The Merkava Mk.III Baz is an improvement on the initial Mk.III which itself includes many major upgrades from the Mk.II to the drivetrain, powerpack, and safety systems as well as the introduction of the 120mm main gun. The Mk.III (Baz) also includes an advanced fire control system from Electro Optics Industries that provides the tank with the ability to engage moving targets while on the move as well as significant improvements in ballistic protection with modular armour packs that can be added and replaced as required.
Legend Productions have released many IDF upgrades over the years including some previous Mk.III upgrades but for this new kit they have released a full resin kit not requiring any parts from existing kits.
This is basically due the obvious donor kit, the Academy Merkava Mk.III (kit #1391) having numerous detail errors such as the turret shape and the hull axle mountings moulded evenly when they should be offset. The Academy kit also uses the narrower track with that on the Mk.III BAZ being wider than on previous Merkavas.
Therefore in providing a full resin kit Legends have addressed all these issues and more with the correct offset axle mountings, correct turret shape and correct wider track links as well as the new style road wheels and of course the 120mm main gun.
This of course provides additional challenges for the modeller as anyone who has tackled a full resin kit previously will know but due to the excellent resin quality and good engineering overall Legends have kept most problems to a minimum. Some previous experience working with resin would be an advantage and there are some issues to be tackled as we will see but nothing drastic.
The kit consists of approximately 300 parts cast in the usual light cream resin, a fret of etched brass parts, a length of brass wire and twine, lengths of fine chain and small metal “balls” for the rear turret chain armour and a small lead sheet plus of course the usual Legends colour instruction sheet.
Quality of the resin casting is first class with clean crisp details and virtually no blemishes such as air holes (you can count these on one hand) and no warpage in the major components. There are the usual casting blocks to be removed and some of these are quite substantial requiring a bit of effort and care when removing as there are also some very fine parts and detail included on the parts. Some of the casting blocks extend over the back of the parts themselves and care will be needed when removing these to not damage the parts but shouldn’t pose any real problems.
There is also quite a bit of fine resin film to be removed from many of the parts but this is easy to deal with but the cleanup of the suspension components does get a little tedious with so many parts involved and I find it easier to clean up all the parts before commencing assembly to get this out of the way early on.
Just a quick word on removing the casting blocks and cleaning up, I use a razor saw for most parts and start by making a shallow cut on all sides and rotate the part while cutting so it meets in the middle. This reduces the chances of damaging the part on the blind side when cutting through in one go, this can be done on square as well as round parts.
For the final cleanup I use a #11 blade to shave the surface smooth and only use wet and dry for round surfaces such as the road wheels and the #11 blade for the fine resin film. This helps to reduce the amount of resin dust but you should of course wear a dust mask when cutting and cleaning up which is another reason I clean up all the parts before beginning assembly so you are not continually making a mess as you go.
One of the main issues with the kit is the instructions which are the usual colour photos of the kit during and after assembly and while some sections are shown in detail others are quite vague or not shown at all leaving you to work out where things go and is another reason previous experience will be of assistance.
The lack of text notes with only the parts called by numbers also has you scratching your head at times working out how some parts get where they are in the photos, for example no mention is made at all of where the idler mountings goes or of the track assembly so you have to work out yourself how many links go around the drive and idler wheels and some additional notes would be most useful especially for a larger kit such as this.
This is one of the three main parts to the kit and is cast in one large part with quite thick sidewalls and an inner bulkhead that all helps with the perfectly formed hull without any hint of warping to form the perfect basis for the rest of the kit.
The large casting block as the rear is easy to remove with a razor saw with this being the only cleanup required and as mentioned the axle mounting brackets are correctly offset on the hull sides with nice mounting plate detail and all other details as separate parts.
At the back are the two external fuel cells and the central entry door
cast closed but these are best left until the upper and lower hull parts
have been joined to ensure you get these in the correct position.
This is the most time consuming and troublesome part of the whole kit with a few errors you may want to deal with, but as most of the detail is hidden after the armoured side skirts are added some may not bother with the issues?
The suspension is made up of separate idler mountings, large springs, first and last station dampers and the road wheel axles plus the final drive housings plus of course the separate two part road wheels, drive sprockets and idler wheels.
Detail on these parts is clean and nicely defined with no cleanup other than the casting blocks and some fine resin film meaning you can concentrate on the assembly.
Cleanup of the larger double return rollers will require care as these are moulded in one piece and the resin casting block fills part of the gap between the inner and outer wheel and some careful cutting will be needed to clean this out.
The triangular return roller mountings should only be fitted one way
due to the sloping hull sides with the small notch on the end of the
bracket facing downwards, take care here as fitting the bracket any other
way will see them pointing in strange directions.
