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PlusModel U.S. Motor Grader

Kit:426 // Scale:1/35 // Price:$168.70
Detailed engine; good fits; smart use of photoetched metal; clear resin headlights; photo CD of the kit under construction
Some air bubbles in the castings; instruction sequence not always logical
Resin, 282 parts (31 photoetched-metal), decals

Models of military construction equipment have been scarce, but PlusModel has released an all-resin kit of Caterpillar's No. 12 Motor Grader.

Designed in the 1930s, the 10-ton vehicle is still being made today, albeit with many enhancements. During World War II, the U.S. military used the grader in all theaters of operation for building runways, roads, and bases of operations. Molded in greenish gray resin, the kit features 249 pieces — some very small — that show just a few air bubbles. A couple of parts arrived broken in the package but were easy to repair. 

The one-piece cab, blade frame, and detailed engine all impressed me.

The kit contains more than two dozen photoetched-metal parts. A small decal sheet provides markings for two graders. 

The instruction booklet features hand-drawn assembly diagrams. They can be a little confusing regarding exact part placement, but PlusModel includes a CD with photos of the model under construction that help clarify things. A few parts were misidentified, but it was clear to see from the photos what the correct parts should be. I mostly followed the instructions' order of assembly, but a few steps are better done differently. For example, the kit has you add the rear-wheel assemblies to the frame in Step 3. But they aren't keyed for alignment, and it’s almost impossible to get all six wheels to touch the ground without fitting the front wheels.

Working in subassemblies, I assembled the detailed engine except for the various pipes that pierce the hood. Double-check the alignment of the radiator support (Part 26) when attaching it to the front of the engine. I got mine canted slightly — super glue is very unforgiving — causing problems later when I fitted the radiator and engine covers. If I could do it again, I'd leave the support loose so it could be adjusted.

I built the front axle but left it off until after the first round of painting. The kingpins (Part 12) attach to the main axle with a butt joint that I reinforced by drilling some holes and inserting fine wire. After detailing the driver's compartment, I built the scarifier, the comb-like device between the front wheels and blade. It was not always used on graders; you could leave it off if you prefer.

I attached detail parts to the frame that weren’t dependent on other assemblies for positioning, then built the blade mechanism.

I airbrushed the subassemblies Tamiya olive drab, then post-shaded with olive drab lightened with desert yellow. The tires are painted German gray.

I installed the front axle, minus the steering linkage, then added the rear wheels, reinforcing the weak join with brass tube. Placing the model on glass during this process ensured all six wheels touched the ground. Once the rear wheels were set, I secured the front axle and added the steering linkage.

Next, I added the cab and side shift rack (Part 72). While the model was still on the glass, I installed the scarifier, raising it off the ground slightly and adding the support arms. I was worried the blade would be too fragile to suspend, so I rested it on the glass while adding its control arms.

Fit was good throughout, and I used just a dab of filler to blend the front and rear frame sections.

The decals laid down beautifully over a Vallejo clear gloss.

I replaced the kit’s copper-wire steering shaft with a rigid brass tube. 

Finally, the engine cover was installed: I had to adjust the fit because of the crooked radiator mount.

This may have been one of my most challenging builds to date. I spent 42 hours on it. I was impressed with the quality of the castings and fit of the parts.

The finished model matched almost exactly the dimensions in a Caterpillar brochure I found on the Internet. 

You'll need some experience, especially with resin, but PlusModel's grader is the only game in town — and the finished results are well worth the effort.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2015 FineScale Modeler.

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