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  1. T-55 Czechoslovak Prod. w/KMT-5M Mine-Roller (37092) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-54's gestation and transformation into the T-55 was long-winded and complicated by constant changes to an as yet unsatisfactory performing vehicle, and began at early as the end of WWII. Production of the T-54-1 was halted due to production and quality issues, and recommenced as the re-designed T-54-2, with the turret design changed to closer resemble the eventual domed shape of the T-55. The -2 didn't last all that long before the -3 replaced it, and the requirement for survival of tactical nuclear blasts led to the eventual introduction of the similar looking, but significantly different T-55 that we know so well. As the heavy tank fell out of favour, the T-55 became part of the burgeoning Main Battle Tank movement, with thousands of them being produced over the years in various guises. In the early 60s the T-55A was developed, providing more adequate NBC protection that required a lengthening of the hull and coincidentally added anti-spall protection for the crew. It also sounded the death-knell of the bow-mounted machine gun, which was removed to improve ammo storage, and hasn't been seen on MBTs for decades now. The Czechs built their own versions of the T-54 and T-55, with quite an export market developing due to their being of better build quality than the Russian built alternative. Of the many sub variants produced by the then Czechslovakia, many were exported to Soviet Bloc aligned purchasers, sometimes fitted with the KMT-5M Mine-roller. Mines are a problem for AFVs, softskins and foot soldiers alike, and there are different types used for different circumstances. Mines intended to disable tanks generally have larger charges to penetrate the thinner underside armour and tear off tracks and drive wheels, with a higher pressure required to trigger them. The resulting explosion can cripple or destroy a tank, leaving crew killed or injured, a valuable tank out of action and sometimes blocking the way. Most Soviet and Russian tanks are fitted with attachment points for mine-rollers that can be fitted as needed and clear a path for the tank's tracks to allow them to proceed. Other tanks without a mine-roller must follow in their tracks exactly or risk detonating mines that are outside the cleared paths. It's not an ideal solution, more of an expedient one that probably requires a more complete cleaning later when the enemy aren't shooting at them. It has been in service since the 60s and was used until the T-64 after which is was replaced for newer vehicles with the improved KMT-7 and KMT-9. It operated by breaking the ground up with toothed rollers of substantial weight to simulate the footprint of an AFV, ploughing up the ground and detonating any mines it finds. Its rugged construction means that it can survive explosions, although they do take their toll on the hardware eventually. The Kit Part of the ever-expanding range of early Cold War armour from MiniArt, who seem to be kitting every conceivable variant from the earliest T-54 to the later T-55, which will hopefully include some of the more unusual marks as well. The initial toolings were all brand new, and were designed in a modular format to ease the way toward new variants, which makes for a high sprue count. This is an exterior kit with Mine-Roller parts included, which arrives in their current orange themed box, with a painting of the tank in question on the front. Lifting the lid gives the feeling of how much is inside, as it is packed full and I'm dreading putting it all back in. There are eighty-nine sprues in mid grey styrene, many of them quite small, and some of the larger ones linked together in pairs or triplets, two clear sprues, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, two short lengths of chain in different link sizes, a decal sheet, and the instruction booklet. Detail is everywhere, and is crisp, with judicious use of slide-moulding to improve details further, and make hollows where needed. The inclusion of PE helps further, allowing parts to be given a more scale-effect. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has cut-outs for the suspension mounts, hatches and access panels, all of which are supplied as separate parts. The suspension is torsion-link, so the bars are inserted with the axles at their ends, or shorter stubby versions if you want to freeze the suspension in the level position. The hull insides are separate and are well detailed parts, which are added to the lower along with engine bay firewall and rear bulkhead. Externally, the T-55 could be fitted with a mine-roller, and one is included with this boxing, so the fitments and bracketry is included for fitting to the upper and lower glacis alongside the standard light clusters, lifting hooks and pioneer tools. With the glacis and the turret ring "bat wings" added to the hull sides, the upper hull is assembled from the top with turret ring aperture, a multi-part engine deck with individual slats added before installation, and some PE mesh panels added later with optional raised covers supplied as additional parts. The main lights have clear lenses, and fit inside a multi-part cage to protect them from damage, which will take some care to glue together neatly. The fenders have additional fuel tankage fitted with hosing between them, and lots of PE fixtures, handles and such, with even more PE bracing inside the sprung mudguard parts, tools, toolboxes and the exhaust on the port side. The kit includes plastic towing eyes, but you are going to have to provide your own cables as none are include in the kit, but given the sheer volume of parts it's excusable. At the rear an unditching log is lashed to the bulkhead with PE straps, and the extra fuel drums so often seen are also lashed to curved brackets that overhang the rear of the hull. Between them the deep wading funnel is attached by a couple of pins to the bottom of the brackets, and it has its own group of PE brackets for the bracing wires that are seen when it is in use. the wheels are handled next, with five pairs per side with separate hubs, plus the idler wheel at the front, and drive sprocket at the rear. Tracks are left until a little later and are of the individual link type, requiring 90 links per side, each of which have four sprue gates, but no ejection pin or sink marks to worry about. What is there however is stunning detail, which includes the casting numbers inlaid into the hollows of each track link, and close-fitting lugs that should make the building an easier task. The turret itself is a busy assembly, having the basics of the breech mechanism and coax machine gun made up and mated with the lower turret on two mounts at the front. The upper turret has some holes drilled out from inside and is attached to the lower, after which the two-part turret roof is fitted with hatches, vents and vision blocks. Externally the grab rails, forward mounted searchlight, commander's cupola and a choice of cast mantlet or moulded blast-bag over the mantlet are added, and the single piece barrel with hollow muzzle slips through the centre and keys into the breech. The blast-bag is finished off around the edges with PE strips, and a large folded tarp is attached to the back of the turret by more PE straps near the included stowage boxes. An armature links the gun barrel and the searchlight together so they move in unison, and an ancillary searchlight is fitted to the commander's cupola, with a choice of the driver's poor weather hood built up in either the collapsed or deployed format, with the former stowed on the turret bustle, while the latter fits over the open driver's hatch. The 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine gun is the last assembly, and is made up along with its mount, ammo box with a short length of shells leading into the breech, which is fitted into the mount in front of the loader’s hatch. The turret is dropped into the hull and your choice of location made for the driver’s poor weather hood built earlier. KMT-5M Mine Roller The KMT-5M has already been seen when included with various MiniArt kits, and here it is in another one! The instruction booklet is included in the main kit booklet, which is for good reason as it's a fairly complex build and there are plenty of steps. Construction begins with the toothed rollers, which each have three wheels on a central axle plus two end-caps. These are fitted into short bogies that have small sections of chain attached in strategic places for later fitting at the end of the suspension arms. These are next to be built and each has a pair of pads at the tank end and a hinged arm that is long enough to keep the tank away from the brunt of the blast, as well as absorb some of the upward momentum and reduce damage to the rollers. The arms spread apart so that the rollers are placed at exactly the same spacing as the tracks, and there are parts supplied to fit the roller to your model. There are a couple a styrene rope parts in the box to further secure the assembly, with another momentum-absorbing spring at the roller end. The bogies are attached to the arms via the short lengths of chain fitted to hooks fore and aft, with another chain linking the two together with a bobbin-like part loose along its length, acting as a further damper for asymmetric detonations. Markings There are three decal options, and plenty of colour variation. From the box you can build one of the following: Egyptian Army, 1967-73 Lebanese Army, 2000s Syrian Army, 2000s The decals are printed by DecoGraph on bright blue paper, and have good register, sharpness and colour density, with a closely cropped thin, matt carrier film. Conclusion These are amongst the most comprehensive kits I have seen in a long while, with even the tiniest details catered for, down to the fine chains on the mine-roller. It is a fabulous exterior kit and will keep you modelling for hours and hours. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. 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
  3. The Last Bridge #5 Nadezhda (Hope) MB24077 Post Apocalyptic Series 1:24 Masterbox Ltd via Creative Models Ltd Master box have various series of figures that have themes unrelated to history, film or TV series. The Desert Battle series is a dystopian future (aren’t they all?) that’s not too far away, and based more than a little on the facts of today. A climate crisis happens in 2023 and throws the world into disarray on a global basis. Better get stocking up on toilet rolls and Pot Noodles then, folks! No really, don’t. Not again. If you check Master Box’s website, there are a number of individual figures being released (you can see them in the instructions on the back of the box), plus a few boxed sets to fuel your fevered dreams and fill your dioramas. They’d look equally at home in any slightly futuristic, slightly dystopian setting, so if you read the back-story on the box and it doesn’t suit you, check over the figure in isolation instead and judge for yourself where you can use her and what her backstory is. The figure arrives in an end-opening figure box, with a single narrow sprue rattling round inside, and instructions and back-story on the rear of the box. It depicts a woman in hiking boots and civilian clothing, wearing a knitted beanie and carrying her young child on her back, a bag over one shoulder, and an M4 derivative in her left hand. As usual, the sculpting is first rate and the recent nature of the tool shows in the detail, with the figure broken down into head, torso, arms, legs, her baby on her back sitting on a bed-roll, and a shoulder bag, with her M4 appearing to be on a sling, but it’s not immediately clear where that is. Painting of the figure is entirely up to you, as in the dystopian future you can wear what you want. The box art gives you some useful clues however, and the addition of separate front sections to her coat give additional depth to the figure. Conclusion An interesting and well-sculpted figure for you to use and abuse as you see fit. Build her as a stand-alone model or as part of a diorama with or without others from the series. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Totenkopf Division Kharkov 1943 (35397) with Resin Heads 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models The Totenkopf division were officially known as the 3rd SS Panzer Division but were more usually known as the Death's Head due to their skull and crossbones divisional badge. They were reserves during the battle of France and took part in the invasion of Russia, coming back to the Eastern Front after assisting the transfer of power to the Vichy government in France until 1943. There they took part in the attempt to stop the Soviet advances including the third Battle of Kharkov, where they were at least partially successful in holding the line for a while. They and numerous other SS Divisions were involved in a number of horrible war crimes throughout the war due to their fervent belief in their Fuhrer and the inferiority of their opponents. Although the SS were and still are a hated group, there is no doubting the fact that they were involved in the fighting and played a part in many pivotal battles of WWII. This set is a rebox of the original set and contains a group of five figures at rest dressed in winter garb as befits their involvement in Kharkov, but augmented with a set of five well-detailed resin heads to replace the originals. They arrive in a shrink-wrapped figure box, with five small sprues of figures and four of accessories all in grey styrene, plus the five heads on one casting block in a Ziploc bag. Also included in the box is a short instruction leaflet to aid in construction of the accessories such as weapons and ammo crates. All of the five are seated in various poses nursing their weapons in their laps, with thick winter clothing consisting of padded trousers and a hooded smock that only one has over his helmet. Their footwear is a mixture of leather and suede boots and one wearing boots with cloth spats over them. They all have ammo pouches, water bottles, gas mask canisters, entrenching tools and bayonets, with plenty of spares on the accessory sprues. Three figures have Kar98 rifles, and the remaining two each have an MP40 or MG42, the latter slung across his lap with a length of link shown wrapped around the breech. The link is supplied, but you might have to carry out some heat flexing and surgery in order to get it to sit right around the gun. The new heads are pretty much drop-in replacements for the styrene heads, giving you additional choices for personalisation with little effort. Just nip the heads from the casting block, give them a little wash in warm (not hot) soapy water, and trim the necks to the length and shape you want to achieve the pose you need. Each figure is broken down individual legs, arms, torso and heads, plus hoods that fit between the torso and head. The hooded character has a separate helmet front and two-part hood that closes around his head then attaches to the torso. The rest have helmets from the accessory sprues that fit directly to their flat-topped craniums, and some have woollen "snoods" under their helmets to prevent frostbite, while others are toughing it out with just their helmets. Their poses are hunched over and miserable in nature, and would suit a squad riding a tank in driving snow, or waiting for orders in bleak winter conditions. Either way, they won't get any sympathy from us. 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 same goes for the new resin heads. The MG42 can be posed with a drum mag and open or closed bipod if you wish, and the MP40 has either a folded or open stock, while ammo boxes, grenade cases, oil cans, map cases, pistol pouches and plenty of spare weapons can be found on the sprues. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. US 1.5t 4x4 G506 Flatbed Truck (38056) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Chevrolet G506 truck formed the basis of a range of 4x4 load-carrying vehicles that were capable of carrying up to 1.5 tonnes of cargo or equipment. They were initially made under the 4100 code, then moved to the 7100 range, and usually had a standard enclosed cab, with a 3.9L straight-6 engine under the bonnet, with a four-speed “crash” (non-syncro) gearbox putting down a little over 80hp through all four axles. Under the new coding it rapidly became the Allies’ standard light truck, and served in substantial quantities with the Allies in the West, the Soviets in the East, and the forces fighting Japan in the Far East. There were a lot of variants, some in US Army service, others in USAAF service, with almost 50,000 of two specific types, the G7107 and G7117 sent over to the Soviets under the Lend/Lease program. The civilian vehicles could be almost as varied in form as the military options with some obvious exceptions (civilians seldom have a need to launch rockets), and they were well-liked by their drivers and crews, carrying out cargo shipping duties before, during and after WWII. They benefitted from widely available spares and the know-how to repair and maintain them, and they served long after the end of WWII. The Kit This is a new boxing of a recent tooling from MiniArt, and is one of a range that is lurking about in your favourite model shop. It’s a full interior kit, with engine, cab and load area all included along with some very nice moulding and detail, particularly in the cab and those chunky tyres. It arrives in one of MiniArt’s medium-sized top-opening boxes, and inside are twenty-one modular sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope, a wee decal sheet and glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear pages. