Media: resin and photo-etch
Reviewed By: Michael Shackleton
Model kindly supplied by Trackjam for this review.
Photos of Canadian vehicles reproduced with thanks to Anthony Sewards.
A few years ago, Maple Leaf Models in Canada released a C2 MEXAS conversion kit and this is thoroughly described in Leopard Fibel LF05 Afghan Cat. This same kit has now been re-released by Trackjam with many upgrades to bring it up-to-date.
Currently there are four different resin conversions for the Leopard C2 MEXAS. These should all prove popular as this Leopard 1 is one version that has proven it's effectiveness in combat in Afghanistan. Perfect Scale Modellbau from Germany have released two different versions both with and without the later thermal blanket. Already reviewed by the Leopard Club is the Legend C2 MEXAS.
Inside the sturdy cardboard box are:
What does the Trackjam kit offer that the others do not? As you can see from the contents of the box, this is a very thorough conversion kit. Nothing has been left to chance as everything you need is in one box - apart from the donor kit, of course. Because a reworked turret is included (not included in the original Maple Leaf kit), any of the Italeri/Revell Leopard 1 kits can be used, including the welded turret 1A4 kit. The casting has been done by HobbyFan, so you know the quality is excellent. As you can see in the instructions, the pour blocks are all relatively thin and easy to remove. One caveat - the instructions do mention that this is a kit for the experienced modeller, which I would agree with. This is not for beginners.
The instructions are very descriptive and start with a potted history of the tank followed by suggested references. You will very definitely need good reference of the actual vehicle to get everything lined up properly. Luckily, Leopard Club has several MEXAS-based articles and we can also sell you Anthony Seward's excellent Leopard C2 MEXAS in Afghanistan book! Photos of the resin parts are clearly labelled with the component parts.
Construction starts with surgery to the donor hull which needs the front trackguards to be removed. I remember this well from my build of the Maple Leaf C1 MEXAS which, of course, has the same hull armour (Leopardfible LF02 Kosovo Cat). Replacement rear deck grilles are supplied from the Real Models accessory set. The circular shapes in the lower rear deck grille are not strictly correct as they should be oval, but with the upper netting in place, this is not obvious. The forward intakes can be replaced with items included in the kit, but I don't think this is entirely necessary. The replacements do look very nice - though fiddly to build - but will be hidden by the turret box, so the choice is yours.
The nose plates go on first and this is where the first reworks of the original Maple Leaf kit occur. The glacis plates have been altered. You have a choice of a full width plate including the trackguards. However, if you wish to install a mine plough, mine roller or dozer, separate plates are included which is a very nice touch. Also, compared to my C1 MEXAS, all of the bolts - and there are lots of them - have been replaced with slightly smaller ones for a better scale appearance. Attention to detail is very good in this kit.
Corner blocks are added at the same time as the glacis panels to make absolutely sure everything lines up. A little trick here which might be useful - which I learnt when building the C1 MEXAS - is to glue thin 10-thou panels of plastic card on the back of the MEXAS blocks. You can then use tube polystyrene glue to fiddle about with the blocks to get them aligned, giving you more time to play than with super-glue.
Before the hull armour goes on, the running gear will have to be installed. Smaller diameter Leopard 2 idlers are included though some C2 MEXAS retained the original idlers. The instructions show the tracks installed, but how the modeller deals with this problem is up to the individual. Because the top run is invisible with the armour modules in place, the tracks could be left until later if you are using individual links or resin link and length alternatives to the kit's vinyl tracks.
Next are the side modules, skirts and tool boxes. Then all of the hull details can be dealt with. These include a new gun travel lock in resin as this was always a weak point of the Italeri/Revell kits. Other things to add are extended headlight and tow hook brackets, the kit headlights which would benefit from reaming out and having aftermarket lenses added (Resicast perhaps). The power coupling armoured cover is included, and a new NBC intake with nuts on top (but no grille to go inside) and a cover to go over the driver's periscopes which covered small wipers on the periscope blocks. This was driven by a cable which disappeared down behind the right corner block of MEXAS. This is not mentioned in the instructions. Huge Ballard tow shackles (courtesy of RB Models) made from brass are included which even have separate clevis pins.
Dust shields are supplied in etch brass from the Real Models set. These were beaten up fairly quickly. By the time the thermal cover was introduced most, but not all, were missing. You can find photos with just one in place on the right OR one on the left. Be careful - if they were fitted with the thermal cover, the cover went over the top of the dust cover on the left side. Also in the set are rear mudflaps but these need to be thickened up with thin plastic sheet to represent the true thickness of the real rubber flaps.
That's the easy bit. Now we move onto the turret.
