by: Bill Cross [ ]
The Panther is considered by many experts to be Germany's best tank design during the war, and perhaps the best tank of World War 2 period. Though it came too late to turn the tide in Hitler's favor, the Panther had several notable features, including a deadly 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 gun, sloping armor in thicknesses to resist many other tank guns of the period, and excellent communications. Dragon has been releasing multiple versions of the Panther's three variants (D, A and G in order of development), often in versions with and without Zimmerit.
Given the importance of the tank and its kits, a number of after-market photo etch manufacturers have released upgrades to improve on Dragon's already excellent quality and detailing. It's never a bad thing when new upgrades are brought out to compete with existing ones, and Alliance Modelworks is releasing a series of sets intended for Dragon's Panther series. The latest is for the Ausf. G. The G model was the most-numerous Panther, and it has some unique features, including crew compartment heater that sticks up prominently above the engine grates.
what you get
The set comes in a clear plastic bag reinforced by a black heavy paper liner with an AMW label stapled to the top. Inside are included:
5 frets of photo etch
5 pages of instructions on three pieces of paper
Thanks to the amazing work by Thomas Jentz and Hilary Doyle, the details of the Panther G are well-documented. The differences in the various PE upgrades, then, is what details each company chooses to reproduce, and what solutions they provide the modeler. In the case of Alliance Modelworks, they have focused on a clear, clean provision of the essential details like the tools, their mounting system and the side skirts or Schürzen meant to detonate shaped charge rounds prior to hitting the tank itself.
Indeed, one of the best features about the kit are the side skirts or Schürzen. While styrene Schürzen are much better than in the past, they still can't compete with metal; Dragon's own metal skirts are a better solution than plastic, but still a bit clunky in comparison to these. Most current PE Schürzen are thin and flimsy, hardly making it believable they could provide even small arms fire protection. These panels, however, seem much more reasonable and to-scale than anything I've seen previously, and are fabricated in a thicker brass than those of the competition.
Indeed, brass thickness is used to solve a number of issues, such as the rear stowage bins and their lids, allowing for some clever variations on the standard bins included in the kits or other PE sets. Ausf. A-type mounting racks are present, as well as a box for optional IR equipment from a very late Ausf. G. Other aspects that set it apart include the seven-part crew heater assembly that goes a long way towards equaling or even exceeding the resin version I purchased from Tiger Models.
Given the variations of Panther G within the variant, AMW has done a fine job allowing modelers to customize their build, including four options for the exhausts and their shields. One of those options is the Panther A version allowing for a "transitional" build. As in other cases where more options are provided than simply OOB, consult your references.
I'm particularly happy with this set;s clear instructions. Parts are often identified, too, which makes for easier understanding of what you're doing. One knock on some other manufacturers is their usage of exploded-view assembly stages that often fail to convey where something goes exactly. That's not a problem from what I can see here.
I'm not entirely satisfied with everything in the set, including the fact that it demands modelers form from flat brass what Jentz & Doyle refer to as the "cylindrical storage tube" on the side of the tank. There has been some debate about whether these tubes contained extra radio aerials, or the interlocking wooden handles for the gun cleaning rod, but whatever they held, they were present and with this set, you have to "roll your own." AMW says they made this decision in order to give modelers a more-accurate bin in case they choose to show it in the open position. A pre-formed cylinder would be easier to use, but sacrifices scale thickness.
You must also supply your own plastic or brass rod for things like the handles on the rear deck storage compartments. But overall that's a small omission.
This is a very good set for what you get, though the price direct from AMW is significantly more expensive than sets by other manufacturers purchased from Internet sellers. Certainly buying direct allows buyers the confidence and reassurance they're getting their money's worth. I don't think anyone will be disappointed with this set, and it establishes a high bar for the competition in a number of areas. It doesn't "blow away" all the other sets on the market, but gives several of them a real run for the money.
Panzerkampfwagen Panther - Ausf.G (Panzer Tracts, # 5-3.) by Jentz & Doyle.
Thanks to Alliance Modelworks for providing this review sample. Be sure to say you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering.