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Takom Merkava Mk.1

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/35 scale plastic model armored tank kit
The Merkava is the Israel Defense Force’s premier main battle tank. Developed by Israel after years of using foreign tanks, its design was unique. It featured a front-mounted engine and a rear compartment with an access door for troops or munitions.

Takom’s new Merkava Mk.1 (and Mk.1 hybrid kit) is most welcome, as this is the first new kit of this version in 30-plus years (Tamiya’s kit being the only other Mk.1). The kit is well molded in light gray plastic and features clear plastic for periscopes and lens, optional armament for the turret exterior, separate hatches, photo-etched (PE) and lead-sheet parts, and link-and-length tracks.

The lower hull is molded in one piece. The suspension parts that are added to it are quite numerous and represent bogie mounts, bumper stops, and suspension springs. I was impressed with the overall molding.

The dual bogie wheels are built up from four parts. The front wheel comprises three parts with a separate part for the rubber tire, making painting easier.

The actual Merkava turret has numerous fittings and shapes, and I was impressed by how Takom has managed to mold most of these neatly on the upper turret part.
Parts are included for upgrades made to the Mk.1, including a .50-caliber machine gun mounted above the main gun, 60mm mortar attached to the turret side, and a second 7.62mm machine gun for the loader.

The main gun is molded in three parts and features excellent detail. But it attaches to a fixed mount, so no elevation or depression is possible.

The link-and-length tracks have neat, crisply molded detail. Assembly jigs (one for each side) are provided and are a real help in construction.

After initial combat experiences, a ball-and-chain screen was attached to the vulnerable turret rear to protect against antitank rockets (and has been in use with all subsequent marks). This has been a thorny detail in other Merkava kits, with various versions using real chains to replicate this feature. Takom tackles this challenge in straightforward fashion with neatly molded plastic as part of the turret basket sides. If you model an initial combat Merkava, you would have to remove this plastic.

Wire is provided for the tow cables. I found assembling the cable problematic, as the wire is a bit thick and the plastic tow hooks have shallow attachment recesses. Once they’re assembled, you have to snake the cables around both sides of the turret and meet at the back of the turret basket!

The upper-hull detail is as well done as the turret. Separate parts are provided for the headlights, driver’s hatch, and periscopes. Periscope covers are separate parts, so these can be posed closed without the periscopes deployed (this can be said of the turret, also).

The hull’s rear door is molded in separate parts and can be open or closed. Don’t attach the hinge arms if you are going to have it closed, though, or your door will be ajar!
The upper hull attached to the lower hull without any problems. There is a join seam at the “nose” that the more fastidious builder may want to eliminate.
I painted my Merkava with Tamiya acrylics, hand-mixing my primary color based on color photos.
Decals are given for two vehicles. They applied nicely over a gloss coat with the help of some decal solution.
My primary reference was Vol. 20 of Desert Eagle Publishing’s IDF Armor series Merkava Siman 1: Merkava Mk.1 in IDF Service – Part 1, by Michael Mass and Adam O’Brien (ISBN 978-965-7700-07-5). The finished model looked good compared to the reference photos.

I completed my Merkava in 43 hours and was pleased with the outcome. The finished piece is a convincing model. It’s a straightforward build that can be managed by any modeler who’s built a few armor kits. I highly recommend Takom’s new Merkava to anyone interested in modern armor.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the April 2018 issue.
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