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Panda HMEE-1

Build review of the 1/35 scale military excavator model with a full engine but little painting info
Kit:No. PH35041 // Scale:1/35 // Price:$69.99
Panda Hobby
Good detail and use of PE; clear lenses for most lights; full engine
Little painting information provided; press fit for many of the moving parts; ejector- pin marks in visible spots; errors and omissions in the instructions
Injection-molded, 388 parts (66 PE, 4 vinyl), decals
Manufactured by JCB, the HMEE-1 or High Mobility Engineer Excavator (that’s a backhoe to you and me) can travel at speed on rough roads. That ability to travel with military convoys and be fitted with armor for the operator makes it a versatile addition to the modern U.S. Army.

Molded in sand-colored plastic, Panda’s HMEE-1 features good detail although there are some ejector-pin marks in visible spots. The sides, front, and top of the cab are molded as a single piece with only the rear panel to be added. Clear plastic provides the cab’s armored glass and lenses for most of the lights. The photo-etched metal (PE) fret includes tie-downs, grab handles, exhaust shield, cab lights, and the four tires are beautifully molded in stiff vinyl with sidewall logos and virtually no mold seams. The small decal sheet provides placards for the exterior and cab including the dashboard.

The build starts with a detailed engine; most of it will be invisible on the finished model, but it’s nice to have. The instructions show the radiator going on the engine, but there are no locators to do so. Instead, I attached the shroud to the bulkhead (Part B16) and added the engine while building the frame in Step 2. I also left off the radiator hoses (B59, A82) until the frame was assembled.

I had some trouble installing the suspension parts until I realized I had the axle assemblies in upside down. Once corrected everything fit perfectly. I left off the front fender supports (Part B23) for painting; unfortunately, no solid locator is given for them, so you need to guess where they go.

Adding exterior details to the frame went smoothly until I came to the wheels. First, the inside wheel halves (parts D67, D68) lack holes to fit over the stub axle; that was an easy fix. The instructions show the hubs being built first, but the stiff tires wouldn’t stretch over them. So, I attached the inner halves of the rims with their keepers to the axles and attached the tires and outer rims later.

The cab has only a basic interior, although it’s difficult to see on the finished model anyway. The decal sheet provides a bunch of placards for the cab, but the instructions show none of them or tell you what color to paint the interior. Luckily, I found a YouTube video showing the cab to answer both questions.

The front bucket mount was an exercise in juggling because most of the parts are left unglued to leave the bucket movable. Many of the movable assemblies join with press fits rather than glue, but that also means they occasionally pop out of place. The front bucket itself went together easily, with the only issue being poorly molded tie-downs (D30), which I repaired with styrene.

In Step 10, the numbers for the stabilizer backplates are reversed; the one depicted should be Part A86, its opposite number is A87. Leave the stabilizer assemblies off until you are ready to install the backhoe as their position affects the fit of the backhoe.

Like the bucket, the backhoe uses many non-glue joins, but it is easier to build. I left off the hydraulic rotation cylinders (Part D46) and top plate (Part A37) until I attached the backhoe.

As provided in the kit, the hose reel is two flat disks without a spacer. I used appropriately sized styrene tube to separate the sides.

The small window on the cab’s right side (Part GP7) was not quite as wide as its opening, so I centered it as best I could.

Building the PE cab lights was quite an adventure. While the PE parts were fairly easy to build, installing the lights was a different story. The clear parts are egg-shaped, so holding them with tweezers was almost impossible. While the larger front ones weren’t too bad, the small roof lights were impossible. I snipped off the tiny locating pin from the bottom of each light and glued them to small squares of thin styrene, making them easier to install in the cages.

I painted my HMEE with AK Real Color sand throughout assembly. The decals went on perfectly using Microscale Micro Set and Sol.

I spent about 47 hours building the kit, and the finished model matches perfectly dimensions in a JCB pamphlet I found on the internet. Despite the issues I had, the finished model looks great. But the kit is a challenge requiring a builder with a lot of experience.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2020 issue.
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