by: Matt Flegal [ ]
Toylike this one is not. Where the previous pick-up had closed doors and a single drop in windshield/window/rear window piece this kit has separate doors and extremely thin crystal clear window inserts to allow the cab to be fully opened up without any loss of accuracy. In addition, the truck itself makes an fine example of how Meng has improved in leaps and bounds from their previous fine releases when compared to the older ZU-23-2 component.
The truck is simple yet wonderfully detailed, with very finely molded parts and excellent fit. Sinkmarks are carefully kept on unseen surfaces and the few parts like the seats where the backs are somewhat dodgy in fit is completely hidden when assembled. Lights including side blinkers are molded in clear plastic so they can be painted with transparent paints to provide depth.
The AA gun:
The gun is complex, very delicately molded, almost fully working, and a bit of a pain to build because of that. Detail is often rather soft and several parts such as the ammo boxes (more on those later!) don't fit very well and can cause issues during the build. All of that said, it looks intricate when completed, the small photoetch sheet is well thought out for where the most impact can be had with the fewest parts.
Steps 1-21 compose the assembly of the truck itself. For the most part I followed the instructions so rather than a play by play, I'll cover issues and modifications.
The underside is fairly well detailed and the suspension achieves the trick of being movable without being needlessly complex. The exhaust and shocks are unclear in how they fit into place and I would recommend test fitting before any glue is applied. Don't do what I did on the leaf springs and cut off the attachment pins on one of them, they look like sprue attachments and I sure did miss them on the front right spring... Be very careful attaching the leaf springs to the axles. Even Tamiya thin glue melts the tiny mating pins in seconds and it very easy for them to fall out of alignment. I ended up leaving those parts unglued but caught in place until the wheels were on and the truck sat level. They don't mate perfectly having done that but I took the tradeoff of a level truck over a perfect join on something I will never see when placed in a diorama. Seams are minimal and easily removed. Be aware there is no image and the muffler has a visible hollow that is then placed out of sight under the bed.
The cab is simple with a minimum of parts but the detail is very good, especially the dash and inner doors. One thing that is very well though out is that the cab, frame, bed, and so on are separate, so you can effectively build the kit without gluing these components together and have the whole thing easily come apart for painting. I admit to being impressed that the sun visors were separate pieces with rounded edges instead of being ignored or molded in place. The windows fit in easily with Gator Glue and the wipers are also separate pieces. The steering column has an open area on the underside that needs filling.
The bed fits together easily as well with some very delicate molded hooks and a moveable door. The roll frame appears a bit clunky but nothing untoward. the PE mudflaps are a nice touch.
Wheels are vinyl and well detailed. I am merrily modifying mine to be all flat on an abandoned vehicle but they the polycaps inside the hub allow them to rotate. Watch out for the ejector marks on the forward wheel wells. They are visible and I ended up having to go back in and carve them out.
The gun will look very nice when you are done. You are going to work for that... Molding is lacking in comparison to the truck, edges are often rounded, locator pins are ridiculously small and melt with glue, sink marks are evident on the guns, frame, and sights. Lots of tiny parts are used and many pieces such as the sight assembly feel needlessly complex after the clever engineering on the truck. The gun is fully movable when completed but is locked into place with part H17/18/19. However, this part can be placed when the gun is completed so you can leave the gun elevation movable until the end if you wish.
Seams on the guns are pronounced and flash is present so grab your sanding sticks. There are several sink marks that will need to be filled and are visible when completed. The muzzle ends are hollow but rather thick walled and the vent aren't present. The ammo boxes fit quite poorly and I recommend sanding the sides down before gluing. The locator pins aren't really needed anyway.
The ammo boxes fit to the mount poorly with the male tab being too wide and tall for the slot, especially on the left side. Deviate from the instruction and put those on parts G34 and G35 before assembly in step 23. They will still fit but you won't risk crushing the delicate assembly later.
The sight assembly is very delicate and the orientation is tricky. I'd recommend not attaching the assembly to part H23 until step 28 when you attach the sight to the articulating arm.
The seats are delicate and again the attachment points are tiny. I used Tamiya glue and, in retrospect, superglue would have been the wiser choice.
The I-beams are a little fiddly as well but not too complicated, the tiny attachment flanges on the bed are easily sanded off if you're not placing the gun.
Decals are thin, in register, snuggled down later pretty easily.
It's a really nice kit, fiddly assembly of the AA gun notwithstanding. I've built several Meng kits now and I have continued to be impressed with how much detail they can accomplish with so few parts, this truck being a great example. The truck itself frankly fell in the category of a Tamiya kit; crisp molding, well detailed but a true add glue to the box, shake, and a model comes out with the exception of the axle/spring assemblies. With the level of skill Meng is bringing to the table, I very much look forward to their next kits.