Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Project: 1/48 Panther Ausf.G Late

The Panther has always been one of my favorite tanks from WWII. Modern, powerful, and mobile, it would have been the best medium tank of the war if it wasn't for the reliability issues it had. The very first production models had numerous problems, including a weak fuel line that caused the engine to spontaneously catch fire! While most issues were resolved as the vehicle matured, one that never really was resolved was the fact that the transmission and final drives were designed for a vehicle some 15 tons lighter, and often failed after an average of 150 miles! Still, the strong armor, powerful cannon, and the fact that Germany was moving to a defensive war rather than offensive offset -- at least somewhat -- these issues.

When Tamiya released its Panther series in 1/35 scale a decade and more ago, they were some of the finest kits in 1/35 scale. With the advent of the 1/48 scale line, they shrunk it down to produce this kit.

Like many of Tamiya's 1/48 scale models, the Panther Ausf. G "Spät" kit has a die-cast lower hull. Ostensibly it is to "enhance realism by adding weight," I more strongly suspect this is to cater to the collectible market, which irrationally associates quality with metal (and perhaps so they can claim their collections are not, in fact, toys). The result is that the lower hull again lacks detail due to the limitations of steel molding technology.

One feature of the Panther tank was its use of interleaved road wheels. This helped reduce wear on the tracks and wheels by distributing the weight over a greater area, as well as helping flotation in boggy ground. The downside was that damage to one road wheel often meant that its neighboring wheels had to be removed as well. For the modeller, it makes consruction of the tracks more problematic. I plan on using Friul individual, workable tracks for this project. The Friul tracks are cast metal (pewter this time instead of steel!) and are articulated by means of a wire inserted through all the links. This is in my opinion superior to the "clickable" tracks, as the wire pivots are much more robust. Additionally, the weight of the pewter helps to produce a realistic sag, an area where the weight of metal is indeed superior to that of plastic.

Finally, as the model tank I wish to produce will have the reinforced mantlet armor, as well as crew heater, I plan to hand-paint the camouflage. By the time this specific version of the tank was introduced, the German Army had switched from camouflaging in the field, to factory applied schemes. Thus, the schemes were often with a "hard edge," and hand painting simulates this style very well.

One day, I'd like to revisit this model and produce an early ("frühe") version, with zimmerit anti-magnetic paste.

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