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Painting the Jagdpanther

Published: 24/07/2020

Over 50,000 viewers and counting tuned in to watch the transformation of our Jagdpanther live on YouTube and other streaming services, as part of TANKFEST Online in June.

In a three hour and 44 minute live-stream, shown simultaneously on The Tank Museum and World of Tanks YouTube Channel, the audience observed (albeit slightly sped up) the re-painting of an armoured fighting vehicle.

Surprisingly, the sight of paint drying drummed up a frenzy of unprecedented excitement among World War Two tank camouflage aficionados.

Whilst many understood why we were doing it (and many of those supported us financially – for which we are very grateful), some were understandably left baffled by the end result.

So, in this article we will address some of the confusion and we also look into what was also an interesting ‘experiment’ using new types of vehicle paint.

The Jagdpanther in its previous paint scheme.

HISTORICAL ACCURACY

Firstly, we need to address the issue that caused many sharp intakes of breath among a range of enthusiasts. This was not an attempt to create either a permanent or accurate scheme for this vehicle – and we never said it was.

The vehicle was painted (and live-streamed) in order to help promote both TANKFEST Online and one of the key fundraising elements of the event.

World of Tanks players had the opportunity to support The Tank Museum (among other ways) by purchasing a camouflage scheme for their in-game tanks, with all proceeds going to the Museum. It was incredibly successful.

The camouflage scheme that they were able to purchase was the camouflage scheme that we painted on the Jagdpanther. In the game, this camouflage scheme can be applied to almost any tank, regardless of its nationality or age.

The scheme is very loosely based on the scheme applied to The Tank Museum’s Panther tank, so it is not itself a strictly historical scheme. Furthermore, the pattern as it is applied in the game is not supposed to be historically accurate either. But the way it has been applied to our vehicle is based on historically sourced patterns and this is why the final paint job it doesn’t exactly match the promotional graphic.

THE COLOURS

The two main colours are Rotbraun (RAL8017) and Dunkelgelb (RAL7028), with Elfenbein breaking them up to match the World of Tanks scheme.

The choice of colours certainly didn’t seem to translate well in the footage.  This had an impact on much of the online debate too – because all of the images circulating were stills taken from the live-stream.

Busy painting the Jagdpanther during the live steam.

The vehicle was lit only by ceiling strip lights and the footage was shot on a digital camera at a very low bit rate (in order to keep the file size small for transferring online).  The footage was then compressed even further when broadcast on YouTube. Your PC or device further interprets what those colours should be, depending on its settings and quality. This created considerable confusion over what the ‘actual’ colours were. The image included with this article should provide a more accurate representation.

It is worth pointing out that whilst RAL is a ‘specification’, the reality is that each time these colours were mixed, they would be slightly different. They would be applied in different thicknesses and in slightly different ways depending on the painter or the time available. As a result – and something that is frequently overlooked– no two tanks could ever have looked identical.

Rotbraun (RAL8017) being sprayed over the 'peel coat'.

THE PAINTS

Perhaps the most interesting part of this re-painting exercise was that it provided the opportunity to experiment with new types of paint.

At the beginning of the live-stream, viewers looked on as a thick layer of white paint was applied. This was not primer, but in fact a ‘peel coat’. The peel coat, as it suggests, can be peeled off entirely – leaving the coat below intact.

Meanwhile, the paints applied over the top of the peel coat are completely water soluble, meaning they can be hosed off.

There are lots of advantages in using these paints (which will be examined in more detail in a future Workshop Diaries episode), and the temporary nature of this scheme provided a good argument to try them out.

We weren’t worried about the peel coat potentially damaging the paint scheme that was covered over as this was set to be changed prior to the vehicle’s re-display in 2021 anyway.

THE HUNT FOR AUTHENTICITY

The Jadpanther had been earmarked for re-painting as part of our World War Two exhibition refresh because the scheme it bore before was arguably even less authentic than the one it bears now.

The vehicle was not in its original markings, and therefore none of the vehicles authenticity has been compromised with the recent re-paint.

The Jagpanther in its new paint scheme.

The former scheme was applied in the early 1990s, being an inaccurate attempt at a wartime “ambush” scheme. Our re-paint wasn’t an attempt to recreate the ‘original’ paint scheme either; and anyone who knows the actual history of this vehicle could rightly argue that British Army green could well be the ‘correct’ colour for this particular Jagdpanther.

That’s because this vehicle saw no wartime service and wasn’t even built by the regime that designed it. Like our Panther, it was captured in the factory and was actually completed by the British Army for trails and testing in 1945.

At this moment we don’t know for certain how it was painted by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers when it finally rolled off the production line. But this is, at present, how we intend to display it in the Museum in the future.

In order to find out, we will remove the peel coat and then carefully scrape away at the several layers of paint applied since the 1950s to reveal the colours that were slapped on back in 1945. As you may expect, there will be a much more scientific process in getting these colours matched, made and tested – and the process will take much longer than 3 and three quarter hours to achieve!

The truth is that when we ‘discover’ exactly what the authentic scheme should be, it may actually appear rather boring. It may not look at all the way in which a Jagdpanther is ‘supposed’ to look – and we can be certain that this too will not please everyone either.

“Watch Paint Dry- The Jagdpanther” – is available to watch on our YouTube Channel.

Watch Paint Dry: The Jagdpanther!