By Rob Morgan
This is the oldest surviving construction kit model in my collection, as my mother broke my Airfix Mk II Spitfire, dusting while I was at University. It’s also an Airfix kit, a 1/72nd (they sometimes called them OO/HO in those days) “Panther” Mk V. Now, old hands will recall this one as one of the most difficult and complex (to say the least!) model AFVs ever manufactured. It had evil little individual wheel bogies to cement to the hull floor sides, and the road wheels were far from easy to keep in place. (The Airfix Churchill was almost as bad, with all those tiny road wheels and no spares provided either.) Not to mention the fact that the Panther’s hull top sat poorly on the hull sides and rear. The turret was fine, though there were absolutely no frills on this model.
Now take a look at the tracks and the road wheels, idler and drive wheels. Over 50 years (did I mention this was built in 1963?), the hard polystyrene and the soft plastic material of the one-piece old-style tracks have reacted together. The former’s softened and almost been devoured by the track, which is secured by cotton thread. Both thread and track are still intact. I suppose I could write this up as a query for the “Readers Write” page in New Scientist, but thought it might interest other solo wargamers. How long will this little construction last? Well, yes, I know that a 50-year-old, albeit scruffy, little panzer is a rarity on any wargamer’s table, but surely not unique, and I suspect one or two other players will have met up with this sort of problem.
By the way, the OstFront camouflage paint job is a little more recent than the build itself. Some years ago, back in the ’80s, I was wondering what to do with my old 1960s models, which, in this particular case, compared with, say, the superb Matchbox Panther and JagdPanther, was a bit frail, to say the very least. I turned eastward. I could only face building three of the cursed Airfix beasts. One of them I festooned with kit, slapped some big red stars on and a slogan, naturally, thus turning it into a Red Army-captured vehicle. The second became a Bergepanther, a recovery AFV without a turret, but with a big spade and open, four-sided compartment, which that genius C.O. Ellis showed how to do in Airfix Magazine once. That one’s turret went onto a hefty base for Gothic Line and last-ditch Reich fortifications.
That left this one. I only shortened the barrel into a crude dummy gun, added a couple of spare road wheels, which look more or less Panther-ish, then covered it in white paint.
And that is how my nowadays extensive wintry white-washed OstFront scenario began! Snow and whitewash cover a multitude of sins.