Kit Review: cyber-hobby.com (Dragon Models Limited) 1/35th Scale Kit No. 11 ('39-'45 Series Kit No. 6346; Sd.Kfz. 171 Panther D w/"Stadtgas" Fuel Tanks; 809 parts (391 in grey styrene, 204 etched brass, 170 "Magic Track" links, 14 clear styrene, 12 etched nickel,10 preformed brass, 4 cast metal, 2 turned brass, 1 length of copper chain, 1 turned aluminum barrel); estimated retail price US $47
Advantages: over base Panther D "Premium Edition" kit only addition of compressed gas tanks noted
Disadvantages: should have been offered as an optional parts set for the Panther D kit, not a complete new kit
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for German Panther fans
I recently commented about how iconic "oners" remain popular with modelers, and that new kits of subjects which represent either single or a handful of items produced are still good sellers and enjoyed by many. But then a kit like this comes along, which has to be one of the ultimate "boutique" kits, and one has to wonder what the manufacturer was thinking.
Here cyber-hobby.com, the "boutique" line produced by DML of alternative kits with extra parts and a more unique selection of items, has produced a model of what seems to be an oddity and another one-off vehicle. From comments on the Internet it appears that when the Germans began to get crunched on gasoline production they turned first non-essential rear area vehicles like cars for minor party functionaries to coal or charcoal gas, or to propane or similar gases used to provide heat and cooking in major cities (e.g. "Stadtgas.") This particular vehicle, a D model Panther (and therefore no longer seen as front line service capable after Kursk showed its failings), was apparently converted for use with propane gas and assigned to a research and test unit at Eisenach range in 1944.
The model is unique, but what has taken place is nothing more than cyber-hobby.com taking the recent (July 2006) kit number 6299 of the upgraded "Premium Edition" Panther Ausf. D kit and added another 18 styrene parts and 45 etched brass ones to make this kit. While the upgraded Panther D is a nice model and fixes or upgrades many of the areas of the first version of the model, and is providing to be fairly popular, this kit is an oddity that is hard to explain.
First off, the comments that I made regarding the earlier kit. It takes the DML Panther Ausf. D kit and gives it the "premium" treatement of more etched brass, turned aluminum barrel, "Magic Track" snap-together pre-cut track links, and some modified or replaced sprues from the original kit. It also provides pre-formed brass smoke grenade launchers as well as twelve sections of etched nickel for the skirts.
The kit is pretty much the older kit - most of the sprues are from their A and D kits and so labeled, with others specific to the D and some new and redone parts I do not recall from the previously noted A anniversary kit. One of the "K" tool/OVM sprues is included as well as the MG-34 from German weapon set WC. It did provide a new hull with separate suspension arms, something many Panther fans had asked for over the years.
The etched brass covers a wealth of extra detail, from the normally expected (in this day at least) grille covers for the engine deck through the skirt brackets, but installation of all of these metal parts is shown in rather busy drawings next to color photos of the model components after assembly. This is not the best way to do it, as while color photos are fine, it would be better to leave them unpainted so the modeler could see exactly where the parts are supposed to go and not have to guess which are plastic and which are metal from the photo.
The model comes with some nice touches, such a choice of wheel hubs for the drivers and eight specially molded track links with separate guide teeth (all of which are hollow molded, including the "Magic Track") for "wrapping" around the drivers. Two different covers for the machine gun port are provided as is the above mentioned MG-34 for mounting in the port if left open.
The travel lock - a chain affair - comes with two sets of five etched brass parts each for either open or closed, as does the turned aluminum barrel and the three-piece muzzle brake for it specifically (an old-fashioned two-piece "Flex-i-File" special is also included on the parts trees.)
The new bits for the "Stadtgas" fittings are busy, with six "Slide Molded" compressed gas tanks and a very involved set of etched brass racks (no styrene option is provided).
Only a single finishing option is provided - Panzer-Versuchs und Ersatz-Abteilung 300 at Eisenach, 1944. It comes with a tiny Cartograf decal sheet of three crosses and the "Fahrschule" plates for driver training vehicles.
Overall, while the kit is an excellent production effort I cannot fathom why DML released it as a separate kit. It would seem, given the cyber-hobby.com line of add-on/upgrade kits for other DML offerings to have been smarter to offer it as one of their releases for about $10-14 as an option for the Panther Ausf. D kit, giving those who purchased the original version something to make with the older kit.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.