Call It Done: 1/35 Testors/Italeri Land Rover 109 LWB

Boxy utility vehicles have been an obsession of mine since childhood, which started with the Land Rover. Not sure where or how Land Rovers came to my attention, but I suspect TV safari and wildlife shows. I vaguely remember having a Matchbox or Corgi rendition of a Land Rover, and when I graduated from toys to scale models, I lusted after Tamiya’s mid-70s 1/35 Land Rover Ambulance and Pink Panther kits.

The Testors/Italeri Landover came along a few years later in the early 80s, and differed from the Tamiya offerings in that it was a cheaper kit, and represented a plain ol’ British Army Land Rover, instead of a specialized medical rig or an exotic special operations vehicle in a truth-stranger-than-fiction pink (!) paint job. A few years later, while stationed in the US Army in Germany, the original Italeri kit was easily found in local hobby shops.

When the kit was current, I never got around to building one. So when a bagged Testors/Italeri Land Rover came my way via a Facebook Scale Model Graveyard auction for cheap, I pounced. It might have actually been cheaper, in real non-adjusted dollars, than the original kit back in 80s Chicagoland or Germany.

I am always wary of bagged kits, but the low, low price was too good to pass up. The optimistic interpretation of how kits end up bagged is that sometime earlier in the kit’s life, someone wanted to save storage space, so they neatly and carefully transferred the contents of a kit box to a bag, and then neatly and carefully packed the bagged kit into a larger box or storage bin.

Obviously, this well-intentioned practice of de-boxing kits ignores the purpose of all that dead space in our kit boxes (protection and separation of the contents). Sometimes kits end up bagged because the original box had disintegrated due to—ahem—mechanical or environmental stress, such as crushing or excessive humidity or worse. Bagging also affords plenty of opportunities to go wrong, whether by aggressive overpacking, poor bagging, or the increased likelihood (in my experience, anyway) that overzealous commitment to storage efficiency means other shortcuts, like exposure to extremes of temperature and dampness in outdoor, attic, or crawl space storage. Decals and clear and soft parts are particularly sensitive to swings in temperature and humidity, as well as creasing and crushing.

My bagged Land Rover arrived in a tiny padded envelope, and all its parts and instructions were intact. Clear parts were in decent shape but not great, showing some distortion typical for a kit of this vintage. Decals, however, were clearly distressed, which is normal and not particularly surprising for 40 years of storage, and could easily have gone bad had they remained packaged in an original, shrink-wrapped box.

The ‘footprint’ of this kit’s sprues is small, so I found myself thinking “This will go together very quickly” as I opened the package. It quickly became an impulse build.

Assembly took a few hours spread out over a couple of days. Apart from some prominent parting lines on suspension components and a sinkmark or two on thick parts like the rear bumper, the molding showed high quality throughout. Fit was excellent: the wheel halves required no filler, and the body panels and parts fit extremely well. Overall parts breakdown offers excellent possibilities for posing the model with doors and tailgate open, and the hood is a separate part for those obsessives who might want to detail out the engine compartment. Speaking of mechanical parts, the suspension and interior balance representation of major details—Pedals, control levers, even a fuel filler pipe and delicate steering links—with a reasonable parts count. Overall, a pretty well made kit from the early 80s, with strong fundamentals.

Finishing in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) black and green camouflage took me in a couple of unexpected directions. Some reference material referred to the green on BAOR vehicles as as “NATO Green”, which I took to mean the good ol’ green in NATO three-color camouflage. I primed and dutifully put down AK Real Colors NATO black and green, which looked much too bright, saturated, and contrasty compared to reference photos.

My quest to find the right green led down a research rabbit hole, leading inexorably to the conclusion that the Royal Army has its own version of NATO Green, previously known as “Bronze Green”, and that there was notorious variation from vehicle to vehicle and unit to unit and over time as to what shade of green was used on what vehicle.

