IDF Magach 3 w/ERA
This kit was introduced in February of 2017. It is a follow-on to Dragon releases of the Magach 1 and 2 and 3. It is listed under the 6 Day war series. The kit includes the newer parts to add the ERA tiles but also includes the earlier parts to build the earlier Magach versions. Parts like the 90mm gun, back deck and grill doors and mantlet. Research should be done to identify the appropriate versions of parts included so you back-rev the kit with the correct parts.
Operationally the Magach with ERA was not used during the 6 Day War. The Magach 3 was retrofitted after the 6 Day War, to the newer M48A3 standard. This included the newer 105mm M68 cannon, the 750HP V12 air cooled diesel and other improvements. ERA tiles were not invented until the late 70’s and were not available until after the 6 Day War. The ERA was fitted as a normal improvement to the tank fleet. The Magach 3 with the ERA tiles was used during the Lebanon Incursion in 1980
Opening the Box
The kit consists of 17 grey sprues, 1 clear, 1 DS gun mantlet and searchlight balls, 1 PE fret, 2 DS tracks and a decal sheet with two markings. On several sprues, only one or two parts are used in this build. As mentioned above, there are multiple parts that allow you to build multiple versions. The molding is typical Dragon with fine detail and very little if almost non-existent flash. The kit build uses around 394 parts but you have more than that on all the sprues.
The instructions consist of 8 pages. They are printed in Black and white, with blue call-outs indicating the number of assemblies to build as well build symbology callouts. There are 18 instruction steps. Step 1 thru 10 covers the hull build and steps 11 thru 17 covers the turret. Step 18 is putting on the turret and tracks to the hull.
Things to consider before building:
- The kit has a lot of very similar looking parts, like the back deck, the grill doors, and other automotive and hull/turret parts from the different versions of parts included. Pay attention or you could easily have the wrong part. The instructions are accurate with a few exceptions noted below.
- The kit generally goes together quite well but not everything is as easy as Dragon usually does a good job of locating parts. The ERA tiles are a mixed bag. The upper and lower glacis and large portions of the turret tiles have a single molded backing piece that the multiple tiles glue to. These are great in that they keep the relative positioning of the varied size tiles spaced. However, there is no positive location mechanism for the backing plate, so you have to line up the plate to get the mounting location using the kit drawings and plan views. There are around 6 tiles that have to be individually attached on the turret and two on the hull. The plan views are very helpful. Several tiles have part number and location reversed, but you can verify by trial fitting the blocks to the backing plate. There are two tiles that are positioned on either side of the driver's hatch, shown in the drawing for step 10 but are not called out. These are part L58 and L67.
- The mantlet and the searchlight balls that glue onto the mantlet are used to mount the .50 cal. machine gun above the gun tube. The parts are Dragons DS material. This can be glued but they remain semi-flexible. The mantlet ERA tile mounting is very nebulous and not well articulated on the drawings. The machine gun and tile mount remain somewhat flexible after you glue it. The searchlight ball mounts need to be carefully glued to the mantlet. The mantlet needs to be glued first to give some structure. I ended up gluing the gun tube, mantlet and the mount early in the build process after assembling the turret shell since mechanical manipulation (that is manhandling the turret during assembly) is more complicated with all the stuff you attach to the turret later. So mount the gun tube and mantlet before you start adding ERA and other parts to avoid breaking stuff loose as you align the gun mount parts. NOTE: The searchlight balls are small and will essentially melt into oblivion if you use too much glue. I used Tamiya green top liquid cement to get good adhesion but be careful, as the machine gun needs to mount to the top of the balls.
- Most all of the kit is very straightforward in the build. I built the hull first and the turret second, almost completely by the instructions sequence. Exceptions were the already mentioned gun tube and mantlet for the turret, and I left off the roadwheels and sprockets until after painting.
