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Leopard 2A4

DML 1/72 Leopard 2A4 Build Review

By John Kelley

Date of Review December 2011 Manufacturer DML
Subject Leopard 2A4 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 7249 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Good detail; good fit; extensive decal sheet; tracks are pre-finished Cons Gaps between lower and upper hull
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $10.95

Background

With the cancellation of the MBT70 tank in 1969 Germany began on a course of developing a replacement for the Leopard 1 series of Main Battle Tanks. By 1979 the Leopard 2 entered service with the Federal German Army and it was a major improvement over the Leopard 1 tanks. Armed with a 120 mm main gun, co-axial 7.62 machine gun and 7.62 machine gun for the loader the Leopard 2 is a powerful opponent.

The main gun is fully stabilized and a the armor is of a similar composition to the M1 Abrams and Challenger tanks. The tank is powered by an MTU MB 873 engine and this speeds the tank as fast as 68 km/h. The Leopard 2 has been upgraded over the years to the A6 model with additional armor and a longer main gun barrel. The Leopard 2 has proved popular with Germanys allies with the tank being used by 16 countries.

The Kit

Dragon has released a 1/72 scale kit of the Leopard 2A4 tank and the kit comes with markings for 13 tanks. One of the markings was for a Polish tank and when I seen this I knew I had to build this version. A more complete review can be found by Cookie Sewell on this site.

Assembly

Construction began with the lower hull. I filled the screw holes and filed down the kit supplied plug so it would be flush with the hull. I assembled the road wheels, drive sprocket and idler. The suspension arms were installed next, but I did not glue them in place. Dragon does a good job of making sure the pins align in the holes of the lower hull, however, there is still a certain amount of play in the suspension arms.  I learned by building the Leopard 2A5 kit that the road wheels would still float if I did not make sure that they would all touch the ground. 

Leopard 2A6 Leopard 2A6

After I had assembled and painted the model, I added the road wheels and placed the model on a piece of Melamine covered particle board and gently moved the floating road wheels down until they touched the board.  After all the road wheels made contact with the board, I then glued the suspension arms in place.

While test fitting the rear plate, I noticed a gap between it and the lower hull.  Sanding down the tabs on the rear of the  hull sponson covers reduced the gap.  I had a little trouble fitting the upper hull to the lower hull, but sanding the sponson cover sides and front ends eliminated this problem. 

There is a gap where the glasis plate meets the lower hull side which I did not fill since I was adding the side skirts to the tank.  This, along with the running gear, makes the gap not noticeable.  However, if you are building the tank without the side skirts you'll need to fill this gap as well as those under the sponson and on the rear plate.

Leopard 2A6 Leopard 2A6

There is a step between the lower front plate and the glasis plate where the lights are located on the model. I filled this with .020 strip styrene and sanded it smooth. 

Dragon supplies a length of  braided steel wire and four tow cable hooks.  I found the best way to assemble these is to deepen the slit in the cable hooks with a razor saw and then pinch the end of the tow rope flat. Next apply super glue to the opening and place the tow rope in the slit. Since the slit is vertical if the end of the rope is pinched flat this allows it to fit in the tow cable hook easier.  There was a little bit of wire sticking out from the top and I just took my smooth edged pliers and pressed down on the cable hook end.  This pushes the wire further down and secures it inside.  The tow rope was then attached to the hull shackles and then glued to the top of the hull. 

Dragon provides two kinds of air intakes.  One is made of plastic and has excellent screen detail molded on to it.  The second one is a disk with fan detail and a photo-etch screen to be glued on top. While it is not mentioned in the instructions either type can be used however I decided to use the photo-etch and glued on Part B19. I attached the screen after the model was completed. 

Leopard 2A6 Leopard 2A6

The rest of the lower hull details went on without any issues.  Beginning with Step 6, I started the turret assembly. The kit is missing two lifting rings on the turret. I made these from strip styrene and added them to the commanders cupola and the loaders hatch. I drilled a hole in the lifting ring on the front of the turret. Since I was adding the gunfire simulator I did not add the main gun lifting ring.

The kit includes a gun fire simulator to add over the main gun and in my research on the Polish version, I found they too used this same simulator. At least one vehicle had the kill light on the turret too. After assembling the gun, I placed it inside the turret and added Part D2 to lower turret and C8, the end piece.  The upper turret rear corners extend over Part C8. This area needs to be even and seamless with Part C8.  I filed down this area and filled it with putty to eliminate the overhang.  I had to do a little re-scribing to the seams I had eliminated during sanding.  I then added the rest of the details to the turret, including the handholds.

It was not until I completely finished the model that I rechecked my reference to weather it and realized that the turret side hand holds are mounted too high and should be at the same height as the ones on the turret front. To correct this remove the location pin on the back of hand holds and position the part at the same level as the front hand holds. You will need to fill the location holes but at least you will not make the same mistake I did. The turret decal numbers will go above the hand hold and not below it as I did due to the inaccurate decal location on the instruction sheet.

Painting

The model was given a base coat of Tamiya XF-67 NATO Green.  This was lightened 20% with Deck Tan.  The camouflage pattern was applied using XF-69 NATO Black and XF-68 NATO Brown using a Paasche H Airbrush free hand. The tools were painted Model Master Wood and Gun Metal.  I then applied a coat of Pledge Floor Wax With Future, after which the decals were added.  I had a little trouble removing them from the backing paper.

Leopard 2A6 Leopard 2A6

Instructions recommend dipping in warm water for 20 seconds, but it really should be closer to 40 seconds.  The only problem I had with the decals was the white driving cross on the back of the tank.  This has to be applied over molded details.  To make it conform, I used Microsol Setting Solution.  This allowed the decal to soften and conform to the molded on details.  All the rest of the decals went on without any issues.  When I applied them, I added a small amount of Future with a brush to the model and then placed the decal in the puddle.  After it dried, I added more Future and this eliminated the carrier film. 

The model was then given a wash of Windsor Newton Lamp Black to bring out the details and I then dry brushed them with a little White. Finally, a flat coat of Tamiya TS-80 Clear Flat Spray was used to flatten out the finish.  The head lights and the marker lights on the front and rear of the tank were picked out in silver and Tamiya Clear Orange and Clear Red were applied to the marker lights according to the instructions.  The periscopes were painted Tamiya X-1 Black.  They were over-coated, along with the marker lights, with more Future.  

The Leopard tanks are very well maintained so there is not a lot of weathering that needs to be done.  Applying dirt to the running gear is sufficient.  After all the painting was completed, I glued the track ends together using Super Glue and added them to the kit. These are pre finished black vinyl but they seemed to stay attached with the Super Glue.  The machine gun was painted gun metal with a black stock and this, along with the antennas, were added to the turret.  The last items to be added were the side skirts and this completed the model.

Weathering

I mixed Mig European Dust with Model Master Acryl Flat finish and applied it to the road wheels and tracks as well as the side skirts and lower hull. The dry pigment was added to some of the wheels and the rest of the model was brushed with the same dry pigment.

Leopard 2A6 Leopard 2A6 Leopard 2A6 Leopard 2A6

Conclusion

I think this is one of the best kits that Dragon has produced in their modern armor line.  The decal sheet is very extensive and well worth purchasing just for that alone.  The kit assembles quite easily with excellent details.  One of the nicest things about the kit, aside from the decals, is the pre-finished track.  This is a great aid and looks really nice on the completed model.  I highly recommend this kit to anyone interested in modern armor.

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