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  1. French R35 Tank with FCM Turret (83894) 1:35 HobbyBoss via Creative Models Ltd Designed by Renault, The R35 was an interwar light infantry tank used by the French army in their unsuccessful defence of their homeland at the beginning of WWII, after which it remained in service with the German forces as a beutepanzer, where it was either used in second line service, modified or heavily converted to a makeshift gun carriage and used as a self-propelled howitzer. It was originally intended as a replacement for the diminutive FT-17, but due to the sloth in re-training their crews, they were still ill-prepared even on the eve of war. When Germany pounced, there were almost a thousand R35s in service, although they had been found unreliable, poorly armed to battle other tanks, and with too little armour. All the remaining vehicles were taken on charge by the Germans and more than a little tinkering with cutting torches began. Some had their turrets removed to use as small gun emplacements, while others were thoroughly butchered to become tank destroyers, although in doing so the original chassis was horribly overloaded, leading to slow, breakdown prone vehicles such as this, that must have been loathed by their crews. The turrets from the similarly unimpressive FCM tank, that was originally equipped with a pair of machine guns in much the same way as the German Panzer I, one was later removed in favour of a 37mm cannon, mounted in a turret that was intended to become the standard design for all French light tanks, despite a number of problems. By the end of the war only a small number were left that were used by the French until they were replaced with more capable tanks. The Kit This is a cross-tooling from Hobby Boss, utilising existing sprues to create a new subject. There are a substantial number of options that make use of the basic chassis, which HB have naturally exploited to the maximum as you'd expect. The kit arrives in a fairly small box with a divider keeping the sprues from rattling about and damaging the hull and other smaller parts. Inside are eight sprues plus the upper hull in sand coloured styrene; two sprues in a brown styrene containing the tracks; a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a tiny decal sheet, separate colour painting guide and black and white instruction manual. It shares many sprues with the previous editions of the R35, so if you’ve seen our reviews or possess some of the other options, there will be much that is familiar on the sprues, and there’s plenty of detail to be seen, including an engine, transmission and much of the interior of this diminutive oddity. The engine is first to be constructed, with a two-part block that is heavily detailed with additional parts, a great many of which are tiny, which results in a very nicely depicted and detailed motor for your R35 chassis. Work then commences on integrating the engine with the lower hull, beginning with the sand-cast rear bulkhead, which has the idler tensioning devices, a pair of hatches, an undocumented spare wheel that pops up and disappears in later diagrams, and towing hook added, after which the radiator, cooling fan and ducting are assembled with the power-take-off wheel projecting from the rear of the box. The hull itself is made up from two side panels and a floor, into which the radiator housing, a PE bracing plate over a styrene former and driver controls are added. The sides are fitted out with three return-rollers and a final drive housing per side, and four bogies with two wheels per unit and a big suspension spring are built up. Two more solo bogies, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels are also constructed, and are installed on the suspension mounting points on the hull sides. At the same time the driver's seat, fuel tank and engine-mount bulkhead are ensconced within the hull, and the rear bulkhead closes up the rear. After adding a few more driver controls and their linkages, plus a turret base plate, the drive-train is dropped into the hull, with a transmission housing added to the front, and thick drive-shafts link the sprockets to complete the drive-train. Given their small size in 1:35, HB have decided to go down the link and length route with the tracks, and I can't say I blame them. The straight track runs are made up from six parts with a few links in between the curved lower sections, and twelve individual links at each end. Each of the individual links have three sprue gates, while the lengths have additional overflow tabs that ensure against short-shot links, and also double as ejector-pin positions, saving the delicate detail from marring. Unless you're going to the trouble of using metal replacements, these should do you proud with a bit of sympathetic painting and weathering. Give them a final rub with an artist's pencil to impart a metallic sheen where they get worn by the wheels, and you'll never know they weren't metal. With the tracks in place, the full-length fenders are added, along with a little stowage and a big bottle-jack on the right rear. The upper hull is detailed inside with the driver's instrument panel, plus a choice of actuator for his vision hatch, which can be posed open or closed. The final drive inspection hatch is added along with some PE parts, as is the lower part of the driver's hatch, with the upper section added in the open or closed position, depending on your choice. The upper hull is then closed up and a host of pioneer tools are threaded through their tie-down blocks to be added to the sides of the hull together with the silencer/muffler and exhaust, the feeder pipe for which comes from the rear of the vehicle. A small armoured cover is placed over the exhaust exit on the rear, and a small hand-crank on a stiffened plate is installed vertically on the right of the engine deck. This edition comes with an anti-topple assembly at the rear reminiscent of the FT-17, with a curved underside and angular supports above, a splayed frame on the underside, and a long starter handle projecting through it. On top is the spare road wheel that was shown in a diagram earlier, probably a victim of copy and paste syndrome, because the C-shaped mounting point on the rear of the tank is shown bare while the assembly is attached to the rear, and would probably baulk the installation of the ironwork at this stage if it had been glued in place as originally suggested. The small angular turret from the FCM tank is moulded as a shell that has the rear hatch added along with the hinge and vision port, with side view ports installed along with a few grab-handles, before the main gun assembly is slotted into its mantlet and inserted in that gap at the front of the turret, after which the embarrassingly short barrel tips are added to give the impression of a hollow muzzle. The turret is then completed by the addition of the floor with integrated turret ring that locks into place on its bayonet lugs, completing the build. Markings There is just one option in the box for this kit, and as usual HB are stoically mute on its origin and time in service. From the box you can build the following from the box: The sheet is absolutely minute but sufficient to do the job, and as there are only three decals on the sheet, the identifying text takes up most of the space on the sheet. Conclusion It's a small tank that's almost cute in 1:35, with plenty of detail included in the box. If the alternative turret interests you, you should be pretty happy with what's in the box. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. European Agricultural Tractor with Cart (38055) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Lanz Bulldog was a peculiar early tractor, powered by a single-cylinder “hot bulb” diesel engine with a single piston, which although it was ahem… agricultural, was very effective and easy to repair, so it became very popular in Germany, manufactured at its base in Mannheim and built under license in other countries. The D8500 used a three-speed transmission plus one reverse gear, and the curious engine was upgraded over time with output eventually reaching over 50hp. The upgrades were evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and by 1938 they were still available with metal wheels that must have been horribly loud on any hard surface, but gave enough traction to carry it over rough or muddy ground so that it could carry out its job. Pneumatic tyres were often added later once they became commonplace, making farming a slightly quieter endeavour, and reducing the driver’s trips to the dentist to replace fillings. The last of them rolled off the production lines in the 60s, ending a very long run, although plenty have survived to the present day, attending retro shows. The Kit This is one of a string of brand-new toolings of this tractor family from MiniArt, and a little out of the left field in terms of subject matter. They have clearly done their homework though, and have released a number of variants of the tractor with rubber or metal “tyres” and with or without trailers. It arrives in a medium-sized top-opening box, and inside are fourteen sprues in grey styrene, a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret, a small sheet of decals and the instruction booklet with colour cover on glossy paper and profiles at the rear. The PE is safely cocooned in a card envelope, and the tiny size of the fret is surprising at first, but it’s great that they have included it to get the detail just right. Construction begins with the big, bolt-riddled chassis, which is made from forward and aft sections that both mate to opposite sides of a central bulkhead and adding axles, accessible ancillaries and towing arm at the rear. The top cowling is made of separate panels that are mated under a curved top panel that has filler caps fixed into holes in the top. It is shaped to fit snugly onto the surface of the chassis, and is joined by a large tread-plated deck on which the driver will later sit. Pedals and other driver controls are attached, then a sprung seat with perforations to drain off water and allow the driver’s butt to breathe are placed off-centre to the right, plus some linkages to the important areas. A large bell-housing glues onto the right, and another teardrop fairing that protects the drive-belt is attached on the left side, then the large rear mudguards and rear bumper are fitted under the driver’s deck. The underside is finished off by making up the front axle with steering arms, then two stacks are constructed, the aft one a slightly tapered pipe with mushroom cap, while the larger hot one at the front has a bulged section midway, and is prevented from swaying by a PE bracket wrapped around it, much like those on your downspout at home. The smaller front wheels are simple two-part assemblies that you make two of. The large toothed rear wheels are laminated from five sections to depict the various traction surfaces that are present on the real wheels. Again, you make two, and all four wheels are added to their respective axles, then the fifth wheel that the driver uses can either be fitted in place atop the steering column, or inserted into the bell-housing on the right flank of the machine, for the purpose of starting the vehicle manually. If you are fitting the wheel in the usual position, there is a cover with PE ring that fits over the socket, and that is shown hinged down when the wheel is inserted into the bell-housing, while the nub at the top of the steering column should be cut off for accuracy. That’s all there is to it, apart from the painting and weathering. Oh, and the trailer of course. The flatbed for the trailer is next, made up on a ladder chassis with two sections of bed that are completed and mated together, all of which has fine engraved wood texture on both sides, as do the other wooden structures in the kit. The fixed rear axle is without suspension, and has two large brackets that hold it onto the cross-frame. The front axle is similarly unsuspended, but on a frame that has a turntable between it and the bed to enable the axle to rotate freely to reduce the turning circle for easier manoeuvring. The wheels are each single-part carriage wheels that wouldn’t look out of place on a surrey-with-a-fringe-on-top, with a centre boss that can be glued carefully to the axle to leave the wheels mobile. The flatbed is made more useful by adding a set of dropside walls around it, each one being a single part, the front end is lower to accommodate the park bench-style seat that has L-shaped brackets holding the back at the correct angle. The A-frame that connects it to the tractor is a flex-fit on the rotating front axle, and a pair of additional hinge detail parts are added at the bottom of the rear. Figures There are two sprues of figures included in this boxing, plus another two sprues of accessories to add some interest around your model. The figures are dressed as typical farm workers of the period, a man that is operating the steering wheel fitted to the bell-housing on the side in the starting position and wearing a cap. The other figure is a lady that is crouching, with what looks like a flask in her hands, although I suspect it has a more mechanical use, possibly to warm up part of the engine to assist with starting a cold engine. As usual with MiniArt figures, they’re extremely well sculpted with a sensible parts breakdown, and have a lot of detail moulded-in. The accessories are typical of those found on a farm in the 40s and 50s, including a scythe worthy of the grim-reaper, three types of fork, a watering can, a sickle, and a separate handle that can be used either with a wide-headed rake, or with an adze head, although you could also make another handle to use both. There are two of everything of course, so plenty to go at. Markings Anyone that has lived or even visited a farm will know that a tractor is a beast of burden, and as such there isn’t much care lavished on the cosmetics of the thing. The mechanical parts will be horribly oily, and over the years the paint will chip and rust, while the greasy parts will become caked in a mix of dust, oil and grease, with frequent spills and impact marks adding to the patina. We are only given one scheme on the back of the instruction booklet, but the world is your oyster if you want to depict other colours that you have either seen, or want to portray. Decals are by MiniArt’s usual partners Decograph, and although it’s only a small sheet using just black and white printing, it’s all in good register with sharp, dense printing as we expect from them. Conclusion This isn’t the first of the Lanz Bulldog tractor from MiniArt, but it’s a different one, having a more aged look when compared to some of the others. The metal wheels and old-fashioned spoked-wheeled trailer lend its use to earlier eras, or in the background of a more modern diorama as a grizzled wreck. Great detail throughout of course, as we expect from MiniArt. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet ‘Bounty Hunters’ (LS-016) 1:48 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The original Hornet design lost the Lightweight Fighter battle with what became the F-16, but after some re-designing and tweaking, it won the contract for the US Navy’s do-it-all fighter to replace the Tomcats, Corsairs et al, becoming the multi-role F/A-18 Hornet. When more capabilities were required, a further re-design that was more of a total do-over but retained the same general shape and designation, only about a third larger for reasons best left unsaid, but probably budget related, and a way to get around possible restrictions or pitfalls barring a new type. This much larger aircraft became the Super Hornet, with the two-seater designated F/A-18F, and the single-seat variant E, both of which began production in the late 90s, entering service just before the new millennium. With the withdrawal of the F-14 Tomcat in 2006 they became the primary carrier-borne fighter of the US Navy and Marines, serving alongside the original Hornet for a while, but all of the “legacy” Hornets have now left US service, although they remain on the books of some foreign operators. You can easily tell them apart without a size reference by checking the intakes. Oval = Hornet, Rectangular = Super Hornet. The enlargement of the wing area, lengthening on the fuselage and installation of more powerful GE engines changed the characteristics of the airframe markedly, giving it more speed, weapons capability and range, with even more tankage hung from the wings, and buddy-pods allowing same-type refuelling operations without having a vulnerable dedicated tanker on station. There have been various upgrades over the years, and the Super Hornet has a wide range of munitions to choose from, making it a capable all-round war-fighter that is still nowhere near the end of its service life, although trials with pilotless carrier-based aircraft are underway. In addition to the E and F variants, the G, or Growler is a heavily modified two-seater with a huge quantity of Electronic Warfare equipment carried both internally and externally on pylons. The Kit This is brand-new kit from Meng that is based on their recent single-seat F/A-18E, but with new parts to give us the two-seater. We have come to expect great things from Meng, as they have impressive technical skills and a penchant for high levels of detail in their kits. It arrives in one of their standard satin-sheened deep boxes with a painting of the aircraft on the front, and a host of goodies inside. Opening the box reveals nineteen sprues of various sizes in grey styrene plus two fuselage halves in the same plastic, five small sprues in clear, plus the canopy (all wrapped in protective self-cling plastic), three sets of small poly-caps, a Ziploc bag containing ten flat-headed pins, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal, two sheets of decals, a clear plastic sheet with pre-cut kabuki tape masks, the instruction booklet with colour profiles in the rear, four sheets of card with information about the F/A-18 in four languages, and a similarly multi-lingual competition flyer to win cash prizes, apparently. Everything is separately bagged with mildly annoying staples closing them up, and once you have found your way past these you see the high quality of the parts within. Detail is right up there with the best, and has finely engraved panel lines, with raised detail where appropriate and slide-moulding used to improve quality further without creating more parts that make some people sweat profusely. Construction begins reassuringly conventionally with the cockpit, with the new twin-seat tub having the sidewalls installed next to the detailed side consoles, a large control column part in the front and a smaller one in the rear, chunky HOTAS-style throttles, and a pair of well-appointed instrument panels, which have a number of individual decals supplied for both it and the side consoles, the numbers for which are called out in scrap diagrams. The rudder pedals are moulded into the floor and could do with some more detail if you intend to shine a light in there, and you can see them in the shadows of the detail photos above. The nose gear bay is made up from a roof, shallow sides, front bulkhead and some thick trunking/hoses snaking through the bay. Those two sub-assemblies are mated then trapped between the forward lower fuselage halves, with the top half moulded-into the rest of the new upper fuselage, to be brought together later. In the meantime, the upper fuselage is prepared by fitting the wing lowers with a choice of folded or straight wing-hinge supports, and choice of ECS ram air exhaust types, the multi-tubular type having some impressive moulding. The F-18 runs two GE F414 turbofans, with long intakes to keep the rapidly rotating fans away from the prying eyes of enemy radar beams. The trunking is made from two halves, and has a few ejector-pin marks inside, but cleaning those up before joining the halves should make the task easier. The rear is covered by a representation of the engine front, then the completed trunks are attached to the appropriate main gear bay boxes, which are made from three parts, and have more highly impressive detail moulded-in, as shown above. The two sub-assemblies are inserted into the lower fuselage from within, and splitter plates are attached to the sides of the fuselage on two slots, with some fine detail moulded-in. The rectangular sides of the intake trunking and lower fuselage sides fit around the assembly, then a pair of pivots are slotted into the rear fuselage with poly-caps allowing them to rotate without suffering from modeller’s droop. The lower nose clips into the lower fuselage, then the upper fuselage is lowered over it, mating snugly even without glue from a quick test fit I made. She’s looking like an aircraft now, but the cockpit is unfinished and she’s got no nose. The coaming is first, and has the HUD sides added and a circular projector lens in the bottom. The two clear panels are inserted between the supports one over the other, with a scrap diagram showing the correct position, then it can be glued in place and the windscreen fixed over the top. The coaming between the pilots is also inserted, and a shortened turtle-deck behind the rear seat is made up from two detailed parts, followed by the nose cone and insert with the muzzle cover for the M61A2 Vulcan cannon at the top, joined to the fuselage with a stepped ridge helping to improve fit. The Hornet’s upper wings are moulded into the fuselage, but the slats and flaps are separate paired parts, the slats capable of being modelled deployed, or by cutting off the nubs in the leading edge, retracted. The flaps can also be depicted cleaned-up with one set of straight actuator fairings, or fully deployed by using a separate cranked set, with the gap between the sections filled by the upper surface inserts. If you chose the unfolded wing joint earlier, it’s simply a matter of applying the top and bottom sections to the link, adding the spacer, then fitting the appropriate flap actuator fairings for the flaps, and the slats in extended or retracted positions, again by removing the nubs on the leading edge. The folded wingtips are made up with retracted flaps and slats plus straight fairings before they are inserted into the L-shaped fold with a different set of spacers. The two vertical fins have a T-shaped pivot point inserted under a small separate section of the rudder, then the completed rudder is trapped between the two halves of the fin without glue so it can pivot later. A nav. light is inserted into the outer side, and the other fin is a near mirror image. The fins fit into slots in the rear fuselage, and the elevators push into the poly-caps hidden within the fuselage sides later on. The twin exhausts start with a cylinder that has the rear of the engine moulded-in, a PE afterburner ring, then a two-part length of trunking with a corrugated interior. A choice of exhaust petal types finishes off the rear, one set having straight petals, the other with cranked rear sections, and after painting they’re inserted into the two apertures in the rear of the fuselage. The