In February 2012 Dragon released their first Amor Pro Panther Ausf.D, an “Early Production” model, their earlier Panther kits being Ausf.Gs. As we saw in Jan Etal’s review of that Early Ausf.D
, this kit was from all-new moulds compared to the Ausf.G kits, and introduced a semi-modular means of fitting the inner road wheels. In the same way that the Ausf.G moulds continue to be exploited by Dragon in the forms of further late Panther variants, they have now turned their attention to their Ausf.D moulds in order to produce another variant kit from them.
The Panther Ausf.D, like all WWII German tanks in series production, underwent frequent modifications. These were either improvements to one or more sides of the triangle” of tank power, i.e. firepower, protection, performance, or else were for manufacturing reasons: improvements in efficiency or to save certain materials, or both. Some design changes introduced may not have appeared simultaneously on all new vehicles, since four separate firms were engaged in manufacturing Panthers in their own factories. If new parts were designed and produced, the old design parts would often still continue to be used until the stock was exhausted, although there are also instances of a new part starting to be fitted, then the superseded item reappearing on some tanks as stocks of the old parts were uncovered. Indeed, in August 1943, the Munitions Ministry wrote to the manufacturing firms to reprimand them for failing to incorporate all of the required design changes; it seems that Daimler and Henschel were particularly at fault.
So, what are the differences between this Late Production Panther and the Early model? Some new parts have been added to sprue A: a jack block (part 45), anti-aircraft machine gun mount (43), an armoured pot to cover the snorkel tube on the rear deck (46), and two turret pistol ports without rain guards (42 and 43). Photo 17 shows these parts boxed in red on the Late sprue A compared to the Early sprue A in photo 18 (kindly supplied by Jan Etal). Now, at first, this passed me by, as the sprues look so similar between the Early and Late kits, but sprue D, which holds all the wheels, is a new sprue, the difference being that the road wheels now have 24 bolts around the rim instead of the 12 of the Early model. As with the Early version, the moulding quality of all this is very good, the bolts on the sprockets, for example, being tiny, but all there.
Other differences are applied in the course of construction by the removal of certain small details. Starting in step 3 the modeller is asked to remove the two [ [ shapes at the bottom of the back plate (photo 19), though I have no idea what these are for; in the Early kit these are left in place, though nothing seems to locate on them, the jack being attached somewhat higher up. In step 4 the right hand location hole for the headlamp is marked out as to be filled in (photo 20), due to the elimination of the lamp. Step 6 includes instructions to remove the rain guard over the pistol port on the rear turret plate, and to remove the mounts for the smoke candle dischargers on the turret sides (photo 21). Finally, step 7 asks for the removal of the bolts around the cover over the inlet for the telescoping air intake snorkel on the engine deck (photo 22), in order to allow the flush fitting of the armoured pot that sits on top.
Ausf. D history
Using Thomas Jentz’s Germany’s Panther Tank (published 1995, so there may be more recent research that contradicts some of this) we can date some of these modifications:
- June 43: Armor pot over the snorkel cover added
- June 43: Rain guards over turret side pistol ports deleted
- July 43: Smoke candles dischargers deleted
- July 43: Right hand headlamp deleted
- August 43: AA machine gun ring on cupola introduced
- August 43: 24 bolt road wheels introduced.
As Zimmerit started to be applied to Panthers from September 43, we can narrow down the completion of this Late production representation to August 1943. We could try to go further in that the designs of the air inlet and fuel filler covers on the engine access hatch were modified from mid-August, so perhaps we can narrow it down to the first two weeks of August – however, these two particular modifications are among those that the Munitions Ministry complained had not been fitted to over 60 Panthers manufactured after the design changes had been ordered.
This design history seems to point to a minor inconsistency in the Early Production version of the kit, which is the inclusion in that model of the rain guard over the gun sight apertures, a design change introduced in August 43, and which should therefore be removed from the mantlet; its presence in the Late version being reviewed here, is correct.
As we have seen with other recent Dragon Panther releases, this kit does not include any etched brass to replicate the mesh over the vents on the engine deck. My view is that if a manufacturer is to go to the trouble of producing separate Late and Early versions of a Panther Ausf.D, with all of the quite subtle differences between them that are described above, but do not wish to include etched mesh covers, then the mesh would be better represented by moulded plastic than simply ignored altogether (which is what they have done) as the absence of any mesh on the vents is inaccurate. For around £10 one can buy the Black Dog Panther D detail set which includes some very nice etched screens, but this purchase would push the cost of completing this Dragon kit with screens to around £30. (Of course the really quite decent Zvezda Panther D can be had for under a tenner, to which you could add the detail set for the same cost as Dragon's offering…)
The decal sheet is a somewhat tiddly affair of three crosses, with three large red on white “12”s to represent 16 Panzer Division in Russia, 1943, (dark yellow with large green patches) and a smaller pair of black “425”s for 24 Panzer Regiment, France 1944 (three colour camouflage). My meagre research suggests that 16 Panzer would have arrived in Russia in December 1943, so perhaps a winter camouflage would be appropriate over the yellow and green.
Apologies if this review has seemed more like a ramble through Panther D history, without any comment on fit or flash, but I think you can take it that this kit is similar enough to the Early production version, that a read of Jan Etal’s review
and build log
of that kit will fill in those interesting details.
At first I thought that the differences between the two versions were so small as to be almost pointless, since many of them could be applied by the modeller who was particularly interested in producing an August 1943 Panther. I have to say however that the inclusion of the new wheel sprue with double the wheel bolts is quite impressive. Another product of the “golden age” of choice that modellers find themselves living in today, and that once would hardly have been credited, or another small variation on an existing kit that keeps Dragon products in the modelling press… well, both, of course.
Thomas L Jentz Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy