While Meng does not have many kits on the market, they have quickly gained the respect of many modelers for the exquisite detail of their kits. They continue their trend of releasing very interesting, modern subjects. The High Mobility Vehicle, manufactured by the GAZ group of Russia, is a multi-purpose, diesel-powered patrol vehicle. It first premiered in 2001 and pilot production started in 2004. It serves in the Russian Army and paramilitary police units and has some customers around the world. The Tiger kit has seven sprues molded in green plastic, one decal sheet, clear parts, five tires, and the hull and chassis of the vehicle. Some customers have reported some problems with the rear door frame of the body being smashed in shipping. No problems here. The quality of the molding is outstanding with very little in the way of flash.
As with most soft skin vehicles, the instructions begin with the chassis. The drive train is included but there is no engine. Since only the bottom half of the transmission can be seen, the top half is not included. The transmission is hollow on one side, so pay close attention to the instructions to make sure the drive shafts and differentials are facing the right direction – they should be facing toward the floor of the cab. There were no problems with the first couple of steps of the chassis. However, when it came to building the axles, there were some challenges. In Step Five, you build the suspension units. Unfortunately, Meng decided to illustrate this step with very dark drawings. The suspension arms have connection points that do not show up in the drawings. It’s very easy to install these incorrectly which, in turn, makes the wheel hubs very difficult to install. Test fit the suspension arms and study the pieces to make certain that they are installed correctly. The only other issue with the chassis and the undercarriage is the color callouts. A portion of the bottom of the vehicle is painted black. One can only assume that the remaining portion of the vehicle is painted Russian Green.
Once the chassis is complete, the passenger compartment and the body are next. The vehicle has a full interior that is nicely detailed with a plethora of spare ammunition cans for the vehicle’s weapons. The dashboard is a nice approximation to the actual vehicle, and Meng includes decals for the all of the instruments. Speaking of decals, this is an unusual vehicle in that the interior has a camouflage scheme. Thankfully, Meng provides a complete set of decals for the interior. Some are applied to the rear fenders and the cab. The instructions are not particularly clear when it comes to applying the decals to the fenders. Given the size and shape of some of these decals, I cut some of them in half to ease application. There are a fair number of windows in the vehicle that were dipped in Future floor polish before they were glued onto the kit.
Once the interior is complete, the body is attached to the chassis. It’s a pretty good fit and really doesn’t need any glue to keep it down, though I elected to glue select attachment points so it wouldn’t fall off during the final steps of assembly. When it came time to attach the doors, unfortunately, I had trouble keeping the driver’s door flush with the frame. I am not sure if there was some warping or what, but the door kept popping out of the frame. The remaining pieces went on without a problem, though some of the clear pieces were eaten by the carpet monster and I needed to use Krystal Clear as a substitute. According to the instructions, the tow cable and tools remain off of the parade version, but I elected to keep the pioneer tools in place to offset the monochromatic finish. The wheels are vinyl and attach to the hubs easily. The Tiger’s armament is very delicate, so remove from the sprue with care. I left the top hatch open, as well as the two back doors. The hinges are tiny, but with careful application of glue they should remain in place.
The color callouts are for Vallejo paint. I substituted Vallejo with Tamiya colors, where possible. There are two schemes, a camouflaged pattern and a monochrome Russian Green version that appears in the annual military parades in front of the Kremlin. I chose the parade version. I have some of the new Italeri acrylic model paint, so I elected to use that for the exterior color – Flat Russian Armor Green. I’ve used this before with mixed results. It’s very thick and requires a great deal of thinning before you can shoot it out of an airbrush. The interior colors are not well defined, but where interior colors were needed I used flat black for the dash and substituted Vallejo Grayblue for Tamiya Light Sea Grey (XF-25) which appears to be a pretty close match from the photographs that I have seen. I coated it with Future and the decals went on without a problem. To cut down on the gloss, I gave it a flat finish with Testor’s flat varnish.
Meng continues to produce a wide range of modern vehicles that are well engineered but take some patience to put together, given the high parts count. While portions of the instructions were not as well defined as they should, this was a very nice kit to put together. My thanks to Meng Models and IPMS for giving me the opportunity to review this kit.