Catalogue number: 2004
Reviewed by Michael Shackleton
The sample was kindly supplied by Takom.
I have already reviewed the Takom C2 MEXAS, so some of this will repeat what has gone before.
A year ago, who would have expected three new injection-moulded Leopard 1 kits? Two manufacturers have taken the bull by the horns, or should I say the cat by the tail!! Meng produced a 1A3/1A4 which left something to be desired (read the review). Then Takom tackled the last version of Leopard 1 to see active combat, the Canadian C2 MEXAS (read the review). Now Takom have taken the MEXAS armour off their first kit to produce the tank that lies hidden under the skin, the basic Leopard C2 - and also the tank on which it was based, the Leopard 1A5.
Leopard 1 was originally conceived to face the threat of Soviet T-54, T-55 and T-62. Leopard 1A5 was the 'ultimate' Leopard 1. During the Cold War, there was a constant demand to keep up with the Soviet threat of the later and more powerfully-armed T-64 and T-72. The German army modified Leopard 1 throughout its life and the final update programme incorporated the fire-control system and thermal imaging site developed for Leopard 2.
1,225 tanks from the Leopard 1A1A1 family were modified between 1986 and 1992 with EMES 18 sites. This was a revolution in the world of fire-control systems, the first to use a laser rangefinder allowing all-weather, day or night, vision. 1A5 went on to be used by Brazil, Canada, Greece, Italy, Norway and Turkey.
The Canadian Leopard C2 was introduced in 1999 to replace C1 (which had a welded turet based on the Leopard 1A3) which had limited night-fighting capabilities. 123 Leopard 1A5 cast turrets were purchased from Germany, refurbished, and all but nine of them were mounted on the best hulls from the C1 fleet. After the experience of up-armouring their C1s for use in Kosovo in 1999/2000, the same principles were applied to C2 to become Leopard C2 MEXAS. The hull armour was identical to C1, but new modules had to be developed to fit the cast turret of C2. Seventeen were deployed to Afghanistan. All C2 MEXAS were withdrawn from Afghanistan mid-2011 and the add-on armour removed.
The C2 has now fired it's last shots in live fire training in Canada and will gradually be decommissioned. The latest rumours suggest that they may be on their way to a South American army, but this seems unlikely.
Though Takom and Meng have tackled some parts in a VERY similar way, the Takom kit is completely different. The overall quality of the parts is very good with excellent moulding. Flash is almost non-existent. There is no sign of warping and no obvious sink marks. Once again we are witnessing crisp detail and an excellent fit of parts though some have been simplified compared to some other manufacturers.
As is their want, Takom have included a figure, this time a volunteer sniper to go with the Italian decal option in the kit from Kosovo in 1999. I'm not sure what is more dangerous - his smoking or holding a rifle with telescopic sight. I feel sure that some crew figures to populate the vehicle would prove a lot more popular.
The instructions are novel, to say the least. The 1A5 and C2 may have the same parentage, but rather than trying to include the different options for the two different versions in what could become a very confusing set of instructions, Takom have done something different and very smart. Start the instructions at one end of the booklet for one version. Turn it over and start again for the second version. Two separate sets of instructions for two tanks in one book - simple and clear.
The current trend is to have working torsion bars and the Takom kit is no exception. The good thing here is that the bars are moulded onto the swing arms. Like the Meng kit, the swing arms have no detail whatsoever on their outer faces (the Italeri arms were also incorrect). On the outside face, where they are bolted to the torsion bars, there should be a depression with a nipple in the middle. Leopard Workshop can furnish much better options.
The shock absorbers, the bump stops and the inner return roller mounts are moulded directly on the hull sides. However, most of this is hidden away with the side skirts in place. If you want better detail, then have a look at the Leopard Workshop suspension upgrade set.
The most serious disappointment are the idlers and roadwheels. They all have polycaps. However, there is no detail on the reverse sides at all. In fact, they are completely the wrong shape with what appear to be huge drum brakes on them, very very similar to the Meng wheels. Italeri wheels had no detail either, but at least they were the right shape.
Thankfully, the front faces are much better and a big improvement over the awful Meng wheels. The hub is much better (though still not right - the hub 'cap' should be much shallower) and the shape of the inner rim has nice a gentle curve. The tyres do not have Italeri's trademark lateral grooves in them. Even better are the Leopard Workshop options LW001-1 and LW002.