The original Maple Leaf C2 MEXAS used the Revell 1A5 kit turret. This was a perennial problem with the incorrect number of commander's periscopes (7 instead of 8). Trackjam have reworked the turret in resin and corrected this problem. Also, they have added all of the add-on armour mounting points (also never in the Revell kit) and given the turret roof a non-slip coating. Excellent stuff!! All ready for a standard C2 turret kit/conversion. What is better is that Trackjam's turret is better than the PSM alternative with more accurate mounts. The only thing missing is the rain gutter along the rear edge of the turret, but this won't be visible with the MEXAS in place. Nit-picking again!
The starting point for adding the distinctive turret armour is the attachment of the large turret stowage box. This itself has the correct non-slip coating (missing from the Legend kit) nicely cast along with all of the handles and hinges. No fiddly etch to add here like the PSM kits. The turret needs to be fitted to the hull to accurately fit the box. With aid of a suitable spacer on the hull top, the box must be straight and level otherwise it will throw out the positioning of the MEXAS modules. A weak point here is that the box only has two very small posts to attach it to the turret. The instructions suggest building up the post with epoxy to strengthen them but I think some packing with plastic card might be more appropriate. The attachment of the box will become stronger once the modules are in place. There are four grab handles on either side of the box which you might want to replace with brass wire. One thing missing - or should I say two - are two bags under the stow box which are used for stowing spare antennae rods.
The turret modules are possibly the most challenging part of the kit. Each module is separate and, once again, each has a non-slip coating moulded on the appropriate surface. The lugs on the reverse side of each module have to be removed and then the modules can be glued to each other, making sure they align correctly.
An ECM module is included in the kit and, if you choose to use it, the rear portion of module part no. M2D must be cut off. The only accuracy problem I thought I could find was with this kit was the cover for the ECM unit on the left turret side. In the instructions, the triangular panel follows the line of the turret module it is attached to. In reality, it sticks out at a definite angle. This has been corrected since the instructions were printed. The part is now correct.
The instructions give the impression that the ECM can only be fitted along with the thermal cover. This preceded the fitting of the cover, so it is perfectly correct to fit it without the thermal cover - which will be a relief to some.
Attach but don't glue the mantlet armour to the mantlet. This and the stowage box act as a guide to carefully sand down the turret mounting points until the side armour fits nicely. This will take time and care, but needs to be be done for an accurate fit. Once ready for gluing, use epoxy to give you time to manoeuvre into the correct position. When the modules are set, the rest of the turret details can be added. These include the donor kit cupola rings and hatches, the EMES 18 sight, aerials, GPS unit and brush guard, smoke launchers, luggage racks, etc.
The luggage racks are a little fiddly as they are made up from a simple resin frame, an etch net and two pieces of wire that have to be bent to shape. If a later version is depicted, one rack can be left off and the air-con unit is fitted to the left side of the turret stow box. This is included as photo-etch parts from the Real Models set included. I feel the cooler unit is a little short in length at 24 mm. Take a look at reference photos to see what you think.
Photos © Anthony Sewards
The smoke launcher brush guards are formed from brass wire around a resin former which is much simpler than Legend's solution. The final step is to add the C6 GPMG which is in two versions - with shoulder stock or with spade grips.
The thermal cover. If you want to fit this, you will have to carefully follow the kit instructions as you go along. To explain the actual fitting, the cover itself has a 3-page set of instructions to itself! A piece of faux silk is supplied for this and it will take some patience and a little skill to fit it. Good luck if you take this path!
What is missing? Very little. Hollow headlights would have been nice with separate lenses. Wiper cable. Antennae bags under the turret stow box. Tiny things hardly worth mentioning.
Highs - Everything. Super casting quality. Great selection of accessories to add the finishing touches. Hardly anything left to chance. Great attention to detail. You can tell that this piece of Canadian armour has been put together by a Canadian who loves the subject.
Lows - Limited production run so may no longer be available. Possible difficulties with getting the armour modules lined up but nothing an experienced modeller cannot solve. Slight timeline confusion over the fitting of ECM/thermal cover. Cooler unit slightly too short.
Bloody lovely kit!!! Pardon my French.
With the parts included in this kit, it is possible to build a C2 MEXAS from any period during their service in Afghanistan. They saw a continual modification programme, and all the parts necessary are included here. I would recommend Leopard Fact File LFF03 by Anthony Sewards, Leopard C2 MEXAS in Afghanistan for all of the modifications and the timeline they were fitted.
It is such a shame that this will largely be overlooked when Takom release their all-plastic kit of the same subject.
Most of all, thanks to Paul Fredenburg of Trackjam for his generosity in supplying the review kit.
The complete instructions can be downloaded as a PDF or viewed below: