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  1. German Tankmen with Gantry Crane & Maybach HL120 Engine (35350) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Tanks are big, but sometimes they need fixing, and there are very few parts of a tank that aren’t heavy. In a workshop situation, cranes are the way to go, and that’s what this kit is all about. It arrives in a small top-opening box with a painting of the contents in action on the front, and within are twelve sprues of grey styrene, two types of metal chain, a decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour covers. It supplies parts to create a four-legged gantry crane with pulley system, a Maybach HL120 engine that was used mainly in the Panzer III, Sturmgeschütz III and Panzer IV, plus a pair of barrels to either rest the engine on, or for background detail. The kit also includes two figures of tankers or mechanics wrestling with the engine in dynamic poses. Construction begins with the gantry, with a large I-beam supported by four legs with twin wheels at the lower ends, and pegs at the bottom to set the angle of the legs and thereby the height of the gantry by slotting horizontal rods over the pegs. The wheels run on long C-section troughs, which are made up from two sections each, joined together in the middle. The legs can be wound-in or out using the winch that clips over the pegs and uses some thread from your own stock to complete the assembly. The block and tackle hang from a set of pulleys surrounded by a metal enclosure, which is simplified in this instance by a set of pegs inside the casing. The larger chain is suspended from the pegs before the case is closed up around the I-beam, then at the bottom the lower pulley is assembled around the looped chain and has a hook added at the bottom. A wheel with smaller chain wrapped around it perpendicular to the I-beam is used to move the assembly along the beam in either direction (on the real thing), while another smaller one raises and lowers the hook. The two barrels are next, made up from two halves, two ends and two bands around the centre that need a little shaved off the inside, as shown in the instructions. The engine can be configured as either a HL120 TRM for a Panzer.IV or Panzer.III by following the instructions with A or B options. The block is made from a number of detailed parts, assembling the V between the two banks of 6 cylinders and covering them with the rocker covers and separate oil filler caps. The flywheel covers the majority of one end of the block, and the various pulleys, their mountings and belts the other, plus other ancillaries, exhaust manifolds, dynamo and air box completing the job. The two figures are contained on individual sprues with separate torsos, arms, legs and heads, both of which have forage caps moulded-on. They are wearing two-piece overalls and work boots, with one pulling on a chain, the other stabilising or pushing on the engine or whatever you choose to mount on the hook. A painting guide for the figures is printed on the inside rear cover, using paint codes that correspond to a table on the inside front cover using swatches, Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and the colour names in English to the right. In addition to the decals that comes with the set for the rocker cover and intake (with spares) plus the two stencilled signs for any buildings nearby, the inner cover of the instructions has images of eight posters in German and Russian for you to cut out and apply to the walls if you wish. The back page shows an example of how to set up the various parts, codes for painting the assemblies, and shows how to suspend the engine from the two lugs at each end, using some wire from your own spares. Conclusion Another excellent diorama item that can be used to add human scale and some height to your latest WWII German project. Detail is excellent, while the two types of chain included in the box helps make the build go smoothly. Highly recommended. Currently showing as out of stock at Creative, but should be back in soon. I knew it would be popular! Review sample courtesy of
  2. LvKv 90C Anti-Air Vehicle (84508) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd Based upon the original Combat Vehicle 90 (CV90), this anti-aircraft light tank uses the same chassis with a 40mm Bofors autocannon in a new turret, which is guided by a Thales radar unit perched on top of the turret in a cylindrical housing. LvKv stands for Luftvärnskanonvagn, which translates to self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon, with the 90 representing the decade of its birth. It can fire programmable proximity-fused fragmentation or armour piercing rounds, which coupled with the complex computer algorithms used in targeting, calculating velocity and direction of the target, speed of rounds, ballistic drop makes for a highly accurate weapon that will put the fear of immediate perforation in any passing enemy that lingers in range (up to 14km) for more than a couple of seconds. It can also track up to six targets at once, far beyond that of any mere human and a useful force multiplier. Although it isn’t strictly speaking a frontline vehicle, it is well-enough armoured to withstand armour piercing rounds from most APCs to its frontal armour, and small arms fire from the back and sides, with the 90C having upgraded appliqué armour and anti-spall liner to better equip it for international service where IEDs and ambushes could be par for the course. Other upgrades include a full air conditioning pack for operation in hot and humid locations, plus anti-dazzle filters on the vision blocks to protect the eyesight of the crew. It is also a connected fighting vehicle, benefitting from and contributing to a better overall situational awareness of their forces that is an incredibly useful tool in the modern battlefield. It gets around thanks to a powerful Scania 550hp diesel engine that drives the tracks and also acts as propulsion in water with the fitment of a flotation kit that gives it greater all-terrain capability. The Kit Based upon their initial 2012 release of the CV90-40C complete with all the appliqué armour of the IFV, and with a new turret, gun and radar “pot”. In its splinter camouflage it is an attractive design, and from the box it is well-detailed throughout with individual link tracks and separate track-pads. From the standard Hobby Boss box come fourteen sprues and three hull and turret parts in sand-coloured styrene, four sprues of track-pads in black, Ninety mini-sprues of track-links in a metallic grey, a small clear sprue, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, a sheet of decals, and the instruction booklet with separate colour painting guide. In a break from the norm, construction begins with the vehicle’s rear hatches, which are festooned with styrene and tiny PE parts before completion. Then the more predictable make-up of the four-part drive sprockets (x2), four-part road wheel pairs (x14), and two-part idler wheels, which are set aside until after the lower hull and its swing-arm suspension is finished off. The rear hatch made earlier is added to the stepped underside, clear lights are slotted inside the sloped front of the upper hull, and a number of PE parts are added around them next to the front fenders. The upper hull is glued to the lower, and now you can add all those wheels, then make up the tracks. Each track run has 82 links comprising two parts, with two sprue gates on the pads, and three on the metallic-coloured links, all of which are sensibly placed and easy to clean up. It took a few minutes to make up the example section of 6 links for the review, and you can even leave off the pads until after painting the tracks if you are modelling it clean, scuffing the pads with a sanding stick before you glue them in for a bit of realism. While they clip together easily, they’re not meant to be workable links, so when you have them in place and looking good, just freeze them in position with some glue, which will also make painting them easier. With the hull joined, a set of mudflaps and a number of pioneer tools are attached to the rear along with pre-moulded towing cables that have PE tie-downs, with styrene grab-handles on the glacis and a nicely detailed driver’s hatch