by: Stef [ ]
Originally published on:
After the end of World War I the cavalry had become a medium of debate and by 1931 the French Army was focusing on the mechanization of its cavalry. Panhard, Berliet, Latil and Renault had acted upon the request for proposals for a vehicle meeting the following specs, 4 tons, 400km range and a maximum speed of 70km/h amongst others. In October 1933 Panhard’s ‘Automitrailleuse de Découverte Panhard Modèle 1935’ (the official designation of the vehicle) was completed and by 1934 Panhard won the bid after trials. The vehicle was now simply being called ‘Panhard voiture spéciale type 178’ or ‘Panhard 178’. The vehicle was significantly heavier with 8 tons and its range was limited to 300km, however it was chosen as the best of all the prototypes. The ‘Panhard 178’ was a 4x4 vehicle and had a driver seats in both forward and backward facing directions, distinguishing it from many other armored cars.
Production of the first 30 vehicles started in 1935 and by 1937 many flaws were apparent and major modifications and new trials were carried out after the production of the first 30 vehicles. By May 1940 some 339 ‘Panhard 178’ had been produced. By June 1940 a total of 491 vehicles had been completed of which 480 vehicles were in service in “Escadron” units according to French sources. In total there were 729 units built, including 176 during the German occupation in 1940. As the German Army did not have organized cavalry units as the French, the captured Panhards were used as ‘Panzerspähwagen’, or reconnaissance vehicles attached to armored divisions. In total 40 of all 190 captured vehicles were modified to receive rail wheels and classified as ‘Schienenpanzer’ or ‘Eisenbahnschutzfahrzeuge’, though some sources claim 43 vehicles were converted.
The converted vehicles were in some cases attached to armored trains, however, they were mostly used for anti-partisan duty in the East, patrolling important railway lines and driving ahead of important cargo trains guarding their path.
The box is almost full to the top, packaged nicely. No warping and no bent sprues, all sprues were well placed. After a first close-up inspection, the level of detail and finely moulded parts struck the eye.
Sprue A, holding most of the large parts, is nice and flat, however, all side walls, interior walls and the lower floor do all have quite a number of sink marks and ejector pins. These are mostly in non-visible places, some do require action though. Each side wall has six sinkholes, four of which are in the engine bay, which will be barely visible after construction and two are directly beside the doors in the fighting compartment, though they will most probably not be visible. The firewall separating the engine bay from the forward driver’s seat does have one ejector pin mark which needs to be eliminated. Five pin marks are also present on the rear driver’s compartment firewall. Super-detailers will need to get rid of them. All pin marks on the bottom panel are hidden underneath the interior’s floor plate and thus of no concern. Structural dents are included in all the parts, this is another big plus. The front panel even includes the welded PANHARD above the license plate place as was common for later type hulls, exactly the one we need for this conversion kit, it must be said that the sign is elevated too much and is a bit out of scale, however. All other parts of the sprue do not have anything to be mildly criticised. The detail of all parts is amazing.
Sprue B, the rivet-sprue is one of the best of all of them. Hundreds of rivets and bolts are present on all parts and especially the floor panel is an eye-catcher. As with sprue A, all parts show incredible and crisp detail. The hull roof around the turret housing is an impressive piece of moulding also. It includes twelve ‘workable’ hinges for doors, vision ports and hatches. The floor panel has different non-slip surfaces in the fighting compartment and the rear driver’s compartment and lovely additional detail around the drivers’ seats are included. Not a single problem apparent with this sprue other than the louvres, which need replacement as no slits are moulded.
Sprue C, includes interior and exterior detail parts as well as the turrets. It includes the early type APX3 turret and the later one, with the rear view episcope, the one of interest to us. The turret detail is striking and the best parts of the kit must be the 18 MG drum casings. They do have handles and a great amount of detail finely moulded in a great manner. A big minus is the ammunition storage, it looks dull and is made of one piece and will need modification. The 25mm gun is made of two parts; hence it might require the purchase of an AM barrel for those interested in perfect detail. This sprue holds about a third or more of the total parts count and has very many finely detailed little parts to detail the engine, the gun, the driver’s compartment and the exterior hatches and some turret rear doors. The kit includes the late type turret rear door with the episcope, as previously mentioned. You could also use the vision slit version, but I have not found a single picture of a Schienenpanzer with early turret types. The turret roof ventilation introduced after the 111th vehicle is also included and shows the amount of research the manufacturer has put into this kit. Neither warping nor sink marks or ejector pins are present and as such, this is almost the perfect sprue. Care must be taken when cutting some of those pieces as detail could be damaged.
Sprue E houses the wheels, which we won’t need, only parts E1 and E4 are needed to mount the rail wheels of sprue G. Molding is good but will not be visible as the parts will be hidden inside the wheels (G4).
Sprue F includes the radio equipment of the French Panhard 178 radio version, but those parts are not needed. The radio is the only part ICM wants us to use. This does not represent any kind UKW.E. e and therefore it needs a reasonable replacement for the super-detailer and expert. The detail, as will all sprues is spot on and very nice.
Sprue F1 includes the ‘Rahmenantenne’ and its mounting. Detail is very fine and spot on. The mountings might need modifications as wood was usually used for the mounting, to reduce electricity flow to the turret. This will only be of concern to the super-detailer again. This will represent a great OOB antenna without any modifications. As with the previous sprues, neither sink nor ejector pin marks.
Sprue G (X2) is of special interest. The rail wheels are detailed and each is made up of four parts (including one from the E sprue). The sprue also holds the rail parts and ICM have done a nice trick with the wooden rail support beams (sleepers) in order to increase differentiation of the finished tracks – in terms of the wood structure. The sprues hold five sleepers each, i.e. ten in total, however, four have a different pattern than the other six. By changing the layout and position, it is impossible to notice that some of the sleepers are the same. This is a masterpiece of design and rounds up the whole kit.
The decal sheet included everything which was visible on all photos of German vehicles I have found. It might seem limited, but it is all that is needed for these tanks.
The instruction book is 20 pages long, has a brief description of the vehicle and required paint information in the front, for the suggested patterns. The painting guide uses Revell and Tamiya colours and on the rear pages it has two different paint schemes depicting the vehicle in service in Russia in 1943-1944 and as an attachment to the ‘Panzerzug Nummer 64’ in 1943. The first two pages of the instructions list the sprues and mark parts which will not be used during the build. Following are 18 pages of instructions, separated into 66 steps. Some steps only show the addition of one part and are as simple and easy to understand as possible.
The turrets of the Panhard saw many modifications during production runs and batch orders and care must be taken with its design. The kit includes the late APX3 turret type with a rear view episcope in the rear hatch of the turret, other than simple vision slits as present in earlier turret versions, and two Gundlach periscopes on the roof, also typical for late production turrets. The manufacturer must have spent considerable time researching this. I spent many hours revising photos and comparing images and literature in order to confirm the turret design.
In comparison to other kits I have seen, this is obviously one of the best overall. I can only highly recommend this unique kit. Beginners will have their fun as the part count is not too large, namely 174 of the 186 parts will be used. The interior may be hidden or shown, as this vehicle has a lot of hatches and big doors, a lot can be visible of the interior. This leaves room for internal modifications and additions to all advanced modellers. This is especially true for the engine compartment.
Thanks to Darren for shipping this sample kit to me.
I will build the model in the following weeks and I will see about fit issues and show you my modifications with some AM additions, so stay tuned for the build review which will be accompanied by a blog.
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