by: Mark [ ]
The Panther lineage dates back to 1938 and the VK20 program. After the Russian invasion, and encountering the T-34/KV-1, this program was cancelled. New requirements were issued for a 30t class tank, and the VK30 program was born. Daimler-Benz proposed the VK30.01 (D) and M.A.N. proposed the VK30.02 (M). In May 1942, Hitler approved the selection of the M.A.N. design. M.A.N. produced two trial vehicles that were used to develop the design. After development and with requirements for increased armor protection, the vehicle’s weight grew to 48t, the same as the initial Tiger design.
The first production Ausf. D’s rolled off M.A.N.’s assembly line in January 1943. The first 250 units were powered by the Maybach HL210 P30 engine. This was then upgraded to the HL230 P30 engine in early May 1943. Production ended in early September 1943 as the factories switched to the Ausf. A model. Four firms produced the Ausf. D version; M.A.N. (primary), Daimler-Benz, M.N.H, and Henschel. The Panther was armed with the 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70 main gun with one MG34 hull mounted and a second MG34 mounted coaxially in the turret. 79 main gun rounds could be carried along with 1500 rounds for the MG34’s.
What’s in the Box
This kit is from Meng and released in 2018. This is a large box, measuring 15in x 9.5in x 4in (38cm x 24cm x 10cm), containing 917 parts. What’s in the box:
11 sprues molded in beige
1 sprue molded in clear
2 sprues of polycaps
3 PE Frets
1 Bag with 2 sizes of wire
1 Metal gun barrel
1 Decal sheet
1 23 page Instruction manual
1 4 page painting guide
Looking at the Kit
The quality of the styrene is very good. There is little or no flash on any of the parts. The ejector pin marks are located such that they shouldn’t be an issue once built. The Instructions – Standard Meng format, consisting of 23 pages. The first four pages are background information, and the typical warnings. Then 17 pages of line drawings are broken down into 34 steps. The last two pages provide the parts layout and paint chart.
This kit looks to represents a vehicle built by M.A.N. The location of the Balkenkreuz was unique to each factory. The location on this kit is specific to M.A.N. In addition, all of the command Panthers, Ausf. D/A/G, was only produced by M.A.N. Before building the kit, you will need to choose which of the four versions you will build. There are parts specific to the version you select. In addition optional parts are also provided, but not referenced directly with any of the four kit versions. They can be used at the builder’s discretion.
With Step 1 you are immediately presented with an option. Meng provides you both the original 16 rim bolt and the final 24 rim bolt road wheels. There were four additional variations trialled, between these two configurations that are not represented in the kit. You are also provided the original 16 rim bolt drive sprocket and the reinforced 32 rim bolt drive sprocket. The instructions leave it up to the builder on what configuration to select. So, what should you choose?
The 24 rim bolt road wheel was introduced in August 1943. However, production incorporation didn’t begin until late September 1943. The first Ausf. A’s still had a variation of the 16 rim bolt road wheels installed as inventory was consumed first before switching. It’s likely all Ausf. D’s left the factory with one of the variations of the 16 rim bolt road wheels. For the scratch builder, you can add rivet heads between each of the 16 rim bolts to get the modified version that was used from June 1943.
The drive sprocket switched from 16 to 32 bolts in April 1943. So, you can freely use either drive sprocket with the 16 bolt road wheels. You should only use the 32 rim bolt sprocket with the 24 rim bolt road wheel. This applies to factory delivered configurations. I’m sure you will see all different combinations on field repaired tanks. You are also provided with both styles of armored caps for the 16 bolt drive sprocket. The idler wheel is the original 600mm design. A strengthened idler, with 15mm wide spokes, was incorporated during the re-manufacture program in April/May of 1943. This version is not included in the kit. But, at 1/35 scale, it is not noticeable. One other positive is that all the road wheels use polycaps for easy installation and removal for painting.
