AFV Club 35S-03 Waffentrager "Wiesel"MK20A1
Media: 105 White injection molded plastic, 5 Black injection molded rubber, 30 stainless steel photo-etch,
Decals for 2 variants, 10 page instruction sheet with color scheme and parts diagram
I love AFV Club. They make some of the best and most interesting model kits in the world. Any one who has built an AFV Club kit knows that the attention to detail & accuracy is awesome, the parts fit is outstanding, the decals are thin and useable, and the instructions are clear and concise. This is the second AFV Club kit I have built. (The first being the Scimitar). I have waited a long time for a kit of the Wiesel, and AFV Club has released two!
As I want to talk about the kit and its construction, I will not provide a history of the vehicle here. Check out the references at the end of this article for the development and history of the Wiesel.
Upon opening the box you will find a nicely packaged kit. All sprues are bagged separately in their own shrink-wrap. The "A", "B", "C", & "D" sprues are the white plastic parts, while the "E" & "F" sprues are the black rubber ammo feed chutes and front mud flaps respectively. Spue "A" is the lower hull. Sprue "G" is the stainless steel photo-etch that comes in its own zip lock bag. The rubber tracks and decal sheet are separate items that are also bagged. The instruction sheet is 10 pages front and back, and contains 16 steps of exploded view pictorial drawings, a parts diagram, plus 5 view drawings for color scheme and decal placement. Two markings options are supplied, an overall white U.N. scheme for the Somalia Mission "Operation Restore Hope", and the NATO three tone scheme for Fallschirmjager Battalion 262. Paint color numbers for Revell, Tamiya, Gunze, and Humbrol are supplied on the second page of the instruction sheet.
The first step in the construction of the Wiesel is the drive sprockets, rear idler wheels, road wheels and support rollers. All of these parts have absolutely beautiful bolt detail and capture the open "airy" appearance of the real thing. The only snag to watch out for is to make sure you get the two photo-etched drive sprocket teeth rings lined up properly and glued securely in between the inner and outer drive wheels. If you dont pay attention and dry fit these parts, the sprocket teeth will not line up. After all the running gear was assembled, I put them back in the box so they could be painted and added to the model later.
The second step is the hull rear plate and rear hull details. Insure you get the hull rear aligned properly before gluing. If you dont, you will have gaps in the sides and front of the hull that will require filling and sanding in spots difficult to get to around some very finely molded detail. After dry fitting many times, I finally figured it out, and got the rear hull right where I needed it. I skipped the rear hull details in step two for now, and moved to step three to add the upper front hull plate (part B38), and step four, to add the upper hull (part D49). Before you glue the upper and lower hulls together, make sure you fill the engine intake opening from behind with .010 plastic sheet. If you dont do this step, you will be able to see down into the empty lower hull. Once done, this allowed me to glue the upper and lower hull halves together, and fill and sand any seams before gluing on all the detail parts. This vehicle has some funky angles to it, and the upper and lower hull pieces bare this out. Once again, dry fit until you get the absolute best fit. I had some very small gaps in the sides that required some super glue and sanding to remove, but nothing serious. Now that the complete hull is assembled, you can move on to the rest of the model.
Step three involves completion of the running gear and suspension. The three front suspension units on each side are molded on the sides of the lower hull. Because these are pretty fragile, AFV Club chose to mold supports behind them to keep them from breaking. These supports have to be removed, and quite frankly, are a real pain in the ass to do so. Once that unpleasant task is done, you can add the shock absorbers, idler wheel mounts, idler wheel adjusters, and return rollers. Once again, I left the road wheels off until later.
Step four is the completion of the upper hull and details. Since I already added the upper hull, I could now continue by adding the details if I wanted to. I chose not to add the lift rings (Parts B17), antennas (parts B13, D8), or Drivers grab handle (part B37) in this step. These parts are extremely fragile, and I chose to build the fenders in steps five and six first.