The sprockets are nice!! We have here the later replacement sprocket which had 15 bolts from the MEXAS kit (part A17). These were introduced at the time of the 1A5 modification programme and were retrofitted to many tanks after overhaul. The kit supplies a flange just off-centre (as per the Italeri kit) which was missing from the Meng kit. However, not all Canadian tanks had this flange. We also now have the original 8-bolt sprocket (part G2) as an alternative.
The tracks are the nice Orochi ones already reviewed on Leopard Club, so I won't repeat myself.
The hull is a conventional tub (including the rear wall) and top - nice and simple and the fit is excellent. Like the Meng kit, there are no welds on the hull to speak of. As I have said before, they are a significant feature of the Leopard 1 hull. The Italeri hull didn't have any welds either. Because of its MEXAS parentage, the front trackguards are separate pieces. There is no sign of any anti-slip on these at all so the modeller will have to add his own.
fender non-skid patches
Photo © Dan Hay
Takom have given us an accurate engine deck grille. The grille is a two-piece affair with the base layer cast in a kind of honeycomb. Here, Meng beats Takom with a cast grille with much more depth. This has a wire mesh etch grille to fit on top, supplied from the etch fret. Another nice feature are the air intake grilles along the sides which are also etch (Takom's are finer than Meng's parts).
There are four access hatches on the hull top with grab handles. Like Meng, Takom have done a Tamiya over-simplification here and we just have have four rectangles of plastic. These are best removed, drilled and replaced with wire. Comparing the rear deck grilles from both manufacturers, I would say that Takom has the edge with more accurate lock-down bolts (Meng's were too small), but the forward intake grilles and the coolant filler (the one with the large bar across it) are more accurate on Meng's kit. Further forward, the splash ring around the turret is more accurate on Takom's hull.
There are numerous location slots for the hull side tool stowage. If, at some future point, a version is built or converted with stowage boxes fitted instead of tools, there will be a lot of filling to do! The tools on the hull sides are quite nice. They are all moulded with their hull mounting plates attached so fitting them will be a doddle. The only disadvantage are the holding clips which could be better defined as they won't be easy to replace with photo-etch alternatives. I feel that Meng have captured the tools on their kit just that little bit better and crisper.
One thing that is very 1970s is the handle moulded on top of the rear hull tool box when it should be separate - exactly as Meng did. Why oh why? It just looks so toy-like and crude. The same can be said for the engine exhaust grilles on the hull sides. They are better than Meng's awful renditions which had no depth at all, but Takom's aren't that great either. They are best replaced with the much nicer Italeri ones which thankfully fit. Two styles of grille are supplied - parts E15 and E24 depict the horizontal welded grille (from production batches 4-6 and export models including C2) and parts D17 and D30 for the earlier cast 'waffle' style grilles (from production batches 1-3). These are a little disappointing as well as only the two bottom rows have any depth to them, whilst the 5/6 rows above have none. Weird! Both styles could be used for the 1A5, though the instructions don't mention this. Leopard Workshop has better renditions of both the welded (LW008) and the cast (LW009) grille.
Like in Meng's kit, I don't like the rear mudflaps and the only option here is folded up. The reason I don't like the folded flaps is that no effort has been made defining the fold from the sides. They are just blobs of plastic, again like Meng. Where the side skirts stick out at the rear end, there should be a C-shaped mount which has been overlooked, although an attempt at making it look right (poorly) has been made on parts D14 and D18. These are included in the Leopard workshop welded (LW008) or cast (LW009) grille sets.
The rear lights are separate parts to be added to the rear hull. The armour surround is too thick and the overall shape is too squashed. They just don't look right. The main gun lock is a little on the small side as well and the locking handle would have been better in the stowed position and not hanging loose.
This kit has the additional option of a square infantry phone box to replace the more common circular one. The square box only featured in Batch 1 production so is perfectly appropriate for 1A5, all of which had their parentage in the first four production batches.
Another short cut are the tow shackles which are moulded solidly onto the tow pintles. This severely limits the ability to pose them realistically when attaching the tow cables which is another short cut á la Meng. The four lifting eyes, once again, don't have any welds around them which are quite a significant feature of Leopard 1. Italeri didn't either! The headlights are hollow with separate clear lenses, the only clear parts supplied.
Photos © Dan Hay
All of the driver periscopes are moulded in place - no transparent parts. For the C2, the periscopes have the correct guard over the top but and the armoured cover down the side - through which a cable drove the periscope wipers. The cable itself will have to be added at the lower end. For the 1A5 we have etch guards over the top of the periscopes.
