by: Nikos Brestas [ ]
The Israeli Defence Force has the tendency to let nothing go to waste. So they came up with a number of uses for their Centurion tank hulls, after they were phased out from use. One of the vehicles is the Puma, which is an acronym for Poretz Mokshim Handasati (minefield break through vehicle), in use by the Combat Engineer Corps or Heil HaHandasa HaKravit. The Puma's role is to provide protection and fire support for the Engineers as they clear paths through minefields or during other frontline tasks. The latest version of the Puma is the Puma Batash, with improved armored modules and enhanced crew protection.
In the next posts I will try to post a build review of conversion set no. LF1360 and the Doghouse supplementary set no. 1364 using the HobbyBoss Puma kit with Nochri mine roller adapter set no LF1332 and Meng’s Nochri Dalet. I have not found photographic evidence of a Puma Batash with Doghouse and Nochri Dalet mine roller but it is feasible.
Part 1: Working with the HobbyBoss kit.
Starting with the HobbyBoss kit, I did not follow the instructions and assembled the basic parts of the hull, since I do not like assembling parts with lots of added details.
Then I assembled the wheels. There are two sets of wheels provided, one with three hole rims and one with five hole rims. Photos show vehicles with both types of wheels mounted. I decided to use the five hole rims since they are a later variant. Hobbyboss in their Puma kits offers something similar to the AFV Club Centurion kits, e.g. plastic rims and rubber like outer wheels, with part of the rim molded on. The good thing is that the material used can be glued with plastic cement, so I did glue the rims with the rubber parts. I applied plenty of glue, since styrene tends to shrink a little when plenty of glue is applied, because the rubber parts where a little wider than the rims. There was a seam left which proved to be difficult to sand, so a new blade made short work of it.
The Puma suspension differs from the rest of the Centurion conversions (Nagmachon, Nakpadon etc), since it is of the Merkava 2 type. HobbyBoss must not like Merkavas, since their renditions of the suspensions is not the best. This applies to the Puma too, since the parts do not align very well and need some sanding and dry fitting. The suspension parts also do not mate well with the hull, leaving some minor gaps. Most of that will not be seen after the wheels and side skirts are glued to place, but care should be taken to properly align all the pieces. The wheel axles could be a little longer and the fit is far from perfect.
The idlers are really nice and HobbyBoss was careful to provide correct alignment between the inner and outer half. Take in mind that the outer wheel does not overlap with the inner wheel and you should be able to see the inner wheel detail between the outer wheel gaps. Some flash is present and careful cleaning is required. The sprockets come in two parts and are great. They fit tightly to the transmission covers.
I went ahead and assembled most parts of the lower hull and the suspension before gluing the wheels into place and adding the tracks. There is a plethora of return rollers on the vehicle, but they are very nicely detailed (and I can admit that they are better than the AFV Club counterparts.) Hobby Boss also offers a better engineered idler mount.
Rear hull details were added, but I found that there is a noticeable gap left after adding parts D4 to the hull that needs to be filled. To sum up, I completed steps 1-6 of the kit instructions, after assembling the basic hull parts.
I decided to add reinforced Centurion tracks and not use the kit provided typical Centurion tracks. These tracks are available in the Nagmachon with Doghouse kits. I used Hushpuppy tracks on those builds, so had the reinforced tracks available. 102 links per side. You can see mixed tracks in photos, but I do not like mixing parts.
I added the side fenders and the superstructure. Take care to remove the molded on alignment stubs for the kit side skirts on the sides of G16 and E2 and E1, since they will be replaced by the resin ones. Also if gluing the fenders in place, the aircleaners have to be glued first and then the other details on the fenders.
On step 8 of the instructions do not use parts D30, D42, D49 and the subassembly W-W. Part C30 can be used. Part F15 can be used, but a better photoetch part is supplied in the conversion set. Remove the hinge details on the upper side of part D33
On step 9 do not use part C50 (if adding the Doghouse) and G1. Remove the molded on details, except the fender bracket and its support, on Part G14 and use the details provided in the Legend set. Do not use part PE-7 on G14.
On Step 10 do not use parts D30, D43, C13, D38, D51, PE-2, C50, and G2. Parts PE-3 and C30 are optional, part F14 can be replaced with photoetch parts from the conversion set or used as it is. Remove the hinge details on the upper side of part D32
Step 11 instructs you to place the fenders on the lower hull. I suggest adding the biggest parts of the fenders (E1, E2) to the hull assembly and then work on the front fender modification (parts G14 and G15).
Step 12 is the RWS and nothing needs to be changed.
On step 13 you only need one Mag assembly, you can omit the tripod mount.
On step 14 do not use parts C47, PE-1 if you are adding the Doghouse.
Step 15 should be omitted if you are adding the doghouse.
On step 16 do not use assembly K-K if you are adding the Doghouse, make only the left hatch assembly (the right one as you are looking at the instructions) and do not use part D49. Remember to remove the sideskirt positioning blocks on the sides of part G16.
Step 17 should be omitted if you are adding the doghouse.
On step 18 do not add assembly M-M if you are adding the Doghouse.
On step 19 do not use parts C55 and C61 if you are adding a mine roller.
Steps 20,21 and 22 show the side skirt assemlies that replaced by the new heavier armored side skirts of the conversion set. I am planning to use part D73 (ladder) and place it on the engine deck instead of the right side.
This is as far as one can get without using any parts from the conversion sets.
Some general comments/suggestions for the build
You can replace the wheels with Merkava II wheels if you want.
HobbyBoss has made some minor accuracy mistakes that need careful research and comparing to photos of the real vehicle in order to correct, such as the rear mudguard length, exhaust caps, positioning of braces and handles etc.
