by: kenneth oestergaard [ ]
Ever since Meng Model released their Leopard kit there has been a stream of AM product for it. PE parts, replacements barrels, resin parts, updates and conversions set – you name it. For any Leopard tank buff it has been a wonderful time. Though I did find the Meng Model kit disappointing at first many of its issue have been addressed now. One could always point out it would have been better if these issues would not have been there in the first place – which I do – however, it’s nice that AM producers now have given us kits to address this. I therefor decided to make a Leopard A4 from no. 3 Company, 281st Panzerbataljon, 10th Panzer division, as portrayed on page 40/41 in Historie & Collection’s book on the Leopard 1, 2005. The tank was seen on Exercise Kolibri in 1987.
For this I have received the tree following updates sets from Perfect Scale Modellbau (PSM)
1. 35119 Leopard 1 A3/A4 Upgrade for Meng
2. 35120 Hoffman Device
3. PE006 Leopard 1 A3/A4 Grill and cooling fan (Meng)
The Hoffman device consists of 3 resin parts (the tubes and two parts for the bracket) and two etch parts for the protection shield.
The PE set consists of a resin fan part and two grills in etch.
The upgrade set is the most comprehensive of the three. It has 30 resin parts and a huge set of PE parts (about 155 pieces according to my count).
In addition these I have used Orange Hobby 105mm L7 Barrel for Leopard 1A3/A4, a copper wire from Eureka and SKP Model kit no 242, Lenses and taillights for Leopard 1.
One of the things that irritate me with the Meng Model kit is its road wheels. They are far too thick and require a lot of sanding (luckily Leopard Club has solved this problem with some excellent replacements that even offers detailed back sides too). It took me about two hours just to make these wheels presentable. I used the tracks provided in the kit even though much better alternatives are at hand; in my opinion Meng Model separate set of workable Leopard 1 tracks is the best choice. The wheels and the lower part of the hull was then sprayed with a mix of Revell color No 42 and Humbrol no 66; when dries it was given a light coat of heavily diluted paint of the same colour plus some Humbrol HG7 (an old paint in the Authentic color range) as a high light. The tracks were sprayed with Vallejo 304 Track color. The hull, the wheels and the tracks were then given a wash of Vallejo black wash before assembled.
In the Perfect Scale Modellbau kit there is a resin part with the fan to replace part no D7 in the Meng Model kit; I didn’t use this. On the real tank the fan is covered in two layers – a 1-2cm thick layer of heavy grill of sound holds and a finer mesh on top of this. Even when you stand directly over it you cannot see the fan unless you illuminate it. The kit offerings is therefor much better. I did choose, however, to use both PE parts – though the improvement is at best minute. With these I assembled the two hull parts and started on the details.
The PE parts for the tools are excellent. In my opinion they are the best around. They have this balance between being an improvement without being a drag to make. Voyager Model’s offering is much more detailed but also much more complicated to make, which sets me off. I would really suggest that Perfect Scale Modellbau includes tools in the future (like the ones offered in their ARV line). Cleaning the tools from Meng Model leopard kit is a huge task – luckily I had some from a previous Italeri build that I used, which are much easier to clean. The only PE parts I didn’t use were for the two boxes next to the exhaust gills as I think they are spot on out of the box. The entire time spent on these brackets and tools was about 8-10 hours.
Next came some of the resin parts provided in kit no 119. I started with the lifting rings that all have some welding detail added. They are a huge improvement. The two exhaust grills are another huge improvement, and indeed a very necessary one. The parts in the Meng Model kit are ridiculous, almost offending. The kit also provides new side skits. They have been split into five parts as the real ones. The clamps that connect these parts are separate and one can therefore place them at will. This is nice as these clamps can be a pain in the ‘you-know-what’ to close and therefore often are left at various angles. Mine were missing so I made some myself because I was impatience (I would like to point out though, that Perfect Scale Modellbau has an excellent customer service that will mail you new ones in matter of days). The side skits are easy to make and fit perfectly – however, I don’t really see the point of this. The parts in the kit are excellent as is, and the resin parts don’t add anything detail wise. If Perfect Scale Modellbau had detailed the parts on the inside on the other hand, they would make a huge different. This would provide the modeler with a choice of building a Leopard tank during maintenance. My recommendation to Perfect Scale Modellbau (in fact my plea) is therefore to rework these side skits with details inside.
