http://www.achtungpanzer.com/panzerkamp ... fz-171.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panther_tankIn early November of 1941, because of the constant reports from the front, special Panzerkommission visited Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army (part of Army Group Centre) on the Eastern Front to inspect captured T-34/76 tanks and to asses what needed to be done. It was decided to design a new more powerful medium tank, which could be quickly put into production. On November 25th of 1941, Adolf Hitler ordered Wa Pruef to start work on the new medium tank that would outperform T-34. In December of 1941, Wa Pruef ordered Daimler-Benz and MAN (Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nuernberg) to design new 30-ton tank armed with 75mm KwK L/70 gun as a response to theSoviet T-34/76 tank. Rheinmetall-Borsig was in charge of the development of the turret for this new tank. In March of 1942, Daimler-Benz was the first to produce their version of VK3002’s design based on previously rejected VK3001 (direct copy of T-34/76) design from January of 1942. Two versions of VK 3001 with different suspensions were designed by Daimler-Benz – one with spring suspension and other with torsion bar suspension.Daimler-Benz VK3002 design was largely based on T-34/76 and was more like a modified German version of it. MAN finished their design of VK3002, which largely based on examined captured T-34/76 tank, in early Spring of 1942.
VK3002(DB)’s turret was mounted in the forward position of the hull just like that of T-34/76. Prototype was presented to the Fuehrer, who ordered the production of 200 new tanks to start as soon as possible.
The DB design was a direct homage to the T-34. It resembled the T-34 hull and turret form. DB's design used a leaf spring suspension whereas the T-34 used coil springs. The DB turret was smaller than that of the MAN design and had a smaller turret ring, which was the result of the narrower hull required by the leaf spring suspension which lay outside of hull. The main advantages of the leaf springs over a torsion bar suspension were a lower hull silhouette and a simpler shock damping design. Like the T-34, the DB design had a rear drive sprocket. Unlike the T-34, the DB design had a three-man turret crew: commander, gunner, and loader. But as the planned L/70 75 mm gun was much longer and heavier than the T-34's, mounting it in the Daimler-Benz turret was difficult. Plans to reduce the turret crew to two men to stem this problem were eventually dropped.
The MAN design embodied more conventional German thinking with the transmission and drive sprocket in the front and a turret placed centrally on the hull. It had a gasoline engine and eight torsion-bar suspension axles per side. Because of the torsion bar suspension and the drive shaft running under the turret basket, the MAN Panther was higher and had a wider hull than the DB design. The slightly earlier, Henschel designed Tiger I heavy tank's use of a "slack-track" Christie-style pattern of large road wheels with no return rollers for the upper run of track, and with the main road wheels being overlapping and interleaved in layout, were design concepts broadly repeated with the MAN design for the Panther.
The two designs were reviewed over a period from January through March 1942. Reichminister Todt, and later, his replacement Albert Speer, both recommended the DB design to Hitler because of its several advantages over the initial MAN design. However, at the final submission, MAN improved their design, having learned from the DB proposal, and a review by a special commission appointed by Hitler in May 1942 ended up selecting the MAN design. Hitler approved this decision after reviewing it overnight. One of the principal reasons given for this decision was that the MAN design used an existing turret designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig, while the DB design would have required a brand new turret to be designed and produced, substantially delaying the commencement of production.
Albert Speer recounts in his autobiography Inside the Third Reich
Since the Tiger had originally been designed to weigh fifty tons but as a result of Hitler`s demands had gone up to seventy five tons, we decided to develop a new thirty ton tank whose very name, Panther, was to signify greater agility. Though light in weight, its motor was to be the same as the Tiger`s, which meant it could develop superior speed. But in the course of a year Hitler once again insisted on clapping so much armor on it, as well as larger guns, that it ultimately reached forty eight tons, the original weight of the Tiger.
What if the Daimler-Benz version of the Panther was selected for the Panther project instead of the MAN design? It would take somewhat longer to get into the field, but would be lighter, more maneuverable, probably more mechanically reliable, and easier to produce thanks to requiring less materials.