by: Ian Barraclough [ ]
A few thoughts first on the overall kit presentation and potential ease of build: The kit plastic is quite hard and brittle: definitely harder than Dragon or Tamiya. Throughout the build I found that in cutting parts off the quite large sprue gates, the plastic snapped rather than cut. This sometimes caused damage to the part around the gate attachment point. I originally thought this was my old cutters, so replaced them but still found that I was getting the same issue. The parts are generally free of flash and punch marks, although there are a few to be aware of – I’ll point this out as we go through.
I usually don’t follow instructions step by step and find myself jumping around the instruction book, especially if I’m modifying the base kit or adding AM parts. For this build I intend to build ‘Out Of the Box’ (OOB) so will endeavour to follow the instructions, they start on page 5 of the manual.
Page 5 (Steps 1-3): Step 1 details the building of the wheels – the 4 halves (Parts R9 & R8) of the two drive sprockets are connected with 4 sprue attachment points each and do take some careful clean up. Note that the central ‘wheel’ (part R7) on the idler has different connection points on each side, so needs to be carefully placed to ensure the correct fit. The road wheels are well presented with the correctly moulded ribs on the rubber. I did find that the central rib running around the outer rim was a bit ‘flashy’ but I cleaned this up with a soft sanding stick rubbed over the outer surface. This central rib is only present on brand new tyres; they wear off after a short period of use, which I chose to represent. I found the fit of the return rollers (part E1) in step 2 to be very loose. Note that in step 3 the digging spade has extended punch points on its inside. These will need to be trimmed off to ensure a flush fit against the lower hull.
Page 6 (Steps 4-5): Both steps 4 & 5 deal with adding the working suspension parts. Be aware that on step 4, parts E10 and E11, despite looking identical have different width of collars. E10 is thicker and will only fit in the larger holes in the lower hull. Part E11 is the beefed-up first, second and last road wheel station and benefits from some extra parts – none of these require glue as they snap together allowing the parts to remain workable. Part E7 did require some light sanding around its outer rim to allow it to slide into its mounting hole on the lower hull. The provided jig is used in step 5 to ensure the road wheel arms all sit level before adding glue to the end of the torsion bar. I used CA for this and spring loaded clips to keep the jig in place as I allowed the glue to dry overnight and did the opposite side the next morning.
Page 7 (Steps 6-8): Step 6 at the top of page 7 attaches the rear hull wall to the lower hull tub. The fixing point across the horizontal is a butt joint in the centre of the plate. I glued the sides first and allowed to dry, before using CA across the butt joint. There are a few attachments on the rear hull plate – parts F4 & F5 (I believe represent ice cleats) are very fiddly; and I ended up attaching F5 to the rear wall first before gluing F5 on top of it. I temporarily attached the wheels at step 7 but because of the poly caps inside them they can be taken off with ease. Step 8, the tracks caused me a few problems. The individual links are very fine and delicate, having representations of the tack pins which are then clipped together using a central clip (the track tooth) and a soft rubber end connector on each end. Using the tools provided and the method pointed out in the instructions this is actually a lot easier than it sounds, and quite quick allowing the tracks to remain workable and strong. However, because they are quite fine, 6 of mine had broken on the sprue (possibly when the box was crushed), a further two broke during construction. The instructions call for 81 links per side but due to the attrition I could only muster 80 per side… I have to say that I’m disappointed that for such a delicate part, only 6 spares are provided. Meng do provide ice cleats as optional parts on the same sprue and I think that these may have taken the place of some of the spare track links. I would have liked to have seen an extra sprue H in the box.
Page 8 (Steps 9-11): The problem of the missing track link (per side) becomes apparent when fitting the track in step 9 – the tracks did fit, however they are tight, and because of the working suspension pull the road wheels upwards. I did manage to source an extra track sprue from David Parker at AFV Modeller, who built his T-72B3 with AM tracks. I removed the tracks and running gear after step 9. Step 10 fits the top plate onto the front of the upper hull. I would advise against fitting part K3 until after step 11, as there is a ridge which fits underneath the glacis plate (part D4). In step 11 be cautious that what looks like surplus sprue connectors on the front towing hooks are actually the spring loaded retaining clips… I didn’t notice this and ended up cutting one of them off. I did manage to make a replacement from plastic stock. I added a bit of filler around the base of the hooks to represent the hefty welds in this area. I also added a minute bit of filler where the headlight wire is split by different parts. P.S. Step 11 tells you to drill 2x 1mm holes in the glacis plate – don’t!
Page 9 (Steps 12-14): Fitting the fuel panniers onto the top of the track guards at step 12, you’ll need to remove the mould seams from the outer edges, which will be visible when complete. Part A3 had extended punch marks on its inner surface which needed removing before fitting. In step 13 parts Q3 & Q4, the mudguard springs are very delicate and will need very careful handling when removing from the sprue and on cleaning up. I didn’t fit the mudguards at step 14 as per the instructions – leaving them off at this stage will allow easier fitting of the tracks later on. I also left of the engine vent covers (parts Q29 & Q30) as the fitting for these isn’t too obvious from the instructions or kit parts.
