I began this build last December. Finished it yesterday, near the end of March, 2017. Overall, it took about three and a half months to complete. During that period I did work on an Eduard 1:72 scale FW 190A8, which is now stalled because I managed to destroy a couple of essential decals. But, that is another story.
This was not an easy build. The kit is well designed and engineered to assemble with minimal issues, although there were a few. Whether these were inherent in the design or production of the kit is unclear. I haven’t read any in-depth build reviews of it, so I have nothing to compare with my experience. I can state categorically that I have seldom been able to cruise easily through any model kit I have built. Some are easier than others, some end up in the bin. I suspect that is more my doing than the kit but I do know that some models are just really difficult to build properly. Or, in some cases, even adequately.
I won’t attempt a build review here but will highlight some episodes and factors that I found to be interesting, rewarding or frustrating. Might help you to be aware of some of the things I encountered, enjoyed and complained about.
It’s a big box of parts. Big. The first sensible thing I did was to open each bag, remove the sprue and highlight the sprue identifying letter with a Sharpie. Meng makes these letters big enough so that is very easy to do. I taped a divider across the middle of the box and lined all the sprues up behind it alphabetically so I could easily read the letters and grab the correct sprue as I needed it. Then I began with the cabin build.
Looking a photos of real D9Rs on the internet I found that there are no “standard” interior colors. The paint ranged from soft, olive green, white, light tan, something called “hemp” and similar hues. The seats seemed to be mostly leather or black. I chose an off-white for the interior walls and got started. I did read a portion of Marcus Nichol’s last article on painting and weathering the beast and decided to follow his lead in installing the clear plastic windows without gluing them or their interior frames in place, planning to replace them with the green tinted versions after all the painting was done. This way the clear “glass” can serve as masking to keep paint out of the interior of the cab. This works fine but you must insure that the clear plastic pieces and the framing inside don’t get any glue or paint in between them and the cabin walls or it will be difficult to remove and replace them. This happpened to me twice and although I worked out well in the end, it was touch and go fortified by some colorful Navy language I’ve managed to retain for use in such situations.
In January I had finished the cabin with only one main issue. After getting all of the walls attached to the floor, I had one big gap. It seemed there was a wall segment that was not actually called out in the instructions. I found it in a susequent step where it was indicated only by its part number. This was not to be the first time where Meng’s instructions proved to be inadequate.
I then moved on to the running gear support assemblies. Here was the first example of ill-fitting parts. Gaps. No way around them. Tested, fitted, sanded, tested, sanded… The bloody things will just have some gaps. I stretched some sprue, laid it into the gaps and hit it with Tamiya Extra Thin cement. As it softened I pushed it deep into the gaps, smoothing it with the side of my tweezers. After all had dried I sanded these segments down flush and smooth. Adios gaps. Nichols commented that to take care of the track sag, he cut the fore end off the running gear assembly, inserted a scratch built tube into both ends so he could slide them back and forth a bit to take up the slack he anticipated would exist. I didn’t do this. There was slack and I dealt with it differently.
Tracks. For some reason a few manufacturers of tracked vehicles have decided that they had to bow to the accuracy freaks and produce tracks as close in appearance to the real thing as possible. Some went so far as to make them flexible and workable. This is taking things way too far in my opinion. On most models the tracks will be static 99.9% of the time and the majority of the track run will never be seen anyway. Since the manfacturers can’t make highly detailed, flexible one-piece tracks, they went to the extreme opposite side of the question and offer tracks the modeler must assemble from many, tiny parts. Many. Hundreds, in fact, for some models. If they are kind, they produce them as individual pieces and put them in fat plastic bags. If not, they just cast them on sprues and let the modeler clip and clean each one. This takes a very. Long. Time.
Now, if some accuracy-obsessed individuals feel they need this before they could buy a kit, fine. Give them their many sprues or fat plastic bags of track links and parts, but for the rest of us, for god’s sake, just make some reasonably acccurate (close enough will actually be fine) one-piece, flexible track runs and toss them in the box for the rest of us. Really.
So, I had to settle in with my iPad showing some video entertainment, or playing some podcasts and build the damn, boring and none-too-sturdy track runs. If you build this kit, you will have to do the same. Take a tip though, get some really good cement that will solidly bond the little tread plates to the link assemblies. Save you some aggravation later on. Trust me.
The Blade and Ripper Assemblies
A nit, but still bothersome was the extended cleanup of the top hydraulic lines (G8 & G9) to the blade lifting assembly as well as some of the other assembly parts. At the blade end of the machine, the IDF and Marine Corps versions differ quite a bit. Meng’s attempts to indicate which parts go with with version are vague and confusing. I had to resort to actual photos to figure this out.
The front and back portions of the blade itself were not a good fit, leaving a gap running along the bottom rear of the blade. Once again, stretched sprue melted into the gap and sanded away was the answer. The remainder of the blade assembly was pretty straightforward. I built the ripper assembly in one go. It all fits well and looks the part, especially with the hydraulic lines in place.
I sprayed the blade and lower portions of the ripper assembly with stainless steel Model Master paint. After it was dry, wet the front and sides of the blade assembly and the parts of the ripper that would do the ripping and coated them with salt crystals. After that too dried, I sprayed them all with Tamiya Desert Yellow. Next day, I took a stiff brush, water and paper towel. And rubbed the salt away. After that a Scotch Brite pad made plenty of satisfying scratches and paint removal so that it did appear to be used metal blade and ripper material. Dirt, gunk and light mud followed to enhance the effect.
When all of the main subassemblies were complete, I dirtied and weathered the entire machine with Tamiya Weathering compounds, applied both wet and dry. I also used some model railroad weathering powders after that for a more subtle effect.
Both track runs were weathered and dirtied up along with the rest of the dozer. Then I set about attaching them. I put the drive sprocket into the track run and fitted it and the tracks to the dozer. Easy. Except there was the dreaded track sag. Damn. So, off with the tracks, then figure out how to remove one link and tread plate from each and re-install them. It was a bit tight and tricky to get them on. I lost a couple of tread plates in the process which I had to re-glue.
Before I attached the blade assembly I removed the unglued roof and set about exchanging the clear “glass” for tinted. This was mostly easy, but I had a few recalcitrant window frames to deal with. All finished well and looked very good with those green tinted windows. I attached the blade assembly and painted the upper parts of the blade supports yellow, hit a few areas with touch up paint and weathering gunk. I broke off some grab handles multiple times. Pay particular attention to where you grasp the model when moving it about. There are many small breakable items on the exterior.
I’m now convinced that Meng produces some very good models. This was my third Meng kit. I built the little Renault FT-17 tank and the British Whippet. Those were much simpler kits compared to this one. They too had a few fit issues but nothing major. That’s where I hit upon the stretched sprue gap filling method, with the FT-17. I have one more Meng kit in the stash, the British Mk. V Male tank with full interior. I’m pondering how, or if, to built it in such a way as to display the interior. I may just go ahead and build it, open the hatches and perhaps make a sponson removable and not worry so much about display. The idea in the beginning for me was to explore how these things were made both inside and out. Building it will answer that question. Whether it can be opened or not for others to see may not be important. I could just show them photos.
If you like lengthy builds with many small, and delicate details which may be odd on a bulldozer but are realistic and certainly appealing, this kit is worthy of your consideration.
The D9R is a big, complex and involved kit of a little known but important asset to the armed forces of the USA and Israel in fighting religious ideology and hatred. More power to them I say.