Wednesday, April 4

In-Boxed Pt II: 1/35th scale M911 C-HET & M747 Semi-Trailer from Meng Models

Last week Andy Moore looked at the tractor - truck unit of Meng's new US M1911 C-HET   in the first part of his In-box review. Today he examines not just the accompanying M747 Heavy Equipment Semi-Trailer, but also the decals, tyres, colour choices and photo-etch materials that also come in the kit box before he starts to build the kit.

In-Boxed: M911 C-HET & M747 Semi-Trailer
Manufacturer – Meng Models
Product Number – Stegosaurus Series SS-013
Scale - 1/35th 
Product Link & Distributors on the Meng Website
Price -  ¥20,000 - US$196 - £147 - €160 from Hobby Link Japan

In part 1 of the in-box review of Meng's new M911 C-HET and trailer, we looked through the sprues of the tractor unit. Today we'll finish off the review by looking at the M747 trailer, and the rest of the box contents. This really is a case of two kits in one, as the trailer is as involved a build as the tractor, with nine of the fifteen sprues dedicated to this half of the assembly. We'll look at those in a moment, but first a little info on the trailer.
M747 Heavy Equipment Semi-Trailer
The M747 Semi-Trailer, Low Bed, Heavy Equipment Transporter, 60 Ton to give it it's full designation, is a 16-wheeled trailer used by the US Army for road transport of main battle tanks and other heavy loads. The primary hauler for it was the Oshkosh M911 tractor, although it could also be pulled by the earlier M123 6x6 tractor.
It features walking beam axles with air suspension allowing it to operate on semi-prepared roads, and also giving it a limited off-road capability. When the M911 tractor was replaced with the more powerful M1070, the M747 too was superseded by the more capable 20-wheel M-1000 trailer.
Sprue G (x4)
First up we've got four identical sprues that hold the trailer's wheels, together with various small details for the rest of the trailer.
The wheels have very deep rims but the detail at the back is done reasonably well. There's a little flash around the hubs but it shouldn't be too hard to clean up.
Sprue H (x2)
These two sprues hold the substantial axles and suspension frames. These form the rear two axles of the trailer, and connect to the chassis via four flexible vinyl collars that represent the pneumatic suspension on the real trailer. How well this arrangement works in practice I'll find out in the build, but there aren't any alternative plastic parts if you don't want to use the vinyl collars.
Sprue J
This is the largest sprue in the kit and holds the main frame parts for the chassis and deck. Due to its size, the sprue and the parts on it are quite flexible. I don't think that will have any knock-on effects to the final build, as there are plenty of cross beams and strengthening plates added along the way which should make the trailer fairly rigid.
The characteristic gooseneck at the front of the trailer is moulded as one with the main chassis floor plate. Although there's a lot of small details to add, most of the trailer is made up of large single-piece mouldings which should ease the assembly process.
Both the chassis floor plate and the loading deck are covered with a lot of ejector pin marks. Looking through the instructions though, it appears that most, if not all, of these, are covered by other parts, so they shouldn't require filling.
The main loading deck is another one-piece moulding. At around 25cm (10 inches) in length, there's plenty of room for whatever load you may want to add to the trailer. An M60 or early Abrams would be the most suitable but, since these things operated in Desert Storm, you could go left-field and add something like a captured Iraqi Type 69.
Sprue K
This sprue holds the main side rails for the trailer's chassis and gooseneck, together with smaller details such as the air tanks for the trailer's pneumatic suspension. The side rail parts should cover up most of the ejector pin marks on the main floor plates.
The support frame for the trailer's walking beam rear axles comes as a single part with integrally moulded cross beams. That should help give the trailer some extra rigidity as well as providing a solid base for the suspension.
Meng has even moulded the retaining chains for the rear loading ramps. The chains would have been fairly taught when the ramps were up, so the moulded should look okay, but you could always swap them out for some real chain for a little extra detail.
Sprue L
The last of the sprues holds more chassis parts including sections of the loading ramps and the support struts. Both the support struts and the ramps can be posed either extended or retracted.
Many of the chassis rail sections have the electrical cabling and pneumatic hoses moulded on. Most of these will be on the inside of the trailer and, as such, will be hard to see on the finished build, but it's a nice touch that Meng have included them all the same.
There are a lot of large parts in this kit but, despite that, there are some lovely little detail parts such as this tiny ratchet support jack that's stored at the front of the trailer.
There are two sets of vinyl rubber tyres in the kit, one style for the tractor and another for the trailer. You get 13 for the tractor including the spare. They're well moulded with good tread and sidewall detail. 
 There's a very slight mould line running around the centre of the tread, but it should sand away without too much trouble.
As with the Oshkosh branded mud flaps on the tractor, Meng has got around any licensing issues by slightly misspelling the MICHELIN name on the sidewall. In this case, they've simply mirrored the N making the wording look slightly Russian as a result.