rugged nose gear of the Super Hornet has to be sturdy to withstand repeated carrier launches followed by spirited arrestor-hook landings, and you have a choice of setting the catapult bar in the up position for parked, or down for an aircraft ready to launch. A landing light and a number of stencil placards are applied to the leg after painting it white, and the twin wheels fit either side of the transverse axle. Additional parts are fitted in and around the nose gear bay when inserting the gear leg, then gear bay doors are fixed around the bay, causing much perspiration when you have to add the red edges to each one. The main gear legs also have a number of placards added after painting, and the wheels are made up from two parts each. These too have additional parts added during fitting into the bays, closely followed by the red-rimmed bay doors and their actuators. Just in case you wanted to catch an arrestor wire, the hook nestles between the two exhaust fairings on a long lug. The instructions have you making up the munitions for a break before completing the model, but we’ll cover that later. The ejection seat is made up from a series of very well detailed parts, and although it doesn’t have seatbelts for absent pilots, there are stencils for the headbox sides and rear. They are installed in the cockpit, optionally along with the individually posed pilot figures that come on the sprues, which have separate arms, a wrap-around flotation vest and separate helmeted head with O2 hose. The new longer canopy part is crystal clear with an external seam over the top that you can either leave there (it’s pretty fine), or sand flush and polish back to clarity. There is a frame insert to fit within the canopy, and a choice of two canopy openers, depending on whether you wish to pose the canopy open or closed. A blade antenna in the centre of spine finishes off the top of your model. Under the port Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX), the integral crew ladder is stored (on the real thing), and it can be posed open by adding the ladder with its two supports and the open door to the bay, or if you want to pose it closed, put the long narrow part over the shallow recess to represent one edge of the ladder. Back to the weapons. This is where the rest of the pins and tiny poly-caps come into play, allowing you to switch and change your load-out whenever you want on some of the pylons. Most of the pylon types have the pins trapped between them, four of type-A, two of type-B, and one of type-C. Type-B also has an adapter rail fitted instead of pins, which is also made from two parts, and these fit on the outer wing stations, while the four identical pylons fit on the two inner stations per wing, and the solitary Type-C attaches to the centreline. A pair of wingtip rails are made up with spacer plates, then you can choose which of the supplied weapon types to hang from them. This boxing includes a pair of AGM-65 Mavericks (accidental Top Gun reference) with clear seeker-heads, separate tails and detailed adapter rails. Two GBU-16s and two GBU-12s are built from halves, with the fins in the front and rear separate parts, and there is a clear “droopy” seeker-head, with the poly-caps inserted into chambers in the bomb halves. The AIM-9Xs have clear seeker-heads and exhausts, plus adapter rails, while the three AIM-120Cs are each moulded complete, with a slim adapter rail. The two AIM-9Ms have a clear seeker, and eight separate fins, then the AN/ASQ-228 targeting pod is made from two halves, a two-part rotating sensor mounting with mask, and tubular rear fairing, which is mounted on a concave pylon that fits to the port of the underside fuselage. Scrap diagrams show the correct location of the missiles on their rails, as well as the targeting pod, while another larger diagram shows which options can be placed on which pylons. It’s always best to look at some real-world photos for examples for demonstrable and practical load-outs. Markings There are three decal options on the sheet, and you also get a set of canopy masks that are pre-cut from kabuki tape. From the box you can build one of the following: VFA-2 ‘Bounty Hunters’ Strike Fighter Sqn., Carrier Wing 2, USS Abraham Lincoln, 2008 piloted by Capt. JC Aquilino & WSO Scott Van Buskirk VFA-2 ‘Bounty Hunters’ Strike Fighter Sqn., Carrier Wing 2, USS Abraham Lincoln, 2007 piloted by Cdr. Guimond & WSO Cdr. Eden VFA-2 ‘Bounty Hunters’ Strike Fighter Sqn., Carrier Wing 2, USS Abraham Lincoln, 2004 piloted by L.Cdr. Keith Kimberly & WSO L.Cdr. Mike Peterson Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The main sheet includes all the markings for the airframe, while the smaller sheet contains the stencils for the pylons and the weapons, of which there are many on a modern jet. The colours are called out in Meng/AK codes, as well as Gunze’s recent water-based Acrysion paints, which haven’t been prominently available in the UK, although that’s changing as time goes by. The masks on the clear sheet have been pre-weeded so you only get the masks, without all the surrounding tape. There are masks for all the wheels, the landing light, one for the window of the AN/ASQ-228 targeting pod, and frame-hugging masks for the canopy and windscreen. You are advised to fill in the highly curved centres of the canopy and screen with liquid mask or small sections of tape cut to length with some angles cut where necessary. Unfortunately, I managed to ruck-up the edge of one of my canopy masks, as it wasn’t protected from things brushing over it by the usual background tape. Conclusion Meng have brought their own particular set of skills to the party with both the E and now two F variants, and there's also the EA-18G Growler, which is my favourite. They have produced a highly detailed model of both single-seat and now two two-seat variants, with fancy decals, some excellent moulding and markings to create a model that is excellent out of the box, without the necessity of aftermarket. Extremely highly recommended. Currently out of stock with Creative due to popularity, but are bound to be back soon, so keep checking back. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Meat Products (35649) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd As a species of omnivores, if you’d care to check our teeth that contain elements of carnivore and herbivore teeth layouts, we often partake of meat, usually from the local butcher or supermarket, or market place if we’re so minded. This set depicts a pair of displays of meat of various types that would typically be found in a market setting, and arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box that has a painting of the subject matter on the front, and the instructions on the rear, all in full colour. Inside are six sprues of grey styrene that contain parts for a two-wheeled trolley with leaf-sprung suspension and a pair of handles for the operators to lift it in order to change position. The other display area is static, and consists of an angled planked bed with different length legs front and back, plus cross-braces to stop it from falling flat. On top of the static display are six shallow boxes that can be doubled in height by adding a rectangular frame over the top. The meat products are found on the remaining two sprues, which are identical, each one containing the following: 1 x Half a pig 1 x Half a lamb 2 x chicken carcasses (2 parts each) 2 x links of eight sausages 1 x long curved sausage 1 x pig head 1 x leg of pork 1 x short sausage 1 x long sausage 1 x coiled sausage 2 x looped sausage 1 x “lump” of meat. Possibly a haggis? Bear in mind that I’m no meat expert in any sense of the word, so some of my identifications may be suspect, but check the sprues and accompanying artwork for further details if you’re unsure. The paintings and drawings on the rear for the box should give you enough information to paint the finished article, and there is a colour chart at the bottom that gives shades as swatches, and in Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and colour names to assist you with picking your colours. Conclusion A useful piece of diorama fodder to add some human scale to your latest creation. Aren't you proud of me for getting through this review without making any iffy sausage jokes? Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. BMW Z4 M40i (CS-005) 1:24 MENG model via Creative Models Ltd BMW have a reputation as a luxury and performance car company that has been building over the years with plenty of awesome and stylish vehicles coming from their stables. The Z4 is a two-door convertible coupé, and there have been three generations of the type that first entered production in 2003. Some of the designs have been an acquired taste to some, but they’re generally considered to be a pretty desirable sports car if you’re in the market for one and have the funds. The latest iteration of the design was launched in 2018 and has reverted back to using the soft top of the original design after the second version introduced a retractable hard-top. That may not appeal to all potential customers, but they have managed to halve the time for deployment to a pretty spritely 10 seconds from start to finish. It was designed and manufactured in Austria, and shares its floorpan with the Toyota Supra that is also built at the Magna Steyr factory there, as part of a cooperation with Toyota. There were initially three models starting with the M20i, the M30i and the range-topping M40i, which has a 3.0 litre straight-six petrol engine that outputs 335bhp and carries the terrified driver and solitary passenger from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. The design is angular and modern, giving the impression of speed even when parked up, and as well as looking good it also has a five-star crash rating, just in case you can’t keep it on the road or someone T-bones you. It is full of impressive electronics that manages the engine and the driver’s experience with a large Multi-Function Display (MFD) in the centre console that is updated over the air and a Heads-Up Display (HUD) for the driver to make him or her feel like a fighter pilot as they break the speed of sound (or national speed limit if they’re unwise). In line with a lot of modern premium designs, the car can be unlocked and even started with a mobile phone, although that’s a good way of having your car stolen if you’re out of sight or otherwise distracted. Production suffered from a brief halt due to the situation in Ukraine, but has since resumed, although it is scheduled to reach a natural conclusion in 2024 as the Z-series is brought to an end, presumably due to Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars going the way of the dinosaur in the coming years. The Kit This is a brand-new tool from MENG, and forms part of their non-dinosaur related Car Series, and is predictably number five in that series. The kit arrives in their usual satin-finished top-opening box that has a handsome painting of the subject on the front, plus a holographic BMW authorised product sticker with the twin-grille emblem in the centre. On the sides are two side profiles of the car in blue and red, plus a little extra information and some QR codes to MENG’s social media sites. Inside are three sprues and four separate parts in light grey styrene, a clear sprue, four low-profile flexible black tyres, a short tree of four polycaps, a sheet of shiny stickers for the mirrors, a tiny Photo-Etch (PE) sheet for the seatbelt buckles, a sheet containing two material seatbelts, two small sheets of self-adhesive masks for the clear parts, a small sheet of decals, a smaller sheet of decals for the emblems that have raised chrome areas that don’t scan well, plus of course the instruction booklet that is sub-A4 and printed in colour on glossy paper with colour profiles of the two choices provided on the back pages. Detail is exceptional and includes deep detail using both traditional and slide-moulding techniques to create the illusion of reality. The grilles, lights and exhausts are particularly impressive, and when painted sympathetically, should look highly realistic. The model is a kerbside kit, so doesn’t include detail in the engine compartment, but because of the high level of aerodynamic fairings around the underside it shouldn’t be missed. The detail on the interior, wheels and brakes more than make up for that. Construction begins with the aforementioned underside, into which the front suspension units and coil-over shocks are inserted, allowing the front wheels to be steered in unison. The brake discs are made up from two layers to depict the cooling vents between front and rear surfaces, and this mounts to the hub with a polycap hidden inside, then it is placed into the wheel well, flex-fitting into place to remain mobile. The holes in the underside are filled with two inserts, and a three-part rendition of the rear of the gearbox, which is the only part of the engine visible after the build is finished. At the rear a substantial double-H sub-frame is applied to the sockets, joined by another pair of discs that are made up in the same manner, with the transmission and drive-shafts linking them and holding them in place in the wheel wells until the rest of the suspension swing-arms and coiled shocks are added over the top, which both have curved shields that are engraved with directional and handing arrows for your ease. The exhaust system is made from only two parts, but depicts the transverse muffler at the rear and catalytic converter where the single down pipe bifurcates very well, with a separate part depicting the end of the down pipe from the manifold. More suspension ironwork is applied over the exhaust, then it’s time to put the wheels on. The tyres for this kit are depicted by four flexible black circles with a suitably skinny profile and handed treads, much like the real thing, so ensure you put the right hand on the right side, as per the scrap diagrams. The tyres slide over the rims, which have five double spokes each with detailed centres showing the five studs holding them onto the hubs. These ones however have a single pin that snugs into the polycaps hidden in each brake disc, allowing test fitting and suitable BRMMM! Noises during the build process. The interior is formed from a twin tub that has a rear wall added with moulded-in speaker grilles to finalise the shape, to which the accelerator pedal is glued into the left foot well, and a short-throw gear lever is added to the centre console. The two seats are formed from the separate seat parts that are found in the bodyshell bag initially, and have their backs and belt guides added from the parts on B sprue before they’re dropped into the interior, after which the seatbelts are created from the fabric that is provided in the box, which are threaded onto the PE buckles before they’re glued in place, with a scrap diagram showing where they should fit. If you’re circumspect with the fabric sheet, you could also have some material left for other projects if you keep it on hand. The dashboard is well-detailed and has two decals provided for the central MFD and digital binnacle, under which the steering column with separate stalk ring and detailed wheel is slotted, with the brake pedal descending from the underside of the dash. The finished assembly then attaches to the interior on a C-shaped mounting at the front of the central console. The tub is completed by the two door cards, which have separate handles and a detailed painting guide in a small scrap diagram, then the whole assembly is glued onto the floorpan, locating on a number of raised shapes moulded into the top side. There is a rear shelf behind the seats, which has a pair of headrests made up from front and rear portions, and a clear wind-deflector between them that has masks for both sides, plugging into the shelf part, which fits on two tabs behind the seats, and is completed by a waffle-textured load area part that mounts on two turrets moulded into the rear wheel arches. Preparation of the bodyshell is started by removing the S-shaped sprue from the opening, then inserting the backing behind the front bumper/fender, and making up the two headlight clusters with a styrene reflector that is painted silver and black according to the key, with a clear bulb part slotting into the centre. These are glued in from behind and covered over by the clear lenses later on with the two grille sections at the front, which have exceptionally well-moulded detail within the surround. A number plate holder is supplied with two pegs on the back for the front bumper too, and a pair of inserts make up the vent detail on the sides of the front wings. The windscreen frame is moulded separately from the bodyshell, and has the clear glazing glued in along with a central rear-view mirror that is supplied with a mirrored sticker to give it a realistic look, plus a pair of well-crafted windscreen wipers that plug into the scuttle from the outside, attaching to the bodyshell from the inside, locating on three mounting pegs. The wing mirrors are moulded on triangular sections, and have clear indicator repeaters glued into the front of the shell, and more mirrored stickers to simulate the glass, inserting into the angled space between the door and windscreen frame, while the door handles are fixed into the recesses in the door skins near the rear edge. At the rear the brake cluster insert is painted silver then covered over with the clear lens, which you paint clear red and orange to depict the lights, plus another insert and lens mounted into the two vertical grooves in the bumper corners, and the central brake light is inserted in the integral spoiler in the boot lid. Under the boot lid another number plate is attached on a pair of pegs, then the bodyshell can be mated with the floorpan, inserting a pair of wide T-shaped clear parts in the back of the door cards if you are depicting the roof down to portray the tops of the retracted windows. The stowed roof is a single part that covers the load area behind the seats, which finishes the model unless you are putting the roof up. The soft top is moulded as a single part with a small interior detail section, plus the clear rear window, which has the heated screen element moulded into it, then it is placed over the interior after adding the two corner parts and the door windows if you plan on showing them rolled up. There are also masks included for the windscreen and rear window that allow you to paint the black lines around them where they join the bodywork. Markings There aren’t a lot of decals in this kit, as it’s a car afterall, not a Spitfire. There are two decals for the number plates that say “BMW Z4”, and two that are used to create the screens on the dashboard. On a separate sheet are a number of small BMW logos and name badges that are printed in relief and with a chrome finish where appropriate on most of them. The detail and shine on the decals is stunningly realistic and should look great with a quality paint job. Sadly, the scan of that sheet doesn’t show off the realistic shine of the chrome very well. It's perfect in real life. The painting instructions show the vehicle in either San Francisco Red Metallic or Misano Blue Metallic, but the Meng/AK and Gunze Acrysion codes show the use of non-metallic colours, so if you want to be truer to the real colours, you may need to check out some of the specialist paint manufacturers that cater to car modellers that want accurate paint for their models. Conclusion This is a gorgeous model of a stylish car, and really looks the part. The stamp of approval from BMW adds confidence, and the extras that are included in the box will really help with realism. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. US Mine Detectors (35251) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Mines have been an unfortunate fact of war for many years, as a way to prevent the enemy encroaching on your territory, and giving you a loud bang and a bright flash as a tip-off if this happens at night. Minefields became a standard military practice during WWI and WWII, and only recently has the laying of mines been frowned upon by many countries due to the damage inflicted on hapless civilians once the combatants have gone home. During WWII there were many methods available to the Allies to counter German minefields, including manually searching for them using some kind of prod or bayonet, but the more efficient method was the use of electronic devices that could detect the presence of metallic objects beneath them. There were several types, but all used a coil, sometimes within a round or oval plate-like surround, held by the operator on a long broom handle-like stale, with a wire leading eventually to a pair of headphones that would alert the operator to an object beneath the ground with an electronic tone. If it wasn’t a rush-job, they would mark the mine with a small flag and move on, otherwise the tools would come out to extract the mine there and then, which although it was much less likely to explode because you were aware of its presence, it was still a very difficult task that could result in the operator becoming a victim. Of course, the best and safest solution was the flail-tank, but these units were often overwhelmed by requests for their presence, particularly on and soon after D-Day as the Allies attempted to break out from the beachhead. This set depicts a group of US mine detectorists at work in the field, and arrives in an end-opening figure box, and inside are eight sprues of various sizes in grey styrene, and a small decal sheet with some signs as well as stencils for equipment. As is common with this type of set, the instructions and painting guide are on the rear of the box, showing what’s included and giving painting instructions linked to a colour chart at the bottom, giving colour swatches, Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and colour names. You can build four figures with the set, two of whom are standing, one detecting with a long-handled device, the other waiting to either add a marker flag or dig out a mine with a small trowel. The other two figures are kneeling and crouching respectively, one feeling for the sides of a metal plate with a bayonet, the other digging a small hole to excavate a mine that has been discovered, bayonet stuck into the ground while he works. All figures have M1 helmets, half with netting covers, and they all have their rifles either slung over their shoulder or laid down next to them on the ground. They’re wearing standard WWII GI battle dress that includes puttees over their boots, and have webbing that holds their various pouches and equipment, plus their mine detecting specific equipment where appropriate. The instructions show the cables on the detecting equipment and carry-handles on the mines as parts that you will need to scratch build from your own stock of wire, but the pictures are enough to give you the information you need. In addition, there are decals for small square flags that are included, painting the flags yellow and applying the decals over the top. There are also curved stencils for the recovered mines, and eight of the afore mentioned small black Danger signs finish off the small decal sheet, which is printed by MiniArt’s usual partners DecoGraph up to their usual high standards, another Ukrainian company we’re glad to see are still trading. As usual with MiniArt kits their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown of the figures and other parts, plus extras, although short lengths of wire will be needed to make the most of that detail for the wiring, additional flags, and mine carry-handles. Conclusion A finely sculpted set of highly detailed figures with their equipment to add to your next project that includes a minefield in the process of being cleared by some brave GIs. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. RMS Titanic (PS-008) 1:700 MENG via Creative Models Ltd There can’t be many people that haven’t heard of the appalling and unnecessary loss of life that happened when the Titanic’s maiden voyage route intersected with an iceberg, causing huge rips down the ship’s side and overwhelming the safety measures that led many to believe that she was unsinkable. At the end of the day on 14th April 1912 she hit that fateful iceberg and began taking on substantial quantities of water. Less than three hours later she broke up and slipped beneath the surface with many of the passengers still aboard, and many more forced to jump into the almost freezing water. Over 1,500 souls were lost that day thanks to the hubris of the designers and impatience of the supervising crew, but many lessons were learned from this tragedy that are still applicable today, and many lives have subsequently been saved as a result. The 1997 blockbuster release of the film The Titanic brought the story to the public consciousness again after the wreck had been found over 13 miles from her expected location some years earlier. She was found lying upright and in two major parts, both of which had hit the sea bed at a considerable speed, badly buckling the underside. She has since been thoroughly inspected, and some of the knowledge gleaned from those expeditions was incorporated into the fictionalised plot of the James Cameron helmed film. Which itself has become part of modern vernacular, with phrases such as “paint me like one of your French girls” raising the occasional titter. The Kit This is a new tool from MENG, and it’s quite an interesting and unusual proposition, as it is moulded in pre-coloured styrene, comes with a wood-effect plinth and gold-painted ferrules to stand the model on, and what’s more fun is that it also has a lighting system included with a battery box hidden in the base, plus a touch-sensitive button out of sight to turn the lights on and off. Neato! The kit arrives in a slender box in MENG’s usual style with a painting of the titular ship on the front, overhead and side views on the sides, and a number of QR code links to their social media sites for good measure. Inside the box are four loose white parts plus a sprue in white styrene, a tan sprue, a brown sprue, an orange/brown sprue, a small brick red sprue and lower hull part, a black sprue and upper hull part, and the afore mentioned wood effect base and brass/gold painted supports on a sprue that was originally moulded in brown. In addition, there is a black and silver name plate for the plinth, a length of flexible LED strip with a lead and socket on one end, plus a battery box with circular PCB holding the touch switch and terminated with a socket for the plug. The instructions are quite unusual in their layout, taking the form of three concertina sheets that extend to 90cm once unfolded. The first sheet is single-sided and has the history of the Titanic in four languages including English, plus a short advisory section in the same four languages. The second and third sheets contain the instructions and optional painting guide, including the electronics. Detail is excellent for the scale as we expect from MENG, and although the “proper” modeller will want to throw some paint at the kit, you don’t have to, or if you’ve bought the model for a child, everything should go together without glue or paint and still look good, especially when you tap the invisible switch and the lights come on! Construction begins with the decks fore and aft (pointy and blunt ends if you’re uninitiated), which are moulded in tan and have a black insert and the white tops of the hull that have a representation of the railings moulded-in. The main superstructure has tan decking inserts added at both ends, and has another upstand and walls in white, on top of which more tan decking parts are fitted, then some white superstructure parts and another partial layer of decking. The hull is next, and begins with adding the three props, which are moulded in tan and insert into brick red fairings that slot in under the stern on three pegs each, with the centre prop fitting in front of the sole rudder, which made turning the ship a slow process. The black upper hull has the LED strip stuck between two raised grooves using the self-adhesive tape on the back of it, threading the wires through a hole in the rear before adding the bow and stern decks over it. The main superstructure is pushed into the upper hull, and the upper hull is pushed into the lower hull to make it look more like a ship. On the bow deck a number of black and brown inserts are pushed into holes in the deck, including cranes, a task that is repeated at the stern with more cranes, and a helpful purple arrow advising you where the bow is. Fixtures and fittings are inserted into the decks on the main superstructure next, including the lifeboats, of which there were too few of course. The four funnels are each made out of two orange halves with moulded-in raised riveting, a black top, and an insert that slips into the top of each stack, the rearmost one having a different insert, as it was mostly used to vent exhaust from the galleys, machinery and ventilation, rather than belching smoke and steam from the boilers. The masts are found on the brown sprue, with one each placed fore and aft. The plinth has a very believable wooden texture painted over the brown styrene, with a raised frame ready to receive the self-adhesive nameplate, and two holes for the hull supports, which have been painted gold at the factory. Flipping the stand over, the battery pack sticks inside a marked area on its self-adhesive tape, and the switch is similarly stuck into a raised circular bracket shape near one of the supports, with the wire fed through the hollow centre of the support. The box takes two AAA batteries that aren’t included, the ones shown in the photos being from my battery drawer. The lower hull has two holes to receive the supports, and the wire dangling from one of them mates with the socket sticking out of the plinth, allowing you to turn the lights on and off by tapping on the plastic over where the switch resides. The rest of the instructions are taken up with a colour chart that gives you codes for MENG’s collaboration with AK Interactive, and Gunze’s new(ish) Acrysion paint system, which is starting to be more readily available in the UK. Markings The Titanic only wore one paint scheme during her short life, and as the styrene is pre-coloured already, it’s not strictly necessary to put any paint on the model once complete. In case you want to however, there are two views of the ship from the side and overhead with the colours called out in MENG/AK Interactive and Gunze Acrysion codes. Conclusion This is a very well-detailed model regardless of whether you want to treat it as a true model or snap it together for a nice table model over the course of the afternoon. Detail is excellent, and the addition of the lights gives it extra appeal. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. Ukranian Soldiers, Defence of Kyiv, March 2022 (MB35223) 1:35 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models Ltd On 24th February 2022 Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on the pretence of a “Special Military Operation”. The less said about that the better. Ukraine mobilised quickly and have been fighting the invader ever since, making excellent progress at removing the attackers from the country at time of writing, although winter is coming and who knows what will happen next? Nothing bad, I hope. Please note: Any political statements on either side will be removed and the posters suspended for 31 days. This figure set depicts a quartet of Ukrainian soldiers, although their uniforms may not always match, fight well together and have each other’s backs when the chips are down. Inside the end-opening figure-sized box is a single sprue of parts to create a group of four soldiers wearing modern MOLLE combat vests and BDUs, some of them wearing MICH-style covered helmets while the others wear warm knitted hats and tube scarfs. The little slice of life that is the norm to fighting-age individuals in Ukraine depicted by this boxing is a rare moment of peace where three soldiers are posing for a photo being taken by a comrade with his smart phone. The photographer is holding his AK in one hand while he takes the snap, while one guy poses with his across his chest with a long pouch on his back, the second poser is crouching down with an RPG held vertically in his hand. The final subject of the photo is leaning with one hand on something with one foot on a shallow object, depicted on the box as looking inside a knocked-out tank. Sculpting is up to Master Box’s usual standards, with crisply moulded equipment, realistic drape and creasing of the clothing, and natural poses. The breakdown of parts is as you’d expect, with separate arms, legs, torsos and heads, each of the heads being fully represented, while the soldiers with helmets have their chin-straps moulded into their faces. Oddly, the box tells us that the smart phone being used to take the photo isn’t included, which seems odd, although it won’t take much effort to create one from a thin slip of styrene sheet and a raised round, or rectangular part to represent the camera of your chosen type. It’s a small omission, but strange given that it is at the core of the set. The part numbers for each figure are shown on the rear of the box, which has photos or renderings of the completed figures, some from a few angles to help with positioning of parts, plus a sprue diagram. An example of the digital camouflage often worn is also printed as a swatch on the box, with a colour conversion table for Vallejo, Lifecolor, Mr Color, Tamiya and AMMO paint codes. There is also a QR code that leads to Vallejo and AMMO’s sites depending on which one you point your phone camera at. Conclusion A good-looking set of figures for a contemporary situation, which may be of interest to anyone wishing to build modern Russian AFVs without putting a controversial star on it. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. German Flakpanzer V Ausf.A (84535) 1:35 Hobby Boss via The Flakpanzer V was a derivative of the Panther main battle tank that was developed by Rheinmetall and utilised a pair of 3.7cm Flak guns with 1,500 rounds between them that were mounted in an enclosed turret with sufficient elevation to allow the gunner to target aircraft successfully. The vehicle in this form was another paper or wooden Panzer because at the end of the war, the project had been cancelled with only a mock-up utilising a Panther D chassis and a wooden turret completed in 1944. The project commenced in 1943, initially considering a pair of 20mm cannons, then it was proposed to increase the size of the weapons to 3.7cm and eventually to 55mm in due course, as the feeling was that just as 20mm flak cannons were falling out of favour for being too light-weight, eventually the 37mm would suffer the same fate. The project was shut down following the D-Day invasion and Allied incursion into previously secure territory, partly because the Panther chassis were needed for the front-line, but also because the 37mm guns were already considered unfit for development. Before cancellation however, it was given the name Coelian. The Kit This is a partial retool of the original Flakpanther kit from Hobby Boss that was released in 2012 with a single flak cannon open on the deck, which has seen numerous reboxings with new parts over the intervening years, and now enters the realms of the paper/wooden panzer with this latest alteration. The kit arrives in a top-opening box with an interesting painting of an in-service machine with a pair of crew figures on top, although these aren’t included in the box. Inside are ten sprues in sand-coloured styrene and three separate hull/turret parts in the same colour, nineteen sprues in brown, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE), a decal sheet, black and white instruction booklet and an A4 sheet of colour profiles in panzer grey. Detail is good and the part-count is high, moreso due to the individual link tracks that accompany the kit. Construction begins with the lower hull, which receives twin rows of torsion suspension tubes, plus axle sheaths that are first mounted on a rail for each side, then are slipped through the exits on the sides of the hull from the inside, to have the actual bars fed through with the swing-arms moulded into the ends. The idler axles are pushed into holes in the rear, and the armoured final drive covers are first added at the front, then have the housings with guide wheel and other suspension parts completing the fitting. The Panther spread its weight with interleaved wheels, the under sets in singles, the outer in pairs, which are slipped over the axles in order along with the three-part idler wheels and drive sprockets to complete the running gear in preparation for the tracks. Each track link has four sprue gates and has two separate guide-horns glued in place before they are linked together into runs of eighty-eight, which will require glue to hold them together. It’s best to make them into runs and drape them around the road wheels while the glue is still soft, securing them in place with tape, foam and anything else you can find to help. The sprue gates are on concave edges of the links, but with a circular needle file or motor tool on low speed, it’s the work of moments to deal with them. With the tracks in place, the fenders are fixed on tabs that mate with slots in the top of the lower hull, have the front mud guards added, making up the rear bulkhead to finish off, which has the usual twin exhausts with PE stabiliser brackets, angular stowage boxes, jack, and access hatches added to complete it. The upper hull has vision blocks inserted from below at the front, then with the part right-side-up, the forward hatch insert and swinging hatches, then the engine hatch with insert on the engine deck, followed by the circular grilles and rectangular radiator grilles with PE mesh over them, mushroom vents, lifting hooks and grab-handles are all installed. On the sloping sides of the hull the pioneer tools on frames, barrel cleaning rod tube and spare track link racks are placed all over any open area. At the front, the glacis plate has a single headlight, driver’s hatch, and notable by its absence, no kugelblende, as the bow machine gun had been deleted on this variant. The two hull halves are brought together, and have optional width indicator lollipops on the fenders, and tiny wingnuts across the join. The hull is completed by adding the towing shackles at the rear and gluing six hangers under the sponsors to accept the PE schurzen, which are in four sections, allowing you to bend, remove or dent them as you see fit to add a little individualism to your model. The turret is the last assembly to be made, and starts with the enclosure that covers the breeches of the 37mm cannons, with two holes in the forward end, and pegs in the bulbous rear, which mount on a pair of tapering trunnions inside the turret part, which is a complete moulding of the upper structure that is completed by adding the floor with moulded-in bayonet lugs and rear access hatch plus the two barrels, both of which have tapering hollow muzzles thanks to a bit of handy slide moulding. The perforations on the sides could be drilled out if you have the bits and patience, and there are depressions there to guide you if you’re feeling brave. On the top of the turret are two circular hatches, another that has a square cover laid over it, three mushroom vents and a shell ejection port on the centre rear with separate hatch. The commander’s hatch is relatively simple, but has a wide binocular targeting mechanism that is mounted over the hatch, which begs the question “how would you open the hatch with that in position?”. The turret and hull are joined by bringing them together and twisting to lock them in position. Markings There was only one of these wicked-looking beasts made, and that was partly made of wood. The prototype was painted Panzer Grey, so if you’re going for accuracy that’s the colour. If you’ve a mind to create a what-if or what might have been though, you have plenty of examples of late war camouflage out there, so have at it. From the box you can build the following: The scanner has made the red code digits appear slightly pink. They aren't in reality. Decals aren’t usually Hobby Boss’s strongest point, but these will be suitable for the job, as the sheet consists of three rows of digits plus a few spare zeroes, and two pairs of crosses in different sizes. The inclusion of the red digits will come in handy for anyone planning to go off-piste. Conclusion The Coelian is an interesting off-shoot of the successful Panther lineage that was still-born due to circumstances, but this is a nice modern tooling with plenty of detail. Add some figures, stowage to personalise it and place it in a small urban or factory diorama, and it will draw plenty of attention. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. StuG III Ausf.G Mar 1943 Alkett Prod. (35336) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The StuG is a popular German WWII AFV, and the more you learn about it, the more obvious it becomes why. The SturmGeschutz III was based upon the chassis of the Panzer III, but removed the turret and front deck, replacing it with an armoured casemate with a lower profile that mounted a fixed gun with limited traverse. It was originally intended to be used as infantry support, using its (then) superior armour to advance on the enemy as a mobile blockhouse, but it soon found other uses as an ambush predator, and was employed as a tank destroyer, hiding in wait for Allied forces to stumble haplessly into its path, where it could be deadly. With the advances in sloped armour employed by the Soviets, the original low velocity 75mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon was replaced by higher velocity unit that was also used in the Panzer IV for tank-on-tank combat, extending the type’s viable career to the end of WWII. The earliest prototypes were made of mild steel and based on Panzer III Ausf.B chassis, and while equipped with guns were unsuitable for combat due to the relative softness of the steel that would have led to a swift demise on the battlefield, being withdrawn in '41-42. By this time the StuG III had progressed to the Ausf.G, which was based on the later Panzer III Ausf.M, with a widened upper hull and improvements in armour to increase survivability prospects for the crew. Many of the complicated aspects of the earlier models that made them time-consuming and expensive to produce were removed and simplified by that time, which led to a number of specific differences in some of the external fitments around the gun, such as the Saukopf mantlet protector. The Ausf.G was the last and most numerous version, and was used until the end of the war with additional armour plates often welded or bolted to the surface to give it enhanced protection from the Allied tanks and artillery. The Kit MiniArt have finally managed to get their production running again after the shock of the invasion on the 24th of February 2022 forced them to up-sticks wholesale to escape from the horror. Well, they’re back and we’re all very happy for them, and wish them the best with their business and hope they can return to normality at the earliest convenience. We’re all behind you! Just before the aforementioned event, MiniArt had released a new tooling of the late StuG III and this is a continuation of the Ausf.G series, which had changes laid over changes during the final batches. This boxing is another Alkett factory example from March 1943 and arrives in a standard top-opening box in the MiniArt style, with attractive artwork and profiles on the side. Inside the box are forty-five sprues in mid-grey styrene, one in clear, a good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) fret of brass parts, decal sheet and glossy-covered instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear covers. Detail is excellent throughout, which is just what we’ve come to expect from modern toolings by MiniArt, with so much detail crammed into every part of the model, which includes individual track links that different from the earlier pre-series kit we reviewed some time ago. Construction begins with the floor panel, which receives the torsion suspension bars with their fittings, a pair of runners to support the engine that isn’t included in this boxing, and the support structure for the gun, which is made up from some substantial beams that have a traverse shoe placed on top to give the gun its limited 15° travel for fine-tuning lateral aim. The rear bulkhead is set against the engine mounts and the hull sides are mated to the floor, with the bases for the final drive housing glued to the front next to the two-layer front bulkhead. The glacis plate with transmission inspection hatches are given a similar treatment, plus another appliqué panel, and the usual exhausts, towing lugs and idler protection are added to the bottom section of the rear, and a radiator exhaust panel with PE grille is made up and applied above it, adding some deflecting tinwork to the hull. Narrow bolted panels are added to the sides of the hull in preparation for the upper hull parts that are added next. Much of the gun breech detail is represented, and a large trunnion is fitted onto the two pins on the sides of the assembly. Elevation, traverse and sighting gear is installed on the breech, although it’s unlikely to be seen. Before the gun can be fitted, the walls of the casemate must be made up, and these are well-detailed externally, including vision slots, smoke grenade dispensers and lifting eyes. The shape of the casemate is completed with the addition of the front wall, which has a large cut-out to receive the gun in due course. The front of the casemate is built out forward with a sloped front and some appliqué armour, dropped over the front of the lower hull and joined by the breech assembly, which is covered by an armoured panel after armoured protectors to the mounting bolts have been glued over them. A bridge over the top of the insert encloses the breech, then it’s time to prepare the roof with some details before covering up the interior, then making a choice of how to finish the commander’s cupola in either open or closed pose. It