At the front of the hull Perfect Scale Modellbau offers both PE parts for the headlights mounts and resin headlights as well as a resin horn. The PE parts are good but I choose to use the headlight from the Meng Model kit. Both headlights are equally detailed but Meng Model are already hollowed and ready for SKP Models headlight parts. The Perfect Scale Modellbau kit also offers two new mirrors which are better than those of Meng Model offering.
At the back end of the hull you get the lower lifting eyes, the convoy light, a complete tool box (including PE parts) and the two mud guards as PE parts. The lifting eyes have, again, weld detail cast on and fit well. The best part at the back end though is the toolbox. Again, Meng Model is a disaster and Perfect Scale Modellbau’s is of high value and therefor a great replacement. I am, however, disappointed that Perfect Scale Modellbau didn’t include a new travel lock. They already have this in there early model conversion set? And it is such a well-produced item – the best I’ve seen in any kit.
The last item in the Perfect Scale Modellbau kit I made was the wires. The kit provides the ends for these and all you need is to connect these with wires of your choice. A piece of wire would have been an obvious inclusion I think. I added pieces of plastic to simulate Day-Glo orange ribbons, used as identifying vehicles as foes. In retrospect they might have become somewhat too wide?
Most of the turret is an out of the box build. Though shown on the box, and photos on their web site, Perfect Scale Modellbau’s kit does not include a resin barrel, which is also pointed out on the box. Perhaps it would have been better to post a picture without the barrel? I for one think so. I opted to add an Orange Model replacement barrel (G35-138-88) to mine. What is included though are smoke dischargers, replacements slots for the TEM, lifting hooks (with welds) and some smaller things (like MG ammunitions box and antennas) in resin. These are all good parts but as with other parts they will hardly make any differences to the model. The PERI R12 commander’s sight on the other hand is a much better offering. A highly improved resin part with PE parts for the wiper makes a vast improvement over the kit part. For the antenna mounts you get the choice of the early SEM 25/35 and the late SEM 80/90 sockets. The later was introduced in the late 80’ties and would therefore hardly have been used on either the A4 or A3 versions – I think?
When on field exercises, it’s often impossible to use the blank shots for the cannon - they do have safety issues to consider. Therefore the German army equipped the leopard tanks with a device that fired electrical operated “fire crackers” to simulate gun fire. This devise is called the Hoffman Device. It consists of a bracket for the gun tube and a house for the firing mechanism. This device has been offered in all previous leopard tank kits but Perfect Scale Modellbau decided to have a go at it nevertheless. The result is a very detailed little kit that really is far better than any other offerings I have seen. Well done Perfect Scale Modellbau.
For my tank I covered the entire turret in camouflage netting. This was made with a mix of 80% Magic Sculpt and 20% Green Stuff. The two compounds should be mixed separately first and then joined together as one. Once placed on the model is should be left for half an hour or so. Next you have an endless amount of stabbing with a U-shaped tool to simulate the netting. After another half an hour of pause and the folds can be “lifted” carefully with the tip of a hobby knife to create a more fluffy appearance. To finish the turret off, I took a PE part from a legend set to make the locking mechanism for the hatch MG. This really ought to be a part of the kit though – it makes such an important difference.
I won’t get into detail about the painting of the tank. It was given a basic spray of Revell no 42 in 3 sprays similar to the road wheels and bottom hull. It was then spray with floor polish to seal this. The decals used are put together from left overs – I have no idea where the individual parts came from. You can, however, get high quality decals of German license plates, bridge markings, tactical signs and Battalion/Divisional markings. The weathering is done in conventional way.
I think the PE006 Leopard 1 A3/A4 Grill and cooling fan (Meng Model) set is a complete waste of money – sorry. The parts provided in the original kit are not only satisfactory but also superior to Perfect Scale Modellbau’s offering.
The 35120 Hoffman Device kit is a smashing kit – far better than any other offerings I’ve seen. I highly recommend this.
The 35119 Leopard A3/A4 upgrade (Meng Model) with PE parts – kit is a mixed blessing, however hardly worth the asking price as is. Its strongest asset, the PE parts for the tool brackets etc, are very, very good; however, the time you need to clean the tools and construct the brackets might set many off, I fear. And as Meng Model offerings are quiet good as is – many might deem it unnecessary. There are very good resin parts too (the exhaust grills, the R12 sight, lifting hooks etc) but just not enough to really make you feel satisfied. My suggestion to Perfect Scale Modellbau would be to re-design the kit. Remake the side skits with back side details, include the things I’ve mention you already produce (tools, gun lock and a gun barrel) and make the Hoffman device a part of the kit too. Then I think you’ll be able to offer a kit that the buyer really would feel was worth the money.