F-102 is taken into account). It was first released in 2013 and comprised of 283 dark green parts, 180 brown parts (the separate-link tracks), ten clear, the PE, two lengths of vinyl tracks, poly caps, a length of string and the usual decal and instruction sheets. The parts are all well-detailed and moulded crisply while the vinyl tracks have good details with no ejector marks; the separate tracks have even better detail but were marred by two shallow ejector pin circles. Options were given for turret details and the kit allows the building of either the A3, A4 or the Greek GR1 so one needs to pay attention to instructions. Accuracy-wise, well, some online reviewers mentioned about inaccurate shapes but hey, is there really such a thing as a perfect model kit? They can be rectified but I think I'll leave them as they are. The decal sheet provide markings for:
1. Leopard 1A3, 2nd Squadron, 304th Panzer Battalion, mid-1980s (tricolor camo)
2. Leopard 1A3, 4th Squadron, 301st Panzer Battalion, 1980s (dark green)
3. Leopard 1 A4, 4th Squadron, 293rd Panzer Battalion, 1980s (dark green)
4. Leopard 1A4 (GR), Helllenic Army (four-colour camo)
T-10M, it was quite a surprise when I found that the shock absorbers and suspension arms have minimal detail. Perhaps the designers have the opinion that 'if it can barely be seen, why bother with details?' Also like the T-10M kit, the Leopard also feature moveable torsion bar suspension to help modellers pose the model in a diorama setting. There was also the possibility of mounting the return roller mounting upside down by mistake. However, the mounts already moulded on the lower hull can be used as a guide. The wheels is one of the shortcomings of the kit, having wrong details on the outside wheel and hollow on the inside face of the inner wheel. Anyway the wheels were assembled but not yet mounted, save for some test-fitting (which was great).
Carpet Monster. The rear panel was then worked upon with most of the smaller details cemented onto it. The upper hull and the lower hull was then cemented together, followed by the rear panel. While there weren't any problems with the upper-lower hull joint, there was a gap at the back panel/hull joint which required some puttying and sanding. With the modern tanks' feature of the side skirts, I usually painted the lower hull and put the tracks onto the model at this time. This time however I left them unpainted, with all the wheels and tracks mounted later; the side skirts would be painted separately from the hull.
Painting and Decaling
I started at the bottom by placing the wheels. Since I'm using the one-piece tracks (the tension of which may pull the wheels up), the first and the last suspension bars were frozen in place using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. The tracks were then laid on as usual and they were followed by the side skirtings. There are seams between on the mud flap (split between the hull and the side skirtings) which need to be smoothed over (and the paint retouched afterwards). The tools were painted XF-59 Desert Yellow and Vallejo US Dark Green and was then placed on the model. There are two options for the rear mudflaps - one hanging open and the other folded - I chose the hanging one. Although not mentioned in the instructions, I painted the road wheel hubs XF-7 Red, as the German vehicles were regularly seen with the hubs painted so. The model then was washed with a brown-black paint mixture. The hull was then washed with Buff and afterwards an application of dust pigments was done to the lower hull. A guitar string was cut and superglued to the aerial base.
The Meng Leopard 1A3/A4 is a nice kit. Yes it has a number of shortcomings, most notably the road wheel detail and accuracy and the shallowness of the engine exhaust vents. Despite that, it was still better than the old Tamiya and Italeri Leopard kits with regards to fit and (the rest of the) details. Although a number of shortcuts were made by Meng they were mostly negligible for a casual modeller (or hidden, in the case of the suspension).