CB-35100, Buffalo 6x6 MPCV (2004-2006 Production). 1/35th-scale styrene/multimedia construction kit. Contains 716 styrene parts (including 49 clear), one etched brass fret, five pieces of flexible plastic tube, three decal/markings schemes and 37 pages of instructions in 51 steps, including addendum sheet.
The favored weapon of those who do battle from the lower tier of asymmetric warfare has, since before the 20th-century, been the mine or the so-called improvised explosive device (IED). While various crude or sophisticated technical means have been used to detect such devices before they can do their murderous work, the give-and-take in this arena has usually favored the mine or IED, as the first sign of its deployment is when it detonates, usually inflicting casualties on the unwary.
In their effort to combat terrorists and their preferred weapons, the mine and IED, the South African Defense Force (SADF) first deployed a variety of purpose-designed patrol vehicles of a mine-resistant nature. These where wheeled vehicles of an ungainly appearance, whose design invariably included a crew compartment with an armored V-shaped hull suspended high above the ground. This configuration channeled the blast around the crew compartment, saving the lives of those inside; depending upon the weight of the charge, not even a serious injury was sustained. But, this was essentially a passive system; more needed to be done to detect and disarm a device before it did any damage.
As the United States prosecuted its war against Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan and then Iraq, the IED rapidly evolved into a significant threat to US, NATO and Coalition forces. This created the need for countermeasures, spawning the Force Protection program. From this program a number of vehicles were fielded, usually referred to as the MRAP, or Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle. The Buffalo MPCV (Mine Protected Clearance Vehicle) took the concept one step further, since it is not only designed to resist mines and IEDs, it can also safely detect, detonate or disarm them.
Clearly displaying its South African lineage, the Buffalo, in its initial version, offers a high degree of passive protection to its six man crew, while also mounting several remote detection and detonation systems and devices. Externally, the Buffalo features a remotely-controlled extendable robotic arm approximately 30-feet in length, with an articulated fork-like appendage at its end; this assembly can uncover IEDs and mines, allowing the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) specialists who ride inside the opportunity to disarm or detonate the device as needed.
Bronco has just released what is termed as a 2004-2006 production version of this topical AFV, in 1/35th-scale styrene. It is, as has been the case with many of their recent releases, an extremely detailed kit with a relatively high parts count and a fairly complex assembly sequence; it is not for beginners.
In order to properly represent the tread pattern seen on modern tires, Bronco used a multi-part slide-mold to create a ring with the tread pattern molded around the circumference. Then, the inner and outer side walls are fitted inside the ring, followed by the hubs. The rear wheels total six parts and the front wheels total five parts each; care with the glue will allow each wheel to rotate. When assembled and properly cleaned-up, this molding technique creates a wheel that rivals any cast resin part for detail. The wheels look to be well done, but to my eye, the tread details look a bit odd; it seems that each grouping of lugs has too much of a space between themselves and the next group. The wheels are also handed, meaning the treads face a specific direction on the right- and left-hand side.
There are a total of eight wheels in the box, to include the usual two spares. It should be noted that this version of the Buffalo differs from the so-called A2 version in that the front and rear wheels have differing hub arrangements. If I understand this correctly, it means the wheel assemblies are not interchangeable between the front and rear stations. Thus, the spares are also different. However, it does not appear that Bronco has picked up on this as both spares are identical and appear to be for the rear positions.
The suspension system is extremely complicated and consists of many, many sub-assemblies. A number of brackets, mounts and other fittings, some of them multi-part assemblies are fitted to the hull; several are meant to be movable, so the instructions need to be closely consulted and the glue controlled. Some of these assemblies consist of tow cable end-loops that are held between some of the brackets. They are relatively free-floating on their retainer pins and are connected to each other using the provided flexible tubing. Multi-part leaf-spring bundles are then fitted front and rear. These are further detailed by tie-rods.
