Not really sure where to start with what is going to be a long post, but it’s got pictures later and even a bit of fiction to go with it! I did think about breaking it into a couple of posts, but some people like a longer read, so I’ve kept it all together. I’m also dedicating the post to Imperial Rebel Ork for reasons which will be revealed!
I wasn’t going to follow any painting challenges in July ’cause I wanted to reach the “120 figures completed” target for my Paraguayan War project and for some reason it wasn’t until the middle of July that I read about the Jewel Of July painting challenge. I wasn’t going to take part, but then Azazel featured my Mammont heavy tank and wrote that he was “under no delusion that everyone I’ve linked here will have the time/inclination/etc to participate”! So I thought “Damn, now I’ll have to” but what to do?
A few years ago I had an idea for a couple of models that meant I needed some German Panther tank turrets. Easiest way to get them was to buy a box of Armourfast Panthers, which contained two models. This got me thinking about how I could use the two Panther hulls, but I never got much further than that and I haven’t even built the original models I’d planned yet!
Now I’ve recently built one of the excellent Plastic Soldier Company Panzer 38(t) tank kits, which come in boxes of three models that contain enough extra bits to also build Marder tank destroyer versions. I only want one Marder at most, so that leaves me with a load of tank destroyer bits I don’t need! With only two weeks left in July to complete the challenge, I thought why not stick some of the Marder bits onto a Panther hull to make some sort of Alternative World War 2 tank destroyer? I was desperate!
So, thinking a bit more about it, I decided it needed to be a bit different – after all, a Panther with a single 75mm anti-tank gun is not really worth the effort! That made me think about building some sort of vehicle that had been designed and built at short notice with whatever was available, and so the Panzerjäger V Ausfuhrung A Kobra was born (Tank Destroyer Type 5 Mark A Cobra)! Built by a small team of engineers and tank crewmen, two PaK 40 anti-tank guns were fitted to a Panther hull in place of its missing turret and an armoured superstructure was built up around the whole mount to provide protection for the crew. To give it that extra punch, each gun was fitted with an experimental aircraft cannon automatic loader to permit semi-automatic fire. As far as I know, the Germans never actually built such a vehicle.
Now Imperial Rebel Ork (IRO to some of us) is pretty damn good at kitbashing! Unless I’ve interpreted this term incorrectly, kitbashing is combining bits from various different kits to make a unique model and IRO really does come up with some clever stuff indeed! So, since that’s what I’m attempting here with the Kobra, that’s why this post is dedicated to IRO. He also comes up with some pretty good backstories for his creations, so I’ve had to have a go at doing the same (that bit took longer than making the model)!
The column of weary infantry and wagons had thinned to a trickle. The Russians were perhaps not too far behind. Scanning the road to the right, nothing appeared out of place, but the small wood 500 metres away obscured some of his view. Ahead of him, across 50 metres of open ground, two Panthers were visible on the far side of the road in front of the bullet-ridden farm, the furthest pointing in the direction he’d just been looking, the closest facing in the opposite direction. Both tanks had their engines running, their commanders leaning across the turrets discussing their next move.
The commander of the nearest tank climbed out of the cupola, stepped onto the engine deck and then jumped to the ground. Reaching into his jacket, he produced a battered cigarette packet, lit up, and studied his map.
Steiner took another look back down the road, frowned, slung his MP44 onto his shoulder and turned.
“Klaus! Start her up and be ready to move!”
“Hans! Eyes front, I want you watching that wood! Have AP40 ready! Klar?”
“Klar, Stab!” shouted the gunner!
“The rest of you, stow your gear and mount up! Moving out in five minutes!”
As Steiner turned back and started walking towards the two Panthers at the roadside, the grumbling of his crew was drowned out by the splutter and roar of the Maybach engine starting up. The unexpected sound caused the Panther commander to look up from reading his map, and he watched Steiner approaching his own tank.
