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TAKOM - Bergepanther Ausf.D Umbau Siebert 1945 - Full Build

Kit Number:
2102
Scale:
1:35
Published:
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Manufacturer:
TAKOM
Retail Price:
$69.99
Reviewed By:
Neil Stokes

 Box.jpg

Bergepanther Ausf.D Umbau Siebert 1945

Takom has seen fit to supply us with not one but two Bergepanther kits; one based on the regular Ausf.D chassis and the other on the modified Ausf.A chassis.  Chuck Aleshire will cover the Ausf.A in a separate review, so this review will focus on the Ausf.D.

The Subject

In late March 1943, General der Panzertruppen Heinz Guderian ordered that 4% of Pz.Kpfw.V Panther production, plus an additional three vehicles per month, should be completed as turretless Panzer-Bergegerät (armored recovery vehicles).  This order was quickly implemented and the first vehicles were delivered in June.

The first 12 Pz.Bergegerät (Panther I) were assembled by MAN using regular Panther Ausf.D chassis without turrets. A squat cylindrical cover with a circular hatch covered the turret opening. There was no winch, spade or other special equipment. Panzer Abteilungen.51 and 52 received two of these vehicles each, in time for the Kursk offensive.

The next 70 Pz.Bergegerät (Panther I) were assembled by Henschel between July and November 1943. The first 30 of these, delivered between July and early September, were similar to those already delivered by MAN.  They were based on Ausf.D chassis with the same circular cover over the turret opening, but with a heavy tow coupling on the lower rear hull, an unditching beam and stowage for an additional tow cable.

The last 40 vehicles delivered by Henschel were based on a special version of the Panther hull with a larger, rectangular aperture in the hull top instead of the circular cover.  The aperture was surrounded by a metal-framed superstructure with folding wooden sides.  The new hull had provision for a winch, but neither the winch nor the rear-mounted spade was fitted to these 40 vehicles.

Daimler Benz began production of Bergepanthers in February 1944, completing 40 vehicles by the end of March.  All 40 were based on modified Ausf.A chassis and included provision for a winch and a rear-mounted spade, though these were not initially fitted.

Demag began production in March 1944 and continued to build Bergepanthers until its factory was overrun in March 1945, delivering 217 vehicles by the end of February. 143 of these were based on Ausf.A chassis and the final 74, from October 1944 onwards, on Ausf.G chassis.  From late May 1944 onwards, Demag fitted a 40-ton winch to its Bergepanthers.

Approximately 113 vehicles were delivered by Seibert-Stahlbau between July 1944 and March 1945. At least 61 of these were based on on rebuilt ‘umbau’ Panther Ausf.D chassis and the remainder were Ausf.A and G, including a number of refurbished series production Bergepanthers.

The Ausf.Ds from Siebert were updated to current specifications during the rebuild.  Many vehicles were fitted with 24-bolt road wheels, though photographs from the factory show others with refurbished 16-bolt wheels.  Unlike the initial Ausf.Ds produced by MAN and Henschel in 1943, which retained the standard driver’s compartment roof and hatches, the 'umbau' vehicles had their drivers’ compartment roofs removed and a metal frame with a folding canvas cover fitted above the opening.  They were fitted with a circular cover over the turret opening, similar to that fitted to the initial Bergepanther Ausf.Ds in 1943.

Special equipment included an unditching beam stowed on the left-hand side of the hull top and pusher plates on the front of the hull, though the plates were omitted from later production examples.  They carried heavy tow bars on the engine deck and a towing bracket on the circular hatch in the center of the rear hull plate.  They carried a 2-ton crane on the right-hand side of the hull top, with mounting brackets to deploy the crane.  However, they were not equipped with a winch or spade.

Vehicles completed by Siebert prior to September 9th 1944 carried zimmerit, though the logistics delays in issuing vehicles to units meant that some units in late November were still receiving Bergepanthers with zimmerit.

The Kit

Takom’s Bergepanther Ausf.D kit says, on the box, ‘Umbau Siebert 1945’, which means that it represents a rebuilt vehicle from Seibert-Stahlbau in 1945.  To this end, the kit includes features such as:

  • Sheet metal/canvas cover over an open driver’s compartment, though in fact the kit includes the sheet metal frame but not the canvas cover itself.
  • Circular cover over the turret aperture
  • Shortened spare track carriers on the rear hull sides (two sets of spare tracks on each)
  • Late style tool racks on the forward hull sides
  • No zimmerit
  • Single Bosch headlamp on the left-hand front corner of the glacis
  • 24-bolt road wheels
  • Unditching beam on the left-hand hull top.  Note that there are no parts for the pusher pusher plates on the front of the hull, since these were discontinued in late 1944 and were not present on many ‘umbau’ Bergepanthers.
  • 2-ton crane with stowage and mounting brackets on the right-hand side of the hull top. You have the option of displaying the crane in the stowed or deployed positions.
  • Relocated mounting pins for the forward ends of the tow bars, which stopped them obstructing the engine access hatch.

The kit comes packed in Takom’s usual brick-shaped box, which seems to weigh as much as several bricks since there are a LOT of parts packed in there.

The kit consists of 788 parts in grey styrene, on 27 sprues, plus separate upper and lower hulls, and two jigs in a different, black styrene for aligning the torsion bars and assembling the tracks. Molding is crisp, the parts are free of flash and the sprue attachment points are nice and small.

Sprue V contains the road wheels.  There are two of this sprue in the kit.

Sprue-V.jpg

Sprue D and Sprue E are  molded together. Sprue D contains suspension parts, and Sprue E contains various interior parts including the torsion bars.  There are two of each sprue in the kit.

Sprue-D-E.jpg

Sprue E2 contains the rear-mounted two coupling that was unique to the Bergepanther. There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-E2.jpg

Sprue J3 provides more interior parts, stowage and the pulleys for the crane. There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-J3.jpg

Sprue M includes more interior parts..  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-M.jpg

Sprue H3 contains the hull sides, sponsons, crew compartment rear plate and firewall.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-H3.jpg

Sprue C2 includes various components including the rear plate, radiator compartment covers, turret ring cover and crane.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-C2.jpg

Sprues C and F contain the tracks, which are supplied in link-and-length form on Sprue C, with separate guide horns on Sprue F.  There are two of each sprue in the kit. The guide horns are molded in batches to match the track lengths, which simplifies the onerous task of attaching them (a little).  More on this later.

Sprue-C.jpgSprue-F.jpg

Sprue U includes the schurzen and cooling fan covers, the engine access hatch and several miscellaneous small parts.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-U.jpg

Sprue N contains engine parts.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-N.jpg

Sprue K3 contains the inner glacis plate, fenders, radiator compartment covers and grills, fuel tanks and various small parts.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-K3.jpg

Sprue B2 contains the lower hull plate.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Lower Hull.jpg

Sprues F2 and J2 are molded together.  Sprue F2 contains the final drive covers while Sprue J2 contains stowage items.  There is one of each sprue in the kit.

Sprue-J2.jpg

Sprue L contains the radiators, steering brakes and transmission.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-L.jpg

Sprue R2 contains parts for the engine compartment. There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-R2.jpg

Sprue G2 contains multiple internal components along with stowage items.  There is one such sprue in the kit.

Sprue-G2.jpg

The upper hull is a separate molding with no sprue attachments.

Upper Hull.jpg

The kit also provides a 7-piece photo-etch fret for the engine deck grills, two types of braided brass cable, two types of chain and a decal set with markings for the driver’s instrument panel as well as balkenkruzen and numbers for the exterior.

Etch.jpg

Decals.jpg

The instructions are in Takom’s usual booklet form, divided into 46 steps with exploded view diagrams, on 25 pages.

Instructions01.jpg

The review sample included a small correction sheet for Step 15, which deals with assembling the tracks.

Four additional pages, in full color, provide painting and marking guides. Four examples are given, but no units are cited; the instructions simply say ‘Siebert Factory 1945’. Since US troops extensively photographed the factory after capturing it in April 1945, the US National Archives has numerous photographs of partially and almost completed vehicles at the factory. Some of these photographs are reproduced in Panzer Tracts 16-1.

Instructions03.jpg

The instructions provide color references for the Ammo by Mig range.

An additional five pages, again in full color, are devoted to internal colors.

Instructions02.jpg

You're probably thinking 'where's the elfenbein?' but by 1945, German armored vehicle interiors were typically painted in red-brown primer up to the level of the turret ring, with elfbenbein only for the turret interior. Takom's color guide is therefore appropriate for a 1945 production example. Of course, you could argue with some justification that the 'umbau' Ausf.D hulls were not 1945 production, but 1943 production. However, the refurbishment process was quite extensive and it is quite plausible that the interiors were repainted to 1945 specifications along the way.  Go with your gut on this or, as I did, go with Takom's instructions.

Assembly

My first impression on opening the box was ‘wow…this is going to take a while’. As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of parts in this kit including a full engine compartment and crew compartment interior. You could, of course, omit the engine compartment interior, but where’s the fun in that? With the crew compartment, you have no choice but to build much of the interior since most of it is visible through the open top of the driver’s compartment. You also have the option to mount the folding rear half of the turret ring cover in the open position to display the detail beneath.

Let me make it clear that the comment on the parts count is not a criticism. Takom have broken down the parts thoughtfully and have resisted the temptation to create unnecessarily complex sub-assemblies.  The high number of parts is simply due to the huge amount of detail, particularly on the interior.

You will need to paint as you go, since much of the interior is impossible to reach after you put the hull together. Pages 29 and 30 of the instruction booklet provide a photographic guide to painting the interior, but only give you Ammo by Mig reference numbers, not the names of the colors. As we progress through the build in this review, we will call out the actual colors required.

Construction begins with the lower hull interior.  The review sample had four large ejector pin marks on the inside of the lower hull - two on the sloping front section and two at the rear.  They would probably be invisible after assembly but I chose not to risk it, and filled them anyway.

I began according to the instructions by adding part L1 to the lower hull (part B2-1), followed by the cross-members (parts Q2-24, Q2-25, G2-21 and G2-61).  I worked from the rear and spent a little time messing about with the rearmost one before I realized that they are not intended to be straight - there is a slight zig-zag built into each of the two rear ones to clear the torsion bar mounts, as on the real thing.  Once all four were in place, I briefly skipped ahead to Step 3 and added the longitudinal supports (parts G2-12 and G2-14) to ensure everything was lined up at the right angle. Don't forget to add the two rear engine mounts (parts N67 and N68) at this point.

On the review sample, the hull floor was slightly warped despite being attached to a sprue. Attaching the longitudinal supports helped fix most of it, and the rest is easily corrected later when attaching the hull sides.

I then continued with the transmission, which is comprised of 33 parts and is a kit in itself.  The assembly is broken down into 8 sub-stages and then the final assembly.  Each of the parts is keyed to the others with some small but sufficient locating pins and holes. Everything fits together well, so just take your time here and you will be fine. I waited to add parts M3 and M4 until I could test fit the transmission, so I could ensure they were angled correctly to fit into the locating holes on part L1.

When I test fitted the transmission, I found that it did not sit level. The rear end was tilted upwards.  The top of the foremost cross member (part G2-61) was the problem. It was a little too high, so I thinned it down to achieve the correct fit.

Now we move on to Step 3, and the right hull side.  There are two small sections that need to be removed from the inside of part H3-3 and one from the outside.  The instructions clearly show where these are, but take care not to damage the surrounding details, particularly on the interior.  There are also several ejector pin marks on part H3-3.  The foremost big one and the little one on the arm at the top will be covered by other parts so you can ignore them, but the other three require filling and/or sanding. Note that the arm at the top curls inward and there's a tiny but prominent mold seam running across it that will require sanding.  I didn't notice it until after I had all the small parts attached.

I also added the single-point lubrication panels (parts E13 and E14), and the machine gun ammo bags (parts E10) to the hull side at this point, since they will be more difficult to add later.

The other part of Step 3 deals with the two longitudinal floor beams (parts G2-12 and G2-14) but I had already added these earlier so I skipped that sub-step.

Step 4 covers the left hull side (part H3-1) and the various parts that attach to it.  Construction here is a mirror of the right side, and the same comments apply.

I jumped forward at this point to the driver's steering controls, which the instructions handle in Step 6, but I wanted to paint as many of the sub-assemblies as I could at one time. There are some small parts here but everything goes together well, provided you take care.

The photo below shows the various sub-assemblies after the completion of Steps 1 thru 4, plus portions of Steps 5 and 6 where the instructions direct you to add the torsion bars to the hull sides.

Step 4.jpg

The remainder of Steps 5 and 6 instruct you to attach the hull sides to the floor. Before you put the hull together though, you will want to paint the interior since some parts will be hard to reach after assembly. I used Gunze Sangyo's Mr. Surfacer Red Oxide primer, applied from a spray can, to prime everything, then painted the torsion bars and the transmission in dark grey. The instructions call out A.MIG 014 RAL 8012 Rotbraun for the primer and A.MIG 008 RAL 7021 Dunkelgrau for the grey parts.

At this point I jumped forward to Step 10 and constructed the driver's and radio operator's seats, the floor panels and the driver's instrument panel, so I could paint them along with the hull interior. The four-part seats are rather fiddly assemblies but look good when finished.

When the paint is dry, you can add the sub-assemblies to one another. Note that the foremost torsion bars pass through the mounting frame for the transmission, so you need to add the transmission to the hull floor before you add the hull sides and torsion bars.

It helps to have about 12 hands at this point as you try to line up all the torsion bars to go through the holes in the longitudinal supports, but I only have two so there was some muttered cursing.  I wound up cutting about a quarter inch off the shorter section of the foremost torsion bar attached to the left-hand hull side, since the end is hidden under the transmission and there's no way to line it up correctly.

