Panhard 178 Conversion for the Eastern Front

In the past year I read George Nipe’s “Last Victory in Russia” and got hooked by the winter war on the east front. The book describes the Soviet Operations Gallop, Star and von Manstein’s “backhand blow”, operations in January-March 1943 following the Soviet encirclement of the 6th Army in Stalingrad. I also found a copy of Jean Restayn’s photo coverage book of the same period, “The Battle of Kharkov, Winter 1942/43”. Printed in 2000, copies range from $75 to $100 but the book is completely worth the price. There are about 400 pages of photos showing various types of uniforms, gear, tanks, halftracks armored cars, trucks, etc. as well as the bleak Ukrainian countryside, small villages, towns and, eventually, Kharkov itself. It is amazing!

From Restayn’s book “The Battle of Kharkov”.

It was in Restayn’s book that I saw pictures of a French Panhard 178 armored car in use by the Leibstandarte in the winter of 1943. The SS appear to have found the vehicle reliable and was noted to be popular with the regiment “Der Führer”. The Germans removed the 25mm main gun and 7.5mm machinegun, replacing it with an MG34. Having an armored car and one that was unique was enough for me to want to convert one for my gaming table.

French Panhard 178, courtesy of Warlord Games.

First, I bought a Panhard from Warlord games ($35). The vehicle and turret are resin and the wheels/axles are metal. The large wheels give the vehicle a weighty feel, which I like. Only the turret needed alteration; the hull would get an extra bit added to the front bumper.

My “Spare Bits” box – Scrap plastic to fill the MG port – Spare MGs (SAVE EVERYTHING!!)

I keep several boxes of spare parts from older projects, spare figure parts and extra plastic bits that are too small to place back in the original bag but can be useful for small projects. From the spare parts I found a Jerry can and MG34. From the extra plastic bits box, I found a piece of plastic that was nearly the right size and thickness to cover the Panhard’s MG port.

Visible seams – Spackle/Patching Plaster in place – Final results show no open seams.

I then used an X-Acto to spread a thin layer of spackle into the seams. The spackle dries quickly and is easily sealed with just a tiny drop of Super Glue; wick off excess with a small rolled up piece of paper towel. Sand or file smooth, as needed. In the “Final results” photo you can see that the seam lines are gone. This is a really simple way to get rid of seam lines or small holes especially on flat surfaces. The advantages over ProCreate or Green stuff or other two part putty brands is that it is premade, dries quickly, is easy to sand and you do not have to guess how much you will need so there is no wasted product afterwards. And the standard spackle/patching plaster that I use lasts years.

Spackle/Patching plaster – inexpensive and easy to use.

The photo looks like it shows that the rounded part above the Panhard’s original gun port has moved towards the left side of the turret. I cannot tell for certain from the photos, but it looks like there is a bump there. In addition, it also provides an extra detail to paint. I simply cut the rounded part off the original turret and glued it on the left side above where the original MG port was located. It looked good to my eye, so I kept it.

The Red box/line shows where the original “Bump” was, the Green shows where it appears to have been moved and the Blue shows how it looks on the converted turret.

ProCreate was used to fill most of the main gun port, keeping the edges of the new port straight. I could also have used spare plastic bits but that would have required sanding/filing to get smooth and flat and I did not want to ruin any of the turret detail. In order to make the new MG fit better, I drilled a small hole in the resin deep inside the new opening. Using a paperclip, I was able to see how much of the MG barrel I would need to rest in the drilled hole and still stick out far enough to match what the photo showed. The plastic MG was glued into place.  

Finally, the extra angled bumper was made from spare plastic. I figured that I would have a lot of trouble matching the length of one side to the order if this was made from two separate parts so I scored the center of the plastic with an X-Acto and carefully trimmed a bit of plastic from each side of the scored line. This give a file a bit of a guide and, using a hand file, I created a V shaped groove on one side of the plastic bumper. I measured and marked out spots where the “rivets” would go on the opposite side of the V cut. Commercially made rivets, available at train stores, can be glued onto the plastic (see the Ho-Ro scratchbuild photos on the Company B website to see some examples of these). I could not find these in my collection, misplaced somewhere in our military move from Colorado to Washington so went with a method recommended by Brent Dietrich (professional model builder). I scored the spots with the tip of an X-Acto blade where I wanted to drill and used a hand drill to prepare holes the same diameter as rods of Plastruct or Evergreen that I have. I cut several small pieces to fit the holes and glued them in place. The next time I do this, I will glue the long rod in the hole, wait for it to dry and cut the plastic with nail clippers. The small pieces tend to be tough to place into the hole and liked to fly all over the place, necessitating extra bits to be cut. Once dry, I used a hand file to file the ends of the rods to the desired height. After test fitting the new bumper on the front of the car, I also used the file to make the corner/edge of the plastic more angle to fit better on the bumper. After gluing it into place, I used some spare ProCreate to fill the angle I filed into the back of the new bumper.

New bumper, holes drilled and “rivets” – Final bumper, cleaned and filed.
The finished bumper in place.

After priming and base painting, I still must paint the white camouflage and add insignia and license plates before calling it finished. I will secure the Jerry can with embroidery thread because it is thicker and looks more realistic. I was very pleased with how the vehicle turned out. Onto to the frozen steppes of the Ukraine!

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