Heller reference 81130

This kit has been long waited by the French materiel enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the result does not reward their patience. In fact, this kit comes with good things like the correct shapes and dimensions and very bad ones like the engraving and molding quality.

The chassis

The chassis comprises many parts and gives a faithful reproduction of the vehicle chassis even if some parts are over simplified. Heller represented the suspension arms in two parts (86/87 ) thus creating an ugly gap. The various shafts and their universal joints are present but they are a little too short.
The axles are molded in two parts. Their shape is too angular and needs to be slightly filed. The vertical ribs of the front faces need to be cut to a chamfer shape.

The shock absorbers heads are present but the jacks are missing. The supports (9) of the suspension arm retaining cable are too thin to set a cable on them. They need to be thickened for that but once the wheels are in place it will be invisible.
The suspension bars are too thin and must be replaced by 1,5mm diameter plastic rods. For real, these bars are attached inside the axles so the holes must be drilled and a proper alignment with the bit molded inside the suspension arm must be obtained.
The lateral stowage boxes and the jerrycan racks are correct. In reality, the suspension bar support (92) are linked to the bottom of the boxes by a threaded rod. The jerrycan racks miss a vertical wall between the two jerrycans. The others walls need to be thinned. The jerrycans may be replaced by sharper ones.
The waterjets are simplified, indeed even over simplified in the transmission area. The are too thick and the use of etched ones nearly mandatory (kit Eduard). The shafts are too big, they must be replaced by 1,5mm diameter plastic rod for the horizontal ones and 1mm diameter for the vertical ones. The universal joints are kept even if they lack fineness. Heller has forgotten the cubic transmission boxes supports. You nee to make them out of plastic card or etched frame.
Do not forget that if you decide not to use the waterjets, you must not install the trim vane as well.
The wheels come with rubber tires which carving is mean but acceptable.
The headlights are issued in transparent plastic. Their supports are hardly useable due to the protection rods thickness. The base plate is kept but the grilles are redone with brass wire.
The shackles are good. But unlike what the instructions show, they are not glued at the rear of the hull. You need to make a support from a plastic card bit of 1,5mm large and 3mm long. The part welded to the hull must be beveled. The outer extremity is drilled only if the shackles are not set in place. The front supports are also drilled if need be.

The interior

The driver compartment
The part 13 represents the whole river compartment. Its dimensions are right. The gas and brake pedals are molded so they have to be removed and scratchbuilt with the kit ones as a template.
The seats are too thick and their bas is wrong shaped. They are more squared on the real seats. The backs are less curved as well. The vehicle commander seat is foldable what Heller does not enable. The driver one has got a small lever on the left side to adjust it horizontally.
The location of the parts 11 et 12 is wrong on the instruction. Prior to gluing the part 12, you should have a blank try with the wheel glued on it. In fact, unlike what Heller shows the wheel is not attached to the dashboard. The set part 12-wheel must be fixed 1mm under the dashboard and on the wall shown on the instruction.
The part 11 cannot be glued before having added a missing vertical wall in front of the commander seat. This wall is made of 10mm large plastic card bit and joins both the part 13 and the hull right side. Once the wall built, glue the part 11 as shown on the instruction. It must contact the lower edge of the wall.
On the wall, you must add a 8mm square piece of thin plastic card in the center which is drilled a 3mm hole. This part is glued at an angle of 45° with the horizon. It is the support for the radiation detector.
The dashboard shows all the gauges which need to be a little bit more drilled. Do not glue the wheel under it. The rim of the gauges is painted green. The part 22 is glued on the left side just above the join of the both hull halves.
The part 8 represents an instrument panel. All the lights which are raised in reality are missing. The waterjets joystick control is missing too when the waterjets are installed.
The issued radio set just resembles the PR4G, the newer French army tactical radio set. The front face has to be sanded, the buttons and dial added with the help of pictures. The handset and loudspeaker will be added. The radio rack is to be modified still with the help of pics.
The NBC filter box (15) is too thin and the pipes must be round. The handle on the gate is molded. It will be sanded and redone with 0,5mm plastic rod the extremity of which will be heated with a naked flame to shape the bowl at the end.
On the part 19, the rounded extremity must be removed and replaced by plastic rod of the same diameter. On the bulge above, add a 3mm long little handle. Paint it red.
The heating system pipe (119) is wrong dimensioned. Cut it where the part should be painted bronze. The pipe is to be 2mm longer at this point and follows the armor wall down to the commander's feet. Heller forgot this part. A protection sheet is done above the wheel location and at the bottom of the hull.
The windshield area need some additions. On the wipers axes, add a round piece of 1mm diameter to which is glued a 0,5mm large strip, long as the windshield. At the end of the strips, add the wiper engine from plastic card. It is a 1mm large and 6mm long parallelepiped. The angles are beveled so as to form an octagon. The engine are painted green or white.
With the help of pictures, various wiring can be added.

