(This kit was done for an Armorama review in September 2019)
The Ausf G was 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 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 see how Academy’s stacks up.
This is kit is all new tooling. Building the kit I get the feeling that Academy wanted to offer a Tamiya-like experience with the build. 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 came with the following:
The kit came with markings and options to be built into one of 6 vehicles and the instructions indicated these options in some steps, but there are others that were simply marked optional, 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 used some parts from my spare bin.
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 and fits very well. The swing arms have pins to affix their positions. The kit provides steel wheels (4), which can be used for the last wheels in certain variants. Steel wheels are smaller in diameter than the rubber equivalent, but the arms were set at a height for the rubber, so if you go with steel wheels you need to cut the pin and adjust the arm heights if you don’t want floating wheels.
Steps 3+4: As mentioned some vehicles used the steel wheels. The kit also provides two types 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. I went with this.
Step 5 assembles the link-and-length track. The kit’s tracks have solid guide horns, and most Panthers had hollow ones. This is a rather unfortunate choice, I suppose they did 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. There are many options for late Panther tracks, I chose to go with Bronco’s snap-together plastic tracks, not very expensive and each track is a single piece. For this review I did the kit tracks 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. The problem is that Academy didn’t tell you where to drill holes explicitly.
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 also had one-peice tow hook assembly that included the holder and the pin in one assembly, another Tamiya-wannabe feature. I didn’t mind this too much.
Step 10 are the front hull and tow cables.
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 created my own holder brackets.
Step 11 assembled the upper and lower hulls, which I had already done 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 hold for 10 seconds, and repeat. One trick I used was to overflow the joints with glue so that a lot of melted styrene will ooze out, I then used an xacto knife to chop the goo to create weld seams. This is one flaw of the kit, it lacks weld seams on certain surfaces, notably the junctions between hull plates, and I used this method to add them back.
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. Unless the skirts are perfect on your vehicle which often isn’t the case, it is difficult to remove skirt plates with this arrangement because after you slice off plates, you get square holes in the plate which unless you have a punch it is difficult to replicate. I may commission some spare Meng or Dragon skirts for this.
Steps 13+14 are the turret assemblies, and are 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 did 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 were strangely too short and looked off, so I replaced them with spare periscopes from Dragon’s Jagdpanther. The vent cover F6 looked a bit under detailed with inauspicious weld seams so I replaced it with Meng’s. The handle part D21 in the back should have a triangular reinforcement plate in some vehicles but it is missing in the kit. My vehicle didn’t have it so this didn’t bother me.
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 you don’t need the nub to properly install and align 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 was a valiant effort from Academy, trying to do something different by offering high level of detail 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 difficult to accept, and the turret was missing a lot of details. I have mixed feelings about this kit, especially after the rather reviewing the impressive Ryefield kit. But if you want to be able to finish OOB in a couple of sessions this is a great choice and would build into a nice Panther G.