by: Damon [ ]
MENG models has been on fire lately with many release, the bulk of which seem to be (hurray!) modern subjects, and the bulk of those IDF related. Working with Michael Mass of the IDF museum at Latrun, MENG models have been able to bring us many IDF related subjects that have previously never been seen before in styrene. All of these have been welcomed by the modeling community and include not just one new Merkava Mk3 but two! The D9 “Doobi” Armored Bulldozer, a set of IDF crew figures and their latest, the Achzarit armored personnel carrier.
The Achzarit armored personnel carrier is an IDF invention that is based upon the T54/T55 chassis but heavily modified to suit the needs of the IDF. Achzarit, meaning “cruel”, was the name given to the project by the IDF Ordnance Corps, with the first prototype being delivered in 1985 and production started in 1987. The Achzarit carries a crew of 10, with 1 driver and 9 passengers. Original design featured 3 FN Mag 7.62mm weapons mounted on swivel arms (as on most IDF vehicles) with or without the shoulder stock. One of these was on the commander’s station and controlled remotely. A 60mm mortar and smoke grenade launchers are also included for infantry support and self-defence. Newer upgraded versions features a new RWS with a .50cal mounted. While still in active service the Achzarit is being replaced in some units with the Namer, a Merkava based HAPC.
The MENG models achzarit arrives in a medium sized box about equal size to their Merkava 3D box, if you are familiar with that. While not crammed to the gills with sprue trees and assorted items as their other offerings, things are neatly packed and well laid out with little “empty space”. There are 7 sprues along with two sets of vinyl tracks (rubber band type), a small Photo Etch sheet (that is AWESOME!!), a transparent sprue, with all of the periscopes and covers and the upper and lower hulls. There is also a beautifully laid out set of instructions, a very nice sheet of decals for 3 different vehicles and a colour reference photo for both painting and decals. The sprues are 2 sets of the “B” and “A” sprues and 1 each of C, D and E sprues.
All parts are laid out well and easily identifiable on the trees, with no apparent flash on the parts themselves, save for one or two instances that I came across later during the build (more on that later). Detail is very nice, as we have some to expect from MENG models. There are additional parts that will be left over on a few of the sprues, namely a few MG’s and some road wheels who could be upset with that, right? There are a few interior details that can be painted up for those that wish to leave the hatches open. The hatches interiors do not have the ubiquitous injector or push marks on the interior or exterior surfaces, so open or closed they look good. Overall first impressions are very high. Let’s see how this baby builds up!
Suspension and Running Gear
All of the road wheels, idler wheels and drive sprockets are mounted on trees A & B, with tree A having only the idler wheels and arms. The sprue mounts from the part to the tree are smaller on the idler and drive sprockets, as they should be, and larger on the wheels. The wheels can easily be removed with a set of side cutters and the drive and idlers should be detached with a small parts remover. The Drive sprockets will need a bit of additional clean-up on the back side of the teeth that was attached to the sprue tree, but nothing severe and or time consuming. All cleaned up easily with an emery board using the rough side on the wheels to remove the burr then the lighter side to sand down the rough edge. The smooth side of the board was used exclusively on the drive and idlers. For most of the construction I used my UMM small parts remover and only a few times did I use the larger side cutters.
The tracks are the old school “rubber band” type vinyl one piece affairs. While these are easy to assemble and fairly detailed I have to say that I was a bit let down here. With MENG models having previously given us the beautiful link to link tracks on the Merkava 3D (yes I realize those need some clean-up) I personally would have preferred them to this kind, but maybe that is just me. I will say that these required no clean up and went together swimmingly (no surprise), but lack the sag that is often seem with the T55 running gear. The flip side is that the way the upper hull is laid out you will never really see the sag without some serious modification, in which case you will probably chose to replace the tracks then too.
Part D8 is easily removed and little clean-up is needed to remove the attachment points. B4 has two raised ejector marks that should be removed from one side of each piece. These should come away easily with some light sanding. Part B3 are the spare tracks and these should be left off (in my opinion) until final assembly as they should be painted then glued in place unless you are one of those type that paint on the vehicle (I am not).
Parts C8, C6 and D7 are all easily removed and again little clean-up to the attachment points is needed. The attachment point of C6 and D7 should be checked carefully as this is a corner that needs to line up correctly in order to assure a smooth joint. Some sanding of this joint may be necessary once the glue is dry so as to take down any lip that develops.
Be sure not to miss parts E39 & 37 (I did) as once you get this in place it’s going to be difficult to get them in their proper spots (ask me how I know).
Step 3 begins the assembly of the lower hull and attachment of the road wheel arms, final drive housings and the front glacis that we started in step 2 above. Most of this is straight forward and nothing seems too difficult at first glance. Care should be taken to make sure that all of the road wheel arms line up correctly so that there are no “floaters”. This should not be much of a problem as MENG models provides a notch and tab that, assuming you have the right arm in the right spot, lines everything up darn near perfectly.
