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Italeri Leopard 1A2, 1/35


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Here we have Italeri’s old Leopard, in its 1A2 boxing, wearing Esercito Italiano markings.  (I don’t know what unit.)  At last! - the first of my 16 Leopard kits sees the light of day.

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This kit has been around a long time but it still bears up.  It’s modular, allowing for a number of the basic build variations.  I got mine from Italeri and Revell.  Now that Revell has started to produce its own kits, it’s not clear what the future is for, say, the 1A5 version.

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The kit builds reasonably well and reasonably easily, although it has two problems with its engineering.  First, for my money, there are too many butt-joints.  Most of the tools and accessories on the upper hull attach to faint outlines rather than by pins, which makes them hard to position accurately.  Worse, the side skirts have no positive location points, which is doubly tricky with the poor fit of the mudguards.  I’ve reinforced the front-end joint with a plastic tab.  Second, it’s plagued with mould slippage and seams.  It seems the smaller the part, the worse those flaws are, and the harder they are to correct on the sprue.

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I’ve read that this version is nearer a 1A1 than a true 1A2, but the differences are minor, and I didn’t fancy over £20 on a replacement turret.  I’m happy enough that the major changes from the original Leopard are in here: thermal jacket on the gun, exhaust grilles, new tracks (more on them later), and side skirts.

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The overall finish is Humbrol 86 light olive, which Giorgio N on this site and others on Armorama say does the trick.  Under the watercolour, pastel and dry-brush weathering, I think it does too.

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If you’ve made it this far, here’s a few build tips you might find helpful.  First, the turret.  Fit of the top and bottom halves is poor and needs a lot of sanding and filler.  Helpfully, though, you can leave some of the excess plastic to mark the join on the real thing.  Fit of the mantlet is worse, leaving a large gap underneath.  Mine is packed with plastic card.  You may also find that, with the dust cover attached to the mantlet, the whole assembly meets the turret at a slight sideways angle.  I’m not convinced the turret sits low enough on the hull, but from most angles you can’t tell.

 

The rear basket is pleasantly easy to assemble, but some of the locating points are a bit sloppy and need filling.  The smoke launchers are handed, and helpfully have ejector pin marks on the outer side - it would have been just as easy to put them on the inner side, wouldn’t it?  And they’re the devil to remove.  I’ve added wire cables to the gunfire simulator and the searchlight.  For the latter, there’s a blanked hole in the right position that you can drill from inside the turret top.  The radio antennae are very coarse; mine are fine florist’s wire.

 

Now, those tracks.  While I like the Italeri kit, its tracks are dreadful: stiff, chunky, and poorly detailed.  The only replacements I’ve been able to find are very expensive Friul metal jobs, and really nice plastic ones from Meng, which now appear in their Leopard kits.  I used those, and they turned out to be a nightmare.

 

Five parts per link is pushing it a bit, but I can live with that.  The real problem is that they’re supposed to fit together without glue, but they just won’t.  The idea is sound: the end-connectors are integral with their bars, and carry the guide horns too, and you trap them between two inner faces and two outer faces.  Much like the real thing, in fact.  But the holes in the inner faces are too narrow for the pins on the outer faces, so you have to drill them out slightly with a 1mm bit.  With two holes per part, and two parts per link, and 84 links per side, that works out at slightly more than four thousand turns of the drill.  And still, the two sides may not meet perfectly, nor trap the connectors properly.  Even when they do, moving links to any position other than dead straight can push the outer face away, and as soon as it goes, it will let go of the inner face too.  It’s maddening.  From bitter experience I can recommend: sod the instructions, and use glue.  You can assemble quite a lot as straight lengths for top and bottom, leaving just the bits that bend round the sprocket and the idler, and the bits that connect them to the bottom run.  Then you can attach those to the straight lengths, apply glue, and work them carefully into position before it sets - but even that will wrack your nerves.  And you’ll still need four hands, possibly more, to do the final connections.

 

Meng give you a jig and it works well.  But it’s no help for those last bits, of course.  And it’s made of the same plastic as the rest, so you daren’t glue your tracks together on it.  I used Revell Contacta with the hypodermic applicator, applied to the sides of the assembled links.  Good luck painting your tracks!  I’ve not done that much retouching in ages.

 

I could live with this easier if the result was better than other people’s tracks.  But AFV Club uses only three parts per link for its Leopard 2 tracks, and they’re a genuine push-fit, with no less detail.  If you use these tracks, be very careful with the connectors.  The bars are hair-fine and can break just from being taken off the sprue or from being held firmly.  There are spares in the box - but not as many as there are for the other parts.  84 links matches the kit tracks, and hangs a bit slack.  83 links would almost certainly be too short.

 

Other points about the running gear: don’t worry too much about the sink marks.  They’re largely hidden.  The hubs are a bit of a loose fit with the wheels, but you can disguise it with careful painting and oil stains.  And you can leave the return rollers loose, which can be handy for feeding the tracks in.  The tyres have odd grooves across them.  I’d read that they weren’t right, but then I saw pictures of a Belgian Leopard with them, so I’ve not sure what’s going on there.  My view: filling 336 tiny grooves was more than I could bear.  Properly assembled, the sprockets shift around a bit, which didn’t help with the tracks; but they turn as well, which did.

 

On the hull, the undersides of the sponsons are moulded as part of the lower hull.  That makes it a bit harder to fit the tracks, which is unwelcome, but it does mean you can close up the hull first and sort out any dodgy panel fit before the tracks get in the way.  The one exception is the sprockets, for which you have to fit washers inside the hull, but they sit far enough forward that they won’t get in the way of work on the rear plate if you want to do it in this order.  I think I will, with my other four Italeri / Revell Leopards.

 

Closing the bow and glacis plates is hampered by a slight step that’s moulded into the lower hull sides right at the front.  Next time I’ll sand that away before attaching any of the running gear.  Fit of the rear plate is rough all round and needs a bit of help from filler and plastic card.  The exhaust grilles help locate the rear plate, but they’re not a great fit either.  The instructions would have you attach a few parts to the plate before fitting it; in future builds I’ll fit it, and sort out the grilles, first.

 

After that, the upper hull is trouble-free, although the mudguards aren’t brilliant.  The front ones (I used the full-depth ones that go with the skirts) sit a bit low.  You can use very thin plastic to fill in the step where they meet the section that’s integral with the upper hull.  The rear mudguards are OK, a bit thick on the lower rubber sections, but they’re so close to the towing hooks that it may not be possible to fit the tow cables.  The tools have nicely detailed clamps, but nearly all are on the backs and will be hidden if you attach the tools the right way up.  I’ll bet there’s a fiddly, expensive fix.  I wanted to use the Meng grousers on the glacis plate, but they turned out to be too big, so I settled for the vinyl things instead.  With so much hidden by the racks, it didn’t really matter.

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Hi Seán. That really impressive and just shows that, with some patient extra work, a really superb model can be built. That really is an awesome model from Italeri's old Leopard!

:worthy::worthy::worthy:

Kind regards,

Stix

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Hi mate

 

A really great Leopard did you build, fantastic result of these very old kit, the paint job is amazing and the weathering pretty subtle.

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Most Impressive :worthy:... Im very surprised this didn't find it self being thrown against a wall ?  Im looking for info on 1A5’s currently, and your description is most helpful of issues to keep an eye out for thanks. 

 

Dennis

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  • 1 year later...

Very well done, Still a great kit today imho. I've build the 1a4 and I loved the fact that Italeri provided see through mesh for the engine deck, it adds a lot of depth. I love the details such as on the mg.

Cheers,

Ernst.

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