolt wheels.
Schemes are provided for 2 different Panther Ausf. D:
• Unidentified Unit 1943 – Solid dark yellow and green sprayed in wide vertical and diagonal bands, the only markings being the number “232” in black on the turret sides.
• Unidentified Unit 1943 – Dark yellow scheme with green and brown squiggly lines sprayed up and down vertically all over the tank. The only marking is a small balkenkreuz on the rear of the hull and the number 425 in black with thin white outlines on both sides of the commanders cupola.
Overall a great representation of a mid series Panther Ausf. D with zimmerit. Those of you who don’t want to deal with making your own zimmerit will really like this kit! There is enough optional photo-etch included to appeal to those who love PE and the added realism it brings. References
Germany’s Panther Tank – The Quest for Combat Supremacy
Schiffer Military History
By Thomas L. Jentz
Scale drawings by Hilary Louis Doyle
Panzer Tracts No. 5-1 - Panzerkampfwagen “Panther” Ausfuehrung D
By Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
Panther in Action
Armor No. 11
By Bruce Culver
Illustrated by Don Greer
Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two
Arms & Armor
By Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle
Technical Editor Thomas L. Jentz
A Build Log
has been started on the Forums to evaluate the kit construction.