The two rear axles are next on the agenda. Each is fitted with a pair of etched brass and styrene assemblies that I presume are brake cylinders. They are then mounted to multi-part girder assemblies, which will pivot after assembly. Several bolts are provided on sprue G and they are to be shaved off and placed in various spots on some of the girder assemblies. Final assembly includes multi-part transfer cases and drive shafts. The front axle is similar, including tie rods, steering linkages and articulating steering axles. Armored covers are provided to protect the external steering rods, to include a variation in shape for the port-side.
Back aft, there are two different styles of tow hitch mounts, one of which is a heavy-duty type that includes towing eyes and a reinforced girder assembly. On each side of the rear face of the hull, an etched brass box with a sliding cover encases a pair of lamps, made from clear styrene. Several optional antennae mounts can also be fitted here as can several optional embossed registration plates. Situated between the front and rear axles is an armored cover for the transfer cases, which also covers parts of the drive shafts. Each side can be fitted with an optional assembly composed of styrene and etched brass parts; I have no idea what their function may be.
The bow is now fitted with a reinforced tow eye assembly, as well as more separate tow eyes, each of which includes separate movable U-shaped clevises. The slide-molded front bumper is a rather massive part to which is fitted a number of sub-assemblies. Each side receives an armored box composed of styrene and etched brass parts. Inside these are fitted the main head-lamps, which include clear lenses. The boxes can be depicted opened or closed. A standard trailer hitch is fitted in the center and a multi-part boarding step is fitted on the port-side. Up top, in the center is a box, open on top and covered in front by an etched brass shield. It looks to me to be a central lubrication point, but I stand to be corrected. Each end of the bumper has a reflector molded in place.
The port-side of the bumper mounts a multi-part RHINO IED pre-detonator counter-mine device, which can be shown raised or deployed forward. It includes a piece of flexible plastic tubing that represents the power conduit. This is shown running under the lower edge of the box, but where it connects to the vehicle is un-clear.
Opposite this, a base is attached for the robotic arm, a prominent feature of this vehicle. The arm itself can be constructed to be completely articulated, with care exercised using the glue. In total, this assembly includes several dozen parts, which make up not only the arm and the digger claw, but a video camera and a spot-light; the latter includes a clear part for the lens. The upper hull is fitted with a travel crutch for stowing one end of the arm while in transit. Flexible plastic tube is also provided for the various power and fluid lines and in this case the location is clearly shown.
The fenders, front and rear, are apparently a reinforced rubber material, mounted on pipes that are in turn attached to the hull. Each has integral mud-flaps and the assemblies are all-styrene, with thin edges achieved by beveling the parts. The front set has three pipe supports while the rear sets are longer and supported by five pipes. Both front fenders mount a fog lamp assembly, at their apexes, consisting of a clear styrene lens and an etched brass casing. The rear fender on the starboard side mounts a multi-part step ladder that can be depicted folded or extended. Also on the starboard side, below the cab, is a multi-part exhaust muffler assembly. It has some slide-molded parts and also has etched brass straps and perforated heat guard.
The main body is based on two major parts: the hull and the crew compartment/superstructure exterior. The front end features an engine compartment made up of almost two-dozen styrene parts as well as a relatively large etched brass part for the grill seen on the compartment roof. The front end has two main parts, the front wall and the grill. Separate hinge parts are added on the starboard side of the grill, which makes for a very well-detailed assembly. On the top of the hood, separate lift-rings are fitted as is a two-part, external air filter housing. The side doors include crisp vent details, separate hinge mounts, closure clasps in styrene or etched brass and separate lift handles. Several etched brass parts represent the weather-stripping where the hood joins the front rim of the cab and where the side panels meet the hood.
The main upper body part, which is slide-molded, incorporates the openings for the roof hatch lids, wind-shield and the side windows. There is a non-skid strip along the apex of the roof and the rear wall is filled in by a separate part. The rear door is separate and includes separate window frame, clear glass panel and separate latches. The wind-shield has a separate frame and separate wiper blades, while the side windows have their frames molded in place. The separate roof hatch lids all feature separate hinges, internal latches and two different piston assemblies; one is for when they are opened, the other is for when they are closed. On either end of the roof an etched brass base is to be fixed but its location is not precisely shown. Atop these a clear styrene part is fitted which I think may be an LED search-light or a rotating warning strobe; these are both covered by a clear dome.
