Today we present a report from the British Fighting Vehicles Proving Establishment from 1944 testing a captured German Panther tank provided by the Soviet Union. The tests paint a rather unflattering picture of the Panther, although it is noted in the report that this particular vehicle may have had a malfunctioning engine by the time it was handed over to the British. Tests were done comparing the Panther to the Cromwell, Sherman II, Churchill VII and T.14. The tests ended prematurely when the Panther tank caught fire. Based upon the picture provided with this report, it appears that this particular tank is an early production “Ausf D” Panther (the early model commanders cupola is a good indicator). Checking the serial number provided in the report against the chart on page 28 of the Tom Jentz book “Germany’s Panther Tank” reveals that this particular vehicle was built by MNH (Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen Hannover) in June of 1943. These early Ausf D models were notorious for their mechanical shortcomings, having many issues that were somewhat resolved in later models of the Panther.
The vehicle also suffered from transmission problems during the tests, in particular 3rd gear become inoperable. This was not an uncommon complaint regarding Panther transmissions. While the engine and transmission issues encountered by the British are not unexpected, their criticism of the Panther suspension is somewhat surprising. The double torsion bar suspension system of the Panther is often discussed in books as complicated but very effective. According to the British report “the pitch and roll records show that the Panther suspension damps out quicker than that of the other tanks tested, it was found that in cross country going it was harder than the others. The nose of the tank dipped right down until the front suspension was “solid” when riding over the larger bumps. and this gave an uncomfortable ride for the crew.”
Photos of this report was kindly provided by P.M. Knight (who has written some very excellent books on British Cruiser tanks.) We have transcribed the text of the photographed report for better readability.
D.T.D. COVER SHEET AND JOINT FVPE/DTD
CONCLUSTIONS TO F.V.P.E. REPORTS
NOS.FT.1391 & WS.413
GERMAN (Pz.Kpfw) Panther
PERFORMANCE TRIALS AND WORKSHOP REPORT
These trails were initiated by D.T.D. in order to obtain Performance data on a Panther tank when running with various British and American machines.
It will be noted in the Field Trial report that the mileage recorded on the Panther prior to the performance trials was comparatively small. It was not possible to verify the actual figure; nevertheless a considerable amount of repair and maintenance work was necessary to obtain the performance data. At total of 20 miles was covered by the machine during the trials, a transporter was used to convey the machine to the test courses in order that the performance figures could obtain under the most favorable conditions.
The behavior of the engine did not permit a proper assessment of the vehicle’s performance. It was evident that the engine was mechanically unsound and without adequate spare parts it was not possible to restore the unit to a satisfactory standard, since certain of the engine components appeared to be of a sub-standard or obsolete type.
The almost complete lack of accessibility to the engine compartment rendered difficult the amount of maintenance the power unit required.
During the cross country trials a fire occurred in the engine compartment and due to the considerable internal damage sustained the trials were abandoned.
The results of the trials on this single machine suggest that the Panther compares with British Tanks as follows: –
Across country the average speed is rather less than that of the Chirchill VII. Note 3rd gear was not available on Panther. On roads the maximum speed has not yet been established but 30 m.p.h. is claimed by the Germans.
The amount of mechanical trouble experienced on this trial suggest that the Panther compares very unfavourably with any British tank now in the service.
Whilst the camera pitch records show a marked ability to damp out oscillations the opinion of all members of F.V.P.E Staff who have ridden across country on the tank is that the suspension is not good.
Since the completion of these trials a later model of the Panther Tank has been received from Normandy, this machine will be submitted for performance trials as soon as possible.
This project will remain open until the new trials are completed.
Assistant Director (General Design)
(A. A. M. Durrant)
FIGHTING VEHICLES PROVING ESTABLISHMENT
FIELD TRIALS REPORT
GERMAN PANTHER (PZ.KW.V)
F.V.P.E Report No. F.T.1391
D.T.D Project No. DE 9736
D.T.D File No. 160/78/7
Trails were undertaken in order to establish the performance of a German Panther tank in direct comparison with various British and American tanks. It was originally intended to include the Russian T.34, but this tnak could not be made available.
A great deal of mechanical trouble has been experienced on the Panther during the trial but no attempt is made to give details of all the defects in this report.