Lower Hull and Suspension
The hull is molded in Upper and Lower sections. The lower hull is where all the suspension components all mount except the return rollers. The torsion bar mounts, the volute bumper springs, shock mounts and suspension bumpers. The road wheels are 4 parts with the rubber section molded as a ring. This part once assembled to the wheel center, needs to have the mold line flattened. The sprockets are also 4 parts with the inner guide delicately glued between the sprocket hubs. The fit is generally good, but you need to make sure the locators are aligned as it is hard to feel the seating of the hub. Road wheels are the same way. The torsion bar mounts have very good location, just make sure they are aligned horizontally so they are straight. The parts are all specifically numbered for each positioned, so be cautious when cutting items off the sprue and don’t mix the parts.
There is a small insert drawing on step3 that shows cutting away part of the upper hull structure. It is not obvious what is to be cut. After puzzling over this one, I figured out that you need to remove the surface detail from the indicated areas to make the surface smooth for mounting the ERA tile plate. It looks like there is a square hole to cut out, but it only needs to be shaved flush. Use the drawings to align the ERA tile mount. The lower glacis ERA tiles need to be positioned evenly between the front tow hook mounts. You need to mount the tow hooks to connect the tow cable in later steps.
Upper Hull and Decks
Step 6 overlaps step 7 somewhat. Step 6 has you building the back deck and the rear hull as an integrated build. This is an unusual arrangement. Parts D1 and D2 need to be glued to for the upper hull by the final drive and back deck grills (D2 D4) and the rear engine grills (D36). This will require some finesse as you need to align everything so it all fits. The deck grills (D2 D4) and hull toppers (D1 D3) all have to align. The grills have locator pins and the sides have an alignment tab. The grill doors just fit into the open area but need to fit against eh top deck, D43 so there is no gap. I ended up with some gaps that needed some filler and sanding. You might want to delay mounting the return roller wheels until after this assembly is fitted and sanded if needed. I had to work around the rollers but it would have been easier if the return rollers we not there.
The fenders were a kit unto themselves. The main section (J13 J17) is essentially flat and you can mount everything on to that easily. It gets tricky once you have to assemble the front and rear fenders (J20, J21 J22, J23) these would normally be just edge glued parts at an angle (Dragon does mold in a locating ledge which helps) but there are parts that help, (J2, J3, J18, J19) which also glue to one side of the fender to help locate the fender angle. These parts also fill in areas on the hull so try to align them as best you can since they will also help to glue the fenders to the hull.
In steps 8 and 9, the PE tow cable mounts were my Achilles heel for this kit. I had all sorts of problems getting them to stick. The tow cable ends wouldn’t stay put and the cables were too stiff and I ended up fighting the cables in order to glue the mounts. The PE was essentially small squares that the cable threaded through. I ended up over-stressing and breaking up the mount in several places and just gave up. A molded piece of plastic would have been much easier and more durable.
Step 10 was getting the fenders and headlights on the hull. If you did everything right, on building the fenders, everything will line up when you build it to the hull. The outer portion of the turret ring is molded into the fender part. I ended up with a gap and had to build styrene shims to get mechanical strength as the part on both sides didn’t completely fit into the recess. Everything else seemed to fit relatively well. Use enough glue at the critical mount points for the rest of the fender and you should have a solid fixture.
The turret assembly steps are 11 thru 17. I essentially started with step 17, which is gluing the turret top and bottom together with the gun tube and mantlet mounted. The gun tube once glued into the mantlet with a small stub from the gun mount extending out from the turret is surrounded by the DS material. This is not the traditional hard plastic with the solid feel. It is mounted firmly but is flexible to some extent.
I then proceeded to put on the armor tiles and all the accouterments, and stuff of the turret exterior. The only semi-difficult part was building the bustle rack. It consisted of 5 parts. The end rails and the bottom and the two top rails. There is a very faint reference to the locations of the side rails but like the armor tile mounts, no actual locators. Start with the side and bottom and work your way up. There are some flat spots that allow you to align and join the rails and that is the best reference you have. It is delicate, but once the glue is set, it’s pretty solid. Glue on the grunt rails after the armor tile assemblies as they have clearances that are dependent. There are only three mounting points for the rail and it is very close to the tiles. There are 9 additional ERA tiles that are just glued on. Same as before, no locators. Do the best you can. The assembly drawings are close and you can figure out relatively closely based on other turret molded in fixtures. The instruction drawings are very helpful.
