I’ve always had a soft spot in my old modeling heart for the early Israeli equipment, back when the IDF had to scrounge for every item. I loved the interesting field modifications and clever use of limited resources, and the Israeli halftracks were a good example. Admittedly, from a modeling standpoint the conversion was always relatively easy, and I had it on my “to do” list for years, but just never got around to it. Dragon has done the job for me with this excellent little kit. I did, however, encounter a few bumps along the road, although nothing that should make any average modeler quail. One basic bit of advice, though -- do NOT try and build this in the sequence in the instructions. They have you build the separate units, such as chassis, truck bed, etc. in their entireties then piece it all together at the end. Due to the fragility of many of the exterior items you will land up trashing your work. Far better to build the basic structure of the model and then add the details.
Panel 1 of the build has you assembling the engine, wheels and various idlers, and right here you’ll begin to appreciate the details provided. The wheels have a realistic “droop” to them, and the idlers display the fine filigree of the originals – some pretty impressive molding, to say the least!
Panels 2, 3 and 4 feature the full chassis assembly, and I found no notable issues here. However, in Panel 5 you’re given a choice of bumper assembly, one of them including the hoist. They refer to the hoist assembly as “Assembly Q.” Unfortunately, there IS no “Assembly Q” anywhere in the instructions. On the other hand, it was fairly easy to puzzle out - C1 and C2 are the drum, C5 and C6 together make the motor. Interestingly, these parts are listed as “not to be used” in the parts breakdown.
A quick note on installing the idlers and tracks. I found it easiest to glue the two halves of the track run together, glue the idlers to the track assembly and then install the whole shebang on to the chassis.
By Panel 9 be prepared to skip around a bit. This panel features the driver’s cab and would have you put some pretty fragile items on the exterior before attaching it to the chassis. Leave off the outer items and just assemble the interior. Trust me – you’ll be a lot happier this way.
I admit I deviated a bit when it came to the hood. After assembling such a nice engine it seemed a shame to hide it, so I cut the hood open at the cut points provided. However, on doing so I realized that Dragon had made no accommodation for the driver’s foot well, which projects into the engine compartment. In addition, the cutaway sections of the hood were far too thick to look realistic folded open. Fortunately, none of this was hard to scratch with some sheet plastic and rod, so . . .
Panel 12 has you cutting away some significant portions of the truck bed side walls before assembly. Interestingly, the kit provides you with multiple side walls and on reflection, I have to wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier to simply select some side walls that didn’t have so much stuff to carve off. In any case, you can make that decision when you come to it. However, I would strongly recommend not attaching the rails to the exterior until you’ve completed the main assembly. In my case, I found it was easiest to glue the driver cab to the truck bed, then attach the whole assembly to the chassis before I did any detailing at all. There was enough distortion in the parts that some gentle coaxing was required to get everything to lie flat, but it would have been a much tougher proposition if I’d stuck to the recommended assembly sequence.
A side note on the photoetch. Dragon has included a fair amount of it in this kit, and for the most part it’s useful. However, I sometimes feel that photoetch is included because the manufacturers are being a bit lazy – they don’t want to mold the required items in plastic. In this case, I found the jerrycan racks to be so fiddly that I simply replaced them with items from the spares box. Ditto for some other items, such as the .50 cal gun cradle and mudguards. Ironically, for all the photoetch included, they did NOT include separate louvers for the radiator armor, which is regrettable as I would have liked to have displayed that open along with the engine compartment.
Now that you have the basic structural assembly completed (one hopes) you can move on to the detailing work, which should be considerably easier and far less prone to breaking. I didn’t encounter any further challenges in assembly and was suitably pleased by the level of detail and molding quality overall.
The piece de resistance, of course, is the large quantity of storage provided, all molded in that orange-colored rubbery material that Dragon seems to have grown fond of. Surprisingly for such a new model, some of the bundles had a fair amount of flash, and for a moment I was stumped as to how to remove this without leaving little shreds of material behind. I discovered to my joy that a soft buffing disk set in my Dremel and run at relatively low speed did a remarkable job of “buffing” the flash and mold marks right off. Who would have suspected?
Finishing this was pretty straight-forward, although handling it during painting was something of a challenge due to all the fragile exterior fittings. The rubber storage didn’t take paint particularly well, and I had to be careful not to rub it right off during drybrushing. However, as you can see by the pictures they came out pretty well. For all the fuss I made about opening the engine compartment I must confess there isn’t a great deal to see there, even with the added wiring, so whether or not the extra effort is worth it is strictly up to you. The decals went down with little fuss and Dragon provides a nice selection of markings so you can pretty much make any vehicle you can find photos of.
Ultimately, what you wind up with is a pretty nice representation of a modified half track Israeli style, with all the fixings. I think the addition of stowage really adds to the final model and means that you essentially get a vehicle ready for a diorama right out of the box. I could find no real fault anywhere in the kit and much to enjoy, such as the excellent filigree rollers. My hats off to Dragon for giving us another fun kit. As always, my thanks to IPMS/USA for a chance to review this charmer and to Dragon for coming up with yet another item from my wish list.