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Projects by Robert Holsting

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Heavily upgraded Leopard 2A6 tank. Scale 1:16.

Top speed is app. 5-6 km/h. Size: L 68,8 cm, W 23,7 cm, H 18,6 cm. Weight: 4,8 kg

Two electrical high power type 540, and an advanced gearbox with three differentials. Driven via 4 RC channels.

A few upgrade highlights:
Geniune small steel wires, rear. All towing hooks in metal. All 76 bearings upgraded to high grade ball bearings. Belt tensioners replaced by high-end metal version w. more steps.

  Comes with DMD Unit T-07 for real action movement, lighting and digital sound effects. Two lighting modes (same as the real tank) for a total of 7 lighting combinations. The use of optic fibers inside the tank enables lightning in true locations. Bright high power flash from main gun, and smaller flash from mashine gun on turret. Rotating turret: 360 degrees in 9 seconds (same as the real tank). Recoil action after firing main gun. Gun automatically reloads and returns to original firing position.Gun elevation: maximum elevation 20 degrees, maximum depression 9 degrees. Setting the handling of the tank to "Light", "Medium" or "Heavy". Sharp turning and pivot turning. Engine sounds, start-up, shut down, acceleration, discharge etc. are digitally recorded from real tank.

  From the very first glance, this kit defines quality. The box it comes in is neatly arranged with colored, individual boxes with clear windows, putting the contents on a great display. The kit includes great guides and information, making it a pleasure to dig in to. The custom control system box includes genuine digitally recorded sounds for engine start-up, idle, driving, and shutdown, turret movement, main gun elevation, machine- and main gun firing. If the Tamiya battle system upgrade is included, sounds will change according to the simulated damage. The control system also includes recoil movement of main gun and hull, and automatic reload action of the main gun, and machine- and main gun flashes (Bright white) when fired. You can even choose to emulate a light, a medium or a heavy tank! Also included are several lightning configurations, all made available via the remote control, and more..

  The tank is operated with a simple four (Yes, 4!) channel remote! A very clever combination of using sticks and channel offset adjusters makes this possible. Not only is it clever, it is also quite cost reducing for the end user. The operational guide that shows how to remotely control the tank and all of its functions was missing in my kit. Normally this guide can be found under the box with the beautiful photo etched parts and the belts etc. A quick email to Tamiya in Germany with a reference to the order number corrected this slight issue. The very friendly clerk went and scanned the guide and mailed me a PDF within the hour! Tamiya scores again.

  The construction manual is also really good, and thought through. Drawings are correct and easy to follow, and references to parts are correct. Assembly of the plastic parts is easy, making it hard to put things down for the night. Talking about the plastic parts, they FIT. The molded plastic parts are very crisp and precise, and I have yet to find a flaw. No parts are bent, crocked, or inaccurately molded, and they are easily separated from the mold grid, with an absolute minimum of required finishing prior to fitting. Another good thing is the color of the raw molded parts: They are dark green, so if the tank is later scratched a bit it will not show very much. There are even spare parts, bolts and screws here and there, and the kit even includes grease and tread-lock! (Note: I counted the kit to contain approximately 1186 parts not including tools, nor upgrades.)

  Lower hull, undercarriage and upgrades: The gear box is step one, and requires a bit of time. I found it great that the gear box comes unassembled, as it is great fun to put it together with its three independent differentials etc. There are lots of parts, and it is very important that nothing is forgotten, or added. Follow the assembly guide close, and check your work. Soon, an impressive gear box grows on your table, and it is almost a shame to hide it in a non-transparent box afterwards. A nice-to-have feature might have been a way to put the gear box in neutral, thus disengaging both engines. After the engines are fitted, the gearing ratio makes it impossible to for example tow the tank after another, or just move it by pushing. (Blinking my eye at Tamiya..)

  The lower hull is the next item you work on, and quickly things take shape. Road wheels are painted prior to assembly, and fitted with rubber rings. Various details go on the back and sides of the lower hull, including red non-illuminated lights, illuminated convey marker, shock absorbers, return rollers, and small cooling fan openings. The return rollers might not be the best I’ve ever seen, but they’ll work just fine. (Return rollers are the small wheels that support the track during the upper, normally forward travel.)  Without doubt: The kit will serve you just fine with no upgrades at all, so while I opted to add upgrades, please notice that this is not necessary to get a great, well functioning r/c tank. Having said that, let’s look into history.