The machine guns are straightforward but are small and delicate once assembled. A small vise or clamp would have helped. You have to cut the stock off the back and replace it with a separate part. Make sure this is aligned and has a good glue joint. Follow the instructions for the remaining assembly, no surprises, and just delicate parts.
The from mounted smoke grenade boxes that are on either side of the gun tube is a bit tricky since it has angles mounting points that are mating to a curved surface as well as aligning with a couple of ERA tiles. Slow down and work your way through it as it will line up but it may not be perfect, expect some trouble here.
The searchlight balls that mount on the mantlet have small indentations that locate them as needed for the .50 cal. mount. These are flexible and will not be rigid. They are short and that will give them some rigidity once the mount is attached. The plastic parts will glue to the DS material and adhere, but be careful of using too much glue. The material dries fairly quickly and if it is not aligned it will not be possible to tweak it to align. I got mine close, but it is still a bit off of the barrel centerline, which you want to align it to. The mantlet armor tiles have a mounting bracket they attach to. This is a pain as there is again, nothing to align it to. There is a bend in the lower part of the bracket that shapes over the accordion portion of the mantlet. Align with that and glue. Then look for two pegs that jut out of the back of the framework. Glue those to the mantlet as well. That will stabilize it reasonably. No big surprises, just work slow to verify placement and alignment.
No surprises her with the tracks. DS material that glues very well with green top Tamiya liquid cement. I primed with Krylon Primer and then added AK Track Wash and Vallejo pigments. The track was glued together after scraping down to the DS material at the join point with Tamiya Green top liquid cement and weighted down to get good adhesion.
Painting and Finish
Primer and Pre-Shade
I started by applying a primer consisting of Krylon Color Master with Durable ColorMax Technology rattle can (Flat Black) paint for simplicity, great thin coverage and quick drying time. I left it to dry overnight to make sure it was fully cured. I used Mission Models White MMP001 white to cover highlights and areas that would get more sun exposure.
Airbrushing Mission Models Acrylics
I used IDF Sand grey Version 1 MMP0037 as the main color coat mixed with MMP thinner and poly mix solution (10 pts thinner, 1 part poly solution) I used 7 drops paint to 3 drops thinner mix. Then coated everything with Future and applied decals, and moved to detailing and weathering.
There are two sets of decals that both claim to be for 1st Platoon Commander 2nd Company. I chose the version that had a light black outline on the number and chevron and a white ring around the gun tube. I cut the chevron as it spanned across two ERA tiles. These went on nicely with no issues and took to the Micro Set solution well. I recoated the decals with Future and moved to weathering.
I didn’t want to go heavy handed but needed to show some subtle wear and weather. I applied some Nato Vehicle wash to show some rain washing as well as some fuel spills around the fuel tank covers. And some grime around the back deck and some of the ERA tiles since those cover a lot of areas. I applied pigments while the track wash was still wet on the primed tracks for some dirt staining effects. I cleared the spots where the road wheels run on the inside of the track of pigments. The outside track chevrons were also cleared but not as extensively. I then shot Vallejo Light Brown (71.027) as a light dust coating and then everything overall Vallejo Matt Varnish (70.520) to flatten it all down.
Dragon produced a very nice kit. Most all the parts fit well. With some lack of locators withstanding, everything goes together very well. Especially all the suspension. A very advanced beginner or intermediate modeler can easily tackle this kit as the actual number of components used is far less than what appears on the sprues.
I would like to thank Dragon Models for providing this kit for review, and to IPMS USA for giving me the opportunity to review it.