Life is hard when you’re the kid nobody wants to play with. Being alone, feeling isolated and knowing that if someone decides to hurt you, that nobody has your back can’t be fun. Of course, in today’s world treating someone like that is frowned upon. People call it abuse, and bullying. Unless, of course, you do it on an international level; then it’s called an “embargo”, and everybody’s cool with it.
Except, of course, the people against whom the embargo is targeted; they tend to dislike it rather considerably. Since the Second World War, there have been numerous examples of countries that have been heavily embargoed. These countries have found it difficult to obtain many things, but usually weapons are at the tip-top of the list of things that are verboten. So, what are you supposed to do when the world takes its collective ball and goes home? Well, you do what you have to, and look inside your borders to shore up your defenses.
This article is not a commentary on whether it’s right or wrong to impose embargoes, nor is it a defence of the embargoed parties. Rather I just want to point out that, when left all alone, countries can come up with some pretty impressive capabilities all on their own. A good example is South Africa. As the world moved towards a general disapproval of the apartheid regime, the calls for embargoes became stronger, and eventually the South African forces found that getting new weapons just wasn’t in the cards.
Thus, they turned to find a new gun, and settled on the Canadian GC-45. This was a 155mm weapon that was developed by Gerald Bull’s “Space Research Corporation” and the Belgian firm PRB. The weapon was modified into the G5 Howitzer, and proved to be an excellent piece of artillery. However, it had the same problem that all artillery has; it wasn’t very mobile. Now, that’s not entirely fair, since the G5 did have a small motor and could drive around at about 16km/h. However, that’s “non-static”, not truly “mobile”.
Given that South Africa is bordered by countries with less-than-neighbourly intentions, it became apparent that the G5, while a good gun, wasn’t good enough. A truly mobile artillery piece was needed, and thus was developed the G6, also know as the “Rhino”. The wheeled chassis that makes up the vehicle part was produced by Denel, and is typically South African: this means it’s fast and has built-in resistance to mine damage. This is conveyed by the now-familiar wedge-shaped hull and improved by being a wheeled vehicle. In fact, the Rhino looks a lot more like a Moon Buggy crossed with a Jagdtiger than anything else. With big, floaty tires that are decidedly abnormal for an artillery piece, the Rhino is capable of something on the order of 90 km/h on roads! That’s the speed limit on a Canadian two-lane country highway! This thing would pass most of the people that drive to and live in St. Mary’s, Ontario!
This high mobility is coupled to the devastating gun that can rain shells at 4 rounds/minute at max effort, and can reach up to 50 km with a rocket-assisted projectile. That’s a pretty good weapon for cross-border skirmishing, and the South African forces have made use of this on several occasions. Not only is it a very powerful weapon, but, at least to my eyes, the Rhino is one of the sexiest pieces of wheeled armour ever made. Now, I’m not an armour guy, and there are a number of cool looking vehicles that have been made over the years, but I know what I like, and I’ve always liked the Rhino. When I started to get into armour with my Matchbox Armour score, I started to wish that I could find a nice, small-scale Rhino. However, that was never the case.
Why? Well, that’s a good question. It appears that there is no 1/72 kit of the Rhino in injection-moulded plastic! To my amazement, that was also true in 1/35! This was a serious WTF moment for me. How could there be so many Shermans, Tigers and Centurions but there be absolutely no whiff, hint or glimmer of a Rhino. Poop. I hoped one day someone, somewhere would come out with one. Imagine my surprise when Takom, a company I new little about, introduced their G6 Rhino in 2016!! I was very excited, but disappointed that it was in “big scale”.
More disappointing, then, was the fact I could only find it in a couple of shops (one in Hamilton, one in Toronto), and it was EXPENSIVE. My rule is not to break $100 for a kit. It’s not hard and fast, since I’ve done that on a Gundam and the New Nautilus, but for a tank? No. I hoped my patience would be rewarded. It wasn’t… the Rhinos just disappeared. Like the real things, they seemed to be endangered. Then, one day I stopped in at Great Lakes Hobbies in Detroit. On a lark, I decided to check the armour section. “They won’t have a Rhino…” I thought. They did. It was only $60. I had American money I’d bought when it was at par years ago, so, I figured I’d never get another chance, and picked it up!
It was only a few days before my birthday, so even if the price hadn’t been so good, I’d have found a way to justify it!