The Panther has been seriously damaged by fire before the trails were completed. As there is no early prospect of completing the performance data this interim report is now published.
- Panther No. 213101 was received at F.V.P.E. from S.T.T. for these trials. The tank had originally been sent to this country from Russia. On receipt, the engine and steering system were found to be defective, and were repaired and tested in F.V.P.E. Workshops report No. W.S.413.
- The following tanks were run during these trials
|Panther||44 tons 5 cwts.||Approx. 500 miles|
|Churchill VII||39 tons 10cwts.||3232 miles|
|T.14||43 tons 10 cwts.||393 miles|
|Cromwell||28 tons 3 cwts.||46 miles|
|Sherman II||30 tons 11 cwts.||1821 miles|
|Comet||32 tons 13 cwts.||1853 miles|
- Each tank was driven by an experienced F.V.P.E. driver.
- Ground conditions throughout the trial were very dry, the Long Valley course offering extra dusty conditions.
- The following tests were attempted in order named: –
(a) 12th June, 1944
Miles Hill slopes, Beacon Hill climb, and Ively Farm suspension course.
(b) 14th June, 1944
Farnham Park Slopes, Ively Farm suspension course and Long Valley speed, fuel consumption, and cooling trials.
(c) 28th July, 1944
Long Valley speed, fuel consumption and cooling trials.
- 12th June, 1944
(a) Miles Hill Slopes (Gravel and Concrete)
Climbs of No.4 slope (22.5 degrees) and Concrete “A” (24 degrees) were attempted with the following results.
|Tank||Gear Used.||No. 4 Slope||Concrete “A”||Remarks|
|Panther||1st||successful||Successful||Engine misfiring slightly|
|T.14||1st||successful||Not attempted||Prop shaft broke after climb of the slope|
Failed at 18 degrees
|Successful||Lack of torque in 2nd gear|
Failed 21 degrees
|Failed||Track slip on concrete “A” 19 feet from bottom of slope
Lack of torque in 2nd gear
(3.7:1 Final Drive Ratio)
Failed at 22 degrees
|Failed||Track slip on concrete “A” 31 feet from bottom of slope
Lack of torque in 2nd gear
(4.5:1 Final Drive Ratio)
Failed at 22 degrees
|Lack of torque in 3rd gear|
(a) Miles Hills Slopes (Cont.)
Notes (i) The second Cromwell with a 4.5:1 final drive ratio was used for comparative purposes on this test only.
(ii) Stop and restart tests were attempted by all tanks on No.4 slope with the exception of Panther. As trouble with the hydraulic assistance to the steering had been experienced in was decided not to attempt this test with the Panther in order not to overload the hydraulic system which was found to be leaking badly at the rear swash pump.
(b) Flying Climbs of Beacon Hill
Two runs were made up the Hill with the Panther. Between runs the hydraulic reservoir had to be refilled, having emptied itself on each run. The engine was observed to be misfiring badly so that the results recorded below are not fully representative of the tanks true performance.
|Tank||Gear Used||Average Speed|
|Panther||5,4, 3||8.19 m.p.h.|
(3.7:1 Final Drive)
|5 & 4||20.6 m.p.h.|
|Churchill VII||4 & 3||8.19 m.p.h.|
|Sherman II||4 & 3||10.4 m.p.h.|
- Before further trials were undertaken, work was done in F.V.P.E Workshops to cure the engine misfiring and leaking rear swash pump. Details of this work are contained in F.VP.E. Workshops report No. W.S. 413.
- 14th June, 1944
(a) Farnham Park Slopes
Trials were first carried out on the 35 degree grass slope, each tank climbing in 1st gear. Later attempting to climb up a 40 degree slope, the Panther stalled through lack of engine torque, (misfiring was again prevalent).
The tank ran backwards with the engine turning over in the reverse direction. When the tank reached the foot of the slope an explosion occurred in the engine compartment and a petrol fire was started around the petrol pumps at the front nearside corner of the engine. This was quickly put out with Pyrene fire extinguishers. The force of the explosion was sufficient to lift the engine compartment cover hatch, breaking the thermometer bracket above it.
On examination of the engine, no serious defects were found as a result of the explosion and the tnak continued its trials.
(a) Farnham Park Slopes (Cont.)
The results of the test are recorded below: –
|“||40 degrees||Failed||Lack of torque, engine misfiring|
|“||35 degrees||Failed||Track slip|
|“||40 degrees||Failed||Track slip|
(b) Ively Farm Suspension Course
The test here consisted of driving each tank over a ramp and sleepers at various speeds. A pitch and roll camera was fitted in turn to the top of the turret of each tank, and the time taken to cover the fixed length of the course recorded electrically. The speeds chosen for these tests were approximately 10, 15 and 20 m.p.h. for each tank. The results of these tests recorded by camera are shown graphically in an Appendix attached to this report. A photograph (No. 6331/8) showing the tank going over the first ramp of the suspension course is attached to this report.
During these tests with the Panther, the Belville washer travel stops of the drop arms of No. 7 road wheel stations of both sides, broke away, the washers being scattered over the suspension course.
Although the pitch and roll records show that the Panther suspension damps out quicker than that of the other tanks tested, it was found that in cross country going it was harder than the others. The nose of the tank dipped right down until the front suspension was “solid” when riding over the larger bumps. and this gave an uncomfortable ride for the crew.
(c) Long Valley fuel consumption test
Thermometers with remote reading dials were fitted as follows: –
(i) To the inlet to the rear radiator on each side to record hot water temperature.
(ii) To the water header tenk, to record cold water temperature.
(iii) To the inlet and outlet to the oil cooler, to record hot and cold engine oil temperatures respectively.
(iv) To the gearbox main filter cap to record transmission temperature.
Only 2 laps were completed before the trail was abandoned, due to the misfiring of the engine. This was now so prevalent that the speed and cross country performance of the Panther was seriously affected. it was also found on the second lap that 3rd gear could not be retained, continual jumping out taking place. Up to the time of the publication of this report this gearbox defect has not been investigated. On being loaded on to the transporter for the return to F.V.P.E. it was observed that steam was blowing from the off side exhaust pipe.
(c) Long Valley fuel consumption test
Subsequently the engine was removed from the tank in F.V.P.E. Workshops for examination and was found to be in need of major repairs. Details of the defects and the repair work carried out are contained in F.V.P.E. workshops Report No W. S. 413
- 28th July, 1944
After the Panther had been restored to running order, the speed, fuel consumption and cooling tests on Long Valley (2.8 mile course) were again attempted. the engine was now running evenly, the misfiring having been overcome. 3rd gear, however, was still defective and was not used on this trial.
After one lap had been completed a light misfiring developed on the 6/3 (?) bank, but the performance of the tank was not seriously affected. The following speeds were recorded on the first lap for each tank:
Panther 9.5 m.p.h
Churchill VII 10.2 m.p.h.
Comet 15.7 m.p.h.
Cromwell 16.4 m.p.h.
When another half lap had been run, the right hand steering was in need of adjustment and the tank was halted and switched off. Simultaneously thick smoke filled the turret, coming from the engine compartment. A few seconds later an explosion took place in the engine compartment, and the floor of the compartment was seen to be on fire. the probable cause of the fire is given in an Appendix attached to this report. The tank was burnt out and the trials on this machine abandoned.
(L.G. KIMBERLEY) Major
For O’Dye (?) Field Trials
(W.P. MORROGH) Brigadier
Commandant, Fighting Vehicle
RESULTS OF WORKSHOP INVESTIGATIONS INTO
CAUSE OF FIRE
PANTHER TANK PZ.KW. V
The fire, which occurred after the engine had been switched off and backfired, started with an explosion in the engine compartment. The actual cause of the backfire is not known, but it is assumed that some incandescent substance, such as sparking plug points or a piece of carbon, provided the means of ignition. The very high compression ratio would render the engine more liable to reverse direction than would be experienced with orthodox practice. A backfire would cause petrol and oil vapour to be blown through the air cleaners, (oil bath type), which are situated centrally on the engine. the inlets to the air cleaners are underneath the unit, and oil and petrol vapour would be sprayed over the valve covers on to the exhaust manifold cowls which, with the engine hot, would ignite the vapour.
The explosion was extremely heavy and it is assumed that one of the flexible petrol pipes burst and the petrol caught fire.