has a number of PE latches and a set of V-shaped binocular sighting glasses in the separate front section of the cupola that can be open or closed independently to the main hatch. The gunner’s hatch is a simpler affair consisting of a clamshell pair of doors, with the machine gun shield just in front of it and a well-detailed MG34 machine gun with drum mag slotted through the centre. This hatch can also be posed open or closed, and the MG shield can be posed in the flat position for travel. The engine deck is built up with short sides and armoured intake louvres on the sides, which are covered with PE meshes as the deck is glued down onto the engine bay. Two types of rear appliqué parts can be added to the slope at the rear of the deck, then armoured cover to the fume extraction fan is added to the back of the casemate. A rail of spare track links is fixed across the rear of the casemate with the barrel cleaning rods underneath, lashed to the deck with PE and styrene parts, then the four hatches are made with armoured vents. A pair of road wheels are carried on the deck with long pins through their holes that attach them to the rearmost pair of hatches. One decal option also has a field modification of a large stowage box mounted on the centre of the rear deck, with the other options mounting a much shallower box in the same place on PE brackets. As yet the StuG has no wheels, so the addition of the swing-arms with stub axles is needed, adding the highly detailed final drive housings under the front, plus additional suspension parts that improves damping further. The idler adjuster is covered with armoured parts, and a group of pioneer tools are dotted around the sides of the engine deck, after which the paired wheels are fixed to the axles, with drive-sprockets at the front and idler wheels at the rear, plus a trio of return rollers on short axles near the top of the sides. The tracks are individual links that are held together by pins, using 94 links per side, and each link has three sprue gates to clean up, plus a little flash on the highly detailed sides, which will need scraping away with a sharp blade. I created a short length in fairly short order, coupling them together, and the result is a very well detailed track with flexibility to adjust them around the running gear of your model, and as they are a tight fit, they shouldn’t need glue, but I’d probably set them in position with liquid glue once I had them how I wanted them on the vehicle. Once they’re in place, the fenders are attached to the hull sides, with integrated mudguards and tiny PE fittings added once the glue has dried. More pioneer tools and stowage are added to these, as space was a premium on these vehicles, and every flat surface ended up with equipment on it. This includes a convoy light and either a highly detailed PE fire extinguisher or a simplified styrene alternative if you prefer. Shovels, pry bars, jack blocks and the jack are also found on the fenders, as are the two towing cables, which have styrene eyes and you’ll need to supply the 110mm cable material yourself, with a set of PE tie-downs holding them in place on each side. The barrel of the gun has a large bulky Saukopf mantlet cover, which is made up from three parts with a barrel sleeve moulded into the front, which the single-part barrel slots into, tipped with a detailed three-part muzzle brake to give it the correct hollow look. It slides over the recoil tubes of the breech, closing up the interior, and the last parts of the kit are two whip antennae on the rear of the casemate, and optionally another pair of road wheels on both front fenders for one of the decal options. Markings There are five markings options included on the decal sheet, all of them with varying camouflage from bare dunkelgelb to predominantly green with splotches of other colours. From the box you can build one of the following: 201 Stg. Abt., Greece, Summer 1943 322 Stg.Abt., Eastern Front, Summer 1943 1st Company Pz. Abt. ‘Rhodos’, Rhodos, Autumn 1943 Bulgarian 1st Assault Gun Battalion, Autumn 1943 10th SS Panzer Div. ‘Frundsberg’, Pomerania, March 1945 Decals are by Decograph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion A good-looking, well-detailed model of an important WWII German tank destroyer that saw action the Eastern and Western fronts in relatively large numbers. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  11. German SPG Crew (35363) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd This new set from MiniArt will allow the modeller to crew their latest German WWII Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) with four figures that are loading their vehicle with new ammo to carry on the fight. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are nine sprues, four containing the figures and five containing ammo, ammo boxes, weapons and accessories. Each figure is moulded within his own frame, and we have the commander stood ordering people around with his pointed finger, another crewman standing around doing a little swaying motion (the Floss?) with his arms. The other two figures are hefting shells, one offering one up to his colleague that is leaning down from the vehicle to receive it. As is common, the workers have their jackets off and sleeves rolled up. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus loads of extras to add some detail to their vicinity if you use them in a diorama. The sprues contain six ammo boxes, each of which can hold three shells apiece, and there are seven each of 7.5cm Kw.k.40 and Stu.K.40 shells, plus three empty casings with slide moulded hollow lips that are found on the box sprues. The small decal sheet gives you stencils for the shells, plus further stencils for the box tops. A detailed painting and decaling guide for the shells and their boxes can be found on the rear of the box along with instructions for making the ammo crates and painting the figures, with a chart offering colour swatches and codes for Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya as well as colour names to assist you with paint choices. The accessories sprue has various weapons including STG.44, FG.42, MP34 & 35, a Kar.98K and Gewehr 41(M) rifles, while ammo pouches, map cases, pistols and their holsters/pouches can be used to fill up your scene. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. CH-47D Chinook (81773) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The CH-47 Chinook is a tandem rotor heavy lift helicopter, developed by Vertol and manufactured by Boeing Vertol since 1962. Its incredible longevity is testament to the quality, flexibility and robustness of the original design. Over 1,200 examples have been produced, and the type has seen frontline service in conflicts such as the Vietnam War, the Falklands Conflict in British service, both Gulf Wars and Afghanistan where its utility was so much in evidence that many airframes became worn out as a result. In its capacious loading area, the Chinook could lift a 24,000lb payload or carry anywhere between 33 and 55 troops. The CH-47D was fitted with more powerful engines than its predecessors, adding an additional 2,000lbs to its internal or external carriage capacity. It is often used to carry 105mm howitzers, associated equipment and crew, as well as the usual troop transport role, with improved avionics leading to a production run of just over 20 years, with moderate overseas sales, and served alongside the comparable MH-47D that was used primarily by Special Forces with in-flight refuelling capability amongst other alterations to suit its cloak-and-dagger role. The Kit This is a re-boxing of their 2021 tooling of the CH-47A with new parts to represent the improvements made to the airframe between initial variant and the late 70s upgrade. It arrives in their standard top-opening box with a painting of the aircraft on the front, plus some profiles and 3D CAD renderings on the sides. Inside the box are nine sprues in grey styrene, three clear sprues, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet, instruction booklet in black and white, plus a colour painting guide printed on both sides of a glossy sheet of paper. Detail is good throughout, and if you have seen the original release, you’ll recognise many of the parts in the box. Construction begins weirdly with the fire extinguisher from the rear of the cockpit, which is mounted on an L-shaped base, then fixed in the rear of the cockpit floor on a pair of pegs, along with twin rudders, cyclic and collective sticks, then the main instrument panel with integrated centre console, all of which have white dial decals applied after painting. The seats have cushions added, a grab-handle on the top and a frame at the back, then they too are joined to the cab area of the interior floor, which is a very nicely detailed single part. There is a tunnel between the cockpit and load compartment, which is made up from a number of parts, the visible areas of which have diamond quilting engraved into the surface, plus equipment boxes on some of them. The completed sub-assembly is then joined to the floor aft of the raised crew area, and a door in the floor is also added from underneath. More racks of avionics are added in the tunnel between the two areas that will be visible from the load area, but notionally sectioned off by a pair of C-shaped rails. The fuselage halves both have quilting moulded into the insides, and the rear part also has raised ribbing, all of which is painted aircraft grey, and after they are joined together the circular side windows are installed from inside, with the choice of domed viewing ports for the rear two on each side. Two small PE grilles are also fitted inside the rear rotor tower, and some holes are cut out before the two halves are joined later. Another of those fire extinguishers is made up and glued into the rear of the port fuselage half, an L-shaped ribbed hose is inserted into the starboard cockpit, and another ribbed assembly is inserted into the rear rotor tower, then the fuselage is closed up around the interior, whilst adding the quilted roof as you close up. There are two powerful turbine engines turning the blades of the Chinook, and these are both made up with a pleasing amount of detail, including some PE grilles inserted from inside of the cowlings and forward filters along the way, which increases realism over the usual plastic rendition. The completed assemblies are fixed to the fuselage sides in recesses, and the additional fuel tanks are detailed with internal bulkheads and inserts before being glued to the side of the fuselage along with a long high-frequency rail antenna that runs down much of the length of the fuselage. The starboard side door at the front of the fuselage is also added, with the step and optional window panel fixed to the aperture by two hinges. The rear of the fuselage is open at the moment, until the rear tail is glued into position after detailing it with some small parts in preparation for the rear access ramp later. While the fuselage is inverted the underside is dotted with aerials, a tear-drop shaped fairing or front shackle, plus two more shackles further back, the optional floor hatch cover and a beacon just forward of the hatch. The front wheels are each two parts, applied to a T-shaped strut made from three parts each, and inserted into the cut-outs in the fuel tank sponsons, which have two covers with clear lights inserted. The rear wheels hang out of the back of the sponsons, and are suspended on horizontal struts with braces and a pivot to allow the wheels to swivel. More aerials are fixed to the underside, a small PE grille and two clear lights are attached to the rear of the rotor tower, and the load ramp is made up with a choice of two slightly different options. They share many of the same parts, but have a different lip to accommodate the two styles of fold-up sections, of which there are three in each option. With the detailed floor added to the top, it is joined to the fuselage and secured at the correct angle by adding a pair of stuts to the sides. To finish off the fuselage, the windscreen has a pair of holes drilled into it (carefully) to accept a pair of probes and two other small parts before it is glued onto the front of the cab. A long avionics tunnel stretches between the front and rear rotor towers on the D, locked in place by a series of pins and holes in the top of the fuselage, with a clear curved window in the front of the rear rotor tower. For a helicopter with twin rotors, the blades are a big part of its appeal, both from an aerodynamics point of view because it cancels out the torque of the single-rotor design that necessitates a tail-rotor, but also because they’re massive, broad and highly visible on the finished model, making the distinctive rotor-slap that garnered the Chinook the nickname ‘Wokka’ in some quarters. The two rotor sets are identical, starting with a tapered drive shaft onto which the various layers of the rotor-head lower are slid, with the three-blade boss laid onto the circular head to be joined by the blades, followed by the rotor-top that locks them in place. Each blade has the prototypical droop moulded-in, an insert under its root to thicken the area to scale, and has a small actuator for the pitch-control trapped between the two halves. The two blade units are dropped into the holes in the top of the rotor turrets and should be able to rotate unless you’ve made a mess with the glue. You may elect to leave them completely loose to ease transport if you take it to shows on occasion. The last two parts are the windscreen wipers, with a small inset diagram showing their correct location on the two sides of the front screen. Markings There are two decal options on the sheet, and in Hobby Boss’s usual style there’s little information about them, other than which decals goes where, and colours in Gunze codes. From the box you can build one of the following: The decals are well-enough printed to carry out the task, and consist mostly of stencils and walkway markings for the top of the fuselage, with a couple of US Army markings and the serials. The main differences are the yellow rotor tips and the tail codes. Conclusion Chinooks are great, and this is a well-detailed modern tooling of the type in my favourite scale. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet (LS-013) 1:48 Meng via Creative Models Ltd The original Hornet design lost the Lightweight Fighter battle with what became the F-16, but after some re-designing and tweaking, it won the contract for the US Navy’s do-it-all fighter to replace the Tomcats, Corsairs et al, becoming the multi-role F/A-18 Hornet. When more capabilities were required, a further re-design that was more of a total do-over but retained the same general shape and designation, only about a third larger for reasons best left unsaid, but probably budget related, and a way to get around possible restrictions or pitfalls barring a new type. This much larger aircraft became the Super Hornet, with the two-seater designated F/A-18F, and the single-seat variant E, both of which began production in the late 90s, entering service just before the new millennium. With the withdrawal of the F-14 Tomcat in 2006 they became the primary carrier-borne fighter of the US Navy and Marines, serving alongside the original Hornet for a while, but all of the “legacy” Hornets have now left US service, although they remain on the books of some foreign operators. You can easily tell them apart without a size reference by checking the intakes. Oval = Hornet, Rectangular = Super Hornet. The enlargement of the wing area, lengthening on the fuselage and installation of more powerful GE engines changed the characteristics of the airframe markedly, giving it more speed, weapons capability and range, with even more tankage hung from the wings, and buddy-pods allowing same-type refuelling operations without having a vulnerable dedicated tanker on station. There have been various upgrades over the years, and the Super Hornet has a wide range of munitions to choose from, making it a capable all-round war-fighter that is still nowhere near the end of its service life, although trials with pilotless carrier-based aircraft are underway. In addition to the E and F variants, the G, or Growler is a heavily modified two-seater with a huge quantity of Electronic Warfare equipment carried both internally and externally on pylons. The Kit This is brand-new kit from Meng that is based on their recent single-seat F/A-18E, but with new parts to give us the two-seater. We have come to expect great things from Meng, as they have impressive technical skills and a penchant for high levels of detail in their kits. It arrives in one of their standard satin-sheened deep boxes with a painting of the aircraft on the front, and a host of goodies inside. Opening the box reveals nineteen sprues of various sizes in grey styrene plus two fuselage halves in the same plastic, five small sprues in clear, plus the canopy (all wrapped in protective self-cling plastic), three sets of small poly-caps, a Ziploc bag containing ten flat-headed pins, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal, two sheets of decals, a clear plastic sheet with pre-cut kabuki tape masks, the instruction booklet with colour profiles in the rear, four sheets of card with information about the F/A-18 in four languages, and a similarly multi-lingual competition flyer to win cash prizes, apparently. Everything is separately bagged with mildly annoying staples closing them up, and once you have found your way past these you see the high quality of the parts within. Detail is right up there with the best, and has finely engraved panel lines, with raised detail where appropriate and slide-moulding used to improve quality further without creating more parts that make some people sweat profusely. Construction begins reassuringly conventionally with the cockpit, with the new twin-seat tub having the sidewalls installed next to the detailed side consoles, a large control column part in the front and a smaller one in the rear, chunky HOTAS-style throttles, and a pair of well-appointed instrument panels, which have a number of individual decals supplied for both it and the side consoles, the numbers for which are called out in scrap diagrams. The rudder pedals are moulded into the floor and could do with some more detail if you intend to shine a light in there, and you can see them in the shadows of the detail photos above. The nose gear bay is made up from a roof, shallow sides, front bulkhead and some thick trunking/hoses snaking through the bay. Those two subassemblies are mated then trapped between the forward lower fuselage halves, with the top half moulded-into the rest of the new upper fuselage, to be brought together later. In the meantime, the upper fuselage is prepared by fitting the wing lowers with a choice of folded or straight wing-hinge supports, and choice of ECS ram air exhaust types, the multi-tubular type having some impressive moulding. The F-18 runs two GE F414 turbofans, with long intakes to keep the rapidly rotating fans away from the prying eyes of enemy radar beams. The trunking is made from two halves, and has a few ejector-pin marks inside, but cleaning those up before joining the halves should make the task easier. The rear is covered by a representation of the engine front, then the completed trunks are attached to the appropriate main gear bay boxes, which are made from three parts, and have more highly impressive detail moulded-in, as shown above. The two subassemblies are inserted into the lower fuselage from within, and splitter plates are attached to the sides of the fuselage on two slots, with some fine detail moulded-in. The rectangular sides of the intake trunking and lower fuselage sides fit around the assembly, then a pair of pivots are slotted into the rear fuselage with poly-caps allowing them to rotate without suffering from modeller’s droop. The lower nose clips into the lower fuselage, then the upper fuselage is lowered over it, mating snugly even without glue from a quick test fit I made. She’s looking like an aircraft now, but the cockpit is unfinished and she’s got no nose. The coaming is first, and has the HUD sides added and a circular projector lens in the bottom. The two clear panels are inserted between the supports one over the other, with a scrap diagram showing the correct position, then it can be glued in place and the windscreen fixed over the top. The coaming between the pilots is also inserted, and a shortened turtle-deck behind the rear seat is made up from two detailed parts, followed by the nose cone and insert with the muzzle cover for the M61A2 Vulcan cannon at the top, joined to the fuselage with a stepped ridge helping to improve fit. The Hornet’s upper wings are moulded into the fuselage, but the slats and flaps are separate paired parts, the slats capable of being modelled deployed, or by cutting off the nubs in the leading edge, retracted. The flaps can also be depicted cleaned-up with one set of straight actuator fairings, or fully deployed by using a separate cranked set, with the gap between the sections filled by the upper surface inserts. If you chose the unfolded wing joint earlier, it’s simply a matter of applying the top and bottom sections to the link, adding the spacer, then fitting the appropriate flap actuator fairings for the flaps, and the slats in extended or retracted positions, again by removing the nubs on the leading edge. The folded wingtips are made up with retracted flaps and slats plus straight fairings before they are inserted into the L-shaped fold with a different set of spacers. The two vertical fins have a T-shaped pivot point inserted under a small separate section of the rudder, then the completed rudder is trapped between the two halves of the fin without glue so it can pivot later. A nav light is inserted into the outer side, and the other fin is a near mirror image. The fins fit into slots in the rear fuselage, and the elevators push into the poly-caps hidden within the fuselage sides later on. The twin exhausts start with a cylinder that has the rear of the engine moulded-in, a PE afterburner ring, then a two-part length of trunking with a corrugated interior. A choice of exhaust petal types finishes off the rear, one set having straight petals, the other with cranked rear sections, and after painting they’re inserted into the two apertures in the rear of the fuselage. The rugged nose gear of the Super Hornet has to be sturdy to withstand repeated carrier launches followed by spirited arrestor-hook landings, and you have a choice of setting the catapult bar in the up position for parked, or down for an aircraft ready to launch. A landing light and a number of stencil placards are applied to the leg after painting it white, and the twin wheels fit either side of the transverse axle. Additional parts are fitted in and around the nose gear bay when inserting the gear leg, then gear bay doors are fixed around the bay, causing much perspiration when you have to add the red edges to each one. The main gear legs also have a number of placards added after painting, and the wheels are made up from two