“Herr Leutnant! A moment of your time, bitte!” said Steiner, crossing the road to the black-clad junior officer. The Panther’s tactical number, painted boldly on its turret side, indicated that the commander was a platoon leader and, judging from his demeanour and the decorations on his chest, he’d been promoted from the ranks.
“Stabsfeldwebel . . . ?”
“Steiner, Herr Leutnant, 926th Experimental Combat Vehicle Detachment”
“Experimental Combat Vehicle Detachment?” the officer responded, one eyebrow raised. “That explains why I didn’t recognise that pile of junk you’ve got partially hidden up there in the trees!”
“That pile of junk, Herr Leutnant, is officially the prototype Panzerjäger V Ausfuhrung A Kobra. Unofficially, she’s Helga!”
“I see! And what can I do for you, Stabsfeldwebel?”
“I could use some petrol, Herr Leutnant. I was hoping to “borrow” some from our Hungarian allies’ supply dump at Toszeg, but it would appear that the Peasants’ And Workers’ Red Air Force has put paid to that plan!” replied Steiner, sarcastically referring to the Soviet air force.
“I appreciate your predicament Stabsfeldwebel, but I’ve no petrol to spare! All I can suggest is . . . “
The tank commander’s reply was drowned out by the sharp crack of a high velocity projectile passing close between the two Panthers, swiftly followed by the boom of a Russian 85mm tank gun. The two men crouched low and swung round to see two T-34 medium tanks edge around the corner of the distant wood. The furthest Panther, already pointing in the direction of the approaching threat, swung its turret slightly and fired its long 75mm gun, the muzzle blast kicking up dust in front of the vehicle. The leftmost T-34 ground to a halt, smoke billowing from the hatches. As the Panther’s turret turned to engage the second T-34 there was a tremendous crash and thick black smoke started pouring from the German tank. With speed born of fear, the driver and radio operator scrambled from their hatches and rolled over the side of the stricken tank. Of the turret crew there was no sign.
Aware of the danger, the lieutenant hammered on the hull of his own tank, shouting at his driver to get the Panther moving whilst he swung himself up onto the engine deck. He never made it, swearing profusely as Steiner grabbed his belt and pulled him to the ground. Bullets from the remaining T-34’s co-axial machine gun pattered off the rear of the Panther as they cut down the two survivors from the other German tank, Steiner and the officer only being saved by the cover provided by the remaining vehicle.
Amidst the chaos, the Panther’s driver panicked and stalled the tank. Recognising the danger, the gunner started to swing the turret, but it looked unlikely he’d find the target in time. Steiner released his hold on the lieutenant and rolled into a crouching position, looking at Helga and pointing at the T-34. He raised his hand to his mouth to shout orders to Hans to open fire but he was too late.
As Steiner watched the smoke clear and the dust settle, Helga was still in one piece, although the muzzle blast had brought a few branches down over her hull front. As he looked to his left, the Panther commander was picking himself up from the road, and both men looked toward the T-34’s last position. The Russian tank’s hull was burning furiously. So too was its turret, although the latter was lying upside down 20 metres to the side. Of the crew there was no trace. As the lieutenant dusted himself down, he turned to Steiner and croaked “What the fuck was that?”
“That, Herr Leutnant, was Helga! Two 7.5 centimetre PaK 40 guns fitted with automatic loaders and a ten-round magazine”.
The lieutenant paused, considering his words.
“I think two rounds would have been enough to do the job, Stabsfelwebel”
“I shall have a quiet word with my gunner about that, Herr Leutnant. I suspect he kept his finger on the firing button a little longer than was necessary!”
“Stabsfeldwebel . . . Steiner, wasn’t it? I think I may be able to get hold of some petrol for you!”
I need to thank my wife for casting a critical eye over that and putting me right, even though she has no idea what a PaK 40 is, or that a Panther’s a tank!
