Panther ausf. F.
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
The last version of Panther that went to serial production was ausf. G. However, the next generation of Panther was just on the doorstep.
To improve the Panther turret works on its design started already in 1943. It was decided that a narrower front plate was desirable with a different mantlet to prevent downward deflection of incoming armour-piercing rounds. Although the 'Schmalturm' was born in 1944 it did not make it to mass production, nevertheless it was being tested on ausf G hulls.
In 1945, as the end of the war got closer every day the pressure on the German tank factories got bigger and bigger. Lack of materials and constant air strikes made the production more and more difficult. Among these circumstances only a few ausf F hulls got to production. I have seen photos of only one tank in the battle of Berlin that had an ausf F hull with an ausf G turret. The well-known photo taken by the allied forces about the Daimler-Benz factory's assembly line also proves that a few more ausf F hulls might have been released.
However, these hulls were not very different from the final ausf G hulls: the opening mechanism of driver's and radio operator's hatch was different and the shape of the hatch was slightly more rectangular. The 2nd, 3rd and 5th hulls on the above picture are ausf F.
The fitting of the front plate of the hull is slightly different: the interlocks are horizontal on ausf F while it is in right angle on the ausf G.
So, the real difference would have been meant by the turret, but it never made it to serial production. A surviving example of such a turret can be seen in the Tank Museum in Bovington, although it was severely damaged during the bombing in the last days of the war.
In light of all this it is fair to say that the kind of tank I was about to build actually did not exist. However, due to available documentation surviving the war it is feasible to build an ausf F like if it was produced in a desperate rush in the last days of the war and pushed out of the factory door to fight until the end.
Cyber-Hobby 6382 kit looks an excellent kit with a wide range of options. It offers two upper hulls, lots of PE's (Photo Etched parts), 'Magic tracks' (Dragon's individual track links) and all the fantastic options you can get from a dragon kit.
Suspension and torsion bars can be built should you want to consider working a bit on the interior of the tank. I personally only used those parts that are necessary for the external appearance of the Panther.
In quite a few cases you can decide whether to use the plastic or the PE parts, so you can customize your model according to your skillset.
As I have a lot to learn on how to bend and fix the tiny photos etched parts I decided to skip it on the tools and racks as the plastic ones looked good enough to me. Modelling should be a fair balance of trying, learning and pleasure and I am just following my own pace: my selected challenge for this kit is the case of the barrel-cleaning rods on the side of the tank. I wanted to show the inside of the case, so my tank will have 'lost' its front cap.
Although it finally looks OK, I have to admit that it took me soooooo much longer than I expected and I was really close to losing my patience. Clearly, there is a lot more to learn and practice for me.
The shutters on the right hand side of the engine deck can can be placed in open or closed position. Nice touch. But why were there shutters only on the right hand side of the late war panthers? I couldn't really find out. I have read a few educated guesses, but did not find evidence-based hard facts for this. It is probably one of the many un-answered question of the history of the Panther.
By the way, the body comes together all fine. However, the turret is not fitting that perfectly. Nothing major that could not be fixed by some liquid cement though. Frankly, as I bought the kit on ebay I don't even know if it is the kit's fault or the result of inappropriate storage.
The kit comes with a metal barrel, too.
Finally, my tank got to the stage ready to be primed and painted.
Please note that the side skirts are not part of the original kit, they are left over from the Jagdpanther I have finished right before start working on this kit.
After the grey primer dried properly I sprayed the main colours: 'Tamiya's Dark Yellow 2' for the body and some of the wheels. However, as I wanted to keep the turret and some wheels 'unpainted' I had to mix some 'Hull red' and 'Red' to create the shade of 'Red-oxy' primer that was used by the German tank factories at the time.
To break the single flat shade of the dark yellow, I have mixed the original colour with some white paint and sprayed carefully on the larger horizontal-ish spots where they would get naturally worn more. I think this is what some people call 'colour modulation'.
The wheels got my 'standard treatment': rubber rims painted with Tamiya 'Rubber black', followed by some enamel dark wash. As the edge of the wheels in the second row was in contact constantly with the guiding horns of the tracks, these usually looked like shiny metal rather than the wearing original colour of the vehicle. The same applies to the teeth of the running gear and the rim of the idler wheel. I used soft graphite to generate this effect. Finally, Vallejo's thick mud was applied carefully. With regards to this: less is more in my view. Once they will be in their final place I can still add more and make sure they provide a consistent look with the tracks and the rest of the tank.
After running through my stash, I found that I had plenty of left-over Friul metal tracks. If I add them up I have enough for one more kit. What a nice surprise. Although I had too many for one side and too few for the other, it isn't a big issue at the end of the day: luckily Panther's tracks were symmetrical so the only difference it makes is from where you insert the pin between the links.
I usually use Tamiya 'Dark iron' to cover the whole track properly as a first step and then some rust was sprayed over, that I mixed from brown, red and orange paints. Once done, Vallejo 'Thick mud' and 'Mud&Grass' was also applied. Be careful when you use these products as they dry quite solid, they might cause problems with the holes on the track when you fit them on the running gear. Therefore, I suggest you keep those holes clean while the mud is still wet and soft. Also important: do not spread mud on the internal surface of the tracks where the wheels are running as they would keep the tracks clean there. Instead, I used some gun metal pigments to create a more realistic effect.
I quite like how it looks when they come together.
At that stage I have painted the details: tools, exhausts, side skirts...etc. However, when I wanted to add the spare tracks I had to see that they don't fit on the holders. Neither do the friul tracks, nor do the original dragon ones. Although this is not a deal breaker as there are several reasons why such a tank may not have them, it is still annoying: knowing it earlier I would have used the PE parts instead the chunky plastic ones.
Then came all the final touches: chipping, washes, streaks, pigments and a few more details: I have found some anti-aircraft armour that came with an Italeri Panther several years ago, but I did not use them back then. They seemed to be a nice addition to my concept. I have added some Tamiya jerry cans, too. I used white crayon pencils to imitate the chalk marks on the turret and the side skirt.
What do I think when I look at the end result?
Fantastic kit offering so many options with excellent details
Easy to build a great tank matching to your skillset due to the rich selection of alternatives
Side skirts can improve the kit further
I should have used the PE's spare track holders
Maybe I should add a few more chalk marks to the turret
The kit is not a cheap one, but if you can get a good deal on it certainly go for it
Here are some photos of the final model:
More photos are available in the gallery.