by: Cody K [ ]
The Sd.Kfz 171 Panther medium tank, designated Panzerkampfwagen V, was deployed by the Germans from 1943 until the end of the war. With the same engine as Tiger I, it offers weaker side armor and is thus lighter, faster and cheaper to produce. The lineage of the tank began with the ausf D and later ausf A which saw relatively minor variations, and the ausf G which is the subject of this Rye field kit is the late to final production model which saw quite a bit of change. The major redesign includes the mobility and defensive components amongst others. The G started production from 1944 March.
Even within the G production there are a number of changes, and this kit allows reproduction of most of these changes, including the idler wheels, engine deck, MG port, turret details and exhaust. The instruction noted these as alternatives.
This kit RM-5018 is Rye field's follow up to their popular RM-5016 kit, which offered full interior and clear hull, which I also have and was about 1/3 way through. This kit, offers no interior and should please folks who are not looking for one. The kit comes in a very sturdy cardboard box and sprues are individually wrapped in re-sealable bags, and no parts were broken or warped.
The kit inherits the original's sprue without the interior. Sprue A contains the full gun and some turret parts. Sprue C (X2) are the wheels and suspension. Sprue F is the lower hull walls. Sprue G are the hull details. Sprue J are the finer details including the OVMs. The L sprue is new which contains the regular non-transparent hull and armor pieces, as well as curiously a bunch of parts that are alternatives to sprue T. Sprue P are poly caps parts as with the original kit, T are the transparent pieces such as periscopes, and X which has optional wheels and track pins. Rye field typically has their sprues localized so you donít jump from sprue to sprue. Finally there is a bag of tracks with 2 tracks per sprue. Additional goodies include a covered muzzle brake cast in vinyl, a spring for if you want an actionable barrel, photo etch fret and decals, which offers marking for 3 vehicles: Nr. 308/128 of 12th SS at Caen, June 1944; Nr 211 of 1SS Pz. at Ardennes, Dec 1944; and Nr. 334 of Kampfgruppe Pz.Brig. 106 FHH at Bonn, March 1945. As far as I can tell, the 308 is an "early" which still has zimmerit (in fact the drawings has them), and I couldn't find a reference for Nr. 211 that has the assault dots.
The parts are all crisply molded in dark yellow plastic with minimal flash, the latter occurring on a few sharp edges. Particular impressive are the turret and hull textures with some unevenness of rolled steel surfaces. The 26-page instruction book has clear line drawings that I find very easy to follow, with alternatives highlighted for an "early" 1944 production and a "late" 1945 production vehicle. From my Achtung Panzer book their "late" model is really the final production model with all the last changes in place including the infrared device (which this kit does not contain), whereas most references show vehicles with earlier configurations. There are some minor drilling and cutting for different variations.
It should also be noted that the kit provides a lot of options not mentioned in the instructions, I'll try to note these.
Comparing the line drawings from Achtung Panzer the kit dimensions is very accurate, but the details are going to be specific to the vehicle you want to build. The "early" Panthers are mostly accurate, but the so-called "late" ones are more variable, and I'll take note in the build review below.
I'm going to build a mid-late model with the chin manlet, most probably Paul Schulze's "S" turret. If you are following the photos, I build the kit out of sequence, where I assemble the main parts of the tank first and adding details later on so that I can avoid destroying them while fitting the main parts.
There are two things you want to be careful with Rye field kits - first the parts fit is very precise; you want to make sure the mating surfaces with sprue gate remains flushed or sometimes you may have trouble fitting parts. Second they often have attachment tabs or nubs at the sprue gates without very clear delimitation. More than once I didn't see this clearly and cut away the nubs... when in doubt check the diagrams and the mating surfaces.
Rye field likes to begin their builds with turrets and this kit is no exception. Since they threw in the whole sprue A from the full interior kit it gives you a very detailed gun. I built this gun in my own RM-5016 and it was quite involved. But for this kit they didn't give you most of the other pieces for the turret interior, for example the seats. This strange situation means you have a relatively barren interior, and it feels rather pointless to put so much effort in building the main gun. Anyway I'm going to "button up" the tank by closing the rear hatch, and build the minimum assembly to make the gun work.
In step 1 you have a choice of using a spring for a barrel that can recoil, but I decided to not bother in which case you use A35 to fix it. Make sure you cut some parts in step 3 if you go this route. In this step I just put A8 and A7 together without all the details inside. You need A28 too. They omitted the optional covered muzzle brake part, which you can use in place of the A94 assembly.
Step 2 I just attached A97 to A15 and nothing else.
Step 3 as noted above.
Step 4 I skipped.
Step 5 I just attached A18 to the gun. I didn't add A85 and it seemed ok.
In step 6 the poly caps have very narrow clearance. If you have trouble getting them in, I recommend trimming the poly caps a bit.
Step 7 asks you to drill a hole in the turret roof for the 1945 version, which takes L17 on the next page. As far as I can tell this is the infrared device guard which most vehicles don't have. The camouflage hooks A102 are also specific to vehicles and I did not install them on mine.
Step 8 is the cupola. This is a pretty complicated assembly with the periscope guards in individual pieces, with associated photo etch pieces. I did these since they are visible when you have a figure. The MG installation is more questionable. Most of my Ausf G references showed the railed configuration with part A100 on the next page and that's what I went with. As with most Panthers the MG is usually stowed away so I only built mine with the rack and not the MG.
Step 9 installs the cupola. I have a slight gap here, so I added more quick setting cement to melt away the gap.
In step 10 since I button up the tank I chose the closed configuration. I still built most of the pieces for the hinges because there is no other way to ensure the hatch is aligned properly.
Step 11-12 The fit of the turret pieces are perfect.
Step 13 the late model MG port is more recessed in the "late" model. If you choose the other MG port you need to use a different glacis plate F1.
Step 14 you can choose not to do the whole MG and use part J51 and J16 to finish the MG. Of note are pieces Y43 and Y56 which are the support brackets for the front mud guards. I originally thought they were optional, but it seems the mud guards are not bolted onto the glacis plate but onto these brackets, and there will be a visible gap if you don't these PE parts. The front mud guards are actually quite complicated, I recommend holding these PEs off until you get to the last step.
In step 15 I used G21 and G5 for my late model, but I didn't cut the raised areas. Most vehicles seem to have this. Also of note are their PE parts for chains, and Rye field's PE chains are pretty awful with links not hollowed out. I didn't install any of these chains and will use actual chains.
Step 16 is the engine deck where you have a choice of installing the heater, and the heater in covered (G48) or open position (G60). I'm not sure what part G44 is and my reference calls for G59. The shutters (G8/G9) can be opened or closed, but they appear in final production models so I left them out. They do look cool though.
Step 17/18 are the side details. This is where the kit went all-in with PEs. They are mostly fine but the spare track brackets are pretty tricky. You need to be very careful when you bend Y28 because the centre of the PE is very, very thin and will break if you didn't pay attention. Second, you need to be careful with the bracket placement because the PE just passes through the track's hollow with little clearance. Even though C40 has nubs that indicates their placements, you really want to test fit everything before committing. I recommend this process: first double tape C40 onto a piece of cardboard, then install the left brackets first. After the CA glue sets, attach the right brackets, but test whether the spare tracks will fit and adjust accordingly. Finally the locking pins C23 can barely pass through the PE holes, and because the gates are at the insertion points, you need to sand that tip to smooth out any deformities created when you cut the pin off the sprues. This was a rather involved step but the end results are very realistic. To finish off you attach the side platforms G35 and G39 to the side walls. Only C28 will help you align the whole thing, so make sure you get them set up properly. I recommend gluing C30 to these platforms first, but don't glue C30 to the tank's side walls until the last step, so that you have a bit of play when you install the front mud guards. The OVMs are a bit of disappointment. In their Tiger offering which I also reviewed, they offered both molded-on tool clasps and PE versions, which also meant they have a set of tools without tool clamps. In this kit however only the molded-on version is there. The shape of the tool clamps are also off as they looked too rectangular. Given how elaborate the rest of the kit is with PEs this is a bit anticlimactic. I replaced the tool clasp handles with Voyager's PE handles.
