Wednesday, December 20

In-Boxed: Meng Models 1/35th scale Panther Workable Track Set & Zimmerit Decal Sets

Andy has the new Meng Panther in 35th scale ready... just waiting to be built - but he wanted to try the Zimmerit patterns the kit would need, as well as the fully working suspension to add that weighted look to the kit. He has a chance to show them off to you before he gets building the whole thing in today's review.

Panther Workable Track Set & Zimmerit Decal Sets
Manufacturer – Meng Models
Product Numbers – Track Set SPS-049 – Decal Sets SPS-050 to 053
Scale - 1/35th
Price -  ¥4,400 – US$41 - £30 - €35

We recently gave Meng's new 1/35 Panther a thorough look-over in the in-box review, and it looked to be a very nice package, and one that I'm very much looking forward to making a start on. Before the build gets underway though, there are some extra goodies that Meng has released for this kit, and we're going to check them out in today's review.
Zimmerit Decal Sets
The vast majority of the Panther Ausf.A's, as represented in the kit, were coated with the zimmerit anti-mine paste that is such a recognisable feature of German armour from the mid-war period. Representing zimmerit on a model has always been a tricky aspect. Some manufacturers have gone down the route of moulding the texture onto the kit parts and, although this works well. It does limit your options if you want to represent damaged zimmerit, or a vehicle that doesn't have it applied.
Meng has elected to supply the kit parts without moulded zimmerit, leaving the modeller to apply the texture themselves. This can be done with putty or, in some cases, with photo etched panels. Both of those options can be tricky though, so Meng has released four sets of zimmerit decals designed to make the job of adding the texture much easier.
Now, you might think the idea of adding texture via a decal seems a bit odd, but these aren't normal decals. They're essentially pieces of clear decal carrier film onto which resin has been printed to create the texture of the zimmerit. These are applied in the same manner as a normal decal, except that, obviously, they're applied before you paint the model. There's no trimming required, as the carrier film is cropped precisely to the shape of the zimmerit texture, with all the necessary holes and cut-outs for the surface details on the model. The decals come on large 27cm x 22cm sheets, together with an A4 placement guide.
The depth of the texture isn't that great, but it is noticeable. The texture is made up of raised lines with gaps between them and, as such, doesn't have that authentic ridged look of the original zimmerit. At the end of the day though, this is designed to be a quick and simple option for those modellers who don't fancy the idea of applying the zimmerit by hand using putty.
Meng has released four different sets, each representing one of the zimmerit application patterns carried by the Panther. The patterns are represented well, and have a natural look to them, even including small imperfections and chips.

Pattern 1                                                               Pattern 2
Pattern 3                                                                   Pattern 4
Giving the option of the four different styles is a nice touch from Meng, but there is a small fly in the ointment. Neither on the placement guides included with the decals, nor in the main kit instructions are you told which zimmerit pattern is correct for each of the seven marking options included with the kit. If you look very closely at the five-view illustrations in the kits marking guide, you can just about tell which zimmerit pattern each tank carries, but a simple written note would have been much easier.

In Use
Looking at pictures of the decals is all well and good, but we're only going to see how well they perform by actually applying them. I'll obviously only be using one set for the model, so that gives me some spares to test out. For the test, one of the decals was applied directly to a piece of  unpainted styrene. In terms of initial application, the decal performed very well. It only required a quick soak in warm water to be free of the backing paper, and once slid onto the styrene sheet, I was able to adjust it's position without problem.
I didn't use any setting solutions for this test, as I wanted to see how the decal would perform on its own. Once it was in place I gently pressed it down with a cotton bud and removed any excess water. After that it was left to dry over night. The next day I noticed that some corners of the decal had started to lift. I put the tip of a knife blade under the corner to see how well the rest of the decal had adhered. Much to my surprise, the whole decal began to peel up.
This may have been lessened if I'd used a setting solution, although it's interesting that Meng has added a note to the bottom of the decal placement guide stating that modelling glue or cyanoacrylate can be used to better secure the decals after application. Maybe they knew that they didn't stick that well.

I did try adding a little Tamiya extra thin cement to the peeled decal, and it did help to secure it, although in places the decal puckered up and some of the resin texture slightly melted (surprising, given that styrene cement shouldn't affect resin).
Once I'd got the decal secured as well as I could, I primed it and gave it a coat of paint. I have to be honest and say I found the effect rather underwhelming. The diagonal lines are quite ridged, but that was mainly an effect of applying the Tamiya cement. The actual zimmerit ridges were quite flat.
At this point I was really rather dubious about these decals, but I wanted to persevere and see if an enamel wash would enhance the texture. I also applied a second decal to another piece of styrene using a setting solution, and this time got better adhesion, although I still had to resort to styrene cement on some of the corners. With a wash applied to both pieces, the texture did become more apparent, although it was still on the subtle side. The main zimmerit ridges hardly show up at all.
At the start of this review, I stated that these decals were intended as a quick and simple option for those who didn't want the hassle of applying the zimmerit with putty. In that regard I actually think they're fine. Yes, the texture is very subtle, but for many modellers, the decals will provide an easy option over putty. What worries me more is the problems I had getting the decals to adhere. It's possible they might work better over a primed surface, and I'll need to experiment a little more with that, but I'll still be concerned about the longevity of the decals once the model is finished.

Working Track and Suspension Set
The other extra that Meng has released for the Panther is a workable track set that replaces the kit's indi link tracks, and also includes a set of torsion bars to make the kit's suspension workable too. The set comes in a small box containing 10 sprues of track links and another two sprues holding the separate guide horns and the mounting blocks for the torsion bars. In addition, you'll find a bag of steel torsion bars, and another two bags holding the tiny metal track pins.
There's no instruction manual included in the box, with the instructions instead being shown on the back of the box. This is more than adequate though, as the assembly is very straight forward.
Sprue J (x2)
These hold the guide horns, two of which will need to be added to each track link. These are identical to the horns included with the main kit, and attach in the same way. The other parts at the bottom of the sprue sit inside the kit's lower hull, and secure the inner end of the torsion bars.
Sprue K (x10)
These hold the track links themselves and, like the guide horns, are identical to the links in the main kit, with the exception that these ones come with holes ready to take the track pins.
Pins and Torsion Bars
The rest of the box contents consists of two bags of track pins and one with the torsion bars. The pins are tiny, so your probably best to empty them into a small container to keep them safe.
The first job with the track links, and the one that'll take the longest, is removing them and getting them cleaned up. There are five attachment points on each link, and to complicate things a little more, each gate attaches to a curved section of the link, so it's not as simple as slicing the sprue tab strait off. You'll need to do a bit of work with a file too. Having said that, the very same issue exists with the kit's non-working links, and it's not a job you need to do in one sitting. Do a few a night while working on other aspects of the model, and they'll soon be done.
Attaching the two guide horns to each link will also take some time but, again, the work can be broken up into separate sessions. You'll need a good pair of tweezers as the horns are tiny, but they do fit very securely onto the links.
After that it's just a matter of attaching the links together with the pins. I found the easiest way to do this was to 'pre-load' the pins into the holes on each link, pushing them just far enough in to stay in place. The links could them be brought together, and the pins pushed fully home.
The pins are a very secure fit in the links, and there's no danger of any becoming detached. Once built up, the tracks are fully articulated, but relatively stiff, which to me is a good thing. It means you'll be able to form them into a natural shape, but they won't flop about every time you move the model. Best of all, you'll be able to fully paint and weather these while they're off the model, then easily add them at the end.
I'm not going to deal with the torsion bars here, as they'll be fully covered during the main build of the Panther. Suffice to say they look like they'll work very well. Of the two upgrade options Meng has released for the Panther, the working track/suspension set is easily the best. It's a definite step up, both in terms of the final look, and in practicality of assembly and painting, over what you get with the main kit.

Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought, as to what you may want to pick up to go with your new Panther. The track link set seems like a must-have to me, but I'm a little more circumspect regarding the zimmerit decals. I'll be experimenting further with those during the main build, which will be coming soon, here on TMN.

Andy Moore

Thanks to Meng Models for sending these to Andy to use on is forthcoming PAnther build. Stay tuned for some nice surprises with this one.