2018 will be the year of the Panther, probably; several companies have issued their Panther models, and two of these models have a full interior included: Rye Fields’ and Takom’s. There is also a Trumpeter 1/16 one coming out -also with full interior.
I bought both Takom and Rye Field models, and decided to build them side-by-side; this review contains my impressions of the Takom model. Since I just moved to a different country, and not everything is set up yet, the photos are somewhat questionable quality; for that I apologise. I can already see that there will be some serious holdups during the build simply because it is a shame to hide all of the amazing interior details. Since I would like to display the complexity of the interior, this necessitates a cutaway model. I do not wish to butcher this gorgeous model, so it will take a while figuring out how to cut it up cleanly to provide a good view the interior. Another option is to wait for Takom’s upcoming crane to come out, and show the tank with the turret lifted up… If you have not yet bought your Panther yet, Takom also issued a model with optional clear parts, issued the Ausf G as well, making their range quite wide, and providing similar options to Rye Field’s offering… so you have a LOT of choices even within the Takom range.
Back to the kit… The box is enormous; the model is over 1500 parts, after all. The sprues are well protected in individual plastic bags, nothing was damaged during transit.
The instructions come in a small(ish) booklet. There are color panels showing the interior painted, and the suggested color schemes for the tank itself, but most of the steps are shown in black-and-white. The steps are clear for the most part. To be honest I did run into difficulties now and then trying to figure out where to put the tiny little parts for subassemblies simply because the drawings are small. The solution is either a magnifying glass, or, in my case, I simply took photo of the complex and tiny drawing and zoomed in on my phone. This is certainly an issue but not an insummarable one. The kit looks incredibly complex, and the whole assembly looks very daunting at first. My advice is to take it one step at a time. While the model IS complex, it is not horribly so; individual steps should not be challenging by themselves. Step-by-step, just focusing on the next steps without worrying the next dozen pages of instructions still waiting, you will slowly find that you have completed most of the tank. Despite of the complexity I did find you don’t need incredibly high level of skill to build this model. There are a lot of tiny sub-assemblies, complex parts, but the designers of this model tried to make sure that the way these parts fit would make it difficult to make mistakes; carefully placed locator pins, asymmetric joints, etc all make sure that you can only fit parts together in the correct orientation. (It IS possible to mess up, though; always check the instructions carefully.)
What I really liked about the model is that Takom tried to use PE as little as possible, and managed to achieve a highly detailed, complex kit with only 7 PE screens. Obviously, if you want to replace the side-skirts, or other parts with PE, several aftermarket companies have already issued sets for the model, but for most people I think the plastic parts will be perfectly suitable. There are also no clear parts for periscopes and whatnot, but I never actually thought they were adding anything to a model, so it’s all good…
The only extra I bought -and this one is, unfortunately, quite necessary- was the Meng Zimmerit decal set. Most Panther A-s had Zimmerit applied, so there is no way out of this one unless you want to model that handful of tanks which were left bare of Zimmerit. I have never used decals for Zimmerit, so this will be an interesting experience. (I’m not sure why Takom did not issue this model with Zimmerit -perhaps they wanted to give the modellers the flexibility. The only problem is that you are then left with aftermarket or DYI Zimmerits. Fear not: there are other Takom Panthers coming out with Zimmerit, but they were not yet announced when I bought this model.)
The assembly starts with the bottom part of the hull. The transmission, the torsion bars, all the small bits are relatively easy to put together. The suspension is static; you will not be able to position the swing arms, but this is how it is; the model has been made user friendly as possible by Takom, and simplifying how the suspension is built up is part of this. (The other part are the link-and-length tracks.)
This is a multi-part assembly of the transmission. It is a very detailed little part, and I ran into the first issue here: step 2G is so tiny, it is impossible to see where M15 and M37 goes. This is where the magnifying glass comes handy. At step 2H you are supposed to glue in the piping coming out of the transmission, but I suggest you dry fit it into the hull first, and glue the pipes in with their other ends fitted into their respective holes on the hull (step 4).
Step 3- 4.
Assembly of the hull’s bottom (the ribbing) and the sides. You are shown to glue the transmission in, but it would make painting more difficult later should you decide not to paint everything primer red. (The transmission was most likely not left in primer red.)
Addition of the sides to the bottom, with the torsion bars. These parts fit remarkably well- it holds together even without glue…
The sub-assembly at step 6 details the assembly of the controls for the driver.
