The Leopard project started in 1969 once the FRG and the USA decided to part ways on the joint “Battle Tank 70” project. The US went on to develop the M1 and the end result of the German’s effort was the Leopard 2. This was achieved in 1977 and the first tanks were delivered to Panzerlehrbrigade 9 in late 1979. In many was the Leopard’s fire control system and armament was superior to the M1 leading the US to adopt the 120mm gun from the Leopard as standard equipment. At a fighting distance of 2500 meters a Leopard 2 has an 80% chance of hitting its target on the move and in low visibility. 8 batches of Leopard 2 tanks were produced and those from batch 5 onward are of the 2A4 type. However, constant upgrades and refits make the Leopard 2A4 the most common in the German Army.
The box from Dragon contains 3 sprues of a newer type gray plastic not as soft as the earlier Dragon releases. Detail is crisp with no flash. Sprue attachment points are larger than I would like in a kit but the parts have no release marks in areas that will be seen. Also in the box is an upper and lower hull, upper and lower turret, a set of pre-painted tracks, and 150mm of tow cable wire, PE engine intake screens and a very nice decal sheet. The kit represents the German Leopard 2A4 with the later welded shut turret hatch on the loaders side.
14 sets of markings are provided, 9 German vehicles and 5 for other countries. These are Polish, Swiss, Finnish, and 2 Dutch. The decals, printed by Cartograf, are quite nice, in register, and they react well to Solveset. From pictures I’ve seen the Dutch had a slightly different setup regarding smoke dischargers and some other equipment on the turret so it would take a little modification to get a proper Dutch vehicle from the box. I’m not sure about the other countries, do your research before picking a vehicle.
The instructions are fairly complete and consist of 9 steps. Thankfully Dragon used line drawings in this kit and moved away from the 3D photo images used in their other armor I’ve seen recently. I hope this is a trend here to stay.
There are two large holes in the bottom of the lower hull to be filled; these are apparently screw holes.
I started this kit in my hotel room at the Atlanta Nationals. My intent was to build as much as I could while there and see how it went together and how much could be done before painting had to start.
I began with the road wheels and suspension. The suspension is a tight fit, but will press home fine. I test fit the tracks and was very happy to see they fit almost perfectly. I then began the assembly of the upper hull and turret. I compared the intake covers (parts B19 ) molded with the screens on and with the PE version and decided it was not worth it to me to use the PE, the molded screens look just fine in scale and detail. I followed all of the other instructions exactly how Dragon has them except I left off the turret machine gun and the side skirts.
I chose to attach the upper and lower hull at this point, and then add the tracks, and lastly the side skirts.
The model was primed with NATO Green and readied for paint.
paint & markings
I used Walter Bohm’s Leopard 2/2A5 for reference as well as various pictures from the Internet and I found one basic truth. There are two types of Leopards. Dirty ones, and really, really dirty ones. The book contains quite a few excellent pictures of winter camouflaged German 2A4s during war games, but I decided without a proper base this would not look right and would cover up too much of the models nice detail so I chose a standard NATO scheme used on a tank from 2./PzBtl 104 called “Mary Ann”.
Painting began with a primer/base coat of NATO Green. I then masked the turret using silly putty and applied the NATO Black followed by another silly putty mask and the NATO Brown. The same was done for the lower hull assembly. I also masked off the tracks and road wheels to prevent over-spray.
The model was glossed and the decals applied.
Since I was going for one of the Leopards that was not quite so dirty I applied a light mist of Sand for dust around the lower hull and side skirts using Bohm’s book as a guide for weathering patterns. I then weathered the road wheels with an oil/thinner wash. This was also applied to the hull and turret in various places. Another light coat of dust was applied, followed by some mud made from pastel dust. The model was then flat coated and Future applied to the decals strips on the vision blocks and the front sights.
This was a quick assembly and a great model to put together. The detail is as good as many 1/35 kits and excellent for 1/72. This may be the best Dragon armor model I have built in this scale to date. I have no reservations about any part of this kit and would recommend it to a beginner in armor looking for a place to start or an experienced builder looking for another project. The most difficult thing to reproduce will be the NATO tri-color camouflage, but because Dragon offers Dutch and Finnish versions there are other options open, including solid green. Very much recommended.
Reference, Walter Bohm’s Leopard 2/2A5
Review Subject courtesy of Dragon Models USA via Saúl García