Add the driver's steering controls last and do so very carefully, since the outermost levers need to slide down inside the slots in the tops of the steering brake covers. The fit between the support brackets on top of the transmission and the transmission itself is very tight, and I needed to trim the right-hand bracket slightly to open up the gap.

CompletedCrewCompartment.jpg

If you really want to wow the judges at your next competition, you could add the grease lines from the lubrication panels to the various points within the hull. Page 14 of Panzer Tracts 16-1 includes a photograph of some of the lines, but you'll still need some artistic license, plus some very thin wire.  I chose to save what's left of my sanity and skipped this detail.

Steps 7 and 8 deal with the suspension swing arms, shock absorbers and track pin pusher plates.  The track jigs do double duty here to help align the swing arms correctly while the glue dries. I decided to defer these steps until after I'd completed the interior.

Step 9 attaches the final drives to the hull, assembles the road wheels and mounts them to the suspension arms.  The road wheels represent the 24-bolt variant fitted from September 1943 onwards, which were common on all Panthers by late 1944/early 1945 as older wheels wore out or were damaged and replaced.  The inner and outer wheel halves have the Continental (not Continentau) logo embossed on them, though the two-part center wheels do not. This is not a problem since, on the real vehicle, the center wheels were 'reversed' inner/outer wheels - there was only one type of road wheel. The logo would therefore be on the facing surfaces of the tires and invisible.

The kit also gives you four spare road wheels.  Photographs suggest that Bergepanthers rarely carried spare wheels, which matches their role as pure recovery, rather than repair, vehicles. Field reports frequently specify that the Bergepathers would tow a disabled vehicle 'back to the artillery positions' where it could be repaired or handed over to other vehicles for onward towing.

Roadwheels.jpg

I decided to leave the road wheels, and the small rollers aft of the sprockets, separate for the time being, to simplify access for painting the hull sides.

Step 11 attaches various fittings to the firewall and then adds it, along with the seats, floor panels and driver's instruments, to the hull interior. Paint these parts and add the decals for the driver's instrument panel before inserting everything into the hull.The instructions do not call out a color for the seats but the illustration shows them in black, so I used Vallejo Model Color Black and highlighted it with Black Grey.

Step 12 begins constructing the engine compartment, adding the idler adjustment mechanism to the bulkhead between the engine compartment and the right-hand radiator compartment, then adding the bulkhead to the hull interior. The instructions are a little vague as to the angles of parts E8 and E9 with respect the bulkhead itself and there is no key to align it, but the eccentric crank should align vertically. See the photograph below. I held off gluing the bulkhead in place for the time being.

Bulkhead.jpg

Step 13 is a repetition of Step 12, for the left-hand bulkhead.  After completing this step and painting the left-hand bulkhead, I glued both bulkheads into the hull.

EngineCompartment01.jpg

I left the idler mounts (parts D16) separate from the hull until I added the running gear and tracks, to help with track adjustment. I suspect most of us have experienced the 'half a link too short!!!' moment of agony with link-and-length tracks. As I found out later however, the idler mounts are keyed to the hull sides and if you use the kit tracks and jigs, everything will line up correctly.

Step 14 adds the single point lubrication panels and machine gun ammo bags to the left-hand hull side, but I had already added these back in Step 4 so I skipped this step.

Step 15 begins with the sprockets and idlers.  The sprockets are divided into two major pieces with a separate hub. Takom gives you two options for the hub - the flat cover seen on most Ausf.A and G chassis, and a hub without a cover.  Also present but not mentioned in the instructions are hub covers with raised rims, commonly seen on Ausf.Ds when they left the factory.  Numerous photographs show 'umbau' Bergepanthers with the flat hub covers, but check your references if you are modeling a specific vehicle. I went with one flat hub and one without a cover.

Sprockets.jpg

The idlers are comprised of four parts each, and represent the early pattern 600mm idler fitted to Panther Ausf.Ds when they left the factories.

Idlers.jpg

Step 15 continues with the tracks.  First thing to note here is not to remove the track links from Sprue C.  You should attach the lengths of guide horns from Sprue F, still on their runners, to the track links while they are still attached to the sprue. Allow the glue to dry, then remove the runners from the guide horns before removing the completed track links from Sprue C. Then assemble the track runs using the track jigs to get the correct sag across the top runs.

As I mentioned earlier, the review sample included a small correction sheet for Step 15.  Apparently Takom got the number of links per side a little off in the instructions.

I made four sections for each track, as shown in the photo below.

Tracks01.jpg

Steps 16 and 17 add the tracks to the hull.  Since I was leaving the running gear and tracks separate until I painted the lower hull sides, I deferred these steps for the time being.

