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Built Review
135
Leopard 1A3/A4
Leopard 1A3/A4 German Main Battle Tank
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by: Jason Bobrowich [ LEOCMDR ]

INTRODUCTION

Whether you want to admit it or not the German Leopard 1 series is arguably one of the most important modern main battle tanks produced. It has served around the globe for decades, has proven itself in combat, is remembered very favorably by its crews, and while slowly fading away it still in service.

The tank was designed out of pure necessity to counter the massive Soviet and Warsaw Pact armour that loomed over the German border. Outnumbered and outgunned significantly, many NATO nations were struggling to maintain tank fleets that were not underpowered, under gunned, under armoured, and lacked mobility on the battlefield.

Without going to a wide assortment of technical, political, and financial aspects that were used to create the Leopard 1 the tank was based on years of German tank development. Mobility and firepower were the key goals in mind with the development of the Leopard 1. This tank was designed to engage and destroy Soviet bloc armour as fast as they could be targeted whether it occur during offensive or defensive operations.

Fans of the Leopard have been able to rely upon a variety of model producers in order to build mainstream and unique versions of the tank. The workmanship and technology used to create these model kits was 1970s era and over the years modellers have wanted a new Leopard kit using current injection mould processes. Impressively, Meng Model stepped up to the plate in late 2013 and has released a 1/35 Leopard 1A3/A4 kit.

KIT PREVIEW

I will default to Jim Starkweatherís excellent and very well detailed ďUnboxingĒ of the Meng Model Leopard 1A3/A4 kit. Jimís inbox examination of the kit parts will provide you a very good look at the details of the kit and some additional historical background on the Leopard 1. A link to Jim Starkweatherís review can be found at the end of this one.
http://www.armorama.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=features&file=view&artid=5203

The kit itself can actually be described as a 4-in-1 kit. It will build into a Bundeswehr Leopard 1A3, a Bundeswehr Leopard 1A3A1, a Bundeswehr Leopard 1A4, and a Greek Leopard GR1. While at first or even second glance the changes and modifications to these four versions may seem minor it is important for you, as the model builder, to pay attention to the instructions. There are multiple optional parts for the four versions and a concentrated reading of the instructions should be done ahead of time so that you know exactly which parts to use and where to attach them for the version you select to build. I will now jump to the end of the review before I get started in order to address the overall impression of the kit.

Is the kit perfect? No. I have never seen a perfect kit.
Are there accuracy issues with the kit? Yes and no. This is a subjective answer and it really depends on what your expectations are for accuracy. There are some parts lacking in detail that you will see or likely not see after assembly, painting, and weathering.

Are there details missing from the kit for each version? Yes, some details are missing that will impact a true representation of each version.

Are the quality of the parts and the level of detail good? Yes, very good.

Do the parts fit together well? Yes, overall the fit is good to outstanding.

I expect for the vast majority of modellers who purchase and build this kit they will be very happy with the kit as it looks like a Leopard.

As this is a build review I will attempt to stay true to course in order to show prospective modellers how this kit actually builds. I will touch on in general terms of missing details or accuracy issues but I very much wanted to concentrate on how this kit builds. This will provide you with a better sense of what to expect when building the kit out of box.

LETíS BUILD A LEOPARD- HULL COMPONENTS
I found the instructions to be well laid out and with sufficient information to logically build the kit in sub-assemblies. The first few pages of the instructions provide you with a generic history of the Leopard tank, a paint reference guide. Pay attention to the bottom portion of Page 6. This is where the four versions are labelled. The associated letter designation for each version will be critical to follow as you build the kit in order to use the proper optional parts.