My comment on the skirts? They are Excellent!! The dimpled texture has been captured very nicely. It is not even across the whole skirt which is a mistake that Meng made with their skirts. The texture is nicely UNeven, just like the real thing. The only shame is that the clips that lock one section to the next are all perfectly straight. Some different angles would have been more natural. The way the sideskirts join the front mudflaps will result in a vertical joint, but this will be easy to clean up and disguise.
There are not too many differences between the hull fittings of the 1A5 and the C2. I have already mentioned the wiper system on the C2 driver periscopes. Other additions included in the kit for the C2 (not on the 1A5) are the armoured cover on the hull top next to the driver's hatch which protects power couplings for engineer attachments (dozer, mine plough or mine roller).
These two support posts in the photo are used to mount an armoured cable cover. These are missing on the Canadian option.
Photo © Anthony Sewards
Mounting channels on the lower hull are included for the above mentioned attachments. A different grouser rack is provided plus the U-shaped bracket on the lower edge of the glacis that is also part on the engineer attachment kit. Both Leopard 1A5s and C2s have very large guide plates on the glacis edges inside the mudguards. These are not included but are easily built from plastic card.
The biggest addition to the C2 hull are all of the attachment points for the MEXAS armour which were fitted fleet-wide to all C2s. When I say biggest, they are actually quite small! There are five rectangular mounts on the hull sides, two tubular mounts on each hull corner, and no less than 12 rectangular ones on the glacis plate. All have to be attached by eye - but line drawings showing their positions are provided which are quite clear. All of these mounts will benefit from being drilled out once they are firmly glued in place as the real mounts are all hollow. The parts provided don't have enough depth to them.
The tow cables were relocated on C2 to avoid clashing with the MEXAS armour. These mounts are all included and noted in the instructions (G7, G9, G17) with the cable itself crossing over at the hull rear. In the MEXAS kit we had string for the tow cables. This time we have proper wire cable which is quite supple. There is no suggestion in the instructions about the length to cut them to. Replacement cables from Eureka are still the best though!
No mantlet or hull-mounted deep fording plugs or chains are included but these are now available from Leopard Workshop.
The turret here is, of course, the cast version. Comparing it to the the Italeri/Revell turret, which was always too long in the snout, the Takom turret is a little longer still. Strangely, the Italeri turret base fits almost perfectly into the Takom upper turret - and vice versa. Comparing the turrets to factory drawings, the difference is about 2 mm too long, 70 mm in reality. Not that great a difference really. The difference is down to the angle of the side walls behind the mantlet edges which pushes the lower edge of the turret nose too far forward.
One thing I did not mention in the MEXAS review was the shape of the rangefinder blanking plates on the turret sides. These are completely wrong. On the MEXAS kit they are mostly covered by the add-on armour so I didn't mention them. Here they are in full view and are a major feature of the tank. Takom have depicted them as a squashed and angled oval when they should be perfectly circular - other than a straight cut off at the top rear. Takom have the cut-off at the wrong angle too!
right range-finder blanking plate
left range-finder blanking plate
The gun, which is no improvement over the Italeri one, is in two halves. The Leopard gun is quite a complicated affair with its thermal jacket fitted. It is supplied the good old-fashioned way in two halves with a vertical split. This means a lot of very careful cleaning but any competent modeller won't mind this. Maybe we've been spoilt with metal barrels in recent years? The muzzle has no rifling in it. The collimator on the muzzle is too small. The Canadians used full rings (hose clamps actually) around the thermal sleeves so this option is not included, though the kit clamps are OK for 1A5.
Photo © Anthony Sewards
Photo © Dan Hay
examples of barrel sleeve clips (hose clamps) used on the C2
The mantlet has no provision for movement as the canvas cover won't allow it. Like the Italeri kit, the mantlet is a solid mount onto the front of the turret.
Thankfully, like Meng, the Takom kit has corrected a long-standing problem with the Italeri kit. The commander's cupola now has the right number of periscopes! Again, these are all moulded in place (no clear parts). The cupola rings are quite thin, certainly compared to the thick offerings from Italeri. The commander's hatch has the circular locking wheel moulded to the bottom of the hatch (same as Meng). Italeri did this separately, but it is barely visible with the hatch open as it is located underneath. The turret loading hatch is separate but it is the wrong shape.
The Canadian aerial mounts are not quite correct with no bolt detail on the bases or the mount beneath the sprung aerial base. They are also too small. Alternative German aerial bases are supplied for the 1A5. As usual with plastic aerial bases, it will be very difficult to drill them out to take wire aerials - one of my pet peaves with model manufacturers, not to mention difficult to clean mould seams. There is no indiaction of aerial lengths either.