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which has leaf-springs fore and aft, cross-braces and rear towing eye fitted to create the structure, then has the fuel tank, PE rear bumper irons folded around a styrene jig, and axles installed, before the brake drums/hubs, battery and external brackets are added to the chassis rails. The transfer box and drive-shaft join the two axles together, and a steering linkage and box are inserted into the front of the chassis, then the engine is built up based on the straight six-cylinder block, with carburettor, dynamo and transmission added, plus the pulleys and fan at the front. The engine and substantial front bumper iron are fitted to the chassis, and at the rear a short additional chassis rail are attached to the frame at the rear behind the fuel tank. The exhaust and its manifold slip into the underside of the chassis from below later on, with linkages and axle brackets fitted to the rails. The crew cab is next, beginning with the firewall and forward sidewalls. The roof and windscreen frame are moulded as one, with a headliner insert and rear-view mirror that are inserted within, and the three-part radiator housing is made to be used later. The firewall and roof are joined with some of the dash pots fixed to the engine side of the firewall, while the doors and their interior cards are assembled with their handles and window winders, plus the clear window glass that can be posed open or closed at your whim. The dashboard inserts into the front bulkhead with seven decals for the instruments and stencils on the glove box. The diagonal foot panel is joined with the firewall and decked out with three foot pedals and the steering wheel on a long column that slides through a hole in front of the pedals. The driver and co-driver share a bench seat that is made up on the floor from back, cushion and a C-shaped surround that fits round the rear of the cab back wall, with small ovalised window and optional PE mesh grille fitted later. The roof and firewall assembly are fitted to the floor, with the doors installed within the frame in the open or closed position. The windscreen is two panes of clear in a styrene frame fitted to the front of the cab open or closed, and below it on the scuttle is a ventilator panel that is posed open or closed later as you like it. The cab and radiator are both placed on the chassis with spacer rods applied, and the engine cowling side panels fit between them with front wing/fender included. The aforementioned windscreen has a pair of PE brackets and styrene wingnuts that are installed either vertically for closed, or at an angle for open, with a scrap diagram showing the correct orientation of the various parts. The spare tyre is placed on a bracket near the exhaust later, and the front of the vehicle has its headlights with clear lenses plus sidelights fitted to the wings, and PE windscreen wipers hung from the top of the frame, then the front grille is built. You may have noticed that this doesn’t appear on the sprues, and there’s a good reason for that. It is constructed completely from PE, and two jigs are included on the sprues to assist with obtaining the correct shape. The lower rail and curved side panels are made up on one jig from a single piece of PE, while the centre panel is folded up on another, then they’re joined together ready to be attached to the front of the engine bay. There are two brackets stretched across the front of the radiator, and another small curved section is added to the left of the grille as it is glued in place with the help of some CA. The hood/bonnet is able to be fitted open or closed with two styles of clasp and in the open option, a PE stay is provided. Two closure clasps are fixed to the sides of the bay too. The load bed floor is a single moulding with a ribbed texture on the underside, a slim rear section with moulded-in reflectors, separate rear lights on PE brackets mounted to the chassis. The shallow sides and taller front are separate frames, and the underside is strengthened by four cross-braces. The load bed is joined to the chassis along with the spare tyre on the left side of the flatbed, then the fuel filler and exhaust are added on PE brackets. It’s time for the rest of the wheels to be made up, with singles at the front, each made from two parts each, and twin wheels at the rear, made up much earlier in the instructions for some reason. Each wheel slips over its respective axle, with the hub projecting through the central hub, with a pair of rear mudflaps behind the back wheels. The kit comes with a stack of ten barrels to be made up of four styles, all of which are made from two halves with end caps that are glued in with the embossed writing on the inside, and adding a separate tap on one end, with some of them having four-part stands so they can be laid down on the load bed. In addition, a civilian driver/loader figure is included on his own sprue, wearing overalls and a baseball cap with turned up brim on his head and work boots – on his feet, of course. He is made up from individual legs, torso, head and arms, plus the cap, which is separate so you can replace it with something else if you feel the urge. A top-hat or pineapple maybe? Markings There are five colourful markings options on the decal sheet from various eras of the types operation. From the box you can build one of the following: Indiana USA, 1940s Texas USA, 1945 Florida USA, 1940s New York USA, 1950 Philippines, 1946 Decals are printed by MiniArt’s usual partners 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 We seem to be blessed with new kits of the Chevrolet G506/G7107 truck in 1:35 recently, which was ubiquitous during WWII at home, lugging goods of all types around the USA and beyond. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. Fruit Delivery Van Typ 170V Lieferwagen (38044) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Mercedes 170 was based upon their W15 chassis, which was their first with all-round independent suspension, and was available as a bare chassis for coachbuilders, as a saloon, cabriolet or as a light van, debuting in the early 30s with sales affected by the worldwide depression that started in Wall Street in 1930. Sales picked up after the recession eased, and later versions had internal boot/trunk-space and sleeker lines, moving with the times. As well as sharing a chassis with the saloon, the van was essentially identical in the forward section and inside the crew cab. The bodywork from the doors backward were designed with the same ethos but differed due to the practical but boxy load area behind the drivers. These vehicles were often used for years after their original purchase passing through the ownership of several owners, especially after the war years where funds were sometimes short following the devastation in Europe. The Kit This is a reboxing of a partial re-tool of the original 2012 saloon and subsequent Beer Delivery vehicle (reviewed earlier), with the same new sprues and parts added to create the necessary changes for the wagon. The original kit is highly detailed, and this one is no different, showing just how far MiniArt have come in their design and moulding technology. There is superb detail throughout, with slender racks, realistic-looking fabric door pockets as well as a full engine and interior to the cab. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are eighteen sprues of grey styrene, one in clear, a decal sheet and a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass for finer details, protected in a card envelope. Construction begins with the 1700cc engine and transmission, which is made up from a substantial number of parts that just need a little wiring to do it full justice, and in fact the brake hoses are shown in diagrams to ensure that you obtain the correct bends, but you’ll need to find your own 0.2mm wire to begin with. The X-shaped chassis is prepped with a few mounts and a PE brackets, then the rear axle, differential and driveshafts are fitted on a pair of very realistic styrene springs that have hollow centres and individual coils thanks to some clever sliding moulds. Drum brakes, straps and brackets finish off the rear axle assembly, then the completed engine and drive-shaft are installed in the front to be joined by a pair of full-width leaf-springs from above and below with a stub-axle and drum brake at each end. The exhaust is made up with an impressively neatly designed four-part muffler, a pair of PE mounts, straight exit pipe and a curved length leading forward to the engine. With the addition of the bumper-irons at the front, the lower body can be fixed to the chassis after drilling a single hole in one of the front wings. The front firewall is next to be made up, and the pedal box is installed one side, with a set of tools and another neatly designed cylinder, this time the fuel tank, which is curiously situated in the rear of the engine bay. This fits over the transmission tunnel that is moulded into the floor, with more driver controls such as the gear lever, hand brake and steering column with PE horn-ring added at this time. The dashboard is integrated into the windscreen frame after being fitted with decals within the instrument housings, then covered over with clear faces for realism. There is also a nicely clear curved windscreen inserted before this is dropped over the firewall, joined by a rear cab panel that has a small rear window and the back of the bench seat applied before fitting. The base of the bench seat is also fitted on a riser moulded into the floor. Vehicles need wheels, and this one runs on four with a spare one lurking under a false floor in the back. Each wheel is made up from a layer-cake of three central sections to create the tread around the circumference, and two outer faces that depict the sidewalls of the tyres, with maker’s mark and data panel moulded into the sides. The hubs are inserted into the centres of the tyres, with a cap finishing off the assemblies. They are built up in handed pairs, and the spare has a different hub and no cap to differentiate it. The flat floor for the load area is a single piece with the pocket for the spare tyre to fit inside, and this sits over the rear arches and is supported at the front by a lip on the rear of the cab. The load area is then finished by adding the slab-sides and roof to the body, with a few ejector-pin marks that will need filling if you plan on leaving the door open. Speaking of doors, there are two options for open and closed, with moulded-in hinges and separate door handle, plus the number-plate holder above the door in the centre. The front doors are handed of course, and have separate door cards with handle and window winders added, and a piece of clear styrene playing the part of the window, which is first fitted to the door card before it is added to the door skin. Both doors can be posed open or closed as you wish, and are of the rearward opening "suicide door" type. At this stage the front of the van needs finishing, a job that begins with the radiator with a PE grille and three-pointed star added to a surround, then the radiator core and rear slam-panel with filler cap at the rear. This is put in place at the front of the body at an angle, with two cross-braces reducing body flex along with a central rod that forms the hinge-point for the side folding hood. Small PE fittings are fixed first on the louvered side panels, then added to the top parts in either the open or closed position. A pair of PE and styrene windscreen wipers are added to the windscreen sweeping from the top, a pair of clear-lensed headlamps, wing mirrors and indicator stalks on the A-pillars finish off the build of the van. To differentiate this from the previous kit, MiniArt have included an optional PE roof rack that is folded up and fitted to the exterior drip-rails around the roof, and seven small sprues full of fruit of various kinds and 12 double-height wooden boxes that can be used to depict cargo inside or on the rack if you use it. Markings Get your shades out for two of the three decal options. These were commercial vehicles during peacetime, so they were designed to attract attention. There are three options depicted in the instructions, with plenty of decals devoted to the branding on the sides. From the box you can build one of the following: Provinz Schlesien, Early 1940s Berlin, Early 1940s Colour based upon 50s Poster, registration from American occupation zone 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 This is another well-detailed kit of an old Merc van, and even if you’re not a vehicle modeller it would make for great background fodder for a diorama, possibly of post-war Allied or Soviet armour making its way through town. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Coupé G-Model (07688) 1:24 Carrera Revell The original Porsche 911 reached the market in 1963, and if you have one of those, you’re probably quite wealthy in theory if it’s still in good condition. The Carrera name had been used in the 70s for a special edition, and was re-used for the 1983 variant that saw the engine size increased to a healthy 3.2 litres with a choice of body styles including Coupé, Targa and Cabriolet, the Targa having a removable roof panel to give the occupants a wind-in-the-hair/scalp feel without the bodyshell flexibility inherent in removal of the whole roof. The flat-six engine was mated to a new 5-speed gearbox that gave it an impressive 5.4secs 0-60 time that was the downfall of many a Yuppie in the corners and on roundabouts. The American variant was slightly lower in terms of power, and was subject to their safety constraints that resulted in some pretty chunky over-riders being added to the bumpers, and IIRC (which I seldom do), a slightly higher ride height. The overall design remained stable for the most part until it was entirely replaced, with various minor adjustments to the package such as a revised dash and an increase to the size of the disc brakes to improve stopping-power. By the end of the 80s the type had sold well, but as sales began to drop off the next generation was already in-hand, with the 964 straddling the 80s and 90s with a subtly different look and technical specification. The Kit This is Revell’s new 2021 911 Coupé kit, the Targa version we reviewed a little while back, and this one has a different bodyshell to depict the hard top amongst other things. It arrives in a thick end-opening box with a painting of a silver 911 on the front, being driven by (I think) Nathan Fillon, and with a probably famous Asian lady I don’t recognise in the passenger seat. What’s going on with their artists and the occupants of their cars these days? Inside are four sprues in grey styrene, three more and a bodyshell in silver, two clear sprues and four black flexible tyres in differently sized front and rear pairs. The instructions are printed in colour with profiles on the back page, and the decals with a protective wax paper cover hidden within, along with the box-ticking health and safety sheet that you should definitely read so you don’t mutilate yourself during the build. Detail is excellent throughout, with a reasonable replica of the flat-6 engine and Getrag transmission, plus left- and right-handed dash parts that will be seen through some nice clear glazing parts. Construction begins with the motor, which is well-detailed and made up from a good number of parts with a painting guide to assist you in making a good job, which continues throughout the booklet. The basic block and transmission are set inside a frame, which is slipped into the floorpan from below along with a wide U-shaped mount that is painted black. The drive-shafts and suspension are arranged around the transmission with the convoluted exhaust system attached to the underside of the engine. The front brake disks and hub assemblies are made up with an unglued cuff in the centre of each one, joined together by the steering linkage and dropped into the front underside along with the rest of the suspension parts and a protective cover over the centre. Back in the engine bay, the ancillaries, turbo inlet and airbox are painted up and installed, then the running gear is set to one side while the interior is made up. The passenger compartment is made up from front and back sections with moulded-in rear seats and slots for the front seats in the forward section. A pair of holes need to be drilled out for the pedals of the left- or right-hand drive positions, then the central console, gear-shifter and handbrake are fixed to the centre along with a pair of pre-tensioning seatbelt receivers. The front seats are elegantly shaped with rolled cushions and separate back covers. In addition, there are a pair of contoured seat-cushions for the rear seats that fit over the moulded-in bench-type backs. The front seats secure in their twin slots in the front well, then the left door card is glued in place after a comprehensive painting and decaling, with the new rear squabs attaching in front of the simpler rears. The left- or right-handed dash is painted up and decaled with some very realistic dials, knobs and controls, to be joined by the short steering column with moulded-in stalks and a separate steering wheel, which also have decals for the logos and control instructions. The dash is glued into position with the opposite door card, then you’ll need to get some paint on the bodyshell inside and out. The bodyshell is moulded in silver, as are the other outer panels, which you will probably want to paint after the next step, which is drilling out some holes in the front wings. Incidentally, there are a couple of unavoidable sink-marks on the rear C-pillars, due to brackets on the interior. They're quite small, but it's still best to fill those right at the start to avoid any complications later. The bodyshell is filled up with the interior and floorpan whilst inverted, locating on pegs within. The front of the body is detailed with a pair of recessed headlamp reflectors that need painting with a suitable chrome paint beforehand, then have their textured lenses installed and the indicators placed in the bumper below, painting the clear part orange beforehand. The front bumper has an underside section added from below, with a choice of European or American fitments, only one of which has fog-lights and their surrounds with a number plate in the centre. At the rear, a full-width clear part fits into a groove in the back of the body, which will also need painting chrome within, and the clear part should be painted orange and red as per the diagram before insertion. The rear bumper iron shows a set of over-riders fixed either side of the number plate, but check your references to see if these are appropriately sized to the variant you plan to build. A reversing light attaches under the bumper, and this too has a clear lens that you should paint clear red. The wheels are different widths Front and Rear, so take note of the F or R on the small central sprue, although it’s fairly obvious when viewed from above. The sprue should be cut off with the sharpest blade you can find, then the hub is slipped inside to ledge on a rim at the rear after painting the outer rim chrome and aluminium, and the centres black for all four. The rims have hollow cylindrical pegs on the rear to fit onto the disk-brake hubs, and scrap diagrams show where to apply the glue sparingly. As this is the coupé version, the roof is pre-moulded into the bodyshell, so it’s a case of inserting the windscreen with rear-view mirror from the front. The doors are moulded closed, and the two side window clear parts are also inserted from outside, as is the rear window, all of which have black rubbers painted on. To finish off the build, there are two door handles, indicator repeaters and wing mirrors with separate mirror glass and a silver decal are fitted into their requisite sockets, then last of all there are twin wiper blades on the scuttle, and a retracted radio antenna added to the front-left wing. Markings The majority of decals will have been used before you get to the end, forming part of the interior or instrument panel, but also included are a set of number plates from various countries, their overseas boot stickers, plus a pair of Carrera branded showroom plates, and an engine data booklet for the firewall. The profiles show a silver vehicle as per the box artwork, but you can paint it any colour you like in reality. Decals are by printed for Revell by Zanetti, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This is a well-detailed kit of a very famous and much-beloved German sports car that’s a classic in the figurative and literal sense for good reason. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. German Sd.Kfz.179 Bergepanther Ausf.G (84553) 1/35 HOBBYBOSS via Creative Models The Panther was WWII 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 the 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. The Germans came to the realisation that they needed a form of armoured recovery vehicle as even the larger halftracks could not recover a Panther or Tiger tank. In fact so many tanks themselves became lost to recovery efforts that order were given not to try recovery with another tank. MAN were tasked to develop the vehicle and used the Panther chassis which was fitted with a central 40 tonne winch in place of the turret and a large rear spade to dig the vehicle in. Over the winch would be placed a wooden work platform and a light crane (1500 kgs capacity). The added benefit of the vehicle was that crew protection was improved and it could work under fire. As well as the standard machine gun a 2cm KwK-30 cannon was mounted on the front, though the use of this fell off in the latter stages of the war, The Kit This is a new tooling from HobbyBoss following on from a series of Panther kits which all use parts of the same toolings as needed. As well as the two main hull parts there are 21 sprues in caramac plastic, a clear sprure, two sheets of PE, chain thread and cable. Construction starts with the lower hull, to the outside are added bottom hatches, and to the side the gearbox housings and small fittings for the suspension. Moving to the inside a frame is made up for the full torsion bar suspension thats included in the kit. the bars insert from each side with end caps on the opposite ends. This frame is then fitted into the lower hull. The suspension arms are then fitted to the outside of the hull. The row of inner wheels is then fitted followed by 8 pairs of inner wheels which must be made up. The idler wheels are mad up and added to the rear. Next up the drive sprockets are made up and added along with the outer set of wheels. Construction then moves to the tracks, these are individual links which must be glued together and assembled while the glue used still has some flexibility. There are 98 links needed for each side. Each individual link has to have two guide horns added to it. We now move to the rest of the interior. With its open hull all of this can be seen. First up the front gearbox and drive train is made up and added in following a pair of checker floor plates. Now its the turn of the main recovery winch. This is a small model on its own with a raft of parts. The thread included is used here. The inner bulkhead to the engine compartment is fitted and then the winch assembly follows it in. The front bulkhead to the winch bay can then be added, To the rear of the tank the outer bulkhead has its exhausts added and then can be fitted to the hull. This now completes the lower hull. Work now moves to the upper hull. To the inside of the front hull is fitted the inside bulkhead and all the parts for the bow machine gun. To the top of the upper hull engine grills are fitted at the rear, and at the front is fitted a light and additional recovery equipment. Engine hatches and intake fans follow as well as additional hull fittings and tools. Additional track links are fitted to the side as well as the mounting rails for the PE side plates. The upper hull can now be fitted to the lower hull. To the rear the large blade to steady the vehicle when recovering gets assembled and fitted. This can either be raised or lowered. Tow bars fit to the engine deck and then the PE side pates are fitted to each side. The rear mounted lifting crane and its stays are added. At the front the bow mounted 2cm cannon is constructed and added, along with an additional machine gun which is mounted on the front right side of the tank. To finish off the large central mounted wooden/steel deck box is assembled and fitted over the main winch. Decals Decals are provided for national markings and hull numbers only. Two schemes are suggested in the kit, one in Dunkelgelb and one on three colour camo as per the box art. Conclusion This is a great looking kit from HobbyBoss and their attention to detail is to be commended. Overall Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  11. EA-18G Growler (85814) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The EA-18G is a development of the F/A-18F two seat Super Hornet that originally went into service in 1999, and with series manufacture beginning in 2007 of this type, it replaced the EA-6B in the carrier based electronic warfare role. It is a more capable platform due in part to the march of technology, and the fact that it is based on a more modern airframe, allowing it to keep pace with other Allied assets during any mission. The airframe has been adapted to better fit the role, especially the wings that have been revised to provide a smoother ride for the electronic modules, that was achieved by adding wing fences and other tweaks. It still shares over 90% of parts with a standard Super Hornet, so the commonality of parts is of great help toward keeping these key aircraft in service. The aircraft has nine weapons stations that are usually filled with electronics pods specific to its role, although it can also carry more weapons by necessity, but its wingtip stations that would normally carry Sidewinders are instead fitted with detection pods. It can carry two AIM-120 AMRAAM and/or AGM-88 HARM missiles for self-defence on multi-modal conformal fuselage stations, which are its only means of defence due to the removal of its cannon to house additional electronics. As with many complex aviation projects it has had its problems, including technical as well as political issues, such as the desire to slow down production to string out the contract for various reasons. The US will field under 100 airframes by the time the contract is completed, and Australia’s dozen airframes may well make the total closer to that number. Of course, the type is under constant development in order to improve its operation and to resolve any of the inevitable gremlins that occur, with new equipment likely to be fielded and slung under the Growler over the coming years. The Kit This is a concurrent reboxing of Hobby Boss’s F/A-18 new Super Hornet from 2021 with additional parts to depict the adaptations made to the base airframe to create the Growler. It arrives in a large top-opening box with an internal divider, and inside are sixteen sprues and two fuselage halves in grey styrene, two in clear, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE), two decal sheets, two glossy colour printed sheets with decal and painting instruction, and the instruction booklet in Hobby Boss’s usual landscape greyscale style. Detail is excellent throughout, with some exceptionally well-moulded gear and equipment bays around the model, and the inclusion of a small sheet of PE to add belts to the cockpit that is behind crystal clear glazing, so will be seen whether you leave the lid down or not. Construction begins with the two seats, which have been slide-moulded to reduce the part count while keeping the detail high. They are both fitted with a set of PE crew belts, and have stencil decals applied to the headbox, which also has a separate drogue-chute on the top, and a back plane fitted before they are dropped into the tub. HOTAS controls are supplied for each of the crew, and additional instruments are applied to the faceted side consoles, with controllers added along with decals. The instrument panels also have decals for their MFD covered faces, and the rear IP has a coaming between it and the front cockpit. The sidewalls are fitted in between the two sections, hiding away the blank interior of the fuselage once installed. As with many modern jets, the nose gear bay is directly below the pilots, and that bay is made from individual sides plus a few small additional detail parts. The bay is attached to the bottom of the cockpit tub using a short I-beam to support the rear, after which the completed assembly is surrounded by the skin of the nose section, which also has a pair of equipment bays moulded-in with impressive detail. Moving quickly on, the upper fuselage is prepared by drilling out a number of holes in its surface, plus those of the lower wing halves that are added early in the build. An A-shaped apron under the Leading Edge Root Extensions (LERX) is also installed along with doors for the built-in crew ladder under the port side, then the nose is attached to the fuselage from below after which it is faired in. With the model righted, the rear ‘turtle-deck’ and insert in front of the coaming are installed, the HUD is made up from two PE parts, two clear parts and a sled that it sits on once fitted to the coaming. The windscreen can be glued in place now, although there is a very fine seam from manufacture that should ideally be sanded away and polished back to clarity. Both parts of the canopy are slightly ‘blown’, so are made using three mould sections, with the resulting seam down the middle on the outside only. The seams on this kit are relatively fine thanks to the reduction in tolerances over the years, and you could create a perfectly acceptable model without bothering to remove them if you don’t feel confident. The circular hole in the nose is filled with a four-part radome, which can be left visible by hingeing the nose cone open in the next step. This is achieved by changing the insert in the rear of the cone for one with the hinge projecting from the side, with a common insert in the top of the cone. There is plenty of space for nose weight in this area for either option, although with the nose closed over, the centre of mass will be that much further forward, so less weight will go further. Hobby Boss have a habit of creating kits with parts that will never be seen again, and this one is no exception, having a pair of engines on the sprues, when only some of the detail will be seen unless you cut away some panels. Each tubular assembly is made up from two sub-assemblies, one made from three sections, the other from two. With the glue dried, they are both wrapped in two-part rings and have further detail parts applied to the sides, and representations of the afterburner and engine faces at appropriate ends. The lower fuselage ‘torso’ is then made up from three larger sections that have the intake trunks made by adding additional surfaces and tiny PE vanes on the inner side walls. The completed engines and their exhausts are fixed into the rear of this assembly, then are joined by the square intake trunks that transition to round by the time they meet the front of the motors. It is then attached to the underside of the fuselage and the moulded-in bays are painted white. They are further detailed by a number of ribs, and small section of the fuselage side is installed next to the exhaust trunking, ready to support the elevons later on. The Super Hornet was (re)designed from the (2nd life) outset as a carrier aircraft, so has a chunky set of landing gear that are captured here in plastic, with the rugged nose gear first to be made from a single part to which the clear landing light and other detail parts are added, then the twin two-part wheels are fixed to the axles, plus a bay door glued to the trailing retraction jack. Using different parts you can pose the launch bar up or down, depending on what you have in mind. The main gear legs are made from halves that trap an L-shaped insert and have layers of jacks fitted over the main struts, with a single wheel on a stub-axle at the end. All bays have additional actuators for the doors added in preparation for a plethora of well-detailed parts, one of which has a PE insert, and others have stencil decals applied after painting. At the same stage, the two equipment bays on the sides of the nose are given doors and stays, with no option shown for posing them closed. The wings are simplistic stubs at this stage, which is remedied now by adding the full-width flaps, each with their actuators, which can be posed deployed or ‘clean’ at your whim. The leading-edge slats and flap spoilers are then added, after which the outer folding section of the wings are made up in a similar fashion, with either a straight or angled joint if you plan on posing your model with wings folded for below-decks. The three pylons per wing are all made from two halves, and are affixed to the wings with another on the centreline that slots into holes in the underside of the fuselage. At the rear you can pose the arrestor hook in either down or stowed positions, and there are also two exhaust petal types for open or closed pipes. On the topside, the wing joints are covered by panels, and fences are installed on the inner wings, plus a few antennae around the nose area. The twin tail fins have separate rudders that differ if the wings are folded, and has a pair of clear lights added to each one, with the elevons just a pair of single thin aerofoils with a peg to join them to the aft of the fuselage. If you recall the optional boarding ladder door fitted at the beginning of the build, the reason it is optional becomes clear right at the end, when you build up the ladder, with separate steps and a brace that rests against the fuselage. It’s not abundantly clear how the area looks when exposed, but there are plenty of photos available online if you’re unsure. The weapons sprues are largely unused other than the gas bags, equipment pods and of course the two types of missile that the Growler carries for self-defence, namely the AGM-88 and AIM-120 with adapter rails. Check your references for the typical load-outs for real-world mission profiles, or use the chart on the rear page of the instructions, although it refers to “fuol tanks”, but then we’re none of us perfect. Markings I’ve been critical of HB’s dearth of information and options for their kits in the past, and was pleased to see two changes with this kit. Firstly, there are a whopping SIX options, and secondly, each option is provided with at the very least an airframe code, and many are also given a date and ship the aircraft was embarked upon at the time. From the box you can build one of the following: VAQ-129 #169136 VAQ-135 #166941 NAS Whidbey Island, 2011 VAQ-135 #166940 NAS Whidbey Island, 2011 VAQ-130 #168268 ‘Zappers’ USS Harry S Truman, 2016 VAQ-141 #166928 ‘Shadowhawks’ USS George H W Bush, 2010 VAQ-132 #166894 ‘Scorpions’, 2010 One sheet of A4 shows the location of the stencils for all decal options, while the individual aircraft are on the other larger A3 sheet, covering both sides and having stencil locations and colours for the weapons/equipment at the bottom of the back page. As usual with HB printing, they’re made anonymously in China, but are of sufficient quality for most, although the red bars on the national insignia seem a little off-centre to me. Conclusion Hobby Boss have created a well-detailed and attractive series of models of the F/A-18 Super Hornet that should sell well for them. The Growler is an interesting off-shoot of the type, and they’re often colourfully painted, as you can see above. