This release from HobbyBoss is packaged in a robust cardboard tray with a separate robust card lid, and inside there is a portioned off area protecting the upper and lower hull and finer mouldings. Sprues are individually packaged in plastic bags, except where duplicated and foam is used to provide further protection where HobbyBoss felt necessary. There are no obvious moulding issues and access is good.
This is the second Bergepanzer released on a Leopard hull, with this one being the original Buffel 2 based on a Leopard 1 hull and designed to work alongside MBTs also based on that hull. The introduction of the Leopard 2 family meant that this particular vehicle is no longer best suited for its role. I found that locating images on-line of this earlier vehicle was surprisingly problematic and so you will need to take that into consideration when purchasing this model. The lower hull is a single piece moulding, with the swing arms designed to be locked into a neutral position. Wheels and suspension units meet my expectations with regard to detail, and nothing jumps out at me as particularly wrong. Torsion bar suspension has been correctly off-set, with the tracks being individual non-workable links. The only issue I see with the tracks is that the clasps that join each track link together are fixed on one side of each link, which is fine on the flat but does mean that the alignment is slightly out when going around the front and rear wheel assemblies. The dozer-blade at the front of the vehicle that I believe is utilised to create a firm seating and placement of the vehicle during operation is nicely detailed.
The crew compartment work area started off with a good representation of the diamond plate floor, and the crew positions have a reasonable level of detail so that in the event that the hatches are open you are not looking at an empty hole. Some careful painting and weathering here will pay dividends. The upper hull initially caused me some concerns, due to the intakes being open and so light having access into the model, but this has been over come with interior plates covering up these aspects. I believe that all of the venting and work station detail will surprise many modellers, but is a nice feature of this release.
The exterior of the upper hull has a good level of moulded on detail, with the Commander’s hatch having a nice rendition of what I believe to be an MG3 for defence in place. Lighting and various tools are also nicely represented and for those modellers that feel the need, the moulded on latch detail could be removed and photo etched or 3D replacements added. The crew access doors on the left hand side of the vehicle are separate mouldings and with a little bit of work on the interior could be left open, even if not intended. The vent above the large fan at the rear of the vehicle, is a photo etched piece with nicely moulded in detail of the fan which is of a level showing plenty of detail for what can be seen.
An observation I will make, is that due to the large number of very small parts, that are both part of the vehicle and additions to make assembly very busy, and I would have liked to have seen HobbyBoss extend these assembly steps to make them easier to follow. My biggest problem here, is that as you get older your eyes deteriorate and I really struggled with this set of instructions. The crane arm has been well tackled, with the use of brass wire indicated for used as the cranes lifting cable. I would again suggest that modellers seek out a corded cable for this purpose, for the sake of realism. The hydraulics have been well detailed, but hydraulic lines will need to be added by the modeller. I suspect that many modellers will be looking at this release to show a scene where it is performing one of its tasks on a suitable period tank, and the design of the crane arm and dozer blade does lend itself to this purpose.
HobbyBoss has provided 3 finishing options for this release and shock horror provided NO detail on what they represent. You have an all green, an all yellow such as used in the dessert and a 3 colour camouflage.
This release from HobbyBoss has some nice features going from the crane arm assembly and in particular the crew interior. The high number of odds and ends that need to be added to the hull are a problem for me, as I believe that HobbyBoss has made the steps overly busy and so easy to miss or incorrectly place an item. However, my main complaint is the lack of details of what the finishing options are. I compared the mouldings to on-line images that I could find, and I am happy that the model is reasonably accurate from my observations. But I am sure, that someone who knows the vehicle very well will pick up on issues I have missed.