Steps 18 thru 20 deal with the engine. This is another 'kit within a kit' and is made up of 68 parts. The instructions lead you through the assembly in multiple sub-steps, and the diagrams are clear and logical. The engine represents the Maybach HL 230 engine fitted to 592 of the 842 Ausf.Ds delivered, and retro-fitted to earlier vehicles from May 1943 onwards.  In the unlikely event of any Panther retaining its original HL 210 engine by 1944, it is highly probable that it would have been upgraded to the HL 230 during refurbishment at Siebert.

There are some prominent mold seams on the coil springs on parts N63 and N64.  I attacked them with a sharp #11 blade and then cleaned up any remaining fuzziness with a very light application of Tamiya Extra Thin cement.

Parts N58 and N59 have very tiny locating pins on the 'straight' ends.  Take care not to accidentally trim or sand them off.

I left the air cleaner cover (part N1) separate for the time being to simplify painting.

The dip stick (part N60) attaches to the oil tank at a complicated angle.  The instructions provide a diagram but I decided it was simpler to attach the oil tank to the engine first, then mount the dip stick at the correct angle so as to clear the exhaust manifold.

You should definitely paint the engine and drive train before adding them to the hull, since the engine in particular will be impossible to reach afterwards. The instructions specify A.MIG 008 RAL 7021 Dunkelgrau for the engine block, A.MIG 017 RAL 9001 Cremeweiss for the air cleaners, A.MIG 194 Matt Aluminium for the connecting (fuel?) pipes and A.MIG 042 Old Rust for the exhaust pipes.

I jumped forward (again!) and cleaned up the radiator hoses (parts L14, N40 and N41) so I could prime and paint them along with the engine.

For the radiator hoses, the instructions call out a combination of A.MIG 014 RAL 8012 Rotbraun, A.MIG 046 Matt Black and what appears to be A.MIG 194 Matt Aluminium for the retaining clamps, though the 'metallic' sections are not explicitly identified in the illustration.

The photo below shows the completed and painted engine and radiator hoses. Be aware that most of the engine detail will be hidden, even if you remove the engine deck.

PaintedEngine.jpg

Step 21 covers the drive shaft, which is comprised of 9 parts.

DriveShaft.jpg

After painting and weathering the engine and drive shaft with some oil and grease stains, I added them to the hull following Steps 21 and 22 of the instructions.

Step 23 finishes off the engine compartment interior by adding the radiator hoses.

At this point I did another jump forward to build and paint the header tanks for the fuel and cooling system (one of the inset sections in Step 25), so I could add those to the rear of the engine compartment.

The two photographs below show the completed lower hull interior.

CompleteLowerHull01.jpg

CompleteLowerHull02.jpg

Getting the engine into place is another task that would benefit from having several more hands than I do, but with some patience and the occasional cuss word, it went into the hull with few problems. Take care at this point, that you center the engine exactly between the longitudinal bulkheads. I didn't, and I found later that the engine was misaligned and didn't line up properly under the engine hatch.

Steps 24 and 25 add the fuel tanks, batteries and other fittings to the sponsons, then add the sponsons to the hull.  The assembly/painting sequence is a little problematical here since there are tiny spaces that will be difficult to reach with paint if you assemble everything first. I added the smaller fittings and the mounting rack for the batteries (part G2-11) but painted the batteries and fuel tanks separately before attaching them to the sponsons.

Don't forget to add the pipes between the fuel tanks and the firewall (parts J3-8). The pipe between the two fuel tanks on the right-hand sponson (part G2-49) is not mentioned in the instructions until Step 29, though the diagram in Step 25 shows it already in place.

CompleteLowerHull03.jpg

CompleteLowerHull04.jpg

Step 26 begins with assembling the hull reinforcement brackets (parts K3-22, K3-14, K3-21 and K3-15). The instructions would have you add machine gun ammo boxes (parts E20) in the center of each bracket but I have not found any photographs of Bergepanther interiors with the boxes, so you can make your own choice here.

Step 26 continues by adding the rear wall of the crew compartment (part Q2-7) and the right-hand radiator assembly. Part Q2-7 has five raised ejector pin marks on its rear face.  I wasn't sure if they'd be visible with the turret aperture cover open, so I sanded them away.  This took some care due to the close proximity of some rivet detail. As it turned out, they were indeed invisible so I could have saved myself the effort.

The forward portions of the sponsons were slightly warped and required a little persuasion to meet up with the bottom of the crew compartment wall, but some patience and fast-drying cement took care of that.

Step 27 adds the left-hand radiator assembly and the raised seats for the two remaining crew members. You may be tempted to add the back rest (part G2-48) at this point but it will then be impossible to fit the upper and lower hulls together without the radio sets knocking part G2-48 off.

