The Sd. Kfz. 171, Panzerkampfwagen V, Panther Ausf. D was an early variant of the well known Panther series. Its design was loosely based on experience gained from encounters with the Soviet T-34 tanks. The early production Ausf. D models can most readily be recognized by their commanders drum cupola and the fact that the hull machine gun projected from a hinged armoured flap as opposed to a ball mount.
This was the first German tank to make extensive use of slopped armour that varied from 15 mm to 120 mm in thickness. These early versions were powered by a Maybach HL 210 P30 engine, V-12 gasoline engine which delivered 650 metric hp at 3,000 rpm and providing a top speed of 55 km/h (34 mph). Main armament consisted of a 7.5 cm KwK 42 L70 gun and two 7.92 mm MG-34 machine guns.
The subject of this review is the Dragon Armor Pro, Sd. Kfz. 171 Panther Ausf. D Early Production, kit #7494.
On removing the box top one finds that it is fairly well filled with plastic. Four individually wrapped sprues of light grey styrene are present. A large sprue ‘A’ contains 41 parts including the main upper hull and turret pieces. A medium size ‘C’ sprue holds 21 parts made up of the hull rear, side skirts and various detail pieces such as towing shackles. A larger ‘D’ sprue holds 22 pieces that make up the tank’s suspension. On the final ‘B’ sprue resides the lower tank hull.
The standard Dragon accessory card is present and on it you will find a pair of Dragon DS tracks and a rather busy set of Cartograph decals.
A four sided instruction card is provided, displaying a parts diagram, two sides with eight assembly steps and one page showing painting and marking schemes. The assembly instructions for the tank are in the form of exploded view line drawings using arrows to indicate parts placement.
Painting and marking instructions are provided for one of five vehicles:
-Three of the vehicles are from the Pz.Abt.52, Pz.Rgt.39, Kursk 1943.
-Pz.Rgt. 15, Pz.Div. 11, Ukraine 1943
-4./Pz.Rgt. “Großdeutschland”, Karachev 1943
All the options are for vehicles in variations of a dark yellow base with a disruptive pattern of red-brown and khaki green camouflage. The colour references provided are for the GSI Creos Corp Aqueous Hobby Color, the same company’s Mr. Color and Model Master enamels.
On examining the sprues the first thing that will impress you is the level of detail on even the smallest parts. Be it panel lines, bolt or screw heads, interlocking armor joints; they are beautifully rendered. Ejector marks are minimal and where they do appear they are mostly on internal surfaces that will not show after construction, or be otherwise hidden after the addition of extra parts. Flash is virtually non existent and mould seam lines were generally very light and can most likely be removed with a light scraping with a sharp hobby knife.
As with other Dragon kits that I have reviewed, some of the sprue gates for the smaller parts are quite large. This will require considerable care when separating them from the sprue. Other smaller parts have equally small gates to them. However, some parts, such as the main turret piece (A24), turret back plate (A26) or the rear hull armour plate, have larger connectors at awkward locations, that will require careful cleanup. Further inspection also revealed that several parts such as the periscopes (A1-A4) and tool racks have greatly undersized locating pins compared to the respective holes or recesses that they are meant to fit into.
The predominance of tools come moulded on racks that are attached to the hull and the level of detail must be seen to be believed. The only individual tools to be attached are an intricate vehicle jack (C11) that has gear rack teeth present and even a separate operating handle (C15) and a large pry-bar. While spare tracks are shown on the box top illustration, none are present in the kit but the hangars to which they would be attached are available as separate parts (A15, A16). Side skirts are represented in plastic and have been moulded with tapering edges to reduce their perceived thickness.
All hatches are moulded on except for the commanders hatch. Unfortunately this hatch has no interior detail and is meant to be attached in the closed position. Having this hatch displayed open will require a moderate amount of work on the modellers part to display it that way.
The turret is provided as a shell minus rear wall, mantlet and bottom with the turret ring. There are even separate parts provided for the pistol ports. The main gun barrel is moulded in one piece with the muzzle brake already present and slide-moulded so that the bore and other openings in it are open.
