In July 2011 Eduard
released three photo etch upgrade sets for the HobbyBoss Israeli Defence Force Merkava Mk IV, in this review I will take a look at set 36172. This set is the main release of three offered and adds or improves detail on the whole vehicle on all surfaces. The other 2 sets offered are 36173 which deals with the armoured skirt (Reviewed here
), and 36166 which deals with the baskets on the rear of the turret and hull (Reviewed here
The photo etch set is packaged in typical Eduard style that being a reseal able plastic sleeve with two card stiffeners in the packaging to help prevent damage to the set. This set is made up of two photo etch frets and four pages of instructions (see details below).
The two photo etch frets in this set are 0.14mm thick which will make any bends that need to be made easy. The thickness of the photo etch will mean that care will need to be taken as damaging the photo etch components will be difficult to repair or hide. Down both sides of both of the photo etch frets are a series of hexagonal holes which are used to make bolt heads for adding detail to your model, covered in the instructions is a method on how to use these holes to get your bolt heads.
The instructions guide you through the use of this set using black and white line drawings which are laid out in an easy to follow way. It is worth remembering that Eduard has all of their instructions available to you on their site: Eduard website
: in PDF format which can be viewed there or downloaded, I personally prefer their PDF instructions as they are in colour, with the various colours further helping to identify what is photo etch or a model part and what parts need to be removed.
Page 1 of the instructions covers the exhaust, engine deck, the first of the optics guards, and front mudguards. None of the replacement photo etch should cause you any issues except possibly for the removal of some moulded on detail on the deck, as various rings and handles are offered in the set. To remove this moulded on detail I recommend using the back of a chisel as that will remove the raised detail without digging into the surface.
Page 2 of the instructions starts work on the rear deck behind/under the turret. This is primarily tool clasps in one shape or another that should be easy. The second of the optics guards is replaced and again no problems should be encountered. Lastly the tow rope retaining clasps are replaced and is one thing I am not looking forward to as great care will need to be taken in order that the cable is not broken or detail damaged during removal of the moulded clasps.
Page 3 of the instructions starts by going to work on the rear light clusters and mudguards which are quite involved, but are thankfully made slightly easier to complete as the hinges have not been made workable. I know some would prefer workable hinges but due to their small size I think most will be happy they are not workable. Then the set moves onto the turret beginning with the braces on the main gun which, while reasonably easy to apply, the preparation involved in removing the moulded on detail will likely tax your patience to the limit. The difficulty with removing this detail on the barrel is avoiding leaving a flat spot on the plastic barrel. This page closes with removing some more removal of clips, clasps, and clamps which again means reaching for the chisel and the brace for the ball and chain armour the hangs from the turret basket.
Page 4 of the instructions starts with the turret machine gun, ammunition, ammunition case. The machine gun itself gets a better detailed rear sight and ammunition case retaining bracket, this is followed with an ammunition case and a short ammunition belt. This page finishes with the third of the optics guards being placed.
Page 5 is where I hit a problem and had to go to Eduardís home page and look up the instructions because page 5 and 6 of the instructions are not in the packet, I have no way of knowing if this is a one off problem or a common fault at the packaging stage.
Anyway moving right along courtesy of the PDF file from Eduardís home page you continue to replace various clamps and brackets before moving onto the turrets 50 cal. The 50 cal and its mounts are improved quite drastically with this set, starting with the gun itself you replace the cooling jacket, carrying handle, handgrips, and the front and rear sights. Then you replace the ammunition box and its carrier which also supplies the feeder for the ammunition and a belt of ammunition for the 50 cal. Lastly the rear firing mount and parts of the mounting brackets are improved, the only other improvement that may be considered here is replacement of the barrel itself.
Page 6 of the instructions starts by replacing the spare track hangers and the turret portion of the ball and chain hanging brackets. The mounting brackets of the grab handles around the turret are replaced but neglect to show you how to improve the look of the hand hold itself. The set closes by replacing the spare track hangers on the side of the turret and the spare ammunition trays with their ammunition cases.
When the HobbyBoss Merkava Mk 4 was released it was generally accepted to be the better detailed of the two possible kits available despite the major fault with the suspension, this photo etch sets can only help to improve the detail that is already there and I therefore recommend it to you despite the issue with the instructions.