Steps 1 Ė 4: The kit build starts with the assembly of the suspension components. Here you are presented with a unique moveable torsion bar suspension that can be used to articulate the suspension once assembled. There are pros and cons to this feature. On one hand it appears sort of toy like. On the other hand it provides the modeller with great potential to pose the model to show how the torsion bars, road wheels, and track work together to counter obstacles and terrain. The suspension components all fit like a glove when assembled the torsion bars simply slide and lock into place. I suspect that Meng Model chose to reduce the amount of detail on suspension components such as the road wheel arms and the shock absorbers as these have very limited visibility once the suspension is fully assembled and the side skirts are attached. The return roller mounts can be a bit tricky to attach due to the possibility of attaching them upside down by mistake. Pay attention to the bottom curved angle on the mounts already moulded into the lower hull and mirror that when you attach the separate mounts. The road wheels are a charm to assemble and donít even require glue due to the snug fit. There are two types of drive sprockets provided. Look closely at the hub bolt pattern and you will see the differences. The sprockets with the lesser amount of bolts are the original version but they are lacking a track guide on the sprocket drum. The later version with the larger amount of bolts is correct as is.

Steps 5 Ė 12: The build continues with the assembly of the mating of the lower and upper hull and the rest of the hull details. Step 5 kicks right into the A, B, C, and D versions and you must decide whether to build a Bundeswehr or Greek Leopard as a result of the two types of distinct engine air intake grills on the back deck. Several photo etched grill and screen parts detail the upper hull quite nicely. Pay attention to the proper bending required for PE parts 2 and 3 in order to ensure they properly fit. The instructions are a bit vague as to how to bend the parts but if you look at the parts the bend lines are apparent. The rear hull assembles without a glitch. It would have had better detail if the tool box handle had been provided as separate instead of moulded on.

Prior to attaching the upper hull to the lower hull you should decide whether you will be using the rubber band style tracks or the individual link tracks. The rubber band tracks are very nicely detailed. They are very pliable and easy to fit to the suspension. The attachment point is easily hid after the side skirts are attached. The issue created by using the rubber band tracks is the moveable suspension creates a false tension as a result of the tracks. This in turn causes the first and last road wheels to rise slightly and not sit properly on the ground. If you look at the suspension from a 90 degree angle the slight rise of the first and last road wheels is visible. The solution would be to glue the front and rear torsion bars in place before you attach the tracks. This may limit your ability to then articulate the suspension.

The alternate track option provided by Meng Model is a complete set of individual link tracks. The track links are moulded with the centre guide and the end connectors in place. To assemble the tracks you simple cut them from the sprues, clean them up and glue them together. There are two slight sink marks on the inner surface of each track link. The road wheels cover some of the sink marks but overall they would be fairly easy to clean up with some putty and or sanding. Take care in assembling the link tracks if you choose this route. I set up an impromptu jig and worked in small sections of about 12 links in order to ensure the track sections sat flat and were straight. You will have to play around with the number of track links you are comfortable with in order to fit them around the drive sprocket and the idler wheel. I found that as the track links included the end connectors already attached and this created slight issues with having the assembled tracks fitting properly in the sprocket teeth. The result is just a slightly off angle on some of the links around the drive sprocket. The other issue I encountered was that when fitting the tracks links around the sprocket slight gaps were created between the individual track links. I attribute this again to the fact that the end connectors are already attached to the track links and therefore donít actually link the track links together as they would in real life. The advantage of the individual track links is that you can get an accurate flat lay of the road wheels with no rising of the front and rear road wheels. The instructions state that 84 links per side are to be used. I tried this and found that far too much slack was created on the tracks. I removed a two links from the tracks and then found them to be just slightly too tight. On the third attempt with 83 links I found this to be satisfactory but just a tad loose around the idler wheel. The easy solution would be to add a touch of glue so the track fits perfectly up against the idler wheel. This will create a slightly false rise to the tracks on the return rollers but it will not be seen after the side skirts are added. In the end, take your time to study and assemble the tracks. For the purpose of the build I used the individual link tracks on the right side and the rubber band tracks on the left side to show the differences.

