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Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior part 2.

Part 1 of the build

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.

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Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior Part 1.

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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.)

Step 1.

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.)

Step 2.

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.)

Step 5-6.

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.

Step 7-9.

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.

Step 10-11-12-13-14.

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.

Step 15-16-17

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.

Steps 18-22

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.

Steps 23-24


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.)

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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 would not hold my breath.)

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See you on the next post.

1/35 Takom Turtle

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This weird looking vehicle got into my collection because I took my wife to the local hobby shop, and this was the only vehicle she liked. It has a relatively low part count, but it’s surprisingly large: it’s bigger than a panzer IV… (I expected it to be only slightly bigger than a car. Nevertheless I’d love to do my commute in this thing; London drivers are horrendous.)

This is my second Takom model (the first being the Ratte). The detail is OK, but not very subtle (I found the panel lines a bit too deep), and the model lacks any interior details. The hatches cannot be opened, either, so scratch-building (or using aftermarket sets if there ever will be one later) is going to be even more difficult. The quality of plastic, the presentation, the instructions are very, very professional. There are rubber tires provided, but they are quite unnecessary; plastic would be perfectly fine (with the appropriate sag moulded on, of course.) The fit is, again, OK but not perfect; the joint between the bottom and top of the hull needs some filling. (The bump on the top is assembled using four quadrant, and it’s a bit of a shaky exercise.) The model is very easy to build: it took about 2 hours to have it ready to paint.

I wanted to go all-out with the painting and weathering. First, I always wanted to try the complex camo with the black dividing line; and I wanted to do some experimenting with scratches, chips and dust. (Since it’s a city-car, only a little mud is used.) If you want to, you can go with the whole “captured vehicle in German service” cliche, but that version looks rather bland and grey.

 

The model was primed, and then the acrylic primer sealed with Testors Dulcote (as I wanted to experiment with some windex-chipping) later. The multiple colors were sprayed on in light patches. Although it’s an unconventional way to paint I painted individual patches, applied silly putty, added another set of patches with a different color, another application of silly putty, and so on and so forth. I did not want to paint the entire model with all the colors- it would have added too many paint layers. When doing scratches with windex I did not want to work through six individual layers of paint to the primer.

The results are actually pretty good; I was pleasantly surprised when I removed the silly putty.

 

The dividing lines were painted on using a black sharpie.

A few layers of light brown and ochre filters were added, and after a couple of days of drying I covered the model with Future in preparation for the washes. This is when I applied the decals, and sealed them with a further layer of Future.

I used Mig’s dark wash- applying it with a thin brush. It looked bad (as it always does), but I managed to wait an hour or so before attacking the wash. The excess was wiped away with a wet, flat brush in several steps (I kept adjusting it days after the application of the wash). I moved the brush in downwards motions; the wash created faint streaks which I kept adjusting. It also served as a sort of filter as well.

This is the point where I realized that the layers of Future will interfere with the windex-chipping technique… so I added paint chips using a brush and a sponge.

The next step was to use some oil dot filters. I put a few blobs of different shades of brown, yellow, blue and green oil paints onto a small piece of cardboard. In about an hour or so the linseed oil seeped out into the paper; this is important if you want flat finish. I added random dots on the surface, and then blended, removed them using a wet brush with downward motion. This produced very faint streaks, and modulated the base color somewhat. Yellows, greens, etc will give a slightly different tint to the underlying color. I focused the darker browns towards the bottom of the chassis. Since I was there I used a light rust color to form streaks: I prepared a dilute wash using a rust colored oil paint, and applied it with a faint brush. The excess was removed with a flat brush as usual forming faint streaks. I added this mixture around larger chips as well, and let it dry. If the effect was too strong, I adjusted it with a wet brush.

 

I left the model dry for a week, and used a similar technique to further add mud and dust onto the vehicle: I added small dust/mud colored paint on certain areas, and blended them in using a dry brush. It’s important that you have to use very small amount of paint.

