1/48th scale Tamiya Sd.Kfz 171 Panther by Russell Eden
After a bit of hiatus I got the modelling bug again just before Xmas. It helped that my mum’s Xmas present was the Voyager etch set for the Panther she had previously given me for my birthday way back in July.
I hadn’t touched this kit as I had plans for it. Big plans involving lots of etch!
The idea was to model an early ‘G’ model panther surviving to the end of the war as part of a Kampfegruppe somewhere on the eastern front.
The Voyager set comes with etched plates and resin parts to depict Zimmerit for the early ‘G’ versions, etch grills, and a full set of side skirts. The only things it didn’t come with are the kisten, or rear stowage boxes. I got these from Aber.
I had a fairly quiet Xmas so this meant plenty of model making time. The hull bottom was assembled pretty quickly, in one evening I think. The wheels went on easily as did the tracks, I love these as they are moulded in sections and are angled correctly for sag. The first bit of Zimmerit was added next on the front of the hull. I wanted to depict a very battered panther so I trimmed the Zimmerit using scissors to remove sections. The Zimmerit coating didn’t stay on too long in combat situations so this will help with the battered look.
Onto the top hull and turret; this was a bit more of a pain. The Zimmerit plates, once trimmed, were superglued in place. This didn’t work very well on my previous 1/72 scale panther and was even worse on this 1/48 scale one, the edges of the etch sometimes refuse to stick. Still, with copious amounts of superglue and pegs to clamp them I eventually got all the trimmed etch in place.
The barrel is a lovely machined one from Aber with the muzzle break in 4 parts. Once I worked out which bit went where ( no instructions were included ). I glued it together and mounted to the resin mantlet, looking good.
The etch grills were fitted next along with spare track mounts. The grills are incredibly fine and take a bit of care getting in place with no superglue overspill. I split one removing it from the mask still it’s a tank so I can class it as battle damage!
All the handles were removed and replaced with wire, as the moulded ones looked terrible. It was then onto the kisten. I took these and the front mudguards to work as I decided to solder them together. WOW, the kisten were folded and soldered together in half an hour, it was so easy. Shame I couldn’t solder more bits together but I think the tank would melt! The mudguards were not as much fun, as I misread the instructions and folded the first one the wrong way and it snapped after I tried to reverse it. Bugger, still I have seen many panthers missing mudguards, more battle damage! The other mudguard went smoothly although 3 hands would have been helpful. I then battered this too and mounted it with the plastic headlight. To fit the kisten the plastic ones had to be removed with my trusty razor saw and the new ones glued in place, but not before I crushed my lovely new ones with a paint brush, more battle damage (panthers had no reversing mirrors and the kisten were the first to hit anything in the way when reversing).
After this it was onto the exhausts and shrouds, the jack and tool racks. The exhausts were from the kit so fitted perfectly and the shrouds were quite thin etch so were curved nicely round the original plastic ones. The only mod to the jack was the top bracket holding it in place; unfortunately this went on bent but doesn’t look too out of place with rear battle damage – phew! The tool racks were etched parts and some of the tools were removed off the original plastic ones with others coming from my spares bin or being left off entirely.
Next was the barrel cleaning kit holder on the side of the panther. This was a bit of a problem as I managed to lose one of the end plates and when I tried to dent it with a warm bit of metal it melted and looked awful. It was off to my local model shop for some tubing. I got some aluminium tubing of roughly the right thickness, dented it and made some etch brackets for it. And hour of holding it in place and it was on, the superglue refused to dry quickly and the brackets kept pinging off.
Lastly the side skirt brackets. I’d had about enough of etch as any modeller can take by now. I was only going to use a couple of the side skirts, as they were lost very easily in wooded areas. I put a few holes and scrapes on the ones I was going to use and got on with the brackets. These consist of the top rail or guard and then brackets. These are mounted together and then fitted to the tank, unlike the first one where I mounted the guard to the tank then tried to add the brackets after and ended up with huge amounts of superglue everywhere and nothing fitting quite right – Doh!
Finished. Finally. When it warms up a bit more I shall primer it and then it’s onto the painting.
Once Paul had taken a load of photos of the assembled Panther it was on to the painting. I actually had a weekend at home in February – only one, and as it was quite warm I got a bit carried away and decided to get the spray cans out. I managed to primer not only the panther but a couple of other projects too.