Page 10 (Steps 15-16): Before starting step 15 I attached the upper and lower hulls together with CA and a couple of clamps and allowed to dry. This step has you fitting the final left hand block of the fuel panniers and the larger forward most engine hatch. I was disappointed that the instructions for this part are quite small on the sheet, although it requires the correct placement of a few very small parts. As far as I could work out parts Q49 and Q45 both slope forwards and form the working parts of the engine deck hinge. I cleaned up part A21, the long torsion bar hinge for the engine deck, whilst still on the sprue. This ensures you don’t end up bending it as you’re removing seam lines. Etched part W2 has a very small notch which fits on the right hand side (looking forwards) as you fit it. Before clipping the large engine hatch to the hinges previously fitted in step 14 (Q44 & Q48) I allowed these parts to dry. It actually takes quite a bit of force to get them to snap together and, once fitted I found that the hinged engine deck fouls against the rear of the central upper hull area. I had to sand both areas to get the deck to sit correctly. The fit is so snug that I still haven’t applied any glue and it’s still sat firmly in there! Again in step 16, poor instruction placement means that it’s difficult to work out how part A12 (rear of air intake bulge) fits – a hint - the two small square holes fit on the left hand side as you’re looking forwards. The rear track guard brackets (parts A13 & A14) require careful handling here – I managed to snap off the fuel pannier bracket.
Page 11 (Steps 17-19|): Steps 17 & 18 finish off the rear deck with the addition of the long hinge for the radiator vents and the small position lights on the rear hull corners. I cleaned up part A20 whilst still on the sprue as again, this part is very delicate. In step 18 the fuel drum brackets area added – although there are 4 fitted, the instructions only point out two - there are also two shown fitted (a hint for later on, remove the mounting lugs fitted to the insides of the brackets, it will make fitting the drums much easier in step 24). Step 19 starts the building of the left and right main headlights. I think this is the first time I’ve seen the lights correctly fitted to the headlight guard – not onto the hull! Part Q13 was a both flashy and needed careful clean-up prior to fitting. I replaced the clear part with a ‘bright shimmering dot’. These are round craft stickers that are very similar to AM lenses. They come on a sheet that will last you for years and cost a fraction of the price of a set of the AM items – look them up on E-Bay!
Page 12 (Steps 20-21): When fitting the front of the headlight guards in step 20 I couldn’t get the bottom legs to sit attached to the glacis plate. I fitted as best as I could, then used a small amount of filler to build up the front right leg mounting area. I would have liked to have seen more robust mounting points for the headlight guards as the shallow dips in the glacis plate are not good enough to mount the legs into. In step 21 parts F17 (x2), C9 and C10 require very careful removal from the sprue – I managed to snap part C9, although used CA to put it back together whilst still on the sprue. Both parts C6 and C5 have large punch-out extensions that need removing before fitting. Before moving onto step 22 I added some light wiring with fine lead cable.
Page 13 (Steps 22-24): In step 22 parts F9 have the option of ‘Closed Position’… I’m unsure what this means – my feeling is that if you want to depict the engine deck open then you should leave these parts off, as they are mounted with bolts that also bolt the engine decks down onto the hull sides. Parts F1, F2 and F3 (3X side spaced armour plates) are usefully marked with their kit numbers on their inside surface, as the parts are identical apart from their inner mounting points. The mountings for these parts is again not made clear in the instructions and I ended up aligning them by eye, using the kit painting guide side profile to ensure they sat at the right height. Again poor instruction pictures hide which way around the unditching beam (part A17) should mount in step 23. The rope provided for the two lengths of tow cable was flattened by being in a bag with the decal sheet. I binned this and used some soft copper cable that I had in the spares box. Strangely, Meng provide you with an extra fuel drum in step 24 so careful reference to the part numbers is needed to ensure you use the correct parts for the fitted fuel drums. I glued the two halves together first before running a sharp blade down the seam and finishing off with a fine sanding stick – I then glued the ends on after filling the semi-circular hole, as pointed out by the instructions. I fitted the fuel drums but left the side skirts off for ease of painting.
