The Ausf G is the last production version of the Panther. Production began around March 1944 until April 1945, with about 3885 produced making it the most numerous of the Panthers. This particular kit depicts the final production model, with a number of distinguished features that separated it from earlier versions, including the “chin” mantlet to prevent shot traps, heater unit on the engine deck, and fire trap mufflers. With the slurry of recent Panther Gs from different companies let’s dive into the kit itself.
This is Academy’s completely new tooling. Personally it was a bit unexpected given how crowded the market is (I personally reviewed Ryefield’s), but I suppose Academy wanted to offer a Tamiya-like kit with updated research and toolings. Academy has been upping their game lately, my favorite being their Abrams and K2 tanks, and their Panzer IV wasn’t too shabby. A pleasant surprise is that although the kit was labeled “final production”, there are enough parts to build almost all versions of Ausf Gs, with the only thing missing an exhaust grill if you build an early G without the heater. The kit comes with the following:
Sprue A of the lower hull.
Sprue B upper hull and details.
Sprue C attached with F, are turret and details. I suspect F is the sprue they would change if they offer some other variations.
Sprue D x 4, with all the wheels and repeated details.
Sprue E x 4 of the link-and-length tracks plus foliage loops.
One PE fret with engine grills, a decal sheet, and a piece of thread for tow cable. I think there should be two polycaps for barrel elevation but either I lost it or the kit did not come with them, but I made do with spares.
The kit can be built into one of 6 vehicles and the instructions indicated options in some steps, but some options were not so use your references. The 6 vehicles are:
- II. Abt, Pz. Rgt. 22, Munchen Apr 1945, M.A.N., a chinless brown-green.
- 11 Pz. Div. , Rgt. 15, Landshut Apr 1945, M.A.N., “421” or “411”, another chinless brown-green.
- Unknown unit, Germany 1945, M.A.N., chinless tri-tonal.
- 2 Pz. Div., Pz. Rgt. 3, Germany 1945, Daimler-Benz, chinless tri-tonal.
- 25 Pz. Gren. Div., Pz. Abt. 5, Kustrin Poland Feb 1945, M.N.H. A distinguished tri-tonal stripped pattern.
- 1 SS. Pz. Div. “LSSAH”, West Hungary Mar 1945, M.A.N. “121”, tri-tonal.
I wanted to do a whitewash so I chose to build a vehicle from Panzer Aces Profiles book from II/Pz.Rgt.33, 9.Panzer Division.Luxembourg Jan 1945, which after some research turned out to be a command Panther, so I had to deploy my spare bin.
I’ll go over some of the options in the step by step build below.
Right off let me say the fit of the kit is excellent. I noted that some reviewers found gaps in assembly but I did not, the key being carefully gluing sections with Quick Setting glue for a complete snug fit before moving on, that way all the mating surfaces should not be showing gaps.
Steps 1+2: The lower hull is multi-part, fits very well. The swing arms have pins to affix their positions, but note that the kit provides a steel wheel for the last wheel, and steel wheels are smaller in diameter than rubber. The arm was set at a height for the rubber, so if you go with steel wheels you need to cut the pin and adjust the arm height or else you would have a floaty.
Steps 3+4: As mentioned some vehicles uses the steel wheels. There is also the option of idler wheels, the smaller earlier version or the later self-cleaning version. The instructions didn’t tell you to assemble the smaller wheels but its 4-piece assembly easy enough.
Step 5 assembles the link-and-length track. First off these are solid guide horns, and most Panthers in photos are hollow. There are in fact solid guide horns for Panthers and they have a different shape, which is accurately depicted in the kit, but they were very rarely used on the field. This is a rather regrettable design choice, I suppose they made it because they didn’t want to go vinyl to support sag, but hollow guide horns are very tricky to cast and you don’t want those Meng nightmares. So if you care about this the lowest cost option may be to grab a Meng that people threw away in frustration, or buy IMHO the best option Bronco snap-together set, or metal. I assembled the tracks thinking I might not care, but I did. Anyway the assembly interestingly has different lengths for certain sections so take note. There are a total of 87 links on each side. Before moving further I should say that I assembled all the whole upper and lower hull together before adding the details rather than following the instructions, as that prevents accidents. However as I mentioned Academy did not tell you when to drill holes and you have to figure it out yourself, so plan ahead. I did not and suffered a bit.
Step 6 is the rear. One very strange thing with this set of instructions is the lack of call out for drilling holes to install certain parts, for example the support brackets for the fire trap mufflers. I chose to install the earlier welded construction mufflers of my vehicle. The stowage boxes has a gap at the bottom with the rear hull, and that was intended, although the left hand side was protruded too much so you may want to sand down the protrusion.