So, let’s take a look then, at what is the biggest land-vehicle kit I own (yes, bigger than Movin’ Out even) and see what a modern, high-end armour kit looks like. This is something way outside my comfort zone, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew it wouldn’t be like my little Matchboxes, but I had no other point of reference…
To start with, the box is HUGE. I’m used to 1/72 planes and 1/144 Gundams, and this thing’s box was as thick as a Master Grade Gundam box, and a bit bigger in the other dimensions. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t ready for how big this was. I mean, it’s armour, how big can it be, right? Armour kits are like, Hot Wheels-sized where I come from…
With a box that big, you have a great chance for some nice box art. The Takom crew sort of obliged. The box has the Takom logo in the top left, and in very big, clear letters, it lets you know that this is a G6 Rhino in the top right. There’s no way you can NOT know what’s in the box, just from this. There’s no whitespace on the box, the entire thing being a South African grasslands scene. It’s actually a very tranquil background; it’s either just before sun up or sundown and the sky makes a beautiful transition from darkish blue-purple to a gold that blends in with the dusty scrub grass that covers the ground. There’s a bank of light cloud that is grey on top/orange on bottom as one sees as the sun is just below the horizon. It could be a landscape painting or a post card.
The main reason it likely isn’t, though, is that smack in the middle of this tranquility is parked a G6 Rhino, it’s powerful main gun raised, although clearly the vehicle isn’t ready to fire, since the support legs have not been lowered. The brown, green and tan cammo blend in very well to the low-sun and scrub background, giving the Rhino an appearance of actually being a part of the landscape, rather than something man-made. It’s a good illustration of how camouflage can work, and it’s also a good view of the vehicle. The Rhino is very nicely rendered, and the art is very detailed. Just behind it is parked another Rhino, obscured by haze or dust. Overall, it’s a nice piece of art, but it isn’t all that exciting. I guess I’m spoiled by the old Matchbox boxes, but I really do like to see a vehicle “in action”. I personally would have liked to have seen the gun going off, but at least with this art there’s the sense of impending action, and the promise of things to come makes the art a bit tense, if not action-packed.
On the one side of the box is a side view of the two different cammo schemes. One is the three-tone one shown on the box, the other is an all sand-beige scheme. Both look good on the vehicle, although I can’t help but wonder what one of these in green looks like… it seems that they’re only used by countries that have brown-toned cammo! The other side of the box has a cross-sell for two other Takom kits (a KV-5 and Object 279) as well as a look at what’s in the box. This is unusual; I’m used to Round 2 cars doing this, but not many of my other kits do this right on the box. Showing my inexperience, even seeing that didn’t prepare me for what was inside!
The large box is quite full of parts. There are five grey sprues full of parts, ranging from the top deck of the vehicle down to tiny hand-holds and hinges. There are also hull components separately, and the top of the turret is largely given as one piece! This is a heck of a big part, and when I saw it and the hull sides, I began to get a real feel for what I’d gotten myself into. There are also size beautiful rubber-like tires, and a small fret of photoetch, with various grilles on it. The strangest thing, for me, was the sprue of “glass”, or clear plastic. I expected it for the cockpit windows, but there were also window blocks for the turret and the entire sides of the command cupolas were done in clear!
The parts all look great. There aren’t any noticeable flash on anything, and it screams a level of detail and quality that, sadly, the old Matchbox and Fujimi 1/76 kits just can’t match. Of course, at the size and price it is, the Rhino should be much better than old, small kits. However, I wasn’t ready for just HOW much more there was to this. I know armour builders are all about the details, but this thing… it just overwhelmed me.
The vast numbers of parts were all finely moulded, and there was a tonne of detail both to glue onto the vehicle and already moulded in. There were all the greeblies I’d have expected on two tank kits all lumped onto one! What amazed me even more was how small some of the parts were. Cutting them off will prove tricky, as there are a lot of small railings and handholds that look far more fragile that their sprue attachment points, so a razor saw might be needed for some of these. The plastic was of good quality, and feels a lot like normal airplane plastic. It’s not so soft that it’s like the warm cheddar of a New Airfix kit, but it’s not so hard as to blow out your elbows on sanding.
The tires were amazing! As a car builder, I’ve seen everything from amazing tires to the horrible AMT “Can’t glue this!”-halfie monstrosities. These tires are the nicest I’ve ever seen! The sidewall detail is great, and the seam on the tread is extremely fine; there won’t be a lot of “scuffing” needed to get these ready to mount! They are soft, and hollow, and the only concern I have is how they’ll hold up with age; I know the tires on my old Dragon 1/48 Me-262 have long split; it’d be a shame for these ones to do the same!
The good news is, if you love to glue stuff to an airframe or hull, then this kit is going to keep you busy for a while. The bad news is that if you don’t like that (which I don’t) then this thing looks like a monumental task, a Herculean Labour that has been thrust upon you. Still, I’m sure it is all for a good cause, as it looks like no detail has been overlooked!
One unfortunate thing I noticed, though, were these little bumps on the kit. These little “skin tags” (for lack of a better term) are in many places on the outside of the hull. I have no idea why. They aren’t there in real life, as far as I can tell, but darn it if this kit doesn’t have a rash of them. They’ll have to be cut off and sanded down. While most seem easily reached, it’s an oddity that such a thing would afflict what otherwise seems to be a top-tier kit! I have no idea if this is a “Takom thing” or not – I don’t have another tank kit of theirs. I don’t recall it on their 1/5 Transporter, though.
