Wednesday, August 24

Construction review Pt.II: Meng's 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 Inbox review – He has already built the kit up, so look today in the first of his “Big Cat Diaries” as he walks us through how it comes together…

Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank (Part II)
Manufacturer - Meng
Kit Number - TS-027
Scale - 1/35th
Product Link at Meng Models.
Price - £50, ¥6,560, US$65, €57 from Hobbylink Japan
“Big Cat Diary” Pt. II
After writing the in-box review for Meng's new Leopard 2A7, I was eager to get stuck into the build, as it looked to be a beautifully designed and produced kit. I've yet to make a model from Meng that hasn't been a pleasure to build from start to finish, and this one shows every sign of being one of their best yet. There's a lot of parts in the box so let's cut some plastic and find out if this big cat has claws.

Wheels and Suspension
No prizes for guessing that we start with the running gear. First things to get together are the road wheels, which come in standard inner and outer halves, trapping a poly-cap in between, then finished off with a separate hub cap. I gave the road tyres a quick rub over with a medium sanding stick, just to take the shine off the plastic.

Moving on to the lower hull, the mounts for the drive sprockets need to be added. These drop into place on the rear hull, but need to be lined up correctly so the cut-outs in the mounts line up with those on the hull.
With the mounts in place, an extension collar is added, and the poly-cap for the drive sprocket is inserted into this, rather than the sprocket itself. Don't forget to add it, or the sprocket will be a very loose fit, and won't stay in place without gluing it permanently.

The mounts for the return rollers are added next, and they feature some exquisite weld bead detailing around their bases. Once they're in place this beading becomes all but invisible, which is a shame, but it does show the attention to detail that Meng have given this kit.

A couple of holes need to be opened up in the floor of the hull to fit the belly armour. This simply drops into place, and like the rest of the kit, is fully detailed.

The working torsion bars are up next but, before fitting them, they need a plate adding to the swing arm at the end. There's a bit of a mould line to clean up on the swing arms, but don't waste too much time here, as the wheels will hide most of this area. A quick scrape with a knife blade is all that's required, then with the plate added, they're ready to install on the hull.

The torsion bars are slid in through the holes in the side of the hull and pushed home until the ends drop into the slot on the opposite side of the hull. The instructions tell you to leave the whole bar unglued, but the ends had a tendency to pop out of the slots, so I secured mine with a drop of liquid cement just on the ends. Be sparing with the glue though, or you could end up fusing the whole bar to the floor of the hull, which, as well as losing the working aspect, would probably leave the swing arms out of alignment, and you'd end up with some wheels not touching the ground.

Lower Hull
The rear hull plate now needs adding, and the fit on this was perfect. I simply sat it in place, and ran some cement around the inside. No filler, and no problems: just how I like it! The rear mud flaps can be added at this stage, but I left them off for now to make fitting the track easier after painting. The flaps just slot into place, and can easily be painted separately and added at the end.

With the rear plate in place, three stiffening bars need to be attached to the underside of the hull, and to accomplish this Meng have provided a, err, “stiffener positioner” (Meng's name, not mine). Alright, stop giggling at the back, this is a serious undertaking, you know.

Alright then, take hold of your stiffener positioner (I won't tell you again), and place it firmly on the rear end of the hull, aligning it with the aid if the drain plugs on the bottom of the hull.

The stiffeners can now safely be added (you are wearing your sterile gloves, aren't you?), placing them between the prongs of the positioner.
The stiffener positioner can then be removed leaving three correctly positioned stiffeners... courtesy of the stiffener positioner... I'll move on.

The torsion bars are stiff enough to remain in one position, so with the wheels fitted the tank won't sag down to the ground, but you still have movement on then to make sure everything's aligned correctly, and to conform the wheels to uneven ground if you're placing the tank on a diorama. The idlers don't feature poly-caps, but the fit onto the axle stubs is tight enough for them to stay in place without the need for glue.

...And having working suspension means, of course, the obligatory 'running over a random tool on the bench' shot. I know a few people don't like working features like this on a model, but it does provide more display options, and you can always glue the suspension in place if you prefer.

Upper Hull
Moving on to the upper hull now, and the first job is to attach the two rear deck plates. These slot in to place perfectly, but need to be attached in the correct order, with the rear plate going on first, followed by the forward engine cover. The engine cover attaches at the hinge points, and could be mounted in the open position. There's some underside detail on the plate, and hopefully Meng will release an engine set for the Leopard as they've recently done for their new T-72.

I'd read reports of other modellers having issues with the rear deck of Leopard kits sagging under the weight of the large turret. Although these issues weren't necessarily applicable to this, or other Meng Leopards, I decided to reinforce the area below the rear deck with some lengths of square section styrene. These were glued in place to span the full width of the rear hull, and packed with squares of plastic card where the levels were different.

The upper deck was then attached to the lower hull, and I could start to look at attaching the detail parts. Before that however, I decided to replace the moulded grab handles on the upper hull with thin copper wire. The moulded part was carefully sliced off, two holes drilled, and the replacement handle glued in place with CA.

Next the driver's hatch was built up, and this needed two vision blocks adding. The instructions recommend clear blue for all the vision blocks, but most photos of the Leopard show them with a green tint, so that's what I went with. To tint them, I used AK Interactive's clear colour set. These are lacquer paints and need to be thinned and cleaned up with cellulose thinner. I airbrushed the paints over the clear parts in thin layers, building up the colour density to a level I was happy with. The tail lights and indicators were also painted at the same time.

The vision blocks were masked, then added to the driver's hatch. The hatch is a sliding type, which is held in place by rails either side of it. Unfortunately, the rear rail wouldn't sit down fully with the hatch in place, as the hatch seemed to be slightly too wide.

With the hatch removed, the rear rail sat perfectly in place. Dropping the hatch on top, it was clear that, even allowing for the lip on the front edge, it was just slightly too wide to fit between the rails. The hatch is a single piece part, and the rails drop into mounting points on the deck, so the issue wasn't due to construction errors.

To resolve the problem, I simply cut away the lip on the front of the hatch, then filed the whole front edge of the hatch, removing about 0.5mm of plastic. It doesn't sound like much, but it was enough to allow the hatch to drop into place, and it still remained slide-able, not that that was a feature I was particularly bothered about.

Andew Moore

..Stay tuned for parts two and three of this build in the  very near future.

Thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to make and to AK Interactive for the paints and weathering products Andy is going to use on this kit.