Step 28 adds access hatches and the exhaust pipes to the outside of the rear plate (part Q2-1). When building a kit with an interior, I prefer to assemble and paint the entire interior and close up the hull before adding exterior parts, to minimize the risk of damage to the exterior when finishing off the interior.  I therefore added part M36 to the interior of part Q2-1 but left the remaining parts for later.

Step 29 adds the fuel pipe between the forward right-hand sponson tanks (part G2-49) and the fuel pipes across the tops of the rearmost radiator intake baffles (parts H3-6 and H3-7), then adds the rear hull plate to the hull. The interlocking tongues on the outsides of the rear hull were difficult to get into the holes in the rear of the hull sides without risking damage to the hull, so I carefully trimmed the tongues away and glued them in place in the holes, then added the rear hull plate.

CompleteLowerHull05.jpg

Steps 30 thru 34 assemble the upper hull and add much of the external stowage.  As I explained above, I prefer to close up the hull before adding external parts, so I added the engine deck and radiator covers to help with the rigidity of the upper hull, but left the external stowage parts for later.

The underside of the upper hull has some large ejector pin marks but they will be invisible once the hull is closed up.

In Step 31, there are optional parts for the right-hand fan cover plate. However, the instructions do not tell you that your choice of parts here should depend upon whether you want to build the crane in the deployed or stowed position.  If you plan to display the crane stowed, use part Q2-2.  If you want to show it deployed, use part Q2-3.

As noted above with the rear hull plate, I knew there would be some difficulty with the interlocking tongues on the lower outer edges of the glacis, so I trimmed those sections off the upper hull and cemented them in place in the holes in the lower hull sides.

I skipped forward to Steps 35 and 36 which deal with the interior of the glacis plate, the periscopes and the radio sets. The correct orientation of the radio sets is not obvious in the diagram but if you look at the painting instructions you'll see that the little horizontal slots in each set should be uppermost.

CompletedUpperHullInterior.jpg

I then skipped forward again to Step 38 and mounted the upper hull to the lower hull. Things got a little complicated at this point since the upper hull wanted to sit slightly too far back on the lower hull, creating a gap at the joint between the glacis and the lower front hull. I clamped and glued the joint in sections and it came together, though I did need to add a tiny bit of putty in one spot.

I worked my way backwards along both hull sides, gluing small sections to make sure everything lined up.  There were no problems here but since this is the point where all the flat plates of the lower hull need to come together with the one-piece upper hull, I was taking no chances. The photos below show the closed-up hull.

ClosedUpHull01.jpg

ClosedUpHull02.jpg

It was then that I noticed a problem - no doubt my own fault rather than that of the kit.  The engine sat too far to the right and did not line up correctly under the engine hatch. It was only off by less than 1mm but it's noticeable as you can see in the photo below.

EngineMisalignment.jpg

This was a problem since I wanted to show off some of the engine detail by leaving the hatch open, but there wasn't a lot I could do at this point so I reluctantly decided to close the hatch. Take care with your own build, to ensure that the engine is evenly spaced between the bulkheads, as mentioned earlier.

Now the hull was closed up and the interior somewhat protected against accidental mishandling, I began work on the exterior, starting with the suspension. I went all the way back to Steps 8 and 9 in the instructions, attached the final drive covers, swing arms and shock absorbers to the lower hull sides.  The swing arm mounts have small locating pins to help align them, but you can easily cut these off if you want to depict a vehicle on uneven terrain. I used the kit-supplied jigs to further assist with alignment.

CompletedSuspension01.jpg

I continued to play catch-up with the instructions, skipping forward to Step 28 and adding the access plates and exhausts to the rear of the hull. I encountered some fit problems here.  The rear hull plate (part Q2-1) has holes to accept raised circular mounting bosses on the insides of the access plates (parts D20 and part E2-9). The bosses are slightly too large to fit the holes.  I trimmed the mounting bosses off, taking care to preserve the small locating pins, and used the pins to correctly locate the parts.

I skipped forward to Step 39 and added the towing bracket (parts E2-6 and E2-14) to the engine access plate, but left the tail light and rear Notek light separate to minimize the risk of knocking them off while handling the model.

CompletedRearHull01.jpg

Next I added the photo-etch screens for the radiator grilles in Step 30, then the round grilles for the fan covers in Step 31 and the access hatches and other details to the engine deck in Step 32. The instructions would have you align the round grilles (parts TP4) and the mesh cover for the snorkel port (part TP3) along the axis of the hull but many photographs show these grills mounted with the mesh at an angle, and that's how I chose to depict it.

The rectangular screens over the radiator intakes lack the securing bolts - one at each corner - so I added those from model railroad spare parts.

Screens.jpg

I then went back to Step 30 and began adding the various stowage items along the hull sides, working through to Step 34.