I layered everything: on top of the thin, translucent dust/mud I added thicker pigments (mixture of flat varnish and pigment) of different colors; concentrating on the lower parts, of course. The very last couple of layers were splashes of different earth colors using a very stiff brush and a toothpick.

 

The next steps were more pronounced streaks using AK’s streaking products, and after that dried I sealed the whole model with a flat varnish. The inside of the headlights were painted using  liquid chrome by Molotov (great pens).

At this point my wife expressed her displeasure that the previously colorful, clean car became dirty and muddied up, so I decided to stop here.

 

 

 

The tale of two Panthers: an in-box comparison of the Rye Field Models and Takom models

It seems like we are living in a Golden Age of model building: more and more “mainstream” companies come out with models with full (or reasonably full) interiors. Back in the days we had the old Academy Tiger I, MiniArt came out with their excellent tanks with (almost) complete interiors, and now Meng, Takom and Rye Field Models (among others) issuing their excellent models with interiors from the FT-18 to the M1 Abrams. We even have 1/72 scale models with interiors included. I yet to have to finish an old build, a DML Panther ausf G with a resin Tank Workshop interior, but these kits really, really made me excited. (In the meantime Trumpeter announced a 1/16 Panther with interior… In case you don’t have enough choices already.)

Two companies tackled the famous Panther with full interior: Takom and Rye Field Models both issued their versions in early 2018 making the choice between them particularly difficult. I purchased the Rye Field Model version immediately, and then I realized there is a competitor in the form of the Takom kit. Amazingly both models are quite reasonably priced for what they are (but still not cheap), so finally I ended up buying both. (Yes, I know, they are not the same: one is an Ausf A, the other is an Ausf G.) Let’s take a look at the differences between the two…

The aim of this review is not to evaluate the models with regards to accuracy; there are many other people who are more qualified to do so. I merely took a look at them as models, put them side-by-side, and tried to figure out how they compare with regards to ease of build, detail, instructions.

(Later on I will do a side-by-side build.)

Update: Takom build part 1.

If you are interested in sprue shots and individual in-box reviews, both have been covered by other modellers; the Takom model was reviewed here,
and the Rye Field Model here.


In this review I’ll use [R] wherever I refer to the Rye Fields Panther, and a [T] wherever I refer to the Takom one. (Would have been interesting to put the Meng Panther next to these ones, but that would have really broken the bank.) I took photos of key areas: welding lines, cast and rolled armor surfaces, ammunition, track links, etc. I also scanned the instructions (apologies for the quality; my scanner is not the best), and created side-by-side images for easier comparison of certain sub-assemblies (and of course the quality of instructions themselves). Since a picture tells a thousand words I do not comment on all of them; I also kept the text reasonably short. I also took a look at photos of the Meng Panther kit online to see how it measures up to these two, but obviously I can’t really draw conclusions based on this.

I’ve uploaded all the photos on a google drive (with the instructions included) here.

Without further ado, the comparison:


Both kits come in huge boxes. The sprues are placed in resealable plastic bags in both kits; the packaging looks very similar. (I would not be surprised if both kits were produced in the same factories…) The plastic is really nice to the touch in both kits, although the colors are different. There is no flash in either case. The clear parts in the [R] kit are protected by an additional small box, but the turret was broken off the sprue regardless in my model.


[R] is an Ausf G, [T] is an Ausf A (duh). If you absolutely want an Ausf G, go with the [R], and vica versa – in this case the choice is clear, and you can stop reading this review. ([T] is coming out with an Ausf G version later on, though. They will also issue tanks with Zimmerit applied, and also a model with an optional clear hull; [R] is issuing a Panther with a cutaway option already included, which makes the build considerably less stressful than when you do the cutting… it seems like we are getting an endless permutation of options which does not help with choosing only one.)

The painting options are appropriate for the versions in question, although it is slightly annoying that no Panther kit available provides markings for the country that kept the Panther in service for the longest period of time: France.