Step five is assembly of the right side fender, rear mud flap and mount, shovel, upper hull lift rings, and on vehicle stowage. The instructions would have you add all the details to the hull-length fender, and then glue the fender to the hull. DONT do this. The fender needs to be aligned and glued to the hull first. Once dry, it is easier to add all the other parts in this step. Start by adding the hull parts first, then glue the parts that need attached to the fender. Using this sequence, you will be able to get the fender up against the hull with no interference from the other parts, and you will be able to hide any gaps with the fender parts that complete this step. I also do not recommend gluing the hull lift rings (parts B17) or etched mud flap (part G18) in this step.
Step six is the bending and folding of the photo-etched exhaust guards. This is the trickiest and most frustrating part of the kit. There are two exhaust guards that run almost the entire length of the hull and attach to the front fender (part B12) in step seven. These two folded pieces make up the remaining two-thirds of the fender all the way to the rear of the vehicle, where another photo-etched piece is used to mount the mud flap. The real bitch about all this is that each exhaust guard requires no less than nine folds, many of which are at opposite angles from the previous fold. Toss in the fact that the shields are thin and delicate, and you start to get the picture. Since I couldnt get the bottom folds to sit flat, I decided to cut off the bottom pieces of the guards and scratch build the remaining fender from .020 Evergreen sheet. I measured the width of the left front fender, measured the length of the right fender, cut the sheet and glued in place. One instantly straight and level fender to glue the exhaust guards to. After readjusting the etched guards to fit, I threw them back in the box for later. Step six is completed by adding the left mud flap, (part G12), to its plastic mount. I would recommend waiting to do this to.
Step seven is the construction of the left side of the vehicle. In step seven you add (part B12), which is the first third of the left fender. You actually have to add this part before scratch building the rest of the fender as described in step six. Several other parts complete this step. Drill out the end of the exhaust pipe and then glue as indicated. Glue the three Drivers periscopes in place. The Drivers hatch can be glued open or closed. There is no interior, so I glued mine shut. I replaced the photo-etched Drivers hatch grab handle with stretched sprue. Because the kit part is etched, it is flat and not round like on the real vehicle.
Step eight is the tracks. These are made from rubber as indicated before. They are the "melt the pins type" and have four locating holes and pins. Make sure you do these carefully and neatly, as there is really no place to hide the seam after assembly. I found the tracks are a pretty tight fit once on the completed model. These are added later.
This is where I went back to step two and caught up with all the detail parts I left off. Most of the hard physical handling of the model is now done. Glue all the rear hull details from step two. No problems were encountered here, just watch the alignment to make sure everything is straight and level. From step four, add all the left side lifting rings. These are extremely fragile, and I recommend using a new knife blade when removing them from the sprue. Leave the antennas off again. Add all the right side lifting rings from step five. Leave the photo-etched mud flaps off again.
Back to the instructions for step nine, which are the front hull details. Add the front mud flaps, lifting rings, horn, grab handles, and mirror mounts. I left off the rear view mirrors per my reference. The headlights are added in this step also. Normally I like to use M.V. Products Lenses, but the headlights had deep locating holes and I felt I could not bore them out. In the end I used bare metal foil coated with five-minute epoxy for the headlights. In this step I also added grab handles to the access hatches from stretched sprue to replace the kit supplied flat photo-etch.
Step ten is what I like about building armor; the guns. This is one incredible example of the mold makers art. Eleven pieces make up the Rn202 MK20 DM6 Chain gun. The gun barrel is one piece, with the holes in the flash suppressor molded open. All you have to do is very carefully open up the end of the barrel with the tip of a very sharp X-Acto knife. This assembly has some of the tiniest parts I have ever seen in a 1/35thscale kit. When you can mold a locking lever and an adjusting knob separately, Id have to say youve got your act together. Two points to watch out for though; make sure you remove the seam from the bottom of the gun after assembly, and watch out for the way the ammo feed chute is glued under the feed chute cover. Once I had everything squared away, I glued the gun mounts to the turret, but left the gun off until final assembly.
Step eleven is simple. Glue the Gunners periscope together, glue the right side ammo box, and assemble the five piece left side ammo box.