Step 2 begins assembly of the lower hull. The hull is made up of separate parts with two cross supports for strength and rigidity. If you choose to install the original tow hook configuration, you need to drill two 1mm holes in the aft hull floor. This tow hook was short lived and removed early in production. If building any version other than one of the first off the line, leave this tow hook off your kit. Meng also provides a separate movable suspension kit (SPS-057). If you are using this kit, do not install parts D16/17.
Step 3 adds the final drive covers with the return roller for both sides. Add the idler wheel axle and bump stops. The rear hull plate is also added. If installing the tow hook, you need to drill four .8mm holes. Drill the holes, from the inside, before installing.
Step 4 installs the suspension arms for the road wheels. There are three types of arms, so make sure to keep them separate. The kit configuration represents the style incorporated during the re-manufacture program in April/May 1943. The original configuration is not included in the kit.
Step 5 installs the drive train and the rear hull engine access plate.
Step 6 only applies if you are installing the tow hook. You have the option of installing only the mounts, or the full assembly.
Step 7 deals with the rear hull panel. The exhaust stacks are installed. Before installing, you need to remove two bolt heads, as indicated in the instructions. This is where the brackets for the jack will attach. You need to assemble the main body of the jack, then, insert it into its brackets. Then you will add the jack base and head. If you don’t do it this way, then the jack won’t fit in the brackets. The last parts of the step are the rear storage boxes. The heat shields were added in April 1943. If building a pre-April version, then remove the heat shield mounts from the storage boxes.
Step 8 deals with the tracks. There are 87 links per side. You have to install two guide horns per track link. Meng provides a fixture that lets you assemble 13 links at a time. The kit parts correctly represent the original track link configuration, in use up to September 1943. You are also provided ice cleats as an option to add. More than half of the kit’s part count (522) is just from these tracks.
Step 9 adds the radiators, on the inside of the rear deck, for visual detail through the rear slots. You also add the driver and RO/MG’s periscopes. If building the command version, you need to drill a .8mm hole on the rear deck for the star antenna base to attach.
Step 10 installs the armored hull air intake cover along with the glacis plate and side panniers. On the inside of the glacis plate you add part M37 if you plan to have the MG port cover in the open position. Otherwise leave this part off for the closed position.
Step 11 continues with the upper hull. Start by installing the front hatches for the driver and RO/MG’s positions. Next, you will build-up the engine access hatch. The air intake armored covers have the handle configuration instead of the original “horns”. The handles were incorporated beginning in May 1943 at the same time as the switch to the HL230 engine. The kit does not give you parts for the original configuration. Finally, add the flange cover (A10) for the fuel filler port. If building the command version, install the armored star antenna base.
Step 12 adds the side armor extensions that protect the fuel tanks. You also add the mud guards or inner fenders. If you are going to add the schurzen panels, then you need to drill 33 1mm holes for attaching the brackets in a future step. The schurzen was incorporated starting in April 1943.
Step 13 completes the front glacis plate. You have the option of showing the MG port and the driver’s view port in the open or closed position. The instructions also have you install two headlights. Starting in July 1943, the right headlight was dropped. So, if your build will be a July, or later, build, only install the left (driver’s side) headlight and fill in the mounting hole for the right headlight.
Step 14 includes the driver’s and RO/MG’s hatch locks, periscope covers and the FuG 5/FuG 2 radio antenna base for the standard Panther (FuG 7 for the command Panther). You also install the left forward tool bracket (M21). This bracket is not correct for any identified configuration. It closely represents the original configuration that was replaced in April 1943. However, the mounting straps on the original rack were welded to the top of the hull and the underside of the sponson. It was not welded directly to the pannier. Part M21 does not represent this attachment configuration for the original rack. After April 1943, the ax mounting was reversed and the rack directly welded to the panier (face hardening requirements had been deleted). The kit does not include this configuration. In addition the 360mm C-hook was replaced with 440mm C-Hook. The tow cable was also replaced with a thicker one. The kit does not include the original C-hook.