C2 aerial base
Photo © Dan Hay
The smoke launchers do not have any etch chains on their caps, but are better detailed and proportioned than Meng's. The guard around the GPS receiver on the C2 is flat photo-etch where it should be tubular. We have quite a good rendition of the C6 FN machine gun and its mount for the C2 and the the same goes for the MG3 for the 1A5. However, neither of the machine gun trolleys have travel locks for the MGs. These are ALWAYS missing from both Leopard 1 and 2 kits and they are horrible things to add from after-market etch. It is a shame that the MG trolleys on the rings are not moulded separately á la Italeri.
The add-on armour is a major feature of this tank, of course. What always let the Italeri/Revell kit down were the silly pegs on the back of the armour that simply stuck to the side of the turret. There was no sign of any of the numerous points that were welded to the real turret. Rather than doing a new moulding of the turret with these points in place - or even marked out in some way - Takom have supplied all of the mounts INDIVIDUALLY. There is no suggestion of welds around these mounts which are quite noticable on the real thing especially on the bigger forward mounts. There are no location points on the turret, so all we have to go by are four small side-view drawings in the instructions from which you have to locate all these fiddly little things by eye. Takom could at least have given us larger drawings to make life a little bit easier - like they do with the hull mounts. Two vertical slots remain in the turret sides which were used to locate th MEXAS blocks in the last kit, so these will have to be filled in - or left as they will be largely invisible with the armour mounted.
just because we like you, here are a few photos to help with the placement of those mounts
Photos © Neil McLeish
The texture on the add-on armour plates is excellent. There is a notable difference in pattern between the forward plates and the ones behind - very good. Two sets of side armour are provided because the Canadian version has extra bracket plates on the sides. On the 1A5, the armour plates wrap around the outside of the turret basket.
What is a little disappointing is that all of the attacment brackets have been left off and there are numerous ejector marks to deal with. If you put stowage in the baskets, none of this will be visible, of course. Normally carried under the basket is an adaptor ring folded in half, for the attachment of deep fording shaft on the commander's hatch ring. This is missing.
The most obvious feature of the Canadian Leopard C2 over the 1A5, on which it is based, is the huge turret stow box. This is an interesting six-sided box which has to be skinned with separate side panels. This way all of the various latches, hinges, tie downs and mounts are nicely moulded on. The solid moulded-on tie-down loops could be replaced with wire for a better appearance. The box even has the mounting brackets like the real thing so there are no compromises on fitting this box to the rear turret. One thing lacking is a non-slip surface on the lids. All C2s (not 1A5) also had a non-slip coating on the turret top, so both of these will have to be dealt with by the modeller.
Photo © Dan Hay
Also missing are two antennae bags which are kept under the stow box. These can be found in the Legend C2 MEXAS update set though they have flaps at both ends - most had flaps at just one end. Two different style of jerrycan are provided which have been moulded into their racks with moulded-on straps. It would have been nice if these were all separate - as per the same Legend update set.
Photos © Dan Hay
There are four decal options, two for each version.
Photo © Dan Hay
The Italeri and Revell kits of the Leopard 1A5 are still available and still very good kits in their own right. Their parentage goes back to the seventies but they can still be built into very good models. Italeri kits of that time were very good indeed and can still hold their heads up high. The only previous option for building a C2 was the Maple Leaf resin conversion set for the Revell kit, but this has long been out of production.
Meng have now released their own rendition of the 1A5, and it easily beats the Takom kit for quality of engineering and accuracy as far as the turret is concerned.
Takom have quickly built a reputation for accurate and interesting kits. This is why I was excited when I heard about the Takom release. I assumed that it would uphold their previous reputation, but I'm afraid that this Leopard 1, once again, could be better. There are inaccuracies and over-simplified moulding in places, but it looks like it will build fairly quickly.
I am sorry if I have been critical of this kit but isn't that what reviews are for? Having said that, it is in some ways better than the Meng kit - though, of course, it is a different version. What Meng does better than Takom is the rear deck grille, gun travel lock, rear lights and possibly clear periscopes (though some won't be too bothered about these). The Meng and Takom kits are overall better than Italeri's good and venerable kit. The Takom and Meng Leopards both have their positives and negatives, but I would say that the Meng kit just edges the Takom kit which hasn~t quite got the same sophistication in some areas. Against that, both kits have various crude details in places .
However, the ultimate injection-moulded Leopard 1 is still eagerly awaited, but where will it come from? And how long do we have to wait?