Sd.Kfz. 171 Panther G (early)

Manufacturer: Dragon Models (Kit No. 7205)

Since Revell removed the Panther G from their catalog, the annoucement of this Dragon kit generated a lot of interest. Personally, the reason I bought it was because I was intrigued by the inclusion of die cast metal parts for the chassis. I wondered if this would be a benefit to the kit, which unfortunately, it is not. My opinion is that this kit is basically a nice collection of spare parts for other Panther projects, which for the price, really is not a bad deal.

The entire hull is made from cast metal. Why? Perhaps this is the same hull Dragon uses for their line of complete die-cast tanks, and they wanted to save on tooling costs? I don't know for sure, but this is the only logical explanation I can think of, since there is absolutely no advantage to have a metal hull in a kit like this. The detail on the lower hull is really quite nice, except for the two screw holes in the bottom plate. The upper hull has some nice features, for example around the driver's viewscope and the headlight mount. But the crew hatches are closed, and it will be a nightmare to open them. There are huge holes on the hull sides for attaching the various tools and track, and the side skirt mounting brackets are also molded on, which looks quite poor. The fit between the two parts is very bad, with a huge gap at the front nose. I imagine that it might be addressed by some careful filing of some parts, but I haven't yet tried. All in all, a metal hull was a poor choice.

The main sprue of detail parts has a lot of stuff on it, including a great many parts for the forthcoming Jagdpanther kits. The detail on most of these parts is very well done, and some nice options are included as well, such as open engine access hatches. But look at the shovel . . .

There is an engine bay insert included, which although it may not be adequate for an open engine hatch, it will certainly look nice beneath the engine ventilation grates, which is a first. If a modeler wanted to replace this insert with a complete engine from Extratech, have fun cutting away all that metal. Several tow cables are included, as well as the end loops for several more, which the modeler can make from scratch (and use on the Elefant/Ferdinand kits?).

The wheels are the best part of the kit. Very, very nice. And all of you bolt-counters will be happy, because they actually have the proper number of rim bolts (24). The sprockets are the best I've seen for a Panther kit. Notice the variety of exhaust styles included. But do you also notice the flaw in the road wheel on the left? There is a thin line in the plastic, which I have often seen on many of Dragon's large scale figure sets. I've never been able to figure out what causes that, but this seems to be the only company that suffers from this flaw.

The last sprue of parts is for the turret. While this is generally a very good piece, it suffers from poor molding. Notice the horizontal sink mark that mars both turret sides (red arrow). This is from a heavy notch of plastic on the inner surface of the turret walls. While this is easy enough to fill with putty, we really shouldn't have to. But if you planned on adding zimmerit, that should take care of it anyway. The commander's hatch is open; the rear loading hatch is closed; the AA machinegun is very fine; the main gun barrel is superb (with open end); the gun travel lock is awesome; and the spare track links are gorgeous. As far as I know, the only difference between this kit and the forthcoming Late Panther G kit, is the style of gun mantlet, which Dragon removed from this sprue. This is a senseless move, considering how many other optional parts they left included, but in this manner, they will encourage modelers to buy two kits now, instead of just one.

As for the tracks, these are some of the best detailed tracks I have seen in vinyl. The tread pattern is correct for the Panther, and they do in fact, look very good. It is possible that one can get away with using these tracks, considering that the upper track run will be hidden behind the armored side skirts, if you choose to use them. If not, then I'm not confident in how they will look. Even so, a lot of superglue will be needed (and you may wish to reinforce the rear of the links that wrap around the sprocket, to keep them from bending in the middle).

Dragon have outdone themselves on the markings, and actually included two choices this time: one for 12th Panzer Division in the Ardennes, 1944; and the other set for the 11th Panzer Division in southern France, 1944. The decals are thin and sharply printed, though slightly out of register.

One thing I have not done yet, is taken measurements of the hull for comparison to plans. Maybe I'll get to that soon.

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