  I choose to upgrade the undercarriage with a complete set of real ball bearings from day-one. The oil-bronze bearings that come with the kit could work just fine, but the rolling resistance is less in ball bearings, greatly improving battery time, and lifespan of the suspension bolts. (Metal suspension bolts and arms are also available..) Furthermore, I might throw a set of metal belts on the tank later on, in which case ball bearings are good too. The ball bearings fit perfectly into the plastic hull parts and wheels, and accept the wheel shafts perfectly. Note that it takes five bearing per road wheel: Two small bearings inside the road wheel, and three larger bearings supporting the suspension bolt connecting the outer road wheels suspension arms with the inner torsion springs. (Yes, the Leopard has torsion springs just like a real tank!) The bearing upgrade kit also included two ball bearings for the main gun pivot assembly. Please note that this upgrade was not from Tamiya.

  I also choose to upgrade with a few optional metal parts elsewhere. For example, the track tension adjusters located at the front-most wheels called idlers. The parts in the kit allow only two positions of the adjuster, while the upgrade allows several positions, gradually tensioning the belts. These metal parts do need some work prior to fitting, such as filing the hole for the idler wheel shaft, and the lower hull needs slight alterations of the toothed holes for the tension base as well. The assembly guide for this upgrade is a bit weird (An illustration had been nice..). For one, the manufacturer suggests to screw in the bolt from the outside and then super-glue a hub cab over the hole, elimination access to the bolt head! The idea is that fitting is done by a self-locking nut from the inside of the tank, but it is only a matter of time when the bolt comes loose anyway, in which case the hub cab is a bit annoying… I bolted it from the inside of the tank, throwing away the nuts. It makes no functional difference as I see it, but it eliminates the risk of the bolt coming loose. Please note that this upgrade was not from Tamiya.

  Another upgrade that I got was the metal hooks. There is a big towing hook center rear, and four smaller hooks, one on each corner of the tank, two in each end. The metal version of these parts first of all looks great, and second they last. However, again the parts were the cause of slight confusion. On the back of the bases for the four hooks, and the big tow hook, there is a treaded tab, but no nuts come with the kit. Second, if you find nuts that fit and mount the hooks on the rear of the tank with these nuts, then your gearbox will not fit in its required position! I choose to cut the tabs in length, and drill holes in the body to fit the remaining bit. This gave me a bit more surface to grip to when super gluing the parts on afterwards without creating a conflict with the gearbox. Remember to work the parts prior to fitting them on the tank as they do need a bit of filing and adjusting. I also strongly recommend to attach the hook to the base plate, AND to put in the lock pin before fitting them on the tank. Please note that this upgrade was not from Tamiya.

  A word on metal tracks: When two materials intercept, the softer material will wear the most, so by adding metal tracks you subject especially the idlers (Front most wheels with the tension adjusters.) to a harder life, moving the wear to the wheels, instead of the center guide pins on the nylon tracks. In time this would result in the tank needing new idler wheels. Idler wheels and road wheels can all be replaced with metal upgrades. Metal tracks are also a bit hard on both batteries and gear box. It is recommended to add the available upgrade consisting of an aluminum skeleton to the lower hull when running metal tracks so the warp and flex is minimized. I would also recommend metal suspension arms, and without doubt the metal tension adjuster upgrade. Note that the skeleton will need a little work to accommodate the optional track tension adjuster metal base part.

  Back to lower body assembly: The kit contains two very nice rear sprockets in metal, and part from being a very good place to hurt your fingers, there’s not much to say about them (The kit contains warning stickers about this hazard.). They do tend to collect grass if you drive I too tall grass, but it is fairly easy to clean out. Gear box and speaker box including the wiring for various functions was fitted in the lower hull also, and quickly a rolling chassis sat on the desk, painted (All NATO green, no camouflage.) and awaiting the upper hull. Hmmm… “rolling” might be a strong word here.. The gearbox, lacking the ability to go in neutral, makes it impossible to roll the tracks without forcing it, which I would not recommend. Lift the lower, tracked hull when needing to move it! Forcing it will heavily strain the gearbox.

  Upper hull: The upper hull has a whole lot of details, including illuminated headlights, rear lights, brake lights, and smaller illuminated lights for war-time use. (Illumination is made possible by centrally mounted light emitting diodes and fiber optics. PRETTY cool!) Details also include the remaining two hooks mentioned earlier, steel tow cables and various clear parts. Some painting prior to assembly is required, so read ahead and plan work carefully, and do “dry-fitting” of the parts before you apply glue. Beware that this part of the tank should be fully painted including the camouflage scheme once completed, before putting the turret in its place. I would write an entire novel about the upper hull details, but that would spoil the surprise.

  The last of the upgrades that I choose initially, was genuine steel wire tow cables. The soft plastic cables that come with the kit looks great, BUT they are glued to the upper part of the hull, making actual use impossible. The upgrade cables fits fine on the metal hooks, AND can be used for real-life towing, and… well.. they do look even better. Please note that this upgrade was not from Tamiya.

