Academy Hobby Model Kits

1/35 Merkava Mk IV
Kit Number: 13213
Reviewed by  Joe Koenig, IPMS# 31441

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MSRP: $44.00
Manufacturer's website: www.academy.co.kr

Being an Israeli armor fan for quite some time, I was excited to hear that Academy was producing a model of Israelís latest main battle tank, the Merkava Mk IV. Iím not going to go into much history on this vehicle other than to say that itís been around for thirty years, with the first ones being delivered in 1979. It was designed to do what tanks do while also placing a high priority on crew protection. What has developed over the years is an excellent weapons platform that will stand up to any of the worldís best main battle tanks. If you want more information, you can research it and learn what this baby can do.

Upon opening the box, one is greeted with five large sprues, plus an upper and lower hull, a photo-etch sheet, thread for the tow cables, poly caps for the wheels, decal sheet, instruction sheet, and painting guide. In all, there are close to five hundred parts. One of the first things that caught my attention was that the turret on this tank is huge! Not only that, but it looks like a futuristic starship . . . way cool! All parts are molded in a tan-colored plastic with no flash but, upon further inspection, a large quantity of punch-out marks is discovered. In fact, just about every part in the kit will need extra cleanup.

Steps 1-4 deal with the lower hull running gear. There are several holes to fill in on the lower hull bottom. They do give you a plug for one, but you are on your own for the others. Nothing a little plastic glue and putty canít fix. There are no sponson floors, and the skirts donít hide the fact. As for the large spring suspension parts, they not only have nice seams to clean up but the backs are hollow. Most will be hidden when finished, but you will still see them if you look. All of the road wheels, sprockets, and idlers are held on with poly caps.

[review image]In step 5, the rear lower hull is assembled, mainly the entrance hatch and stowage baskets. Part C3, the rear hull plate, is loaded with eight nice-sized punch-out marks but all but the one on the bottom will not be seen once assembled. As for the stowage bins, they go together well, once the punch outs are addressed, and they give the option of either plastic or photo etch rear plates. I opted for the photo-etched parts, but they are fragile and one of mine broke into three parts. So, I broke out my handy soldering iron and put them back together.

In steps 6-11, the starship/turret is built. There are all kinds of rivets and such but no non-skid, which is so prevalent on Israeli vehicles. Assembly here is pretty much straightforward. A note of interest is the turret basket gives the option of plastic or photoetch for the bottom. I used the photo-etch. Academy recessed in the brass where the plastic part is to fit and it was very accurate, but itís best to test-fit to be sure it is folded correctly. The mantlet-mounted .50 caliber, which is also seen on Israeli vehicles, consists of fourteen parts for some nice detail, but again there are knock-out marks to deal with. There is a knock-out mark on the wind sensor mast. The main gun is done in halves with four lift rings added to the bore evacuator and a muzzle. This went together fine, but when fit into the mantlet; the flat side to line things up was off. So I took my razor saw and cut my own.

[review image] In steps 12 & 13, it is back to the upper hull, this time adding all of its smaller parts. Here is where I had to make a decision: to fill in the sponsons or not. I know that there are those who will say that when the side skirts are added, who will notice? But seeing this tank is rather large, it will be seen. The exhaust area with all of the vents is built on the right side. This appears to be a rather easy task, but when placed in the hull, there is no floor! So I used a little plastic sheet to fix that, and when I glued the upper and lower halves together, I measured and cut more plastic card to fill the entire sponson area.

Step 14 puts the hull halves and the track assembly together. Seeing that there are no aftermarket tracks out for the Mk IV (to the best of my knowledge), the parts in the kit must be used. They are link-and-length but have nice DEEP punch-outs on all links! Filling them with putty would take too long, so a fellow modeler told me to use Super Glue. I used the really thick stuff and some accelerator. I poured out the glue onto a piece of glass, took a pin, and started filling in the holes. Every so often I used the accelerator until they were all filled. I did this while they were still attached to the sprues. Then I cut them off and used my trusty sanding sticks. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly this went and I just had to do a little touch up on a couple of links. Iíve never really liked the link-and-length tracks because they never seem to line up correctly, but had no choice except to use them with this being as new kit. For this tank, in doing the individual links, I laid them out flat and glued them, then let the glue set up a little before wrapping them around the sprockets and idlers. The fit on the sprockets was perfect! In fact, both sides went together perfectly and when I dropped the top length on, it fell exactly into place!

Step 15 has you drop in the turret and add a spare track link (which I left off seeing it did not fit). The tank is now assembled and ready for the paint shop.

[review image][review image]To start, I painted this with the tracks, wheels, and machine guns not on the vehicle. I first applied a primer coat. For this I used the DuPont Fill and Sand Primer. You have to buy this by the gallon, but I do like it. Itís similar to Mr. Surfacer but much less costly. During this process, I discovered that, if not mixed properly, you will end up with a pebble-like finish, perfect for simulating the non-skid surfaces so prevalent on modern tanks. Once finished with primer, I painted the entire tank flat black. Then I painted the vehicle in field gray, starting in the center of the panels and working my way to the edges, leaving some of the black showing through. After this, I then painted the vehicle with Model Master Israeli Sand Gray, again starting in the center and working out.

Once the vehicle was all painted, I sprayed on a gloss coat and added the decals. They went on fine but I had a hard time getting them to settle around the raised details, even using Solvaset. Once this was finished, I again coated the decals to seal them in. If I were to do this again, Iíd paint them on.

[review image]As for weathering, I first used a filter of field gray, then a pin wash of raw umber oil paint. After that dried, I did a wash of a sand mix of Naples yellow and titanium white oils. Once this set up, I came back and did a dry-brush of Naples yellow hue. I sealed it up once more and added the machine guns and periscope glass. I finished the final detail painting and called it complete.

Overall, the tank finished up nicely, the only issue was the punch-out marks which took a lot of extra time. I found the amount of punch-outs to be a bit extreme, especially on the tracks, but with a little TLC youíll end up with a nice ride. I would like to thank MRC Academy and IPMS for the sample and the opportunity to build it.

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