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. Traffic Signs Afghanistan 2000s (35640) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Before GPS or Satnav became common, sign posts were an absolute necessity for navigation, and remain a useful confirmatory backup even when you are using GPS, although soon become more useful if your satnav konks out or isn’t up-to-date. This set from MiniArt offer signage for Afghanistan during part of the US led occupation, and is based upon the same sprues as recently released signs from nearby areas, with just the decals and larger paper signs differing between issues. 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. 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! Conclusion Signposts are a useful background item in any diorama or vignette, so having pre-printed signs available is just the ticket to add interest and realism to your work quickly and easily. Don’t forget the bullet holes! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. NVA T-55A (37083) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-54's gestation and transformation into the T-55 was long-winded and complicated by constant changes to an as yet unsatisfactory under-performing vehicle, and began as early as the end of WWII. Production of the T-54-1 was halted due to production and quality issues, and recommenced as the re-designed T-54-2, with the turret design changed to closer resemble the eventual domed shape of the T-55. The -2 didn't last all that long before the -3 replaced it, and the requirement for survival of tactical nuclear blasts led to the eventual introduction of the similar looking, but significantly different T-55 that we know so well. As the heavy tank fell out of favour, the T-55 became part of the burgeoning Main Battle Tank movement, with thousands of them being produced over the years in various guises. In the early 60s the T-55A was developed, providing more adequate NBC protection that required a lengthening of the hull and coincidentally added anti-spall protection for the crew. It also sounded the death-knell of the bow-mounted machine gun, which was removed to improve ammo storage, and hasn't been seen on MBTs for decades now. The Czechs built their own versions of the T-54 and T-55, with quite an export market developing due to their being of better build quality than the comparatively shoddily-built Russian alternative. Of the many sub variants produced by the then Czechoslovakia, many were exported to Soviet Bloc aligned purchasers such as East Germany, who also bought a number from Poland, which was where they’d previously bought their T-54s from. The term NVA doesn’t refer to the North Vietnamese Army as I initially thought (doh!), but actually refers to Nationale Volksarmee of the DDR, or Deutsche Demokratische Republik as East Germany was known before the fall of the Soviet Union. The Kit Part of the continuously expanding range of early Cold War armour from MiniArt, who seem to be kitting every conceivable variant from the earliest T-54 to the later T-55, which will hopefully include some of the more unusual marks as well. The initial toolings were all brand new, and were designed in a modular format to ease the way toward new variants, which makes for a high sprue count. Some of the kits have been released in augmented Interior Kit boxings, with all the extra details to open up your model as much as you please. The kit arrives in their current orange themed box, with a painting of the tank in question on the front. Lifting the lid gives the feeling of how much is inside, as it is packed full and I'm not looking forward to fitting it all back in. There are 84 sprues in mid grey styrene, many of them quite small, and some of the larger ones linked together in pairs, two clear sprues, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet, and the instruction booklet. Crisp detail is everywhere, with judicious use of slide-moulding to improve details further, and make hollow gun muzzles and such where needed. The inclusion of PE helps further, allowing parts to be given a more scale-effect. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has cut-outs for the suspension mounts, hatches and access panels, all of which are supplied as separate parts. The suspension is torsion-link, so the bars are inserted with the axles at their ends, or alternative short torsion bars if you want to freeze the suspension in the level position. The hull sides are separate and are well detailed parts, which are added to the lower hull along with engine bay firewall and rear bulkhead. The T-55 could be fitted with a mine-roller, and although one isn't included with this boxing, the fitments and bracketry is included for the upper and lower glacis alongside the standard light clusters, lifting hooks and pioneer tools. With the glacis and the turret ring flanges added to the hull sides, the upper hull is assembled from the top with turret ring aperture, a multi-part engine deck with individual slats added before installation, and some PE mesh panels added later with optional raised covers supplied as additional parts. The twin headlights have clear lenses and a choice of bezels that fit inside a multi-part cage to protect them from damage, which will take some care to glue together neatly. The fenders have stowage, additional fuel tankage fitted, and lots of fixtures, handles and such, with PE bracing inside the sprung mudguard parts, toolboxes and the exhaust on the port side, with pioneer tools dotted around the exterior. The kit includes plastic towing eyes, but you are going to have to provide your own cables as none are include in the kit, but given the sheer volume of parts it's excusable. At the rear a tubular stowage canister is attached to the back under the extra fuel drums that are so often seen, strapped to curved brackets that overhang the rear of the hull. the wheels are handled next, with five pairs per side with separate hubs, plus the idler wheel at the front, and drive sprocket at the rear. Tracks are next, and are of the individual link type of a different design, requiring 91 links per side, each of which have three sprue gates, but no ejection pin or sink marks to worry about. They now have separate track pins that are attached to the ladder-sprues by small “bulbs” of styrene that make handling easier, but are cut off once glued. I built up a short length to test the system, and while I rolled my eyes at not having a jig initially, I ended up not minding at all, as it allowed me greater room to manoeuvre the parts. The track pins slot into place and should be secured with a tiny amount of glue around the outer nut, to attach it without flooding and immobilising the track joint. With careful gluing you can create a set of robust workable track links quite quickly. Quickly in terms of track building of course! The turret itself is a busy assembly, having the basics of the breech mechanism and coax machine gun made up and mated with the lower turret on two mounts at the front. The upper turret has some holes drilled out from inside and is attached to the lower, after which the two-part turret roof is fitted with hatches, vents and vision blocks. Externally the grab rails, commander’s searchlight and cupola, plus a four-part moulded blast-bag over the mantlet are fixed, and the single piece barrel with hollow muzzle slips through the centre and keys into the breech. The blast-bag is finished off around the edges with PE strips, and a large folded tarp that you make from your own supplies is attached to the back of the turret by more PE straps near the included stowage boxes. An armature links the gun barrel and the main searchlight together so they move in unison, and a choice of the driver's bad-weather hood built up in either the collapsed or deployed format, with the former stowed on the turret bustle, while the latter fits over the open driver's hatch. The big 12.7mm DShK machine gun is another complex assembly with plenty of parts, a large ammo box with soviet star stamped on it and a run of link leading to the breech, which is installed on the loader’s hatch along with two more stowage boxes on the turret sides. Markings There are four decal options, and they’re all pretty green apart from the winter camo option. From the box you can build one of the following: National People’s Army of GDR 1960-70s National People’s Army of GDR 1960-70s National People’s Army of GDR 1960-70s winter camouflage National People’s Army of GDR 1960-70s The decals are printed by DecoGraph on blue paper, and have good register, sharpness and colour density, with a closely cropped thin, matt carrier film. The painting guide gives codes from Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, as well as colour swatches and the colour names. Conclusion These are amongst the most comprehensive kits out of the box that I have seen in a long while, with even the tiniest details catered for. It is a great kit and will keep you modelling for hours and hours. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Leopard C2 MEXAS With TWMP (Track Width Mine Plough) 1/35 HOBBYBOSS via Creative Models In 1978 the Canadian Army selected the Leopard 1A3 to be its new Main Battle Tank. These would be called the Leopard C1 in service. In 2000 it was decided to upgrade these tanks with the fitment of surplus German Leopard 1A5 turrets. At the same time armour protection was increased, and a new fire control system was added. In 2006 some of these tanks were sent to Afghanistan where they would be fitted with an additional upgrade, the MEXAS system. This stands for Modular Expandable Armour System which was developed n=by IBD Deisenroth Engineering in Germany. This is a new composite armour system which can be added to many vehicles include tanks to increase survivability in these modern conflicts where IEDs and RPGs feature heavily. The Canadians also fit a version to their LAVs. The TWMP unit for Canada was developed by RAMTA a division of Israel Aircraft Industries. The unit clears a path for the width of both tracks (1m) to 200, 250 or 300mm by moving the mines aside. A "dog bone" is dragged over the uncleared 1.5m central lane to detonate any tilt road mines. The unit fits to the front of the tank via an Engineer Equipment Interface Kit developed by Krauss-Maffei. This allows the plough or a dozer blade to be fitted. The Kit This kit from HobbyBoss is a re-boxing of the standard Leopard 1 with different parts for the Canadian Leopard C2, and additional sprues for the TWMP. Its worth noting the kit does not feature the thermal blanket and cooler fitted at a later date by the Canadians in Afghanistan. The kit looks good on the sprues with lots of detail parts. Moulding is first rate. Construction starts lower hull. Various suspension components are fitted, and the ends of the main torsion bar system and its arms are fitted. The wheels can then be built up and attached, followed by the tracks which are individual links. While at first glance thy look good and there is a jig provided in the kit to make short runs of track however it will take some work to get them right; and the end connectors are moulded to the links so will not articulate like the real ones when the runs go round the end sprockets. The next step is a surprising one in that it looks like a full power pack is provided. While the engine has many parts and looks quite detailed there is no detailing for the engine bay, and the actual block is missing all of its hoses and connector, though there is nothing stopping the modeller going to town here if they want to do an open engine bay. Then the rear bulkhead is made up. There is virtually no moulded on parts here with a lot of small detail parts making up this bulkhead. The rear mud flaps are fitted to the bulkhead at this point. The bulkhead can then be fitted. Moving to the top main hull the engine deck hatch is added, along with some side parts and the drivers vision blocks, the rear exhausts are then added along with quite a few detailed parts such as tools , mirrors etc. The lower and upper hulls can now be joined and the rear bulkhead fitted. PE parts for the engine deck are then fitted. The additional MEXAS armour packs are added to the sides of the hull and the front. The rear tow cables are then added. Work now moves to the turret which has good casting detail moulded in. The mounting points for the MEXAS armour are all moulded to the turret. After the turret is together the large rear mounted turret storage bin is made up and added to the turret, Next up the roof mounted machine gun and its mount can be added. The ECM system and MEXAS armour units can then be assembled and added to the turret. Next up the hatches and aerial mounts are added. The gun and its additional armoured mantlet are built up, There are two guns in the kit and the one with the mounting straps for the muzzle referent mirror on it. These are then added to the turret after it is assembled There is a canvas mantlet cover to add, this is a basic representative of the real thing and aftermarket detailed one are available to replace this one, in addition to would seem the Canadian's replaced the original covers with one of their own making. Like a lot of Leopard kits the kit barrel is not entirely accurate due to the complexities of the real thing and the limits of plastic moulding technology. The smoke dischargers are added to the turret and its then ready to be mounted to the hull TWMP There is one main sprue of parts for the Mine Plough and a smaller on for all of the hull fittings and additional parts. The central mount is first built up along with the ground riding skis. The side plough units are then assembled and the three parts joined. A small lenth of chain is provided for the tilt mine system between the loughs. Once assembled the unit can be mounted to the tank. Decals Decals are provided for 1 tank, though there in usual HB style there is no information on these provided at all in the instructions. Conclusion This is a great looking kit from HobbyBoss and their attention to detail is to be commended. Overall Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. Vegetables & Wooden Crates (35629) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd MiniArt’s diorama accessories series grows every month, and if you had them all they’d make a stash all on their own! This time we’re looking at crated veggies for placing in shops, stalls, wagons and vans hither and yon for your next model. This set arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure box with a painting of the contents on the front and brief instructions on the rear. There are six sprues in grey styrene in the box, a painting and assembly guide on the rear, accompanied by a paint chart that has swatches of colour, Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, as well as colour names below. Four of the sprues contain parts for four two-part double-high boxes with their second layers formed by adding an extra rectangular wall section with grab handles at the top to the shallow box that has a moulded-in bottom that has fine wooden planking moulded-in. The two larger sprues are identical and contain a ton of vegetables, both in tray-shaped arrangements, and as individual veg. that can be scattered around your scene, or used to augment and differentiate between the stacks inside the boxes. From the box you can build the following: 2 x Eggplant 2 x Bell Pepper 2 x Potatoes 2 x Cucumber 2 x Onion 2 x Carrot 2 x Tomato 2 x Beet Outside the boxes, you also get the following loose vegetables: 2 x Pumpkin (rotund) 2 x Pumpkin (pear-shaped) 12 x Potato 6 x Tomato 6 x Eggplant 6 x Onion 6 x Bell Pepper 6 x Cucumber In total you can build sixteen double-height crates, and the tray-shaped veggies have short feet in their underside corners to give the impression of greater quantities without making over-thick parts that would be subject to concerns about sink-marks. If you nip the legs off in some boxes, they can instantly give the impression of lesser quantities. You will have to deal with the seams on the two-part pumpkins, but a flooding of liquid glue followed by pressure on the seams to exude a bead of plastic melted by the glue should make that an easy task. Conclusion As usual, sculpting and moulding are excellent, and these accessories will help to bring your models and dioramas to life with careful painting and the addition of satin or gloss varnish to give them the correct patina. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. French Concrete Road Signs (35659) Paris Region 1930-40s 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd MiniArt have been creating a range of military and martial signs for your dioramas, and have now moved on to make sets for the general populous during the 1930s and 1940s that aren’t directly related to the war. This set includes concrete direction signs that were there before the soldiers came, although some of the direction and distance signs would have been removed as the enemy advanced, although concrete signs might have taken more effort, such as small explosive charges or a bulldozer. They were also from a bygone era when roadside safety wasn’t a major consideration, partly because accidents usually happened at lower speeds, but an impact with a concrete sign would be a dead-stop, probably in more ways than one. This set arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure box with a painting of the contents on the front and brief instructions on the rear. There are eight sprues in grey styrene in the box, plus a decal sheet on pale blue paper that contains all the painted descriptive fronts of the signs. There are fourteen signs spread across the eight sprues, the most impressive of which are two four-sided box signs on a substantial tapering stanchion, which is made up from two halves plus a pyramidal cap. Another two have twin posts with a rectangular sign suspended between them, which comprises two flag-shaped parts that join together, with the posts bulked out by extra parts. Again, two of these can be made. There are three styles of T-shaped signs that have front and back parts of varying shapes to accommodate stiffening rails, and two of each style can be made of these. The final type have a single post with a rectangular sign attached, and again you can make two of each of these. The decal sheet includes a mass of signs for destinations around the Pairs area in the 1930-40s, varying in size and shape to suit the different signs included in the box. They are printed by MiniArt’s usual partners DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. Royal Engineers (35292) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Royal Engineers, or Sappers as they’re more colloquially known have been a key component of the British Army for as long as there has been an Army, and they have been clearing mines, blowing stuff up and the less intense building of things for the Army and for other clients. During WWII the Sappers were key in clearing mines, obstacles and anything that was deemed to be in the way by the D-Day landings especially. Although the Allies had flail-equipped tanks to blow whole sections of minefields at one sitting and in relative safety, they weren’t always either available or suitable for the task in hand. Sometimes the sledgehammer isn’t the correct tool for a particular nut. These brave guys went forward into unknown fields of mines of various types that had been laid to slow down or even stop the Allied advances, and they detected them with rudimentary electronic devices and rustic prodders, sometimes levering them up with an old-fashioned bayonet. Many of them didn’t see the other side of the field, which must have made it particularly difficult for the others to return to work where their friend had met his end so recently. The set arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure-sized box, and inside are seven sprues in grey styrene, a small decal sheet and a sheet of instructions of around postcard size. On the back is a painting and assembly diagram for the four figures and their accessories held on the sprues, along with a paint chart with Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, swatches and colour names. Each figure is hard at work detecting mines, one sweeping with an electronic detector, another with a prodder, yet another with a shovel, and the final figure is kneeling down to pick up a mine carefully from the ground. Each figure has a camouflaged battle bowler, a Lee Enfield rifle slung over their shoulder, and a full set of pouches and stowage on their backs that is attached to their webbing, which is moulded into the torso. In addition to the equipment provided on the two figure sprues, there are two general British accessory sprues with more helmets, weapons and pouches, a sprue of rifles with triple-pouches, a sprue of mines, and a sprue with mine detecting equipment and warning signage moulded into it. The decals have signs and the shoulder badges that are visible on a Sapper’s uniform, as well as some stencils for the mines included in the set. Conclusion This is a well-detailed set, with tons of accessories related to the men detecting as well as in general, with MiniArt’s usual high-quality sculpting and sensible breakdown of parts. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. Austin Armoured Car 1918 Pattern – Interior Kit (39016) Ireland 1919-21s British Service 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Armour became an important part of WWI, seeing the first fielding of the Tank by the British, and numerous types of armoured car that saw various uses. At the beginning of WWI Austin’s armoured car was built on their civilian chassis, with light armour and two Maxim machine guns in separate turrets, one firing to each side, front and rear. Many were destined for Russia, but after the Russian Revolution in 1917 some of the later variants were used in British service. One such version was the 1918 Pattern, which had double rear wheels, thicker armour and used the Hotchkiss machine gun instead. A batch of 1918 Pattern vehicles were manufactured for Russia, but were never delivered, with a batch handed to the newly formed Tank Corps, to be utilised in battle using a novel method of deployment. Tanks would tow them across the battlefield through no-man’s land, after which they would peel off and roam freely along and even behind enemy lines. They caused chaos and were almost too effective, ranging miles behind enemy lines at times, and set the scene for the Armoured Car and Infantry Fighting Vehicle of wars yet to come. At the end of the Great War some were returned to the UK and repurposed, but many that were formerly in Russian possession found their way into the inventory of other Eastern European countries, and a small batch were even used by the Japanese, who were British Allies in WWI. Some of the British vehicles were used in Ireland in an attempt to quell the troubles there that went on from before the end of the war until the turn of the new decade, and some bad things happened there. The Kit This is a reboxing of last year’s newly tooled kit, with new parts to accurately portray the later mark included, including the new rear axle and wheels. It arrives in standard-sized top-opening box with a painting of the vehicle on the front, and inside are seventeen sprues and six wheels in grey styrene, a sprue of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, a decal sheet and the instruction booklet that has colour profiles inside the front and rear covers. It’s an Interior kit, so some of the sprues are small, but you get a lot of detail moulded-in, thanks to MiniArt’s diligent designers that make full use of techniques such as slide-moulding, which helps improve detail without creating too many additional parts in achieving this goal. This boxing has two small new sprues that give you a pair of tyres and some of the superstructure that make this more accurate for the period. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which is built up from two longitudinal rails held apart by various cross-members, some of which have mounting points and pass-throughs for other parts such as drive-shafts for the rear wheels. The engine has its own bearer rails, and it is built up on the sump with a good number of parts, plus a note of where the high-tension leads should go, which you’ll need to make yourself. You are officially an “experienced modeller” if you go to those lengths. The transmission fits to the rear of the rails behind the engine, then they are dropped into the chassis as a unit, and joined by a number of ancillary parts, controls and a chunky radiator. Exhaust and leaf-spring suspension along with bumper irons are glued to the inverted chassis, and the rest of the driver controls are attached to the topside, even before the cab is started. The rods that turn control movements into actions are threaded through the chassis rails, or can be replaced by 0.3mm wires of your own stock, with PE tensioning mechanisms supplied if you choose this option. The big rear axle with drum brakes and the front axle with steering arms are fabricated and attached to their relevant suspension mounts, with more control linkages for the handbrake and steering joining things together. Finally, a little bodywork is attached, initially at the sides of the engine compartments in preparation for the gluing of the swooping front arches, then each axle gets a wheel at both ends, made up from single-part hubs at the front, and mated double hubs at the rear onto which the six cross-treaded tyres are fitted, each one having a slide-moulded seam where the sidewall and tread meet, removing the need to sand and scrape at the lovely tread pattern, simplifying preparation and preserving detail. That’s a good thing, and something I’d like to see more of. Now standing on her own six wheels, the floor of the fighting compartment and the crew cab plus the firewall and various small fittings are placed on the top of the chassis, with another insert providing the bases for the two turrets that have pivot-points in the centre for the machine gun mounts. Various stowage boxes are made up and sat next to the rear steering wheel assembly, which also has a simple seat for getting the crew out of hot water and dead-ends just that little bit easier. Two more slightly substantial crew seats are attached to the front along with steps at the sides, then the somewhat complex upper hull is built sensibly in a step-by-step fashion that stops the modeller from being over-faced. Several raised features should be removed from parts before fitting, and additional rivets are shown being added in various other locations, which you can slice from the flat section of the two Ck sprues, unless you’ve got a set of Archer raised rivet transfers. The clamshell crew flap with PE edges can be posed open to give a wider view of the battlefield for the drivers by using two styles of rods, and when in battle it can be closed down, restricting the driver to a letterbox view of the world, which although frustrating is infinitely better than being shot in the face. Plenty of scrap diagrams show the correct orientations of all the parts, so there’s little room for error unless you rush at it and don’t plan ahead. The hull has another vision flap at the rear, and a number of doors that can be posed open and closed too, with more vision flaps for additional situational awareness, and again there is a lot of hand-holding to get things in the right place. A number of small lights are dotted here & there, all with clear lenses for realism. Even the radiator has a remotely operated armoured cover, as an overheating engine could become troublesome if the flap stays closed too long. The side-cowlings for the engine compartment can also be posed open or closed, and have small PE straps holding them closed. With the addition of the rear fenders, the hull/body is lowered over the chassis, and more stowage is located around the vehicle, including a rack of fuel cans on the front left to make sure they don’t run out behind enemy lines. Pioneer tools are attached to the sides of the car, and a pair of curved-ended unditching planks are strapped-on low down on the chassis sides by some folded PE brackets. Turrets are fun, aren’t they? You build up a pair of mounts for the Hotchkiss machine guns, including a tractor-style perforated seat for the operator and a large ammo can to feed the gun, which is fitted into a braced ball-mount that is glued up against the inner surface of the two-part circular walls. A few more of those slice-off rivets are glued to the top of the turret walls, mainly for detail purposes, as adding moulded-in rivets to a curved part is very hit & miss due to the way the parts are removed from the moulds. The roof is detailed with latches, searchlights on PE brackets and other small fittings, each one fitted open or closed as you see fit. There are two identical turrets included, and these drop into the circular cut-outs in the roof of the fighting compartment, held in place by gravity unless you fix them into position with a little glue. Another searchlight is bracketed to the front of the bonnet above the radiator cooling door. Markings There are a decent five decal options on the decal sheet from the same battalion, with their five-view profiles printed in full colour on the glossy pages of the booklet, and while they all share the same basic colour, there is enough variety in terms of camo above the mid-line to offer plenty of choice. From the box you can build one of the following: 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, Ireland, 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, Ireland, 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, County Clare, Ireland, 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, Barracks at Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, Nov 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, County Clare, Ireland, Nov 1919 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 six-wheeler early armoured car isn’t as familiar as the Mark.IV tank or the Whippet Light Tank, but it’s been great seeing MiniArt filling another gap in the available kits of WWI armour, and there’s a LOT of them now. Detail is exceptional as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. G7107 1.5T 4x4 Cargo Truck w/Crew (35383) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Chevrolet G506 truck formed the basis of a range of 4x4 load-carrying vehicles that were capable of carrying up to 1.5 tonnes of cargo or equipment. They were initially made under the 4100 code, then moved to the 7100 range, and usually had a standard enclosed cab, with a 3.9L straight-6 engine under the bonnet, with a four-speed “crash” (non-syncro) gearbox putting down a little over 80hp through all four wheels. It rapidly became the Allies’ standard light truck, and served in substantial quantities with the Allies in the West, the Soviets in the East, and the forces fighting Japan in the Far East. There were a lot of variants, some in US Army service, others in USAAF service, with almost 50,000 of two specific types, the G7107 and G7117 sent over to the Soviets under the Lend/Lease program. The G7017 had a cargo bed with canvas top, while the G7117 was the same except for the addition of a winch to give it some static pulling power. They were well-liked by their drivers and crews, and were adapted to other tasks due to their ubiquity, such as being used by the Soviets to carry Katyusha rockets on a stripped-down flatbed. The Kit This is a reboxing of a brand-new tooling from MiniArt that is coming to your favourite model shop right now. It’s a full interior kit, with engine, cab and load area all included along with some very nice moulding and detail, particularly in the cab and those chunky tyres. It arrives in one of MiniArt’s medium-sized top-opening boxes, and inside are twenty-four modular sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope, a tiny bag with some metal chain within, a wide decal sheet and glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear pages. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which has leaf-springs fore and aft, cross-braces and rear towing eye fitted to create the structure, then has the fuel tank with PE straps, and PE rear bumper irons folded around a styrene jig, and axles installed on U-bolts, before the brake drums/hubs, battery and external brackets are added to the chassis rails. The transfer box and drive-shaft join the two axles together, and a steering linkage and box are inserted into the front of the chassis, then the engine is built up based on the straight six-cylinder block, with carburettor, dynamo and transmission added, plus the pulleys and fan at the front. The engine and substantial front bumper iron are fitted to the chassis, and at the rear a short additional chassis rail and stowage area are attached to the frame at the rear behind the fuel tank. The exhaust and its manifold slip into the underside of the chassis from below, with linkages and axle brackets fitted to the rails. The crew cab is next, beginning with the firewall and forward sidewalls. The roof and windscreen frame are moulded as one, with a headliner insert and rear-view mirror that are inserted within, and the three-part radiator housing is made to be used later. The firewall and roof are joined with some of the dash pots fixed to the engine side of the firewall, while the doors and their interior cards are assembled with their handles and window winders, plus the clear window glass that can be posed open or closed at your whim. The dashboard inserts into the front bulkhead with seven decals for the instruments and stencils on the glove box. The diagonal foot panel is joined with the firewall and decked out with three foot pedals, a stud and the steering wheel on a long column that slides through a hole in front of the pedals. The driver and co-driver share a bench seat that is made up on the floor from back, cushion and a C-shaped surround that fits round the rear of the cab back wall, with small ovalised window and PE mesh grille fitted later. The roof and firewall assembly are fitted, with the doors installed within the frame in the open or closed position. The windscreen is two flat clear parts in a styrene frame that is posed open or closed later on. The cab and radiator are both placed on the chassis and the engine cowling side panels fit between them with front wing/fender included that has Chevrolet embossed on the vertical sides and some holes drilled in the rear of the fenders. The aforementioned windscreen has a pair of PE brackets and styrene wingnuts that are installed either vertically for closed, or at an angle for open, with a scrap diagram showing the correct orientation of the various parts. The spare tyre is placed on a bracket near the exhaust, and the front of the vehicle has its headlights with clear lenses plus sidelights fitted to the wings, some German fittings for decal option 4, and PE windscreen wipers hung from the top of the frame, then the front grille is built. You may