by: Kevin Brant [ ]
The Cougar MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle was designed in South Africa by Force Protection Inc. as an infantry mobility vehicle. The vehicle is in use by most branches of the United States military, as well as other countries. The Cougar 4x4 MRAP is used mostly by the United States Marine Corps. The vehicle has mounted a crew-protected top turret on the roof sporting a .50cal heavy machine gun. The vehicle was widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq, and offered good protection for crew and passenger against IEDís.
This new kit from Panda looks to be a good representation of the USMC MRAP that served in the Middle East.
15 plastic sprues (including upper and lower body)
3 clear plastic sprues
4 poly rubber tires
1 photo-etched fret
1 decal sheet
Opening the box of this Cougar MRAP from Panda, the first thing to notice is a lot of parts, the box is packed. The plastic is molded in a tan color, and looks to be very well molded with little to no visible flash or sink marks. There are some ejector marks, mostly on the under surfaces and areas that will be hidden when built. The surface details and detail of the small parts is very well done.
The kit does include a fully detailed interior, and what looks to be a very nicely detailed chassis. There are some clear plastic parts to represent the windows and armored windows for the gunner turret, but this glass will need to be tinted to represent the actual vehicle.
Construction of the kit from Panda starts with the axles and suspension. This looks like it will build up very well, and includes plastic molded U-bolts for the suspension to axle connection. There are some fine parts, and you will want to watch alignment. I would recommend dry fitting the leaf springs onto lover body to ensure alignment of the axles.
After mounting the suspension and axles the next step includes the addition of some of the lower details and mounting of the fenders. There are a few ejector marks on the inside of the fenders that could be cleaned up if wanted, a little putty and sanding will eliminate theses.
Once the lower chassis is completed, construction then moves to the interior. The interior is fully decked out with detail, includes decals for the instrument panels. One small drawback I see here is the seats have the seat belts molded onto the seats, and in my opinion is not the best looking. Again there is some fine detail here, so care will need to be taken. The dividers between the driver and passenger section are very well molded mesh, and should add to the nice interior detail. There are no paint callouts for the interior, so you may need to do a little research.
The interior panels are attached to the inside of the upper hull, as this starts the upper construction. The doors can be built open or closed, but I would think open would be good to show off the nice interior. It should be noted that you want to complete the painting of the interior prior to closing it up. And also a reminder that the clear plastic for the window will need to be tinted.
The assembly then continues with the exterior, with stowage boxes and antenna detail looking good. The construction of the gunner turret looks decent, and you will want to paint the interior prior to assembly and again tint the windows. The molding of the .50cal is not up to some of the newer molding standards, thus you may want to replace this with an aftermarket part for better looking detail.
The kit comes with a single painting and marking scheme for the United Stated Marine Corps. While the decals look sharp, they do feel a little think. The may work better once applied. It should be noted that there are no paint callouts for detail or paint manufacturer references, thus you may need to do some research and study images of the actual vehicle to complete the painting.
The instruction booklet is 19 pages with 20 steps, looks pretty straight forward, but a few steps do look a little busy. I suggest study each step to ensure proper assembly.
Overall this looks to be a great kit from Panda of the Cougar 4x4 MRAP. The moldings are very well done with only a few ejector marks. The detail looks to be crisp and clean, and the kit should build into a great looking model. Having a full interior driver and passenger detail will allow you to leave the doors open and show it off. The only drawbacks would be the lack of paint callouts for the details, molded on seatbelts, and the detail on the HMG. For modern AFV fans, I would definitely recommend this kit, and this is definitely a kit that may tempt some other genres of builders.