added. At the rear is an access hatch for the engine plus a bundle of three different shovels, and on the sides a pair of skirts are fixed to notches in the hull sides. More PE and clear parts are fitted on the rear bulkhead, with a number of PE grilles added to the deck and a trio of aerials at the very rear. The Bofors cannon is a simple affair, made up from a four-part mount and a two-part barrel with concertina recoil bag moulded-into its base, split horizontally with a single piece flared muzzle fitted last. The barrel is slipped through the turret from the inside and is trapped in place by the cut-outs as the lower turret is glued to the upper. It should remain mobile if you don’t drown the joint in glue. With that the turret is detailed with a stowage bustle, smoke grenade launchers, hatches, grab-handles and vision blocks. The turret is finished off with a sighting box in front of the gunner’s position, the big radar pot at the rear, spare track-links and a folded-up PE top cover for the gun. The final act is to insert a heap of PE camo tie-downs around the top and front of the turret, with scrap diagrams showing the correct locations. The completed turret drops into the ring and twist-locks in place on the bayonet lugs moulded into the bottom. Markings The decals included in the kit are minimal as you’d expect from an armour kit, and they have good enough registration, colour density and sharpness for the task in hand. From the box you can build one of the following: I’ve said it before, but I wish Hobby Boss would give us more information about their decal options, but other than the vehicle’s number plates, there’s not much of a clue as to where and when these schemes are from. Conclusion This variant of the CV90 has been well-kitted by Hobby Boss, and as there’s an unusual splinter scheme in the box to test your masking skills plus a plain green one, there’s fun for everyone. The tracks are pretty decent, and once you’ve got them on the vehicle, freezing them in place with a little glue will save them from falling apart down the line. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. Small Carts Collection (35621) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models MiniArt’s range of diorama accessories in 1:35 are legion, and it keeps getting more legion-y by the month. This set contains a variety of wheeled carts, and arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure box with five sprues in grey styrene, one for each of the items shown on the box top. The instructions on the back give a brief run-down of construction, and are accompanied by painting suggestions that relate to a table that gives small swatches, paint codes from Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, and the colour names in English. As these are just guides, the world is your oyster, and if you want to paint your cart in different colours then no-one* is going to stop you. * I do however advise you that someone is bound to be an expert on carts, so if they’re not well-adjusted socially and you’re unlucky enough to come across them, at least I warned you. From the box you can build what I refer to as a sack truck, often seen on the railways in the 50s and earlier being pushed around by Porters, with two small wheels and a metal bracket to take the weight of the object. A traditional open-sided wooden wheel-barrow with single wheel, wooden frame and load bed, plus another with a sloping, pressed steel load area are also included. A four-wheeled wooden trolley with an open framework load area and long pull-handle is really the first true cart, and the last is another wooden cart with large carriage-style wheels and two legs to enable the user to keep the load-bed flat, and two handles for the barrow-man to lift and push/pull his load. This one is typically used by street vendors to sell groceries, flowers and the like. Conclusion Detail is excellent throughout as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt, and moulding is crisp and clean, showing off the wooden texture where appropriate, plus the slight irregularity that is inherent with ageing wooden equipment and lends itself perfectly to some paint weathering and chipping, as shown on the box art. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Railroad Crossing (36059) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Crossing a railway can be dangerous unless you do it at a monitored or automated crossing. Computerised automation is a relatively modern thing, but in WWII and earlier it was either a much more manual thing that involved signals with manual booms, or electro-mechanical operated barriers if you were lucky. This set from MiniArt arrives in a small top-opening box and contains a combination of vacformed bases and styrene accessories. Inside the box are two sheets of vacformed grey plastic plus fifteen sprues of grey styrene, two of which have been nipped in two in order to fit within the box. There are also two small sprues of clear styrene, three individual lenses in red, amber and green, two small sheets of decals, a length of string and a short instruction booklet. The two bases are identical, but if flipped they won’t be noticeable beneath ground works and static grass. The two base plates form a sandwich with the track the filling, fitting flush with the rails, and a set of wooden planks that ease vehicles’ path over the rails. Each rail is pinned to sleepers/ties by individual cleats, and you’ll need to add some ballast between each one with a layer below to prevent it falling through. The bases are shallow and should be backed by a lower layer to ensure that things stay together during construction and handling. The roadway is cobbled with rectangular blocks, and the verge is slightly raised, so a combination of paint and groundworks will bring it to life. The accessories that accompany the bases include a large gantry with a set of signals at the top, and foot-pegs for the inevitable maintenance it will require. Linkages run down to the ground and away to a distant signal box, with toothed wheels at the bottom and a hand-cranking handle for emergencies. The clear parts are for the lamps, with the coloured lenses inserted into the signal arms for the lamps to shine through in the real thing. There’s nothing to stop you from lighting the assembly with tiny LEDs of course. The two booms are identical in construction, with a mechanism in a cast enclosure on a large stanchion that has a similar handle to operate it, and a geared wheel at the pivot of the boom that raises and lowers it onto the rest at the other end. A couple of level crossing signs with the international picket-fence symbol are supplied, and you have a choice of painting the triangular signs white and applying the decal with a clear centre, or using the decals on the smaller sheet with a white background. Markings There is no painting guide, but you can see some suggested colours on the box top, and everyone knows that grass is green(ish) most of the time. The decals for the signs are accompanied by some letters and numbers for you to use as you see fit. Conclusion Painting will be key to this diorama, as will the groundwork, which can include static grass, small rocks and various pastes and potions peculiar to diorama creation. What you want to place on the road is completely up to you, and you can see some options in the photo above. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. Welders (38039) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The introduction of welded seams on metal structures happened because the joints were stronger and lighter than the riveting methods previously used, and the job could be done quickly and more cost-effectively into the bargain. For deconstruction, similar gear can be used to rapidly cut metal apart for scrapping or recycling. The torches use gases mixed together to create an incredibly hot flame that melts metal in seconds or less, with the most well-known method being oxy-acetylene, which is clearly a mixture of oxygen and acetylene, the latter helping to create temperatures in excess of 3,500 o Celsius, melting the rod and joining the metals. The ferocity of the flame is such that without a welding mask or goggles, you could well end up in hospital with severe eye-strain, UV or infrared damage, or worse a fleck of molten metal embedded in your eye. Every day’s a school day, eh? Inside the shrink-wrapped box are five sprues, two containing the figures, the other three full of cylinders and a trolley, plus the torches and a few accessories. The two figures are posed in some classic welding positions, one kneeling and holding up a large mask with one hand, and the torch in the other. This was before the days of automatic lenses or flip-down masks. The other gentleman has a pair of goggles and is welding at waist height, leaning over the work to get a better view. Each torch has two inlets at the rear, which you will need to join to some hose substitutes to suit your needs, with lead wire springing immediately to mind. The two tanks are filled with oxygen and a mix of acetone, some form of wadding, and the acetylene of course, all of which helps to keep it in a fit state to use for a longer time. Both welders have two tanks each, but with only one trolley for moving the heavy tanks around. The trolley is based on a sack truck that you might find on a railway platform, but with a huge set of wheels, one on each side. The two tanks would be strapped or chained in position to prevent ‘sudden accidental unloading’ if you hit a bump. The cylinders are made from two halves with a flared base part, a set of regulators or a cover over the spigot, depending on the story you’re telling. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus the extras to add some detail to their vicinity if you’re using them in a diorama. As well as the bottles and masks, you get two rod containers and some extra goggles. NOTE: When I opened the box a spare leg, part F5, fell out. It must have been an issue during packaging. If you’re reading this and have a leg missing (from your model) after buying the set, drop me a PM if you can’t source a replacement elsewhere. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. German Drivers & Officers (35345) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Vehicles need drivers even in war, but officers seem reluctant to drive themselves for whatever reason, preferring to have someone do it for them. WWII German military were no different, and this set of figures includes a group of four figures of that ilk. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are four sprues, each one containing the individual figure and their accessories. Three of them are drivers, with one officer looking on. The drivers are posed as per the box art, one rooting under the bonnet/hood, one leaning nonchalantly on the sill of a car, while the other hand-cranks an engine with his free hand resting on the vehicle. The Officer has a pair of riding pants and boots, plus the flat officer cap, his hands together and a rather miserable face. The gent with the mechanical issues has his jacket off and sleeves rolled up, and has his coat and cap on the sprue for placement nearby. The engine starter has a crank handle included on his sprue, with the grip moulded into his right hand for ease of location. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus separate caps. There is a little flash here and there on my sample, but that’s not a big issue and can be scraped off an awful lot easier than a short-shot part can be repaired. The instructions on the rear of the box show the figure parts and the appropriate colour for painting, with a colour chart at the bottom that has a colour swatch and Vallejo, Mr Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, and plain English. That should make it easy to convert if you don’t use any of those brands. Conclusion There are enough figures in the box to use in three or possibly four models, and with careful painting it will bring your kit or diorama to life. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. Close Combat US Tank Crew (35311) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Sometimes tank crews have to vacate the relative safety of their vehicle to fight, such as when their ride is disabled or knocked out by enemy action, the occasional mechanical breakdown, or getting caught napping outside by the enemy. They’re specifically equipped with more compact weapons to fit the confines of their vehicles, and in WWII US tank crews typically carried the M3 Grease Gun or an M1911 pistol for self-defence, the latter sometimes on a close-fitting three-point body holster keeping the holstered weapon close to their torso to avoid snagging themselves on the tank when inside. This figure set contains five tankers dressed in typical US tanker overalls, hard helmets and M1 steel helmets. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are seven sprues, two containing the figures, two their helmets, weapons and accessories, while the remaining three have parts for an M2 Browning .50cal machine gun, some ammo cans and sundry other weapons and bags, with a tiny Photo-Etch (PE) sheet protected in an over-large card envelope. Two of the crew are kneeling either on or near the tank in a fairly tense fashion, looking out for danger, one with a Grease Gun, the other a pistol. The two standing figures are also wielding Grease Guns, one firing, the other looking cautiously round a corner. The final figure is standing on the deck of the tank firing the turret-mounted .50cal while bracing himself in an almost seated position, such that if the gun suddenly disappeared, he’d end up on his butt. They’re all wearing tanker overalls except the guy with the pistol, and three of them are wearing the short bomber jackets typical of tankers of the day. Think Telly Savalas in Kelly's Heroes. The instruction sheet covers the building of the .50cal, its mount, a choice of open or closed ammo can, a short length of link for the open option, and the four-part tanker helmet that everyone but the .50cal gunner is wearing. The short perforated cooling jacket for the .50cal is supplied as a PE part, with the barrel handle and collar also made of PE parts. You will need to roll the collar and jacket into a tube before fitting it, but there is another barrel included in the set that has a moulded-in jacket and collar in case you don’t have any luck with the rolling. 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 Grease Gun has a separate stock as shown on the rear of the box, while additional guns, a satchel, pistols and holsters, plus plenty of other spare weapons can be found on the sprues. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. The Trench WWI & WWII Era (MB35174) 1:35 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models Ltd Diorama bases are often fun and an opportunity to be creative. Having to make everything from scratch can be a bind though, so if you need to build a section of trench, this is a very useful option to save yourself some time in creating a dug-out with typical WWI style that was sometimes reused in WWII, as the Great War veterans had developed trench warfare over a period of 4+ years and had got it totally dialled-in by the time they finally went home. The set arrives in a figure-sized box, which from Master Box always seems to collapse, or maybe that’s just me being clumsy. Inside are two identical sprues in grey styrene that you may have seen before if you have any of their WWI diorama sets. The front of the box has a painting of a trench, while the back has a photo of the finished article with numbers and letters to point out parts and paint colours using the legend on the right, and the colour table in the bottom left. The trench parts form the U-shape of the trench, plus a small section of the ground lined with sandbags in front and behind. The sides of the trench are made of wooden planking, which has a realistic texture, as do the logs that reinforce the sections. Parts for a ladder are also included, plus a "shooting step" along the front wall to differentiate back from front. The ground parts are supported by sloped C-shaped brackets that hold the whole diorama to shape, although if you wanted to enclose the groundworks you could consider making panels from sheet styrene to hide the inner structure. Conclusion A neat short-cut to create a trench, and perfect as the basis for a WWI diorama with WWII dug-outs also an option. Lots of good-looking wood texture, and although a little bit of flash has crept into this moulding, it’s not difficult to remove with a sharp blade, and it’s always preferable to a short-shot part. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. Pz.Beob.Wg.IV Ausf.J (35344) Late/Last Production 2 in 1 with Crew 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Unlike the later Tigers and Panther tanks, the Panzer IV had been designed in the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended for a different role than it eventually played, which was as a form of infantry support with the mobile artillery function rolled into one. It was a heavier tank than the previous numbered types, and was well-designed, although it did suffer from the typical WWII German over-engineering that made them complex, expensive and slow to build. The type went through a number of enhanced variants including a more powerful engine to give better performance, improved armour thickness for survivability, and latterly the provision of a larger gun with a longer high velocity barrel that was based upon the Pak-40, but with shortened recoil mechanism and an enlarged muzzle-brake that helped contain the ferocious recoil from the 75mm gun. The new gun was in direct reaction to the first encounter with the T-34 in Soviet hands, an incident that put the wind up the German tankers and their superiors, as they knew very little of its existence until they had to fight it. The Ausf.J was the last mainstream variant of the Pz.IV, and was made from 1944 until the end of the war with over 3,600 made, some of which were manufactured at the Nibelungenwerk, one of the largest factories in the German area of influence, based in St Valentin, Austria. Other factories initially making the type had been switched to produce other vehicles although the Vomag factory was still producing some quantity , but by the war’s end Nibelungenwerk was the home of the Panzer IV, and as such was bombed heavily, strangling production as the bombers took their toll. The Panzerbeobachtungswagen IV was designed as an fully armoured artillery observation tank, this had the same commander’s cupola at the StuG III, with seven periscopes instead of the vision slits of the normal Panzer IV, an additional radio mast at the right rear hull plate which included an armored housing, and relocation of an aerial to the Turret roof; with a rotating mount for a periscope located on the left side of the turret roof, and a seond inside the main hatch. 3 radio sets were introduced as well as plotting equipment, to make room for all of this the turret co-axial machine gun was removed. The Kit This is now the third boxing of the newly tooled model of the Panzer IV from MiniArt, and is brand new, unlike the first boxing which we looked at here this is not an interior kit though there is enough in there to see if you want to leave some hatches open. The kit has the option to build either an Ausf. J or the Beob Artillery Spotting Version. MiniArt have also included a set of German figures in winter uniform (which is their set 35021).. The kit arrives in a heavily loaded top-opening box, and inside are 27 sprues in grey styrene of various sizes, 2 clear sprues, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, a decal sheet and thick instruction booklet with colour profiles for the decal options on the inside covers; and a sprue for the figures. It has individual link tracks included that are made up on a jig (more about those later); there are 22 links of tracks with 4 sprues of track pins. The level of detail in this kit is exceptional, which is something we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s output lately. Construction begins with the main hull of the tank. A few internal parts fit to the main floor then the front, sides an rear plates go on. The internal bulkhead for the engine compartments also needs to be installed. Appropriate hatches are added to the glacis plate along with a length of spare track (we will cover the tracks a bit later on). Then the exterior face of each side is detailed with the final drive housing, suspension bump-stops, return roller bases and fuel filler caps before they are glued into place. The rear bulkhead closes-in the final side of the compartment, and this is festooned with detail with a choice of armoured covers for the track tensioner arms, stiffener plates and access hatches, including a manual starter slot with PE chain keeping the cover captive to the vehicle. The big towing eye and its stiffeners are applied to the bottom of the bulkhead, and after fitting another full-width plate, the twin exhausts are attached to their exits, made from a combination of styrene and PE parts then braced to the bulkhead by PE straps. The sides of the hull have a series of armoured panels fixed to the underside to protect the suspension mechanism, then the fenders can be slotted into position at the top of the hull sides, with a delicate tread-plate pattern moulded-in where appropriate. The upper hull is constructed in a similar manner to the lower, with the roof accepting side panels. At the front the thick armour panel is adjusted by removing some location markers for certain decal options, the driver’s armoured vision port cover and the ball-mount for the gun complete the exterior work for now. Flipping the assembly again and it is time to add the interior louvers to the radiator exits, which are PE parts and can be inserted in the open or closed positions, with a change in how they are fitted. The hull halves can be joined now, but the instructions confusingly show the top louvered panels in the engine deck as being fitted, when they’re not installed until the very end of the next step. This involves making up the pair of twin fans that cool the radiators within the engine compartment using movable slatted panels to adjust cooling as necessary, and these two sub-assemblies are mated before the panels are glued in place with a choice of open or closed louvers. A little tool box and some grab handles are attached to the exterior along the way. The kit supplies a set of four towing cable eyes, but you’re responsible for providing the braided cable, which should be 152mm long and 0.75mm thick, times two. These are wrapped around two hooks on the rear in a figure-of-eight pattern. Now it’s pioneer tool time, with barrel cleaning rods, shovel, the jack, plus a set of four spare road wheels in an open-topped box with spanners strapped to the sides, and yet more track-links in a cage on the opposite side. The rear mudguards and front splash-guards are applied now, and the prominent external fire extinguisher with PE frame (and alternative styrene one if you don’t feel up to wrangling the PE) is fitted to the fender with a pair of wire-cutters and a pry-bar, all of which have optional PE mounts. Just when you think you’ve finished the tools, there’s a crank for the engine, a pair of track-spreaders, a choice of three axes, plus some styrene springs to allow you to show the front guards in the up position, with optional steps welded to the sides. The two large rear aerials for the radio sets need adding to both side of the rear of the tank. The left one is a simple pole aerial, but the right has a more complex PE spread top; this aerial has its own armoured housing to fit to the rear of the tank. We’re getting closer to the tracks now, but there’s still a lot of wheels that need to be made. They are mounted in pairs on twin bogeys with a leaf-spring slowing the rebound of the twin swing-arms. There are two types of outer casting with two axles (for working or fixed suspension) that the swing-arms slot onto, and are then closed in by a cover, which you also have a choice of two designs for. Finally, the twin wheels with their hubcap slide onto the axles, and a small oil reservoir is glued to the side of the assembly. You make four for the left side and a mirrored set of four for the right, plus multi-part idler, two-part drive sprockets and a choice of five different styles of return-rollers that fit onto the posts on the sides of the hull. The suspension units have slotted mounting points that strengthen their join. Then you can move on to those individual track links. The tracks are individual links with separate track pins. Each link has three sprue gates that are small and easy to nip off and clean up. The included jig will hold