A number of antennae bases are fitted either on the sides or on the rear of the upper body; there are many options here so the modeler should refer to his sources before attaching these parts. The instructions have the antennae fit broken down into the three options represented by the markings, so the modeler should pay close attention to this beginning in step 40.
The standard rod-type antennae are pointed out in the instructions where the modeler is told to make them from stretched sprue. It appears that the drawings are life-size (for the scale); if that is the case, some are rather short and others are rather thick. Again, photos should be consulted before anything is fixed in place. I dont know about the specific functions of these things, but one is certainly the CREW-Duke (Counter Radio-controlled improvised explosive device Electronic Warfare) IED jammer; another is the small cross-shaped gizmo, which I think may be for a Sat-Com uplink. Others are, as mentioned above, the standard rod types; still others are thicker tubular shapes.
Massive, multi-part side-view mirrors are fitted to either side of the front end, for use by the driver. These can be fixed in different positions and they include a clear part for the mirror surface. Paint the inner side silver before fitting them. A cluster of work lamps are also fitted on either side of the drivers position. These consist of three lamps apiece, all in clear styrene. They fit to an etched brass mounting bracket; the box art shows power conduits leading to each cluster, but there is no provision to represent them in the box and the instructions ignore this point.
There are fittings on each side composed of styrene parts and the flexible plastic tubing. They represent cranks and pulleys that I believe are used to raise and lower the massive spare tires from their racks on the lower hull. If that is so, the tubing should probably be replaced by some sort of fine wound wire, or even fine string.
Working further aft, on each side of what I will call the balcony, there are stowage racks composed of styrene and etched brass parts. Note that the instructions have some of the parts marked as not for use; this can be safely ignored. Aside from the base, there are four upright supports for the three C-shaped rods that make up the racks. The bottom is filled in with a mesh section, courtesy of etched brass. The balcony itself has a stowage locker on its port side and a multi-part styrene fuel tank across the rear wall; this can be embellished with optional etched brass parts and there is also an etched step section with tread-plate detail. A multi-part, foldable boarding ladder mounts atop the fuel tank and hangs over the rear end.
The interior features inner wall sections that act as spall liners. There is one for each side and another for the rear of the compartment. The separate door back there has the liner molded in place. The deck is also a separate part, most of which is internal, but some of which is external. The external segment has a typical non-skid pattern, while internally the texture resembles a rubber mat. Each crewman has a multi-part seat, designed to attenuate the shock of an under-hull blast. Each of these has separate bases and seat cushions, a two-part back-rest and a separate head-rest. A five-point harness, with quick-release buckle is molded in place. Each seat is identically-molded, so if the modeler wants some variety, he will have to do some scraping-off of the molded-on belts in order to re-position them for a more candid appearance, using the medium of choice.
The drivers compartment seats are precisely the same as the other crew members seats, with the exception that their bases are differently configured. The driver has three separate foot pedals and the steering column is a two-part affair capped with the steering wheel. Apparently this vehicle has a push-button gear shifter so Bronco correctly has no stick-shifter. I assume the parking brake is similarly configured. A separate instrument panel fits into the dash-board; it includes decals for the instrument dial faces. Etched brass parts embellish some areas of the dash-board and a crisply-scribed glove compartment is also seen.
Back aft, a module of some sort is installed on the port side. It has four separate circular parts fitted along its upper face, which may (or may not!) be rotating vents for what might be an air-conditioning unit. Opposite that is a multi-part rack for the vehicles communication gear. The radio set is a multi-part conglomeration of different modules to include a separate hand-set. It is apparently an after-thought as there is a separate instruction sheet for it, which also has a correction for the assembly sequence of some of the wheels. Several other details are fitted, most of which I have no idea about! Some are probably fire-extinguishers while one group of parts forms what I suppose is a console (like one would have in their car). Another module is, I presume, the control unit for the robotic arm.