The front glacis has a slot that it fits into to get a really nice alignment and fit. After having recently built the Tamiya T-55 this is a really nice touch. The rear tow hitch assembly has parts E48, E46 and PE 12 (or 13 or 14 for different vehicles). The reference photos I have do NOT show the number plate in that area, but I have included this as part of the assembly as it is on the instructions (who am I to argue with the “experts”?). Just make sure that you mount it the correct way and remember which plate set you are using.
Step 4 has you attach the running gear and a few more of the lower hull details especially around the rear and the final drive covers. I chose to leave my running gear off until final assembly, smart choice with the rubber band tracks.
The rear exit ramp E22 attaches to two A6 parts without glue. The A6’s get glued to the hull in the appropriate notched areas. My suggestion with A6 is to mount these to the hull, position them properly in the notches and once the glue has set for a day or so then add the ramp. Alternatively you can mount A6 to the ramp then glue the whole thing in place and once A6 has set for a day remove the ramp and reapply toward the end of things so it does not get broken off, as I chose to do. The rear loading ramp has one piece of photo etch that needs to be dealt with here and this mounts to the interior wall. My suggestion is to create a really great bond between the interior wall and the PE and then, ONLY attach it to the ramp, towards the end on construction. This part is very delicate and could easily get bent or broken, so please take care in mounting and handling.
While the MENG models kit does NOT come with a full interior there is a few elements that are included should you choose to leave hatches open. I am sure that either MENG models or one of our favorite aftermarket companies will be showing up to the party with a full interior pretty soon, just based on past experience.
The fit of the previously made access corridor assembly is, in a word, amazing. You hardly need glue for this. Set in place tap down lightly and then glue in place to keep secure; really amazing. The interiors side walls also fit well only some downward pressure to make sure they mate well with the hull bottom is needed. The rear hull can be pulled together with a rubber band to increase the bond between the hull bottom walls and he access corridor assembly, but not much is needed.
The sub assembly of the crew bustle rack/basket is fiddly but nice, with all of the parts lining up well and no fit issues. The few small parts on here are a bit fiddly during clean up and care must be taken so as to avoid launching one into the nether world or breaking some of the more dainty bits. Care should be taken with C10, E20, E21 and E35 as these are all either fragile or really small. Again, nothing a hobby knife with a new blade and some sand paper or emery board cannot take care of clean up.
The upper hull includes many, many periscopes and MENG models has graciously provided plenty of clear parts to fill those periscopes with. I chose to give all mine a dunk in some Future (because it smells nice!) to help keep the clear parts clear. If you are mounting these during this stage you will need to mask these off for painting. There is both the upper and lower portion (hurray!) of these so be sure to mask off the interior as well if you are painting post periscope insertion (say that 3 times fast!). The exterior covers for the periscopes are also included on the transparent tree as well, but I am not sure why as these will need a coat of exterior colour paint.
This stage also has you adding the armor panels that will cover the tops of the first 4 road wheels and track in that area. These also fit well with little to no effort. Sprue attachment points are minimal and easily taken off with a hobby knife and sand paper with little effort as well. I chose to leave off part A17, the wire rope foot loop, until after I mounted the wheels and tracks, and I would suggest you do the same as this will get in the way of the assembled tracks fitting on the running gear.
There are three hatches and these can be mounted open or closed depending on your preference. Step 7 only deals with the hatches and is rather straight forward. Just make sure you know how you want your hatches positioned and where they go, prior to gluing in place. The hatches are beautiful with some good interior and exterior detail. The only part that gave me any issues was E3, on the commander’s hatch, only because it is SO small and fragile. Use care during clean-up and when attaching.
Step 8 has you mating the top and bottom hull halves and getting the tracks on. There are some small parts that attach in this step so take your time and be careful. I would leave the smaller parts off until final assembly in case you are a bit clumsy like me.
In step 8 on the left hand side of the vehicle there are 4 callouts that look like it’s asking you to cut away two circles and two rectangles that are along the sloped part of the upper hull. Why these are here I have no idea and why these need to be removed, I cannot tell either. I have searched the instructions and there are no pieces that attach there. I can only assume that this is for a later version that MENG models could be working on, we’ll see.
The “glass” for the RWS (T12&T13) will need to be painted like the periscopes prior to gluing into place. It seems strange that there is no cover over this assembly. I would imagine that dust in between the armored glass and the glass can be an issue.
The side mounting clips/brackets for the tow cable go on in this stage, although I chose to leave mine off until final as I know how things like these can easily come off during handling.
Rear Light and external communication device assembly (Step 9), pretty straight forward here, but care must be taken as you do, again have some small and fragile parts that need care in handling and clean-up. E36 is the one to really watch out for, as it is both small and fragile. D3 needs a bit of extra care to clean up the attachment points. Also be sure to test fit D3 as I noticed I had left a bit of fluff on the sloping part that needed to be cleaned off so it would fit into its hole. Part A10 has a “weird” attachment point and when I removed mine I was left with a clean tab that stuck out front. Going back and looking at the other part still attached on the other A tree, I realized that tab was not meant to be there, so it was removed and things fit better as a result. Attention to detail is what we do, right?