Running gear… The swing arms are fixed, so you cannot position the wheels; the link and length tracks would make this impractical as well. You do get a template to position the swing arms, and the very same template is used to assemble the tracks. Important: do NOT glue F2-1 and F2-2 (the drive sprockets’ housing) before using the template as they will be in the way.
The assembly of the hull bottom, the driver’s and radio operator’s seats, the extra three ammunition storage under the turret, and the instrument panels. It also goes through the assembly of the firewalls in the engine compartment, and the drive shaft/turret turning mechanism. You also assemble the ammunition storage boxes around the lower hull. They are both good and bad. The good part is that you don’t need to use individual projectiles; there are specially moulded parts that fit into the ammo holes from under the box, and only contain the parts of the projectiles that are actually sticking out. It certainly makes assembly a bit more simple, since instead of multiple projectiles, you only have one part per box. However it makes painting a bit more difficult, since you can only install them from under the box. Either you finish the painting of the interior, and then glue the boxes in place, or you paint the projectile heads after everything is installed and painted. I really do prefer putting as much of the model together as possible before painting, so I don’t find this option a very good one.
Here comes the assembly of the tracks. The tracks are plastic link-and-length types, and you need to glue the guide horns onto them (two per tracklink…). These horns are hollow, and I think it was a simpler solution than to mould the tracklinks as one piece. Takom has provided a pretty unique and relatively simple solution of this making the process less monotonous and time-consuming, but it is still far from ideal. They have moulded the guide horns in rows onto plastic strips, which can be positioned over the track links, so you can glue them in rows. (I just used an extra thin glue with a brush.) Once they are dry, you can safely remove the tracklinks… the gluing part is easy; the cutting part still takes a lot of time, not to mention you need to smooth out both faces of the guide horns where the sprue gates were located. Despite of having the horns lined up on a straight plastic part, gluing them in a straight line was a bit challenging; a lot of the horns are somewhat wobbly, and required some careful adjustments.
All in all, the idea is good, but I still prefer if they moulded the tracklinks as one piece. Even if they don’t have hollow horns.
Once the track links are finished, you can use the same template you used before to glue the tracks together; or you can use the actual mode, too. (I did not find the template very useful, but that is a highly personal opinion.)
You also add a couple of personal items, like canteens to the hull.
Detail the assembly of the Maybach engine. As they usually say, the engine is a small model on its own, and while it might sound like a cliche at this point, it is actually true. In general the instructions do a good job showing you what goes where, but some reference photos will still come useful to help deciding exactly where certain pipes go, and what angle they should stand.
You add more small stuff to the sides wall. I am not sure I like this philosophy, spreading the assembly of a part into several different steps; I would prefer if all steps concerning the assembly of a given part of the tank would be grouped together, and you did not have to constantly re-visit areas you thought you have already finished. (It makes planning much easier.)
This step details the ammo rack assemblies on the side of the hull. The instruction manual has a couple of colored panels in the middle, which will help you with painting the ammunition, and placing the decals on them; it is as good time as any to refer to them. (Obviously it makes sense to paint all the ammunition at once, even though you were already instructed to install a couple of projectiles in the bottom of the hull. I have delayed those steps until I finished the painting of the interior.) The painting guide suggests to use a mixed load of brass/lacquered steel cased ammunition; while visually it is appealing to have both, I’m not sure how accurate this would be. I think tanks were probably loaded with one or the other type, the steel case substituting the brass later in the war due to copper shortages. (On the other hand you can also make an argument for a slow process of exchanging one for the other, while having a transition period having both.)
I also left the racks off, since it is one of those rare instances when it is simpler to paint the parts on the sprue, and then assemble them. Once the ammunition is finished and the racks are painted white I will put them together -probably towards the end of the build.
Well, that’s it for now. I have a huge box full of Panther parts, and a really diminished box of yet-to-be-used sprues.
Next will be the turret interior, and then I will be forced to sit down and seriously thing about cutting up the model. I was a perfect procastinator; did everything to be busy and to avoid making these decisions at the same time, but once the interior is complete, the time is up: some hard choices have to be made how to cut and what to cut to display most of the interior of this gorgeous model. (I might be able to get away using rare earth magnets to hold everything together, but I will not hold my breath.)
See you on the next post.