Wednesday, August 31

Construction review Pt III: Meng TS-027 1/35 Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank

Andrew Moore has already shown us his 35th scale Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank kit from MENG models in an insightful In-box review & construction Pt II – See today in his “Big Cat Diaries,” as he completes the build before painting & weathering it all up…

Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank (Part III)
Manufacturer - Meng
Kit Number - TS-027
Scale - 1/35th
Procut Link at Meng Models.
Price - £50, ¥6,560, US$65, €57 from Hobbylink Japan
“Big Cat Diary” Pt. III

Engine Deck
Moving back to the engine deck, the two air filter covers need to have lengths of PE mesh wrapped around their sides This is one of those jobs that can seem quite fiddly, but if you take your time it's actually quite straightforward.
To make the job easier, I first wrapped the strips of mesh around a knife handle to pre-curve them, then starting at one end, attached the mesh to the filter cover, working my way ‘round, adding small drops of super-glue with the tip of a needle. The end result really adds some refinement to the rear deck, and is well worth the small effort needed to add them.

Staying with the engine deck, the large round engine screens are added next. These are each made up from two PE pieces, with a delicate frame on the bottom and the mesh screen sitting on top of that. The frames are supplied on the main PE fret, but Meng have included two extra replacement frames on a separate fret. They're not mentioned in the instructions, but use the replacement ones as they feature bolt detail around the rims, while the original two are plain.

The screens look excellent once in place and really benefit from having the frame and mesh as individual pieces, giving a very realistic layered look to the screens.

The kit as a whole is a very high-quality product, but the one area that let it down slightly was the inclusion of a length of string to represent the tow cable. For this build, I replaced the string with brass wire, which gives a much more realistic look to the cables. The cable eyes only have narrow slots in them to accept the string, so I had to drill out the slots to enable the brass wire to drop into place.

Getting the wire to clip between the brackets on the rear deck was quite tricky, as the brackets are only wide enough for the string. Using tweezers, I was able to press the wire down between the brackets and secure it with CA.

Turret and Main Gun
Time to get started on the turret, and the first step is to assemble the main gun and its mount. The main gun comes in two halves, split vertically, so some care will be needed when cleaning the inevitable seam, so as not to damage the moulded details on the barrel. I used super-glue to join the two halves, which helped fill any hairline gaps on the joint. I gave the barrel a quick coat of primer to check the seam, before attaching the mount to the turret base.

The upper turret needs the Commander's vision blocks adding before it can be mounted on the turret base. As with the hull, the vision blocks were tinted green and masked off before being installed. There's a choice here between adding a vision block ahead of the gunner's hatch, or instead fitting a flat plate from which a cable will run to the gunfire simulator should you choose to fit it.

There's a small armour plate which attaches to the top of the gun mount and, although the instructions don't tell you to do this, it should be clipped in place but left unglued, as it needs to slide forwards and backwards as the gun elevates. If it's glued in place the main gun won't move.

The large wedge-shaped add-on armour sections are next. Be careful removing the side mounted grab rails from the sprue as they're quite thin and fragile. I managed to snap one in half, but I was able to repair it without the join looking too obvious. If you decide to fit the gunfire simulator, there are two holes that need to be drilled in the top of the left-hand armour wedge.

There's not much in the way of detail that needs to be added to the kit as it's pretty complete straight from the box. One little extra I did add were the chains on the smoke dischargers, which were taken from an Aber etch set. It's easy to see why Meng didn't include them, as they're very small and fiddly to add, and aren't that obvious on the final build, but I added them here for the sake of completion.

Stowage Bins
Although Meng don't mention it in the instructions, most of the stowage bins on the rear of the turret feature internal detail on the lids, and could be posed open if you wish. There are a few ejector pin marks on the inside of the bins, but if you pack the bins with stowage, they won't be a problem.

There's quite a bit of photo etch that goes on the rear of the turret. On either side, there are stowage bins that feature PE mesh outer panels that need to be bent to the correct shape to fit around the frame of the bins. Meng has provided jigs to bend the mesh panels around to make this job easier. 

It will be easier still if you anneal the brass by heating it in a flame for a few seconds. This makes the brass softer, and far easier to bend to the required shape.

The lids for these bins also require a bit of bending. In this case, there's a small tab that needs to be rolled into a curve. For this, I simply bent the tab around a thin drill bit.

The final piece of photo etch on the turret requires some quite complex folding, and having PE bending tool to hand will make this step much easier. There are two parts that form the storage box for the barrel cleaning rods, and they both need to be bent into box sections.

Using a bending tool will make this an easy step, but if you don't own one you could still do it by hand. Just hold the parts in a pair of long nose pliers and carefully bend along the etched groove on the parts. The smaller bends can be done easily with your fingers.

The resulting part really does look classy when fitted to the model, and in fact, the whole of the turret looks as if you've added an aftermarket etch set, yet all this come included with the kit. I know not everyone enjoys working with PE, but I think Meng have used it at its best here, and it really sets the model off.

Leopard Workshop Aerials
While I was working on this build, I got in touch with Michael Shackleton of Leopard Workshop, and he very kindly supplied me with one of his products, namely the Comrod Aerials set (LW034) to use in this build. Although, as I've mentioned, the kit is very complete out of the box, there's always some detail that can be added to give your build that extra edge, and Leopard Workshop has a full range of accessories, from small items like these aerials through to replacement wheels, suspension and barrels.

The aerial bases included in the kit are nicely detailed but lack the actual antenna. The Leopard Workshop items are beautifully sharp in detail, and fitting them couldn't be easier: simply drill a hole in the base of the mount, and glue the aerials in place.

The very last thing to do was make up the track runs. These are built up in the supplied jig into lengths of five links at a time. These short runs are then connected together until you have two full runs. In my case to save time I actually left them a little short of the specified 84 links per side, as the upper run can't be seen with the side skirts in place.

The resulting runs feel very robust and aren't likely to come apart easily, which is sometimes the case with working track links. When joining the short 5-link sections together, make sure to get them all the same way ‘round: the end connectors feature a groove on one end, while the other end is smooth. When the tracks are fitted, the side with the groove faces outwards.

And that brings the build to an end. This has been an unusual build for me, as the Leopard isn't a subject I would have naturally picked up myself, but it's really grown on me as the build progressed, and this is in no small part down to Meng's superb engineering. For me, right now, they're near the top of the tree for detail and build-ability, and this has been one of the best kits I've worked on in quite a while.

Everything's now ready for paint, and for that I'll be trying out Meng's new paint range created in conjunction with AK Interactive, together with some of AK's own weathering products. So stay tuned for the next instalment of Big Cat Diary in which we’ll paint and weather it all up – It’s lookin’ nice so far :-)

Thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to make and to The Leopard Workshop that Andy has used on this kit.