Step 15 adds a number of parts to the rear hull. Start by adding the engine hatch lifting hooks. The kit then has you install the hinged armored cap for the snorkel port. This was only installed if the submersion equipment was installed, in the engine compartment. Initially, only a sheet metal flange was used to cover the hole. Starting in April 1943, a screened flange was installed to allow additional air into the engine compartment. These parts are not in the kit. Lastly, add the racks for the spare track links and the tow cable. These racks are correct as they were bolted to the top of the hull. The bolt heads need to be carefully removed from the B sprue, backside next to where the racks are attached on the sprue.
Step 16 continues with the upper hull. At the front, you can choose whether to have the barrel travel lock in the up or down position. The kit includes the modified (asymmetric) version that was incorporated in March 1943. Next, add the PE screens for the radiator inlet and exhaust. Add the racks for the spare track links and tow cable. The bolt heads need to be carefully removed from the B sprue, backside next to where the racks are attached n the sprue. The right side forward tool rack (M18) is correct for a post April 1943 configuration. Tool rack, M19, was not added until June 1943. So, install based on your timeline.
Step 17 concerns the snorkel. Again, this was not a commonly used configuration (any of the options). However, since you are only given the option for the hinged cover back in step 15, at a minimum, you have to install Option 1. Options 2 or 3 are at your discretion. The snorkel equipment was completely dropped in July 1943. However, the armored cover (option 1) was seen installed until August 1943.
Step 18 installs the schurzen brackets. If you are not installing the schurzen, then skip this step.
Step 19 attaches the upper hull to the lower hull.
Step 20 begins with the option to show the front fenders removed or installed. Finish the step by installing the cylindrical tail light under the left storage box. However, this tail light was moved, sometime in mid-1943, to a bracket that attached to the left exhaust cover. This bracket is not included in the kit.
Step 21 adds the left side spare track links and the pioneer tools for the left forward rack.
Step 22 adds the pioneer tools to the right forward rack and the spare track links. Add the sledge hammer only if you installed the middle tool rack. You are provided two options for the jack block. The original configuration is part M39 with the “X” retaining pattern. In May 1943, this was changed to part B6 with the single retaining bar. The track cable is wrapped around the jack block. Part B30 is shown being installed on the rear deck. On pictures showing this area, I have not seen this part installed at this location. So, install as you wish.
Step 23 continues the upper hull equipment. It starts with the barrel cleaning rod tube and the left side C-hook. Part M30 is only installed for the command version, as these are the spare rods for the star antenna. The two storage boxes were never installed at the factory. These were an unauthorized field modification. So, only install if you wish.
Step 24 adds the tow cables and the schurzen panels.
Step 25 adds the fire extinguisher and the wire cutter to the front right tool rack. You also assemble the ladder with use with option 2 or 3.
Step 26 begins the turret assembly. You begin with the rear panel. The escape hatch has the rain channel molded as part of the panel. The rain guard and the retaining latch (C53) were incorporated in April 1943. The rain guards were also added over the pistol ports at the same time. If installing part M54, you need to drill a .7mm hole from the inside. You are given the option to display the escape hatch in the open or closed position
Step 27 has you drilling holes in the side panels and top panel depending on the version you are building. These holes are for the pistol port rain guard option and the smoke grenade launcher option. Pay close attention to what your drilling, if needed, for your version. For the top panel, you add the extractor fan armored cover and the FuG 5/FuG 2 antenna base if building the command version.
Step 28 attaches the front, rear, and top panels to the turret frame. Next add the right side panel. For the left side panel, you are presented with some options. For part M10 you can choose the pistol port with or without the rain guard. You are also provided the communications hatch with or without the rain guard. Again, the rain guards were added in April 1943. You are also provided a left side panel without the communications hatch (M11). The communications hatch was deleted in July 1943. In the same month, the rain guards, over the three pistol ports, were deleted. The instructions incorrectly identify part M10 for versions 1, 2, and 3; while part M11 is for option 4. Use the configuration that matches your timeline.