eleven links, which are fitted with the guides uppermost. Then you cut off one complete set of 11 track pins off the sprue and slide them into the pin-holes in the sides of the connected links all at once. They are then nipped off their length of sprue and can be tidied up. A little glue to the tops of the pins will help to keep them in place, and have a length of track that is still flexible. Just minimise the amount of glue you use. There are 101 links per track run, so you’ll be busy for a while, but the result is fabulously detailed as you can see from the pic. when Mike made up the tracks for the earlier boxing he didn’t bother cleaning up the mould seams for expediency, but if you plan on modelling your Panzer with clean tracks, you can sand them away if you feel the need. Track-runs done. You can relax to an extent now, but there’s a bit of PE folding ahead if you are using the PE mesh schurzen (side skirts) on your model. First you must add the styrene brackets and PE C-supports on each side, then the long tubular supports for the hook-on schurzen panels, which has a set of horizontal PE panels with folded up edges between the brackets, with additional PE clips over the tabs. There are three mesh panels per side, with diagonal front and rear lower edges to reduce the likelihood of them digging into the ground. They are prepped with styrene brackets and PE edge strips before they are dropped into position on the tubular supports. Bear in mind that these panels were subject to the rigors of battle so were often bent, damaged or even missing entirely, so use your references or imagination to decide whether you wish to depict a fresh set, or a set that have been in the field for a while. Finally, we get to the turret, which begins with the ring at the front a different mantlet is used for the different decal options as the co-axial gun was deleted for the observation tanks. The inside of the mantlet is fixed to the floor and a full breech for the gun is supplied despite this not being an interior kit,. A seat is added to the rear of the turret ring and the gun sight to the side of the breech. It is glued into the turret base, which then has the other facets added to the roof panel. The side hatches are the clamshell type, and can be posed open, closed or anywhere in-between, with latches and handles added, and grab-handles over the top to ease exit. The commander’s cupola is a complex raised part with all round vision blocks. There is a mount inside for an SF14Z scissors periscope was fitted vehicle, along with an armoured periscope fitted to the turret roof. Such is Miniart's attention to detail that the commanders hatch has the separate cut out for the periscope including all latches and hinges. A large stowage bin is made up for the rear of the turret and an additional radio aerial attaches to the roof. The gun has a flattened faceted sleeve made up with a choice of lower section, and the muzzle brake gives you a choice of four styles that differ slightly from each other if you look closely. Pick the one suitable for your decal choice, and you can begin to put the gun tube together. Your choice of mantlet then has the sleeve slotting into the front, and a single-part styrene barrel fitting into the front with a key ensuring correct orientation; the muzzle-brake having the same feature. While the hull schurzen are mesh for lightness, the turret ones are solid. They have curved sheets applied to the styrene brackets that glue to the roof and sides, there is a gap for the side hatches that are filled by a pair of hinged doors for more complete protection, and if you were wondering, you get open or closed variants with PE latches, and a group of additional PE parts dotted around the panels. The space between the bustle and the schurzen is filled at the top by two shaped sheets of mesh to protect against satchel charges or other explosives lodging there and damaging the fighting compartment or jamming the turret. Because of the complexity and realism of the turret and its ring, it drop-fits into position as the final act, as bayonet lugs aren’t present in the real thing. Markings A small decal sheets only gives the modeller minimal markings for 4 tanks. Unidentified Unit, Germany, early 1945 (winter camo) Unidentified Unit, Austria, Spring 1945 (3 colour camo) Unidentified Unit, Spring 1945 (3 colour camo) Unidentified Unit, Austria, May 1945 (overall gunklegelb) Crew A single sprue provides five crew members in winter dress. This is Miniart's set 35021 and as such up to their usual standard for figures. Decals are by MiniArt’s usual partner, DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This is one well-detailed kit that should keep you occupied for a good quantity of modelling time. The lack of interior wont put modellers off, indeed some would prefer it this way, the crew will fill the hatches so any interior wont really need to be seen, or they can be closed. There is still enough detail in the turret to leave those hatches open without using the crew. The inclusion of the crew is a good touch from MiniArt to bring the tank to life. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. US Weapons & Equipment for Tank Crews & Infantry (35334) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Every soldier has to carry a selection of gear to defend himself, dig a place to hide from bombardment, and keep some food and supplies in case he’s where there’s no canteen or chuck wagon. Tankers need different, more compact equipment and headwear, the latter in order to protect them from banging their heads in the cramped interior of their tanks, or getting hung up on the lip of their helmets. During WWII the American tankers had close-fitting helmets and usually carried Grease Guns or pistols for self-defence when caught outside their nice comfy tank. This set includes equipment for the tankers, but also a bunch of other items that your average GI would have carried in WWII. It arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure-sized box, and inside are nine sprues of various sizes containing a lot of parts, as follows: 6 x Tanker helmets with separate side & rear panels 10 x M3 Grease Guns with separate stocks 6 x Goggles 10 x 3-pack Grease Gun ammo pouch 4 x 5-pack Thompson ammo pouch 2 x 4 +1-pack pouch Grease Gun & pistol ammo 5 x 1911 Pistols in holsters 1 x 1911 Pistol 1 x M1927 Revolver 2 x Thompsons with foregrip 2 x Thompsons 2 x Thompson stick mags 2 x Thompson short stick mags 2 x Thompson drum mags 2 x Thompson drum mag pouches 5 x Bayonets (sheathed) 2 x Bayonets 2 x Bayonet sheaths 4 x M1 Steel Helmets 2 x M1 Steel Helmets with fabric cover 2 x M1 Steel Helmets with mesh cover 5 x Mk.II Grenades 5 x Canteens (fabric covered) 2 x Canteens 5 x Canvas Day Bags 1 x Map case 1 x Binoculars 1 x Binocular case 1 x Camera 1 x Pistol Holster with large pistol inside 1 x M1903 Pistol 1 x M1903 Pistol Holster 5 x Entrenching tools 2 x Entrenching tools without handles 2 x Entrenching tool handles 2 x M1919 Browning .30cal machine guns with hollow muzzles 1 x Tripod Erected 1 x Tripod Stowed 3 x .30cal ammo cans 1 x .30cal ammo belt Most of the parts are ready to go after cutting off the sprues, but some like the .30cal Brownings need their tripods making up and lids adding to the ammo cans. Likewise, the bags are two-part affairs, and the tanker helmets are made from four parts, side flaps and rear for detail, plus optional goggles. The painting guide has a key underneath with a swatch of colour plus codes for Vallejo, Mr. Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and by colour name, so there should be plenty of clues for you to find something suitable from your paint collection. Conclusion A useful set of weapons for any WWII US vehicle, diorama or similar. Tons of weapons, magazines, pouches and other items to decorate and detail your vehicles and vignettes, each of them a work of plastic art with fine raised and engraved details. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  11. Egyptian T-34/85 with Crew (37098) 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. The Egyptian military suffered from a dearth of armour in the 50s, so negotiated a supply of the trusty T-34/85 with the Soviets, acquiring almost 400. They saw service most notably in the Suez Crisis and the Six-Day War, the latter being a costly campaign in terms of machines, and for the T-34 crews themselves who faced a determined, more technically advanced foe in a protracted engagement that is still controversial 50+ years later. 