So, on to the model! The Armourfast Panther is a very basic fast-build plastic kit, so it’s short on some detail (which actually makes it easier to paint) but goes together quite well. Having built the kit, that’s when the fun started! I wanted to add two of the PaK 40s from the PSC 38(t)/Marder kits in place of the Panther’s turret, but . . . I’d left them at our caravan, since I’d been building kits there when the weather was too hot to paint! This meant I had to guess the shape and size of the superstructure front and sides and hope the guns would look right when fitted. I used 1mm plasticard for the superstructure, dummy turret ring and a supplementary armour plate added to the hull front and these are shown in the picture below blu-tacked in place. I also had to fit a bit of scrap plastic onto the hull machine gun blister and file it down to give it the right shape.
We were back at the caravan for the following weekend, so I made it a priority to get the model finished. The superstructure was actually about the right size, so I stuck it on and started on the weapon mount.
I added some scrap plastic on to the turret ring and then stuck two of the PaK 40s in place close together. For such a layout I removed the muzzle brakes from the guns, since the Panther is quite a substantial vehicle and the blast from them would more than likely affect accuracy. I added a gunner forward on the left side and a loader on the right-hand side, these figures having to be trimmed to fit (and they’re hardly visible on the final model). I cut quite an elaborate piece of plasticard for the internal gun armour, but in the end I had to cut this up and place it further back than I’d planned, otherwise the gun mount wouldn’t fit in the superstructure. In reality, such a vehicle would have been better fitted with an external mantlet, but this is meant to be a prototype and a more effective mantlet would have obscured most of the gun detail.
I added the gun cradle and breech components for the other PSC Marder version over the PaK 40s to represent auto-loader-type-gubbins and then added one of the spent case catchers at the rear of the mount to act as a safety guard. The complete gun mount is shown in the picture below.
I didn’t add any internal detail to the superstructure so that I could slide the gun mount in and out as required (otherwise it’d be too tricky to paint). I added two small bits of plastic strip on to the hull top to the rear of the turret ring to keep the gun mount in place, and these actually allow the gun to be traversed without it sliding onto the engine deck. The picture below shows the complete vehicle before painting.
I wanted to paint it to look like a prototype that had been cobbled together, so I took a while thinking this over and decided that the Panther hull would be in plain dark yellow, with the extra components being cut from armour plate that had been primed in red oxide paint and stored before being used for this vehicle. I used Humbrol 84 for the hull and Vallejo saddle brown for the primed plates.
I drybrushed the top edges of the superstructure plates in black to represent them getting scorched during flame cutting and then stippled gunmetal along the weld positions to represent both the armour plate and tank hull being cleaned up with a grinder prior to welding. I painted the welds themselves with Vallejo silver – this has a grainy texture, so I put it on as a slightly irregular thin line, but left it just clear of any recesses to avoid it being completely obscured by the shade wash. Despite it being a prototype I used PSC national cross decals to add a bit of colour. Mixing some saddle brown with white I painted on some illegible scrawl to represent worn chalked-on manufacturing instructions, and finally painted the name Helga roughly on the hull side. The picture below shows this “clean” finish before I steeled myself to put on the shading/mucky wash. At this stage it looked a bit too clean, so not sure how it would turn out!
As with my Tiger and Brummbär, I painted on a thinned enamel black/brown coat and then removed this with white spirit, leaving it settled in recesses for shading and on other surfaces representing grime! Highlight was a quick drybrush with sand. I then painted the two crewmen in black Panzer uniforms rather than as field grey assault gun or tank destroyer crew, since I really wanted tank men in this experimental vehicle.
Also painted a few extra crewmen as ammunition handlers, painting their bases dark yellow so that they wouldn’t look out of place on the engine deck.
I was surprised how much I like the finished vehicle. Overall, it didn’t take all that long to make it, but because it’s a special one-off I’m going to count it as my Jewel Of July submission!
So, this still leaves me with another complete Panther hull to think about converting. My favourite idea for that at the moment is a heavy armoured personnel carrier, but I’m happy to consider all suggestions (except Nurgle-related ones, sorry – I could not paint a slime-and-snot-covered Panther anywhere near as well as a few of you out there! You know who you are)!