Reviewed by Kenneth Østergaard
It seems only appropriate on the 50th anniversary of the Bundeswehr's introduction of the Leopard battle tank to launch a new kit of this cold-war icon. More so to offer a kit from the first production lots - the so-called baulos or batches. The box states that baulos 2 to 4 can be built; these have so far not been offered before.
This is not the first Leopard tank offering from Revell. They have previously offered the 1A1A1-A4 and the 1A5 version in three different kits. The base of these kits, however, used parts from Italeri's old 1A4 version. Most of the parts added were for the cast turret itself as well as detail parts for the turret.
This new model, however, is a completely new-tooled kit made by Revell themselves. In fact, I have not been able to find any resemblance between the old kits and this new one.
There is one thing I would like to point out. This kit should really have been entitled Kpz. Leopard - without the '1'. The numeral was added when the development of the second Leopard tank (the Leopard 2 tank) was under way in the early 70s. All the first baulos were simply called Kamfpanzer (Kpz) Leopard as their predecessors had been designated during WW2. Baulos 2-4 were all produced between 1966-1970 and were therefore never called anything else but Kpz Leopard in their own time.
The Baulos 2-4 differed in many ways from the later ones. I am not going to put the reader through all the minute details of this. If one wants to read about this I will refer you to Michael Shackleton's The Leopard Trilogy, or Tankograd's The Leopard 1 MBT in German Army Service - Early Years. There are, however, five distinct differences from later tanks that I will point out. The early batches had the Diehl D139E2 tracks with chevrons, they had a cast turret, they had cast exhaust grilles (Baulos 1-3, Baulos 4 introduced welded grilles), they had no side-skirts and the gun had no thermal sleeves. These features are, however, were not all exclusive to these early tanks. Tanks are upgraded, so too were the Leopards, and therefore a mixture of features can be found on later versions, too. These early versions were exported to, amongst others, the Dutch and the Belgian Army, and Revell have included parts for these versions, too.
The box is in the typical Revell style. It opens at each end and is made in a somewhat thinner/softer kind of cardboard. It has glossy pictures on all sides fairly showing the contents. The front box art has a somewhat infantile, toy-like appearance. In the box one finds 260 parts. There are ten sprues, an instruction leaflet, decals, some vinyl tracks, as well as tow cables and, stuck to the instructions, a piece of steel wire for the antennae. But there are no clear parts! Come on Revell, that's been a natural inclusion for the last 20-odd years. All the plastic parts are in light grey plastic, which I prefer them to be, and the vinyl parts are in black. E verything is very conventional. The parts are cast very well with very little flush in my set.
The instructions are printed in colour and have very clear steps splitting the build into 62 parts. The decals offer you four versions - two German versions (a 2. and 4. Baulos), a Dutch version and a Belgian version. Throughout the steps, flags and indications of baulos guide you to choose parts according to your chosen version of build. Though I haven't yet built this kit, I think that the instructions are very clear and informative. The colour references use Revell's own paint line.
I would like to start the more detailed review of this kit with the part I think is very good - the turret. Conventionally, both the turret itself and the gun are split into two parts. There is a nice texture moulded on the top half of the turret and, as a first, it has had the rain gutters moulded to it. The welding lines on this part also looks quite good, I think. The shape of the turret looks to me to be OK, but I am not an expert on this. The turret basket has some good details to it and you are given two options for the centre box containing the IR searchlight. In my example, there is a little flush to clean on the basket, but nothing even the beginner cannot handle, I think. The details for the turret are all quite good and will give you quite a convincing and accurate turret for your model. The rangefinder is a huge improvement from Revell's earlier offerings. The heads of these rangefinders have the correct shape - which is a first. There are even separate parts for the viewing flaps so one can build them open or closed - a first too. The kit provides two types of handrails which is necessary, because a small triangular piece was welded as support on the later baulos. The mantlet looks OK, but for some odd reason there are no plugs for the sight and the MG. These are available though through Leopard Workshop (LW005). I think this turret has a close resemblance with the early batches. In itself, however, there are lots of things that could be updated. Leopard Workshop's gun barrel (LW019N), smoke dischargers (LW026) and antenna mounts (LW023) will definitely add some extra to your model.
The hull - well that is something else. Let me start with what you get. The hull itself is a multiple part construction. Revell has left the traditional separate bathtub and upper hull solution and gone old school. The basic hull is constructed of five parts. The best thing about this solution is a centre-placed bulkhead that stiffens the hull right under the turret. Most of the other Leopard kits tend to sag a little under the weight of the turret, resulting in too little clearance between the turret and the hull. This is cumbersome, but OK.