Step 19 installs the metal cables. As far as I can tell most vehicles use J86. The 200mm length is too long for most configurations including their own drawings. G has a number of different configurations not shown, including many with a short run of cable from just front to end. Check yours and cut to length. I do love the copper cables which to me is the best type of tow cables for tanks.
Step 20 is the rear plate and a bunch of subassemblies. You have 4 different choices of exhaust. The early are most likely subassemblies C17 and C19, and the cool-looking C13-C16 are for the late models. It seems however many mid-late vehicles have the rectangular-tubular configurations C18 and C20 so I went with those. The kit also have curved ends for the late exhausts which they did not indicate in the instructions.
Step 21-28 are the lower hull and wheels. Some wheels have poly caps which allows them to be removed for painting and track installation. The torsion bars C20 and C21 has very little clearance and if you didn't install them properly the suspension arms will not fit, so I recommend installing them in tandem rather than getting all of torsion bars first. Once again Rye field has rather weak support for torsion bars like their Tigers so I opted to fix the suspension. You have a choice of idler wheels in subassemblies B5 and C7. A lot of vehicles kept the smaller "early" wheels so check your references. The instructions also offer you an option to replace the last set of wheels with steel wheels. Iím sure they have their references but I donít think they are common, but in all of their 3 variantís painting guides they drew their tanks with the steel wheels, which seems incorrect. Finally they offer spare wheels with rubber tires. I donít know why they chose to do it this way, as the rubber is really difficult to work with.
Step 29 are the tracks. For some people they are a pain, but I have done a lot of plastic workable tracks and this is one of the easier. First they cast these in pairs, and they have two gates each. The bad news is that these gates are on concave surfaces and could be a hassle to remove, but the good news is that they are not at the centre of the bend but along one edge, so with a good nipper like Tamiyaís 75123, it is possible to get a clean cut with little to no clean up. Rye field provides a jig to assemble the tracks, with different pins for the inside and outside. You need some glue to keep the pins in place or they will fall off. I recommend this process: first assemble 11 links, not 12 as shown in the instructions, because you have groups of 5 pins each. Make sure you press the tracks down because the fit is really snug. Then apply some glue to the pinís length. I recommend the thicker regular Tamiya cement rather than Tamiya extra thin, because the glue will stay better. Often with extra thin there is too little glue and my pins would fall off. Then press the group of pins in. I do it by hand holding both the jig and the pin groups, as you need some wriggle room for the pins to go in. If you align the tracks perfectly the pins should go in smoothly, but in half the cases I need to apply some force to push the pins in all the way, but they just snap fitted without breaking. Then the tricky part is to separate the pins from the sprue, because the pin is more inside than the tracks so itís difficult to get a flush cut. First I break up the sprue by cutting the base of each pin, not at the gate but further up. Once you finish the track is now live and can bend, and you can bend the track so that the pinís gate is exposed and you can get a clean cut. With a good sprue cutter you have no need to sand afterwards.
Finally step 30 installs the front mud guards. The position depends on both the nub on the sides of the glacis plate as well as the side skirt bracket platforms. After you glue the mud guards to these, you can affix the bracket platforms anchors C30 (in step 18), as well as install the mud guard bracket PEs Y43 and Y56 (step 14).
This is undoubtedly one of the most detailed Panthers on the market. Before this year Dragon was the standard on Panther Gs and I have a few of them, and Rye field upped the game with an infusion of details, particularly in the PE department. It isnít often that you hear Dragon has an easier build but this is definitely the case here, with Rye field having some of the parts seemingly over engineered. Nevertheless you get results for the work you put in. Highlights for me are the completely rendered tool racks and spare track racks, plus the kit offers many options which allows you to build into many variants for the whole run of Gs. However with this number of options you need to pick and choose from your own references as the kitís instructions are generic. The kit be challenging for beginners because some of the assemblies are quite tricky, and the workable tracks are not everyone's cup of tea. But the kit builds into a beautiful and accurate Panther G out of the box, and probably has the best value for what it offers with a relatively easy to build workable track and copper tow cables. I love the kit and highly recommend it for intermediate to experienced modellers.