I ended up painting over the NATO green and black with FS34092 Dull Dark Green and NATO black, which look mostly right to me. (Will need to unpack the NATO/Bronze green controversy some more before I tackle the Chieftains, Challengers, Warriors, and FV432s in my stash.) The canvas tilt got Bundeswehr Gelboliv, which looked right per my reference photos.

My next finishing misdirection was not altogether unexpected, as the decals—as previously noted—were in a lamentable state. I gave them a coat of Testors decal sealer, and then scanned them to a .jpg file. Exactly one decal worked, the vertical rear license plate. I ended up forgoing altogether the rear unit flash and Union Jacks, all of which disintegrated.

My high-quality color printer is currently unavailable, and I wanted to get this impulse build done, so I did not go to the extra step(s) of printing the scanned decals. But I did print on plain paper the front license plate on a nearby laser printer, which I cut out, edged with black ink, and attached to the model. The Union Jacks and rear unit flashes do not appear consistently in the reference photos I found, so I was not particularly troubled that my BAOR Land Rover has ‘rump’ markings.

In keeping with the improvisational and impulsive spirit of this project, I tried some weathering techniques I hadn’t previously used, and purposely didn’t use some techniques I‘ve been using regularly. This switch-up occasioned some significant ‘negative modeling’, which I nonetheless count as valuable learning experiences.

I purposely did not use any oil paint on this project, instead opting for various ready-made weathering products. My inspiration for this came from a kind of reverse reading of John Bonanni’s presentation on oil paint weathering at the March IPMS DC meeting. John mentioned that he has begun to use oils almost exclusively for washes, filters, and other effects, and that while he now occasionally turns to ready make AK, MIG, and other products, he had actually once used such products more heavily.

This got me thinking—counterintuitively—that I may not be making the best use of weathering products I have on hand. Rummaging through my supplies, I found scarcely-used AK “Wash for NATO Vehicles” and AK “Rainmarks for NATO Vehicles”,

The “Wash for NATO Vehicles” looked out of the bottle like a dark brown wash, but dried very light—I had expected something like a pinwash, and found something more like sand and dust deposits on the model, which was not what I was going for. AK’s “Panel Liner for Green and Brown” undid this effect, mostly, but the Land Rover ended up somewhat dustier and crustier than I would have liked, because the enamel wash did not respond well to blending.

I also expected something subtle from the AK Rainmarks product, which I applied to the canvas tilt. It ended up looking un-subtle, like it had been used as a pool liner in Mad Max or Desert Storm and then forgotten for a decade or so, which was not an effect I was going for. I ended up repainting the tilt, which also ended up getting the Panel Liner for Green and Brown, plus some old school dry brushing with tube acrylics.

I’ll be returning to my more oil-paint-centric weathering techniques on future builds.

The clear parts fit very well after weathering and flat coating, and were secured with canopy cement. A dip in Future of the whole clear sprue had mitigated some of the waves and undulations in the parts, and protected the plastic from fogging from the CA fumes. The minor flaws in the windows and windshield blend these parts right into the weathering. The headlight lenses, with backs painted silver with a Molotov pen, help emphasize the iconic Land Rover front end lines.

For anyone looking for this particular 70s-80s Cold War-era Land Rover, Italeri and Revell have offered more recent boxings with more and better decal options, and a more typical canvas tilt without the side windows. The kit, like other notable late 70s/early 80s Italeri offerings, is a solid build with decent fit and details that were ahead of their time, though dated by today’s standards. It would like right at home with a Chieftain, FV432, Scorpion or Scimitar.

For a cheap nostalgia build, I learned a lot and ended up with a satisfying model of a long-desired subject.

One comment

  1. “Boxy trucks” and in my case, boxy cars too. I’m a diehard Volvo 240 addict with an, as yet unsatisfied, Lada 1600 interest. Yup, Land Rovers too. I think I got hooked on Land Rover from my old Matchbox catalogues. They’re such cool trucks. The only models of them I’ve ever had were diecast like Matchbox or Corgi and I think I like the idea of collecting a kit of one. I should do that.


    Liked by 1 person

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