Anyway, back to the Panther. After a trip to my local model shop I came back with a can of Tamiya fine primer, time to see what the fuss is about. After dusting the panther off I gave it a couple of coats of primer ,these went on really nice – the primer’s expensive for the size of the can but it’s fine enough not to clog any of the mesh engine grills. I left it to dry for an hour or so and then sprayed the base coat using Humbrol Sand – looking good so far. I left this to dry overnight and went onto do some spraying my many other projects.
After doing many weeks of research it was onto the camouflage. This was going to be interesting… I have no airbrush so it was going to hand painted. Most panzers were painted in the field using whatever they had available – from proper spray guns to hand painted brush jobs. This leaves it open to interpretation – there is no real right or wrong way to camouflage a panzer, within reason of course! I decided on green stripes over the sand – no brown used. I used a thinned down Humbrol matt olive and got to work on the stripes. This needed several coats and mixes, as my olive is in the process of going off so is a bit thick to begin with and getting the right consistency takes time and constant thinning. Which in a way is quite realistic, as the panzer crews would be given what paint was at hand and it was thinned depending on how much they had between them.
The tracks came next and were painted using a mix of rust, coal black and anthracite. The outer wheels rims were rubber on the Panther and I painted these anthracite as it’s a very dark grey and rubber isn’t jet black. The metal rims on the inner wheels were painted polished aluminium to show wear and tear. This is where my ‘build the kit then paint it’ philosophy fell down – the wheels on the Panther are inter-woven. I should, with hindsight, have left the outer set of wheels off. I still could have glued the tracks on and been able to paint the inner wheels properly. Oh well, nothing a coat of mud won’t hide! The tools were painted and the exhausts were given a coat of rust paint.
During all this I couldn’t resist putting the decals on. These are a mix of Tamiya crosses and gasoline numbers. The crossed merged with the Zimmerit nicely but the number decals are quite thick and needed a few coats of my Microsol and Daco decal set (borrowed from Paul Adams) to help them blend with the Zimmerit. Even this didn’t work too well unfortunately but a layer of dust will help blend them.
Now everything had a base coat the Panther looked like a roughly painted toy. Onto the ink washes then. My usual MIG dark wash was too dark for the sand colour so I experimented with some Games Workshop inks I got for Xmas off a friend – most useful. I used Sepia first and this darkened the sand slightly bringing out the details nicely. It dried very pale though so I mixed in the Ogryn Flesh ink and that worked really nicely as it blended the sand and the green together. I have many photos of Panthers and the colours vary hugely so the now darkened sand colour wasn’t unrealistic. The green was given a thinned wash of my MIG dark wash to finish the washes off.
With the washes finished it was onto the dry brushing. I started with my Vallejo Sand and lightened this with some Bleached Bone. This highlighted the panther really well and simulated worn camouflage paint when brushed over the green. Using the bleached bone and a very fine brush I then painted scuffs all over the tank and to these added a small patch of anthracite grey to show were the paint has worn through to the bare metal underneath. My rust paint was then painted roughly around the shell damage to show red primer and the shell marks were detailed using a graphite pencil. Paint chips were also added using the pencil as well as the anthracite paint. The tow cables were highlighted using the pencil and a coat of Smoke paint. A coat of matt cote dulled these down.
Oil marks on the engine deck, wheels and rear hull were also added with Smoke paint. MIG Rust pigments were added over the damaged areas on the mudguards and the schurtzen rails. The wooden jack rest was replaced with a piece of wood from a lolly stick and given several brown washes to darken it.
It was at this point I decided to give up on the turret numbers and replace them with some thinner ones that would blend in with the Zimmerit. Using Microsol I removed the black & white numbers and replaced them with yellow and black numbers from an aircraft kit. Some purists might complain that they didn’t have yellow numbers but after a bit of research I found three decal sets with various yellow and black numbers – phew – rivet counter grief avoided! I trimmed these very carefully with a scalpel to remove the carrier and the white edge on two of the number sets – where the white screen had slipped. It was then onto the turret with them and they sunk nicely into the Zimmerit with a coat of Microsol. I gave them various ink washes to blend them in and the Panther was pretty much done.
It looks lovely and battered at the moment but lacking in mud. This will be added when I get a base and finally make up my mind what to do with it.