HobbyBoss has molded the exhaust caps shut on parts D22 and D23, but the conversion set supplies an exhaust gas deflector for the left exhaust, so it seems logical that there is no exhaust cap there.
The Weapon Station is quite tricky to get straight.
I removed two mounting steps (part C32) from the front of the vehicle and moved them to back, as in the real vehicle.
The Doghouse set assembly and detailing
For the Doghouse addition remove the hatch lip on part G16 of the superstructure, plus the two bolt heads
I cleaned up the doghouse way easier than I expected and it fits like a glove. Well done Legend!!! I decided to add the details with the main part mounted on the vehicle so that is easier for me to align the doghouse base details.
After completing the assembly I reached the conclusion that anyone that is building this kit either has to drill out the resin in the windows or paint over the windows and then use a dark bluish-grey color and then a clear green over the grey layer to emulate the glass. I opted for the second choice, since I had not drilled the windows.
Each window consits of 3 parts, a photo etched inner frame and outer frame and a clear part. My biggest problem was that the assembled part has to be glued in place taking extra care not to stain the clear part with glue, which I failed doing as you can see in the photos. The second problem was that although I painted the interior silver, I do not like the look of the window and I think that even if I paint them with clear green they will not look the part.
The instructions for the position of the various details are pretty straight forward but one has to spend quite some time studying them. The resin casting is superb and the photoetch quality is great. Working with the parts is easy.
The hatch mechanisms were tricky and special care needs to be taken when aligning the left and right arms, so as not to leave a big gap between them. If you fail to install them with the correct distance photo etch part P13 will be difficult to glue into place.
I also suggest gluing resin parts 7 into place before attaching the mounting bases, because will find difficulty aligning them.
Legend does not provide the gun arc limiter situated below the Mag barrels. I used brass wire and the fix was quite easy.
I hated cutting the Mag barrels, since HobbyBoss supplies very nicely detailed machine guns, but I had no other choice. At least I can keep the rest of the part and add the missing barrel length.
Finally, I improvised a little and filled the locating holes for the engine deck basket, since it is not installed when the Doghouse is used, using plastic strip and a couple of Meng boltheads for each hole.
Using the Batash conversion set
I have to admit I am really impressed by the quality of the Legend sets. The resin is easy to clean (take in mind that since this is freshly cast resin it is easier to work with and resembles plastic, as time passes by resin becomes more brittle), the photo etch is exceptional and very well designed.
My assembly procedure was:
I assembled the front fenders, minus some small photo etch parts.
I added the side armor parts (take in mind that you have to remove a triangular bracket at the left side of the vehicle in order to position the armor braces).
In order to attach the hatch at the superstructure you need to widen the opening a little, some dry fitting will help you. I decided to drill holes and use resin part 13 as an axle for the hatch mountings, instead of splitting it up.
The rear mudguards and the water canister mounts were pretty straight forward to assemble.
By looking at photos and comparing with my model, the front fenders (parts G14, G15) need to be shortened by 8mm. This is not mentioned in the instructions.
I started work on the side skirts. Assembly is quite easy but time consuming, especially the rearmost piece with the slat armor. It took me about 4-5 hours to get one side done.
Legend suggests straightening the brass wire by rolling it between two hard surfaces and i have to admit it works fine. I had no difficulty in shaping the photoetch and assembling the slat armored piece.
I chose to position the side skirts starting from the rear piece since its position is the easiest to determine.
One can leave off most of the slat armor pieces at the bottom of the armored panels, but they do look nice.
I used the kit photo etch parts for the wire rope holders, but repositioned them according to reference photos. I also added the exhaust gas deflector, after drilling the exhaust and removing the exhaust cap details.
Big shout out to Legend Productions because they have provided spares for almost every individual part in the set, both for the photo etch and the resin details.
I went on and did the slat armor. It is very time consuming and requires attention in order to get all the parts straight and level.
After careful thinking I decided to start assembly from the left rear corner. This part of the armor is positioned atop the fender braket and can be used as reference for aligning the rest of the parts.
Details and mine roller
I used the Legend mine roller adapter for the Puma. The quality of the parts is great but the instructions could be more helpful.
The mine roller is the Meng Nochri Degem Dalet kit no SPS-021.
The antiskid may look a little too coarse but after all the paints, oils and varnishes it will show ok (it is a little overscale but sometimes you need to please the eye not show the scale). I used 0.4-0.6 mm aquarium gravel. First I brushed a small area with Mr Primer Surfacer 1200, then sprinkled the gravel and that is all. By brushing a small area at a time you avoid letting the primer set.
I also decided to use the wireropes from Meng's Merkava 3, since they are similar to those used on the mine roller.
The model has been primed and is ready for preshading with very dark grey or NATO black.
Conclusion on the Legend Batash conversion set and the Doghouse set
In general the two sets are really great with their strongest points being the photo etch, which are some of the best quality photo etch pieces I have ever used, and the weakest point are the instructions.
Here are some missing details and parts that Legend could have included in the Batash conversion set:
- A large antenna mount at the rear middle of the vehicle.
- Rear hull wire rope steps.
- Wire rope ends, like in their Puma detail set.
- Chain length for the front fenders and the side skirt mounts
- Decals although the HobbyBoss decal set should prove adequate.
- Fire extinguishers. as in their Puma detail set.
- Resin replacement parts for the fan ducts at the sides of the doghouse, like in their Puma detail set.
For the Doghouse set:
- The arc limiters for the Mags at the sides.
- Mag barrels, so as not to have to cut the kit beautiful Mags.
And an accuracy issue is that the top part of the water canister protective cover should be 1.5mm longer and reach all the way to the end of the vehicle deck.