  On with the turret.. The upper half of the turret takes a while to build, as the level of details is quite high. Take your time, even small glitches here will be seen! I opted not to place the base for the optional battle system, thus making a bit more space for wiring inside, as my hatches will be closed anyway. The rest was straight forward, painting along the way in between fitting. I cut one of the sprocket warning labels and placed it on the underside of the lit for the access to the system control unit, as I did not want it on the side of the vehicle. I also spun a length of black string onto the wire reel, giving the illusion of wire being present. The turret baskets were a bit of a challenge when it came to the side mesh, made in photo etched metal. I went around the job for days before I dared try.. Using superglue, this mesh has to go on, but with nothing to steer it.. and for some reason the instant cement (“Super glue”) would not fix the metal parts to the plastic skeleton. The fix was to use epoxy, which I am quite used to from my model submarine (scratch) building. Finally, the 16 smoke grenades was made and fitted, and the decals put on the tank.

  Turret and r/c components: The turret is the most compact area on your tank. You’ll find servo, receiver, high-voltage unit for gun-fire flash, battery, system control unit, turret motor (Do not try to rotate the turret by hand. If you need to turn it, use the remote.), main gun recoil motor, turret rotation limit switch, and quite a bit of wiring. Once you fit the turret base, and the plate with all of the r/c parts etc, it might look as if you’ll never get it all to fit, but don’t worry. All wires have stickers making identifying them easy, and soon you’ll be able to do your first run! Remember to put any wire slack into the hole in the sound box, as turning the turret needs wires to be able to flex. Taking my tank for the first test-spin in the living room gave two results: The cat did not like the tank at all, and I found that, despite having followed the manual correctly, my throttle and left / right steering channels were swapped, making it a bit hard to drive. The fix was to swap the plugs for channel one (1) and channel two (2) at the receiver, so that the functions were at the expected sticks. (My transmitter is a Graupner MX12.) The cause of this problem remains unknown / unconfirmed, but it might have to do with different ways of numbering r/c channels in Japan compared to Europe? Anyway, it worked out and everything works great! The headlights even provide enough light to drive in pitch black conditions! Response and handling is great, sound effects amazing, and controlling various functions soon becomes natural. It’s a bit tricky to center the turret when wanting to “park it”, but it’s not that big a deal.

  Available upgrades from Tamiya: Having mentioned other upgrades for this kit, calls for an introduction of Tamyas own available upgrades. Tamiya have developed a battle system for this series also, enabling you to conduct battle simulations, with other Tamya owners, where hits result in various simulated damage, and eventually simulated destruction. Another Tamiya upgrade is a gyro for the main gun, making it possible to maintain the aim at a target, almost completely regardless of the change in terrain during travel (Like a real Leopard.).

  Observations after driving it for a while: Generally everything works great, and is a whole lot of fun! I’ve driven mine in a wooden floor, on carpets, outside on grass and paved surfaces, hills and flat areas. When the belts got a little broken in, and got a little loose, they started to ‘click’ at the drive sprocket as if they were about to throw them self of. Those ‘clicks’ caused the belt to flex a bit which knocked off the rear most shock absorber and return roller in the left side. When fixing that I noticed that the idlers (front-most wheels) had a tendency to collect a lot of hair around the shaft and ball bearing. (Having a cat does not help either..) Another thing was that thin, thin oil has run out of the tiny ball bearings, and had saturated the paint on the lower hull parts. NOT pretty, but then again.. it’s a tank, not a Maserati! Adjusting the belts one tiny click with the upgraded belt tension adjusters was easy, and works great! At the same time a bit of grease was applied to the turret gearing, which had become a bit noisy.

  Another observation that I have made, is that the tank turns itself off, then right back on a couple of times not long after it’s been turned on and taken on a trip. After that little teenage demonstration, it behaves fine for hours.. and I do mean hours! One charge takes your far! I have a 3500 mAh battery, and although a 4500 mAh is available, I have no plans to upgrade. Having triple checked all cables etc. I can rest assure that it is not caused by a cabling err, and the issue remain open.

  Having said that, it handles great! Grass is a bit rough, but manageable, if recently cut. Driving in darkness with the lights on adds a dimension, and you should try that! The sound scheme is really, really great, and Tamiya really made a wise choice adding sound to the kit!
Oh, one final note: If you haven’t ordered one already, do it now! You won’t regret it.  

  Front lights, main headlight and positioning.

  Rear lights in battle-mode!
(Brake lights not shown)

  Rear lights and convoy marker

  Front lights, battle mode! (Only positioning lights)