There are small triangular mounting tabs included on the hull casting for the brackets but these should be reduced in height by half to fit into the recess in the brackets.
The main issue here is the instructions show the double return roller fitted on the first station and the single roller at the second, this in fact should be the other way around with the single roller first and the double in the second position. To fix this you have to cut off the locating triangle and reposition the mounting brackets but watch as the larger double wheel have their mounting brackets lower on the hull sides than the smaller single roller and you can’t just swap the rollers.
This takes a bit of effort to get them lined up correctly and some may not bother due to this being mostly hidden but having the rollers in the wrong position also makes it difficult the fit the dampers (parts 107) correctly with the double wheel mounting lower on the hull sides so correcting this has other benefits (see images).
The axles are have locating tabs that fit into corresponding holes in the hull mounting brackets but there is still a bit of movement and the instructions show that there should be a 1mm space between the hull bottom and the top of the axle end to help in getting these at the correct ride height.
I found the easiest method was to get a small piece of 1mm thick card and hold this against the hull bottom, then rest the axle against this as you glue in place with thick cyanoacrylate for greater strength. This makes it easy to get these in the correct position with a minimum of fuss but before fitting the axles there is another small issue you may want to attend too.
The axle locating lug for the road wheels is smaller than the hole in the inner road wheel meaning it moves about a lot and while you can just glue the road wheels in place being careful to centralise the wheels I chose to replace the lugs with larger plastic tubing for the wheels to fit more snugly ensuring they are all at the same ride height.
This required a hole be drilled into the axle and a small section of plastic tubing inserted and then a larger piece of tubing the same diameter as the road wheel hole slipped over the smaller tube. I used this method as drilling a hole in the axle for the larger tube would have left the edges of the axle stub quite thin and the road wheels then fitted snugly without any play making for a more positive attachment (see images).
Also note there are different axle arms for the left and right sides which are numbered on the instructions so watch this but it should be obvious when fitting the arms as they will only go one way.
When fitting the large springs these should be angled further forward than shown in the instruction and they do not actually meet the axle arms just finishing in mid air but this will be hidden by the road wheels and is probably not much of an issue.
The final drive housings have small indentations in the hull sides and fit in place very snugly without any problems but the detail is a little sparse without any bolt heads around the housings and there should also be a sprocket mud cleaning bracket at the back of housing on the real thing not included but again most of this will be hidden by the tracks and side skirts after assembly.
As mentioned the location of the rear idler mountings is a mystery as no mention is made in the instructions. These are actually fitted to the rear external fuel cells (parts 68-69) but the exact position is not marked on these parts either so some care will be needed to position correctly and having the Academy kit as a guide will aid in getting the right position. As it’s best not to fit parts 68-69 until after fitting the upper and lower hull parts together you will also have to leave the idler mountings off until you progress this far so the final assembly of the suspension and fitting of the track will be somewhat disjointed.
The drive sprockets are in two halves and have the triangular lightening holes included in the outer rim only as they should be with just some fine resin film to be removed from the holes as well as care during cleanup as the casting blocks cover about half the drive teeth. The detail on the sprockets is good overall but there are only the rim retaining bolts on the outer rim and none on the insides with the two halves fitting very snugly together.
The sprockets are designed to just butt fit to the final drive housings but they should be positioned slightly away from the housings to line up with the road wheels and make room for the tracks to fit correctly.
To address this and also make fitting the sprockets easier I added a 2mm plastic rod pin the inner sprocket wheel and drilled a corresponding hole through the final drive housing and hull and added a 2mm spacer disc over the rod to ensure the proper spacing of the sprockets. This also allows the sprockets to be easily fitted precisely at any time and they also rotate which will come in very handy when adding the track later.
Make sure you drill the hole through the inner sprocket half before joining to the outer sprocket to eliminate any chance of drilling all the way through the sprocket and while there is a locating lug when gluing the two sprocket halves together make sure the teeth line up correctly before the glue dries.
Moving to the road wheels these again are nicely detailed with separate hub caps and the five lightening holes included that just need the resin film carefully removed and the large casting block attachments cleaned up. When gluing the two wheel halves together make sure you line up the lightening holes and there is a small issue of the hub caps being the same diameter is the central locating hub and not having the small overhang of the actual hub but you will need close inspection of the wheels to notice this and is probably being overly picky.
At the back the two part idlers are extremely well done with excellent rib details and also have the lightening holes around the face of the wheels but you will have to drill these out to clean up the excess resin film as well as removing the film from between the ribs but this is easily done for very good representations of the actual Merkava idles.
Just make sure you line up the ribs when gluing the halves together
and the wheels are designed again to just butt join to the idler mountings
and adding small locating pins would be a better option similar to the
drive sprockets as this makes fitting the track a lot easier.
