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VK 30.02 Panther Prototype

n model by Marcus Mohlin
n text and images by Martin Waligorski 

One of the big surprises of the operation Barbarossa was the realisation that German tanks, particularly the newest Panzer IV could not match modern Soviet tanks in face-to-face combat. Despite the fairly high rate of attrition in the previous Blitzkrieg campaings, the Germans were satisfied with the PzKpfw II, III, and IV then in use with Panzer divisions. In Russia, modern medium and heavy Soviet tanks with their superior armour, large-calibre  guns and great terrain-going capability emerged as a nasty - and dangerous - surprise.  General Guderian was one of many in high German command to express urgent concern. Following the battle at Mcensk he reported: "To the south of Mcensk our 4th tank division was attacked by Russian tanks and survived a heavy ambush. Superiority of Russian T-34 tanks was obvious. Division had heavy losses. Planned fast offensive on Tula was stopped for a time."

As a result, the Germans rushed the development of a new medium tank which we now know as Panther. It was to be armed with a 75mm gun capable of penetrating even the armour of heavy Soviet tanks. Other design features included sloped armour, torsion-bar suspension, interleaved road wheels.  MAN and Daimler-Benz had already been working on the PzKpfw IV successors for some time, and were informed of the decision to proceed. The companies received contracts to rapidly complete their prototypes by August/September 1942 and to prepare for series production in the Fall of 1942.

The Daimler Benz proposal was radical, with its close copying of the T-34 layout, rear mounted diesel engine and leaf spring suspension. The MAN design designated VK 30.02 was more of a purely German design with only the sloped armour "borrowed" from the T-34, but also stuffed with advanced engineering, including torsion bar suspension, a gasoline engine in the rear and the transmission and final drives in front. It was also much larger, more powerful and complicated than both the Daimler Benz and T-34 tanks.

The VK 30.02 was completed in September 1942. Field tests showed its superiority over the Daimler Benz design, and the vehicle was ordered into production immediately with the highest priority. Designated PzKpfw V Panther, SdKfz 171, the first production models were finished in November, 1942 by MAN. Daimler Benz, MNH, and Henschel also tooled up to produce the Panther during 1943. 

As is widely known, the haste of development and production led to numerous problems and breakdowns among Panthers during their operational debut in the Battle of Kursk, 1943. However, as the bugs were worked out, the Panther emerged as arguably the finest medium tank of World War II and one of the milestones in the history of tank designs.

The model

This model of VK 30.02 Panther prototype has been built by Markus Mohlin.

The prototype differed in a number of areas from the later production tanks. Markus used the Italeri Panther A kit as a basis, but used the turret and a set of road wheels from Tamiya Panther G. The driving wheels required a more sophisticated conversion as the wheels of the VK 30.02 differed from the subsequent production models. Markus managed to obtain the correctly looking ones by combining the Tamiya wheels with spokes from Friulmodel and Cromwell wheel hubs. The round fenders which were another unique feature of the prototype Panthers were produced from offset printing plate and detailed with stretched sprue.

The gun barrel is a turned aluminium item from Jordi Rubio. The muzzle brake was another conversion, this time from Panzer IVF.

Markus opted for an exposed Maybach engine. The engine itself was available as resin set from Verlinden, but its suspension, the walls of the engine room and other detail inside it were scratchbuilt.

The model was painted overall Panzer grey. As this was a prototype, the weathering was limited to adding mud and dirt to the chassis and tracks, leaving the hull relatively "clean". The VK 30-02 carried no markings. It possibly sums up to a pretty dull looking tank, but subtracts nothing from its historical significance!

Additional images, click to enlarge



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