The small fret of photoetch seems to consist mostly of grille covers for what I assume is the engine deck, as well as for making a basket on the turret roof. There are also headlight covers and a couple of other pieces of screening, but that’s it. There’s no seatbelt for the pilot’s compartment – that seems weird to me, since I’m sure it will be easy to look in and see it not there when the kit is done. While I normally hate photoetch, I’ll likely give this stuff a try – it looks big enough to handle without being too picky and annoying!
Instructions and Decals:
Like most armour kits, the decal sheet on the Rhino is small. There are a few dials for the instrument panel, and ID/license plates as well as some “no smoking” decals, but that’s it. I have no idea what Takom’s decals are like, but if they suck, it won’t be a complete loss anyway!
The booklet is a large, stapled affair that is done in black and white. They have white backgrounds (much nicer than Meng’s SD kits, like the Lexington, which use black) and use the CAD models for the kit to show assembly. This has a distinct advantage of almost guaranteeing a proper representation of the part and assembly. However, it has a disadvantage in that the solid model is all in various shades of dark grey, and I’ll admit I find it difficult to figure out some of what I see just by looking in the building diagrams.
One thing that drives me nuts about the instructions, though, is that they’re not symmetrical in terms of build. I’m used to most things that are left/right symmetric being build thusly; on a plane, you build the left wing and then the right, while mecha are built left leg then right leg, etc. On the Rhino, Takom has you do a bunch of stuff on one side, then some other stuff, then go back and repeat the first stuff on the other side. It seems very disorganized, and for someone who’s new to big-scale armour, it’s very off-putting and frustrating.
Another “double edged sword” in the instructions, that is driven home by their asymmetry, is the different angles used for the same assemblies on the left and right sides. Often, one side’s assembly will be shown from the front three quarters, or above, and the other side’s similar build is shown from behind or below. Because I find the CAD drawings a bit difficult to follow due to their relative darkness, having this change of perspective is good. However, it sucks that I have to flip through the manual to find what I’m looking for on the other side, instead of it just being next.
The instructions reveal a lot more about the complexity of the kit. I normally think of armour as boxes, maybe with a turning turret. Not the Rhino! If you want to, you can even build the front wheels as steering units! In addition, the turret rotates and the gun elevates, but even that isn’t all! The support legs/feet are all designed to be movable! There are even moving “hydraulics”! The cylinders that actuate the support legs all have separate pistons, and these telescope and rotate as the legs move, apparently. Wow!
Now, one thing that worries me about this is that these moving features look like they are going to be the victims of considerable “build around”. This is the unfortunate phenomenon wherein one has to fully finish a piece before starting the next assembly from scratch. This is something that really old mech kits suffer from, and it SUCKS. It’s usually associated with action features, and while there’s almost always a workaround, it’s not always easy.
One other nice thing about the instructions is the full-colour painting plans. You get five views of each of the two schemes showing how they’re painted and where the cammo (if applicable) goes. Nice work, Takom!
It’s been a long time that armour fans have been waiting for a mainstream Rhino to add to their collections. I applaud Takom for taking the plunge and putting this absolutely massive kit out on the market. While I don’t really have a baseline with other big armour kits, I can tell you that my first impression is that this kit is very impressive, very detailed and very carefully designed.
That having been said, I’m sure this is not a beginner’s kit. If it fits well, then it might be okay for someone with moderate experience in model building, but the many very small, fine parts and significant number of moving parts combine to make me very apprehensive of the coming build. I’ve been modelling for 30 years, now, and I’ll be honest, this kit is pretty scary looking to me. Still, that’s part of the fun of modelling – breaking free of your comfort zone!
The high part count and multi-layered assemblies (like the wheels) promise to add complexity where my first guess is that it isn’t actually required, and that’s something that gives me pause. I am worried that this kit might be over-engineered. As you know from my Mig-29 SMT, I really don’t like kits that try to be clever and complex only for its own sake. If you can keep it simple, do it. I have a hard time believing that ALL these pieces had to be made as ones that have to glue on, but time will tell.
With the cost of this thing, its complexity and the fact that it’s massive, it’s not a kit you’re going to want to see gluebombed, I wouldn’t think. As an introduction to large-scale armour modelling, I think it’s a bit overwhelming, even for me, so don’t give it to a newbie. The detail on the kit is going to look great for those who like to weather and wash, pastel and panel-shade, so hardcore armour-builders are in for a treat.
If you can find one, and you like neat, different subjects, then I would suggest you pick it up. They don’t seem to be very common in the wild, and it’d be a shame to miss out on one.