have noticed that this doesn’t appear on the sprues, and there’s a good reason for that. It is constructed completely from PE, and two jigs are included on the sprues to assist with obtaining the correct shape. The lower rail and curved side panels are made up on one jig from a single piece of PE, while the centre panel is folded up on another, then they’re joined together ready to be attached to the front of the engine bay. There are two brackets stretched across the front of the radiator, and another small curved section is added to the left of the grille as it is glued in place with the help of some CA. The hood/bonnet is able to be fitted open or closed with two styles of clasp and in the open option, a PE stay is provided. Two tie-down hooks are fixed to the front bumper iron too. The load bed floor is a single moulding with a ribbed texture on the underside, and a thick rear section with hooks, separate rear lights and moulded-in reflectors. The shallow sides and front have separate frames and a series of tie-down hooks fixed along their lengths, with PE closures and chains on the rear gate that can also be fitted open or closed, as can the seats that run down each side. The four rear mudguards are held at the correct angles by PE brackets, and on one side a pioneer toolkit is lashed to a frame with PE fixings holding an axe, pick axe, and spade. The load bed is joined to the chassis along with the toolkit on the right side of the flatbed. It’s time for the wheels to be made up, with singles at the front, each made from two parts each, and twin wheels at the rear, made up much earlier in the instructions for some reason. Each wheel slips over its respective axle, with the hub projecting through the central hub. There are two extra fuel cans on brackets with PE tie-down straps on the running boards, plus optional tilt frames that fit to the top of the vertical rails if used. In addition, a crew of three American Army driver/loader figures is included on a separate sprue, wearing overalls or fatigues with jackets, wearing caps and performing various maintenance tasks/leaning on things. Each one is made up from individual legs, torso, head and arms, plus an M1 Garand in a holster and some stowage bags. Markings There are four markings options on the decal sheet, three in green and the last one in German grey, as it is under new management. From the box you can build one of the following: 12th Armoured Division, 7th Army, 1943/44 298th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Army, France, Summer 1944 Brazilian Expeditionary Force, Italy, 1945 Captured vehicle, Unknown Wehrmacht Unit, Eastern Front, Summer, 1943 Decals are printed by MiniArt’s usual partners 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 We seem to be blessed with new kits of the Chevrolet G7107 truck in 1:35 recently, which was ubiquitous during WWII on the Eastern and Western fronts as well as the Far East, where it played an important but unsung role in the defeat of the Nazis and the Axis, lugging weapons, ammunition, men and supplies to the front and sometimes back again. The included figures are just gravy! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Fokker Dr.1 Triplane 1:32 Meng Model via Creative Models Ltd Entering service in the latter few months of 1917, the Fokker DR.1 hardly needs any introduction, as it probably the most famous German aircraft of the Great War. Manfred Von Richthofens overall red machine is instantly recognisable and is probably the most famous pilot/aircraft combination ever. It achieved a fame out of all proportion to the number built (320) and length of service (c6 months). It wasn't particularly fast, but was highly maneuverable and had an impressive rate of climb.In the hands of a skilled pilot it could be highly effective, and became the favoured mount of many aces until the superior Fokker D.VII replaced it from April 1918. The kit was due to be released earlier this year by Wingnut Wings, and was thus developed to their uncompromising standards. Unfortunately they shut down without any warning in April and laid off all their staff. Mystery surrounds the reasons for this, but speculation abounds so I'll refrain from comment other than to say I was very saddened by the closure. They were producing kits to a standard not equaled by any other manufacturer, and will be sorely missed. The Fokker Dr.1 kit was in the final stages of approval, and I was one of many who eagerly examined the test sprues displayed at Telford 2019. It seems that Meng were contracted to produce the moulds, and with the demise of Wingnut Wings have rebranded and released the kit under their own name. Packaged in a sturdy top opening box, the artwork features Manfred von Richthofens well known all red 425/17, having shot down a Bristol F2.b fighter. Inside are five light grey sprue frames of varying sizes, one small clear frame, a sheet of decals, a small sheet of etched brass, and the instruction booklet. All are individually wrapped in their own clear plastic bags. It is immediately apparent that the mouldings are in Wingnut Wings style, from the layout of parts and their quality. The plastic is the same light grey type favoured by WnW, and the customary superb detailing is all there. It is obvious that this is all the work of the Wingnut Wings master designers. The instruction booklet is simpler than the superb examples that Wingnut Wings used to supply, but adequately and clearly shows the construction stages. Naturally enough this begins with the cockpit, most parts of which are found on sprue A. The mouldings are well defined, with sharp detail. The seat/bulkhead, floor, and ammunition tank are fitted between two side frames, which then accurately position the whole assembly inside each fuselage half by locating a circular cutout over a raised ring. This sprue also contains all the parts that were fitted to the main production DR.1, as opposed to the early pre-production F.1. Sprue B holds all three wings and the fuselage halves. The fabric effect and rib tapes are nicely done, but there are a couple of issues with the wings themselves. They are all solid single piece mouldings, and there is a slight upward curvature along the span of all three, which should not be there. I saw comment on this on various internet forums from people who managed to get hold of this kit early on, so it is not unique to this example. Apparently it is easily solved by immersing the parts in hot water, taking them out and gently bending straight between thumb and forefinger. Also reported by others is a breakage on the cockpit fairing moulded integrally with the middle wing, part B6. Again this is also present on the review kit, and again should be simple to rectify. Attaching it to the fuselage side when fitting the middle wing in stage 10 should ensure a strong joint. Two propellers are also provided, part 3 is an Axial, the classic fit for an Oberursel powered DR.1. Sprue C holds four clear parts, of which C3 and C4 are optional windscreens. Part C1 is an early reflector gun sight, and an interesting option to have been included. It is only for the all red Richthofen machine. Part C2 is not mentioned in the instructions and is thus not required. The axle wing, late type cowling, late type control column, and alternate propeller are on sprue D. The propeller is not named, but looks to me more like an allied one that would probably have been paired with the Clerget engine. Sprue E is the engine, which is provided with alternate front faces for the Le Rhone 9J (Part E1) and Oberursel UR.II (Part E7), The Oberursel being a licence built Le Rhone. Many German pilots considered the Oberursel to be inferior to the original French built engines and fitted captured examples to their aircraft. Identifying which powerplants were fitted to particular DR.1s is a bit of a minefield, as captured Clerget engines were also used. At least we have two choices here! Option B, Werner Voss's aircraft is a prototype F.1 rather than a production DR.1, and was fitted with a captured Le Rhone. Sprue F holds all the alternate parts for the F.1. These are ailerons with larger mass balances, different shape rudder, curve edged tailplane, smaller wheels, and different cowling. The F.1 also did not have the wingtip skids fitted, so the locating holes in the lower wing will need filling. The etched fret offers jackets for the LMG08/15 machine guns, which need to be rolled into a cylindrical shape and attached to the injection moulded bodies. If you do not feel confident doing this, then fully injection moulded alternatives are also offered. A four point harness is provided for the seat, along with round or square inspection panels for the front fuselage. These were field modifications, so check your references if not choosing one of the kit supplied markings. Decals are printed by Meng and look very sharp with minimal carrier film, and an overall matt finish. It consists mostly of various forms of black crosses, with instrument decals and various serial numbers. There are few individual markings needed for the options, but unfortunately the 'face' for the Voss option doesn't look particularly accurate, so it may be better to hand paint it. Four options are provided, one F.1 and three DR.1's. Of course one of them is Manfred von Richthofen's all red version, which is a good choice by Meng as it is so famous and the box art will attract interest from potential buyers. For those of us who like the less obvious, the other three provide good alternatives. It wouldn't be that difficult to make Richthofen's earlier machine with the Fokker 'streaky' finish, and a red top wing, rear fuselage, wheels and cowling. By cutting out some of the serial numbers from the other options, you can make up the '152/17' it needs. Option A. DR.1, 425/17. Manfred Von Richthofen, JG1, March 1918. Option B. F.1, 103/17. Werner Voss, Jasta 10, September 1917. Option C. DR.1 206/17. Herman Goering, Jasts 27, May 1918. Option D. RD.1, Walter Gottsch, Jasta 19, February 1918. Instructions. The instructions are supplied as a neat little 20 page booklet showing all assembly sequences clearly, and unambiguously pointing out which parts are appropriate for which of the finishing options. There is a parts map and colour reference at the end, but I am not familiar with any of the paint manufacturers quoted. Fortunately each colour is named so you can select from your own preferred range. It is not to the same exemplary standard that Wingnut Wings presented their instructions, but is still very good. There are also a set of A4 sized cards, mostly in Chinese, but with some English translation explaining the types history. Conclusion. The sudden closure of Wingnut Wings was a real shock to the modelling community, the Fokker DR.1 was right on the cusp of being released and suddenly it was gone. This eagerly awaited kit was due to be released in 'Early' and 'Late' versions, and it seemed unlikely we would ever be able to get hold of them. Fortunately Meng had been contracted to produce the moulds,and were able to release the kit under their own name with all the parts for the 'Early and 'Late' versions in one box. It is a lovely kit, despite the minor issues with the breakage on the wing/cockpit part and a slight wing warp. Both are easily solved and it seems that it may have been sorted out by now as other modellers are reporting that their kits are free of this issue. It is in any case the best kit of the DR.1 in any scale. Not surprisingly Wingnut Wings kits sold out everywhere and are now like gold dust, fetching silly prices. At least we now have the opportunity to purchase this kit with Wingnut Wings DNA running through it, and at a sensible price. The aftermarket decal producers are already offering alternate finishing options for it, including the Fokker 'streaky' camouflage if you don't want to paint it. Highly Recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. M4A3E2 Jumbo US Assault Tank (TS-045) 1:35 Meng Model The Sherman tank is familiar to most armour modellers, and as such needs little introduction. It bears a familial resemblance to the M3 Lee/Grant, especially from the waist down, but the new upper hull and turret did a lot to fix the shortcomings of the earlier tank, although it was by no means perfect. Its main armament was good enough when it entered service, but became a little underwhelming toward the end of the war, as was her armour, which although sloped in places couldn’t resist the high velocity rounds from the Panther or Tiger tanks. Her most appealing feature was that they were easy and cheap to build, so there were a lot of them available both to US forces, the British Army, and other combatants of WWII via the lend/lease programme. The M4 progressed through subvariants as improvements were made with changes to the construction, armament, suspension and armour, which can be confusing to the uninitiated. By the time the M4A3 was in service the tank had matured, reverting to a welded hull and replacing the bulky radial engine with a V-8 lump manufactured by Ford. The main armament was upgraded to the more armour-focused M1 long barrelled high-velocity gun, which was more capable of penetrating the thicker armour of the later German tanks, especially if using the High-Velocity Armour Piercing (HVAP) round that could punch through almost 180mm of rolled-steel armour at 1km. Another change made with some of the M4s was the addition of wet ammo storage that reduced the risk of a tank “brewing up” when hit by enemy fire, a reputation that had resulted in the cruel nickname of "Tommy Cooker" by the Germans. The variants with this useful safety addition were suffixed with the letter W. In an effort to reduce losses in frontal assaults, the M4A3E2 variant was upgraded with an additional inch of cast frontal armour protecting the running-gear low down, and a thicker 4” upper glacis plate with an extra 1.5” welded to the sides, plus an over-thick mantlet with a 75mm gun (sometimes replaced with a 76mm) mounted on a vertical-sided cast turret. It gained the nickname “Jumbo”, probably because of the mantlet or its weight, which made it slower than a standard M4A3, but it remained popular with crews and generals alike for its ability to take punishment and remain operational. The Kit This is a revised tool from Meng adding a new sprue, hull and turret, and in their usual style it is a highly detailed kit. It arrives in a satin themed box with a painting of a distempered machine parked up near another Sherman in the background. Inside are twelve sprues in sand coloured styrene plus four larger parts off sprues, two clear sprues, a small box of springs, a coil of wire, a tiny bag of pre-cut track-pins, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a turned aluminium barrel, two trees of poly-caps and decal sheet, with the instruction booklet found at the bottom of the box, and a set of rubberband tracks. This is an exterior kit with only breech, periscopes and some hatch details included inside. There is a hint of a possible interior set in the future by the inclusion of a detailed firewall between the crew compartment and engine compartment, although at time of writing that’s still just speculation on my part. Construction begins the same way as the earlier boxing, with a few steps re-ordered for some reason. The suspension units and twin-wheel bogies are made up, which includes one of my favourite parts of the kit because of the springs – yes, I’m still impressed. To the top of the swing-arms you add these springs, which can be found inside a small box that also has some ration boxes printed on it, all safely cocooned in foam. They’re real springs too, made from spring steel and compressible just like the real Vertical Volute Suspension System (VVSS), so your Sherman will have working suspension as long as you obey the little “don’t glue” icons along the way. Each wheel is made up from a front part with moulded-in tyre and a rear part, which once added is trapped between the two axle-halves. A pair of wheels and their axles are inserted into the bottom of the suspension unit with the springs and their swing-arms inserted into the top section, which is closed up after adding the return roller then joined by a return skid that has some slide-moulded rivets moulded into it. You make three of these units up for each side and then set them aside while the hull is built up from main lower plus front drive housing and rear bulkhead, with final drive housings and poly-caps added to the sides at the front and idler mounts at the rear along with towing eyes. At the rear the radiator vents are stacked up into a matrix and held together with their end-caps before being fitted under the rear valance with the two curved exhaust pipes. The suspension units are all added on their mounts and the drive sprockets are pushed into the final drive housings, held in place by the aforementioned poly-caps, with more added to the idler wheels before they are fitted. The tracks are styrene, and made up from four parts per link, held together with short pre-cut lengths of nickel-plated wire that’s in a small bag in the box. A clear two-part jig is included that holds up to 10 links, and although you’re not advised on how to put them in the jig, I found that putting the track ends into their recesses first and then laying the pads between them was the easiest way. I also taped the jig closed before I tried adding the pins. The pins go straight through, and a dot of super glue (CA) into the ends helps to hold the pin in place, then I did the same on the other side. The result is an incredibly flexible set of tracks that will look great under a coat of paint. They take some time to clean up because of the part count, but it’s really worth the