Using the hull from a Sho’t (itself a modified Centurion), the Puma CEV is a heavily armored combat engineering vehicle and armored personnel carrier used by the IDF since the 1990´s. With a top speed of 45 km/h, the Puma can carry a crew of up to eight people. It has a variety of uses including mine clearing equipment (including the Carpet system) and bridging capabilities. It is armed with three 7.62mm FN MAG machine guns, smoke grenade launchers, and a 60mm mortar.
Inside the durable cardboard box are seventeen olive green sprues, four brown sprues with individual track links, an upper and lower hull, two clear sprues, 24 vinyl tires, a PE fret, and a nicely detailed decal sheet. The kit only features one scheme that uses only two of the decals, so good references are a must to get the most out of the kit.
Construction begins with the twelve road wheels, idler, and sprocket wheels. There is a choice of road wheels to choose from, but I mixed them up since this was often the case in the IDF. After a brief respite with the rear hull armor plate and attachments, we go back to suspension arms, final drive housing, return rollers, and rear tow pintle assembly. Step 6 has a small mistake in the instructions with the labels C43 and D16 reversed...so take note there.
Step 7 has the tracks assembled next. This is where I really appreciate link and length tracks, which these are not. There is no jig included so one has to assemble the links together and get them attached- but alignment is tricky. If even one of your return rollers or road wheels is even slightly out of alignment, it can make fitting the tracks straight very difficult. Each side requires 103 links so I brought my links to school with me and cleaned them up in my free periods.
Parts for the track guards are next for steps 8-10 with attaching jerry cans, stowage boxes, smoke grenade launcher, IED jammers, and headlight assemblies included. PE for the straps for the jerry cans and headlight assemblies are present in these steps. They are then attached to the hull, but fit is a definite issue. I had to thin down the tabs on the guards before they would fit in the slots on the hull.
Assembly of the Rafael Overhead Weapon Station (OWS)- everything fits pretty well and looks great. Detailing the remaining three machine guns for the doghouse and hull continues assembly, and then steps 14-17 involve the multi-part assembly of the doghouse with it´s octagonal shape and roof with hatches. The hull top deck is next with some filling required and the addition of hatches and exhausts, periscope glass, mortar, and other small bits. The doghouse assembly is then added to the deck and then to the lower hull. Crew steps and assorted brackets are next up.
We then move on to the excellent details of the side skirts and slat armor, done in styrene and protected by foam on the sprues in the box initially. Step 24 adds the RPG shields slat armor, but there is an issue with trying to bring everything together- Part V14 is supposed to attach to V12 to complete the rear side of the three, but it has a curved end that doesn't meet up to V14. One piece is mislabeled as well- S6 should be S9.
Painting and Weathering
Here is the one issue I have with the kit-- there is an excellent decal sheet filled with markings, but the one scheme featured in the kit only uses two markings. Painting instructions call for Sinai Gray and give references for Mr. Hobby, Acrysion,. Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya, and Humbrol paints. I used AMMO by Mig IDF Sinai Grey 82. I have the excellent Desert Eagle book on the Puma for a reference and the decal sheet has a few different versions of the Combat Engineers bridge mark (looks like an M with horns) which should definitely be on the vehicle. These were also pretty well covered in sand so I used a mix of the AMMO IDF weathering pigments extensively.
There is a LOT of plastic in this box and it is really full of great detail. It really is a unique looking vehicle and the kit builds up nicely. The tracks will take some time and patience- but go together well. The markings sheet is the only let-down...but good references will allow you to use the excellent markings sheet to its fullest potential- it is a shame Hobby Boss couldn't have spent a bit more time offering more options, but the sheet itself more than makes up for it. My thanks to MRC and IPMS-US for the review sample.