DML 1/72 Sd.Kfz.171 Panther G (Early Version) Build Review
By Llarry Amrose
|Date of Review||June 2008||Manufacturer||DML|
|Subject||Sd.Kfz.171 Panther G (Early Version)||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||7205||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice detailing||Cons||Some don’t like the cast-metal hulls|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$15.00|
Some believe the PzKpfw V Panther to be the best tank of World War II. Certainly it’s part of any such discussion. With its heavy sloped armor and high-powered armament, the Panther was a formidable foe wherever it was encountered. In the end, limited production, and reliability issues, both the result of design complexity, held it back. The 75mm gun was not as powerful and flashy as the 88mm gun used in the Tiger tanks, but with its high-powered shell and exceptionally long barrel, it was very accurate and capable of holding its own against any adversary.
During the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the T-34 came as an unpleasant surprise. Good speed, sloped armor and a high rate production, and the Panzer IIIs and IVs then in service couldn’t keep up. Daimler Benz and MAN were solicited for designs for the new tank. The DB design was initially favored, but the MAN version was finally chosen to enter production. Perhaps its biggest advantage was that it used a Rheinmetall-Borsig turret that was already in production, whereas the DB design would have been held up while a new turret was designed and built from scratch.
The first Panthers, the Ausf. D, were delivered in 1943, followed by the refined Ausf. A and, in early 1944, the Ausf. G, the subject of this kit. One of the more noticeable visible modifications was a revised gun mantlet designed to reduce the likelihood of trapping incoming shells and deflecting them into the driving compartment. Later revisions included introducing steel wheels, conserving strategic materials by eliminating the rubber tires.
Dragon uses a standard two-part box, one that’s pretty sturdy. Inside are three individually wrapped sprues, die-cast metal upper and lower hulls, and two black vinyl tracks. This kit predates the Dragon Styrene™ tracks they are so proud of, but I found they took paint and CA glue just fine. This kit is no longer in production, but copies still turn up from time to time.
The instructions are printed full-color on glossy paper, and consist of photographs of a kit at various stages of construction. Paint notations are given for Gunze Aqueous and Mr. Colour, with “Italeri” cross-references (which I believe are actually Model Master).
The upper and lower hulls are provided in die-cast metal and pre-primed in gray. They are carried over from Dragon’s line of finished die-cast models, which I believe they launched at about the same time as this kit was first released. Two screws are provided to close up the hull, though they are not referenced in the instructions. In retrospect, I probably should have used them myself, but more on that later…
I started by assembling the turret. The rear wall of the turret is a separate piece, which helps capture the distinctive look of the Panther. With the hulls primed, I went ahead and sprayed the parts on the sprues and the completed turret. The engine panel was mounted to the upper hull, and the engine deck over it. This structure allows for better painting of the engine parts visible through the vents, and also allows Dragon to model the different engine developments with just a few optional vent parts.
I then attached the upper and lower hulls, along with the rear panel. This is where I ran into the only real hiccup. The fit wasn’t quite as even as I expected. This is the third of Dragon’s metal-hulled kits that I have built, and the second Panther variant. The other kits fit perfectly, so I’m not sure what happened here. My first thought was that there was a build-up of primer somewhere interfering with the proper fit, but attempts to sand it down were unsuccessful. The primer Dragon uses is pretty tough. Had I used the screws provided I might have been able to tighten the parts up better, but I was left with a small but noticeable gap along the front join. I ended up filling the gap with plastic card and CA glue, and while I may have lost a little of the characteristic sharp edge, I did manage to avoid losing any of the cast-in weld detail.
After adding some of the detail parts to the hull, as well as the drive sprockets and rear idlers, it was time for the first round of painting. Then some detail painting and the rest of the tools and all of the road wheels were added. Finally, the tracks were painted and mounted, and the side skirts.
The directions call for the side skirts to be attached before the tracks, but that makes it near impossible to glue the upper run of tracks down tight to the tops of the road wheels. The skirts are also a little tricky. The front and back brackets are different, so you have to be careful to keep them straight. Of course, if you want to add the skirts after the tracks, it doesn’t matter as much, since it’s pretty hard to wedge the brackets in. I ended up cutting off the large locating pins, but the pins along the hull sides are sufficient (with an appropriate application of CA) to anchor the parts in place.
There are two schemes to choose from. The first is from the 12th Panzer Division based in the Ardennes in 1944, in a three-color camouflage of green and red-brown over sand yellow. The second is from the 11th Panzer in Southern France in 1944 in overall sand. I chose this second scheme, not just because it’s simpler for this review, but I also happen to like the looks of a Panther in plain sand.
This gave me a chance to try out some of the Lifecolor paint I picked up a while back. I used their “Sandgrau” which is a little less yellow than the usual Panzer Dark Yellow shade. The main hull parts were pre-primed, so I went ahead and primed the rest of the parts with Armory grey spray primer. The Sandgrau handled well and covered in just a couple of fairly thin coats. The details were done with an assortment of acrylic paints by various makers. Final finishing was done with Tamiya Weathering Masters, which are a series of pastels in makeup-like cases with an applicator sponge/brush which excel for more subtle affects, and hold up better than regular dry pastels.
It looks like a Panther. Whatever that means. I’ll leave the final verdict to more dedicated Panther aficionados, but the shape bears up pretty well compared to the pictures and drawings scattered through the assorted books on my shelves, and the basic measurements are as close to spot-on as my ruler will allow.
This was a fun little build. I’ve heard some modelers complain about the die-cast hull, but I really don’t mind it. I did end up with a bit of a fit problem with it, but my previous experiences show that it is not necessarily typical. This is one of Dragon’s earlier kits – while they have shown development over time, the design and detail of this kit is still rather good.