The front and side details on the upper hull pose no issues. The pioneer tools are nicely moulded and detailed although the clamps are a bit bulky. I am not a big fan of clear plastics optics and this is the form the driverís periscopes are provided. Three of the four sides of the periscopes will have to be painted anyway so the clear plastic appears a bit gimmicky to me. Pay attention to Step 7 as build options C and D require the removal of the driverís periscope washer mounts on the glacis plate. When you look at the colour painting guide you will see that Option C and D do not show the periscope washer mounts. They are shown for option A and B but you have to look closely. I found that a slight amount of sanding on the sides of the periscopes was required to seat them properly. The headlights also include clear lenses but these appear suitable and look natural when mounted.

Step 8 also includes the attachment of the side skirts. I really like the skirt detail and simulated dimple texturing. Another bonus is the already cut out foot holds and slightly angled skirts locking clamps. The downside to the side skirts is that when they attach to the hull the front fenders have a very visible seam line. This could have easily been avoided by providing the fenders as a single piece. During my build I encountered as issue with the side skirts attaching flush with the front fender on the side I had used the individual tracks links. I have left this gap visible during this out of box build. I am not sure if the tracks are rubbing against the inside of the side skirts creating a false gap or if I simply did not attach them correctly. The side with the rubber band tracks fit very well up against the front fender.

In Steps 9, 10, and 11 the engine exhaust grills and the front lifting eyes are added in addition to other upper hull details. Both of these sets of parts are lacking in detail. The exhaust grills are moulded solid and this detracts from the open visual effect of the real thing. The lifting eyes are void of any weld marks that are noticeable on the real tanks. The driverís hatch is provided on its own and can be positioned open or closed. Nice additions are the photo etched driverís periscope guards. Step 11 also includes the finishing of the rear hull with the mud flaps and the towing hooks. Overall I think Meng Model could have done a much better job with these parts. The tow shackles are moulded on the tow pintles. This severely limits the ability to pose them realistically when attaching the tow cables. The option is provided to attach the mud flaps down or folded up. I selected one of each to show the differences. The mud flaps are overly thick and the folded up flaps are simply a solid piece and do not accurately reflect the gap created when folding a thick piece of rubber.

Step 12 covers of the creation and attachment of the tow cables. The tow cable ends are provided in plastic and the tow cable is provided in string. The instructions provide no mention of the length of the string so I used a copper cable from a set of Eureka XXL Leopard Ĺ tow cables to measure an appropriate length. I cut each piece of string to a length of 140 mm. The string provided is a step back in modern kit technology and looks toy like compared to the rest of the kit details. The string fits into the tow cable ends and only needs a touch of glue to secure it. The nice part is the attachment of the cables as Meng Model provided the front hull mounts. The tow cable ends neatly fit onto the attachment points and can then be strung back along the hull into the other mounts and over the back deck to the rear hull tow hooks. Even with the string the tow cables actually fit and sit quite well. Thus completes the assembly of the hull.

TURRET COMPONENTS
Steps 13 and 14 cover the construction of some of the turret subassemblies. These include the searchlight, the PERI sight, the PZB 200, and the barrel. Read the instructions as you will be faced with a number of version options as to whether you are building the Leopard 1A3, 1A4, or the Greek GR1. The searchlight is nicely detailed and can be built with the searchlight doors open or closed. If you build it with the doors open consider why you are doing this. The doors would only be open if the searchlight was being used. This would occur while static and firing. It would also have to coincide with other turret options being shown in the operating state as well. There is no cable provided to run from the rear of the searchlight to the turret socket. This would have been as easy fix for Meng Model. The PZB is provided in two halves plus the daylight filter and end cap for the front. Providing the parts in two halves creates a nasty seam down the middle. The protective cage is a very nicely mould piece but the sprue attachment points are very bulky and I found they were hard to remove without creating pressure on the fragile cage. The cage can be finished with the font cover open or closed. Again, select your options in advance so caps and covers can be attached open or closed depending on how you want to realistically portray the tank. Not surprisingly, no cable is provided for the PZB 200 either.

The barrel is provided in two pieces. The fit is good but again you are faced with a centerline seam. On the Leopard barrel filling this seam is a bit tricky due to complicated shapes along the barrel jacket. The plus side of the barrel is the add-on muzzle end that actually includes some nice rifling. The one part that Meng Model did not include in the kit for the Greek GR1 version is the muzzle mounted collimator mirror.