None of the models has Zimmerit. If you build an Ausf G produced after 4th September, 1944, you should not add it; tanks produced before should have it. But then again, the clear hull makes it a bit pointless to cover it up. Most Ausf A versions had Zimmerit applied; Takom, if I’m not mistaken, is going to issue a Zimmerit decal for this tank, and you can also buy resin, PE and decal Zimmerits from other companies (or do your own).

[R] is moulded in light brown, [T] is light grey plastic.

Overall impression: [R] seems like it’s massively more overengineered than the [T] kit: subassemblies are built using significantly more parts, even if they are not strictly necessary. (Example: engine cooling fan unit assembly: [T]: 3 parts/each side; [R]: 15 parts/side. Step 66 shows the assembly of the transmission final drive: all gears are provided, even though none of it will be seen once completed.) Although both are incredibly complex, the [T] kit seems like it’s significantly easier to build. Taking a look at online photos of the Meng kit, it looks like a more traditional kit, so that’s probably the easiest to build (apart from the tracks -more on that later). The Meng kit features prominent structural elements inside the hull, so if you want to use an aftermarket interior with the Meng kit you will have some difficulties. (But then again, if you want a tank with interior, it’s easier to get either the [T] or [R] kit.)

[R] instructions

[T] instructions

Instructions: both are clear; personally I like the [T] computer generated version better than the more traditional line-drawing of the [R] one. It is important to mention though that some drawings on the [T] instructions are way too small; you will need a magnifying glass to make sure you glue some pieces in the right orientation. [R] does have some issues with the instructions (more on that later). One of the most vexing issue is that no real painting/decaling guide is provided for the ammunition (but plenty of decals). [T] does provide a guide to that. [T] also provides the interior stenciling that tanks normally have, which is nice. (There are aftermarket sets available if you need more.) Overall the instructions are clearer with [T]. Neither gives a guide to the wiring of the radios or other electrical equipment, which is a shame.

[R]

[M]


Talking about decals: both are very fine; if you look at the macro shots, they are actually legible. (It was more difficult to photograph the [T] one as it was white against a light blue background. I tried to crank up the contrast as much as I could to show them off.

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[R] The wheel assembly is a bit strange (this is an issue about the instructions). Steps C37, C41 each show the assembly of one roadwheel pair with rubber rims -actual rubber-, but then they are not shown anywhere else. (I’m not clear why we get rubber rims for two of these, but the rest is simply moulded on. It is not clear where these roadwheels are supposed to be going. The alternate steel rimmed wheel option is not shown as a clear alternative; it is in the painting guide though. At step 66 we are shown the assembly of the steel rimmed wheels (C36), but no information of what they are used for. We only see the rubber rimmed wheels installed. At step 70, 71 we see the steel rimmed wheel option in the assembly sequence without explanation -it’s never made clear that you can use either of these options (and more importantly what these options are). The tank can be built with an optional engine heater, but it’s not actually shown where it is (or what it is); just how the firewall and the air intake should be built for that particular option. The [T] Panther can be built as a commander’s tank with the extra antenna, but no additional radio or other interior detail is provided.

Size: both are very similar; essentially all major dimensions are the same. The interior is basically the same -both models are quite accurate as far as I can determine. (I’ve built the DML Panther G with Tank Workshops interior about ten years ago, and have a lot of reference material; I am by no means an expert, though.)


[R] Transparent hull and turret parts (only in the limited run version, though) [T] no transparent parts (not even the periscopes), the interior will have to be displayed differently. (Cutaway, assembly line, maintenance… there ARE options.) [R] will be coming out with a non-transparent version with a special cutaway hull and turret.

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Plastic detail: amazing on both. The “Continental” marking can be clearly read on the roadwheel of both; the bolt heads, and other small details are very sharp and well defined; overall the fine detail is just amazing in both models.


