The Maus was a late war tank design enthusiastically approved by Hitler as an ultimate weapon to defeat the Allies. Boasting a 128 mm main gun and a 75 mm coaxial and weighing in at a massive 200 metric tonnes, it would have indeed been a formidable opponent, if not for a one obvious weaknesses: how the heck was that thing supposed to get to the battlefield? Herr Hitler was not known for his rational thinking at the best of times, and by the time two prototypes had been built, he was completely off his rocker to put it in medical terms. Back to the present, or rather, 1992 when Dragon released a 1/35th scale Maus which has since been re-released as a Platz boxing under the Girls und Panzer line. Girls und Panzer is a Japanese anime series depicting schoolgirls battling each other in various World War II tanks. If this is the first time you've heard of Girls und Panzer I have provided a link at the end of this review which will explain more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girls_und_Panzer.
Staff Jim did an inbox review a link to which can be found at the end of this build review. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed from the original release except for the swapping of decals and the instruction sheet. Let me start off by saying this is one massive, albeit rather simplistic, kit. There are some good weld and torch cut details and that's about where the superlatives end. Let's see how this puppy, er Maus builds up.
Suspension and Wheels
As with most armour kits, a natural place to start is the lower hull and suspension and so it goes with this kit. A daunting 24 bogie units with 2 road wheels per will need to be assembled and cleaned up. While the molding of the upper hull parts and turret shell are quite good, the same cannot be said for much of anything else. The road wheels all have a step that needs to be sanded off (fortunately you can get away with filling/scraping only one of the two ejector pin marks on the rear face) and there is some misalignment of molds and/or prominent seams on the rest of the suspension bits. The fun doesn't end there. The mounting units don't have any positive attachment points and the fit is generally poor. There is play in every conceivable direction which is exacerbated by the fit of the hull itself, more on that later. Back to the current problem at hand; you should do one of two things: cobble together a jig to ensure that the units are all uniform in width and true or scratch build the units. Yes, I am suggesting that as a viable option. I decided on the optimistic “how bad could it be” approach. I really wish I hadn't. On the plus side, the return rollers, at least I think that's what they are (D5) can be left off, they won't be seen. Moving very slowly along, 48 road wheels and 24 suspension units don't clean up overnight, we do up the sprockets and idlers. These are to be mounted to shallow plugs molded into the lower hull. There are some interesting “steps” that should be taken care off, I used some thin styrene, putty would not have been a wise choice. Let's jump to the hull, shall we?
The hull top is a prime candidate for warping, and sure enough, it was. Fortunately there is a simple fix; a few shims made from styrene or lengths of sprue. I decided on gluing the front and letting that set before adding the shims and then gluing the back. Before you glue anything, add some blanking plates under the intakes grills, paint them before you glue in case that wasn't obvious. Dry fitting is the order of the day for the hull pieces. Check and recheck the alignment and fit of the sides in relation to the hull halves. The side pieces have some nice weld/cut detail on them, so if you need to do any trimming/sanding, do it to the hull rather than sides to preserve detail. The side pieces have mounting plugs that don't line up with the notches on the upper hull and will need to be trimmed to fit. The instructions would have you glue the suspension, sprocket and idler to the lower hull first, fit the tracks and then glue the side pieces as a last step. I decided to glue the side pieces and trap the sprockets and idlers in place now instead. The sprockets will rotate, the idlers won't so glue them. This was the correct decision, but introduced a slight problem that I didn't catch until much later. One of the sprockets wasn't true for one reason or another and affected the lay of the track. Check fit and alignment. Now the suspension mounts can be glued in place. I had to add some shim to a few of them to get proper contact with the sides. What I should have done at this stage was to check alignment through the long axis to make sure stuff would line up when I put the bogie units in place. You might want to check that the lower hull isn't bowed; I think this may have been another factor in things not fitting properly.
Next, I painted the sponsons and mounting units. The only visible parts of the sponsons will be the wells above the idler and sprocket and of course the side walls, no need to paint the top. The bogie units were also painted. Test fitting showed that the inner road wheels would be a very tight, if not impossible, fit if left off so they were glued on leaving the outer wheels off. The mounting axles for the wheels are slightly undersized in diameter. Make sure that the wheels are actually bonded to the axles. As best as possible, try to get the vertical alignment true. Some of my wheels were bowed in or out and affected the lay of the track a bit. Pop the bogie units in place, check alignment. I repeat: check alignment. Then check it again. You can use whatever you like, but the easiest thing to use is the track. Glue up two runs of 6 D1 sections (make sure they're true!) and once they've set, glue the bogie units in place and set aside to dry. With a little luck, you'll now have a solid and reasonably true suspension to work with.