The mounting brackets for the spare track links are rather thick so I thinned them down with some careful sanding. They lack the holes fo the retaining pins so I drilled them out with a #77 drill bit.

The spare track links themselves require some work. Takom has you use the regular individual link tracks (parts C2) but these have neither track pins nor open holes where the track pins would go. I drilled out the exposed ends to improve the appearance, mounted the track links in place and added retaining pins from thin brass wire. I decided not to mount all the links to add some individuality to the model, but this is obviously a matter of personal choice. Takom gives you enough links to provide a full complement of eight.

TrackLinks.jpg 

At the time of writing, there are no aftermarket sets specifically for this kit, but almost every aftermarket manufacturer has a Panther set that could theoretically be adapted to provide the spare track mounting brackets and hardware.

The track changing cable is constructed from thin braided brass wire supplied in the kit. The looped ends however, are styrene (parts J2-5) and are very delicate so take care when cleaning them up.

TrackChangingCable.jpg

 

When attaching the two cables, take care to attach the two retaining shackles (parts K3-44) to the top edge of the rear hull plate first, and  let them dry thoroughly. They're called out in Step 42 but they're easy to miss. Then, ensure that you thread the cables through the shackles before you attach the rear ends. If you add the ends first, they won't fit through the shackles.

The two semi-circular parts (Q2-11 and Q2-12) for the turret ring cover have four raised ejector pin marks on each. These are difficult to remove due to the surrounding details but I managed it with care, patience and some small sanding sticks. I planned to depict the rear half open so I removed one of the two locating lugs on either side of the cylindrical cover (part Q2-10).

UndersideCover.jpg

Takom provides the sheet metal housing for the canvas cover that extends over the roof of the crew compartment, but not the cover itself. This is somewhat puzzling since their Bergepanther Ausf.A provides two options (stowed and extended) for the complete cover. I used the parts in the Ausf.A kit as templates to scratch build my own cover using styrene strip and some thick aluminum foil saved from an airline meal container. You can't simply use the leftover parts from the Ausf.A since the Ausf.A cover is too tall and too wide to fit the housing in the Ausf.D kit.

TarpCover.jpg

The pilzen mounts for the crane are molded with solid tops, whereas they should have holes in them. I drilled them out to improve the appearance.

Pilzen.jpg

The exhaust pipes lack the small bars across the openings, so I added those from thin brass wire.

Exhausts.jpg

The pusher beam is molded in two halves and includes a credible wood grain texture. I initially considered replacing it with a length of square section basswood but decided in the end to use the kit parts. Note that instructions have you use parts Q2-20 and Q2-21 which depict the 'long' beam but the kits also includes parts for the 'short' beam as parts G2-6 and G9, so you have a choice. I left the beam separate to simplify painting.

PusherBeam.jpg

The forward ends of the towing bars stowed on the rear deck are meant to slide over the tubular mounting lugs on the engine cover plate, but since the 1945-style mounts are further apart, the bars rest on top of the fan covers and therefore sit higher. Takom have made the mounts the same height as the 1944-style ones, so the bars barely contact the mounts. I carefully cut the existing mounts away and replaced them with new, taller ones (5.5mm rather than 3mm) from brass tube, matching the drawings in Panzer Tracts 16-1.

TowBarMounts.jpg

The machine gun that mounts on top of the periscope covers above the driver's or radio-operator's positions lacks the cooling holes in the barrel jacket.They're there on the sides but not on the top or bottom, due to limitations of the two-part mold. The receiver is quite a good representation however so I cut off the barrel and replaced with it with an RB models brass barrel from my stash.

MG34.jpg

Construction was basically complete at this point. The following two photos show the model ready for priming and painting.

HullComplete01.jpgHullComplete02.jpg

 You'll notice that one of the retaining points for the tow cables has a white end. The carpet monster claimed the original part and I had to make another from styrene sheet with my punch and die set.

I primed the entire exterior of the model, just like the interior, with Gunze Sangyo Red Oxide Mr Surfacer 1000, applied from a spray can.

Then came the question of a color scheme. The kit instructions give you four different schemes based on vehicles photographed by the US Army after they captured the Siebert factory. However, all the photos I've been able to find show vehicles in different stages of refurbishment. They appear in a variety of different schemes, most likely those in which they arrived at the factory. Assuming that Siebert painted the vehicles upon completion, before delivering them back to the military, they would likely have been painted in a colour scheme consistent with the regulations in place in the winter of 1944/45.

Much has been made of the order to discontinue the practice of painting vehicles in overall Dunkelgelb RAL 7028, issued in late September 1944. Some people have taken this to mean that there were German tanks on the battlefield in late 1944 in overall Rotbraun RAL 8012. This is not true. The order simply meant that the camouflage colours for the fall, typically Olivgrun RAL 6003 and small amounts of Dunkelgelb RAL 7028, sometimes with Rotbraun RAL 8017 too, were applied directly over the Rotbraun 8012 primer without a complete coat of Dunkelgelb being applied first.