The suspension makes use of road wheels where the innermost road wheels consist of 'layers' or sets of wheels that are joined by small bridges and then fixed on to the pegs on the hull sides. The outermost road wheels are individual pieces. This will provide a fairly fast and accurately positioned suspension where the joined sets will not be visible after construction.
There are final drive housings that fit onto the hull sides and the drive sprockets are two piece affairs that fit onto these. Each rear idler is a three piece affair and will sit on it’s own mounting peg at the rear hull side.
The instructions show the driver’s armoured vision port cover is to be glued in the closed position. What they fail to show is that there is an option and a part (A7) that permits the builder to model this port in the open position. Part A7 is a nicely moulded support to hold the armoured cover in that orientation.
With this kit we also see Dragon taking a couple of steps backward from their previous standards. All grab handles and lifting eyes are moulded on and represented as lumps of plastic. No PE alternatives are provided in this kit and indeed, there is no photo-etch at all. Virtually all previous Panther and Jagdpanther kits came with PE frets with engine compartment intake screens as well as other optional detail alternatives. Another glaring omission with this kit and was ‘standard’ in the past, is the lack a part to represent the radiators, fans and general engine compartment interior. As all grills on the engine compartment are moulded as openings, the interior of the area will be quite visible.
The instructions are broken down into eight distinct steps. The modeller should study these and determine if the assembly order suggested is the best.
Steps 1 and 2 focus almost entirely on the construction of the suspension components on the lower hull. As mentioned above, the interlocked sets of road wheels should greatly speed assembly. In Step 2 the towing shackles (C1-C4) are to be attached but this should be delayed until construction is complete as they are extremely delicate, small and are meant to be attached by a press fit.
Step 3 is where the rear armour plate is detailed. The mufflers, jack and rear driving lights are attached. Thanks to slide-moulding the muffler exhaust openings are hollow.
Step 4 deals with the attachment of detail parts to the upper hull front and left side. These parts include the headlights, a tool rack, spare track hangar, periscopes, gun cleaning rod tube as well as others. As mentioned above, many of these parts have locating pins that are far undersized for their respective locating features. The gun cleaning rod container is made up of three parts and the modeller will have to pay special attention as to the proper orientation of the pieces when attaching them.
Step 5 adds the final details to the upper hull. These included the right side tool racks, track hangers, a hull top ventilator dome (A31) and main gun travel lock (A10). The ventilator dome has no positive locating feature so care will need to be exercised when attaching it. The travel lock can only be displayed in the up position and there is no provision for it to represented in the stowed orientation.
Step 6 concentrates on the construction of the turret. Many of the larger pieces had a positive and accurate fit. However, if the modeller wishes the gun to be posable in elevation then they will need to exercise extreme care when assembling the various internal mantlet components. Having reviewed the instructions from various previous Dragon Panther releases, the engineering pertaining to this kit appears unnecessarily complex and prone to problems.
Step 7 involved the attaching of the completed turret, the rear armour plate to the hull and then the upper hull to the lower. From dry fitting, the fit of the hull pieces was very good and therefore no problems should be expected. It is with the turret that the builder will experience a rather odd development. This could be a major issue for those that want the turret on this one to be rotatable. It is that there were none of the slots and tabs that stop the turret from falling off. The turret is just meant to rest in the turret ring or more precisely be glued in place. There were obvious marks in the mould for the slots so they could be used as a guide to cut them out. As there are no corresponding lugs or tabs to fit into these notches the builder will need to fashion their own.
Step 8 sees the completion of the tank with the attachment of the DS tracks and side-skirts.
To this reviewer this kit appears to be contradictory in terms of its components/engineering. It leaves one wondering as to why some smaller parts, in some cases tiny, are provided separately whilst others that could be provided separately are moulded integrally into larger parts. Having released a number of Panthers in the past, one might assume that this new one would follow a similar and established pattern.
This kit is neither a ‘quick-build’ nor up to the standards that Dragon has established by its past releases. That is not to say that it will not result in a attractive addition to anyone’s collection. In many areas the moulding is high quality but one can’t help question the ‘little things’ that were ignored that would make the overall kit more complete. A simple enough ki
A Build Log
has been started in the forums to further evaluate this kit.