Having returned to the hobby about four years ago, the first thing that struck me was how far kit design and manufacture has moved on. No sprues covered in flash, detailed interiors and parts that actually go together seem commonplace, where as in the late 70s and 80s you would have to spend a few months’ worth of pocket money to buy a rather exotic Tamiya kit to enjoy that kind of quality, it seems that these days, most modern mouldings (with a few exceptions) are of a good standard. Building this GAZ Tiger from Meng Models
served to remind me just how far things have moved on in my absence. Several times during the construction I was prepared for the worst when looking at a complex assembly only to have it fall into place with no fettling. In fact, the only problems I encountered during the construction were of my own making, when I didn’t follow the instructions properly!
Although a relatively young company, Meng Models
have built up an impressive range of kits covering some unusual subjects with this Russian Gaz Tiger being no exception. The vehicle itself was commissioned initially by the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDAB) with a requirement for an off road, high mobility vehicle that could handle extremes of temperature and desert terrain while still being relatively cheap to mass produce. The first three prototypes (GAZ-2975) were finished in 2000 and after appearing at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference 2001, were then sent to a testing ground in the United Arab Emirates for approval. Although the type performed well, no contract was forthcoming, so ‘Industrial Computer Technologies’ the initial development company, engineered a number of modifications to the type, resulting in the GAZ-2330, which met with approval and also caught the eye of the Russian government with the Russian armed forces version entering service in 2007.
Looking very much like a Russian version of the U.S Humvee. The Tiger fulfils much the same roll. Powered by a U.S sourced Cummins V-180 6 cylinder turbo charged Diesel engine, it is capable of 140 kph and has excellent off road capabilities, being able to climb gradients of up to 45 degrees and ford water up to a depth of 1.2 meters. With the ability to carry six crew and armed with one AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher and one 7.62 machine gun, it is an impressive machine often seen on parade at military displays in red square, taking its place at the forefront of the modern Russian army.
Opening the box the first thing that struck me was the rather nicely presented instruction manual, with a cover and everything! They say first impressions last and this is certainly the case with this kit, with the rest of the sprues well packaged and individually wrapped to avoid any damage in transit. The contents are as follows:
- 6 sprues of dark green styrene parts
- 1 Perspex sprue
- 1 floor pan moulding
- 1 Chassis moulding
- 1 Hull moulding
- 5 Rubber tyres
- 4 poly caps (for road wheels)
- 1 Decal sheet
- 1 Instruction manual
The moulding looks good in the dark green styrene used by Meng Models
on many of their armour kits. There is very little flash and no ejector pin marks to speak of, all of the parts are intelligently placed on the sprue to retain as much detail as possible. My only criticism centres around the rather broad sprue attachment points that can make removing some rather thin items such as doors and Sill covers a rather delicate operation to avoid damaging the plastic.
The instructions themselves are very well laid out containing a brief introduction to the subject, a Vallejo colour chart and list of sprues and component parts and finally a fold out painting guide for two Russian schemes. Getting the build under way, the first nine instruction steps concern the assembly of the Chassis, transmission and suspension. The rather complex nature of the chassis sub assembly has been very well thought out, with smaller items such as the exhaust system and suspension wishbones being dealt with first, then larger items such as prop shafts and gearbox going on after to make sure that everything lines up. The suspension units and working steering rack are both separate assemblies that are then glued from the chassis, some care is needed to attach the drive shafts in the right position, if they are at the wrong angle the wheel hubs will not align correctly. Once these steps have been completed, the wheel hubs and shock absorbers are then attached and the chassis and running gear are complete.
Steps 10 to 16 deal with the construction of the interior. First up are the intricately detailed dashboard, seats, ammo racks and assorted fixtures and interior fittings. The frames for the two seats attached with no problem. The rear seat frame was a little problematic getting it to fit into place but once this was done all six seats fitted neatly into the slots moulded into the cabin floor. The Ammo rack situated behind the driver is well represented; complete with fire extinguisher and other ancillary items as well as the other ammo racks, spot light handles and lights on the ceiling of the crew compartment, the whole interior was a very straight forward assembly.
Next up was the construction of the main body of the vehicle. I decided against fitting the Perspex windows to the body shell in step 18 of the instructions, waiting instead until the end of the build to avoid any overspray. Once the hull had been primed, I set about Decaling the interior with the supplied sheet of rather distinctive camouflage pattern decals which are certainly unusual! Once again I was prepared for a struggle in order to get them to fit but there were no issues whatsoever fitting them around the inside of the hull, Testament again to the quality and care taken in the design of the kit. The door and turret assemblies went together without any issues and the exterior details such as the grab handles were added. Other items such as the antenna and the exhaust were left off until the painting stage.