Step 29 adds the pistol port to the right side panel. Again, use the one that complies with your timeline. All three pistol ports should be the same configuration. You also add the smoke grenade launchers. These were removed starting in June 1943 with instructions to the field to also have them removed. So, add only if you want, or if needed for your version.
Step 30 installs the main gun “breech” assembly. There is very little detail with this part. You add the escape hatch grab handle and the rear lifting hook. Unfortunately, the instructions do not give you correct guidance with the two front lifting hooks. If you installed the smoke grenade launchers, then DO NOT install these two lifting hooks. They were not installed on the real turret as they interfered with the wiring from inside the turret to the launchers. Only install if not installing the smoke grenade launchers
Step 31 assembles the mantlet and main gun. You are provided two mantlet options. The original version (M3) and the modified one (M4) that was released in late June 1943 with the rain guard over the gun sight. Part C20 represents the coax MG and is installed in either M3 or M4. The limited first edition of this kit includes a metal barrel. A one piece barrel is also included on the C sprue. You have two options for the muzzle brake. The exposed brake and one with the canvas cover installed (M51)
Step 32 builds-up the commanders copula. Just be aware of which hole to insert the hatch into for your version. The rest of this step concerns the AA mount. If installing the AA ring, you will need to drill two .7mm holes in part M7. The AA ring was not introduced until late July/early August 1943. The instructions only show this being applicable for option 2. However, you can install for any version based on your timeline as these were fitted in the field. The option shown for the command tank is the post mounted style. This wasn’t introduced until March 1945. I have not seen a pic of this configuration on anything but a late war Ausf. G model. You can use if you want.
Step 33 simply installs the main gun and copula to the turret.
Step 34 installs the turret assembly to the chassis. It also adds the upper half of the travel lock, if you are displaying in this manner. The kit does include the top of the star antenna (PE fret W) for the command version. However, it does not include the rods so that you can assemble it. Nor does it say anything in the instructions about this. If building this option, you will have to scratch build the antenna rod. There is also a separate zimmerit sheet (SPS-058) for this kit. Even though the instructions only call it out for the command version, you can use it on any version you like. This was applied in the field, not at the factory. However, no tank at Kursk would have zimmerit.
This is a beautifully molded kit with many options provided. It should build into a kit you will be happy to display. For those that are strict about accuracy for a specific timeline, you will have issues as various parts don’t match well to a specific configuration. Here is what I mean:
The lack of the June-September 1943 road wheel configurations mean you can’t build an accurate kit for this time period. You don’t have the original support arms for the suspension. The armored engine air intake covers are only the post May ’43 version. The left front tool rack is wrong for any configuration. The early C-hook version is missing. The tail light bracket is not included. As well as the others mentioned above.
Painting – Color call-outs reference Ammo-MIG and Acrysion products.
Decals – Options are provided for four different vehicles:
No. 121, 51st Battalion, 39th Panzer Regiment, 10th Panzer Brigade, 11th Panzer Division, Kursk, July 1943
No. 232, 1st Battalion, 15th Panzer Regiment, 11th Panzer Division, Eastern Front, Autumn 1943
No. 632, 52nd Battalion, 39th Panzer Regiment, 10th Panzer Brigade, 11th Panzer Division, Kursk, July 1943
No. 155, 1st Battalion, 4th Panzer Regiment, Italy, Spring 1944 (requires the optional zimmerit decal sheet). This is a command tank configuration.
These books are highly recommended if you are looking for good reference material.
Panzer Tracts No. 5-1: Panzerkampfwagen “Panther” Ausfuehrung D
Germany’s Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy
Panther: External Appearance and Design Changes
Feist Books: Panzerkampfwagen Panther
The Panther Project Vol 1: Drivetrain and Hull
The Panther Project Vol 2: Engine and Turret
I have also included some pictures of the optional zimmerit set that Meng has released for this kit, set SPS-058. It represents a field application of zimmerit as this was not applied at the factory.