This is supplied as link and length resin with 8 lengths of track and 30 individual track links for around the drive sprockets and idlers but there is considerable cleanup needed on these, much more than for the rest of the kit.
The instructions don’t give any indication at all on fitting the tracks or on which parts are used together meaning you have to work all this out yourself so I’ll try and explain things here.
The way the track lengths are cast means that when you remove the casting blocks one side of the track is devoid of any track pin detail and also the lengths have noticeable warping lengthwise and a quick dip into hot water will remedy this.
There are differently cast track lengths for the right and left sides so after removing the casting blocks the good side with pin detail is on the outside and the plain side faces the hull so make sure you use the correct lengths on the appropriate side of the hull. This is fairly easy to see when you came to fit the tracks but at the same time easy to miss if not careful and you will need to bend the track lengths to fit around the first and last road wheel and I made can small cuts between the appropriate links to aid in bending. Don’t heat the tracks to achieve this curve as you will end up with curved track links which is not a good look but the curve is fairly small so shouldn’t be a problem to add.
Apart from the full length casting blocks there is some fine resin film in the tooth holes that is easy to remove but cleaning up the individual links will take quite some time as there is quite a bit of excess resin to be removed.
The links are actually designed to clip together with small locating holes on one side of the link but due to the way the links are cast the corresponding small locating pins are simply not there or are destroyed while removing the excess resin so you just have to glue the links together.
You will need to take care when removing the excess resin from the links as quite a few of the tooth holes were half filled and the links are quite delicate so take care here and the sides facing the casting blocks also required additional cleanup and these 30 links took quite some time to prepare for assembly.
Again the instructions don’t tell you but you should use 7 links around the drive sprockets and 8 around each idler wheel and doing some quick maths that adds up to 30 links which is all you get so there is no room for error or for any damaged links, so take care.
It is best to assembly the links around the actual drive sprockets and idlers so you get the right curve but make sure you don’t actually glue them to the wheels as you want to take them off for painting and fitting later with the length sections (or do you, that’s up to you?).
The links fitted easily around the sprockets and if you add the sprocket pin as above the movable sprocket makes the track fitting easier than if it was stuck firmly in place, this also make sit easier to add the track at any time during assembly lessening the chance of damage while handling the model during the rest of the construction.
As mentioned above final fitting of the track can’t be done until
after fitting the idler mounts to parts 68-69 after the hull parts are
joined so final test fitting of the track will have to wait till then
but there may be some trimming of the track lengths required and test
fitting at the later stage will show if any is required?
This is again cast in one large part which is without any warping or distortion due to being cast quite thick with bracings along the undersides and the only cleanup is the large casting block at the back and thin resin film in the turret and driver’s hatch cut-outs, which is quite easy to remove. There are also three casting block “fingers” that extend under the rear hull up to the turret opening but these be left alone as they do not interfere with anything after assembly.
Detail on the upper hull is excellent with very crisp and well defined details and all the subtle contours around the engine deck are captured well and the only additional parts to be added are the driver’s hatch, the right side exhaust louvers which fit very snugly into the hull cut-out plus the front barrel travel lock and rear mounted tools and you are then ready to fit this to the lower hull tub.
Fitting the upper and lower hulls together is very straightforward and helped by both being without any warping and they are both are also the exact same length so match up well.
There are no actual locating lugs or other guides so you will have to simply glue the two together using thick cyanoacrylate ensuring the front and rear sections are positioned centrally as you go. There was a very small gap at the front on my sample which could be filled with cyanoacrylate during the gluing process and the rear join is completely covered once the additional parts are added so you don’t have to worry about join gaps that may be present.
After the glue has cured you can then add the external fuel cells, the central rear door which is cast in the closed position and the top cover, the rear hull extensions that incorporate the tail lights and left side infantry telephone and the lower fender extensions with all these parts fitting together perfectly without the need for any additional trimming or gaps to fill.
The two rear mounted storage baskets are cast in one piece each and have superb details included for the supporting frames, the basket contours and the outer slats, these are actually perforated strips on the real thing with the resin having the perforations included as indentations that should look okay after painting but if you wanted to cut these off and add from etched parts that shouldn’t be too much trouble to do.
The small lengths of chain added to the real baskets can be added from the chain included and the lead sheet is used for the basket attachments around the top supports but the sheet is quite thick and using thinner sheet sourced elsewhere would give a better appearance.
Additional parts added to the rear hull are the tow shackles, large central door handles with the mud flaps and licence plate from the etched parts provided while at the front are the tow shackles and mounting blocks for the additional equipment such as mine ploughs sometimes fitted as well as the wire crew step and another etched licence plate.
