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Panda Hobby Cougar 4 x 4 MRAP


With mines and IEDs an ever-present threat on today's battlefield, vehicles must withstand deadly blasts to keep the crew intact. Built by Force Protection, Inc., the Cougar is designed with crew survivability in mind. Used primarily by the U.S. Marine Corps, the Cougar has been keeping its troops safe on the front lines since 2004.

The number of parts nicely packed into Panda's box will make your head spin: 15 sprues and a photoetched-metal fret hold 578 parts. Four vinyl tires are included. Much of the molded detail is shallow, and many parts have flash to clean up.

The instructions are a 20-page magazine-style booklet with a sprue breakdown and separate decal placement guide in color. The directions do not call out colors, so you will need good references.

The instructions present 20 steps to complete the Cougar. I did find a few errors in the directions: Part X8 should be X9 and vice versa; Part F12 should be F13 and vice versa.

Starting with the chassis, from the get-go you will find this is not an easy build. Parts do not seem to line up at all. For instance, the ball joint/wheel assembly: There was no way to mount it correctly so the wheels stood true. Instead, they pointed in. I had to break off the ball joints and super glue the wheels so they stood straight.

Most of the time you spend on the build will be on the interior of the model. Details include all the radio equipment, a Blue Force tracker, and other computer hardware; options abound for different equipment as well as various anti-IED devices. Many of the interior parts are tiny and fragile. Seat belts are molded into the seats. Sadly, most of this stuff will never be seen — but a person who likes to add a lot of detail will enjoy the effort.

After the interior is complete, it's time to add the upper portion of the body to the lower portion. The fit of the body halves was poor; there was about a 1⁄16" gap that I filled with shims and sanded smooth. Once that was complete, I mounted the vinyl tires on the wheels. I was disappointed by the fit of the tires to the rims; there is a huge gap where the tire and the wheel join. An aftermarket set of wheels may be in order.

Turret assembly went well, but detail on the .50-caliber machine gun is soft. I would replace it with an aftermarket weapon or something from your spares.

I painted with Testors Model Master enamels (No. 2136, U.S. Gulf armor sand). Decals went on over a clear coat with no issues; only one set of markings is included.

When the paint dried, I lightly weathered my Cougar with a gray wash and pastels.

The build took me more than 50 hours to complete — far more than I had expected. Although the fit of the parts was a challenge, I'm happy with the results. I wouldn't recommend Panda's kit to a beginner, but someone looking to meet a challenge to achieve satisfying results will enjoy devoting the time to this good-looking model.

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

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