Casting texture: [R]: has nice casting texture on mantlet, and on the exhaust protectors; no texture on engine deck covers and on the hull/turret. Looking at photos (and seeing an actual Panther in Bovingdon) I have to say the engine deck covers do not really have a cast texture, but the ventillation openings do. The omission of rolled armor texture on the hull and turret is understandable: any texture would make the astonishingly clear parts, well, less astonishingly clear. However, if you plan to paint them over, you will miss the rolled armor texture. (But then you should buy the [T] kit, as one of the main advantage and selling point of the [R] kit is the clear hull and turret).


The [T] kit has very nice texture on the engine deck covers, the air intakes, etc; fine texture on the hull and turret. The texture seems a bit deeper than on the [R] kit. The texture in both kits is very discreet.


Weld seams and welding beads: [R] and [T] both have very nice detail in this regards – even on the clear parts. I have to mention the engine deck covers on the very nice welding lines on the air intakes on the [R] kit.

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[R] Lots of slide moulding (muzzle break is single piece, MG’s hollowed out; [T] also uses advanced moulding technology, but it features a two-piece muzzle break which is less ideal.


PE: [R] has extensive PE provided; lots of sub-assemblies require PE, especially the lower part of the hull, where the ribbing is formed by PE parts. (It looks like a problematic part of the build.) [T] solves most of the detail issues with plastic (even the springs on the back of the seats are moulded on); only the crow’s feet antenna and the air intake covers are provided as PE.

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Suspension: [R] has optional workable torsion bar suspension system, while [T] does not have workable suspension.

Running gear: [R] uses polycaps on the middle row of wheels (8 in total), making them removable for painting. I’m not really sure why they did not go with the polycaps for the rest; this solution does not seem to solve anything, really.

Tracks: [R] features workable tracks, and the horns are moulded in place thankfully. (They are hollow, too.) However there is a prominent ejector pin mark in the middle of each link. On the other hand [T] provides link and length tracks. They have no ejector pin marks, however the horns have to be glued on separately using a rig system allowing you to do it in sections instead of one by one. I wonder how this system works in practice; it remains to be seen. (The Meng kit in this respect is the worst: all horns have to be glued on individually.)

Gun: Both guns are incredibly detailed, even where the mantlet covers them up. (It is useful if you want to show the models during maintenance.) [T] has some missing detail (guiding wire mesh from the R kit for example); [R]: gun is incredibly detailed, and the recoil can be made operational. I have to say gun recoil by a spring is not really an important feature, though. The gun lock can be built engaged/disengaged on the roof of the turret in the [R] kit, but not in the [T] kit. The turret roof looks slightly different in the two kits (see photos); I’m not sure it’s the differences between the versions, or accuracy issues.

[R]: mine thrower can be rotated, depicted open/closed, while the [T] has only one option (closed).

Turret basket floor: [T] features a one piece floor. [R] has two pieces, with an alternative option of having it in three if you cut the folding part in half as shown by the instructions.

Fume extractor: the hose of the fume extractor running from the spent case storage under the gun to the top of the turret is a flexible plastic piece in the [T] kit, and a two-piece plastic affair in the [R] model. Personally I like the flexible solution better.

Panel with drivers/radio operator’s hatch: this panel can be removed in both kit (Meng’s Panther does not have it as a separate part). This may be useful for showing off the interior, or depicting the tank undergoing maintenance. (This was the only opening big enough to remove the parts of the disassembled transmission and final drive if they needed some work…)


Ammo storage: on the floor units [R] kit uses full length ammunition; [T] provides only the protruding tips which make it a simpler assembly.


Ammo: neither has stamped bottom provided as PE disks. The base is moulded on, which is nice, but obviously the pattern on the bottom is missing. [R] provides little circular decals which I suspect are to be placed on the bottom of the ammunition to remedy this issue. No real difference between different ammo types; no actual color guide for the different types in either instructions. (The projectile parts are different for each type -see picture below.)

pantherpage8a
This picture shows the different kinds of ammunition the Panther carried, and a good painting guide. [T] provides a guide to paint the shell cases in the green-laquered steel color late-war shells were equipped with instead of the usual brass; it’s up to you if you want to equip your Panther with this sort of ammo. (Due to copper shortages the Germans were forced to switch to the less-than-ideal steel version late war; it does add a visual interest to the model.)


[R] has prominent ejector pin marks on the back of the engine firewall; if you plan not to install the engine they will be visible (unless you sand them off, of course).

 

The jack in the [R] model can be shown in storage and in-use configuration.


[R] Alternative option for back storage bin: there is a night vision option provided -but no further explanation is given. I assume if you buy an IR aftermarket set, you should install the alternative bin.

[R] Step 70: some sort of track maintenance option is shown but not explained. It would probably be a good diorama subject, though.

[R] two headlight options but no explanation

[R] has an option to install ice cleats

So what are the conclusions of this comparison? There are marginal differences between the models. Both are very complex, state-of-the-art kits featuring an accurate depiction of the actual vehicle. The [T] model is more “user-friendly” both in instructions and the way it is assembled. It lacks the clear hull and turret, which is a big selling point, but it has nicer textures. There are some shortcuts (the one-piece turret basket floor for example), some drawbacks (two-piece muzzle break), but overall the quality and complexity is very high. The [R] model is way more ambitious: it is way more complex, it uses a lot more PE, and it features the clear hull/turret parts which ultimately sold it for me. (A word of warning: the clear parts will be only included in the anniversary edition. One can only hope that the non-transparent version will have a textured surface.)

Both models will be a challenge to build, but the [T] kit has less of a skill-floor – it’s friendlier to the average Joe such as myself. The [R] kit will be appreciated more by people who like to go “all-out” with their build, and prefer to have as much detail as possible. They will find the assembly easier, too, since they will not be dumbfounded (and confused) by the huge number of options which are not clearly explained by the instructions. If you know your Panther intimately, you will be able to get the most out of the [R] model. The [T] is “just” an extremely impressive model with full interior, while the [R] one is a more special, one-of-a-kind kit. I did end up buying both, since they are both significant improvement over the resin interior I’ve built before, and both are worthy kits to build. Anyone willing to purchase one should weight the issues that matter to them most to decide which model is the right one for them: individual tracks vs link-and-length, workable suspension vs static, one-piece muzzle brake vs two-piece, clear hull/turret vs conventional one. I could not so I bought both. I hope this short comparison will help others to make their choice, though.

Should you hoard?

This is the age old question about scale modelling: do you really want to buy that new kit coming out even though you already have ten (ha!) others in your closet and five being built?

And the answer is: god knows.

There are genuinely good arguments about buying stuff. One, and most important is that the model might go out of production.

This is an acute problem with limited run resin kits. I did not buy Inside the Armour’s Churchill interior set, and now there’s no chance of getting one. I passed up on the Stalker figure I really liked and took me two years to get one from someone who had it in his stash. I passed up on the Extratech Extrapack 1/72 models (with PE and resin goodies crammed in), and now they are impossible to acquire. I do have two of the initial Tiger I editions by DML (not the Tiger I is initial but the edition) which are frankly legendary, and quite difficult to get. So in that case it was a good call to hoard -and a series of bad ones not to.

However. If you buy models left and right you will run into obsolescence. For sure you will have a bunch of old models in your hands that are surpassed by newer, better editions, and then you will grind your teeth for wasting your money on them. See my example: I do have a liking of interiors, so I collected tanks and aftermarket interior sets over the time. I just finished the Tamiya T-55AM with CMK/Eduard/Miniarm extras (and Trumpeter individual tracks). I’ve spent a lot of time and money on that kit to bring it up to a standard that is still lower than the new MiniArt T-55A kits out there. Same with my King Tiger still to be built: it’s a relatively old DML kit with a resin interior and Lionroar PE set -yet I would be better off with one of the newer King Tiger sets with dedicated interiors (Takom‘s for example). I’ve planned to build all German WWII tanks with interiors, but now that I’m building the Panzer IV, I don’t feel like doing an almost identical tank, the Panzer III with interior – the tank and the resin set will go on Ebay soon. I’ll have the StuGIII and that will be it.