This leaves the side mounted armoured skirts that are made up of five segments per side and these again have nice details included as well as the upper attachment bracket and additional etched brackets along the top of the skirts and the parts are marked on the back with R1, 2, 3, L1, 2, 3 etc. so you know exactly where they go which is a nice inclusion as this could get very confusing otherwise.
The cleanup process for the skirts will need care as the casting block
extend over the back of the lower sections of the skirts and you will
have to be careful when removing these and you may want to leave the
skirts off until last to avoid any damage while handling the model.
The turret is cast in one solid part with wells under the two hatch openings and again has excellent details included with well defined top armour panels, the side armour as well as the main sight box and the angled sections in front of this and the only cleanup is the large casting block at the back which is very easy to remove.
This is by far the busiest part of the kit with many small detail items to be added such as the additional Commander’s panoramic sight, the many sensors added to the sides and top as well as the larger smoke grenade boxes on either side that have separate mounting plates and wiring from the brass wire provided.
The large storage basket on the rear is another one piece casting with excellent details included including very fine rod strip around the bottom that will need special care not to damage while cutting off the large casting block. There is also some fine resin film between rod and the basket that again will need care in removing.
Added around the bottom of the basket is an etched frame used to attach
the ball and chain sections made up from the chain and small brass balls
provided with the instructions indicating the number of chain links required
for the different areas ranging from 2 to 6 chain segments so take note
of the instructions here.
These will be a little tedious to assemble but are a very distinctive feature of the Merkava and worth the effort and other etched brackets are provided for the steel tow cable made from the twine provided as well as the brass wire being used for the crew hatch grab handles.
The main gun is in two parts, the mounting that fits between the front turret extensions and the barrel proper which has the muzzle slightly hollowed out but you may want to drill this out further for a better appearance and includes nice detail on the thermal sleeve and fume extractor with additional small brackets added to this.
The two barrel parts are designed to butt join together which is okay but I prefer a more positive join so I added a 2mm plastic rod pin to the barrel and drilled a corresponding hole in the rear section for a more precise location but this is a personal thing and doesn’t reflect on the kit assembly.
A special note is required for the weapons included in the kit as the Merkava has the fixed .50cal machine gun mounted above the barrel with remote firing and the two side swivel mounted 7.62 mm (MAG 58) machine guns (another is mounted internally as the co-axial MG) plus the racks for two personal weapons on the roof.
These guns are finely cast but there is a bit of resin film to be removed and the barrel on the .50cal and MAG 58s were slightly warped and straightening with hot water would be needed. Also the cooling jacket on the .50cal is a little undersized and you may want to replace this for a better appearance.
The swivel mounts for the MAG 58s are nicely done with the fairly simple Loader’s mount and the more complex Commander’s mounting made up of seven resin parts and you can position these as you wish with additional etched parts for the roof mountings with the instructions giving good coverage of the assembly sequences.
The remote firing assembly on the .50cal is a very detailed and complex affair with numerous small parts and small sections of brass wire added and thankfully the instructions again give quite comprehensive photo coverage of the assembly of this which should eliminate any pain involved.
Fitting the turret to the hull opening was a little loose as the turret bottom ring was just over 1mm smaller than the hull top opening and I added a .5mm plastic strip around the turret base for a more snug fit.
No markings are provided other than the etched licence plates but those applied are fairly generic and you can paint on the white strip along the top of the barrel and the appropriate unit rings around the barrel as required.
As mentioned building a full resin can sometimes be a lifes work that really tests your patience but due to the excellent quality of the resin casting with no warpage or other blemishes and the overall good fit of the major parts this kit would rate at the upper level of resin kits in terms of build ability.
The only real issues were with the suspension components and the incorrectly placed return rollers and the lack of precise locations for the idler mounts but again these are really par for the course with resin kits as you expect some additional work and as mentioned these issues are minor compared to some I’ve encountered in other resin kits.
The instructions could be improved with the inclusion of text notes to explain the more complex assemblies and with some parts missing a mention will have you thinking a bit.
This kit will appeal to IDF fans even with the additional cleanup and work involved as it is the only accurate kit of the Mk.III BAZ available with the level of detail also very high and certainly looks impressive once assembled.
Highly recommended 8/10
|Merkava Siman 3
in IDF Service Pt.1
Desert Eagle Publishing
|Merkava Mk.II and Mk.III
Israeli Main Battle Tank
Military Ordnance Special # 12
Darlington Production, Inc
|Merkava I, II, III
Israel's Chariot of Fire
#158 - 7/2007
GALILEO Publishing Co.,Ltd.
|Merkava Main Battle Tank
MKs I, II & III
Osprey New Vanguard 21
Thanks to Legends Productions for the review set.