Although the Leopard 1 is my favorite AFV of all time, I only ever built one, the old Tamiya kit, when I was something like 12 years old. During all these years, I’ve accumulated a pretty decent amount of references on this vehicle and its many variants, but I never actually got around to building one (although I have many projects in mind involving it).
So after completing the Fulcrum, I wanted to get back to armor for a bit and decided it was about time to build a Leopard seriously. But which one? It’s always been the main problem. I won’t get into all the reasons why I find the Leopard so interesting, but let’s just say that it stands as a true symbol of the Cold War, the continuation of Germany’s relative competence in designing tanks, and one of the first true MBT. Plus it looks awesome.
So yeah, all variants of the Leopard are interesting, as my own inventory of kits will attest.
In the end, I decided to go with Revell’s. Now, I hear you all scream: “WHAT? Revell?!? This has to be the worst possible option!“. And, as we’ll likely confirm in the second installment of this series, you’d be right. Apart from Italeri’s 1A5 (not bad per se, just old) and Elite’s Dachs (a fiddly, warpy resin affair), all other kits on that stack are superior.
Yet, much to Revell’s credit, their kit is the only “recent” one offering the possibility to build an early variant from the first four batches, and it is also the only mainstream kit in existence that allows for building a Dutch tank straight out of the box.
Thus, from a subject matter perspective, it’s a viable option. You have a bunch of things to correct if you are into getting really precise and accurate, however, and the finer details of Leopard variants and batches can be confusing at times. As usual, good references help. Since I’m planning for a Belgian vehicle, here are the references that I am going to use.
- Trackpad Publishing Leopard 1(BE) Belgium’s Last MBT Part 1 by Patrick Winnepenninckx. This is the best possible reference you can get on batch 3 Belgian Leos. Everything is there for you to see clearly what to address on the kit.
- Tankograd Kampfpanzer Leopard 1 in German Army Service – Early Years, by Frank Lobitz.
- And as usual, the Leopard Trilogy from Michael Shackleton (in this case, volumes 1 and 3) is never far.
As mentioned earlier, I’m getting serious with this build, at least for the construction part, and I decided to use a bunch of detailing sets to bring the kit to a more acceptable level of accuracy. Here are the sets I am going to use:
- Leopard Workshop Leopard I Improvement Set LW033. This sets addresses a lot of the main shortcomings of Revell’s kit.
- Leopard Workshop Leopard 1 Replacement Wheels LW001. One of the major bummers of this kit (and, in fact, a bunch of the better ones) is the roadwheel. It seems no one quite achieved getting the wheels right. Some have Italeri’s curious ribs on the rolling band, and others have the inner side entirely absent or plain wrong. In Revell’s case, the wheels’ profile is too squarish with too prominent pips all over. LW’s set is beautiful, but I suspect installing it will be challenging.
- A bunch of other sets to address the stuff that is never convincing in styrene:
For the barrel, I wonder if I could get away with Barrel Depot’s M68 rifled Gun BD35009. It looks quite similar to the L7A3 without its thermal sleeve. This will need to be confirmed.
An interesting program, isn’t it?
Now, about those corrections, I could simply look carefully at Winnepenninckx’ book and infer what needs to be done. I will of course do that, but there are knowledgeable people out there that took the time to list a bunch of specific tweaks. Here they are if you fancy a project like this yourself.
- Revell Leopard 1 Review by Kenneth Østergaard.
- Revell Leopard 1 Review by Jürgen Schulz.
- Micheal Shackleton’s comments on Revell’s kit. (Can be found at the bottom of Leopard Workshop LW33 Improvement Set page).
Ok so with the specs of this project clearly set, let’s get going on the construction of this beast. This will form the basis of the second part of this blog.