The rear compartment
The walls of the engine compartment may be improved with a detailing of the locking system. In the real vehicle, two exist : either nuts, or " hollow head " screws. To create them, you will have to add Grandt Line type nuts or drill shallow holes. On the left top corner of the wall in the troop compartment, the filtered air ventilation is missing. On the moveable part of the wall, the AT launcher rack is missing as well.
The bench seats are simplified. They are too thick and angular. The fabric is often worn-out, this can be represented by sanding with a gross sandpaper.
The duckboards are correct but need a light sanding to give them a less new aspect. The nit-pickers could try to represent the screw in each wooden strip! The parts 121 and 122 are replaced by piano string of the same diameter to strengthen the assembly.
The sides must be fully created. No rack is issued in the box. Looking at pics is the only way to improve this area unless you use Eduard set.
The reinforcing triangles are missing. There two of these on each side. In the same way, inside the roof straight beneath the part 38, 2 triangles are added. They help strengthening the hull.
The opening handles of the window shutters must be added. When the shutter is open, the handle faces downward.
The rear wall is to be detailed with at least the first aid kit support on the right side (when looking forward), an electric box (a 3mm sid ed square) and the pipe of the bilge pump which runs along the edge of the left door. This pipe will be present only when the waterjets are present too.
Once again, the help of pics will prove useful to add the various wires.
The roof is improved with the addition of the AT launcher rack on the reinforcing strip in the middle of the roof between the hatches. The handles are improved by replacing the vertical rod by two lead foil lanyards. In reality, those handles are attached to leather lanyards.

The exterior

This is the area where Eduard set is the most useful.

The roof
The hatches handles (on both sides) are all redone with etched frame (or from the Eduard set). Be aware, the driver hatch presents 2 handles on each side unlike what Heller shows. On a hatch, the handles are handed as follows: when the hatch is closed, the inner handle faces forward and the outer faces rearward.
The hatches axes are molded on the roof and may be replaced by brass rod or piano string.
The grilles carving is coarse and needs the use of Eduard set unless you prefer to use the resin sets from Blast or Azimut. The exhaust pipe protections are as coarse as the engine grilles.
The tie-downs for the crew gear must be added.

The weapon station
If the station itself is correct, the weapon is a catastrophe. The .50 cal MG only deserves to be thrown away and replaced by one from the spare part box.

The sides
The windows like the doors are molded in a transparent plastic which proves to be a good idea to avoid the ugly glue joint. The handles are replaced like those of the hatches.
On the right side, the tool rack is as grossly molded as the MG. Some plastic card and spare tools should enable to correct this.
The NBC decontamination can must be thinned. Its support is wrong. It will better to do another with the help of the Heller part as a template.
On the left side, the same error concerns the fire extinguisher. The NBC filter box (part 26) is too thin on its exterior end.
The towing cable and its support must be redone. Each end is laid on an axis locked with a pin. The cable lays on two L shaped metal parts and folds around a rounded support fitted with three other L shaped parts. Generally, a latch ties the upper and lower parts of the cable.
The mirrors are right but their rods are too thick. At the junction point with the armor plate, a bulge is missing.
The hinge of the fuel tank hatch is made with brass wire and two small flat strips which are welded to the hatch.
The plates with the manufacturer brand (Renault ou Saviem) must be thinned.
The direction lights are improved with the help of real ones pics.

The " nose "
The trim vane is too thick. It must be thinned on the inner face. The transparent part is replaced with rhodoid on which are glued the 3 locking handles. The 2 molded locking bars are sanded away.
When the trim vane is in the floatation configuration, these bars are to be done with 0,3mm diameter brass wire and fixed just in front of the wipers axes. (Use a picture). The towing cable must be attached to a front shackle and one ring (102) on the roof. Finally, you must cover the aeration of the transmission system with its lid, the one represented molded on the kit. This need to do the lid with thin plastic card and sand the kit one. As mentioned above, when the trim vane is not installed, the waterjets are not present either.