The ceiling has a cruciform structural member running along the center, which branches out to either side in three places. Separate parts are fitted on each of the six branches; I presume these are lamps. Up forward, what is probably a computer monitor is suspended centrally; this I presume relates to the robotic arm.
The window panels are all separate clear parts. In reality, due to their thickness, they all exhibit a green cast. Bronco could have easily achieved this effect by having a separate sprue for these eight parts, tinted green. All the remaining clear parts could then be taken care of on their own sprue.
Bronco provides a single M4 carbine and an M4/M203 over-under grenade launcher. They are slide-molded so their miniscule bores are already opened up. Several clear water bottles are also included, but there are no decals for their labels.
Molding, Fit and Engineering.
Broncos molding has evolved quite nicely from its earlier offerings; this particular kit is on par with the recent M24. Detail is crisp, flash and sink marks are non existent and mold seams are subtle and easily cleaned. No ejector pin marks are seen on any visible surface, but the trade-off is those little nodes seen on a large number of parts. Slide-molding and etched brass parts are wisely used and there are styrene options to replace some of the more finicky etched brass items. I have test fitted many of the major components and thus far, the fit is fine; unfortunately I am still working my way through the M24 and its pesky working suspension system, so my comments in this regard are of necessity (NEVER enough time!!), quite limited.
Accuracy and Details.
There are no dedicated reference books for the Buffalo, but there are loads of images to be found on the web (once you get past the numerous Transformers references. The kit appears, at least externally, to visually well-represent what it claims to be. It should be noted that the follow-on version, the so-called Buffalo A2, differs externally in many aspects. The easiest way to tell the two apart is not by the added bar armor, since the initial version has also been retro-fitted with it. The A2 can most easily identified by the wheel hub configuration, modified robotic arm, thicker bullet-resistant glass and a revised exhaust muffler configuration; other detail differences were also noted. The reader will note that I have used the word presume quite freely in this report. This is because I have no specific references to consult.
These are well-rendered and fairly logically laid-out. They lack any color call-outs for the interior, so the modeler is left completely on his own. I have noted a few glitches as relates to the instructions, in the main section of this report. The markings section is in full color with multiple views of each of the three examples; it also includes extensive exterior color notes.
Decals and Markings Information.
Water-slide decals are provided for three Buffaloes. They are crisp, in excellent register and have fine color saturation. Carrier film is thin, matte and cut close to the edges of each individual design. Vehicles covered are:
101st Airborne Division, Iraq 2006.
Unidentified US Marine Corps unit, Iraq 2006.
French Army, Afghanistan, 2008.
I cannot confirm any of the provided markings, especially with such limited references. Each vehicle is painted overall in what I suppose to be the current iteration of what is sometimes called CARC Sand; the Frenchman has a camouflage pattern of broad red-brown (or dark brown) bands. There seem to be some markings that are not for use; at least the instructions make no mention of them. They are black maple leaves and are presumably for a Canadian Buffalo.
This is a topical release, which I am sure will be followed up by more variations, hopefully at least with bar armor. It is a complex kit, especially in the area of the suspension and the robotic arm, so is not entirely suitable for a beginner. A modeler with some experience ought to have no trouble as long as he proceeds with caution. With that done, a most impressive replica (this thing is rather large!) will be the result.
Frank V. De Sisto
The sole reference consulted for this report was the Internet.
Bronco Models are available in North America from DragonUSA. For more information, visit their web-site at: www.dragonusaonline.com.
Note: Since May of 2005, I have been writing books for Concord Publications, a sister company to DragonUSA, the current North American importer of Bronco products. The reader may wish to take this into consideration. For my part, I will attempt to maintain an objective viewpoint when writing these reports.
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