Sunday, September 22

Review & Build Guide Pt II: 35th scale Leopard 2 A7+ German MBT from Meng

Having already made Meng's previous 2A7 kit here on TMN, we thought Andy Moore would be perfect to go up a notch (or a "+") & take on Meng's new 35th scale Leopard 2 A7+ German MBT. He has already shown us the build & box contents, but today he paints, weathers & finishes his kit in a great second part of his guide...

Review & Build Guide: Leopard 2 A7+ German Main Battle Tank
Manufacturer - Meng
Kit Number - TS-042
1/35th Scale
Price - £55, ¥7,200, US$70, €62 from Hobbylink Japan
Product Link on the Meng Models website

Previous parts of this story:
- Review & Build Guide Pt I: 35th scale Leopard 2 A7+ MBT from Meng

-Painting & Weathering Guide Pt II: 35th scale Leopard 2 A7+ MBT from Meng

Last time out we left Meng's Leopard 2 A7+ built up and ready for paint. Today we'll get the build finished off, and the first step was to pull the model apart into its various sub-assemblies and prep it for painting by washing it over with isopropyl alcohol. Doing this removes any dust and grease that has accumulated on the kit during the build, allowing the paint to adhere much better to the styrene.
I'd left the side skirts unattached up to this point, but I wanted to get them in place before starting the main painting so I could ensure the camo pattern lined up correctly. It would also allow me to glue them in place securely without worrying about damaging any previously painted areas. Doing this did mean painting the lower hull and running gear first though,as those areas wouldn't be accessible with the skirts in place. Sandbeige (RC088) was used, mixed with a little satin varnish to counter the matt finish of the Real Color paints.
I didn't expend a great deal of time weathering the running gear, partly because you can't see all that much with the skirts in place, and partly because I wanted to keep this tank fairly clean. A dark pin wash to highlight the details followed by some dirt and discolouration using Kursk Earth (AK 080) was enough to give a used look without getting into any heavy weathering.
The wheels were also painted in the Sandbeige, with the tyres brush painted with Rubber Tires (AK 720). They then received a pin wash using Sand and Desert Camouflage Paneliner which, though technically designed for aircraft models, is excellent on armour kits when you want to keep a fairly clean look but still accentuate the details.
The tracks also needed fitting before the skirts, so would require painting at this stage too. I gave them a coat of rust primer, which also acted as the main base coat. The inner tracks tend to get polished where the road wheels run over them, so these areas were masked of and brushed with a dark silver, in this case, Citadel Leadbelcher. This was more like a heavy drybrush than a full application of paint.
After the trackpads were touched in with Rubber Tires, the road wheels and tracks were installed on the hull. I'd only built up partial track runs to cut down on construction time, so the ends of the runs were secured under the hull overhangs.
With the side skirts attached, I could add the driver's mirrors. In the previous A7 release, Meng included a pair of reflective stickers for the mirror faces. The A7+ release doesn't come with these, so I decided to install the mirrors in their folded position.
I'm using AK's Real Color acrylic lacquers for this build and, since these will adhere to the styrene very well, I didn't bother with a primer coat. I did, however, apply some pre-shading using a mix of black and the Sandbeige I'd be using for the main finish. The track runs were covered with kitchen cling film and paper strips were slid behind the skirts to protect the road wheels from any overspray.
The main base coat was then applied using Sandbeige, again mixed with a little satin varnish. The addition of the varnish really helps when you get to the weathering stages, as it makes any pin washes and filters much easier to clean up. I find mixing the varnish into the paint, rather than applying a separate clear coat at the end leaves a better finish, as well as reducing the overall painting time.
Some highlighting was then added to the base coat using the Sandbeige lightened with a little white. When doing this kind of work, I like to use simple paper masks cut to fit around the details I'm spraying. I made the process much faster than using masking tape, and you're able to see the results straight away and make any adjustments if necessary.
With the highlighting applied, the details start to become more apparent and the model has more dimensionality. Using the paper masks makes this step very quick and easy, and the effect works very well on the angular hulls found on most modern tanks.