The reason I went this route was I didn't think the suspension units would hold up being glued on just one side. If you build the tracks in place and paint around them, you might want to follow the sequence in the instructions, I built mine in segments to make painting easier. And with that, let's look at the tracks.
Link and Length Tracks
The tracks are supplied link and length, a sensible option. There are some mold seams to be removed from the length segments and some of the lightening holes were slightly flashed over, the single segments are better molded, but you will have ejector pin marks to deal with on all of them in any case. Also watch how you remove D2 from the sprue, it is fairly delicate. I cut the middle attachment point first to eliminate stress, then the ends. You do not have to do a complete run as the instructions suggest. The top run will not be seen and it will save you some grief. There isn't a lot of contact area between links to get a good bond, so you will have to be very careful when handling glued up sets. I suggest taping them along the bottom. You will need to check the number of individual links needed, I added an extra individual link to the length run called for between the idler and first road wheel to get a better bend. As mentioned, one of the sprockets was slightly out of whack, and the road wheels were all over the place so I had way more trouble than should be allowed by law on this portion of the build. Let's skip a few steps and jump to the turret.
The turret is a fairly straight forward affair. Follow the steps in the instructions and you can't go too wrong. Double check that you are installing the gun swivel correctly, there are some faint gluing guides inside the turret to help with alignment. The fit of the bottom plate is mediocre, do what you feel best here. My kit had lost a hatch in transit or was sacrificed to Jim's carpet monster, so I scratched one out of two discs of styrene and a piece of tapered rod. I also made a new 75 mm barrel. The kit supplied one has a weird mounting thing on one half and needs to be cut off. I figured it would be just as easy to go old school and use aluminum tube and epoxy putty. Watch for fit issue with the locating holes for the periscopes, a common issue throughout the kit is that mounting holes are much larger than they need to be leaving gaps to be filled in. The main gun barrel went together ok, although I noticed a slight step after painting, I could live with it. I plugged the barrel with a piece of tapered sprue to prevent a see through effect. Right, back to the hull.
There aren't a lot of details to be added to the hull to complete the build. The instructions are clear enough and the only minor problems you'll run into are locating holes and ejector pin marks here and there. Parts D7 have a fit issue of their own, the mounting slots on the hull are too wide, fix as you see fit. I would suggest cutting the headlights off from their support posts and replacing them with rod. One of mine got bent back a few times while handling. Miraculously, it didn't go flying off into the night. There was also some serious misalignment on the molds for the headlights, some filing and sanding took care of that. I left off the antennas, there are two rather large holes that you are supposed to fill with stretched sprue, I think. My Japanese is on par with my astrophysics. You may want to borrow some antenna bases or make something appropriate looking.
You'll notice I was painting as I went along and leaving parts off until everything was painted. I brush paint, so for me, this is a logical process. I base coated with AK Dark Yellow primer which looks pretty good on its own. The greens and browns were mixed from various Vallejo shades. The instructions have what I believe are Gunze call outs. I free handed the patterns with a brush and filled in according to the bottom of the box, close enough for me. Trying to distinguish what colour is what on the instructions will lead to much confusion. The box art drawing is slightly different in details to the kit, nothing to get overly worked up over, you just need to pay attention if you want to be strictly accurate. I painted the tracks with Vallejo's Panzer Grey primer. The formulation of Vallejo's primers helps keep the tracks together, a much needed bonus. Details were picked out with Vallejo as well. The decals went on nicely, they are thin, in good register and you get extras. A nice touch there. A clear coat and a wash of Smoke/Sepia seals the deal.
There you have it, one Maus courtesy of Armorama, via Platz. This is not a kit for beginners, or those who get frustrated easily. The suspension and tracks will drive you batty. Take your time, check, re-check and triple check alignment. Then repeat. The rest of the kit goes together easily enough although you will need to dry fit a lot, and apply some good old fashioned modelling skills here and there. Recommended with reservations.
Staff Jim Review