by: kenneth oestergaard [ ]
For some years now we have had many new kits of The Leopard 1; we have also been spoiled with a steady stream of update and conversion kits which have covered most variants of this iconic cold war MBT. One version, however, has been overlooked – The Fahrschulpanzer or the Leopard 1 Driver Training Cab version. Up until now the only offering has been a vacuum formed kit from a German producer, that I´m sorry to admit I can´t remember the name of. This kit can be made into a good model - I´ve seen some which were - however, it requires a ton of work, insight and references to build.
The Fahrschulpanzer was used in the training of drivers. It was a replacement turret that gave room for an instructor and two trainees. A third trainee was placed in the driver compartment in the hull and drove the tank from there. The instructor could then monitor and advise the trainee like any other driver instructor. The instructor also had the capability to override the trainee and gain control of the tank if it was necessary. In many ways this is an adaptation of the tank similar to what driving schools do to an ordinary car, truck, bus or what we learn in.
The driving cabin, however, didn´t look like a turret. To offer better sight and protection against the weather, it was issued with windows providing a full overview for the instructor. Since it was made of much lighter materials it had a base that also functioned as a ballast tank, thereby raising the weight to 8.5 tons – matching that of a tank turret. Later, in some versions, a dummy gun was installed.
Leopard Club, which has quickly established itself as a provider of highly accurate detail parts for Leopard 1 and 2 tanks, has now offered their first full conversion kit with this variant. It has been in cooperation with Tom Cromwell (TGC). Tom has made a 3D CAD master for the kit; which Leopard Club has now turned into a kit with the help of LZ Models. The kit is of a Bundeswehr version with a dummy gun and air-condition. However, most Leopard 1 users have used these in different variations. The instructions sheets provide a vast range of samples to choose from.
The kit is designed with the older Italeri/Revell Leopard kits as the base kit. To some this might seem odd, but these kits are the only ones which provide the correct diameter of the turret ring. Naturally other kits, like the offerings from Takom, Meng etc, can be used. However, one would have to widen the turret ring diameter in these kits to accommodate the cabin, which I think would be a no-brainer for most.
The kit has a total of 49 parts all cast in light grey resin. My sample had a little flush here and there, which took me about 15 minutes to clean up. The quality of the casting is flawless and will satisfy everyone. The main cabin part in my sample was slightly warped but was easily fixed (the instructions actually provides help with this). The parts layout is conventional and logical – I doubt anyone will be confused identifying parts during construction. The modeller needs to obtain some plastic parts to complete it, however. There are no parts for the windows themselves, so some kind of clear plastic sheets are necessary to have or buy, however, true to actual size templates are provided in the instructions. If the builder should choose to add a dummy gun, plastic parts will have to be obtained too; again, it is thoroughly described which, and how to, in the instructions.
I have only done a dry fit of the parts, but this was easy. Only a minor sanding and adjustment was necessary. During this assembly I was quite honestly amazed by the details of the parts. The amount of details will satisfy everyone, and for some (like me) it screams for a super detailing of the cabin. If one should want to do this Leopard Club have online references at Leopard Workshop – Spotlight. The interior of the Fahrschulpanzer is a complex construction, however the kit is engineered so it, more or less, snaps into place by itself. In the end what you are left with is a stunner. I think this offering is a very good one for those who have longed for a Fahrschulpanzer – it´s highly detailed, easy to build and will satisfy most right out of the box.
The instructions sheets, however, deserves extra attention in this review. It is, in my opinion, among the very best I have ever seen. It is obvious that the author of this, Michael Shackleton, has a huge insight into the subject. One is offered knowledge of the object as well as users and variants – and much of this backed up by links for further information. The instruction parts themselves are in the form of pictures with number references to parts. These pictures are very clear and of a size that provide good clarity to even the smallest details. The instructions also provide advises and comments for the modellers build. These instruction sheets are worth noticing, and learn from, for many AM producers – this is how it should be done.
I will not hide that I am so pleased with this kit. Firstly – I have been waiting and wishing for this kit to come around for years . I think it´s such an interesting variant of the Leopard 1, and one you rarely see in 1/35th scale. Secondly – even measured as an AM kit, this is far beyond average. Highly detailed, cleverly engineered and thoroughly instructed. Thirdly – with a price tag of only 30 Euros, this is a bargain. I am simply flabbergasted! Such a pearl – well done Leopard Club.