As fall turned to winter however, the authorities feared that the primer coat might not be sufficient to protect the vehicles. There was some discussion in November and December 1944 about painting vehicles in overall Olivgrun RAL 6003, with Rotbraun and Dunkelgelb camouflage applied over that. It's unclear whether the practice became mandatory but some factories certainly followed it, since it allowed them to paint the lower parts of the vehicles with an extra coat of paint and therefore provide extra protection.

Bearing all that in mind, I decided to apply a little modeler's license and paint the model in overall Olivgrun RAL 6003, with broad bands of Rotbraun RAL 8017 and narrow stripes of Dunkelgelb RAL 7028, albeit the paler Ausgabe 1944 shade introduced from August 1944 onward. I used Ammo by Mig's A.MIG-001, A.MIG-015 and A.MIG-012 respectively.

I sprayed the road wheels black and then used Quickwheel's mask set QW-209 to paint the wheel centers. This is the first time I've used a mask set but since I already have four Takom Panthers and will probably get at least a couple more, I figured it was a good investment. I was pretty impressed with the results and it saved a lot of time compared to painting the tires by hand.

Wheels.jpg

Markings on Bergepanthers seem to vary from the sparse to the non-existent. Many photos show vehicles with no markings at all, or with only balkenkreuzen on the forward hull sides. Takom give you two balkenkreuzen and a couple white tactical numbers '4'. Bergepanthers were typically allocated two to a panzer battalion, but some panzer regiments numbered all their vehicles sequentially within the regiment, rather than by battalion, so a '4' is plausible. I decided just to go with the balkenkreuzen. The decals are nice and thin and sat down nicely with a coat of Gunze Sangyo Mr Mark Softer, even over the interlocked edges of the glacis and side armor.

The two photos below show the model with base paint and markings.

BaseCoat01.jpg

BaseCoat02.jpg

The overlapping wheels make it necessary to weather the lower hull and suspension, and the inside surfaces of the wheels, before adding the wheels to the model. I used my usual mix of dark brown paint, Elmers Glue and pigments to get a nice muddy look.

WheelsMud.jpg

I added the wheels and tracks to the hull at the same time, which made it easier to get everything lined up and lessened the chance of breaking off any of the schurtzen hangers. I was a little skeptical about the track jigs but as you can see in the photo below, they worked perfectly and the sections of track mated together with no problem, after I cleaned the 'dirt' from the mating surfaces.

TracksOn.jpg

Now it was time to add the schurtzen to the hull sides. I sprayed the insides with red brown primer and the outsides with dark green, then mounted them on the vehicle before masking the edges with thin strips of paper and spraying the camouflage pattern to match the hull sides. Photos show the Umbau Ausf.Ds with and without the skirts, so you have some flexibility here if you want to show off the top run of the tracks.

Complete01.jpg

All that remained was to add the separate components - unditching beam, crane sections, towing bars, machine gun and the canvas cover for the crew compartment.

The last thing I added was the radio antenna. The kit provides the mount and a short stub for the antenna. I initially decided to go with the full 2m antenna and replaced the kit part with an RB Models brass item from my stash, but then I realized that most Panthers, and presumably Bergepanthers, had the stub instead.

Complete02.jpg

Complete03.jpg

Complete04.jpg

The photos show the model with very little 'wear and tear' weathering - mostly just dirt and mud. References imply that it took about a month from the time a vehicle was delivered to the army, to the time it was received by a unit. This means that the service life of 1945 production examples would have been measured in weeks, so there was little time for them to acquire much wear and tear.

In summary, this was a highly enjoyable build. The sheer number of parts and the amount of detail mean that this is not a kit for the beginner but if you already have a few models under your belt, you'll have few problems provided you take care and exercise some patience with the more complex subassemblies.You can save yourself a lot of effort during construction by deciding, ahead of time, which portions of the interior you want to show off, and omitting the parts that won't be seen.

The kit has a few minor errors and omissions, but correcting these should be well within the capabilities of the average modeler. Buy it...build it...enjoy it.

References

Panzer Tracts No.16-1 Bergepanther Ausf.D, A, G, Thomas L. Jentz, Hilary Louis Doyle, and Lukas Friedli, Panzer Tracts 2013

Germany’s Panther Tank – The Quest for Combat Supremacy, Thomas L. Jentz, Schiffer Military History 1995

Highly Recommended for Intermediate to Advanced builders.

Thanks goes out to TAKOM for this review kit.

Reviewed by Neil Stokes

 

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