This is a delicate balancing act, and frankly there’s no good answer to this. The question you should ask is: am I really going to build this kit even if there’s a newer version later? Do I have a realistic chance to build it in my lifetime? Will you even be interested in this model in five year’s time?

Personally I have too many kits already: the ones I brought over from the US eight years ago (mostly 1/35 armor and 1/48 airplanes). A lot of it I don’t really care about any more; they will probably go on Ebay real soon – a real investment for sure. (Some I gave to kids of my best friend.) Some I do still feel I will build: the Tristar Flakpanzer I, the Panzer Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. E/F, the Trumpeter Panzer IV bridgelaying variant, the 1/144 Dora railway gun… and a couple of others. I do have an eye on the Trumpeter Trench digger, and the Mondelcollect T-64, T-72 with full interior; these are kits I absolutely want to buy. But the ones I “just” fancy – other Modelcollect trucks, REVOSYS’ Panzer VI (VK36.01 H) with interior… well, these will probably never be purchased even if I have the money. The sad fact is I don’t want to leave behind a room full of boxes. (And I’m not an old man, so I don’t have excuse for such a grim talk.) I try to curb my impulse buys -which is an especially hypocritical statement now, that I managed to buy a Forgeworld Chaos Warhound Titan for 1/3rd the price on Ebay.

I would be interested in your comments.

Going deep down- the world of 1/144 armor

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This is an interesting part of the armor model world: the 1/144 kits by DLM. They are small little gems; it’s a shame that they disappeared from the market. If you have a chance, grab as many as you can. The presentation, the level of detail, the ease of assembly are all just top-notch; these kits provide a nice break from the 1000+ part 1/35 monsters I sometimes get involved with. For this scale you still get moulded-on detail that rivals some 1/72 kits, and also PE, and slide moulded gun barrels with holes in the muzzle breaks. Thankfully you don’t get individual tracklinks.

 

I’ve built several of these kits in the past: a Leopold railroad gun, a
15 CM S.I.G 33/2 (SF) Auf Jagdpanzer 38(T) Hetzer, two Tiger Is, and a Jagdpanzer IV. I’ve also built Takom’s P1000 Ratte, and the two Maus tanks that came with it. Since the Maus was not featured here before, and it finally resurfaced from the storage box it’s been languishing until now, I thought I’ll give it some time in the spotlight.

All the display boxes were bought from Ebay; they are brilliant for small 1/72 or an average 1/144 armor model.

And since I was taking photos of older builds, I took some more of the Tiger Is; hopefully the macro lens brings out their details a bit better.

Takom 1/144 P1000 Ratte Land cruiser

One can only wonder what went through the minds of the people who designed, and more importantly, approved this project. I’m probably not far off to say that only someone, who plunged a whole planet into a global war for “living space”, could actually look at the plans, and say, yeah, I think it’s feasible.

While it’s very attractive to compare the endless oceans with the endless Steppes, the problem is that while a battleship worked on a sea, while it would not really be feasible on land. The Land Cruiser with its tremendous top speed and maintenance requirements would be a serious impediment to any force that would like to take Russia in a lightning strike. (It would probably never get to Moscow if you took the continental drift into the opposite direction into account.)

It really is not worth talking about the history of the P1000 too much; enough to say that someone actually came up with it in ’41, Hitler approved, and the whole planning process went ahead until ’43. It was not just someone doodling on the back of a napkin. They actually were serious about it.