The mantlet moulding is crisp and again presents you with the multiple version options in order to fit the PXB 200 and/or searchlight depending on your build version. If you build the Greek version you wonít be using the searchlight so a bit of sanding will be required to remove the attachment guides. If you plan to build a Bundeswehr version without the searchlight mounted you will have to source the curved mantlet mounts. Ahead plan wisely you will young modeller!

The turret assembly starts on the inside of the top half. Clear periscopes are provided for the commanderís cupola and they fit snuggly without any glue at all. Savvy modellers may want to try and install the periscopes after painting to avoid masking. Pay attention to Step 15 as two small holes must be drilled from the inside out for the fitting of the gunnerís periscope. A multi-piece gun mount is provided for attaching the mantlet to the turret in Step 16. This allows the gun to elevate and depress by a bit of a wasted feature once the mantlet canvas cover is attached. Step 17 provides you the opportunity to truly determine the version you want to build with the Leopard 1A3 TRP sight, the Leopard 1A4 PERI R12 sight, and cable guards, and the blanking plate for the close in defence weapon. The blanking plate should not be used for the Leopard 1A4 or the Greek version but the instructions incorrectly indicate to attach the piece on the Greek version. I really liked that Meng Model had the foresight to provide the armoured shutters for the gunner system optics separate so they could be placed in the open position. If the shutters are placed open Meng Model has provided small parts to simulate the optics.

More options for the Bundeswehr and Greek versions are provided in Steps 18 and 19 with different styles of antenna mounts and the loaderís hatch ring placement. Referring back to the incorrect mounting of the blanking plate for Greek version I would suggest that the loaderís hatch placement be mirrored to that of the Leopard 1A4 version. Throughout Steps 17 and 19 a variety of grab handles and nicely produced photo etched periscope covers are added to the turret. No issues came up with any of these parts. Once again, pay attention to the version you are building. To Meng Modelís credit they provided two types of grab handles and the Greek version have visible bolt details not present on the Bundeswehr versions.

Steps 18 and 20 also cover the assembly and attachment of the grenade dischargers. They can be a bit tricky to figure out how they mount to the turret but some early test fitting will ensure you donít attach the mounts reversed.

Step 21 and 22 consists of the turret hatch assemblies. Both hatches are very nicely produced. The commanderís hatch has the locking wheel moulded to the hatch. When the hatch is closed you wonít see this and when the hatch is open the moulded on part is only minutely visible. You can build and position the loaderís hatch as open or closed and hinge parts are provided for both versions. The hatches fit nicely into both hatch rings without any fuss. Machine gun skate mounts are provided for both hatch rings. These parts look nicely detailed but unfortunately the small vertical machine gun lock is not included for complete accuracy. The grenade discharger brush guards essentially pop into place on the turret sides and are a perfect fit.

As you move to Step 22 the canvas mantlet cover is added thus eliminating the ability to move the main gun. When attached the main gun sits at a slightly elevated angle. The MG3 machine gun and mount fits together easily and options for an empty or full ammunition box are provided. However, if you choose the full box there is no additional belt to run to the MG3 itself. A small yet unique feature is that Meng Model provided the two small rubber mantlet plugs (left one for the coaxial mounted MG3 and the right one for the secondary sight). These parts are simply glued into the mantlet ports. If you choose to leave them out a small piece of chain will be required (not included) in order to have the two plugs hang. Unfortunately, Meng Model did not provide an additional two plugs used in the mantlet during deep fording and underwater driving that attach to the upper hull with lengths of chain. Step 23 indicated the turret should be mated to the lower hull. I guess this is in case you could not figure it out on your own.

