Dragon 6403 Sd.Kfz.171 PANTHER F mit GUMMIGEDÄMPFTEN STAHLLAUFROLLEN Für Military Vehicles Plastikbausätze
Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale ‘39-‘45 Series Kit No. 6403: Sd.Kfz. 171 Panther Ausf. F mit Gummigedaemften Stahlaufrollen - Smart Kit; 956 parts (626 in grey stryene, 170 “Magic Track” links, 142 etched brass, 14 clear styrene, 2 twisted steel wire cable, 1 etched nickel, 1 turned aluminum gun barrel).
Advantages: nice, new “Smart Kit” version of this popular “Panzer ‘46" tank
Disadvantages: nothing major noted; perhaps not enough brass for some modelers
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all German and Panther fans
The German Panther series tanks had both a blessing and a curse with their large turrets; they were roomy and permitted the crew to function very effectively in combat, but they also had a negligible increase to protection and the Soviets noted they could shoot through the turret and even the mantlet with impunity. As a result, Daimler-Benz was tasked to develop a more effective turret design to provide better protection over the critical front 60 degree arc of the tank. This turret was to be used on both the proposed Panther Ausf. F and later Panther II tanks, with the former mounting a modified KwK 42/1 long 7.5 cm gun and the latter an 8.8 cm gun. This turret was also equipped with a cross-turret rangefinder to help obtain long range first-round hits, something the Germans had the same level of difficulty achieving that the Soviets had.
The Ausf. F also received a thicker hull roof to help prevent penetration from plunging fire (another failing the Soviets had noted and exploited), new “lift and slide” hatches for the driver and radio operator, and a new hull machine gun mount for an MP-44 vice the MG-34/42 machine guns used in previous tanks. The tank was also fitted with space for extra radios if conversion to a command vehicle was required. While the tank did not come with an AA gun mount, the fittings were provided so the mount could be installed by crew labor if required.
The tank did not get into production, albeit some components did and odds and ends of Panthers with some components were encountered; one such hull reportedly exists to day at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox (arguments still continue as to whether is a late production Ausf. G or prototype Ausf. F hull.)
A number of years ago DML released its kit No. 6027 of a Panther II with the schmallturm and steel wheels, but they apparently got the proportions of the turret wrong as well as some other details and Panther fans were not happy with the result. An interim kit from cyber-hobby.com using older kit parts (their No. 13, DML No. 6382) was also released. But now DML has now taken their Panther Ausf. G with steel wheels (No. 6370) “Smart Kit” and added the necessary parts to the kit to produce a far more accurate Ausf. F hull and turret.
This is the original Ausf. G kit with standard rubber tired road wheels and the two new “W” sprues with the steel wheel sets. It still provides the same track arrangement as the Ausf. D and earlier G – eight “wrap around” separate links with separate guide teeth for the drive wheels and the same “Magic Track” links that snap together for assembly. But here DML has added another 51 new parts with the “lift and slide” hatch hull and the schmallturm with a choice between a plastic “slide molded” barrel or a turned aluminum one. They have also included some of their generic German vehicles sprues for options. There is no gun breech; the “eyebrow” for the mantlet rain guard is provided as a preformed etched brass piece.
The rest is pretty much the excellent Ausf. G series kit. The lower hull is a one-piece “slide mold” part with all of the torsion bars complete and separate parts. Fine details such as “bump stops”, “pin knockers” and braces are all separate. The kit provides the aforemention two complete road wheels sets. The model may be built with or without the small return roller wheel on the final drives, and both types are provided in the kit.
The hull may use the “lift and slide” hatches or the prototype’s folding ones at the modeler’s option. The engine deck – or “decks” as there are two with a choice of where to place the lifting lugs – is/are very complete, with radiators, radiator fans, screens, louvers and a large number of separate access ports and lids provided. All grilles replicate full castings and are separate parts as well. No engine or interior are provided with the kit, but the interior is set up for relatively easy installation.
The hull side trim is mostly plastic, but comes with “slide molded” mounts and access holes for pins or attachment in order to permit track links to be hung in a prototypical fashion on their racks; optional etched brass items are also included. The same goes for the tools and OVM.
Four finishing options with Cartograf decals are provided – but at the vehicles were never apparently completed as designed, they would all appear to be speculative or based on last-minute assembly of components; I have no idea and admit it up front.