The Panther family of tanks produced by Germany during World War2 are arguably the best designed tanks of World War 2 depending on your own priorities. The balance of punch, crew protection and speed was a good balance. It is said that the panthers’ angled armour is thanks to the T-34 tanks family; by angling flat sheet armour it created extra thickness that needed to be penetrated without increasing weight and also increased the chanced that a round would be deflected from its target. The early Panthers did have issues though with engine fires and breakdowns being a big issue, but by the time the G versions were being produced it was a formidable tank design.
This offering from Meng is packed in a heavy card tray with a lighter card lid. Inside the contents are packed in individual plastic bags unless duplicated; I do think that in the present day when we are all being brow beaten over the usage of single use plastic we should be looking at alternate protective measures and it is us the customer who drive these changes. I will say that the packing used has done a good job of protecting the contents. The zimmerit decal sheet is also packed in a plastic bag with card hanger with the only risk being bend damage.
The model uses a multi-part lower hull that has allowed a good level of detail to be moulded on the parts, but that does create some risks for the modeller during assembly in getting your angles correct. Meng has seen that issue and provided two ‘T’ pieces with a cruciform to support the hull sides correctly. Drainage and access hatches are replicated on the lower hull with some being separate parts. The rear panel of the lower hull is added at an early point in assembly and I suggest adding this at the same time as the sides to provide an extra support and key locator point. Some holes need to be drilled and I congratulate Meng on covering both location and size of drill bit. An option provided by Meng that I have not seen previously is a towing plate that makes for an interesting detail.
Meng has not gone for working suspension on their model and so if displaying the model on an uneven surface it does mean you need to plan ahead as regards where to set the suspension arms which are individual parts. The arms do lock in place for a level surface, but it will only require a little drilling to free the suspension arm to be set as desired. The suspension arms are different depending on their location and so make a point of checking what you are doing. The wheels are applied assembled with poly caps trapped in them; this does create a small issue due to the interlocking nature of the wheels which will again require you to take your time and exercise some care. On the plus side the poly caps will make painting an easier task than it may have been, but I am surprised Meng has instructed assembly in this way as it may catch out newer modellers. The tracks are individual links with separate guide horns which has enabled a high degree of detail, but with slide moulding being common this detail could have been achieved in a way that was friendlier to the modeller. A jig is provided track assembly, but due to the tracks not being workable I doubt the effectiveness of the jig. I really nice inclusions in this kit are ice cleats that can be added to the tracks and so adding another nice touch.
The upper hull has been designed with a detailed upper and skeletal sides to which you add panels; this obviously allows different variants to be produced, but would question if it really save money in moulding costs tackling in this manner. The correct details for an A variant all look to be present and the cards that are included with the model cover the differences for the person who is not in the know. Holes that need to be made are well identified and drill size covered. One thing I must thank Meng for is the design of the sponsons; anyone who has tackled a Dragon Panther will know how hard it is to correctly locate the panels above the tracks, but Meng has covered this issue by providing a support leg and positive locators for the parts. Photo etched grill covers have been included and the Schürzen armour mounting brackets are securely located. Something many Panther modellers will not be accustomed to seeing are the turn indicator arms provided for the driver. The tow cables are provided in twist wire form and is not the worst or best I have seen, but with separate hitches supplied you are free to use the wire of your choice. Once all of the small details are added this will be a very nice hull.
The turret is fairly simple to tackle again being provided with a skeletal frame to which you add all of the panels, which will make adding any needed details an easier task for the manufacturer and a gain for the modeller. A simple gun breach is provided that covers the general details that could be seen from the hatch. The main gun is tackled with a single piece barrel and multi-part muzzle and so providing easy clean up and good detail. The commander’s cupola features clear periscope lenses, which due to their design could be added after the model is painted and weathered avoiding risk to the clear parts. A very MG34 is provided for the ring on the commander’s cupola that will add that nice finishing touch.
The zimmerit decal sheet that is available as a second purchase is an interesting product due to being a surprisingly light decal, I was expecting them to be very thick and heavy. The result of this should be a very scale like thickness which is hard to replicate. My concern would be that the light texture could be easily flooded during painting if not careful or brush painting rather than an airbrush being used. Something else that is impressive with these decals is that the pattern is not uniform; by this I mean the definition of the zimmerit varies as does the heaviness of the decals giving a human look to the potential finish. The instructions for adding the decals are a weak area of the product as it does not tell you if standard approaches can be used such as adding setting solutions; it does tell you that CA glue can be used after application and them having cured which bothers me a little. If memory serves me correctly all of the A variant Panthers would have had zimmerit applied and so I would have liked to see this decal sheet included with the product, but Meng are not alone in that.
There are some truly stunning aspects to this model release from Meng of an Ausf.A Panther in 1/35th scale. The towing bracket being one such feature I cannot recall having seen previously. Some of the steps taken in the construction are also worthy of note such as the robust fit of the sponsons and the Schürzen brackets. My biggest gripe is the guide horns being moulded separately from the track which creates a lot of unnecessary work and makes the tracks difficult; on the plus side in this area is that the connection points to the sprue are not excessive and the inclusion of track cleats that can be added and this is something I cannot recall having seen as a kit included feature before, you may know differently. Overall an impressive release with a lot of features that provides the modeller with some interesting features.