FINAL DETAILS
A colour printed painting and decal guide is provided separately from the instructions. This includes a three colour Leopard 1A3, an overall green Leopard 1A3A1, an overall green Leopard 1A4, and a four colour Greek Leopard GR1. Note that the side profiles of the Greek camouflage pattern have been reversed. The right profile should be the left and vice versa. The decals are very nice and produced for Meng Model by Cartograf in Italy. You will note, depending on whether you choose option 1, Leopard 1A3 or option B, Leopard 1A3, or option C, Leopard 1A4 that there are two different sizes of the Bundeswehr Iron Cross for the turret sides. The larger version was eventually replaced with the smaller version as tanks were overhauled. I have noticed that the larger version is unique to overall green vehicles and not the three colour NATO camouflaged vehicles.

I was able to find an actual image of the tank shown on the box art and indicated as option A, Leopard 1A3. I can confirm that this tank was at some point during its lifespan upgraded with the addition of the PZB200. So, if you so choose, as I did, you can add the PZB 200 and protective cage to this option.

CONCLUSION

Meng Model has produced a very buildable Leopard 1A3 kit. There were no significant surprises building it out of box from a fit perspective except for the side skirts. The multiple version options do need to be tracked as you progress through the build in order to stay on course with using the correct parts.

If you want to be nitpicky there are areas where Meng Model could have enhanced the details. This would include the weld seams on the rear hull, the turret sides, the hull sides, and the lifting eyes. There are subtle weld seams on the turret sides but they should be more prominent. The question is can you and your family live with this? The individual track links are great to maximize the potential for the moveable suspension but how they assemble could have been better thought out. The assembly of parts such as the barrel, the PERI sight, the PZB 200 and the side skirts creates seams that could have been avoided with better part design. The road wheels have too sharp of an angle on the dish, the hubs are oversized, and no detail is visible at all on the back side. You canít see the backside of the road wheels once the kit is assembled unless you specifically look and the dish angle of the road wheels is only moderately noticeable if you know what you are looking for. The solid folded mud flaps, the string tow cables, solid exhaust grills, and the mould on tow pintles are a production throw back. I am going to suggest with a high degree of confidence that you will see aftermarket parts that will address the majority if not all of the major part and details issues.

Looking on the bright side of the Leopard kit you will have a kit that can be built in very short order. The moveable suspension will for sure enhance displays if choose to use it. The detail of the moulding of the parts is very nice and to be expected in this day and age. The four Leopard version options provided are great for modellers looking for something a bit different during their build. The inclusion of photo etched parts gives the model a bit of ďpopĒ out of box. The side skirt texture detail really adds a nice effect to the hull. The inclusion of options to display open hatches, open armoured sight shutters, and open night fighting equipment covers adds to the realism of posing the model upon completion. Overall, I was very pleased with how the kit went together. There are many parts that fit with literally only a smidgeon of glue.

I applaud Meng Model for taking on a new mould of the Leopard 1A3/A4. Modellers can have fun with this kit and add this very important Cold War tank to their collection with a sense of satisfaction. I suspect with Meng Modelís pattern of producing multiple variants of the same vehicle such as their AMX-30 / AUF1 releases as well as their Merkava 3 variants that we will see additional Leopard 1 variants. What could it be, a Leopard 1A1A1 / Leopard 1A5 multiple version kit?

Jimís Review Live links
SUMMARY
Highs: The only production kit of the Leopard 1A3. It builds very easily and can be assembled as one of multiple versions and posed with workable suspension.
Lows: There are details that are lacking on the hull and turret that take away from the well produced parts in the kit.
Verdict: An easy to build kit that that will keep the Leopard 1 alive and kicking on many modellerís display shelves.
Percentage Rating
80%
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: TF-007
  Suggested Retail: $42.00 USD
  PUBLISHED: Mar 03, 2014
  NATIONALITY: Germany
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.37%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 89.90%

Our Thanks to Meng Model!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.
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About Jason Bobrowich (LeoCmdr)
FROM: ALBERTA, CANADA

Copyright ©2018 text by Jason Bobrowich [ LEOCMDR ]. All rights reserved.



Comments

Well done Jason. A very fine review with fair comments for and against.
MAR 02, 2014 - 09:04 PM
We broke our quick reply box. Working on it. Until fixed go to topic to reply.
Thanks.
   

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