Friday, 24 April 2015

A BIG CAT Tamiya 1/25 Panther A (kit no. 30612)

The Panther tank

The Panther tank or Pz.Kfw. V is considered the best German tank from World War II. It was designed as a response to the KV series tanks and especially the T34/76 encountered on the battlefields in Russia. The Panther tank's design is inspired by it's Russian counterpart. The most noticeable differences from the Pz. Kfw. I to IV are the sloped armour and wide tracks mimic-in the T34 design. The Panther tank was equipped with a 7,5 cm KwK. 42 able to shoot armour piercing rounds at 1100 m/s (almost four times the speed of sound) making the weapon very similar to the British 17-pounder.

The first model of the Panther was the D version. This model suffered from many engine failures, the engine was improved as production continued. The A model was a better version as the D. The most noticeable differences are an armoured commanders copula (the raised structure on the turret with periscopes and hatch) and a ball mount for the hull machine gun. Most Panther A's where covered in zimmerit anti-magnetic paste to prevent magnetic mines to be attached to the tank. After a production number of 2.200 vehicles the A model was superseded by the model G. The Panther was deployed on all fronts except North Africa.

The Panther A at the Munster (NOT Münster that is!) Panzer Museum.
The KwK 42 in the same museum.

The Tamiya model

Most mainstream model manufacturers have one or more panthers in their production line, Tamiya is no exception. This model is an odd scaled 1/25 model from 1972. Given the age of the molds it is tempting to think it's an under detailed affair but this is not so in my opinion. The only really weak part are the camps holding the tools on the hull, these basically look like giant 1/72 parts. The fenders are not great and a few bolts on the inner front side of the drive wheel house are missing. Good points are that all bolts are hexagonal, the weldseams are nicely moulded, the tracks are working single linked pieces which come already assembled, the suspension is actually working and the wheels can turn. If you buy a separate gear box you can even make the model able to drive. The large scale of this model make it ideal to detail with your own made parts and/or after market stuff.

Building the model

The model has about 150 parts. Construction begins with the suspension system, as mentioned this is fully working. The torsion bars are made form a soft kind of plastic and can be assembled without glue. There are two different types of torsion bars so be careful to install the right kind of bar in the right slot! I managed to do this wrong on the first day of construction and found out only on the last day when installing the wheels. Needles to say I didn't rearrange the torsion bars but I had to cut off some parts and glue more. I read the soft material of the torsion bars will deform under the weight of the tank over time so the model will sit too low on it's wheels in a few years time. Not sure of this true but a block of styrofoam placed under the hull (not glued) can solve this problem before it even exists.
The wheels are nice but the inner road wheels have a kind of thick rim over the middle which must be cut away. In reality these wheels where two wheels pressed together. Tamiya chose to only detail the side that can be seen. The 'hole' on the inner side can only be seen on the first road wheel set when you look at the tank from a very low angle so real purist might want to correct this. Click on a picture for a larger version.

The axis of the drive and idler wheels are made out of metal. The Idler wheel shaft can be placed more to the front or back to manipulate track tension. This should be done with some screws.
I also assembled the large parts of the turret. The next step was to cover the model in thin plastic card and scribe a zimmerit pattern in the plastic sheets making the surfaces of the large model less plain and more interesting to look at.
After the zimmerit was applied I closed the hull. The instructions advice not to glue the upper and lower hull allowing for easy access to replace batteries but I glued anyway because this is a display model and it looks better. On the hull it self the U-strips holding the spare track links can have a hole drilled through them and a pin inserted. In reality this was used hold the spare tracks in place. The space between the upper side of the track and hull was also closed with plastic card. Smaller parts where glued on next. The grab handles where not replaced by wire because in this scale, the kit parts are simply better. An other small step was drilling cooling holes in the machine guns of the tank. The turret lifting lugs of the model are moulded as 'U' shapes just like the grab handles, these must be replaced by wire since the real lugs are actually round. There is a nylon cord to simulate the metal towing cables. I used them and am impressed with how it looked. When painted these become a bit stiffer and enable you to make a really realistic looking cable with little effort. It was difficult to determine the length at this stage. The instructions recommend 18,5 cm but one of the cables turned out to be to long.
The last thing in the building process was removing the clamps of the pioneer tools and replace them by my own versions made from metal sheet and wire. Also I used engine intake covers from Aber.
Several photo's of the detailed up parts. The fire extinguisher was detailed a bit more after these photo's where taken. Click on the photo's to see a larger version.

The photo directly above are the small chains. These are made by making 1mm holes in the sheet metal cover you can find on butter and yoghurt boxes as following:

I painted my vehicle as the '215'. I painted the markings since the zimmerit makes the use of decals impossible.

On to the photo's of the finished model:

The last picture is the 1/25 panther with Revell's 1/72 version.

The large scale of this model make it a a good candidate to make your own parts for. I build the model over a 120 day time span but was never really tired of it since the work to be done was so diverse. Recommended for everyone wanting to build a large scale tank and wants to try to make their own parts. The assembled tracks, metal parts, nylon tow cables and figures make this kit a complete package. People looking for a perfect super detailed model might want to try a modern 1/35 scale model. All 1/25 tanks in the Tamiya range are:

  • T34/85
  • SU-100
  • Panther A
  • Jagdpanther
  • Tiger I (interior included)
  • Centurion (interior included)
  • Chieftain prototype
In addition Academy also made a Jagdpanther and Panther G. In the similar 1/24 scale a Kübelwagen and Jeep are available from Hasegawa, a Pz. Kfw. II and BMW motor cycle with side span from Asuka and finally a Jeep and landrover from Italeri. Not a very large range of kits but a nice line up anyway. The Panther A is still produced and available at hlj.com for 6000 yen/€50,00.

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