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 seventy-four 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 a rack with two Jerry cans is installed under the exhausts (bright idea!) between the two towing hitches. Small parts and various pioneer tools and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, with additional fuel tank support frames 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 of two types (depending on decal option) 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 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 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 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 on the rear, which are covered by a linked armoured mushroom cover. A DShK 12.7mm anti-air (and everything else for that matter) machine gun is fitted to the top of a couple of the options, made up from a large number of parts with big ammo can and a section of link joining it to the breech, then mounted on a cantilever mount on an optional cupola top with a single hatch. 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, extra track links and optional shovel orientation are 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. Figures Four figures are included on a single sprue that are linked by a central web. I had to cut them off to photograph easily, but yours will likely arrive as one wobbly mass. Detail is up to MiniArt’s usual excellent standard, and each figure strikes a different pose. Three are sitting or crouching on or in the tank, while the other, possibly the commander, is standing with one hand in his pocket thinking commandery things, looking into the distance. Each figure is broken down sensibly into head, torso, arms and legs, plus helmet with separate side flaps where appropriate and the occasional pistol pouch. 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: Egyptian Armed Forces, Cairo, Summer 1956 Egyptian Armed Forces, Suez Crisis, Autumn 1956 Egyptian Armed Forces, Six-Day War, Sinai, Summer 1967 Egyptian Armed Forces, Six-Day War, Sinai, Summer 1967 Egyptian Armed Forces, 1967-1973 Conclusion The T-34 had a long and useful service life with many operators, with the boxing depicting a wide variety of vehicles from the Egyptian inventory. 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 though by careful placement of the figures, which are a nice bonus. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. Wooden Barrels – Small & Medium (35632 & 35630) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Wooden barrels. You don't see so many of them these days without flowers in them, but before mass-produced metal and plastic barrels became the de facto standard, they would have been much more prevalent where large quantities of anything needed to be stored. Everyone’s thinking of beer right now, but they have been used for a great many things over the years, so they’re not only found in pubs and breweries. These two sets give you a gaggle of styrene barrels in different sizes with various hoop patterns. It is worthy of note that both sets also have plank grooves inside, so an empty barrel is just as realistic. Each set arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box with six identical sprues in each one, plus a sheet of decals for stencilling of the painted barrels for the medium set. Wooden Barrels (35632) These should be referred to as small barrels by comparison to the size of the medium barrels, and each sprue contains three barrels, two smaller and one larger, with lids, spigots and anti-roll frames for each one. In total you can make 18 barrels with or without the ancillaries. Wooden Barrels Medium Size (35630) These larger barrels are pretty substantial, and as a result only two are provided on each sprue, with a slight difference in size between them. They are made in the same manner as the smaller ones with two halves and lids that fit into a groove round the tops and bottoms of the barrels. Spiggots and stands are included too, and this set has decals for stencilling the lids. Conclusion Painting will be key, so check your references for examples before you start. The wood used in barrels is very dense, so wouldn’t have the engraved marks that model companies add to create texture, which is correct. Wood decals for ultimate in realism anyone? Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J Nibelungenwerk (35342) Late Prod. Jan-Feb 1945 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Unlike the later Tigers and Panther tanks, the Panzer IV had been designed in the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended for a different role than it eventually played, which was as a form of infantry support with the mobile artillery function rolled into one. It was a heavier tank than the previous numbered types, and was well-designed, although it did suffer from the typical WWII German over-engineering that made them complex, expensive and slow to build. The type went through a number of enhanced variants including a more powerful engine to give better performance, improved armour thickness for survivability, and latterly the provision of a larger gun with a longer high velocity barrel that was based upon the Pak-40, but with shortened recoil mechanism and an enlarged muzzle-brake that helped contain the ferocious recoil from the 75mm gun. The new gun was in direct reaction to the first encounter with the T-34 in Soviet hands, an incident that put the wind up the German tankers and their superiors, as they knew very little of its existence until they had to fight it. The Ausf.J was the last mainstream variant of the Pz.IV, and was made from 1944 until the end of the war with over 3,600 made, some of which were manufactured at the Nibelungenwerk, one of the largest factories in the German area of influence, based in St Valentin, Austria. Other factories initially making the type had been switched to produce other vehicles although the Vomag factory was still producing some quantity , but by the war’s end Nibelungenwerk was the home of the Panzer IV, and as such was bombed heavily, strangling production as the bombers took their toll. The Kit This is the first boxing of the newly tooled model of the Panzer IV from MiniArt, and is brand new. It is an Interior kit, which extends to the full hull, with a great deal of detail included that should keep any modeller happy, beavering away at their hobby. The kit arrives in a heavily loaded top-opening box, and inside are sixty-eight sprues in grey styrene of various sizes, a clear sprue, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, a decal sheet and thick instruction booklet with colour profiles for the decal options on the inside covers. It has individual link tracks included that are made up on a jig (more about those later), and the level of detail is exceptional, which is something we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s output. Construction begins with the interior, which is made up on a main floor with bulkheads, ammo stores, then a complete Maybach HL 120 TRM engine. The engine is begun by putting together the transmission and final drive units, which is at the front of the hull next to the driver, with a set of instruments fitted to the top. This is inserted into the interior with the drive-shaft, with the driver’s seat is assembled along with the foot and hand controls, plus a worrying amount (from his point of view) of shells behind his area, plus another three ready-round boxes layered on top of various positions around the turret base. A ring of tread-plate defines the location where the turret basket will sit, and various other components are arranged around a simple seat for the radio operator/bow gunner, then the engine is assembled from its various shaped segments, topped off with the rocker covers and oil filler caps. A lot of ancillaries are added, including tons of drive-belts, engine bearers, exhaust manifolds, dynamo and pipework. It all fits snugly into the engine compartment section of the interior to await boxing in by the hull sides. The highly