by: Olivier Carneau [ ]
Announced for a long while by MR Models, this conversion designed for the Heller kit is finally issued under Azimut branding thanks to a joint venture between both manufacturers.
The set comes in a black, thin cardboard box as is usual with Azimut. The upper hull is wrapped in bubble wrap plastic, whereas the other parts come in 5 ziploc bags.
The kit comprises 171 parts of a light grey resin, 7 photo-etched parts, 1 white metal part, 1 metal cable and a 5 page instruction leaflet.
The sculpting is of a high standard and the detail is excellent. The cast is of top quality too and shows some flaws. There are a few air bubbles, the only ones on my model were on the upper hull and will be easy to fill. The pour stubs are cleverly located and won't require too much preparation work to remove. On my model, the upper hull and the lower hull front bow were slightly warped which can be fixed with a hair-dryer to enable a perfect fit.
On the first page of the instructions, there are pictures of the completed model as well as technical drawings with vehicle measurements. Unfortunately the printing quality doesn't allow a good view of the pictures. The building part comprises 14 steps and begins with the modifications to make to the donor kit and the running gear assembly. Then the upper hull is detailed in steps 2 to 8. Steps 8 and 9 are concerned with the front blade and the winch. The crane is covered in steps 11 to 14.
The lack of numbering of the parts will require a thorough identification prior to starting the building to avoid making any mistakes.
Apart the front bow modified to accommodate the blade and a winch, the chassis is the donor kit one. The sides must be cut as well as the hull front according to the instructions. This will be the only major work to do on the donor kit but it should be perfectly done if you don't want to get gaps between both hull halves.
The upper hull comes as a single piece with the locating parts or holes necessary to the correct gluing of the numerous parts. Apart from the headlights, the smoke dischargers, the spare track links, the radio operator hatch and the TC cupola, the other Heller parts won't be used. At step 2, the crescent-shaped hooks and the towing hook are located far to the rear. At step 3, Azimut has forgotten to give the proper directions to bend the white metal part representing the APU bracket.
The various winch will be fitted with your own thread. Azimut provide a driver windshield cover. The glasses should be hollowed and replaced by clear plastic. On the real vehicle, this accessory is rarely seen.
The PE parts are essentially designed as bins mesh. The one at the back will be bent sing the side parts as templates. The bin Azimut mention as optional is present on all the vehicle I was able to see.
The front blade and the crane, the instructions for which are quite complex. The main part is cast as a single part with nice ribs on its back. Azimut provide 3 drawings showing the various positions of the blade during winch or crane operations.
The crane arm is remarkably cast as a single piece as well and the inner sides benefit of the same level of detail and carving as the exterior. As often with that kind of vehicle, the cable lay-out will be the more delicate step to achieve. Azimut give a drawing to ease this process but curiously do not provide the pulleys axis.
The crane elevation may be adjusted by shortening the jack. It is also possible to represent the crane during heavy crane duty thanks to the 2 supports which can be stowed on the arm right side.
At the step 13, 2 flat parts should glued at the end of the arm but the directions are not clear enough to do so. The various pictures I checked did not help clearing their location.
As often, Azimut don't give any decoration nor camouflage scheme. However, there is a site mentioned (with an incorrect url !) in the instructions for further references.
After one hour or so looking closely to my references, I have only noticed 2 or 3 details missing which shows how much effort Azimut put on this kit. This conversion, released for the first time during the April 2006 Paris modeling show, after having long been waited, is particularly welcome and will certainly delight those liking the models out of the ordinary paths.