|KIT:||Italeri 1/72 Leopard 1A2|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Leopard (or
Leopard 1) is a main battle
tank that first entered service in 1965 with the German Army,
Canada, and some other
countries (such as Belgium and Italy)in various versions. The design
initially started as a collaborative project between Germany and France in
the 1950s, but they split and the design was ordered
by the Bundeswehr. It went on to
serve with many countries throughout the late 1990s but has gradually been
relegated to secondary roles in the 21st century. In the Bundeswehr it was
replaced by the Leopard 2.
The original Leopard was a fairly conventional design armed tank with a German-built version of the British L7 105-mm gun. The Leopard 1 known for its good cross-country speed.
The Leopard project
started in November, 1956 in order to develop a modern tank to replace the
Bundeswehr's United States-built
M-47 & M48 tanks, which were rapidly growing outdated. In 1957 the
detailed designs were released; the new design needed to able to withstand
hits from 20 mm anti-tank guns, operate in a battlefield contaminated with
chemical weapons or radioactive
fallout, the then-standard baseline for
combat with the Warsaw Pact. In
addition the main armament was to be upgraded to the new L7A3 105 mm gun,
carrying at least as much ammunition as current US designs.
In June, 1957 West Germany and the French Fourth Republic signed an agreement to develop a common tank, designated Standard-Panzer. Two German and one French design teams would be included in a competition, with each team producing two prototypes each. In September, 1958 Italy joined the development program. Several prototypes were entered for testing in 1960. Among the prototypes were the Porsche's Model 734 sported an odd looking turret and the Rheinmetall's version was somewhat "flatter" and used a more normal looking welded turret.
The Porsche version was eventually selected as the winner of the contest in 1963, but was modified with a new cast turret and several hull changes to raise the rear deck to provide more room in the engine compartment, and move some of the radiators to the upper sides of the hull. Before production started it was also decided to add an optical range-finding system for better long-range gunnery, which required the turret to be somewhat taller, and added "bumps" on either side of the turret to mount the optics.
Production was set up at Krauss-Maffei of Munich, with deliveries of the first batch between September, 1965 and July, 1966. The Leopard was soon being purchased by a number of NATO members including Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey, as well as by Australia.
After the first batch
was delivered the next three batches were the Leopard 1A1 model,
which included a new gun stabilization system from Cadillac-Gage, allowing
the tank to fire effectively on the move. The 1A1 also added the now-famous
"skirts" along the sides to protect the upper tracks, and a new thermal
jacket on the gun barrel to control heating. A less important change was to
use rectangular rubber blocks fastened to the treads with a single pin
instead of the earlier two-pin "shaped" versions, which could be easily
replaced in the winter with metal X-shaped crampons for movement on ice and
Between 1974 and 1977 all of the machines in the first four batches were brought to the same Leopard 1A1A1 standard, and given additional turret armor developed by Blohm + Voss. A further upgrade in the 1980s added leftover image-intensifier night sights which were being handed down from the Leopard 2 as they were themselves upgraded. The PZB 200 was mounted in a large box on the upper right of the gun, creating the Leopard 1A1A2. A further upgrade with SEM80/90 all-digital radios created the Leopard 1A1A3.
The first 232 tanks of the fifth production batch was delivered as the Leopard 1A2 between 1972 and 1974. The A2 included a heavier and better armored turret, and therefore did not receive the B&V armor add-ons as did the earlier machines. They did receive the other upgrades however--the Leopard 1A2A1 received the PZB 200, the Leopard 1A2A2 the digital radios, and the Leopard 1A2A3 got both.
There is more to the Leopard after this, but it is not germane to this kit. Thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet for this background information.
When I first opened the box, I thought that perhaps this was an old ESCI kit as Italeri has a deal with ERTL (who owns ESCI and all their molds) to rebox ESCI kits. However, I don't recall ESCI ever doing the hard plastic tracks thing so I'm not really sure.
Overall, the molding of the kit is quite good, there is no flash,and few ejector pin marks. I found sink areas on the turret sprue: one on a separate hatch, one on a molded in hatch on the turret and another couple on the mantlet. On the main hull there is one on the glacis plate. Sure hope I got all those 'tanky' terms right!
Most of the suspension is molded on the side pieces so one only really need to attach the road wheels, idler and sprocket before gluing on the tread pieces. The turret is pretty straight-forward and it seems the gun is designed to elevate. There is what looks like a grenade launcher to fit on the barrel if you wish and what looks like a spotlight housing for the mantlet in terms of optional bits. Much of the usual 'stuff' mounted on the hull are molded in place so there isn't the usual plethora of small bits to attach aside from some hooks and lights. If you don't want to fill the sink area on the front, you can put a section of track over it.
Instructions are well done as are basically all of what are done by Italeri. There are markings for three tanks, all in what is called Olive Drab, but I've not heard of a color FS 37087 before so it must be something relatively new to the Model Master line. The small decal sheet is well printed and should pose no real problems. It provides markings for a German, Italian and Belgian tank.
I'm not going to make any blatant 'this is the only Leopard 1A2 in 1/72' comments, but I've not seen this version in this scale before, so it must not be all that common (now I'll get a dozen e-mails with a long list of 1/72 Leopard 1 kits!). Since there are not a ton of parts, this one should be a relatively easy build. The detail level is good enough for all but the most dedicated armor builder and what's more, it won't take over the display shelf!
Thanks to for the review kit. You can find Italeri kits at your favorite hobby shop or on-line at www.testors.com
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