detailed brake-assembly for each drive sprocket is a drum-shaped affair that comprises a substantial number of parts, some of which are PE, and really does look the part, fitted to the inside of each hull wall flanking the two crew seats, with more small equipment boxes and a fire extinguisher fitted nearby, then the exterior face of each side is detailed with the final drive housing, suspension bump-stops, return roller bases and fuel filler caps before they are glued into place on the hull sides, with the lower glacis plate helping keep them perpendicular to the floor, and a length of track applied to the panel with a bracket holding them in place. Again, more on the tracks later. We’ll gloss over them for now. Back in the engine compartment, the empty spaces around the Maybach engine are filled with airbox, fuel tank and large radiator panels that are set in the compartment at an angle, as demonstrated by the scrap diagram. The rear bulkhead closes-in the final side of the compartment, and this is festooned with detail with a choice of armoured covers for the track tensioner arms, stiffener plates and access hatches, including a manual starter slot with PE chain keeping the cover captive to the vehicle. The big towing eye and its stiffeners are applied to the bottom of the bulkhead, and after fitting another full-width plate, the twin exhausts are attached to their exits, made from a combination of styrene and PE parts then braced to the bulkhead by PE straps. The sides of the hull have a series of armoured panels fixed to the underside to protect the suspension mechanism, then the fenders can be slotted into position at the top of the hull sides, with a delicate tread-plate pattern moulded-in where appropriate. The rest of the lower glacis plate with hatches for final drive and transmission access is made up with detail inside and out, plus an optional hatch for the central transmission unit. The final drive hatches can be posed open if you wish to expose those attractive assemblies within, of use in a maintenance diorama scenario. Another length of tracks is made up to apply over the glacis plate, with small PE brackets holding it in place as it is glued in place at the front. As if the tank wasn’t already carrying enough ammunition, more stores are made up and fitted into the inside of the hull around the sides of the turret well for easy access. The rounds are painted in one of three shell types, with decals to improve the detail further. The addition of a cross-brace between the two hull sides with oil can and fire extinguisher strapped on completes the lower hull for now. The upper hull is constructed in a similar manner to the lower, with the roof accepting side panels after making some small holes, the engine bay is fitted out with the side vents for the radiators and a flat rear panel that closes the area in. At the front the thick armour panel is adjusted by removing some location markers for certain decal options, the bow machine gun installation is created as a sub-assembly, and set aside while the hatches and the barrel of the MG are fitted, mostly from the outside, together with the armoured covers for the radiator louvers, hatch levers and lifting hooks, along with the jack-block in its bracket, or the empty bracket if you choose. The driver’s armoured vision port cover and the ball-mount for the gun complete the exterior work for now, and the assembly is flipped over to detail the inside, which includes a highly detailed set of radio gear that has a painting guide next to it. The bow gun’s breech and aiming mechanism are inserted into the back of the ball-mount, and the clear interior section of the driver’s port is also inserted along with the operating cams for the armoured cover. Another fire extinguisher is attached to the wall by the driver’s position too. Flipping the assembly again and it is time to add the interior louvers to the radiator exits, which are PE parts and can be inserted in the open or closed positions, with a change in how they are fitted. The hull halves can be joined now, but the instructions confusingly show the top louvered panels in the engine deck as being fitted, when they’re not installed until the very end of the next step. This involves making up the pair of twin fans that cool the radiators within the engine compartment using movable slatted panels to adjust cooling as necessary, and these two sub-assemblies are mated before the panels are glued in place with a choice of open or closed louvers. A little tool box and some grab handles are attached to the exterior along the way. The kit supplies a set of four towing cable eyes, but you’re responsible for providing the braided cable, which should be 152mm long and 0.75mm thick, times two. These are wrapped around two hooks on the rear in a figure-of-eight pattern. Now it’s pioneer tool time, with barrel cleaning rods, shovel, the jack, plus a set of four spare road wheels in an open-topped box with spanners strapped to the sides, and yet more track-links in a cage on the opposite side. The rear mudguards and front splash-guards are applied now, and the prominent external fire extinguisher with PE frame (and alternative styrene one if you don’t feel up to wrangling the PE) is fitted to the fender with a pair of wire-cutters and a pry-bar, all of which have optional PE mounts. Just when you think you’ve finished the tools, there’s a crank for the engine, a pair of track-spreaders, a choice of three axes, plus some styrene springs to allow you to show the front guards in the up position, with optional steps welded to the sides. We’re getting closer to the tracks now, but there’s still a lot of wheels that need to be made. They are mounted in pairs on twin bogeys with a leaf-spring slowing the rebound of the twin swing-arms. There are two types of outer casting with two axles (for working or fixed suspension) that the swing-arms slot onto, and are then closed in by a cover, which you also have a choice of two designs for. Finally, the twin wheels with their hubcap slide onto the axles, and a small oil reservoir is glued to the side of the assembly. You make four for the left side and a mirrored set of four for the right, plus multi-part idler, two-part drive sprockets and a choice of five different styles of return-rollers that fit onto the posts on the sides of the hull. The suspension units have slotted mounting points that strengthen their join, and then… once you’re done, you can begin the tracks. The tracks are individual links with separate track pins, but don’t freak out yet! Each link has three sprue gates that are small and easy to nip off and clean up. The included jig will hold eleven links, which are fitted with the guides uppermost. Then you cut off one complete set of 11 track pins off the sprue and slide them into the pin-holes in the sides of the connected links all at once. They are then nipped off their length of sprue and can be tidied up. I added a little glue to the tops of the pins to keep them in place, and have a length of track that is still flexible. Just minimise the amount of glue you use. There are 101 links per track run, so you’ll be busy for a while, but the result is fabulously detailed as you can see from the pic. I didn’t bother cleaning up the mould seams for expediency, but if you plan on modelling your Panzer with clean tracks, you can sand them away if you feel the need. Track-runs done. You can relax to an extent now, but there’s a bit of PE folding ahead if you are using the PE mesh schurzen (side skirts) on your model. First you must add the styrene brackets and PE C-supports on each side, then the long tubular supports for the hook-on schurzen panels, which has a set of horizontal PE panels with folded up edges between the brackets, with additional PE clips over the tabs. There are three mesh panels per side, with diagonal front and rear lower edges to reduce the likelihood of them digging into the ground. They are prepped with styrene brackets and PE edge strips before they are dropped into position on the tubular supports. Bear in mind that these panels were subject to the rigors of battle so were often bent, damaged or even missing entirely, so use your references or imagination to decide whether you wish to depict a fresh set, or a set that have been in the