After five months, the Meng T-72B1 is done.
After a fashion.
This was more of an arbitrary declaration of victory than an actual, grown-up completion. I left off a couple of fiddly-dits, like the commander’s shield glazing and the difficult rubbery plumbing bits for the fuel barrels. Also not happy with the weathering, and the figures are a Gentleman’s C.
A multitude of real world distractions over the time of the build probably didn’t improve my attitude. So in the interest of moving on to a different new project, I have declared it done.
The build started off as a bit of an experiment. It was my first Meng kit, and my first 1/35 tracked ‘major’ vehicle in a very long time.
The T-72B1 kit mostly met the high expectations I had developed from the past few years’ accumulation of reviews, social media exclaiming, and real-life word-of-mouth. The molding was very high quality, with virtually no flash and strategic use of slide molding on the armament.
Engineering choices, however, were occasionally baffling. The use of soft, rubbery plastic for certain parts, like the aforementioned fuel plumbing, and ballistic mats on the turret, for example, caused some consternation. Fortunately, the material glued reasonably well with my go-to black cyanoacrylate cement, and accepted paint. But its springiness and difficulties cutting and sanding to obtain appropriate fit were an irritation.
The overall construction and assembly approach was generally quite good, benefiting from excellent, close-tolerance fit. A small fret of photoetch, mostly grills and a handy road wheel paint stencil, is ‘just right’. The parts count, however, was quite high, and a significant departure from how Tamiya or Bandai might execute a similar subject.
Occasionally ambiguous instructions didn’t help with the high parts count and sometimes complex subassemblies—these are instructions and a build that beg to be accompanied by a good set of reference photos.
The tracks, with their assembly jig and pre-spaced connector pins, are among the best looking and most realistically articulated of any I have ever seen in included stock in a kit. Assembly takes some practice to get right, and the builder should be prepared to learn quickly with the provided parts, because there are barely enough of the links and pins to outfit the model. I ended up procuring a separate box of Meng’s tracks after losing a sufficient number of the connector pins. I also found that a tiny drop of CA on the pins help them stay together and withstand handling during test fitting and disassembly of the model.
I chose a straightforward green paint scheme, with the all-red unit markings of a vehicle deployed during the Chechnya war. I primed with black Mr. Surfacer followed by AK Real Colors Modern Russian green. The decals went down very well, much better than my most recent experiences with China-manufactured decals—I was particularly pleased with the opacity of the red, a color that typically renders somewhat transparent in decals.
Photos of Chechen war-era tanks show particularly filthy vehicles, so I tried some new mud-ification products from AK. I was not particularly pleased with my results, and found the mud and dust deposit products hard to control. I also didn’t like the graininess and texture of the products—the mud and dust they render seem out of scale to my eye for 1/35. I am determined to crack the code on mud and dust techniques, so I regard my results on the Meng T-72B1 as an acceptable learning experience.
My other skill challenge for this build was the addition of some Verlinden crew figures, which assembled quickly and cleanly. I roughly referred to David Parker’s Crew School figure painting techniques. They’re passable, but an improvement over my past 1/35 figure efforts.
Despite my ambivalence about the build, I did learn a lot—got introduced to Meng, completed a subject long on my ‘to do’ list, and tried a couple of new techniques. Looking forward to getting back to a steady cadence of less involved building, and more time for the bench.