Normally I prefer to keep the highlighting fairly subtle but, in this case, since I was going for a relatively clean look, I decided to add a further round of highlighting to give the model a bit more visual punch. For this step I used Cream White (RC 002), limiting it to the edges and high points on the hull. Even though it looks quite intense at this point, much of this will get covered with the camo pattern in the next step.
The first of those camo colours is Graubeige (RC 089), and this was applied freehand to speed up the painting process. The camo pattern used on German Leopards has very tight demarcation lines and, in this scale, a hard-edged camo would probably look more accurate. I don't like the time taken for masking though and, as long as the lines are kept as tight as possible, I think free handing is an acceptable compromise.
The second camo colour for this scheme is Sandbraun RAL 8031 (Incorrectly listed as black on the kit's marking sheet). While that colour is correct to the scheme worn by the A7+ tech demonstrator, I decided to go a different route and use an alternate scheme used by the Bundeswehr which replaces the Sandbraun with Helloliv (light olive RAL 6040) which is available in the Real Color range as RC 090. Why the change? No other reason that I think the green look better than the brown. This tank has only existed in this form as a demonstrator for the manufacturer, so any operation scheme is hypothetical anyway.
While we've been concentrating on the hull so far, the turret also received the same treatment. The barrel was still separate at this stage, which made handling (for clumsy people like me) much easier.
With the main painting finished, the decals (all two of them) were applied to the turret's side armour (also still separate at this point). Technically, an operational vehicle would carry number plates and other markings, but the two crosses are all that's included with the kit, so that's what I used.
As mentioned earlier, I wanted to keep the overall look on the clean side, since this is a relatively new vehicle. It would still require some minimal weathering work to help define the details though. To begin with, I used the Sand and Desert Paneliner again, as the subtlety of this wash really helps to sharpen up the model without leaving it looking too dirty.
For the rest of the weathering, I tried out AK's new watercolour weathering pencils which are (surprise, surprise) watercolours in pencil form. These come in handy themed packs, each containing five full-size water-soluble pencils in complementary colours.
The pencils can be used in a variety of ways to add shading, streaks and other effects. They do need a matt surface to work best though, so I gave the model a matt coat before continuing. In several areas across the hull and turret, I used the pencils to add contrast around details and raised areas. When blending the effects you only need a damp brush, as too much water will wash the paint away. No problem if that happens though, as you can simply re-apply the weathering.
On the vertical sides of the turret and hull, I used the pencils to add streaking effects. Applying this kind of weathering with a pencil is far easier and more controllable than using a brush and traditional enamel streaking washes.
The results after the pencil weathering left a finish that was relatively clean but still had some signs of use – exactly what I was looking for. At this point, I gave the model another light matt coat to seal in the pencil effects.
To finish off the weathering, a little road dirt and dust was added around the side skirts using the pencils and a mix of pigment and enamel wash splattered over the wheels and lower sides of the skirts.
The final thing to add to finish off the build was the 50 cal weapon station. I painted this in NATO green to contrast with the desert camo on the tank. The optics on the sensors were picked out in clear red followed by a drop of gloss varnish to leave a glassy effect.
So, is the 2 A7+ a worthy addition to Meng's line up of Leopards? Absolutely - the detail and fit are up to Meng's usual high standards, and the additional armour and other changes make this version unique enough to stand out against the previous A7 release. The only downside is that the kit represents the prototype vehicle. The 2 A7+ Leopards now entering service with Qatar and Hungary have different fittings and can't be built from the box without some scratch building. That being said, even in prototype form the kit makes a very interesting subject with a lot of shelf presence.

The finished kit in close detail
A walk around the full model...
...And with its brother we made last year - Meng's Leopard A7.

All in all, thoroughly recommended.

Andy Moore

Thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to Andy to review, build and paint. 
Thank you also, to AK Interactive for sending the paint & Weathering materials to Andy to use on this kit...