effort. Each link is four parts as mentioned, and there are 10 sprue gates per link in total. The pad links are easy to clean as they are flat, but the three on each horn have to be cleaned up carefully to preserve the detail. It’s still worth the effort though, and I can’t stop playing with the section I made up. There are 78 links per track run, and you are advised to make them up and fit them over the tracks, using the adjustment capability of the idler axle to get the correct tension, then glue little parts in place to wedge the tensioner in place. Those that are phobic of individual links will be pleased to find a set of flexible rubberband-style tracks in the box, although these aren’t documented in the instructions. Tensioning them in the same manner as the individual links will allow you to obtain a more accurate sag to them. The up-armoured upper hull is next, and begins with the drilling out of a few flashed-over holes depending on which decal option you have elected to portray. The main upper hull is fitted out with the additional armour panels to front and sides, which all have a crisp weld-line along the edges, then is prepped with hatch hinges, a movable bow machine gun, and engine deck comprising one main C-shaped part and a choice of two inserts depending on your decal choice. This is dropped onto the hull with the engine bay bulkhead supporting the centre section, then the front is detailed with lifting eyes, small fenders, hatches with detailed periscope. The rear cages are either made up from PE or plastic parts, so if the PE sounds daunting, rather than using the plastic parts, Meng have provided a multi-section jig that you can use to obtain the correct curve and shape, but it would be advisable to anneal them in a lighter flame for a few second first to soften them up. The remainder of the engine deck is made up from left and right pyramidal sections that drop into the space left on the deck with little grab-handles for mechanics to remove them for maintenance. At the rear the bulkhead is fitted out with two rows of three spare track links, rear lights with PE cages that are formed on the jig as already mentioned, barrel cleaning tools, pioneer tools, spare fuel cans and larger rear mudflaps. A rack is made and attached to the rear and is filled with additional fuel containers, probably to make up for the extra thirst of the engine that was coping with the weight of the additional armour. Along the edges of the tracks you have to apply (usually) winter-weather track grousers that give it extra traction in muddy conditions and to counter the extra weight, helping to decrease ground-pressure. There is one for each track link, and as they project further than the side skirts would, which weren’t fitted due to the side armour panels. The towing cable is also made up from the braided cable supplied with the length printed on the page, and two styrene eyes, one for each end. On the glacis plate a four-piece bow-wave board is attached between the fenders, with a large British-style ammo box resting on it for one option. Now for the turret, which begins with a pretty good rendition of the breech, with recoil mechanism, co-ax machine gun, breech guard and mounting gear attached to the back of the mantlet. A clear periscope is fitted to the roof, and the lower turret and turret ring are attached to the slab-sided top, along with pivot pins for the mantlet, which don’t need gluing. The blocky mantlet is fixed to the rear part, which has its lifting-eye “ears” removed from the top corners and moved to the sides using new parts, then being fitted to the pivoting part inside the turret. The commander’s cupola with clear vision blocks inserted from below, plus the gunner’s hatch with clam-shell doors are both made up with clear periscopes and inserted into the turret roof along with various lifting eyes, search lights, aerial bases (straight and tied back), vents and other detail parts. The turret’s casting texture is well depicted, and in addition Meng have supplied casting numbers in PE to apply to the turret depending on which decal option you have chosen. At the rear of the bustle, an M2 Anti-Aircraft .50cal with hollow muzzle is provided that can be pintle-mounted on the gunner’s hatch, or stowed across the back of the turret along with a spare barrel. The final task is to attach the barrel of the main gun, with the option of a longer, plastic barrel or a shorter turned aluminium one in the box, depending on which decal options you are making. The turret is then twisted into place on the hull, thereby completing the build. It doesn’t use a standard bayonet lug system, but has three sloped lugs that snap into place on the turret ring. How often you can remove and install it again without it fatiguing is a question I still can’t answer at this stage, so take care. Markings There are four decal options in the box, and all of them predictably are based on an olive green finish and they all have some camouflage added on top to give them some individuality, which should make for some fun-looking models. From the box you can build one of the following: 37th Tank Battalion 4th Armoured Division, US Army, Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne, Belgium, Dec 1944. 69th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Mar 1945. 2nd Squadron, 2nd African Hunter Regiment, 5th Armoured Division, Free France, Summer-Autumn 1944, France. 15th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Germany, Spring 1945 (OSF Turret, 76mm gun). Decals are printed in China and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion I’m still impressed with the springs, but when you add in all the detail and the subtle casting/rolling texture to the exterior of the hull, the extra-armour, the PE light cages, the turned barrel and those funky tracks, it makes for an impressive package. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. T-34/85 Composite Turret #112 Plant, Summer 1944 (35306) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front. The designers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with an enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. The T-34/85 with the composite turret was manufactured during the summer of 1944 at Krasnoye Sormova plant #112 on the Volga River, with a simplified gun in the turret in the shape of the ZiS-S-53, as well as some other changes. The Composite turret was fitted with a flat roof that had a pair of hatches and linked mushroom vents to the rear. There were some messy welds between the various castings, which gives them a rough look that belies their capability. The Kit This is another boxing of MiniArt’s new T-34 line, and is an exterior only kit, but the box is still loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes. In total there are sixty-four sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a small decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, notably the Czech production and others that we reviewed here, which is the reason for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from much more promising for us, which with the rate we’re receiving them for review seems to be the case. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of PE brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside face. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, with a fixed stock for the gunner’s comfort. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured outer protection, and has a tubular external armoured cover to protect the majority of the barrel length from incoming rounds. The upper hull deck and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a number of holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way, then the glacis plate it fitted to the front, some armoured plates are fitted near the turret ring, and it is then glued to the lower hull. At the rear the engine bay is still exposed, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching this large rear panel that has a circular inspection panel fixed in the centre, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers to the sides and short exhaust stubs filling the centres. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then it is fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with louvered grilles are fitted over the large flush louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, and the mudguards with PE detail parts are glued into place at the front, with more simplified flaps to the rear. Small parts, various pioneer tools, rails and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, with racks of winter track grousers attached to the flat portions of the side and external fuel tank cradles behind them. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. On the glacis, a strip of five spare track links are applied to marks on the plate between towing lugs and loops. Under the rear of the tank another set of loops, hooks and eyes are fitted into marked positions between the two final drive housings. A quartet of smooth-surfaced cylindrical fuel tanks are installed on the sides and rear by using the curved brackets fitted earlier, and mixed PE and styrene straps holding them in place. Ten pairs of wheels with either smooth or ribbed tyres and separate hub caps are built with one of two styles of drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply three lengths of 94mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. The ribbed tyres are only fitted for certain decal options, and these are not used on all stations, so check the instructions next to that step. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share. There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue. Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm, it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. The turret starts as an almost complete shell with three sides moulded into it, which has inserts for the interior skin. The roof is separate and has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and binoculars built into the bi-fold hatch, plus a simpler hatch for the gunner, both of which are shown fitted closed. The roof also has two more periscopes under armoured shrouds, and two vents on the rear, which are covered by a linked armoured mushroom cover. Despite this not being an interior kit, the basic gun breech is present, with another 7.62mm DT machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set to one side while the turret floor is completed. The floor part first has a lip inserted within the ring, then the inner mantlet support is prepared with the main gun’s mount, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind and is joined by the coax DT with its mount. The gun tube, which is a single part is inserted into the socket on the inner mantlet and has the outer mantlet slide over it, and it has a hollow muzzle for extra detail. An aerial, a long grab handle and six tie-down lugs are added around the rear of the turret, and three PE straps are included to either hang loose, or to lash a canvas of your own making to the rear of the bustle, then the turret is dropped into place in the hull to complete the build. Markings There are seven decal options in the box and they’re all green, as you’d expect from a wartime example made in the summer of '44, but a few have white stripes and red markings to break up the green. From the box you can build one of the following: 5th Guards Tank Corps., Red Army, 3rd Ukrainian Front, Czechoslovakia, Winter 1945 2nd Guards Tank Brigade, Red Army, East Prussia, March 1945 'Vladimir Mayakovsky', unidentified unit, Red Army, Berlin, April/May 1945 Unidentified unit, Red Army, Berlin, April/May 1945 1st Polish Tank Corps., Germany, April 1945 ‘Rogacz’ (Deer), 1st Polish Tank Corps., Germany, April/May 1945 ‘With the victory over Berlin’ 10th Guards Tank Corps., Red Army, Germany 1945 The decal sheet a reasonable size, because despite this being a tank, there are a generous seven options. The sheet is printed 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 The T-34 played a huge part in the Soviet response to Operation Barbarossa, albeit after a substantial delay caused by Stalin’s apparent indecision. It was a stalwart of their defence then offense, sweeping the Germans aside thanks to its sloped armour and sheer weight of numbers. This kit omits most of the interior, and yet keeps all the external goodies, so if interiors aren’t your thing it's a tempting option. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. T-34/85 Mod 1945 Plant 112 (37091) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front. The engineers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with the enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. The T-34/85 served until after WWII in Soviet service, but once it became obsolete, they were exported aggressively to Soviet friendly nations, who could always find uses for them, sometimes for a long period of service, interestingly they were supplied to Austrian units in the divided country after WWII and following reunification in 1955 the Austrian Army would use an interesting mix of western and Soviet equipment types/ The Kit This is another boxing of MiniArt’s new T-34 line, and is not an interior kit, but the box is still loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes, including four crew figures to fill the hatches. In total there are 62 sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a small decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, notably the Czech production that we reviewed here, which is the reason for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from much more promising for us, which with the rate we’re still receiving them for review seems to be the case. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear that performs the task of upper hull support in this boxing. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside surface. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, without a stock for the gunner’s (dis)comfort. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured protection, and has an armoured external cover to protect the majority of the barrel from incoming rounds. The driver’s hatch is hinged at the top, and the armoured cover is applied to the top edge of the aperture, and a length of tracks are installed underneath. The upper hull top and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a substantial number of holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way, then the glacis plate it fitted to the front and glued to the lower hull. A pair of PE parts are glued to the hull sides next to the turret ring, with two stiffener plates in PE where the front fenders will be late. At the rear the engine bay is still exposed, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching this large rear panel with exhausts and filling the circular inspection hatch in the centre, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers for the exhausts. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with PE grilles are fitted over the basic louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, with final drive housing and idler wheel axles at front and rear. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. Mudguards are assembled with PE strips for the front fenders, with wading deflector passing over the track links on the glacis, and at the rear two auxiliiary fuel tanks and their mounting straps are built up and added. Small parts and various pioneer tools and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, along with racks for extra track parts. Additional fuel tank support frames are fitted on the rear sides, and interlinked towing cables just forward of them. A trio of smooth-surfaced cylindrical fuel tanks are installed on the sides later by using curved brackets and five-piece tanks with PE and styrene shackles holding them in place, the cables taking up the space where the fourth tank would be. The headlight is a detailed assembly made up from PE and styrene parts, with an angled cage folded around a jig to obtain the correct shape. Ten pairs of wheels are built with two drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply two lengths of 100mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share, but their ruggedness also applied to desert conditions. There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue. Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps, wedges etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. Despite this not being an interior kit, the gun breech is made up from a substantial number of parts with another machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set to one side while the turret floor is completed. The floor part first has a lip inserted within the ring, then the inner mantlet support is prepared with the main gun’s mount, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind and is joined by the coax DT with its mount. The turret upper starts as an almost complete shell with three sides moulded into it, which has inserts for the interior skin and the roof, which has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and binoculars built into the bi-fold hatch, plus a simpler hatch for the gunner, both of which are shown fitted closed. The roof also has two more periscopes under armoured shrouds, and two vents, which are covered by armoured mushroom covers. Lifting-eyes, antennae (depending on decal option) and grab-handles are dotted around the turret sides, then the gun tube, which is a single part is inserted into the inner mantlet and covered by the outer, has a hollow muzzle for extra detail. A top mantlet cover is made up and attached on the sides of the bustle, plus a self-made canvas tarp can be fitted to the rear with PE straps, or you can depict the straps hanging loose if you choose. The turret is finally dropped into place in the hull to complete the build, with no bayonet lugs to hold it in place, so take care if you decide to inspect the underside one day. Markings The decal sheet isn’t huge because this is a tank, but the sheet is printed 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. From the box you can build one of the following: 4th Guards Tank Corps, Red Army, Moscow Autumn 1945 Chinese People's Liberation Army, Early 1050 Ceremonial Colours, Soviet Army, Ukraine November 1949 Czechoslovak People's Army Late 1940s Romanian People's Army 1950s Austrian Armed Forces, Early 1960; Conclusion The T-34 had a long and useful service life with many operators, with the boxing depicting a wide variety of vehicles. This kit omits most of the interior in the interior boxings, and yet keeps all the external detail plus gun breech, so if interiors aren’t your thing it's an appealing alternative. You can still have some of the hatches open. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. T-34/85 Mod.1960 (37089) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front, occasionally with wet paint or no paint at all. The engineers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after their initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 units per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with a further enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought before an engagement. The T-34/85 stayed in service until long after WWII with the Soviets, but once it became obsolete, they were exported aggressively to Soviet friendly nations, who could always find uses for them, sometimes for a long period of service. These exports were upgraded to Mod.1960 standards with new more powerful engines and other more up-to-date equipment to give them at least some chance of surviving more modern foes. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the last update, with another following on in 1969. The most recently used Yemeni vehicles were in use as late as 2015 where they suffered losses from modern anti-tank missiles, which are the bane of modern armour, let alone warmed-over WWII equipment. The Kit This is another boxing of MiniArt’s recent T-34 line, and is not an interior kit, but the box is still loaded with sprues of all sizes. In total there are sixty sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a long thin decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various previous boxings of the T-34, and their use of smaller sprues makes their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from much more likely for us, which with the rate we’re still receiving them for review seems to be the case. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and has a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear that performs the added task of upper hull support in this kit. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside face. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, without a stock to give the gunner more space. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured protection, and has an external armoured cover to protect the majority of the barrel from incoming rounds. The driver’s hatch is hinged at the top, and the armoured cover is applied to the top edge of the aperture, and a pair of towing hitches and small tie-downs are installed on the lower edge, followed by adding a strip to the front of the lower hull in preparation for joining. The upper hull top and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a number of holes drilled out before they are used, then the glacis plate it fitted to the front and glued to the lower hull. A pair of slim styrene parts are glued to the roof sides next to the turret ring, and some small raised pairs of marks need to be removed on the sides with a sharp blade. At the rear the hull is still open, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching this large rear panel with exhausts and filling the circular inspection hatch in the centre, with a pair of armoured covers for the exhausts and two cylindrical fuel tanks on brackets at the top corners, with the rear mudguards and a pair of hoses for the fuel tanks added too. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. Mudguards are assembled with PE strips for the front fenders, with bow-wave deflector passing over a run of track links on the glacis. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with grilles are fitted over the basic louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, with final drive housing and idler wheel axles at front and rear. Racks for additional fuel tanks are installed to the rear of the sides, with many short tie-down loops and a few longer ones in the mid-section, plus some stowage boxes made up with PE clasps that mount on the narrow horizontal fenders running down the side of the vehicle. Small parts including various pioneer tools and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the remaining sloped spaces of the hull, including three trays of track grousers with PE straps, and two towing cables that are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply two lengths of 100mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. A trio of smooth-surfaced cylindrical fuel tanks are installed on the curved brackets and five-piece tanks with PE and styrene shackles holding them in place, plus two short ribbed tanks taking up the space where the fourth tank would be. Ten pairs of wheels with separate hub caps are built with two drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share, but their ruggedness also applied to desert conditions. There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you apply the adhesive. Each side is built from 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps, wedges etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. This is not an interior kit, so the basic gun breech is made up from a few parts with another 7.62mm DT machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set into the turret floor, which first has a lip inserted within the ring, then the inner mantlet support is prepared with the main gun’s mount, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind. The turret upper starts as an almost complete shell with three sides moulded into it plus a pair of inner sidewall layers, which has some holes drilled into the outer skin and the roof fitted that has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and another block built into the front of the hatch, plus a simpler hatch for the gunner, both of which are shown installed closed. The roof also has two more periscopes under armoured shrouds, and two vents on the rear, which are covered by a pair of armoured mushroom covers. The single-part slide-moulded gun tube is inserted into the inner mantlet and covered by the outer that slides over it and the gun has a hollow muzzle for extra detail. A PE top mantlet cover, plus a self-made canvas tarp (using your own stock) can be fitted to the rear with PE straps, or you can depict the straps hanging loose if you choose. The turret is finally dropped into place in the hull to complete the build, with no bayonet lugs to hold it in place, so take care if you decide to inspect the underside one day in the future. Markings The decal sheet is wide and thin, and the sheet is printed 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. From the box you can build one of the following: Soviet Army, late 1960s North Vietnamese Army (People’s Army of Vietnam), early 1970s Army of Rhodesia, early 1970s Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan Unidentified Unit, Yemen, late 2010s Conclusion We’ve been treated to many, many variants of this doughty and long-lived medium tank that saw service in almost as many places as the AK47 until the 1970s at least. By the time this mod came out they were already outdated, under-armoured and under-armed, so must have been very cheap to buy. It’s a great kit though, and the varied operators will be tempting for many. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. T-34/85 Composite Turret 112 Plant Summer 1944 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude methods, and thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front. The designers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without grinding to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with an enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. Czechoslovakia was subsumed by the Nazi war machine in a two-stage operation just prior to the outbreak of WWII that began with the Sudetenland, and it stayed under the Nazi jackboot until the beginning of 1945 as the Soviet juggernaut rolled back the Germans to their old borders and beyond. The incoming Soviet influence provided the Czechs with T-34/85s to jump-start the Czech army, and once they themselves had completed their integration of the area within the Soviet Bloc, Czech factories began making their own under license, with over 1,800 made, some of which were exported abroad to Soviet friendly allies in either new or used condition. The tank itself was a kind of Frankenstein made using moulds and specifications from different factories, and occasionally adding in a soupçon of other people’s technology, such as some knock-off German Notek convoy lights in the very early issue. They stayed in Czech service a lot longer that they perhaps otherwise would, had the Czech soldiers in exile not been already familiar with them, but by 1954 production was ceased and geared up for license building of the T-54 to replace it. The tanks sold abroad often had very short, violent lives, passing through the hands of various Middle Eastern and South African nations, with losses heavy when they were faced with a more modern enemy. The Kit This is a boxing of MiniArt’s new T-34 line, and as well as being of an early type with the larger gun and turret, it is also a full interior kit, so the box is loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes. In total there are seventy eight sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, which is the reason for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from very much more promising for us. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull and suspension. The floor is fitted with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear, and many of the interior parts are fitted into the front of the floor, joined by ammo stowage below the turret location, plus ammo cans for the bow machine gun, driver controls that include foot pedals and linkages, with the driver’s and machine gunner’s seat completing his area, each of which have generous side bolsters to prevent them from being tipped out of their seats on rough ground. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside wall, and numerous equipment attached in between, including fire extinguishers, ready-rounds and some small PE parts. These are joined to the floor and the engine is begun, complete with the whole block, twin banks of pistons and rocker covers, exhaust manifolds, ancillaries and a sturdy trestle mount on which the engine rests. Radiator panels, first-motion shaft and clutch are fitted next as the block is inserted into the rear hull along with the radiators, fuel tank on the sponson, then another bulkhead behind the engine, with a cut-out that surrounds the clutch that in turn mates to the transfer box and brake drums that fit up against the final drive housing at the very rear of the vehicle. Various brake and transfer linkages are added on top with the generator for the electrics and two air intake boxes and hoses, one on each side of the bay. The exhausts pass over the top and are later covered with external armoured tail pipes, but in the meantime the upper hull is begun. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, complete with light-weight sliding stock for the gunner’s comfort. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured protection, hinge for the driver’s door, convoy light with cable, and a set of five spare track links attached to the lower area. Inside a small instrument panel with decals for the dials is installed below the lip of the hatch. A light interlude of making the additional fuel tanks for the sides of the hull, complete with carry-handles on each end then takes us to the upper hull. The top and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a myriad of holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way, and this is then joined by the glacis plate with PE stiffener plates at the sides. At the rear the engine is still exposed, which is next to be addressed, by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead before attaching this large panel that can be fitted closed or hinged down for maintenance, and has a number of holes drilled out, depending on which decal option you are building. The bulkhead has a circular inspection panel in the centre that can also be open or closed, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers to the sides. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then dropped over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers are fitted over the basic louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, and the mudguards with PE detail parts are glued into place at the front, with more simplified flaps to the rear, again with the PE details. Small parts and various pioneer tools or stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, with racks of winter track grousers attached to the flat portions of the side and fuel tank supports behind them. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. By installing a gas-strut part inside the hatch rim earlier, you can set the hatch open to expose some of the interior, and fitting the bow-wave deflector half way up the glacis you can ensure his knees don’t get wet. Ten pairs of wheels with separate hub caps are built with two drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply three lengths of 94mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. The side tanks are fitted to their frames with PE shackles on both sides with the short, ribbed containers having a styrene fitting that hooks to the frame with a PE hook. The headlight fits to the join between the sloped glacis and sides on a mixed styrene/PE bracket with styrene rear housing and clear lens at the front. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share. There are two track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue. Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each piece, and once you get into a rhythm, it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. Next up its the turret. The gun breech is made up from a substantial number of parts with another 7.62mm DT machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set to one side while the busy turret floor is completed. The floor part first has a lip inserted within the ring, then is detailed with seats, traversing equipment, plus a stack of sixteen accessible rounds in a frame that is mounted in the rear of the bustle for easy access. The inner mantlet is prepared with the main gun’s mount, plus elevation hardware and sight, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind and joined by the coax DT with its mount. Another seat with PE leather strap suspension is strung between the turret side and the breech. The main turret is C-shaped part with three sides moulded into it, holes must be opened up for external fittings at this point. The separate roof then goes on with two mushroom vents to the rear. Back inside the turret this has inserts within for the interior skin, with ready-rounds, radio gear, spare periscope glass and other equipment needed for fighting. Reverting back to the top, the roof also has two forward periscopes under armoured shrouds. The roof then has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and periscope built into the bi-fold hatch, plus a more simple hatch for the gunner, both of which can be fitted open or closed. The turret top is fitted over the base and joined by the gun tube, which is a single part, and has an outer mantlet slid over it once inserted. An aerial, some grab handles, stowage loops and lugs are dotted around the turret and a folded canvas sheet (of your own making) can be lashed to the bustle with some PE straps that are included on the fret. Dropping the turret into place in the hull completes the build. Markings There are five decal options in the box, and due to the length of service of the Czech produced T-34s, there are a number of more attractive camouflage schemes, rather than just green or winter distemper white. From the box you can build one of the following: 31st Tank Corps, 1st Ukrainian Front, Poland, Jan 1945 9th Tank Corps, Germany, Spring 1945 1st Czechoslovak Tank Brigade, Spring 1945 5th Guards Tank Corps, 3rd Ukrainian Front, Austria, Spring 1945 7th Guards Tank Corps, Poland, Spring 1945 The decal sheet isn’t huge because this is a tank, but the sheet is printed 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 The T-34 played a huge part in the Soviet response to Operation Barbarossa, albeit after a substantial delay caused by Stalin’s apparent indecision. It was a stalwart of their defence then offense, sweeping the Germans aside thanks to its sloped armour and weight of numbers. This kit shows the internal workings of the vehicle in extreme detail, and gives a good idea of just how cramped and claustrophobia-inducing it was. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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