The project was mercifully axed by Speer in ’43, although I suspect it earned him the nickname Albert “the PartyPooper” Speer in the Wolf’s Lair. To be honest, Speer probably did prolong the war by organizing Germany’s war production on the basis of rational thinking, which was lacking from the rest of the gang. This vehicle is the epitome of all that was wrong (if you take away genocide, and murderous wars, of course) with the Nazi leadership: all grand vision, no practicality. If they had built this lumbering beast, they would have had less steel to build air planes, assault guns and tanks; surely it would have been better for everyone involved. They would even have left a gigantic, cool looking playground for us. Even if it was built, and even if it worked as intended, it would have been highly unlikely that it would have ever fired a shot in anger, unless the front arrived to the factory before it was bombed by the Allied air forces. If we consider the technical issues even the Tiger I was struggling with (constant breakdowns, high maintenance requirements, low operational and tactical mobility), you can imagine what sort of challenges would have this monster meant for its operators. Say, you needed to fix a broken track. Or change one of the road wheels -from the inside row. Or simply get it moving –or change direction- without breaking anything in the automotive mechanism -or the surroundings. Not to mention I can’t imagine the amount of recoil the naval guns would have, but looking at how they had shaken the battleships they were mounted on, I’d think they would have seriously overstressed the suspension. And finally: this vehicle offers a hilariously oversized target for anything that can shoot; it’s pretty difficult to miss, in fact. While Hitler did like big guns (which makes you think if he was overcompensating for something), the fact remains: if you want to kill people, there are more practical ways; like a strategic bomber force, with which the Germans never really bothered with. (For which Great Britain is eternally grateful for them.)

Tankcom has made a risky move to issue a 1/144 model of this paper-panzer, but at least they made it clear on the cover that it’s not an actual, “serious” project. On the cover art we can see several Maus superheavy tanks, the P1000 in its full glory, and a couple of Nazi UFOs in the background shooting lasers (and a V2 rocket for added dramatic effect).

The kit itself is really simple; the whole assembly takes about two hours. There’s a huge opportunity for scratchbuilders: the interior of the turret and the engines simply beg to be built into the model. Since I’m not good at these conversions, I just glued everything together. Interestingly the kit comes with some areal recognition marks, as if any German bomber pilot would have difficulties telling apart a German 1000ton tank from an Allied 1000ton tank. (It would probably have space for a helipad, too.)

Contents of the box

It’s so big, my lightbox is not large enough… I guess I got used to the 1/72 scale tanks, and not the 1/144 scale ships.

Putting it all together





The biggest issue during the build was the question of camouflage. I was pondering what sort of paintjob would this 4 storey vehicle get, and thought of the old-school battleship dazzle camos.

These ones

These patters were designed to break up a ship’s contours, and to make it harder for gunners to range the ship. This, of course, would not work very well on land, as it would be quite easy for a gunner to find an appropriate feature in the landscape to which he could set his sights. It remained a possibility, though.

The other option was to paint a scenic painting of some hills and forest, or a Bavarian village on the side.

In the end I chose bluish colors and bluish filters because the colors of objects tend to look greyish-bluish in the large distances, and lots of horisontal shapes so that it could “blend into” the terrain irreguralities. Since this vehicle is about the size of a four storey house, any sort of camoflage only has a chance to work from a significantly great distance (about 30-40 miles). The naval guns mounted on the vehicle make this distance a feasible engagement range, too. I’m not sure this is the perfect way to paint such a large vehicle (after all, I ignored the hazards Allied air power poses), but I’m happy with the results.
Begin the painting process… black primer (applied from a spray can), and some masking tape. The bloody tape refused to stick; I’ll have to get a stronger one.


Second layer of paint, second layer of masking tape.

After the third layer, the masks are removed… and tears are shed. It took some time to clean up the paintwork; the masking tape did not stick down, so paint did get underneath.

The roadwheels got all three colors applied to them.

After correcting the paintwork, I went on experimenting with filters. I used mainly bluish and yellowish filters pre-diluted; did not work with the oil-dot method. (Perhaps later I’ll give it a go.) I tried True Earth’s ageing/fading products as well with a small degree of success. So far I’ve figured out why they did not work previously: the surface has to be extremely matte.

Once I got sick of the filter work, I added some dust to the lower portions (although looking at the size of the vehicle, I’m not sure it should get dusty too much), ran a soft lead pencil around the edges to give it some metallic looks, and added a touch of rust. The monster is done.

And the finished monster

With a 1/144 Tiger for scale

With the two included Maus tanks

And finally, how big is this thing?

Banana for scale