Monday, March 19

Build Guide Pt II: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models: turret, tracks & tools...

Andy Moore has already shown us what's inside the box of his MENG 35th scale Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.A Late kit in his review and then Part I of the build guide, now, in Part II of the build guide you can see how it all seals up before he gets to painting the kit...

Build Guide Pt I: Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.A Late
German Medium Tank
Manufacturer – Meng Models
Product Number – Tyrannosaurus Series TS-035
Scale: 1/35th
Price -  HKD 206.00/ GBP 20.06/ EUR 22.15/ USD 26.41 from Hobbyeasy
In-Box Review: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models
Build Guide Pt III: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models

Today: Build Guide Pt II: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models
With most of the hull detailing in place, I had to start thinking about the Zimmerit coating. I had originally intended to use the Meng decals for this, despite the somewhat lacklustre result I had when testing them for the mini review last year. Trouble is I'd decided to go for the captured Russian marking option, and most of the limited info I could find on that vehicle pointed to it having quite badly chipped and damaged Zimmerit. For that reason, I decided to go with the more traditional method of using putty to represent the ant mine coating, as I felt it would be easier to achieve a damaged finish that way. I used a two-part epoxy putty and, working in small areas at a time, spread it on as thinly as I could with a knife blade. I wiped the blade clean regularly and lubricated it with water to prevent the putty from sticking.
After about an hour the putty had firmed up enough to score the lines into it. This was done with the same knife I'd used to apply the putty. The few reference images I could find of this captured Russian Panther seemed to show it with the basic square-pattern Zimmerit, so that's what I went with. This actually suited me fine, as this is the first time I've tried applying Zimmerit to a model, so the easier the pattern, the better for me. The damage was added a few hours later, before the putty had completely cured, and still had some plasticity. Again, the same knife was used to chip away small areas of the putty. I'll make absolutely no claims for accuracy here. To be honest I was just glad to get it done, as it wasn't a job I was looking forward to.
At this point, I gave the wheels a quick test fit, which is a job in itself due to their interleaved design. I managed to snap off a couple more of the schürzen hangers while doing this, so another reason to leave them off until the end. If I have one complaint with the working torsion bar system, it's that the tank seems to sit quite high on the wheels. It's hard to get a proper idea until the tracks are on, but I might try adding some weight in the hull to compress the suspension a little more.
Ride height issues aside, the suspension works very well as far as it goes. The tensile strength of the steel torsion bars is quite high though, and it takes a fair amount of downward pressure to deflect the wheels. If you were to sit the model on an uneven diorama base, the wheels wouldn't conform to the surface without something physically pulling the tank down, such as a bolt through the base of the hull and into the diorama. As a result, it's questionable just how much use the working suspension is to the finished model, beyond being something of a gimmick.
With the schürzen hangers repaired, I could test fit the plates themselves. Meng has provided these in photo-etched form, albeit in steel rather than brass. That makes them a little tougher to cut away from the fret, but once cleaned up, they drop easily into place on the hangers, being metal, you'll be easily able to add any dents and damage you care to or leave some or all of the plates off is you prefer.
Compared to the hull, the turret is a far quicker assembly. Like the hull, it uses an open framework base to which individual panels attach. These all fit perfectly, and again, use the interlocking shapes of the armour panels themselves to clip together. You have the option to pose the rear hatch open should you wish to.
Although this is a non-interior kit, Meng does provide a reasonable breech part that will help give the impression of internal detail if you do pose that rear hatch open.
Like their previous King Tiger, Meng has included the option of a metal barrel with the initial run of the kit. Don't worry if you don't get one though, as the one-piece plastic alternative is just as good, and only needs the minor mould line sanding off. It's also worth remembering that, regardless of what paint manufacturers say, both paint and primer will always adhere better to plastic than metal, so, although I'm using the metal option for the review, I'd often choose the plastic one over the metal.
The turret had the Zimmerit applied in exactly the same way as the hull, although I added more chipped areas as this seemed to better match the few photos I found of captured Russian Panthers. I didn't want the contrast between the “zimmed” and “non-zimmed” areas to be too strong, so I stippled some Gunze dissolved putty onto the exposed parts of the turret to give some impression of the roughened armour plate and any residue left from the chipped-away Zimmerit.
So that's the build almost done. Oh wait, there's something else, isn't there... That would be the tracks, wouldn't it? Well, in truth, this is the main reason the build's taken so long, as the tracks are a bit of a nightmare to deal with, and I did put doing them off for quite a while. I'm using the working tracks for this build which does make things a little easier compared to the kit tracks, but it's still a real slog to get them together. To start with, each link has no less than seven sprue gates to remove and clean up. It's not even as straightforward as simply chopping them off, as the gates attach to areas of the track links that curve in two directions, meaning that each attachment point needs to be carved to shape or the links won't connect properly. For the record, that's seven sprue gates per link for two runs of 87 links each. That's 1218 individual connections to clean up and reshape (not that I was counting or anything)
The links are then joined together with the supplied metal pins. Just to break up the monotony of cleaning up the links, I'd do 10-12 of them, then join these up into short runs. These were then connected together once I'd got enough for a full run. Just to be clear, the exact same cleanup procedure is needed for the non-working kit tracks, although with those you'll need to glue them all together into one full run, them wrap them around the wheels to shape them.
To compound the workload, each track link needs two guide horns adding. The instructions tell you to do this before joining the links together, but I found it far easier to add the horns after I'd built up the short runs. And for those keeping score; two horns per link... that's another 348 part to remove, clean up and attach.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally managed to get the two full runs together. In truth, I have to say the end results are excellent. They're robust and won't come apart easily, and they can be fully painted and weathered separately before being added to the finished model. The problem is the work involved with getting to that stage. Other manufacturers can mould Panther links with fewer sprue gates, and with the guide horns in place (see the new RFM Panther), so I'm sure Meng could too if they tried. Between the kit tracks and the working track set, I'd definitely recommend getting the working set. The kit tracks have all the deficits of the working ones in terms of clean-up, but don't articulate, and will, therefore, be more trouble to fit. Of course, you could sidestep the issue altogether, and just get some Friuls or something similar, but that would obviously entail extra expense.
So, with the tracks done, it finally is finished. Overall, this is a great kit, and easily up to Meng's usual high standards. The caveat being tracks, and the high workload involved in building them. Having said that, there's nothing actually wrong with the tracks, and how you feel about putting hundreds of tiny parts together will differ from one modeller to another. The rest of the kit goes together beautifully, so there are no issues there. It's been pointed out quite often recently that this seems to be the year of the Panther, with new kits coming from various manufacturers. I can't tell you if this is the best of them, as I haven't seen any of the others, but it must be right up there. Certainly, if you're not looking for an interior (which, if we're honest, is probably most of us), then this definitely seems like the best option. Just remember to put some calming music on while you deal with the tracks!
The paint & weathering guide will be coming soon on TMN, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I'll leave you with some shots of the finished build.

Andy Moore

You can track down your own panther from Meng’s Distributors. Thanks to them for sending this kit to us to build & review…