Since I started the RFM Panther as well, I will add some observations to help with the comparison of the two kits.
If you want to paint the interior, unfortunately you need to deviate from the suggested roder of assembly.
I skipped the steps which detailing the outside of the hull, and continued with step 42. This step details the finishing touches on the hull’s interior: the top section. The hull machine gun, radios, etc. are installed. The hull machine gun is a quite elaborate piece, but the barrel is not hollowed out; kind of annoying oversight. (In this day of injection moulding this is not an unreasonable expectation.)
The radio is also a very nicely detailed multipiece assembly, which, in turn, gets then enveloped by the walls of the radio mount, so only the front face remains visible. There is no guide for the wiring, and there are no headsets provided.
From here I skipped to steps 47 to 63: turret exterior and interior assemblies. You have some choices with regards to the gun mantlet; I just picked the one I liked the best, since I was not modelling one particular Panther.
Again; a pretty detailed set of steps, but nothing stands out as particularly difficult. Even the grab handles were good enough to be used; normally I switch them for wire. I particularly liked the flexible hose that will connect the fume extractor to the spent shell holder; it makes assembly a lot more easier. RFM has this hose as two separate parts that will meet in the middle when the turret halves are joined; we’ll see how good the fit is.
A couple of things to note:
The commander’s cupola is easier to assemble if you first glue K2 and K24 together (top of the cupola + insert), then add the periscopes, and finish off with K3. It is really difficult to fit the periscopes in if you follow the instructions. The periscopes, by the way, are not clear, so they will need to be painted. (RFM provides clear parts for the periscopes.)
Periscope guards are provided on a template, which sounds like a good solution. You glue the template in place, and then cut the guards off individually. Not sure how it is better, but it is a neat idea. None of the periscope guards are provided in PE, put they are thin enough to suffice.
There are injection pin marks in the interior of the turret; these will need to be sanded off carefully if you intend to show the inside.
Steps 51-52 go through the assembly of the back of the turret. The loader’s hatch is workable, but the assembly of the hinges is a bit flimsy, and not very user-friendly. Honestly, this was the part were I was cursing the most.
Steps 53-54 detail the assembly of the AA machine gun and its holder, and the bottom part of the turret. There is only one type of MG32 available; I’m not sure if there were alternative options for barrels and sighting devices used on the Ausf A Panthers. (RFM gives you some options for the Ausf G.) I left the ammo pouch off until I finish the painting stage to make things easier. (I’ll just paint all the pouches in one batch, and install them once the hull interior is done.)
Step 55 assemble the turret rotating mechanism. Lots of small parts, but the results are pretty good; I have to say I was impressed with how it looks. I was especially impressed with the accuracy: the rod connecting the two sides of the machinery just fell into place; not a fraction of a milimeter misalignement.
The main gun is assembled from step 56 to 57. It is -again- not a difficult undertaking, and the the instructions provide a couple of drawings of the finished parts -it certainly helps the assembly. (I would be nice to have this sort of assistance a bit more often; they would certainly improve the instructions.) Comparison to the RFM kit: well, the gun on the RFM is definitely more detailed -and have a lot more parts- , no doubt about that. The question is if it is something you actually notice. I myself am curious of the answer to that.
The gun and the gun mantlet has a lot of details, such as rivets and hexagonal bolts, that will be hidden… they might be useful if someone knows the tank enough to assemble the model as a tank undergoing complete overhaul.
Steps 58 and 59 show the assembly of the turret basket floor and all the stuff that is attached to it (spent shell holder, seats, electrical components, etc.)
In the next two steps (60-61) the base of the turret and the turret basket are joined together.
Step 62 installs the top part of the fume extractor hose, and step 63 details the installation of the gun barrel to the main gun, and the attachment of the main gun to the turret. The muzzle break is made out of two halves, which is less than ideal, since it necessitates filling and sanding. I really would have preferred to get a single piece one.
And finally… the last step – step 64. The final touches on the turret, the mating of the turret and the hull, with an optional turret ring provided (should you want to display the model with the turret off, which is very likely if you decide to buy the 16 ton crane Takom and Amusing Hobby are coming out with. The separate ring will help you with the painting: it is much simpler to do this way, rather than trying to paint moulded-on details. For obvious reasons this step has not yet come for this tank. But it will. How soon- well, time will tell.
So here we are now. Time to paint.
Unfortunately the fact that I have an apartment to refurbish, while work full time and also settle in our little home with my wife waiting for our daughter to arrive, means I can only work on models for a short period at any time; perhaps the painting will need to be postponed for a while. Until then – let’s finish up the RFM tank as well! Stay tuned.