Light assembly from above, rear ramp cover and more top side details. The sub assembly you made in Step 9 attaches here as well as the rear access open top, C9. If you are going to mount C9 in the open position there are, what appear to be several ejector pin/push marks that I believe need to be puttied over and sanded down. There are three small ones at one end and one larger one at the back closest to the interior. In most cases you would not be able to see them but if you are planning on taking this to a show you might consider.
Attaching the bustle rack should be done in two steps in my opinion. Fist attach to the upper hull. Once this is set you will need to go back at attach to the lower hull. The lower hull attachment is damn close but might need a tiny bit of filler along the left side and bottom just to fill in the tiniest of gaps. Be careful, when you attach the basket as those grab handles can easily become a casualty.
(Attaching Hatch Covers) More topside details and the Commanders hatch. This step also has you attaching the brackets for the right rear and the PE grille for the engine, above the bustle.
The Commanders Hatch E15, E14 has a few tinier and even more fragile than previously seen, specifically E3. This part somehow was bent on my sprue and took some gentle coaxing to get it back untwisted and set up correctly. Once in place this part is going to be getting broken off easily so either wait until last stage to get it on or get it on and set hatch aside and add on last minute. Do be careful in handling this part for painting and weathering as I am SURE that just looking at it will cause it to break. My choice was to leave this whole sub assembly off until painting.
Smoke Grenade Launchers & Headlights
Part E28, the headlight frame assembly, might need a good sharp blade run around the frame, mine had the slightest hairline of “flash”. Not really flash but some excess and truly the width of a hair, around the edges of the frame. The result of the process to get you those really crisp edges and lines.
Weapons station and the PE rear fenders/ mesh. A few of the vehicles I have seen in pictures show the right rear loaded with spare wheels and gear where the mesh screen would be, I am told these are engineer vehicles, so there is a way that you could model this, but it is not covered in the instructions. My advice on the PE skirts is to mount all of the hinges and details onto the mesh skirt BEFORE you mount the skirt to the kit. This will save you hours of frustration and many, many, curse words.
This adds the rest of the details to the upper hull like the tow cables and MG’s. Parts A28/29 are options that can be used alternatively. I chose one of each to represent the two options available. I have no idea if they would each be mounted at the same time or not. Both parts however, will need some clean up along the barrel and seems/mould lines cleaned up as well, not much though. This will be difficult on the barrel as they are very fine and fragile.
There is a very nice little ruler for measuring your string for the tow cables. Once mounted they actually look nice and with paint on them even better. These are very much in the Tamiya style (much like the Tiran 5). Good but could easily be improved upon with little effort.
The tracks do not have the characteristic sag of the T55 series tracks (as mentioned), but with the side skirts you cannot see the sag anyway, so no worries there. It might be an issue for some, though and you might want to upgrade to aftermarket tracks.
The little bit of interior that does come with the kit is very nice and well detailed, although it is not complete (some might say sparse) but it provides a start. As previously stated I am sure that someone will come out with an aftermarket full interior sometime soon, or MENG models will include it maybe in a future release. There is enough to get you started and it would not be beyond some of us to create one from scratch. Again the fit of the interior parts is nothing short of amazing and the addition of the interior side of the periscopes is a very nice touch.
Other Areas of Note
There are few areas on this kit that need any real attention to speak of. The details are nice, very crisp and well represented. Only the few areas and parts that I mentioned above are the things to concern yourself with if you are doing an OOB build. If you choose to model an in-service variant, then I take no responsibility for any modifications that need to be made, or the accuracy of this current vehicle. What I will tell you is that I have seen MANY, MANY variants that all seem to have different set ups for side skirts, engine deck, etc. I am sure that these are “standardized IDF upgrades” of several types and that someone, maybe even MENG models, will be tempting us with them soon.
MENG models decals always seem very well made. The paper has a good feel to it, weighty, but not overly so. The decals always appear crisp and well detailed with little extra “skin” around them. There are markings for 3 separate vehicles, just as with the PE.
I really love MENG models for their instructions. They remind me of the old Tamiya instructions from the 80’s without the little dude on the side telling you not to screw things up. They are easy to follow, well detailed and not too much crammed into any one step. My only thoughts on how to make them better, is to make them in colour and create a little call out box with each step telling you which parts are used for that particular sub assembly (like LEGO!), but only ‘cause I am getting old and feebleminded. Really that would be awesome but I am sure costly and excessively gratuitous.
MENG models seems to be positioning themselves at the Tamiya of the 21st century with the look and feel of their kits. Their kits are well detailed, well-engineered with easy to follow instructions and attention to the detail both on the kit and in the layout and thought of it. All in all this is a good kit. Well detail, simple but complete. There are a few areas that "could" use improvement but it is not necessary.
Build up is straightforward and well-engineered. The only places I had issue with were really the small PE bits, my own fault for not thinking it through and the MG handles, which are extremely delicate. This is a solid kit and I am glad that MENG models is leading the way with new release of more "obscure" military vehicles like this. I am excited to see what MENG models does with this vehicle in future incarnations and can only hope that we will be seeing some other cool things, maybe a full interior as well.