The rear plate has two options depending on the version you have chosen. For some odd reason, Revell has chosen to include the Baulos 1 square telephone box which this kit does not cover, though the instructions say it should be Baulos 2 - wrong! The intake is a solid casting in the upper deck. It looks OK as it is well detailed and quite accurate. However, if one were to choose PE parts, it would require delicate surgery to accomplish. The exhaust grilles are very good, I think. The belly has nice, and more importantly, accurate details. Cast at the front of the hull are the two plugs and their chain for the mantlet during deep diving. It's nice that they are there, but personally I would remove them and use those from Leopard Workshop (LW005).
There are many detail parts for the hull. These are good; in fact, those for the tools are among the best I have seen so far for the Leopard tank. They are very close to the real thing. Most of the other things are also quite good and at least equally as good as other kit offerings. The handles for fuel and fillers are moulded onto the hull parts, but that's an easy fix. They have opted to make the NBC filter intake a separate part, which is nice. However, they have not made any details on the top side. The parts for the wire are, as in every other tank kit, rudimentary. No news here I'm afraid.
So far it's been thumps up for this kit. But then there is the running gear - OMG! What a bummer. I really do not know where to start.
The tracks are kind of OK. There are ejection marks on the inside of every third link. As these are made of vinyl you will just have to live with this. It is really a shame about these ejections marks because the tracks are actually well made models of the D139E2 tracks. But they are just far too visible. The suspension and the swing arms are moulded as one part. One can always argue pros and cons to this, but Revell is certainly going against the stream here. There are no toy-like trends in this kit. The suspension parts are, however, well detailed (although strictly speaking inaccurate). I don't think it is such a huge issue especially as these are fairly well hidden behind the road wheels. The return rollers are much nicer than anything before with different width rims. Without side skirts this is certainly a good point as these are clearly visible.
And then there are the road wheel parts. Revell's previous offerings had some irritating lines across the rubber tyre rims - these have gone. Instead, they have made a very poor imitation of the circular pattern found on the early tyre faces. But it gets worse. As a first, Revell is offering details on the inner face of the wheels - but for some reason have not bothered to research this area. They are utterly off. And to make things worse, although their previous road wheels had the correct shape, they have made the new ones utterly wrong. The sides of the rims are curved on the real thing. Revell has made them rectangular - why? Why are they not correct? They are, however, well detailed. Both the nuts and the bolts are well detailed. The idler wheels share this problem, too. The sprocket is kind of okay - up to standard of the other manufactures offerings anyway. Altogether, I think the running gear is this kit's Achilles heel. Personally, I will replace this entire area with Leopard Workshop items and replace the tracks with (.
As mentioned at the beginning, there is both an option for a Dutch and a Belgian version. For the Dutch version there are different exhaust grilles and tool bins for both sides, the Dutch smoke discharger system, Dutch MG mount (with searchlight) for the loader's cupola and Dutch style-antenna mounts. The Belgian version shares parts with the Baulos 4 version, the only exceptions being the MG mount which is almost similar to the Dutch version (but without the search light). However, Michael Shackleton pointed this out to me ... (I) don't understand why the toolboxes are not mentioned as an option for the Belgian tank. These were introduced in 1974. Also a new fire-control was introduced including a wind sensor and pressure sensor on the roof - these are on the sprues but not in the instructions. The bridge and the end plates on the toolboxes are also appropriate for these later Belgian mods. All this is good. Thumbs up, Revell.
There is one thing I would like to point out right away - this is a cheap kit. On Ebay Germany they retail for the mid-twenties Euro, on Ebay UK for the mid-twenties £! That is a very low price for a new kit. That kind of indicates to whom this kit is intended. This is a kit for the average modeller. Revell indicates on the box that this is Skill Level 4 which is described as ... for advanced model builders. Experience in gluing and painting is required. Kit suitable for ages 12 to adult. If I was to offer my verdict to this group, then I'll recommend this kit highly. You get a well-detailed model of this cold-war icon, which, as far as I can tell, is not going to cause any trouble building it. You will have many options to choose from and thereby stand a good chance of building a 'unique' tank of your own.
As a Leopard tank enthusiast, however, I have another opinion. This is a mixed bag. There are many things I like in this kit, most particularly the turret. There are, however, also things I am really appalled about. I really think that the decisions made in reproducing the running gear are awful. Why take the one thing that still makes the old Revell kits stand out even compared to the more recent offerings from Meng and Takom, and make it worse? Thank God Leopard Workshop can offer replacements for these errors.
Nevertheless, I am glad I bought this, and I am really looking forward to building this kit. I cannot wait to see what the AM producers will offer for this kit.