Sunday, August 9

Build Review Pt I: 35th scale MB Military Vehicle (Jeep) Wasp Flamethrower from Meng Models

For the first in their new range of Jeeps Meng has gone with something obscure - but very interesting the Wasp Flamethrower. These were a fearsome but potentially very fragile vehicle and in an interesting, obscure subject for modellers. See how Andy Moore went about making this kit up in the first of a two-part article - today its inbox & construction time!

MB Military Vehicle (Jeep) Wasp Flamethrower
Manufacturer – Meng Models
Kit Number - VS-012
1/35th scale
Price - £28, ¥3,739, US$38, €32 from Hobby Link Japan
The Willys Jeep must be one of the most iconic vehicles of WWII, so it's perhaps a little surprising that it hasn't been more widely offered by model manufacturers over the years. That looks to be changing now though, with Takom and Meng both releasing a range of new tooled 1/35 Jeep models on to the market. Today we'll be looking at Meng's first release in the form of the Wasp flamethrower variant. Perhaps an unusual choice for an initial release given that the real one was a one-off test vehicle that never saw action, but probably a wise move as it's a dramatic looking vehicle as emphasised by the great artwork adorning the box.
I won't bore you with a protracted history of the Jeep itself, but the origins of the Wasp flamethrower conversion are quite interesting. The vehicle was one of the Jeeps operated by No.1 Demolition Squadron, otherwise known as Popski's Private Army, the British Army special forces unit commanded by Vladimir “Popski” Peniakoff. PPA was formed in Egypt in 1942 as a raiding unit alongside the two other irregular units of the British Army, the L.R.D.G. and the S.A.S.
They operated armed jeeps similar to those used by the S.A.S. and it was one of these that, later in the war, was experimentally modified to carry a flamethrower. The flamethrower itself had come from a Canadian Universal Carrier, which was known as a Wasp when fitted with the device, and that name was carried over to the Jeep conversion. Only one Jeep was modified and used for testing, the conclusion of which was that it was too dangerous for operational use; something that should probably have been obvious from the start. Little information about the prototype exists, but most probably the flamethrower equipment was removed, and the jeep returned to normal operation.
A modern replica of the Wasp Jeep has been created, and can be seen at various military shows in the UK. It's this replica that most probably formed the basis for Meng's new release.

The Kit
This is a fairly simple kit with just two main sprues in the box, plus an additional clear sprue for the windscreen and headlights. No photo-etch but you do get a length of vinyl tube for the flamethrower fuel feed lines. 
The box contents are rounded out with the instruction manual and a small decal sheet. The first sprue holds the bulk of the main components and will be common to the Meng's other Jeep releases, while the second sprue holds parts specific to the Wasp version.
The clear sprue will also be common to future versions, although in this case, only the headlights are required as the Wasp Jeep had the windscreen removed.
The main tub is supplied as a separate single-part moulding. This results in a few mould lines that will need cleaning up, but the level of detail is very nice. 
There are a few ejector pin marks on the underside (along with a huge Meng logo), but these won't really be seen on the finished build, so nothing to worry about.
The vinyl tube is... well... vinyl tube; nothing exciting, but a nice addition all the same. The decal sheet is fairly basic, although the inclusion of placards for the engine compartment is a nice touch. The large astrolabe decal represents the emblem of No.1 Demolition Squadron. The single marking option has this positioned on the bonnet, but there's no evidence the real Wasp Jeep had the emblem painted there (or anywhere else)
Only one marking option supplied as this was a one-off vehicle. Overall olive drab with paint codes for Meng's own acrylic paint line and the Mr Hobby Acrysion range.
An interesting note regarding the instructions; Meng seems to have changed their graphic style with this release, going for bold outlined, semi-coloured steps rather than their usual black and white line drawings. The illustrations look a little simplified at first, but they actually work very well being easy to follow with the colouring helping to differentiate sections of the build.

