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Sd.Kfz. 171 Early Production Pz.Kpfw.V Panther Ausf.D

Dragon Models’ Panther Ausf. D Kit 7494
Zvezda’s T-V, Pz.Kpfw. V Ausf. D kit 5010
Revell’s Panther Ausf. D/Ausf. A kit 3107

Article by Stephen 'Tank Whisperer' Brezinski - sbrez1(at)comcast(dot)net
Edited by Rob Haelterman

As evident by the title, this is an in the box review of three 1/72-scale plastic model kits of Germany’s WW2 era Panzer V Panther tank. Two of these three kits, the Dragon (DML) kit 7474 and the Zvezda kit 5010 are recent releases at this time and will be compared with the older Revell kit 3107. When the Revell Panther kit was released it was a vast improvement in accuracy and detail over the older Hasegawa, Esci and Airfix Panthers, so now let us see how it compares with the newer Panthers.

I won’t get into the history of this well known AFV, but I will comment how it has puzzled me on why this initial version was the Panther Ausführung D (Model D) and the Panther Ausf. A came afterwards? (Please keep in mind that in my reviews I am generally not a rivet and bolt counter.)

Let’s look at the box art and see what is supposed to be in the box.

Starting at the top of this very nice box artwork we see the drum shaped cupola with periscope ports and a pivoting hatch which is one of the identifying features of the Ausf. D Panther. Coming out of the large rounded gun mantlet is the long 7.5-cm L70 gun with a double-baffle muzzle brake on the end. To the left (our right) of the gun barrel are two small gun-sight holes for the gunner. At the front corner of the turret are three smoke bomb discharger tubes. The interlocking front and side armor plates are well portrayed here. On the turret side is a round pistol, shell ejection, port. The Panther’s characteristic long barrel and muzzle brake of its 7.5-cm high velocity gun is very evident.

Down on the hull we see the hand tools, tubular storage tube and spare track stowed on the side. On the engine deck we see a single radio antenna (German tank antenna were rigid hollow copper rods); the driver’s hatch is open and is the style that lifts vertically and swivels out of the way. On the glacis the driver’s view letter-flap viewing port is open; this flap is also a distinguishing feature of the Panther Ausf. D and the Ausf. A. Next to the vision flap is the partially open, vertical, machine gun flap for the MG34 gun; this flap is characteristic of the Panther Ausf. D.

The suspension features include large, rubber tired, interlocking roadwheels and a large 6-spoke sprocket wheel at the front for the wide steel track. The side skirt to help protect the thinner side from armor piercing bullets is in place preventing us from seeing the two-part hull sponson.

The Panther appears to be portrayed in the USSR, likely during the Battle of Kursk (Operation Zitadelle) where the Panther made its debut in 1943. It is painted in soft edge squiggly brown and green lines over Dunkelgelb (Panzer yellow) color. The tank commander and the infantry figures are not included in the DML model kit.


Zvezda’s box art shows a Panther Ausf. D in a very similar setting as the DML Panther D we just looked at above. While the Chinese DML box art above portrays a burning Soviet T-34 tank off to the side, this Russian-made box art portrays up to four burning German tanks. The commander figure poking his head out of the cupola is not included with the kit box.

The vehicle features in the painting are pretty much the same as in DML’s painting. The four periscopes for the driver and radio operator are visible on the hull roof. The interlocking armor plates are evident on the bow. With a rear side skirt plate missing we have a glimpse of the two-part side sponson characteristic of the Panther D and Panther A. On top of the gun mantlet I see what appears to be a weather cover strip that I believe was only seen on late war Panther Ausf. G.

This Zvezda painting has the AFV finished in soft-edge green lines over Dunkelgelb (dark yellow) and simple markings of a cross and a vehicle number 445. The tracks are portrayed as non-rusted metallic gray with no embedded grass and dirt.


Based on the cast commander’s cupola with AA machine gun ring, and on the ball machine gun mount in the glacis plate: Revell’s kit box art actually portrays a later Panther Ausf. A, not a Panther Ausf. D. But this is okay since this kit builds either version. Missing from the Panther Ausf. A that we saw on the DML and the Zvezda Panther D’s are the smoke discharger tubes mounted on the forward corners of the turret. Up on the turret roof we see two lifting rings.

The glacis still retains the driver’s vision flap. Above the vision flap we see the driver’s and radio operator’s periscopes. To the driver’s right (our left) we see the hull armored ball MG34 machine gun mount in the glacis plate which is characteristic of the Panther Ausf. A and the Ausf. G.