Step twelve is the turret assembly. Another reason I build armor. Watch out for those miniscule lift rings on the turret front and side. The right ammo box mounts (parts D22, D23) are difficult to align due to undersized mounting points. The mounting holes for the left ammo box are too big for the locating pins on the ammo box mount (part D7), and need filled. The turret is a really tight fit to the hull. If you want the turret to rotate freely, you must sand down the turret ring. I completed the turret by adding all the periscopes, the hatch hinge details, and the Commanders hatch from step 13. Once again, the hatch is separate and can be positioned open or closed. No turret interior is provided, so I glued the hatch shut.
Step thirteen adds the main gun to the turret. I chose not to do this until all painting and weathering was complete.
Step fourteen adds all twelve photo-etched hinges to the engine and transmission access hatches. These are really tiny, but look fantastic when done. I glued these on with liquid glue. The trick is to let the glue set up for about ten seconds, then push the part into the softened plastic with the blunt end of a paintbrush. No super glue needed.
In Step fifteen you add the hacksaw & axe. I left these off per my references.
Step sixteen consists of making the restraining straps for the camo net that is usually stored on the front of the vehicle. A template is provided for the straps, and the kit comes with four extremely tiny photo-etch buckles. This was an exercise in frustration after painting and weathering.
Time for choosing a paint scheme. I had some great reference photos of the vehicles in the white U.N. finish, so that is what I chose. I painted the entire model Model Master 34079 Dark Green. I checked for any flaws, fixed them, and then repainted the same color. After making sure there was no more flaws, I masked off the bottom of the hull, then painted the upper surfaces and the fronts of the road wheels with Model Master Scale Tint Flat White. This makes the model look like it started out green, and then was painted white. (Just like the real ones). The next step is to put a wash in the models recesses and dry brush the highlights. I washed the model with the Dark Green, and then "reverse dry brushed" all of the detail with the Dark Green. I was going for a vehicle that was used in Somalia, but had returned to the homeland undamaged. My photos show the vehicles cleaned up, waiting to be transported back to their units. I did not add any further dust or dirt.
My next step was to gloss the model with Testors Gloss in preparation for the decals. The kit decals are superb. They are very thin, opaque, in perfect register, and respond very well to Solvaset, my favorite setting solution. After drying for a couple of days, I sprayed the model with Polly Scale flat to blend in the decals and flatten any glossy spots from the dry brushing.
Once I was satisfied with the way the model looked, I started to paint the details. I painted the muffler steel and applied a little black to the tail pipe to add depth and look sooty. The right and left turn blinkers were painted with Testors Chrome Silver and then coated with Tamiya clear orange. The rear turn blinkers and convoy recognition markers were done the same way. The rear brake lights were painted with Testors Chrome Silver and coated with Tamiya clear red. All reflectors were painted with Testors gloss Red.
All periscopes and vision devices were painted flat black and then filled with clear five-minute epoxy. When done properly, nothing looks more like glass. Just make sure you dont overfill the periscope openings, or you will have a serious and difficult mess to clean up. I strongly encourage you to practice on a scrap model.
The final assembly of the model included painting the main armament, the exhaust shields, and the rear mud flaps. I airbrushed the cannon with Model Master Non-Buffing Metalizer Gunmetal, then dry brushed all of the amazing detail with Model Master Steel. The shells visible in the feed chute were painted Aluminum, and A drop of Flat Black was added to the flash suppressor for depth.
The exhaust shields were "banged up" to show wear and tear, and then very carefully super glued into place. The rear mud flaps were painted Flat Black and also super glued after they were trimmed to fit. I glued the road wheels and idler wheels. Once dry, I slipped the drive sprocket into the tracks, placed the sprocket on its axle, and wrapped the track around the rear idler. Like I said before, the tracks are a tight fit and I had to adjust the wheels to keep the track runs straight. The last and final pieces to the Wiesel are the antennas and rear view mirror extension posts. The mirrors were left off while the Wiesels were in transit, so I left them off my model per my references. I glued the antennas as indicated in the instructions.
I picked up a small wood base at a local craft store and stained the routed edges with an oak colored stain. I then painted the flat surface the model would sit on concrete. Expansion joints and stains were painted to help make the base appear as if it is a well traveled stretch of harbor roadway.
This is one exceptional model and great value for the money. I cannot wait to build the TOW version. I Highly recommend this kit to all armor fans.
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