parts each. These too have additional parts added during fitting into the bays, closely followed by the red-rimmed bay doors and their actuators. Just in case you wanted to catch an arrestor wire, the hook nestles between the two exhaust fairings on a long lug. The instructions have you making up the munitions for a break before completing the model, but we’ll cover that later. The ejection seat is made up from a series of very well detailed parts, and although it doesn’t have seatbelts for absent pilots, there are stencils for the headbox sides and rear. They are installed in the cockpit, optionally along with the individually posed pilot figures that come on the sprues, which have separate arms, a wrap-around flotation vest and separate helmeted head with O2 hose. The new longer canopy part is crystal clear with an external seam over the top that you can either leave there (it’s pretty fine), or sand flush and polish back to clarity. There is a frame insert to fit within the canopy, and a choice of two canopy openers, depending on whether you wish to pose the canopy open or closed. A blade antenna in the centre of spine finishes off the top of your model. Under the port Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX), the integral crew ladder is stored (on the real thing), and it can be posed open by adding the ladder with its two supports and the open door to the bay, or if you want to pose it closed, put the long narrow part over the shallow recess to represent one edge of the ladder. Back to the weapons. This is where the rest of the pins and tiny poly-caps come into play, allowing you to switch and change your load-out whenever you want on some of the pylons. Most of the pylon types have the pins trapped between them, four of type-A, two of type-B, and one of type-C. Type-B also has an adapter rail fitted instead of pins, which is also made from two parts, and these fit on the outer wing stations, while the four identical pylons fit on the two inner stations per wing, and the solitary Type-C attaches to the centreline. A pair of wingtip rails are made up with spacer plates, then you can choose which of the supplied weapon types to hang from them. This boxing includes a pair of AGM-65 Mavericks (accidental Top Gun reference) with clear seeker-heads, separate tails and detailed adapter rails. Two GBU-16s are built from halves, with the fins in the front and rear separate parts, and there is a clear “droopy” seeker-head, with the poly-caps inserted into chambers in the bomb halves. The AIM-9Xs have clear seeker-heads and exhausts, plus adapter rails, while the three AIM-120Cs are each moulded complete, with a slim adapter rail. The two AIM-9Ms have a clear seeker, and eight separate fins, then the AN/ASQ-228 targeting pod is made from two halves, a two-part rotating sensor mounting with mask, and tubular rear fairing, which is mounted on a concave pylon that fits to the port of the underside fuselage. Scrap diagrams show the correct location of the missiles on their rails, as well as the targeting pod, while another larger diagram shows which options can be placed on which pylons. It’s always best to look at some real-world photos for examples for demonstrable and practical load-outs. Markings There are four decal options on the sheet, and you also get a set of canopy masks that are pre-cut from kabuki tape. From the box you can build one of the following: VFA-103 Jolly Rogers Strike Fighter Sqn., USS Harry S Truman, 2015 VFA-41 Black Aces Strike Fighter Sqn., USS Nimitz, 2006 VFA-41 Black Aces Strike Fighter Sqn., Carrier Air Wing nine, USS Nimitz, 2007 United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, 2019 (aka Maverick from Top Gun 2) Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The main sheet includes all the markings for the airframe, while the smaller sheet contains the stencils for the pylons and the weapons, of which there are many on a modern jet. The colours are called out in Meng/AK codes, as well as Gunze’s recent water-based Acrysion paints, which don’t seem to be prominently available in the UK. The masks on the clear sheet have been pre-weeded so you only get the masks, without all the surrounding tape. There are masks for all the wheels, the landing light, one for the window of the AN/ASQ-228 targeting pod, and frame-hugging masks for the canopy and windscreen. You are advised to fill in the highly curved centres of the canopy and screen with liquid mask or small sections of tape cut to length with some angles cut where necessary. Unfortunately, I managed to ruck-up the edge of one of my canopy masks, as it wasn’t protected from things brushing over it by the usual background tape. Conclusion Meng have brought their own particular set of skills to the party with both the E and F variants now, and there's also an EA-18G Growler on the way, which I personally can’t wait for. They have produced a highly detailed model of both single-seat and now two-seat variants, with some excellent moulding and markings to create a model that is excellent out of the box, without the necessity of aftermarket. I feel the need… The need for speed. There. I said it. Extremely highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Lockheed U-2A Dragon Lady (87270) 1/72 HOBBYBOSS via Creative Models The U-2 is a high altitude reconnaissance aircraft currently in service with the US Air Force. It was proposed and developed by Lockheed in the 1950s. Proposed in 1953, approved in 1954; and test flown in 1955 the aircraft was designed by the legendary Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. The design was based on the F-104 with a shortened fuselage and longer wings the aircraft with its lack of conventional landing gear was in all purposes a jet powered glider. Although rejected by the USAF the aircraft came to the attentions of the CIA who were up until this point relying on the USAF for intelligence flights. In the end due to lack of performance of other projects the U-2 was given the go ahead by a joint CIA/UASF project. The U-2 has undergone many design changes of the years from the original U-2A with the aircraft still continuing to serve with the USAF despite attempts to retire it. The only other nation to officially use the U-2 was Taiwan, though it later emerged the RAF had access to aircraft during the 1960s via the CIA. The Kit This is a brand new tool kit from HobbyBoss. The kit has 66 parts over 4 main sprues and 2 clear sprues, the parts are very well moulded with fine engraved panel lines. The kit looks to represent the clean lines of the early U-2 with no issues at all. Construction starts not with the cockpit but with the main landing gear bay. This has a couple of parts for the gear added before it can be placed in the fuselage. Next up the basic cockpit is constructed. A five part seat, unfortunately this does not look like the early Lockheed seat at all but a later seat. You could always replace it with a wicker seat which the CIA did on a few flights to save weight! Next into the cockpit is the instrument panel (instruments as decals) and the control column. The exhaust is the next part to be built up. Once this is done the cockpit, exhaust, front & rear wheel bays and the airbrake bays can all be added into the fuselage halves, and they can be closed up. The wings which are conventional left/right/upper/lowers can be built up and added to the fuselage along with the single part tail plane and rudder (left & right halves). Next up the main and tail landing gear are built up and added along with inserts in the main wing. To finish up the air brake doors are added along with the main intakes; then the gear doors can be added along with the wing pogo units. The last items are a few aerial, lights, the canopies and the end wing bumper units. Decals Decals are provided for 3 aircraft, all in a Natural Metal Finish, decals are in house and look to have no issues. 66701 - UASF (overall NMF) 66701 - USAF (overall NMF with large patches of International Orange) 320 - National Advisory Committee For Aeronautics (later to become NASA) Conclusion This is a great looking kit from HobbyBoss and their attention to detail is to be commended. Overall recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. Fieseler Fi-156C-3/Trop Storch (80181) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Storch was designed in the mid-1930s as a liaison aircraft, and was incredibly successful due to its amazing short-field landing and take-off performance, almost vertical if you had a suitable headwind. It was also a competent observation aircraft too, thanks to its high wing and almost 360o visibility that was accomplished by fixing the wings to a strong but slim tubular framework. It was however surprisingly heavy and its long wingspan made ground-handling less easy, despite its benefits whilst in the air. The C was the most common variant with almost 3,000 made, and many of them were made in occupied France and Czechoslovakia due to Fieseler’s other commitments. The Storch (German for Stork) was also involved in some notable incidents during the war, notably the rescue of Mussolini by the Nazis after he was removed from power. They were also made by other countries during and following WWII, with the final one going out of service in the 50s, with a number being used by Allied commanders and forces against their former owners. There are still a number of Storches in the sky today due to their unusual look and the fact that they are relatively simple to maintain courtesy of their low-tech approach to engineering. The Kit This is a re-release from Hobby Boss of the former Trimaster tooling of this iconic (I say that a lot because it’s true of many aircraft) little aircraft, which originally reached the shelves in 2007 in the slightly off-beat scale of 1:35. It’s 1:35 because the Storch could land all over the place, near the front or otherwise, so they can be placed next to models in the dominant AFV scale without having to force the scale by inventive placement of the various elements. The range of 1:35 aircraft kits is still small, but growing due to the efforts of a number of companies, but whether modellers will someday be able to model entirely in 1:35 whether they build AFVs or aircraft remains to be seen. The kit arrives in a black-themed box with yellow trimmings, which is a quick way of identifying former Trimaster kits from Hobby Boss generally. Inside is a smaller glued-in cardboard box to protect the more delicate parts, with a total of eight sand-coloured sprues of various sizes, a clear sprue and a separate slide-moulded canopy, two sub-sprues in sandy styrene that have four parts with metal rods co-moulded at the centre to give your model some needed strength once completed. Two soft black rubbery tyres, a large decal sheet, pre-cut masking material (not pictured), grey-scale instruction booklet and separate colour profiles to assist with painting and decaling. Detail is excellent given the vintage of the kit, which sounds silly, but 2007 is now 15 years ago – depressing, isn’t it? There’s no need to worry though, as the detail is plenty good enough by today’s standards, with plenty of engraved and raised detail on every part. The canopy and those metal rods are the most impressive portions of the kit, but that’s because they’re just more fun than the other bits. Construction begins with the cockpit, which revolves around the flat floor section, onto which two different seats, the rear one on an optional pivot, control columns, foot bars, rudder pedals and rear bulkhead with spare mags for the machine gun and its mount applied before it is glued to the rear. It is covered over by a number of tubular framework parts that would perform a structural function on the real thing, but styrene is strong enough for the kit’s needs. A full engine is included on the sprues, comprising 21 parts for the engine and exhausts, with more on the firewall to depict the ancillaries. To prepare for closing up the fuselage, there are a number of small parts added to the sidewalls, and a choice of sandy styrene or clear instrument panels, the latter having a backing plate onto which you can apply the instrument panel to allow the dials to show through if you manage not to obliterate the clear dials whilst you’re painting the panel. The aforementioned firewall has five parts fixed to it, then it is glued into the starboard fuselage half, and at the rear there is a choice of a standard tail-wheel with the strut and wheel moulded as one, or another with the other option having a ski surrounding the wheel. The cockpit and engine are fixed in place, the engine remaining uncovered initially unless you opt to install the cowling panels, which include four sections and an external part that looks like an oil cooler. The prop is two-bladed, and has some stencil decals to apply after you have painted it, then at the rear the rudder is added, then joined by the elevators that have separate fins, supports and additional rectangular foils underneath. The canopy is moulded as a (mostly) single part, with separate access door and the rear gunner’s rotating circular window, which is an impressive piece of kit, except my sample had a very slight wave-front line across the top of the part, but that shouldn’t be too obvious once painted and weathered, as it looks like a thin hair. Incidentally, there are a set of pre-cut masks included in the box, which can help you speed up that process if you’re a bit phobic, or even if you’re not. The part is joined by the aforementioned additional sections, plus a three-part lower facet that gives the crew a slightly better downward view, as it allows the canopy to overhang the fuselage sides by a valuable few inches, like a faceted ‘blown’ canopy, improving situational awareness further. There are a couple of styrene parts, and an MG15 with separate magazine and spent brass bag that slides through the rotating window that allows the gunner to operate relatively comfortably without getting too cold. The canopy is then glued over the cockpit aperture, taking care not to damage the styrene framework that slides inside. After fitting the gun, a ring sight is glued to the end of the barrel. Now the other fun part – the leggy landing gear struts with their co-moulded metal rods that are bent to shape at the factory so they fit well. You have a choice of gear leg length, the shorter one has the styrene part 6mm shorter than the long one. The metal section poking out of the top of each type is slightly different to allow the wheels to continue to sit square on the ground. They hook into holes in the side of the canopy top, and are braced by two V-shaped styrene sections. It’s worth noting that the canopy also has a pair of brackets on the side that help locate the wings later on, or now as the instructions advise. We’ve already mentioned the Storch's ample wingspan, and this is clear when you nip these parts off the sprues. Each wing is made from two halves with an extra part for the leading-edge slats, then a veritable forest of additional small parts to replicate the control arms, lights and actuators that are clearly visible on the separate aileron. Each wing also has another V-shaped support that slots into a hole in the side of the fuselage once you clip the wing to the brackets on the canopy. There was a pitot probe amongst the myriad parts of the port wing, so the only thing left to do is join the two halves of the external fuel tank together and attach it to the underside of the fuselage. Markings Hobby Boss aren’t renowned for copious decal options, but this kit is an exception having VI, sorry six options on the large sheet. As usual however, there’s little information on the sheets, but the roundels should give you a clue, as follows: Luftwaffe Aufklärungsgruppe 14, North Africa from March 1941 until April 1942 Luftwaffe Grünherzgeschwader“ JG 54 W.Nr. 5563 coded SB+UG assigned to the Stab of the I Gruppe at Malmi in Sept. 1942. Italian Comando Aeronautica Albania, Tirana 1941 Morane-Saulnier MS.500 Criquet of the Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) Československé vojenské letectvo (Czechoslovak Air Force) Wojska Lotnicze (Polish Air Force) The decals are well-printed, although the upside-down ones confused me slightly when putting it on the scanner, as did the spelling of Hobby Boos. The green of the Grunhertz logo is possibly a little light, but overall they are in good register, sharpness and colour density, with a decal for the instrument panel that includes the background grey colouring. Conclusion It’s not a brand-new tooling, but the detail is good, and it can sit on your shelf next to your AFVs without looking oversized. There’s something appealing about the Storch, and this kit captures the look and construction style of the type. It’s also pretty fairly priced if you need another excuse to buy one. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle - TSV (84522) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd When the British forces in Afghanistan were forced to use their lightly armoured WMIK and Snatch Land Rovers in an arena where Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were the norm, they were found to be wanting, disintegrating under the blast of explosives that were sufficient to cripple a main battle tank. Losses of men and machines led to a search for a new, more mine-resistant and generally increasingly rugged vehicle to replace the older types. The Jackal was developed as a replacement to the Land Rover WMIK by Devon based Supacat, with improved load carriage, armament and range, as well as a powerful engine to give it enough torque to tackle difficult obstacles and a high maximum speed on roads as well as excellent off-road performance. Conceived as a deep-penetration recce platform and convoy escort, it provides a better weapons platform with an extensive 500-mile range, whilst adding crew protection and maximum speed of almost 50mph on rough ground. In an effort to improve upon the Snatch Land Rover's poor IED resilience, the Jackal is fitted with armoured panels beneath the crew compartment, and shock-absorbing armoured seats to protect the crew further. Of course, nothing is totally effective, and some fatalities have occurred on active duty in Afghanistan. This in turn led to the Jackal 2, which built upon the successes of its progenitor, and learned from its weaknesses. The Coyote is an extended wheelbase variant of the Jackal 2, with an additional powered axle to give it better load carrying ability, whilst providing the same off-road traction, and the two vehicles are used in support of each other, in a complementary manner to carry sufficient supplies and arms for particular assignments. Due to its ability to carry almost four-ton on its load bed, the Coyote is also capable of acting as a light artillery tractor if the need arises. It is also capable of defending itself, with a centrally mounted Browning M2 50cal machine gun and a GMPG “Jimpy” in the front, plus whatever personal weapons the crew can bring to bear from their seating locations. The Kit This is an additive retool from Hobby Boss, based upon their Jackal 1 kit, which I’m reliably informed is actually a Jackal 2, while their Jackal 2 kit is actually the Jackal 1. Go figure. At least we know, and they have based this on their Jackal 1 kit, so it is using Jackal 2 hardware. Confused? Me too, but that’s a good thing. The kit arrives in one of their large top-opening boxes, and inside are ten sprues and two hull halves in sand-coloured styrene, a clear sprue, seven flexible black tyres, six frets of Photo-Etch (PE), a small decal sheet, the instruction booklet in black and white, plus a separate page of glossy colour profiles for painting and decaling. Like their earlier kits, this is a well-detailed offering with a high parts count, a new, longer hull, additional sprues for the extra wheels, axles and extra fuel can racks in the cargo area, plus parts for the new .50cal main weapon where the Jackal had a 40mm grenade launcher. Construction begins with detailing the upper and lower hull parts with styrene and PE parts before joining them together in preparation for further work. A test-fit of the two parts shows that they fit together very well, so shouldn’t cause any problems, as you can probably see in the above test-fit. The vehicle’s six suspension units are then made up over a number of steps, adding the inner wheel arches made of a lamination of PE and styrene parts. Additional flaps and struts are fitted before making up the six road wheels from their two-part hubs and flexible tyres, which slot onto the suspension arms, with a pair of PE and styrene running boards between the front and rear axle pairs, plus additional mudflaps behind the front wheels. Righting the vehicle, the crew cab is outfitted with a rack of ammunition cans for the co-pilot’s GMPG, and two C-shaped grab-handles/roll-cage components plus the two seats, which are made up from eight parts each, with an armoured panel underneath and to the rear. The dash is built around the front bulkhead, with instruments and driver controls and a LOT more ammo cans, a grab-handle for the gunner, and steering wheel with stalks for the driver on the right side of the vehicle (in both senses of the word). There are a couple of instruments on the left side-rail, and HB have included some decals for these and for the main instrument panel, the latter having its front bumper/fender and light clusters in large tubular cages made up and fixed to the front, joined by a piece of PSP (Perforated Steel Planking), vents on the top of the coaming, plus an aerial base and a pair of foot steps and door hinge-points under and in the front of the crew access cut-outs. An equipment stack is built up and placed between the two humps behind the crew seats, then another large palette is fitted with pioneer tools at the rear, and a quartet of ammo boxes for the hungry .50cal. Two more seats with moulded-in straps are made up and attached where the rear bed rises to form the load area, and a roll-over bar with armoured inserts is set behind the rear seats to protect and separate the areas. Behind this a pair of large stowage boxes are installed, the upper one with a sloped rear side, and both are covered by another section of the anti-roll cage that is also a surface to mount an antenna palette later on. More anti-roll bars are placed to the sides of the ammo stowage are, which is also where the .50cal gunner stands to operate his weapon. The last remaining flexible tyre is slipped over the final hub, then is fixed to an armoured shield on a triangular mount with turnbuckle, which in turn is fitted to a pivoting set of triangular roll-bars, with a similar set that holds a shelf-unit with yet more ammo cans on the opposite side. The sides of the vehicle are armoured up with additional sheets that are shaped to fit, and have various small parts fixed to their exterior during the procedure, after which it’s time to make up the masses of jerry cans that hold extra fuel for extended range. Four racks are made up with twenty-four cans in total in racks of six, with a U-shaped bracket between each rack, all of which have small details added, while the racks are fitted with two triangular PE internal supports each to give the structure more strength. The rear of the vehicle is studded with various shackles and lights, and on each corner a set of smoke grenade launchers are build and installed along with an antenna base, with more grenade launchers added to the front corners during the making of the front bumper, just under the rear-view mirrors that are fixed later. Also at the front, a T-shaped roll-bar assembly is glued over the crew, with the front section angled down to mate with the front of the vehicle. Just behind this bar is another C-shaped roll-over bar, and behind that in turn is the ring-mount for the .50cal, which is mounted on four legs in a similar way to a roof-rack on a civilian car, complete with clamps at the bottom of the legs. The .50cal Browning is a well-detailed sub-assembly with a high part-count, including a sight, a complex mounting system, plus an in-use ammo box with a spring-mounted mechanism to hold down the link as it leaves the box to prevent strumming and subsequent feed issues, with a ready-round box on a plinth on the ring, which also has a custom seat for the gunner that allows him to lean back whilst operating his weapon. The GMPG is equally well-detailed, although with fewer parts due to its size and simpler mount, but it has a twin-box mount for ammo, and a PE handle that does a similar job of holding the ammo in check during firing. The assembly is dropped into the toothed ring mounted on the centre of the Coyote, and the afore mentioned antenna palette is detailed with the various short antennae and glued to the two rectangular points on the aft roll-cage section. Time for some desert paint. Markings As is common with Hobby Boss, there are two decal options, but zero information as to where and when they were seen in service. From the box you can build one of the following: The decals are standard fare for HB, with decent registration, colour density and sharpness, although some of the dial decals are slightly off-centre. Painting the dials on the dash black and trimming the decals very carefully should result in a good finish. Conclusion Another piece of modern British light armour that will please more than a few Britmodellers, and thanks to it being based on the correct incorrectly named Jackal, it should build into a decent replica. They’re proving popular, so get one while you can, as stocks are diminishing already. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. EA-18G Growler (LS-014) 1:48 Meng via Creative Models Ltd The original Hornet design lost the Lightweight Fighter battle with what became the F-16, but after some re-designing and tweaking, it won the contract for the US Navy’s do-it-all fighter to replace the Tomcats, Corsairs et al, becoming the multi-role F/A-18 Hornet. When more capabilities were required, a further re-design that was more of a total do-over but retained the same general shape and designation, only about a third larger for reasons best left unsaid, but probably budget related, and a way to get around possible restrictions or pitfalls barring a new type. This much larger aircraft became the Super Hornet, with the two-seater designated F/A-18F, and the single-seat variant E, both of which began production in the late 90s, entering service just before the new millennium. With the withdrawal of the F-14 Tomcat in 2006 they became the primary carrier-borne fighter of the US Navy and Marines, serving alongside the original Hornet for a while, but all of the “legacy” Hornets have now left US service, although they remain on the books of some foreign operators. You can easily tell them apart without a size reference by checking the intakes. Oval = Hornet, Rectangular = Super Hornet. The enlargement of the wing area, lengthening on the fuselage and installation of more powerful GE engines changed the characteristics of the airframe markedly, giving it more speed, weapons capability and range, with even more tankage hung from the wings, and buddy-pods allowing same-type refuelling operations without having a vulnerable dedicated tanker on station. There have been various upgrades over the years, and the Super Hornet has a wide range of munitions to choose from, making it a capable all-round war-fighter that is still nowhere near the end of its service life, although trials with pilotless carrier-based aircraft are underway. In addition to the E and F variants, the G, or Growler is a heavily modified two-seater with a huge quantity of Electronic Warfare equipment carried both internally and externally on pylons. It retains some weapons for self-defence such as the AGM-88 or AIM-120C, although the stations on the wingtips are filled by a pair of ALQ-218 jamming pods carried over from the EA-6B Prowler that the Growler replaced. The Kit This is brand-new kit from Meng that has been retooled from their recent two-seat F/A-18F, but with new parts to portray the electronic warfare pods and weapons suitable for the Growler’s role. We have come to expect great things from Meng, as they have impressive technical skills and a penchant for high levels of detail in their kits. It arrives in one of their standard satin-sheened deep boxes with a painting of the aircraft on the front, and a host of goodies inside. Opening the box reveals fourteen sprues of various sizes in grey styrene plus two fuselage halves in the same plastic, a small sprue in clear, plus the canopy (all wrapped in protective self-cling plastic), three styles of small poly-caps, a Ziplok bag containing ten flat-headed pins, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal, two sheets of decals, a clear plastic sheet with pre-cut kabuki tape masks, the instruction booklet with colour profiles in the rear, three sheets of card with information about the EA-18G in four languages, and a similarly multi-lingual competition flyer to win cash prizes, apparently. Everything is separately bagged with mildly annoying staples closing some of them up, and once you have found your way past these you see the high quality of the parts within. Detail is right up there with the best, and has finely engraved panel lines, with raised detail where appropriate and slide-moulding used to improve quality further without creating more parts that make some people panic unduly. Construction begins with the cockpit, with the twin-seat tub having the sidewalls installed next to the detailed side consoles, a large control column part in the front and a smaller one in the rear, chunky HOTAS-style throttles, and a pair of well-appointed instrument panels, which have a number of individual decals supplied for both it and the side consoles, the numbers for which are called out in scrap diagrams. The rudder pedals are moulded into the floor and could do with some more detail if you intend to shine a light in there, and you can see them in the shadows of the detail photos above. The nose gear bay is made up from a roof, shallow sides, front bulkhead and some thick trunking/hoses snaking through the bay. Those two subassemblies are mated then trapped between the forward lower fuselage halves, with the top half moulded-into the rest of the new upper fuselage, to be brought together later. In the meantime, the upper fuselage is prepared by fitting the wing lowers with a choice of folded or straight wing-hinge supports, and ECS ram air exhaust inserts of the multi-tubular type that have some impressive moulding. The F-18 runs two GE F414 turbofans, with long intakes to keep the rapidly rotating fans away from the prying eyes of enemy radars. The trunking is made from two halves, and has a few ejector-pin marks inside, but cleaning those up before joining the halves should make the task easier. The rear is covered by a representation of the engine front, then the completed trunks are attached to the appropriate main gear bay boxes, which are made from three parts, and have more highly impressive detail moulded-in, as shown above. The two subassemblies are inserted into the lower fuselage from within, and splitter plates are attached to the sides of the fuselage on two slots, with some fine detail moulded-in. The rectangular sides of the intake trunking and lower fuselage sides fit around the assembly, then a pair of pivots are slotted into the rear fuselage with poly-caps allowing them to rotate without suffering from modeller’s droop. The lower nose clips into the lower fuselage, then the upper fuselage is lowered over it, mating snugly even without glue from a quick test fit I made. She’s looking like an aircraft now, but the cockpit is unfinished and she’s got no nose. The coaming is first, and has the HUD sides added and a circular projector lens in the bottom. The two clear panels are inserted between the supports one over the other, with a scrap diagram showing the correct position, then it can be glued in place and the windscreen fixed over the top. The coaming between the pilots is also inserted, and a shortened turtle-deck behind the rear seat is made up from two detailed parts, followed by the nose cone and insert with the muzzle cover for the M61A2 Vulcan cannon at the top, joined to the fuselage with a stepped ridge helping to improve fit. The Hornet’s upper wings are moulded into the fuselage, but the slats and flaps are separate paired parts, the slats capable of being modelled deployed, or by cutting off the nubs in the leading edge, retracted. The flaps can also be depicted cleaned-up with one set of straight actuator fairings, or fully deployed by using a separate cranked set, with the gap between the sections filled by the upper surface inserts. If you chose the unfolded wing joint earlier, it’s simply a matter of applying the top and bottom sections to the link, adding the spacer, then fitting the appropriate flap actuator fairings for the flaps, and the slats in extended or retracted positions, again by removing the nubs on the leading edge. The folded wingtips are made up with retracted flaps and slats plus straight fairings before they are inserted into the L-shaped fold with a different set of spacers. The two vertical fins have a T-shaped pivot point inserted under a small separate section of the rudder, then the completed rudder is trapped between the two halves of the fin without glue so it can pivot later. A nav light is inserted into the outer side, and the other fin is a near mirror image. The fins fit into slots in the rear fuselage, and the elevators push into the poly-caps hidden within the fuselage sides later on. The twin exhausts start with a cylinder that has the rear of the engine moulded-in, a PE afterburner ring, then a two-part length of trunking with a corrugated interior. A choice of exhaust petal types finishes off the rear, one set having straight petals, the other with cranked rear sections, and after painting they’re inserted into the two apertures in the rear of the fuselage. The rugged nose gear of the Super Hornet has to be sturdy to withstand repeated carrier launches followed by spirited arrestor-hook landings, and you have a choice of setting the catapult bar in the up position for parked, or down for an aircraft ready to launch. A landing light and a number of stencil placards are applied to the leg after painting it white, and the twin wheels fit either side of the transverse axle. Additional parts are fitted in and around the nose gear bay when inserting the gear leg, then gear bay doors are fixed around the bay, causing much perspiration when you have to add the red edges to each one. The main gear legs also have a number of placards added after painting, and the wheels are made up from two parts each. These too have additional parts added during fitting into the bays, closely followed by the red-rimmed bay doors and their actuators. Just in case you wanted to catch an arrestor wire, the hook nestles between the two exhaust fairings on a long lug. The instructions have you making up the munitions and pods for a break before completing the model, but we’ll cover that later. The ejection seat is made up from a series of very well detailed parts, and although it doesn’t have seatbelts for absent pilots, there are stencils for the headbox sides and rear. They are installed in the cockpit, optionally along with the individually posed pilot figures that come on the sprues, who have separate arms, a wrap-around flotation vest and separate helmeted head with O2 hose. The long canopy part is crystal clear with an external seam over the top that you can either leave there (it’s really fine), or sand flush and polish back to clarity. There is a frame insert to fit within the canopy, and a choice of two canopy openers, depending on whether you wish to pose the canopy open or closed. A pair of blade antennae in the centre of spine finishes off the top of your model. Under the port Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX), the integral crew ladder is stored (on the real thing), and it can be posed open by adding the ladder with its two supports and the open door to the bay, or if you want to pose it closed, put the long narrow part over the shallow recess to represent one edge of the ladder. Back to the weapons and pods. This is where the rest of the pins and tiny poly-caps come into play, allowing you to switch and change your load-out whenever you want on some of the pylons. Most of the pylon types have the pins trapped between them, four of type-A, two of type-B, and one of type-C. Type-B also has an adapter rail fitted instead of pins, and these fit on the outer wing stations, while the four identical pylons fit on the two inner stations per wing, and the solitary Type-C attaches to the centreline. The wingtip rails are filled with identical ALQ-218 jamming pods, which are made up from six parts each, and are handed for each wingtip. For self-defence there are two AIM-120Cs are each moulded complete, with a slim adapter rail, and another pair of AGM-88s with chunkier rail adapter and separate perpendicular fins for extra detail. Scrap diagrams show the correct location of the missiles on their rails, pods and he two external fuel tanks, which also have polycaps inside them. The AIM-120Cs have anti-sway braces to locate them on their semi-conformal mounts above the main gear bay apertures. It’s always best to look at some real-world photos for examples for demonstrable and practical load-outs, but it’s entirely up to you. Markings There are three decal options on the sheets, and you also get a set of canopy masks that are pre-cut from kabuki tape. From the box you can build one of the following: VAQ-132 ‘Scorpions’ Electronic Attack Sqn., Operation Odyssey Dawn, 2011 VAQ-132 ‘Scorpions’ Electronic Attack Sqn., Misawa Air Base, 2014 VAQ-139 ‘Cougars’ Electronic Attack Sqn., USS Carl Vinson, 2014 Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The main sheet includes all the markings for the airframe, while the smaller sheet contains the stencils for the pylons and the weapons, of which there are many on a modern jet. The colours are called out in Meng/AK codes, as well as Gunze’s recent water-based Acrysion paints, which don’t seem to be prominently available in the UK. The masks on the clear sheet have been pre-weeded so you only get the masks, without all the surrounding tape. There are masks for all the wheels and the landing light, and frame-hugging masks for the canopy and windscreen. You are advised to fill in the highly curved centres of the canopy and screen with liquid mask or small sections of tape cut to length with some angles cut where necessary. Conclusion Meng have brought their own particular set of skills to the party with both the E and F variants, and now an EA-18G Growler, which I’ve been waiting for the most. They have produced a highly detailed model of this two-seat electronic warfare variant, with some excellent moulding and markings to create a model that is excellent out of the box, without the necessity of aftermarket. Extremely highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.G Early/Ausf.G w/Air Defence Armour (TS-052) 1:35 Meng via Creative Models Ltd The Panther was Nazi Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarosa. Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of sloped armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger. It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV. It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled by the British 17-pounder fitted to the Sherman that made the Firefly. The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak at too sloped to be of effect, so this area became the preferred target of engagement by allied tanks, especially by multiple Shermans, or in urban combat where this was a telling issue. Like most German WWII tanks, it was needlessly complex to manufacture, so suffered in terms of volumes produced, and this led to it being rushed into service with a long snagging-list of issues still to resolve. Later production solved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after failing during combat, not always with time for the crews to detonate their scuttling charges. Curiously, the Ausf.D was the first to enter service, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability. The engineering issues were never fully cured however, with a high rate of attrition still due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires and abandonment. The weak side-armour was thickened by 20mm with a steeper angle to better deflect shot, and the floor armour was increased to a full 25mm for mine resistance, while the driver’s viewing hatch was deleted and replaced by a rotating vision-block in a deeply armoured hood. Front hatches were also simplified to ease construction, and many other changes were made under the armour to complete the upgrade. A Panther II was planned under the Entwicklung programme, which retained a familial resemblance to the original Panther, while improving armour and suspension. They got as far as creating a pair of prototypes before the war ended, and a mangled but still substantial chunk of the Schmallturm (smaller turret) can be seen at Bovington if you’re ever visiting. The Kit After a pause following the initial release of the Ausf.A and Ausf.D boxings by Meng, we're now being treated to the Ausf.G, which is subtly but substantially different in shape as a result of geometric changes made after combat experience, in an attempt to deal with its earlier faults and problems. The box is the same shape and size as the previous boxings, but with new artwork as you'd expect, and it’s mainly the wheels and suspension sprues that are carried over from previous boxings, as these areas remained constant throughout production apart from the switch to non-strategic metal rims away from rubber. They are augmented by new sprues that contain the parts not shared by the two variants, including much of the upper hull and superstructure. There are eleven sprues in light-grey styrene, two runs of poly-caps, a clear sprue, three sheets of Photo-Etch (PE), one of which is nickel-plated, two braided cables, decal sheet, plus the colour-printed instruction booklet on glossy paper, with painting and markings guide at the rear. Construction begins with the wheels, which are incorrectly shown to have rubber tyres as part of the suspension, but as rubber became scarce they were replaced by fully steel wheels by this time, which are the parts that are called-out despite appearances. The look very similar without colour, so just ignore the painting of the “rubber” and carry on. Poly-caps placed in between the pairs are the means of attachment to the swing-arms later in the build. The lower hull is built up from panels with cross-braces holding everything square internally, plus the sloped rear bulkhead, with the swing-arms applied to both sides of the newly minted hull. The upper hull frame has armour added to the sides, then the sloped glacis panel, forward roof with turret-ring moulded-in, and a separate engine deck that needs some drilling to receive parts later. Flipping the hull over, the radiator-bath inserts are painted and glued in beneath their grilles, the backing plate for the kugelblende, hinges for the forward hatches and a clear vision block are inserted from within, before the hull is flipped again and has vents, armoured covers and other small parts applied, depending on which decal option you intend to portray. The forward hatches are made up with handles and locks, then can be inserted into position in the open or closed position by following the diagrams. In the rear, the engine hatch with mushroom vents and handles is detailed and placed into the aperture, and a choice of two aerial styles are added to the deck, again depending on decal option. The completed upper hull is joined to the lower at this stage, and is inverted again to install the inner sponson covers, which also have the curved front of the fenders moulded-in. The circular hole in the rear bulkhead is also filled and detailed, and has the multi-part jack attached vertically above it. The road wheels are also pushed onto their axles with the drive sprockets at the front, and idler wheels at the rear. The rear stowage boxes are added to the rear bulkhead while the model is upside-down, as are the twin exhausts, with a choice of larger shrouded exhausts on cast armoured bases, or with slender exhausts on either cast or welded bases. Additional brackets and covers are also applied, along with some smaller parts to make up the Notek formation lights that fit to their bases. The tracks are assembled individually, having two separate guide horns each, and have chevroned grousers that gave better traction in poor conditions. There are 87 links per side, with each one made of three parts. The link body has three sprue-gates apiece, with each of the two horns having a sprue-gate each on their underside. The Kugelblende can be installed either with a machine gun barrel slipped into a ball-mount, or it can be depicted with a plug in an empty mount, which is kept close at hand by a length of PE chain. The travel-lock for the barrel can be posed up or down, the headlight, towing shackles, side-mounted stowage racks and numerous lifting-eyes on the rear deck are all glued in place, while the optional heater unit is scabbed onto the engine deck with its pizza-slice covers over a grille, plus a pair of extra slices bolted to the housing for later use. The nearby circular radiator grilles are also added onto the deck with more PE grilles added over the top, having a spare grille to fill the space if the heating unit isn’t being used. More PE is used to create the adjustable grilles over the cooling louvers at the front and rear of the engine deck sides, then the shallow fenders over the tracks are added from PE sheets, with small plastic supports running down each length. Two optional air-defence armour sections can be assembled into open-ended boxes to be added over the vulnerable louvers on the deck, with an optional aerial base and tall antenna for one decal option. The sides of the tank are festooned with additional track links, pioneer tools, fire extinguisher and barrel-cleaning rod tubes, the latter having handles folded up from PE strips for extra detail. The two towing cables are fabricated from styrene eyes and the supplied braided cable of 110mm each, then are shown draped around the side of the hull, and held in place by pins through brackets on the deck. The overlapping PE shurzen panels are hung on the brackets one-by-one to finish off the lower hull. The turret is built around an inner frame, which has the roof and sides added to the outside, the roof having a number of holes drilled out, then detailed with mushroom vents and an aerial base, plus a clear vision block. The rear panel has a circular hatch with simplified hinges added, then the bare-bones breech of the main gun is assembled and trapped between trunnions on a pair of polycaps. The barrel has a three-part muzzle-brake made up, then it is inserted into the outer mantlet on a keyed base, with the stub of the coax machine gun inserted from inside. A pair of lifting lugs are removed from the ends of the mantlet, and it is fixed to the turret with a spacer between them. If the air-defence armour is being fitted, two-layers of PE are joined together on plastic mounts, then glued to the roof along with a section along the top of the mantlet. The later commander’s cupola is cast, and has individual clear blocks slotted inside like the real thing, plus the pop-up-and-rotate hatch, and a standard pintle-mounted MG34 on a ring around the cupola. The gun has a dump bag for the spent brass that hangs down into the open turret. All that is left to complete the build is to insert the turret into the ring, and add the retention strap to the travel-lock if you are deploying it. Markings Ausf.G series production began after the switch over to dunkelgelb (dark yellow) occurred, and all the decal options are based on this colour that was applied at the factory. The camouflage colours were issued to the units to camouflage their vehicles to suit the terrain or their whim to an extent, thinned with whatever came to hand, so there were a lot of different schemes during this period, with a huge variation of skill and care taken in the application. Only one of the decal options is still wearing Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste, so if you wanted to depict that one, you’d either have to apply the paste yourself, or purchase one of the aftermarket solutions that are available from Meng and others. From the box you can build one of the following: No.424, 1st Battalion, 26th Panzer Regiment, Italy, Apr 1945 No.213, 1st Battalion, 31st Panzer Regiment, 5th Panzer Division, Goldap, October 1944 No.201, 1st Battalion, 27th Panzer Regiment, 19th Panzer Division, Warszawa, September 1944 No.102, 1st Battalion, Headquarters, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th Panzer Division, Courtland, Summer 1944 Decals are printed in China with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion An excellent late Panther from Meng, with lots of detail, some interesting camouflage scheme, and with the inclusion of three sheets of PE, one of which can be used to great effect for anti-air armour sheeting, it represents a comprehensive package that will satisfy most modellers out of the box. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. A-26 Invader (83213) 1:32 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The A-26 Invader underwent a confusing change of designation to B-26 Invader after 1948 by the US Air Force to confuse us (mainly me), and later on back to the A-26 just to complete my befuddlement. It was developed a little later than the Marauder and despite using the same engines it was designed totally separately from its more rotund colleague. It was designed to replace the A-20 Havoc, but it was initially less than popular in the Pacific theatre where its poor cockpit visibility due to the canopy and engine position rendered it unloved by the first users. It was more popular in the European theatre and was accepted as replacement for the Havoc fairly quickly. Two types were designed, The C with a glass-clad bomber nose and the B with a full metal nose filled with either 6 or 8 .50cal machine guns, which coupled with the three in each wing gave it quite a punch, deserving of the Strafer title. It also had a pair of turrets on the fuselage mid-upper and dorsal positions, which were both operated by a single gunner using a complex remote mechanism that flipped between the upper and lower turrets depending on where the gunner was looking through his binocular sights. This trained the guns accordingly and also calculated the correct offset for parallax and lead, but was very complex and caused some delays to it entering service, and even more issues with maintenance in the field. After the war it served in Korea, early Vietnam engagements and other conflicts, ending its days in US service with the Air National Guard in the early 70s. It continued in civilian service as a fire bomber and in other roles, such as actor in the film Always with Richard Dreyfuss playing its brave but ill-fated pilot. The Kit The Invader has been the subject of a few new kits recently, with this being a new addition that will please the 1:32 modeller, as it is the first in this scale, so it’s already the best injection moulded kit of the type in this scale! This twin-engined aircraft is quite sizeable, but my 60cm photoboth can just about accommodate the largest sprues, which came in very handy. The kit arrives in a large sturdy box with an internal divider keeping some of the smaller sprues safe from the weight of the other larger sprues during transit. There are thirteen sprues in grey styrene, one in clear, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE), three black flexible tyres, two decal sheets, the instruction booklet and separate colour painting guide. The sprues are individually bagged, and some of them have additional foam wrapping to protect either the parts under the wrapping, or the sprues that rest against them. The clear parts and engine nacelle parts are bagged in bubble-wrap to keep them safe from harm, which although trivial from a modeller’s point of view is worth noting because it should result in fewer damaged of chaffed parts when they reach you. The detail is good throughout, with engraved panel lines, small recessed rivets, raised parts where appropriate, and good detail within the fuselage halves where there are crew areas, all of which adds to realism and visual detail. The bomb bay, cockpit, rear compartment, and three gear bays are all well-detailed from the box, and the clear parts will allow the modeller to show off their work thanks to impressive clarity of those parts. Construction begins with the nose gear bay, which begins with the roof and is boxed-in with the nose gear leg added along with the retraction jack that rests against a short cross-rib. The cockpit is a separate area that sits above the nose bay, but has a gap between those two areas that could be stuffed with nose weight to prevent a tail-sitter. The cockpit floor is filled with a centre console, a pair of multi-part seats with PE stiffener struts, twin control columns with separate yokes, a well-moulded instrument panel with decals included for the dials, rudder pedals, rear bulkhead and coaming over the panel. The turret was operated remotely from within the airframe, and the gunner’s station is next to be built, having a good number of parts and a seat for the operator, then all sub-assemblies are put to one side while the bomb bay is made. The bay walls are separate, and have bomb shackles added and five bombs per wall fitted (or otherwise) along with an insert within the fuselage, a couple of clear windows, the front bulkhead to the bay, and the nose gear bay. More bulkheads and the cockpit are installed within the starboard side next, then with the fuselage inverted, another pair of bulkheads are installed, with a clear window in the nearest angled one to the gunner, so he can survey the bay after the bombing run to ensure all bombs really did leave together. The turret mechanism, mount and ammo boxes are also inserted, plus a front bay lip to match the rear one, both having door opening mechanism fitted. The port fuselage has a large insert fitted within the nose, then another bomb bay wall and windows are added in the same manner, allowing the closure of the fuselage. After the glue is set up and the seams dealt with, the bomb bay and nose gear doors are able to be fitted, as is the rear glass for the gunner’s compartment, some small lights and various small intakes, aerials etc. The glazing at the front encloses the cockpit, with no option of leaving the canopy open, then aft is the remote turret that has two .50cal machine guns and their ammo feeds fitted to the floor under its domed cowling, and a two-part cowled D/F loop behind the aft glazing. The nose cone is a single part with eight holes that allow the nose gun muzzles to poke through from their bulkhead mounts, which isn’t accurate to the real thing, but is simply an expedient method of correctly aligning the gun muzzles. The radial engine is depicted with cooling vanes on each cylinder, and is mated to a featureless rear bulkhead, then joined to the reduction gear bell-housing, which fits to the engine on keyed pegs so that the ancillaries line up correctly. The completed engine is slid into the single-part cowling, which have the cooling flaps moulded in the open position, so you’ll need to cut them off and reposition them if you plan on having them closed on a parked-up machine. The single-piece prop slips over the axle to finish off the assembly, and of course two are required unless you want to fly round in circles. In anticipation of making the nacelles, the main gear bays are built next, having two fictional ribbed halves that close around the gear legs, which have a tough upper section mated to a keyed lower section and separate retraction arm added before they go in. There is an Eduard set available that adds the missing bay edges that is perforated with highly visible lightening holes to help with the look of this area if it concerns you, and it also includes some extras for the nose gear bay. These assemblies are closed in with a front bulkhead and have the “rubber” tyres fitted to two-part hubs installed on the stub-axles. The bays are trapped inside the two nacelle halves, and have their bay doors added to each side of the aperture, then these too are set aside for a while. The first act on the wings is to pierce the flashed over holes for the variety of underwing stores that are provided in the box. With this done, the upper and lower wings are joined and have their two-part flaps and ailerons fitted to the trailing edge, a clear light at the tip, landing light and reflector under the wing, and a choice of small bombs or twin “stafer” gun pods each with twin barrels under each wing. The engine nacelles are also glued into place on their deeply recessed positions, then the fronts of the nacelles are added and the engine cowling assemblies are fitted into the three holes in the front, ensuring that the intake is to the top. They attach to the fuselage on three tabs, and the last task is to install the rudder and the elevators, which all have separate flying surfaces. Check your references to set the dihedral of the elevators correctly, as it is quite pronounced on this type. Markings As usual for Hobby Boss, they don’t tell you the date or location that the three decal options came from, but as there are three, that’s one or two more than you usually get. All three options are silver, and have one French and two American airframes depicted. From the box you can build one of the following: Decals are usual HB standard, with the national markings, a few stencils and walkways included, plus a nice rendition of the instrument panel included. The second sheet is postage stamp sized, and has a lady flying a bomb for the “Mission Completed” option, printed separately because of its use of completely different colours than the main sheet. Conclusion A brand new tooling that seems to have been afforded plenty of detail inside and out with the exception of the main gear bays that have been tooled simply to fill the gap and not for accuracy. You’ll possibly want a little more choice of decal options if you’re not a fan of silver too. If this is going to be a project model for you, there’s plenty of aftermarket already available, but don’t forget that nose gear weight before you close the fuselage. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Allied Mine Detection Equipment (35390) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Mines have been an unfortunate fact of war for many years, as a way to prevent the enemy encroaching on your territory, and giving you a loud bang and a bright flash as a tip-off if this happens at night. Minefields became a standard military practice during WWI and WWII, and only recently has the laying of mines been frowned upon by many countries due to the damage inflicted on hapless civilians once the combatants have gone home. During WWII there were many methods available to the Allies to counter German minefields, including manually searching for them using some kind of prod or bayonet, but the more efficient method was the use of electronic devices that could detect the presence of metallic objects beneath them. There were several types, but all used a coil, sometimes within a round or oval plate-like surround, held by the operator on a long broom handle-like stale, with a wire leading eventually to a pair of headphones that would alert the operator to an object beneath the ground with an electronic tone. If it wasn’t a rush-job, they would mark the mine with a small flag and move on, otherwise the tools would come out to extract the mine there and then, which although it was much less likely to explode because you were aware of its presence, it was still a very difficult task that could result in you becoming a victim. Of course, the best and safest solution was the flail-tank, but these units were often overwhelmed by requests for their presence, particularly soon after D-Day. The set arrives in a shrink-wrapped end-opening figure box, and inside are eight sprues in grey styrene, and a small decal sheet with some signs as well as stencils for equipment. As is common with this type of set, the instructions and painting guide are on the rear of the box, showing what’s included and giving painting instructions linked to a colour chart at the bottom, giving colour swatches, Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and colour names. You can build the following from the parts within: 4 x Different mine detector handsets with headsets & electronics pouches 2 x Signposts on stakes 2 x triangular mine pins 2 x bayonet style spike 2 x walking stick sized spike 2 x shovels 2 x US electronics pouches 2 x US tapering pouches 3 x Teller Mine 43 2 x Teller Mine 35 The instructions show the cables and handles on the mines as parts that you will need to scratch build from your own stock of wire, but the pictures are enough to give you the information you need. In addition, there are decals for small square flags that you will also need to scratch build for yourself, painting the flags yellow and applying the decals over the top. Two red mine signs on stakes, four small white Ms for the triangular flags, curved stencils for the recovered mines, and nine of the afore mentioned small black Danger signs. Some US Army symbols for the pouches and white stencils for one of the detector plates finish off the small decal sheet, which is printed by DecoGraph to their usual high standards. As usual with MiniArt kits their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown, plus loads of extra parts, although a little wire will be needed to make the most of that detail for the wiring, flags, handles and one of the headsets that are joined together with a wire loop. Conclusion A nice set of highly detailed equipment to add to your next project, whether it is stowed aboard a vehicle in anticipation of use, or on the scene of a minefield that needs clearing. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. Market Garden, Holland 1944, w/ Resin Heads (35393) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd There’s little doubt that Operation Market Garden was a failure due to several issues that led to delays in the armoured column reaching the beleaguered troops that were valiantly holding the bridge at Arnhem, resulting in heavy casualties and many of the unlucky soldiers ending the operation as prisoners of the Germans. This set depicts the end of the operation, where a number of British paratroops were being taken captive by German troops. The set arrives in a shrink-wrapped end-opening figure box, and inside are five sprues in grey styrene, a small sprue diagram for reference against the numbers on the instructions on the rear of the box, and a small Ziploc bag that contains the resin heads. There are five figures in the box, three of which are British Paratroops wearing their typical camouflaged jump smocks with boots and puttees, and two German soldiers in Feldgrau battle dress, one in knee-length boots, one with boots and puttees. Both the Germans are wearing the standard Stahlhelms and are carrying Kar98 rifles (there are spare MP40s on the sprues) with the usual equipment on their webbing. Only one of the Paras are still wearing their webbing with large ammo pouches, and he’s having his searched by one of the Germans for weapons or intel that their superiors may find interesting. The Tommies and the Germans are each on their own sprues, and the British smocks are made in two halves to prevent sink-marks, then you have three more sprues that contain the equipment, two for the Germans, and one larger sprue for the British. There are spare helmets on the equipment sprues, while the British have their camouflaged helms on the figure sprues, and the two still wearing helmets have their chin-straps moulded onto their lower faces. The resin heads have one with helmet straps moulded-in on the British side, and two for the Germans, who are both fully equipped. Interestingly, the helmetless British figure has a discarded helmet to place near him, and this has the interior suspension strapping moulded-in for added realism. Conclusion Sculpting is excellent as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt, with tons of detail, realistic poses, fabric drape and textures that are appropriate to the material types. The resin heads are highly realistic, but the styrene heads are good too, as are the various accessories and weapons that you’ll find on the sprues. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. US Tank Crew – Special Edition (35391) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd During WWII US tank crews were dressed differently to their Army colleagues, due to the cramped confines within their armoured vehicles, the likelihood that they may be called upon to twirl the spanners if the machinery broke down, and the effects of banging your head against any of the many prominences inside and around the tank. They’re also specifically equipped with more compact weapons to fit the confines of their vehicles, and in WWII US tank crews typically carried the M3 Grease Gun or an M1911 pistol for self-defence, the latter sometimes on a close-fitting three-point body holster keeping the holstered weapon close to their torso and avoiding snagging themselves on the tank when inside. They typically wore overalls with a t-shirt underneath, and a leather jacket to keep the top half warm that may be outside the moving tank at times, with an almost universally worn perforated helmet with communications equipment in the ear flaps, sometimes coupled with a pair of polarised goggles to reduce glare, to protect their eyes from cold, and other dangers. This figure set contains five tankers dressed in typical US tanker overalls, M38 Rawlings tank helmets with headset and throat mic., and some with leather jackets. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are five sprues, two containing the figures, three their helmets, weapons and accessories, a sheet containing a sprue diagram, and a small decal sheet with rank insignia and unit badges. They’re all wearing tanker overalls, and two of them are wearing the short bomber jackets typical of tankers of the day. The two jacket wearers are most likely senior in the crew and are stood in their hatches leaning on the surrounds, while the three others appear to be lounging on the exterior of the vehicle, with one possibly inside the driver’s hatch, but at rest. Each form-fitting helmet is made from four parts, with the largest being the top section that fits to the flat top of the figure’s head. There are two separate ear flap sections and another flap at the rear to protect the nape of the crewmember’s neck from falling debris and hot brass from their machine gunner outside the turret. The accessory sprues contain more helmets, goggles, Grease Guns with separate stocks, mag pouches, numerous pistols, a camera, a pair of field glasses with slide-moulded lenses, and a case that is next to a two-part map case. Conclusion As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus loads of extras to add some detail to their vicinity if you use them in a diorama. There’s a small amount of flash around a few parts, but as I always say, that’s infinitely better and easier to remedy than short-shot parts. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. Traffic Signs Yugoslavia 1990s (35643) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Yugoslavia was created after WWI and remained a country throughout the Cold War period, until its break-up in the 1990s, when much blood was shed, with the NATO forces sent in to police the location with their hands partially tied. There is still antipathy between some in the area, but that’s another long and sad story. We’re here to discuss traffic signs. The Kit The set arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure-sized box, and contain six sprues, two that contain a large rectangular sign plus one each square, octagonal and small rectangular, giving eight signs in total. The four smaller sprues have two round, two small rectangular, a square, triangle and long rectangle sign, twenty-eight signs in total, with a grand total of thirty-six between all the sprues. There are also eleven poles to put your signs on, and as you can see from the photos, the rear of the signs have brackets to hang them, as well as a representation of their stamped and formed construction. The paper sheet with large signs is in addition to the decals, and one of them is larger than the supplied plastic sign sizes, so you would have to make up your own backing for that one or cut it carefully into three. The decals are printed by MiniArt’s usual partners DecoGraph, and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin satin carrier film cut close to the printed areas. A white painted background for the decals will give them a higher brightness, although signs are often old, dilapidated, weathered and damaged – even shot at in war zones or areas where guns are commonplace. People just don’t seem to be able to help themselves! Under the instructions on the rear of the box is a paint chart that gives colour swatches plus Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya codes, and generic colour names to assist you in choosing the correct paints for your model. Conclusion Great diorama fodder, as the devil’s in the details. The printed decal signs are also so much better than most of us could do with a paint brush, and will add a little extra realism to any diorama or vignette. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. Chieftain Mk.10 (TS-051) British Main Battle Tank 1:35 Meng via Creative Models Ltd The Chieftain tank was Britain's first main battle tank to have composite armour added, in the shape of the well-known, but not so well known about Chobham armour. It was a development of the highly successful Centurion tank, and continued the work done by the Centurion in addressing the reputation for apparent under-armoured and under-armed WWII British tanks, shaking it conclusively once it reached service. The result was one of the most impressive tanks of its day, and when it reached trial service in small numbers in 1959 they began ironing out the wrinkles, which resulted in a steady increase in all-up weight as well as capability. As the design progressed beyond initial service with the Mark 2, further upgrades give rise of the Mark 3, then skipped Mark 4 to reach the final production variant, the Mark 5, which carried NBC gear in the form of an over-pressure system, and a more powerful engine. Further minor upgrades led to the Mark 10, which was the recipient of the Stillbrew up-armour package, which resulted in a much-altered turret profile and improved protection, particularly at the front. The Mark 11 was the last minor upgrade with the Thermal Observation and Gunnery System (TOGS) replacing the searchlight. Any further versions were cancelled in favour of the Challenger series of MBTs, which came on stream in the early 80s. The tank saw action in the Middle East only however, in the service of Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and Iran, who used it extensively in their long-duration war with Iraq. Kuwait's stocks of Chieftains were almost exhausted due to attrition during the Iraqi invasion in 1990, where they fared badly against more modern tanks for various reasons, confirming the validity of the British decision to leave the design behind in favour of the more capable Challenger and later Challenger II, which is still under development and is likely to be the final British manned MBT if the pundits are to believed, remaining in service for a long time. The Kit We waited for a long time for a new tool Chieftain to allow us to put the old Tamiya kit with its confused identity to the back of the stash. One popped out a few years back, and now we have another one from those talented designers at Meng Model. This is a brand-new tool from Meng and is in their appropriately name Tyrannosaurus range, because you can’t get much more aggressive and bitey than a Chieftain in full flow. It arrives in their usual satin-finished sturdy top-opener box, and inside are eleven sprues and three hull and turret parts in pale grey styrene, a small flexible sprue in a very similar colour, 195± individual track links in spruelets of two, a clear sprue with track jigs included, a large Photo-Etch (PE) sheet, six shiny springs, a tree of black poly-caps, decal sheet, instruction booklet, four pages of thick stock printed with history of the Mk.10 in four languages, and a glossy sheet advertising their ongoing competition. You probably already know I like Meng’s products, and if you have any of their kits, you’ll also know why. The detail is superb, with cast armour texture on the relevant parts of the vehicle, a spectacular cooling-jacket shrouded barrel, and judicious use of slide-moulding on almost every sprue to improve detail without increasing the part count. You’ll also be pleased to hear that one of the two decal options depicts a Chiefy in Berlin Brigade urban camo, which has to be the most iconic and impressive of the Chieftain’s garbs through its years of service. Construction begins sensibly with the task of building an AFV that I find to be the dullest, which is making up the road wheels. The paired idler and drive sprocket wheels are first, with separate tyres to ease the painting, and a poly-cap hidden between the two discs. Six pairs of return rollers are also made, then twelve pairs of road wheels are assembled with separate tyres again, and when the pairs are joined, each one has another poly-cap hidden within, allowing removal of the wheels any time you want during construction, and rotation after completion. The suspension units each have one of the real springs trapped between two scissor-like assemblies, which are then trapped between the halves of the units, allowing the axles to pivot and offer a representation of actual suspension. There are two types made up for each side, using up all six of the springs, and also acting as mounts for the return rollers. The completed units are then set to one side while the lower hull is put together. The lower hull is detailed with appliqué panels under the front and rear corners, then towing eyes, final drive housings and the idler axles are fixed in place. Inside the upper hull a pair of engine deck supports are located on internal U-brackets, then flipped over to fit the twin headlamps with clear lenses and protective cage in styrene, more towing and lifting eyes, the bow-wave deflector, bullet-splash deflector and the driver’s pivoting hatch with appliqué armour panels on each side. A turret-ring adaptor is fixed inside the aperture, which may hint at a Marksman variant in the future, but it might equally mean nothing. We shall see. The sides of the engine deck are built up with perforated upstands that have rubber bumpers on top, then the louvered deck is covered with mesh panels and a ton of lift handles around the appropriate edges. Shaped stowage boxes are added to each side, then the two hull halves are joined together, clipping into place neatly, even without glue on my example. The rear bulkhead and its towing lugs close up the back, covered up with the complex muffler box for the exhaust system, which has two L-shaped exit pipes with hollow tips. The fenders are first detailed with stowage boxes and wing mirrors, plus a few PE strips on the front mudguards depicting the attachment strips for the flexible rubber flaps. There’s one each side of course, and each one gets a tow-cable once installed, plus a pair of reflectors on the back ends. Another pair of stowage boxes, one with attached first-aid kit are made up and fixed to the gap on the left and right sides of the rear bulkhead, then the hull is flipped over and the suspension units are glued into position, closely followed by their respective road wheels. Now for the tracks. They’re individual links and each one only has one sprue gate, which is nice. Each link has two ejector pin marks however, but they don’t take much in the way of sanding to remove them, so it’s swings and roundabouts. I put together a short run for this review, clipped them into the two-part hinged clear jig, dropped the lid and pressed it home with a click, then nipped a set of six track-pins off the sprues and pushed them into the holes in the jig, ramming them firmly home into holes moulded into the links. The links have a peg moulded into the other end, and as long as you don’t snap any of those off, you should be good to go. What you end up with is a well detailed flexible track run that will look good on your model. It might be as well to freeze the links with a little glue once you have the final arrangement just to be sure, but there’s nothing stopping you from leaving them mobile. The tricky and time-consuming part will be to paint the tracks and each of the 95 track pads on each side. If you don’t fancy spending all that time on the tracks, you should know that straight after fitting, you install the side skirts over the running gear, rendering almost half of them invisible for the rest of eternity. The turret is started by gluing together the top and bottom parts around a pivot, then adding the mantlet and coax bags on the front, both of which are made from flexible styrene. The coax gun has a short muzzle added into the hole in its bag, and speaking of holes you could drill one into the barrel for realism, then the Stillbrew armour package is added to the front of the turret, locking into a recess moulded into the turret upper. Smoke launchers, vision blocks and laser sighting device are added along with another batch of lifting eyes (tanks are heavy), ammo boxes and the massive searchlight with twin clear lenses and a door glued onto the left side of the turret. The two lenses are for infrared and ordinary white light beams, and a pair of scrap diagrams show them laid out appropriately for each task. More sighting gear and hatches are added to the top of the turret along with a winch roll, tool boxes and more grenade launchers on the right side. The commander’s cupola is a complex arrangement of equipment on a rotating torus mount, including clear vision blocks and an inner hatch with domed door and closure mechanism, plus another smaller searchlight to the side of the inset front vision block. The completed assembly is then glued to the roof of the turret. The turret bustle hangs off the back of the turret, which begins with a flat plate that supports the NBC pack, and to the sides are fitted a pair of tubular-framed open stowage baskets with mesh bottoms and upstands, the latter being folded up around a jig part before fitting. The L7 AA gun, which is based upon the Belgian FN Mag machine gun is clamped between the mount halves, with extra detail parts and a large magazine box on the left side, which also has its own stencil decal. It is fixed to the roof in front of the commander’s hatch, with the final step involving the L11A5 120 mm rifled main gun that comprises two halves with lots of cooling-jacket detail moulded-in, and a hollow muzzle that shows off the barrel’s rifling nicely and gives a good impression of a completely hollow barrel. Markings There are two decal options on the sheet, one of which is the afore mentioned Berlin Brigade Urban scheme, the other in standard British Black/Green camo of the time. From the box you can build one of the following: Armoured Squadron, Berlin Infantry Brigade, British Army, West Germany, 1989 Armoured Unit, British Army, Exercise Fighting Herald, West Germany, 1988 The decals are printed in China, and under magnification are a bit fuzzy, although most of that could be cut off along the straight edges. The Union Jack is a bit messy, and the tiny badge on one of the front fenders has a simple black centre where there should be a logo. They should be suitable for purpose however, but I miss the days when Meng used to use Cartograf as a matter of course. Conclusion What a lovely kit. I’m British, and it’s a British tank, so I’m probably a little biased. I’m also a fan of Meng’s output with good reason. I do wish they’d spent a little more time and a few more pennies on the decals though. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H Nibelungenwerk Mid. Pro. Aug 1943 (35337) 1: 35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Unlike the later Tiger and Panther tanks, the Panzer IV had been designed in the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended for a different role than it eventually played, which was as a form of infantry support with the mobile artillery function rolled into one. It was a heavier tank than the previous numbered types, and was well-designed, although it did suffer from the typical WWII German over-engineering that made them complex, expensive and slow to build, as well as difficult to maintain. The type went through a number of enhanced variants including a more powerful engine to give better performance, improved armour thickness for survivability, and latterly the provision of a larger gun with a longer high velocity barrel that was based upon the Pak.40, but with shortened recoil mechanism and an enlarged muzzle-brake that helped contain the powerful recoil from the 75mm gun. The new gun was in direct reaction to the first encounter with the T-34 in Soviet hands, an incident that put the wind up the German tankers and their superiors, as they knew very little of its existence until they had to fight it, and didn’t like the way their shots just bounced off that sloped glacis. The Ausf.G and H were the later mainstream variants of the Pz.IV, and were made from early 1942 until 1944 with over 4,000 made, some of which were manufactured at Vomag, Krupp-Gruson, and Nibelungenwerke, one of the largest factories in the German area of influence, based in St Valentin, Austria. By the war’s end Nibelungenwerk was the home of the Panzer IV, and as such was bombed heavily, strangling production of the last variant, the Ausf.J as the Allied bombers took their toll. The Kit This is a new boxing of the recently tooled model of the Panzer IV from MiniArt, with a mixture of parts from other boxings plus some new sprues. It is an exterior kit with enough detail included to keep most modeller happily beavering away at their hobby for a good while. The kit arrives in a top-opening box, and inside are fifty-three sprues in grey styrene of various sizes, a clear sprue, three sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, a decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles for the decal options on the inside covers. It has individual link tracks included that are made up on a jig (more about those later), and the level of detail is excellent, which is something we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s output. Construction begins with the shell of the lower hull, which is made up on a main floor with cross-braces, sidewalls and bulkheads, then the lower glacis over where the transmission and final drive are situated, doors being fitted into the apertures before installation. The final drive housing, towing eyes, suspension bump-stops, return roller bases and fuel filler caps are glued into place on the hull sides, and two lengths of track made up to be attached to the glacis plates, held in place by clamps on the top side, and a rod on the front. The rear bulkhead is detailed with armoured covers for the track tensioner arms, stiffener plates and access hatches, including a manual starter slot. The fenders can now be slotted into position at the top of the hull sides, both of which are covered in a delicate tread-plate pattern where appropriate. The upper hull is created in a similar manner to the lower, with the roof accepting side panels after making some small holes, the engine bay area is fitted out with the side vents for the radiators and a flat rear panel that closes the area in. At the front the bow machine gun barrel is inserted from the outside, together with the armoured shutters for the radiator louvers, PE covers, front hatches, along with the jack-block in its bracket, or the empty bracket if you choose. The hull halves can be joined now, which involves adding the cooling louvers and side-mounted air filters that are attached to the hull sides with input trunk disappearing within the engine compartment, not to be confused with the exhaust round the back. Underneath various armoured plates are fitted around the various suspension parts on both sides. The big towing eye and its stiffeners are applied to the bottom of the bulkhead, and after fitting another full-width plate, the big exhaust muffler is attached to the rear, made from a combination of shaped styrene parts then braced to the bulkhead by PE straps. The kit supplies a set of four towing cable eyes, but you’re responsible for providing the braided cable, which should be 152mm long and 0.75mm thick, times two. These are wrapped around two hooks on the rear in a figure-of-eight pattern. Now it’s pioneer tool time, with barrel cleaning rods, spanner, shovel, the jack, plus a set of four spare road wheels in an open-topped box with spanners strapped to the sides. The rear mudguards and front splash-guards are applied now, and the prominent external fire extinguisher with PE frame (and alternative styrene one if you don’t feel up to wrangling the PE) is fitted to the fender with a pair of wire-cutters and a pry-bar, all of which have optional empty mounts for missing tools. Just when you think you’ve finished the tools, there’s a crank for the engine, a pair of track-spreaders, a choice of two fittings for the axe, plus some styrene springs to allow you to show the front guards in the up position. Three more short lengths of track are made up and applied to the vertical section of the glacis plate between its features, held in place by PE brackets. We’re getting closer to the tracks now, but there’s still a lot of wheels that need to be made. They are mounted in pairs on twin bogeys with a leaf-spring slowing the rebound of the twin swing-arms. There are two types of outer casting with two axles (for working or fixed suspension) that the swing-arms slot onto, and are then closed in by a cover, which you also have a choice of two designs for. Finally, the twin wheels with their hubcap slide onto the axles, and a small oil reservoir is glued to the side of the assembly. You make four for the left side and a mirrored set of four for the right, plus two-part idler, a choice of two-part drive sprockets and eight paired return-rollers that fit onto the posts on the sides of the hull. The suspension units have slotted mounting points that strengthen their join, and once you’re done, you can begin the tracks. The tracks are individual links with separate track pins, but don’t freak out yet! Each link has three sprue gates that are small and easy to nip off and clean up. The included jig will hold eleven links, which are fitted with the guides uppermost. Then you cut off one complete set of 11 track pins off the sprue and slide them into the pin-holes in the sides of the connected links all at once. They are then nipped off their length of sprue and can be tidied up. I added a little glue to the tops of the pins to keep them in place which resulted in a length of track that is still flexible. Just minimise the amount of glue you use. There are 101 links per track run, so you’ll be busy for a while, but the result is fabulously detailed as you can see from the pic. I didn’t bother cleaning up the mould seams for expediency, but if you plan on modelling your Panzer with clean tracks, you can sand them away if you feel the need. Three decal options have schurzen fitted, which has by now dictated which fenders you glued to the hull sides, so it’s too late to change your mind now. First you must add the styrene brackets on each side, then the long supports for the hook-on schurzen panels, which consist of five PE panels per side, with diagonally chopped front and rear lower edges to reduce the likelihood of them digging into the ground and being ripped off. Bear in mind that these panels were subject to the rigors of battle so were often bent, damaged or even missing entirely. Use your references or imagination to decide whether you wish to depict a fresh set, or a set that have been in the field for a while. Finally, we get to the turret, which begins with the ring and minimalist “floor”, to which some equipment, a drop-seat and the hand-traverse system are fixed. The inside of the mantlet is fixed to the floor after having the pivot installed, with the newly assembled breech glued into the rear once it has its breech block and closure mechanism fixed in place. The breech is then surrounded by the protective tubular frame, and the stubs of the coax machine gun and sighting gear are slid in through holes in the inner mantlet. A basket for spent casings is attached under the breech, the sighting tube and adjustment mechanism are put in place along with the coax machine gun breech. The turret base then has the other facets added to the roof panel, with an exhaust fan and outer armoured cover included. The side hatches are the clamshell type, and can be posed open, closed or anywhere in-between, with latches and handles added, and grab-handles over the top to ease exit. The commander’s cupola is a complex raised part with five clear vision ports around it, and a choice of open or closed outer parts holding the clear lenses in place, sliding into the ring like the real thing. A ring of cushioned pads covers the interstices, and stirrup-shaped parts are fixed under each lens, with a single circular hatch with latch and handle glued into the top ring in open or closed versions, hinging open rather than the earlier two-part clamshell hatch. A blade-sight from PE is sited at the front of the cupola with a machine-gun ring around the base and an optional MG34 gun on pintle-mount on top, and the basket with optional open lid added to the rear. The gun has a flattened faceted sleeve made up, and the muzzle brake gives you a choice of three styles that differ slightly from each other if you look closely. Pick the one suitable for your decal choice, and you can begin to put the gun tube together. The outer mantlet section with the sleeve slotting into the front is applied along with a choice of two coax installations, and a single-part styrene barrel fitting into the front with a key ensuring correct orientation, plus the muzzle-brake having the same feature. Another length of track is applied to the front of mantlet for extra protection later, which might explain why there are a lot more than 22 track sprues, this time however sourced from a traditional sprue. The turret has curved metal sheets applied to the styrene brackets that glue to the roof and sides, that has a gap for the side hatches that are filled by a pair of hinged doors for more complete protection, and if you were wondering, you get open or closed variants with PE latches. Lastly, a flat PE appliqué armour panel is fitted to the front of the roof on a number of PE brackets to give it a slight stand-off from the armour underneath, and to clear the brackets for the turret schurzen. Because of the complexity and realism of the turret and its ring, it drop-fits into position as the final act, as bayonet lugs aren’t present in the real thing. Markings Four decal options are included on the sheet, and they have a variety of schemes that are appropriate for late war tanks, from monotone vehicles to highly camouflaged vehicles over the standard base coat of dunkelgelb (dark yellow) the common element. From the box you can build one of the following: 3rd SS-Pz.Div. “Totenkopf” Eastern Front, Ukraine, Autumn 1943 20th Pz.Dv., Eastern Front, Belarus, Winter 1943-44 12th Pz.Div., Eastern Front, Summer 1944 16th Pz.Div., Eastern Front, Ukraine, Winter 1943-44 Decals are by MiniArt’s usual partner, DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This is a well-detailed exterior kit that should keep you occupied for a good number of hours. Careful painting will bring it to life, and leaving some turret hatches open won’t leave your viewers looking at a totally empty space if you omit crew figures. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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