Page 14 (Steps 25-27): Step 25 is the addition of the fuel drum pipes (part L1). These are provided as a single soft plastic piece. I glued the end that attaches to the fender fuel drums first, with CA and allowed to dry. When this end was dry I attached the first 2 connectors to the right hand fuel drum with CA and allowed to dry. Once set I attached the second connectors to the left hand fuel drum, allowed to set and then connected the clips to the fuel drum restraining straps. Once everything was dried I teased the hose into a more natural position with the help of more CA. The hull is then complete… step 26 puts the 8-part barrel together. I was initially worried about alignment and clean-up problems here but Meng have been clever – the halves of the barrel are split where the thermal sleeve fits over the barrel – so there should be a seam on the upper half. You still have to clean up the lower seam. The forward and aft barrel parts then snugly slide into the centrally located fume extractor, which is moulded as a single piece. Careful here, there are mould seams to clean up, but there is also a weld line that should be there. Because the fit is so tight there are no alignment issues. A word though on part X21 – it’s a round collar that fits behind the fume extractor on the barrel – I don’t know why but Meng decided to locate the punch out lug inside the inner circle, making it frustratingly difficult to remove and clean up. I did end up damaging my part but managed to salvage it to look reasonable so I could fit it. Step 27 makes a start on the turret. I didn’t use part Q25, the gunner’s sight as I was intending to show the tank locked down. I did notice that there was a small gap around the rear of the turret what the upper and lower turret halves are connected; this was filled with CA and plastic filler, although will be mostly hidden by the rear turret bin. The remainder of this step attaches various small parts to the turret top. A tip here on part T10, the periscope, is to pre paint all the outer surfaces except for the front screen in clear blue (or the colour of your choice). When you complete your final paint coat it will cover this (obviously you need to mask the front screen) but the blue will give a real depth and representation of periscope glass.
Page 15 (Steps 28-29): Both 28 and 29 are ‘double’ steps and are very busy: each adding various parts to the turret top and sides. In step 28 I painted part T4 with clear blue whilst still on the sprue, allowing it to dry before fitting. The commander’s hatch hinge has again got the sprue gate connection inside of detail, making it very difficult to clean up. The mantlet canvas cover takes a bit of force to get it to sit snug against the turret and, once fitted it becomes apparent that the gun will not be movable (as I thought in my in-box’ review). In step 29 I added some wiring to the small spotlight on the front left of the turret which also runs into the smoke discharger mount. There should also be a thick cable into the back of the smoke discharger mount from the plastic ‘cable’ that was fitted in step 27 (part Q10). The eight turret front stand-off armour panels are made up of two parts each (parts D9 & D10). Strangely Meng point out optional parts in the instructions of Parts K12 and K7, however there’s only one each of these parts not allowing you to make up the eight required panels. It becomes apparent later that you need 7x D9 D10; and 1x K12 K7 to make up the eight panels. Annoyingly the sprue gates are on the front surfaces of these panels so will need good clean-up as well as a bit of filler along the front joint – it should be smooth (one piece). I also added a thin cable from a hole to the rear left of the gunner’s sight to the inside of the commander’s sight: I assume this is a window wash tube for the sight front screen.
Page 16 (Steps 30-33): This is the first page with 4 steps on it… why does this matter I hear you ask? Because each step is very involved with the fitting of a multitude of very small parts, and Meng have decided that this is the page that they’ll make the instruction pictures smaller! Step 30 adds the commander’s sight and two of the turret bins. I was quite concerned when I saw these were made up of ‘sides’, however after clean-up the fit is great and I only had to use a very small amount of filler around a couple of the edges. I added a couple of cables to the weather sensor mast for the rear marker light and small vented box on it. This step also adds the final turret bin. I also noted here according to the detailed walk around I was using, that Meng have missed a small, bent over tube and brush guard that sits to the rear left of the loaders hatch area. I’m not sure what this is and it may have only been present on the version I was looking at, but I added it from brass tube and thin wire anyway. Step 32 is the first step on the commander’s cupola, building up the IR light, the commander’s shrapnel screen and the hatch. I omitted the interior hatch parts but did add the periscopes – note that despite what the instructions look like, they should tilt up the front so that the front screen can be seen. Step 33 makes a start on the commander’s AA gun. This is a very involved process and I would have liked to have seen larger images and more detail of exact locations of fittings. I ended up Googling images of the fitted MG to see where parts went.
Page 17 (Steps 34-36): Step 34 completes the commander’s cupola: the rotating base is put together first – I left of part U16 (commander’s sight) as the will be closed on my model. Periscopes (part T12) were again pre-painted in clear blue. The shrapnel screen is also attached but again the fitting are quite flimsy – Why couldn’t the attachment points go all the way through the turret top? I added the firing cable to part U2 from fine lead wire and a cable for the commander’s searchlight, also from lead cable. I noticed at this point that the MG elevation and traverse brake handles, and the commander’s cupola traverse were all missing. I added these, and a firing handle from brass tubes, as they are quite prominent. The main gun is fitted in step 35 – I noted that even without glue the fit was strong enough to hold the gun level in both elevation and azimuth. The final step, step 36 brings the hull and turret together. I did fit the drivers splash screen but was disappointed to fund that the main gun fouls it! This probably also happens in real life so my belief is it must be spring loaded...? I also noted at this point that the holes drilled in the glacis plate in step 11 remained unused… I checked my reference pictures and filled them again… With everything together, I temporarily fitted the tracks and tacked on the side skirts and started to make tank noises as I drove it across my modelling desk!
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