Merkava Mk I Hybrid – Full Build
This is the full build review. The first look review of this kit can be found here:
First Look Review
As I mentioned in the first look review, the model doesn’t come with the anti-slip texture on it. So adding this is the first step. The Israeli anti-slip is very rough. Having seen it in person, it looks like fine gravel in a slurry and even in the photos its pretty apparent that it’s a rough surface.
I’ve found the best way to add this is to use a readily available spray can called multi-colored textured paint. It’s in many hardware stores and is used for things like outdoor furniture. What I like about this is that once its on, it is tough and you can easily handle the model without worrying about rubbing it off. Also, being paint, you can scrape away any over spray.
Of course, the big job is to mask off the areas that don’t have the anti-slip. This is especially slow for the Merkava since there are a lot of little sections all over the vehicle. I used the new book from Desert Eagle Publishing called Merkava Siman 1 by Michael Mass and Adam O’Brien (ISBN 978-965-7700-07-5) as my reference for this and most other items in this build.
With this step done, the construction can begin in earnest. I started on the various suspension parts. Takom has really done a great job replicating this rather complex suspension. They’ve used a healthy number of parts and some creative ways to replicate some of the small details. One example are the holes that are on the contact face of the idlers. Takom gives you a simple jig to fit on to the idlers to locate the holes. It’s a quick and effective way to add this little bit of extra detail.
Similarly, the roadwheels have separate parts for the rims and rubber so that the undercut can be replicated. I found that moving slowly through the suspension steps was straight forward and I did not encounter any problems getting all of the parts in place correctly and getting all of the wheels to touch the ground.
Then I turned to the tracks. These are link and length in design and come with a forming jig. The jig holds the idler and sprocket so you actually build the tracks right on to them which is a great idea since you can be sure of a tight fit. The tracks themselves have nice detail. There are some pins marks on both the individual links and the longer runs. But they are ‘proud’ so you can shave them off easily.
After the sections of the tracks are assembled on the jig, you simply remove the sprocket and idler from the jig and mount it on the lower hull, fitting the tracks over the return rollers. Then, there is a lower run of tracks to be installed and the assembly is complete. I found this worked quite well.
With all of this completed, I glued the upper hull to the lower hull. The fit was good with only a little putty needed at the front joint and along the sponsons.
Then I put on the remaining hull parts which are only small things like the driver’s hatch, the gun cradle, etc. No issues with these at all.
Then I turned to the stowage baskets on the back of the hull. These are just about the nicest representation I’ve seen in any media. The assembly is straight forward and the addition of the photoetch screens really adds to the detail look.
The last steps in the construction of the lower hull are the side skirts. Here Takom has really gone all out. Instead of simply molding the skirts as a large piece for each side, Takom has provided them as individual panels with the proper mounts (mainly large loop springs). This makes it really easy to leave off one more panels, something that can be seen on the real tanks. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to show off some of the nice suspension so I left off the two rear panels on the left side.
With the hull done, I turned to the turret. Like the hull, the detail is excellent. Thankfully, so is the fit. I had no problem getting the major components to fit cleanly. This is especially true for the barrel which is split in half as is the end. Having these parts fit cleanly left me with just a touch of light sanding to get a very round result with little effort.
Once the major components were assembled and mated to each other, the rest of the turret parts can be attached. There are a lot of them and many are quite small. But, they fit together well and the result is really outstanding detail.
Now I turned to the machine guns. The two FN machine guns are quite well done and the only thing I did was to drill out the barrels.
The .50 cal was a different experience. As I noted in the first look, it lacks the actuating mechanism used to get it to fire remotely. I scavenged the parts I needed from a Legends resin set. Also, I was surprised that the ammo can is hollow on the bottom so I closed it with sheet plastic. Finally, like the other machine guns, I drilled out the barrel here too. The first photo below shows the kit parts and the second shows it with the actuating mechanism and the spent ammo bag (optional).
One thing to note, is that it wasn’t too common to see the Mk. I with the .50 cal so another option is to simply leave it off entirely.
The last construction job is the turret basket. Wow, this is well done. Again, no fit issues. But more importantly, the detail is really good. The extra bars where the identification panels are strapped on is a needed addition compared to previous kits. Of course the big deal is that the balls and chains are molded right onto the parts so there’s no real effort needed to attach them. This is a huge improvement over past kits.
Once the basket is assembled and mounted to the turret, the next step is to add the tow cables. These are great. The braided metal wired not only looks good but is very flexible so its easy to bend it to the right position while mounting them. I found the lengths shown in the instruction to be correct. But I did assemble them differently from the instructions. I first glued the ends to the cables and then to the center connecting part. Then I mounted the whole assembly to the basket and turret and glued on the remaining clasps. I found this easier than gluing the ends in place first and hoping the lengths would reach the center part as shown in the instructions.
Lastly, I attached the identification panels. Takom provides a sheet of pewter and instructions to cut them to the right dimensions. The instructions show you just gluing them in place but they are actually tied down so I grabbed some fine wired and shown in the photo below.
So that wrapped up the construction section and I must say, the over result is impressive.
So one endless debate that seems come up online is - what color are these tanks? I’m no expert but I have seen a couple of Merkavas up close and all of the photos seem to show them having a green-gray color often called Sinai Gray. In the past I’ve always used some Model Master enamels that work well but this time I went with Tamiya acrylics. I started out giving the model and overall base of flat black. Then I panel faded in XF-65 Field Grey. I then used a second panel fade of XF-73 D Green/JGSDF heavily lightened with white. I did a final panel fade using heavily thinned Tamiya XF-57 Buff to add the tanish hue. I found this to really be a good representation of what I was seeing in the photos.
Then I applied the decals over a local gloss coat. No issues. Once dry, I turned to painting the details liked the machine guns, tow cables, etc. Then the model got another panel fade using heavily thinned Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan to begin to represent the typical dust build up seen on these tanks.
After a flat coat, the model was given an overall wash using thinned Raw Umber Oil Paint. Then I again did another panel fade using Tamiya Deck Tan to really represent the dust. Lastly, I added the smoke exhaust based on the photos using Flat Black.
After yet another flat coat, I finished up with some pigments. I went real heavy on the lower hull, suspension and tracks and then eased up as I worked my way to the top. So that finished up the build.
This kit is a real gem, other than the missing actuation assembly for the .50 cal, the model has outstanding details. Plus, the parts all fit together well. Coupled with the molded in place ball and chains, it is a truly fun build.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to TAKOM for this review kit.
Reviewed by James Wechsler
If you liked this review, consider joining AMPS. Your annual membership
includes six copies of AMPS's magazine, Boresight,
and helps to support our ongoing reviews.
Click here for more information about joining AMPS