Call It Done: Forgotten, Ancient Revell 1/72 Merkava

During my house move over the summer, a number of long-forgotten hobby items turned up. Not just old stash and supplies—a sealed! pint bottle of Polly Scale Plastic Prep was a particularly delightful find—but also kits started long ago and since forgotten.

This Revell 1/72 Merkava was just such a partly finished project. I started it, probably sometime in 2004 or 2005, and carefully bagged it up. It was likely at a time when I didn’t have a decent place to paint. The hull was finished, as was most of the turret, and the finished components wouldn’t fit back into Revell’s side-opening, eco-friendly box. The zip-locked bag and the kit box containing the remaining parts bounced around several shelves and long term-storage boxes for the next 16 or 17 years until I happened upon it a few months ago.

Not sure what cement I was using then, or if Revell used a strange blend of unglueable styrene for this kit, but a number of parts had fallen off or were in the process of doing so when I opened the bag and restarted the project. Most of it was there—-some track parts had disappeared, and few hull details as well, but I recovered the build as best I could and finished it up.

It’s a straightforward Revell 1/72 armor build: link and length tracks, some exaggerated detail, but quality molding and decent decals. The actual structure of the model is a little flimsy. The skirts attach very precariously to the hull—mine broke off numerous times during the build and painting—and seem to protrude outward too far. The suspension and tracks require great care to make sure they are square; I’m certainly not happy with my results. Some details, like the crew-served weapons, are crudely detailed but well-proportioned, and appear dated compared to the current 1/72 state of the art, as exemplified by Flyhawk’s Abrams or Takom’s latest Chieftain and Leopard 2 offerings.

But in total, the Revell Merkava kit gets the job done of capturing the Merkava’s big-shouldered, gnarly lines. One notably well-rendered feature is the ball-and-chain bustle armor—a detail that Hobby Boss omitted in its otherwise superior 1/72 Merkava kits, one of which I built earlier this year.

Revell provides decals for two different Merkavas, including a dashing northern Israel-based vehicle with large, italicized skirt lettering, skirt panel stencils, and bustle banners. I welcomed this bit of graphic pizzazz, unusual among modern armor models that sometimes seem uniformily subdued and camouflaged. The big decals were thick but responsive to Tamiya decal softener. The bustle banners and dayglo orange visual ID panel are intended to represent cloth; best to coat these with thinned white glue before laying down, lest they curl up. It was almost too late when I remembered this trick.

Because this was a ‘found’ model, I tried some products and techniques that were new or out of my comfort zone.

Because I’m a modeling philistine, I still clear coat with Future before and after decals—it has consistently worked for me, but I thought I would try something different. For this build, I instead tried Alclad’s Aqua Gloss, and was generally happy with the results.

I also used Tamiya Panel Line Highlighter. Speaking of off-label uses for non-hobby products, I borrowed a technique mentioned on the The Model Geeks podcast: I blended and cleaned up the Tamiya Panel Liner with Ronsonol.

Yes, Ronsonol, fuel for Zippo lighters, works brilliantly to blend Tamiya Panel Liner, which is somewhat resistant to Gamsol mineral spirits, and almost impervious to milder Turpenoid. Ronsonol is significantly ’hotter’ than those official thinning and blending products, and using it brought back memories of my earliest childhood modeling experiences, when lighter fluid was provided to me, hand-me-down style, by my older brothers for cleaning the hand-me-down brushes I used to splosh on Testors enamel.

Meanwhile, the brown shade of Tamiya Panel Liner I used turned out a little more red than I would have liked, which is especially noticeable under my photo lights. Positive and negative lessons learned.

As a final touch, I mounted the Merkava on a Hobby World/Quicksand PVC Plinth, which is a thin, pre-printed base. They are offered with a variety of finishes representing scenery such as roads, deserts, runways, desert floors, and the like, as well as thematic images like national flags and blueprints. I had an assorted stack of them on hand, so I stuck the Merkava to a base that seemed appropriate for Northern Israel. The base is a little small for this massive vehicle, but in its way, makes the model pop and prevents further breakage of those delicate skirts. I particularly like the effect, and look forward to putting my stash of model railroad scenery supplies to work to make more bases in the future.

I hadn’t intended to do two Merkava models in one year, but this old shelf of doom build was a quick win, and I modestly stretched my repertoire of techniques. It also shows that there’s a lot of potential in those old-ish Revell 1/72 armor kits.

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