For the trailer, you get 17 tyres, again including a spare that's mounted on the front of the gooseneck.
The trailer tyres are Firestones, but again Meng has carefully altered the name, this time removing the lower arm of the F, making it look more like Firestone. These kinds of alterations don't bother me in the least. They're barely noticeable on the finished model, and they make an amusing detail to point out to people as well.
Pneumatic Shock Absorbers
Meng has supplied six flexible vinyl shock absorbers for mounting the suspension on the tractor and trailer. Four are used for the rear two axles of the trailer, with the flexible sleeves providing the only connection between the walking beam suspension and the trailer's chassis. I'm not really sure if they will provide a strong enough mount, but we'll find out during the build. The remaining two are used to connect the pusher axle on the tractor. That axle can be mounted in either a raised or lowered position, but it isn't actually articulated. The vinyl shocks are used if you go for the raised position. If you have the pusher axle in the lowered position you use a styrene connector instead, so I'm not entirely sure what benefit the vinyl part provides.
Poly-Caps and Metal Axles
The poly-caps are used for connecting the wheels in the usual manner. The metal axles are a little more confusing. Maybe I'm being a bit stupid (entirely possible), but I cannot find any use for them. There are four long bars and two that are slightly shorter. I'd assumed at first that the longer ones were for the four trailer axles and the other two for the rear axles on the tractor but, apart from being shown on the sprue map, they're not mentioned at all in the instructions. All the axles build up from regular styrene parts and the metal rods aren't shown anywhere that I can see. If anyone knows what they're for let us know.
Photo Etch
There are two sheets of PE provided. I'm not entirely sure why the parts on the smaller fret couldn't have been added to the larger one. Maybe they were a last minute addition. For the most part, these frets provide various grills and tread plate sections for the tractor and trailer. There doesn't seem to be too much complex folding required, so they shouldn't prove to be much trouble for the PE-phobic. There are also two lengths of braided wire included. These are wound around the cable drums on the winches mounted at the back of the tractor.
Mirror Stickers and Wire
These metallised mirror-finish stickers are a common inclusion with Meng kits that feature prominent rear view mirrors. They're an addition that I really love, as replicating a mirror look with paint isn't easy, while these stickers make the job simple and look very realistic on the finished build. The red and blue wires are used for the electrical connectors between the tractor and trailer, and will need coiling around something thin, like a drill bit, to get the correct shape.
Window Masks
A full set of masks is provided for the cab glazing, both for the inside and outside. These are done in a satin finish paper rather than the more common yellow kabuki tape used by Eduard and others. 
At first, I thought the outlines were simply printed, and you'd need to cut them out yourself, but on closer inspection, I found they were in fact pre-cut. Unfortunately, despite the stickers being numbered, there's no placement guide in the instructions, so you'll need to work out which ones go where from the shapes.
The manual comes in a relatively small (26cm x 18cm) landscape format booklet, with black and white printing throughout. The build is spread over 42 pages with the same number of build steps. Essentially it's one step per page then, but each step is broken down into multiple sub-stages. 
The true number of build stages is probably well over 150, although they all look to be fairly straightforward with nothing too daunting along the way. The painting guide comes with a separate two-sided colour sheet.
These are printed in-house by Meng and look reasonable although, as is often the case when they print their own decals, there are some registry issues. They shouldn't affect the final look too much, but I do wish Meng would return to using Cartograf for their decals as they did in the past.
Marking Options
There's a choice of two schemes in the kit, one in a standard three-colour NATO camo and one in a desert finish from Desert Storm. You can find pictures of both the tractor and trailer in over-all green, so that would be an additional option, or you could even go with a civilian scheme as there are plenty of ex-army M911s in private hands. Colour call-outs are given for Meng's own acrylic paint range and the Acrysion range from Mr Hobby.
This new release from Meng sums up everything I normally expect to see from one of their kits. The subject is interesting and unusual, there's tons of fine detail but what appears to be a fairly simple build sequence, and there's a nice collection of extras like the foil mirror stickers and the window masks. There are a couple of oddities. The vinyl shock absorbers don't seem like the best choice to me, and the mystery of the metal axles remains a, err... mystery. Despite that though, I think the finished build should make a very imposing, and let's face it, massive model. Time will tell if all the good vibes I'm getting from the kit follow through in the build. That'll be coming soon on TMN.

Andy Moore

Many thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to Andy to review and later to build.