While DML and Zvezda showed us the left side of their Panthers the Revell box art shows us what the right side should look like. The significant differences are the lack of the turret pistol port on this side, and the different tools clipped to the pannier side. Like the other two kits, spare tracks links are carried on the rear side of the hull.

The markings are described as for Panzer Lehr Division in France, 1944. The camouflage is also the three color soft squiggly lines.


The Parts
Dragon Models’ Panther Ausf. D Kit 7474 contains 97 gray colored, injection-molded styrene plastic parts on two sprues, two light tan colored soft band tracks in DS plastic. Breaking with previous practice for Dragon kits, there are no etched brass parts within this kit, and there are no crew figures included (Ed. Note which is more usual). The gun barrel’s muzzle opening is slide-molded open. Molding quality is very good.

Zvezda’s T-V, Pz.Kpfw. V Ausf. D, Kit 5010 contains 91 dark tan color, injection-molded styrene parts on two sprues, and two black color hard lengths of plastic also molded in styrene. The suspension has separate torsion bars for the roadwheels. The inner roadwheels are molded as one group therefore simplifying assembly and reducing the number of separate parts. Most of the lower hull is slide molded as one piece. We’ll have to drill out the muzzle of the gun barrel.
Assembly is designed to be snap together so no glue is supposed to be needed. There are no etched brass parts or crew figures.

Revell’s Panther Ausf. D - Ausf. A, Kit 3107 contains about 86 light tan color, injection molded styrene parts on three sprue, and 32 shard styrene link & length track parts. Molding quality is very good. Parts for both the Panther Ausf. D and the Panther Ausf A are included. There are no crew figures or etched brass parts included.


A side-by-side comparison shows all three to be fairly close in dimensions though with different interpretations of the size of some fittings. Third from the left is the old, crappy, cast metal Panther hull from Dragon for comparison; if you should see one of these kits in the store or on eBay, walk away from it.

The grab handles on all the hulls may be replaced with handles made from fine wire. Zvezda’s handles on the crew hatches appear too centered, Dragon’s is correct. You will notice no hinges on these hatches; that is because they rise vertically and then are swung out of the way. Only the Revell hull at far right offers open hatches and an open MG flap on the glacis. The new Dragon Panther D hull has an open driver’s viewport.

Dragon’s plastic hull for kit 7494 offers a ring of screw holes around the turret ring giving a more accurate model should we wish to model the turret removed from the hull.

Zvezda and DML give us separate periscopes and guards while Revell molds them in.

The armor plates for the Panther are interlocking. In my opinion, Revell and DML portray the interlocking plates best though Zvezda’s are adequate enough.

All three plastic kits give us a reasonably accurate engine deck with variations in hinges and bolt holes. The grating on the left round engine air vent of the Zvezda hull appears miss-molded; a section is missing. All are done reasonably well, none are perfect.


Here is a comparison of the turrets from the three Panther kits, along with an ESCI Panther A turret at lower left, and a gray Hasegawa Panther G turret at lower left for comparison.

The dark tan Zvezda turret at upper left has features and dimensions comparable to DML and Revell. Zvezda offers separate lift rings (the three paired holes) while Dragon has solid bumps and Revell gives us no rings at all. The round pistol port is molded onto the turret left side. The commander’s cupola hatch is molded closed so plan on surgery to be able to install a figure.

The Dragon turret at top center is well detailed and the turret cupola is molded open. The lifting rings on the turret roof should be drilled open or replaced by wire; this simplification seems a step toward a wargaming kit when compared to DML’s excellent Sherman tank kits. There is what looks to be a weather strip on the DML turret front not present on the other turrets and not typical to this early version of the Panther.

On the Revell turret, located at lower center, the seam between the turret sides and roof appears greatly exaggerated. No lift rings are molded onto the turret roof or included within the kit so these will need to be replicated with copper wire or other creative ways. (It is interesting that all five turrets shown here depict the roof ventilation fitting differently; I wonder and doubt there was this much variation on the real vehicle.)


This is sprue-c from the Zvezda kit holding the intermediary floor (Part C38) that the lower and upper hulls snap into, the groups of inner roadwheels and other assorted parts like exhaust tailpipes, sprocket wheels, spare tracks and gun barrel. The tow cables (parts C37) are molded in a realistic draped configuration.


Above is a comparison of the light tan color Revell roadwheels and the gray color roadwheels from the DML kit at right. I am not normally a rivet or bolt counter and I won’t count them here. The DML wheels with the bolts in greater relief appear more accurate than Revell’s, though all three manufacturer’s wheels are acceptable.


Zvezda’s roadwheels are simplified but accurate and comparable to DML’s roadwheels. It will be very difficult to articulate these roadwheels over an irregular ground service.



