by: Darren Baker [ ]
The Puma was introduced into service with the Israeli Defence Force in 1991. The Puma is a heavily modified Centurion tank which itself had already been modified into a Shoít tank by the Israelis. While advertised as an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), its role is to serve as an Engineering vehicle, primarily as a mine clearance vehicle. The Puma can carry up eight crew which breakdown as follows; commander, driver, gunner, and five sappers. There are two variants of the Puma which can be considered an early and a late variant, the original or early version retained the Centurions Horstmann coil-spring suspension units and power pack, the later version has an improved suspension and the power pack of the Merkava fitted.
The model offered here by HobbyBoss is the later version judging by the suspension fitted. The model has over 779 plastic parts alone not counting the photo etch included. The model is provided in the very sturdy cardboard tray and separate cardboard lid that HobbyBoss are known for, this should protect against postal services of the world. The contents break down as follows;
11 green sprues
4 brown sprues
Vinyl rubber tyres
A clear sprue
A decal sheet
An instruction booklet
A painting guide
An advertising flyer for HobbyBoss
An advertising flyer for Master Tools
An examination of the sprues and kit contents finds no major areas of concern. Mould seams are present where they would be expected, but there is no flash to be found on the moulded parts. Slide moulding has been utilised in the production of this model and that is a plus. The ejector pin marks are present, thankfully most are in hidden locations, but I did find at least two parts where this issue will need your attention. Otherwise I am very pleased at this point in time with what HobbyBoss has provided here.
Assembly begins in the usual area of the wheels and suspension. The wheels have nice bolt detail present, and as a plus are easily painted due to the wheel rubbers being supplied as vinyl rubber parts. I know that vinyl rubber is an area of concern with many modellers today, due in the most part to its tendency to break down after exposure to the multitude of oil based products used for weathering and detail painting today; all I can say is that if exposed to water based products and/or sealed as protection against oil based ones, no issues should arise. The design of the wheels does mean that the vinyl rubber could be left off until the very last minute, and depending on your needs only requiring a hit with pigments. A very big plus of this method is the very clean lines created between the rubber and the wheel.
The suspension units are nicely detailed despite more or less that they will be hidden from view by the side skirts and wheels. There are up too nine parts that make up each bogey station on the model, the only issue I expect to encounter is the mould seams on the spring detail. Bump stops have been provided as separate parts and should be acceptable detail wise. The return rollers are fairly simple in design, but the outer face detail is acceptable. The extended arms that support a number of the return rollers are in two halves and I am not in favour of this aspect of the model; I cannot explain my reaction to them, call it gut instinct.
The rear area of the vehicle is nicely detailed and while fairly simple it looks the part. The towing hitches and tow hook are well represented on the model. The added armour on the front of the vehicle has also been nicely done, this results in something that does have that extra thick armour look about it. On the downside there are a couple of handles moulded as a part of the armour shield. The bell housings for the drive wheels are a very nicely detailed aspect of this area of the model, while not really seen on the finished model the modeller will be pleased to know they are there. One area of concern is the underside of the hull, it is my understanding that extra armour was applied to this area, but even while I do not know what it looks like it is not obviously in place.
The tracks supplied with this offering are individual track links. A close look at the links indicates a very good level of detail on both faces and these should look good when assembled. There is a down side though; the instructions indicate 106 track links for each side of the model and with four sprue connection points on each link the result is 848 points that need to be cleaned up. On the plus side there are no ejection pin marks needing work, I for on am pleased about that. I know some are not in favour of individual plastic track links, the good news for you is that there are a huge number of options when it comes to Centurion tracks.
Moving onto the track guards seems odd at this point in time, but that is what is covered next. Detail wise this is a nice area of the model, having a good sprinkle of photo etch parts being supplied as guards and clamps. The exhaust boxes look good on this offering from HobbyBoss as do the light fittings. The front track guard hangers will need attention as there is an ejector pin mark on one face of them. As HobbyBoss direct the track guards to be fitted prior to the upper hull, these hangers may foul and be damaged when the upper hull is added. The smoke grenade launchers are very nice as they can be displayed in a ready to fire configuration or with their covers in place.
The three manned machine guns and remote controlled machine gun are next up. I donít know a lot about the remote weapons station in use by the Israeli Defence Force, and so I can only judge it by online pictures, and I have to say it does look to be a fair representation and so will look the part. The three manned machine guns are also rather pleasing in most respects, but all of them could have been improved if slide moulding had been used at the muzzle.
The raised crew compartment is next and this portrays the heavily armoured look very well, everything about it says do you worst as you will not get us. For the most part this area has been moulded as a single piece, and so some simplification has taken place in the details. This is most notable in the fold flat handles that are present in several locations on the roof, I know that many of you will scrap this detail away and replace it with photo etched or scratched parts, but I think it would have been nice to see these included as part of the model. The hatches of the crew area are all workable, this makes sense when looking at the smaller hatches, but the large hatch if open will make it difficult to hide the lack of an interior, even if two figures are placed there. Another improvement I would have liked to see is the inclusion of clear periscope lenses. With my grumbles out of the way I am pleased to say that HobbyBoss has included some very nice small details such as the lights and smoke launchers again, they have even supplied hangers for the tow line, but they appear to have forgotten the tow line itself; perhaps it didnít have one, but it sure looks like it should.
The upper hull is next and this is surprisingly sparse when it comes to what you need to add. The heavy front hitches are nicely represented as is the armoured drivers hatch, this has again been provided as workable and a crew figure would look the part. The driverís periscopes have again not been supplied as clear parts. Moving to the engine deck; this area has been again well moulded and should look acceptable despite most of the detail being moulding as a single piece. The stowage rack looks ok to me, but for those with the ability this could be improved upon by scratch builders and some welding. That is it for this area of the model other than adding the raised crew compartment to it. I strongly recommended that the upper hull is applied to lower hull prior to the addition of the front track guard hangers.
The side skirts are the last construction area of the model, apart from of course adding the upper hull to the lower. The unusual skirt hangers used by the Israelis has been reasonably replicated as single mouldings by HobbyBoss, these should meet the needs of most modellers. The side skirts themselves have been supplied as single mouldings. There are a few ejection pin marks present on the inner face, but these should be impossible to see. The detail on the outer face is good and replicates the armoured look very well.
The instruction booklet is very good, as there is no area of the model that has been made difficult by being cluttered. Modellers of all skill levels should be able to follow the instructions easily, but remember what I said about the front track guard hangers.
The painting guide is on a nice glossy colour fold out and has a massive eleven finishing options provided for, unfortunately HobbyBoss has not provided any data on what they exactly represent and my knowledge of Israeli units means I cannot verify the accuracy or authenticity of any of the offerings. Painting instructions are supplied for Mr Hobby, Vallejo, Tamiya and Humbrol, of those manufacturers only Mr Hobby paints cover all of the needed colours. It lists Tamiya and Humbrol as only managing the red paint required! In my case I will reach for the LifeColor paints as I know they cover what is needed, but I am sure others provide for this as well.
From the box this should build into a very good looking representation of the Israeli Puma APC, but there are areas that could be easily improved upon with varying levels of scratch building ability, the number of moulded on handles are a good example of this. As for the rest of it I am very pleased with what HobbyBoss has offered us here, plus it fills another Israeli armour slot. With careful painting and weathering you should be able to end up with a very pleasing cabinet filler from the box, for others I am sure the after-market boys and girls are already on the case.