The Panther was first produced in limited numbers in December 1942. In February 1943 preparations were under way for Operation Citadel which would be the Panther’s debut. 250 Panthers were readied by May. They were assigned to Panzer Abteilungen 51 and 52 (96 tanks each) along with Panzer Regiment Stab 39 (8 tanks each) as part of Heeresgruppe Sued (Army Group South) in July 1943. Technical problems (especially with the gearbox, transmission and suspension, and engine fires) not fully solved until later caused many Panthers to break down before and during the battle. From the original 250 Panthers, only 43 were in service by August 10, 1943. This model represents one of those unlucky first Panthers used at Kursk.
The box from PIO Models contains the Revell Panther D/A kit, decals, and a small resin conversion set. The Revell kit contains 4 sprues of orange Revell plastic. Detail is crisp with no flash. Sprue attachment points small and there are no release marks in areas that will be seen. The kit represents two types of Panther, the early type “D” and the second type “A”. The kit is really more accurate for an “A” because of the tool arrangement and the gun cleaning tube and turret. Tracks are length and link and a bit over scale, and only the commanders’ hatch can be positioned open.
The kit also contains four (4) resin parts. Two wooden crates for the rear deck, the early type metal tool box for the hull side, and a command tank antenna mount.
Nine sets of markings are provided, all for Kursk tanks. The decals are quite nice and in register but I do not know who printed them, it only says PIO models. However, they react well to Solvaset and are quite easy to work with.
The instructions are very complete and concise. They include the original Revell instruction, hand altered with a red pen to tell the modeler what to do or not to do for a Kursk “D” variant. Included is a second instruction sheet which covers the markings and use of the resin parts.
The Revell kit goes together very well and in my opinion makes a good looking Panther when done. In this version the biggest problem is the cupola, which doesn’t represent a “D” very well and really should be replaced, but that is the modelers’ choice. I know some won’t build this kit with the tracks in the box, but that doesn’t bother me as much as the cupola.
I started with the separate roadwheels, tracks, and suspension. After these were assembled, dry brushed, and somewhat weathered they were set aside. I then began the assembly of the upper hull and turret. The turret required quite a bit of attention IMO. A new cupola, lift rings, hand grab, liaison hatch and pistol ports as well as changing the mantlet vision circles to represent those found on early “D” Panthers. Next up was the upper hull. This was very quick with the addition of some brass straps to hold the wooden crates that go over the rear deck added as well as the early metal box on the hull side. However, the upper hull does need some work in the engine deck area, I’m just going to wait and get PART PE for my next one. One other thing to note is the cleaning tube holder has an “L” bracket molded onto it and this should be removed for the “D”. The angled rear shape of the upper hull needs reshaping, if you are not using side skirts. In my case I used Evergreen sheet styrene and sanded to the correct shape, smoothing with Mr. Surfacer 500.
Lastly the small details were added and the model was primed with chocolate brown and readied for paint.
Painting & Markings
All Kursk Panthers I could find pictures of had a two tone dark yellow/olive green camouflage scheme where the olive green appeared to be applied in a random pattern very lightly over the dark yellow factory finish. PIO does not provide any examples of this pattern so you will need some reference pictures. I picked Panther “633” because it had the light blue Panther head. I later found out the tank was not a survivor. I applied a base of yellow and freehanded the olive camo on top and then glossed the model and applied the decals setting them with Solvaset. “633” was probably just over a month old when KO'd, therefore I kept the weathering to a minimum. I used a filter of Sand over the camo, followed by a wash of Citadel inks, a flat coat with some gray and sand added, and finished with a light application of dark earth powders and a graphite rub.
I had a good time with this conversion from PIO. It makes into an interesting early “D” Panther and considering you get decals, resin conversion parts, and the original Revell kit the price cannot be beat. If you haven’t given PIO a look yet and are a fan of German armor you probably should.