The wheels were easy enough to assemble with four poly caps provided so that the wheels rotate enough to move them to a satisfactory position, but not so much as to make it roll of the table at the slightest vibration. The vinyl tyres are also very sharply detailed with a convincing tread pattern and although resin replacements would be preferable, these are still realistic enough once the shine has been taken off them with a light dry brushing and a coat of matt varnish.
Painting and weathering
The three main sub-assemblies; chassis, floor pan and hull were primed with Tamiya grey primer along with smaller items such as the tow rope, tools and guns. The chassis was then given a coat of Lifecolor panzer grey and then a wash of Citadel Badab black to pick out the details. A dry brushing with citadel bolt gun metal was then applied to simulate chips and scratches, MIG oil and grease mixture was then used around the gearbox and differentials to give a worn look. The exhaust was first hand painted with Vallejo Panzer Aces dark rust and then various shades of MIG rust pigments were then used to add a bit of texture, finally MIG black smoke pigments were used on the exhaust joints and end of the pipe to simulate exhaust staining.
The floor pan was next up, this was sprayed with a slightly lightened coat of Lifecolor Deep cockpit black. The anti-slip plates by the side and rear doors were masked and then sprayed with citadel chainmail silver. The whole area was then given a wash with MIG black and shadow brown oil washes. The seats and dashboard were painted with citadel Chaos black which has a nice satin appearance suitable for vinyl covered seats, while the transmission tunnel was painted in Tamiya Semi -gloss black to form a contrast. Once the dashboard switches were painted and the dial decals applied, the whole console was given a light dry brushing and then a wash of Citadel Badab black. The ammo racks and seat frames were first painted Lifecolor light grey, the ammo drums and magazines were then painted Citadel Camouflage green. The large ammo rack was rather fiddly to paint, with the magazines moulded into the rack, it took quite a few touch ups to make it look tidy. Once everything was in place the seat frames and racks were given a light chipping with AK interactive chipping paint and after a few oil washes, the whole assembly was given a dust coat of Tamiya XF 52 followed by a dusting of MIG pigments.
Painting the hull of the vehicle proved to be a bit of a challenge. Once the window apertures were masked the doors and turret hatches were taped in place and a base coat of Tamiya XF-57 Buff was applied. Stepping back from the model, I wasn’t happy with the shade of the base coat so I decided to purchase the listed Vallejo paints as Russian colours can be a tricky match. The Vallejo ‘sand’ base looked much better and I tried my hand at a little colour modulation to try and get some contrast in the finish. Next up, parts of the buff base coat were masked off with Tamiya tape and a coat of ‘Russian green’ was applied. Unfortunately, some of the paint managed to get under the masking so some rather hasty touch ups had to be done with a fine brush. After this minor emergency, the Final masking took place and the black stripes were sprayed on. When removing the masking for the windows, I managed to pull of some of the interior decals, maybe the addition of an emergency spare few centimetres on the decal sheet wouldn’t go amiss in case of the odd small disaster!
The final stage of the painting concerned the clear parts to give them the distinctive green tint of the actual vehicles bullet proof glass. A mist coat of Tamiya clear green was used and then a cotton bud soaked in Tamiya thinner was used to even out the finish. Spraying clear parts is always a rather nerve wracking experience but I think the end result was worth it.
The final assembly then took place with the three separate sub-assemblies fitting together beautifully with a minimum of fuss. All the exterior fittings were then added and then a Sin industries Brown filter was lightly brushed on in two coats to unify the very different colours of the Tri tone camouflage. Once this was dry, a MIG Medium wash was used to pick out the details. With all this completed, dust coat of heavily diluted XF-52 was dusted over the lower half of the model, around the windscreen and turret, MIG European Earth and Dry mud pigments were then applied to the hull and wheels to give a final dusty appearance.
This kit was a real joy to make with beautifully cast parts that pretty much fell together, the instructions were very clear which was also a great help and it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into the design of the kit and it shows in the finished article with a high degree of detail that would have only been available by adding aftermarket items a few years ago. The fully detailed interior, delicate antennas, tools and tow ropes really set the model off, the only down side being that this very high level of detail requires some pretty hefty sprue attachment points presumably to force the plastic into the mould. Applying Decals to the inside of the hull was a pretty unique experience! And once again the quality of the design shone through with very little realignment or trimming required and the interior is very eye catching as a result. All in all this build was great fun with no major issues.