by: Matthew Lenton [ ]
The release of this kit was announced on Armorama all the way back in January 2016, but has only recently been received as a review item, supplied by Dragon USA. It is basically a development from their Panther Ausf.D Late Production no. 7506, which in turn was developed from the Panther Ausf.D Early Production no. 7494.
So I’m going to cut to the chase on this review and say that this new release is essentially pointless, because the changes that have been made are tiny and not good enough. I notice as I am writing this that Dragon are about to release an Ausf.A Late Production variant (item 7505) and if you want a Dragon Ausf.A model, I would suggest waiting for that to be released instead.
Before I get into an explanation of that view, a history reminder that for some obscure reason, the first production model was the Ausf.D (Jan – Sep 1943), followed by the Ausf.A (from Sep 1943). As with all WWII German tanks in series production, the Panther underwent frequent design changes, some of which may not have appeared simultaneously on all new vehicles, as Panthers were produced in factories operated by four separate companies. This apparent evolution of specifications and manufacture can make the teasing out of the separate marques quite difficult.
The four main sprues are identical to the Ausf.D Late Production kit, and indeed all have “Panther D” written on them. There is then one small sprue of parts new to this Ausf.A variant, sprue F.
Sprue A: Upper hull and turret
Sprue B: Lower hull
Sprue C: Side skirts, rear plate, exhausts etc.
Sprue D: Wheels, including 24 bolt road wheels with modular construction
E: DS tracks
Sprue F: Inner mantlet side plate and loader’s turret periscope
Decal sheet: Three crosses with numbers “701” in black, “221” in red and white.
The instruction sheet is not in colour, but that’s not much of a loss as both of the suggested finishing schemes are uniform dark yellow, and both “Unidentified unit, Italy 1943/44”.
If you are interested in the construction in terms of parts fit, flash and any build issues, I would refer you to Jan Etal’s very good review and build log. In this review I’ll mostly just look at the changes that have been implemented for this release.
As with the Ausf.D Late there are a number of modifications to be made by the modeller in the course of construction. Starting in step 3 the modeller is asked to remove the two [ [ shapes at the bottom of the back plate; these seem to be the location points for a towing bracket that may exist on a possible future release of a Bergepanther kit. In step 4 the right hand location hole for the headlamp is to be filled in, while step 6 includes removal of the rain guard over the pistol port on the rear turret plate and of the mounts for the smoke candle dischargers on the turret sides (photo 21), these all being Early D features, and are identical to instructions in the Late D kit. Unlike the Late D, the armoured snorkel pot on the rear deck is not to be fitted and this component (A46) is marked as unused.
Also in Step 6, the modeller is instructed to open up two holes in the turret roof which are the location points for one of the two new components, part F1, the loader’s periscope, which is attached in Step 8. The other new part is F3 (there is no F2) which represents the right hand side casting of the turret front on to which the mantlet attaches, and replaces part A28 (see labelled comparison photo). This change is highlighted on the box side as “Unique fillet molded onto right side of mantlet base”; I must say that this is a very subtle change indeed and I was unable to find any photos that clearly showed this feature. As ever, it seems that most photos with a clear view of this part of the turret are of the left side, and even more problematically, virtually all Ausf.As have zimmerit in this area. Page 31 of Squadron’s Panther In Action has a photo of what appears to be an Ausf.A turret stripped of gun and mantlet which gives a great view of this area, but I still couldn’t see this welded on fillet. Thomas Jentz’s book Panther: Quest for Combat Supremacy does have a drawing illustrating the difference in the type of side plate used in the Ausf.A from the Ausf.D, but it applies to both sides, and appears not to be represented by the part that Dragon have supplied in this kit; even the change that Jentz illustrates is difficult to see on real examples due to the zimmerit that covers that area in most photos. This drawing did bring up another difference with the Ausf.A, which is correctly represented in this kit, that of the interlocking welded joint on the turret side being square cut, while it was dovetailed on the Ausf.D, which means that it is incorrect in the Ausf.D kit – yes, this is serious nitpicking, I know, but in some ways Dragon invite this type of analysis as they use these small variations to justify the plethora of versions that they produce.
So those are the changes… just two parts, and that is a problem. The change from the designation Ausf.D to Ausf.A related to the fitting of a new turret on a chassis that was unchanged from the immediately preceding Ausf.D. Although the early A and late D turrets were externally similar in appearance, both still featuring side pistol ports and the binocular gun site with rain cover in the mantlet, the main difference was the new cast commander’s cupola with seven periscopes, but this kit still retains the old drum type cupola. Having checked a number of references I cannot see any justification for this, so at the moment can only conclude that it is an error, whether accidental or not, who can say? If anyone can point to any evidence that the inclusion of this old type cupola is justified, then please say so, I am more than ready to be corrected (and even put out of the misery I’ve felt in looking at this kit!) Dragon have of course produced a 1/35 kit of a Panther A Early Type (6160) and that does include both what appear to be the revised mantlet side plates as per the Jentz drawing, as well as the new cast cupola. Interestingly, in the forum thread for the news item linked to at the very start of this review, it was noticed that the box art for this kit was the same as for the 1/35 kit, something that my attention was drawn to by the signature “VOLSTAD ‘02”. There is a difference however (see final photo) in that the painting has been altered to remove the cast cupola and the commander who is looking out of it, replacing it with the Ausf.D type cupola that is in this kit!
Other disappointments and inaccuracies are as seen before with the Ausf.D Late kit. There is the now standard non-appearance of any mesh grilles for the engine deck, meaning that the statement on the box side “Highly detailed engine deck accurately represents Ausf.A Early Production” is not, to me in any case, as true as it might be. There is also the lack of zimmerit; the Jentz book contains a single photo of an Ausf.A without zimmerit, but all other photos I can find, and the box top art for this kit, show zimmerit.
Finally, note that the decals are the same numbers as used in the 1/35 kit, but there they were described as, 221: I./Pz.Rgt. 4 near Anzio, Italy in 1944 (with zimmerit), and 701: Pz.Rgt.23 of 23.Pz.Div. in Southern Russia in Winter 1943/44 (whitewashed, no zimmerit). In this kit those unit details have been reduced to “unknown” and the paint schemes simplified to all over dark yellow without zimmerit.
As stated in the Introduction, this release seems quite pointless because the changes it introduces are not enough to make it into an accurate Ausf.A. The welded fillet on the mantlet side would be quite easy to produce one’s self, and the loader’s periscope would also be relatively straightforward to scratch build. Much harder to hand-make is a curved cast seven periscope commander’s cupola, so if you want a 1/72nd Panther Ausf.A with the correct cupola then I would recommend waiting until kit 7505 is released, which seems to be due this month, November 2016. If you really need an early Ausf.A you might consider whether it is easier to backdate that kit than to update this one.
So, a disappointment, if not a surprising one. Had this kit been supplied with the new cupola, a new hull and turret with zimmerit, and etched engine deck grilles, then it might have been quite something. Some spare track links to go on the rear side plates, as seen in most photos of a Panther in action, would have been nice as well.
Thomas L Jentz Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy (Schiffer, 1995)
Bruce Culver Panther In Action (Squadron/Signal, 1975)
Panther Ausf.D Late Production no. 7506
Panther Ausf.D Early Production no. 7494