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The Last Panther in Pomerania

by Rhodes Williams


The build up of the Dragon kit is fun and without any real headaches. However, as I wished to use the Aber PE sets I had to constantly hop back and forth between directions at every step. Before I started gluing anything I read over more than a few times the Dragon and Aber instruction sheets. Also, bookmarking references were helpful as a few bits in the Aber instructions were not properly placed.

After feeling secure enough in the knowledge that I had read the various directions I decided to improve the texture and the weld seems on the Dragon hull and turret. I built the hull and turret per the instructions and then covered the panels with Model Master "Liquid Cement". With an old rough rush I stippled it and then when still somewhat tacky I took a Ryobi Moto-tool and using a circular steel buffing burr set at low speed I tore into the glue and in some places pulled up a little bit of the styrene. Once it was quite dry I sanded it down. I was pleased with the improved rolled steel texturing.

Then I set about improving the weld seams. This was done by laying down thin strips of masking tape and with a toothpick smearing on thin lines of Tamiya "Putty". The type that comes in the orange cap. This was then scribed with the backside of an exacto knife and the tape pulled up.

Next I built the running gear and roadwheels. The Dragon offerings are nice enough indeed. I intended to make this Panther part of a small based diorama depicting the last Panther in Pomerania in the closing weeks of the war and would have survived a right good thrashing in combat. Using various drill bit sizes I drilled out holes in the roadwheels simulating small caliber shell hits and shrapnel damage. This was also done to the turret and hull. Some holes were     enlarged with an exacto but only one was designed as a penetrating shot, and that is the hole entering the starboard radiator cell causing the fire damage on the engine decking. I also wanted to show damage to the rubber road wheels. This was done with the mototool and cleaned up with an exacto and needle files.

Once this was done I went to work on the rear hull plate. I wanted to model excessive combat damage here so I scratchbuilt one of the rear stowage bins from TechStar "Lead Foil" (#TC 3011) by making a template of the Dragon part and then cutting it out using medical scissors. The criss-cross detail on the bin face plate was achieved by simply pressing the lead part over the original and rubbing around the periphery with a toothpick. Scratches in the foil were buffed out. Battle damage was created with a small drill bit and an exacto. Dents were recreated by pushing in the very soft foil with a pencil. The fasteners for the lid are by Royal Model "Buckles" (#085) and for what my opinion is worth are much better in both size and ease of construction to the Aber offering. The other stowage bin was to have been torn off so the hangers underneath were constructed using thin strips of lead foil. Panther in Detail and Achtung Panzer were consulted for details on the rear plate and I added various chains to the engine access plates.

The two fire trap mufflers were pilfered from the Tamiya kit as they were a bit crisper. I added battle damage and then rusted up the bottom with a mixture of baking soda, white glue and water. The jack and its mount are Aber PE. The basic form of the jack came from the Tamiya "Panzerkampfwagen IV On-Vehicle Equipment Set" (#TAM35185).

Now as I had some thirty odd shell hits on the hull and turret I had to match the damage to the tools and Aber PE tool brackets. I left off all but one spare Dragon track link, rilling out the guide horns. The Aber retaining pins in the Aber sets were not used anywhere on the model. These were supplemented with brass wire suitably shaped. The spade which ay right over a hit on the port side hull was replaced with the Tamiya part and then split on the wood handle where the shell hit. In reality the spade would probably be blown clear away, but I wished to leave some of the tools on for variety, so I settled for drilling small
shrapnel holes in the spade face. The barrel cleaning tube and spare aerial stowage was replaced using the Tamiya part. To this I shaved off the L angle steel bar, replacing it with the Aber PE and simulated battle damage and excessive rusting as this was just thin sheet metal. Similarly the Dragon towing cable was scrapped for one made of Tamiya eyes from the Panther G kit and cables of twisted brass wire.

The front hull plate was detailed by adding the Aber bow machine gun plug and chain often overlooked. I also replaced the surviving towing clevis with a Tamiya part and hung it on the front towing hook. As much as possible I replaced the Dragon tools with Tamiya Pzkfw. IV On Vehicle Equipment as they look a bit crisper and fit the Aber PE it was designed to hold. I bent some of the tool hangers on the front Starboard side where glancing shots tore them up. I should mention here that I found the photo-etch much easier to manipulate when it was first scored with a cigarette lighter. I replaced all the hatches and travel clamp with the Tamiya parts as again they were a bit crisper. I drilled out the solid closing handles and added the Aber hatch counterweight assembly arms. After an hour in hell winding brass wire around a pin to make the springs I celebrated life with a cigarette to calm my nerves and then moved onto the rear engine decking.

Here I replaced the raised engine fan with the Tamiya part as it had neat serial numbers inscribed in it. Next I fitted all of the Aber engine mesh, which is the best I've ever come across. It was pricked with an exacto here and there to simulate shrapnel damage. The weaved look is very convincing. I only touched these with Zap-A-Gap, CA glue as I wished to remove them for painting the air inlet housings without fear of gumming up the mesh.

Next came the turret. I used the cupola from the Panther G as it had a nicer pitting and it accepted the Aber interior parts better. I added periscopes from the Royal Model "Interior Details Set No. 2" (#098). The escape hatch was also pinched from Tamiya as the Dragon part does not provide for the interior swing out mounting which I then detailed with Aber parts. The Dragon barrel is very nice. The trick to losing the seam is to put on ample glue and squish the barrel halves together. When dry the excess glue is filled away erasing the seam. However, I constructed it before I inserted the Aber rifling so I had to use the Tamiya barrel. With this I correctly inserted the riffling into the muzzle brake. I also added a hollowed out piece of stretched sprue into the mantlet machine gun position as Dragon does not include one. I had seen a photo of a Panther with the remains of a Russian shell burrowed into the mantlet and decided to include this in my banged up beasty. This was done by shaving off a tiny piece of plastic from a scrap of stretched sprue and curled it around a needle nosed file. Once I was happy with the shape I cut it down and stuffed it into a pre-drilled shell hole in the mantlet to right of the 7.5cm main gun. The welded camouflage rings, five to a turret side, were made of brass wire. Using a fine drill bit I drilled out holes in the side of the turret and slipped long thin brass wire through the holes. Lopping the wire to form the hangers I Zap-A-Gapped, CA glued the wire on the inside of the turret to secure them and once dry trimmed away the excess.

Next I constructed the kit link to link caterpillars. Very nice and easy. No problems here. After they were glued in place I went to work on the Aber fenders. I had already removed the thick Dragon fender mounts and found the Aber PE fit well. I banged up the fenders by cutting them with sharp scissors and bending them back with tweezers. I drilled several holes to simulate small arms hits and cut away a portion of the left fender to expose the PE frames underneath. I replaced the Dragon Bosch lamp with a resin part by Royal Model "Headlights-Tail Lights 1/35" (#077), adding blown open wiring with scale rubber hosing from the Academy "German Tank Supplies & Crew Set" inserting brass wire into the rubber hose to simulate loose wiring.

Finally I went to work on the Aber side skirts using the supports, retainers and pins included. I wished to simulate multiple shell hits on the ones which remained so this was done with a nail and a small hammer. Where there was to be penetration hits I went back to the mototool and using a small drill bit gradually drilled through the brass.

The principle construction of the Panther was now complete.

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