DML’s sprue-C: containing the kit’s wheels. The inner three sets of roadwheels are mounted as connected units of four wheels; the outer roadwheels are to be mounted separately so with some work with the torsion bare arms and the wheels, they could be articulated over rough ground.



Revell’s sprue containing the wheels and turret parts. Near the turret bottom part we see the drum cupola (parts-52 and 53) at right and the cast turret (parts-38 though parts-41) in the center.

The Revell drum cupola is molded slightly conical but should have vertical sides; a new cupola will have to be scratchbuilt in order to correct this. (I have heard a story that the Panther tank's cast cupola was developed at a Ford manufacturing plant near Paris, France: the famous France’s Ford Cupola, but I’ve seen no proof this tale is true.)


Assembly Instructions and Markings

DML’s assembly instructions are their typical three-color exploded-view style on high quality gloss paper. In blue are some personal comments on the kit. At lower right are guidelines for working with the Dragon track material.

Again, keep in mind that this DML Panther kit does not come with the abysmal white metal upper and lower hull pieces that came with DML’s earlier Panther model kits in 1/72, a carryover from the diecast collectibles business. The white metal hull parts have been known to become brittle and crack with age.


The back and front pages of the DML instructions have 3-view, 4-color drawings of five Panther Ausf. D tanks serving on the Eastern Front in 1943. At right we see part of the sprue diagrams (sprue diagrams are also included in the Zvezda and Revell kit instructions). At lower left are the small water-slide decal markings with vehicle numbers and some awesome Panther figures that go on the turret sides.



Zvezda’s assembly instructions also appear clear and well organized. I like the separate periscopes (parts C6), the handtools (parts C23, C44, C45, etc.) and the tow cables (part C36).
The separate torsion bar arms (parts C26, C32 and C33) imply that articulating the roadwheels over rough ground will be easier. With the kit’s hard plastic tracks though, and the roadwheels molded in groups (parts C6, C7 and C34), articulating the wheels may be more difficult unless we substitute the more flexible DML tracks and wheels, for example. The roadwheels assemble so they are easy, straight, but still more accurate.
I have not yet used this type of hard plastic track which is a single long length that bends over and round the suspension wheels but I think it shows promise.


Zvezda completed their assembly instructions with black and white drawings showing the 3-color camouflage scheme and markings for two Panther D’s during the Kursk battle. Paint colors are given in both Cyrillic and in English.

Zvezda’s drum cupola (part C52) is better shaped than Revell’s conical-shaped drum cupola but is not molded open with a separate hatch. Zvezda’s and Revell’s main gun barrels need to have their muzzles drilled out.


In Revell’s assembly instructions we have the sprue diagrams at left. Revell gives us black and white exploded-view drawings in 16 steps. The roadwheel assembly appears to be designed to insure the wheels are sturdy and straight but may not be easy to articulate.

Revell here is the only one of the three kits with link & length hard styrene tracks. Some modelers love the link & length type and look down on band tracks. For me it is more how well they are done than the material they are made from (except for the lousy, detestable stiff polyethylene track present in some old ESCI model kits). I found the Revell track to be nicely done but keep in mind that the individual links leave room for more mistakes in assembly.

Both Revell and Zvezda need to have the exhaust pipes drilled out open.


Revell’s Panther kit offers simple decal markings for two vehicles: an unidentified Panther Ausf. D on the Ostfront in 1944, and a Panther Ausf. A listed as being from the Panzer Lehr Division, at St. Lo, France, also in 1944.



To show you all what one of these kits would look like when assembled here I humbly present a Revell 1/72 Panther D model I built in the late 1990's. The drum (dustpan) cupola has been scratchbuilt using tube styrene. The turret mounted smoke projectors have been scratchbuilt from brass and styrene rod. All three hatches opened and closed. Alas this model was stolen off the display table while attending an AMPS Nationals contest years ago; I would love it returned, no questions asked.

Conclusions
All three kits will build into a good, representative Panther Ausf. D tank. All have their positive traits such as good fit and crisp detail, and have their deficiencies. Zvezda’s Panther looks easiest to assemble while I assess that DML’s kit offers the greatest accuracy. I am very disappointed that DML has chosen to drop the inclusion of etched brass parts, and seems to have simplified their small scale kits in the past year or two.

Since the Revell kit has been available for much longer you are likely to find a greater range of aftermarket resin and etched-brass parts for it; but then again an aftermarket part for one Panther Ausf. D kit will likely be usable with another manufacturer’s 1/72 Panther kit.

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Article Last Updated: 29 August 2013

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