The Build
The build starts off with the engine and here Meng have provided a nicely detailed depiction of the Willys L134 'Go Devil' motor. There's scope to add more detailing if you choose, in the form of wiring etc. or you can leave the engine out altogether as it's not seen with the bonnet down. From the box, the bonnet isn't designed to be posed open, but it would certainly be possible to do so with a little work.
The chassis is up next, and the first step is to remove the two spare wheel supports from the rear end which aren't required for this version. To be honest, I feel they would have been better if supplied as separate parts anyway, as they're a little chunky when moulded on to the chassis, and even when removed, they leave some scarring on the end of the chassis that requires cleaning up.
I moved onto the front end next and built up the front axle. This features independent poseable wheel hubs allowing you to set the front wheels at any angle you choose. The steering isn't actually workable though, since the two hubs aren't connected. You'll need to pick the angle you want and glue the hubs in that position.
The engine, axles and suspension can now be added to complete the chassis. Here I've temporarily attached the front wheels to help set the steering angle. Once I'd got the wheels in the position I wanted, I ran some liquid cement around the hubs to fix them in place, being careful not to accidentally glue the wheels in place at the same time.
The whole chassis is a well-detailed assembly but there are always a few extra elements you can add. One item that was missing was the linkage arm for the clutch pedal which should run down the outside edge of the chassis. This, along with a few missing bolt heads, was added from scrap styrene.
I moved onto the upper body next and started by adding the steering column which features two rather chunky foot pedals moulded to its base. The accelerator pedal is moulded as a solid piece to the floor of the footwell. It would have been nice if this had been supplied as a separate piece, in fact, all the pedals would benefit from replacing with photo-etch parts. A good aftermarket etch set would really bring the most out of this model.
There are also a couple of details missing from the footwell, namely the driver's footrest which should sit to the right of the accelerator, and the foot-operated starter button which is further to the right. These were both added again from scrap styrene.
The only other details I added to the interior were the strengthening ribs that sit on the inside of the side panels. None of these additional details are all that obvious on the finished build and shouldn't be considered essential, but they do add an extra level of interest when you view the model up close.
With most of the chassis and bodywork done, I turned my attention to the bits that make this a Wasp rather than a regular Jeep - i.e. the flamethrower gear. This mainly consists of the large fuel tank that sits in the back of the Jeep, a smaller bonnet-mounted tank, and a tall gas cylinder that sits between the front seats. These all required a little clean-up of seam lines but otherwise, go together very well. The bolts on the top of the main tank support frame were rather soft, so I sliced these off and replaced them with some sharper ones from a Meng bolt set.

Another area I wanted to address were the valve taps. These should be an open, cog-style tap whereas the kit parts were moulded as solid discs. Photo etch would have been perfect for these, but of course, the kit doesn't include any, nor are there any aftermarket etch sets for the kit (I'm sure some will be available before long).
After scratching my head for a while, wondering what to use as replacements, I decided to search through my various boxes of spares to see if I'd got anything in stock that would work. As luck would have it I stumbled across an old PE sheet of 1/72 aircraft tie-down points. This had come from an old Verlinden diorama base that I'd had since the early '90s and never used, which goes to show you should never throw anything away.
The moulded valve taps were cut from the kit parts, and the replacement PE 'taps' added and finished off with a domed rivet, again from a Meng bolt set. While I was at it, I also replaced the connector pipe between the main tank and smaller rear tank with brass wire and a couple of styrene discs. The large boom hose that runs across the top of the main tank had its end replaced with a length of insulated wire. The original kit part is a solid moulding and I thought the flexible wire would give me more scope for adjustment when connecting everything up at the end, since I wanted to paint and weather the main tank separately from the rest of the model.
We'll wrap up part 1 of the build there. Next time we'll be adding a little more detail, sorting out the conundrum of the hoses, and finally getting everything painted and weathered. 

Build Review Pt II: 35th scale MB Military Vehicle (Jeep) Wasp Flamethrower from Meng

Andy Moore

You can find out more about the rest of Meng's products on their website