Steps 7-9 are the side details and engine deck. The side fenders are one piece with side skirt support, I found it easier to install the fender first and add the support later. Academy has a very unique design for the side spare track bracket and that is molding the clip and the track and the lock pin together. It lacks some details on close inspection but for simplicity it wasn’t a terrible choice, BUT because of the solid guide horns this whole thing doesn’t quite work. In the end I grabbed the Meng hollow guide horns I despised, trimmed them, removed the solid guide horns, and replaced them with Meng’s. I mean you can argue the guide horns may not be too visible in the lower hull, but here they are so obviously wrong that I just couldn’t live with it. And now if your spare tracks and hollow and your running tracks are solid, it looked completely bizarre so I decided to go with some Bronco tracks afterall. I have to commend Academy on the tool clasps however, their handles are very finely molded – the best I have seen, with Meng second – and if you sand and thin it down a bit more you have great-looking handles. With Dragon kits I typically removed their oversized handles and replaced them with PE, but here I just thinned the styrene and it was PE-thin. Academy also had one-peice tow hook assembly that included the holder and the pin in one assembly, another Tamiya-wannabe feature. I don’t mind this.
Step 10 are the front hull and tow cables. The gun travel lock did not look right and I put it side by side with a Meng, showing that it was too short. Replaced mine with Meng’s. The MG’s muzzle was cast solid so you may want to open it up with a 0.4mm drill. The tow cables were cast with their support. It lacks some details especially on the back brackets. I could still live with it were it not for the fact that my vehicle was not configured this way, so I junked the pieces and used spares, and created my own holder brackets.
Step 11 assembled the upper and lower hulls, which I did much earlier. To do this gap-less, you want to first handle the front mating surfaces, which has to be perfect if you don’t want to use putty. Then you can run Quick setting glue along subsequent joints, squeeze and move. In fact one trick I use is to overflow the joints with glue so that a lot of melted styrene will come out, and you can use an xacto knife to chop the goo to create weld seams. One flaw of this kit is the lack of weld seams on certain surfaces, notably the junctions between hull plates, and I used this method to add them back in.
Step 12 are the front mud guards and side skirts. The side skirts are cast in one piece, the thickness they use bevelling to create the illusion of thin armor. I think it’s not too bad, but if you have damaged or missing side skirts you have to mess with this single pieces of styrene. The skirt hooks are not really hooks so it seems a bit difficult to get Meng’s or Dragon’s PE skirts on them.
Steps 13+14 are the turret assemblies, and the weakest part of the kit due to a number of missing details. First, the turret comes together pretty well, but the fit between front piece C2 and body C6 are a bit tricky, you may want to run quick setting a few times to remove all gaps. If you vehicle does not use the foliage loops, you may also want to sand off the nubs on the surface for locating them. The periscopes in the cupola is strangely too short and looks really off, so I replaced them with spare periscopes from Dragon’s Jagdpanther. The vent cover F6 look a bit under detailed with inauspicious weld seams so I replaced it with Meng’s. The part D21 in the back should have a triangular reinforcement in some vehicles, but it is not difficult to scratch. Mine doesn’t. It is also missing a mount plate for Orterkompass (Dragon Panther kit part B24) and 3 poison gas detection plates (B18 and B19 in Dragon’s kit). Perhaps most noteworthy is the omission of the mantlet MG, they did not have the part even. I don’t use the AA MG so I cut off the barrel of the gun, opened up the muzzle and installed it.
Steps 15+16 are the final turret assemblies in Manual 2. The barrel is one-piece with easy-to-remove mold seams. If you install the AA MG rail, it has two nubs expecting two holes in the cupola. There is only one so I can only assume it wants you to drill the other one, but I didn’t see whether there were a hole underneath. Either way you don’t need the nub to properly install the part. The PEs in steps 16 are optional only if you don’t want to mess with PEs, as the direct sight (that V-shaped PE) and welded attachment points (PE1 and 2) were all standard. I also added Befehlspanther antenna mounts to my vehicle from Meng’s spares.
This is a valiant effort from Academy, trying to do something different by trying to offer high level of details but easy assembly. If you build the kit OOB it would be very straightforward and fun, with excellent fit and low part count. The finely cast tool handles in particular were impressive. The problem is the accuracy of the kit suffers not in terms of its dimensions (which seems spot on), but certain details. The solid guide horns were a bad idea, and the turret was missing a lot of details. I have mixed feelings about this kit, especially after the rather impressive Ryefield kit. But if you want to be able to finish OOB in a couple of sessions this is the kit for you.