field for a while. Finally, we get to the turret, which begins with the ring and minimalist “floor”, to which some equipment, a drop-seat and the hand-traverse system are fixed. The inside of the mantlet is fixed to the floor after having the pivot installed, with the newly assembled breech glued into the rear once it has its breech block and closure mechanism fixed in place. The breech is then surrounded by the protective tubular frame, and the stubs of the coax machine gun and sighting gear are slid in through holes in the inner mantlet. A basket for spent casings is attached under the breech, the sighting tube and adjustment mechanism are put in place along with the coax machine gun breech, then the basket is made up from the circular tread-plated floor with tubular suspension struts and other equipment, seats, immediate ready-rounds and spare dump-bags for the coax. It is glued into the turret base, which then has the other facets added to the roof panel, with exhaust fans and a choice of two outer armoured covers included. The side hatches are the clamshell type, and can be posed open, closed or anywhere in-between, with latches and handles added, and grab-handles over the top to ease exit. The commander’s cupola is a complex raised part with five clear vision ports around it, and a choice of open or closed outer parts holding the clear lenses in place, sliding into the ring like the real thing. A ring of pads cover the interstices, and stirrup-shaped parts are fixed under each lens, with a single circular hatch with latch and handle glued into the top ring in open or closed versions, lifting and rotating round the pivot to open, rather than the earlier two-part clamshell hatch. A blade-sight from PE is sited at the front of the cupola with a machine-gun ring around the base, and the turret can now be closed up with the lifting hooks each made up of two parts. The gun has a flattened faceted sleeve made up with a choice of lower section, and the muzzle brake gives you a choice of four styles that differ slightly from each other if you look closely. Pick the one suitable for your decal choice, and you can begin to put the gun tube together. A choice of two outer mantlet sections is offered, with the sleeve slotting into the front, and a single-part styrene barrel fitting into the front with a key ensuring correct orientation, with the muzzle-brake having the same feature. The bustle stowage box is formed from a hollow body with a choice of open or closed lid, with the open variant having stiffening ribs moulded-in for detail. While the hull schurzen are mesh for lightness, the turret has curved metal sheets applied to the styrene brackets that glue to the roof and sides, that has a gap for the side hatches that are filled by a pair of hinged doors for more complete protection, and if you were wondering, you get open or closed variants with PE latches, and a group of additional PE parts dotted around the panels. The space between the bustle and the schurzen is filled at the top by two shaped sheets of mesh to protect against satchel charges or other explosives lodging there and damaging the fighting compartment or jamming the turret. Because of the complexity and realism of the turret and its ring, it drop-fits into position as the final act, as bayonet lugs aren’t present in the real thing. Markings A generous five decal options are included on the sheet, and they have a wide variety of schemes that are appropriate for late war tanks, from winter distemper to highly camouflaged vehicles with a base coat of dunkelgelb (dark yellow) the common element. From the box you can build one of the following: 31 Pz.Rgt. 5 Pz.Div. Eastern Front, Prussia, March 1945 Unidentified Unit, Jedwabne, Poland, Spring 1945 Unidentified Unit, Germany, Spring 1945 Unidentified Unit, Germany, Spring 1945 11 Pz.Div., Germany, May 1945 Decals are by MiniArt’s usual partner, DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This is one well-detailed kit that should keep you occupied for a good quantity of modelling time. The complete interior is depicted with a glorious level of detail, which should allow all but the most detail-focused modeller to build it out of the box. Careful painting will bring it to life, and leaving some hatches open will show viewers just how claustrophobic going into war in these iron beasts would have been, and likely still is. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Austin 3rd Series Armoured Car (39007) Czechoslovak, Russian, Soviet Service 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd After the start of WWI the Russian Army started to form armoured car units. Due to Russia's limited industrial capacity at the time they looked overseas for vehicles. One delegation was sent to the UK for this. Initially they failed to find a source for the car they wanted with twin machine guns, however Austin designed a new vehicle based on a civilian chassis. Two guns would be mounted in separate turrets towards the rear of the vehicle with a driver and commander up front. The Russians ordered 48 of these first series vehicles. A second order would follow of 60 series 2 vehicles using a light truck chassis. A later order of 60 series 3 cars was to follow. These vehicles were similar in to the 2nd series, but had a modified rear hull with driving post, and gun shields. The large windows were deleted and bullet proof glass fitted to the remaining ones. 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 even the Soviet armed forces after the civil war. The Kit This is a re-boxing of last year’s newly tooled kit, with new parts to accurately portray this mark, and the users. The kit arrives on 17 grey sprues. a sprue of clear parts, a small 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. 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 some bodywork is attached, initially with the armour at the sides of the engine compartments in preparation for the gluing of the 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 tyres are fitted, different tyres are provided for the different cars, so take care here. Now standing on her own 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 out of hot water and dead-ends just that little bit easier. Two more 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. Additional rivets are shown being added in various other locations, which you can slice from the flat section of the two Ck sprues. The crew flap 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. 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 a number of doors that can be posed open and closed too, with 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 engines overheating 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. Next up we have the twin turrets. You build up a pair of mounts for the machine guns, including a tractor-style perforated seat for the operator and a large ammo can to feed the gun, which is fitted onto a mount under the gun. 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 pretty challenging for moulding. Armoured side plates are fitted to the gun opening 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. Markings There are a generous seven decal options on the smallish decal sheet (these vehicles did not carry a great deal of markings) , 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 created by the unit markings to offer plenty of choice. From the box you can build one of the following: 2nd Armoured Car Div, Imperial Russian Army, Eastern Front 1917 Czechoslovak Legion in Russia, Irkutsk, Dec 1919 4th Armoured Car Div, Volunteer Army, Spring 1919 Armoured Car Div, Don Army, Armed Forces of South Russia, Summer 1919 26th Armoured Sqn, Red Army, Summer 1919 Red Army, Early 1920s (winter camo) Red Army, Early 1920s (summer camo) 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 peculiar early armoured car isn’t as familiar as others due to the area of its use, but is still an interesting model in the history of armoured cars. Detail is exceptional as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. German Tank Crew Kharkov 1943 (35354) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Battle of Kharkov began in 1941 when the Germans took the area from the Soviets, with two more substantial battles where the area changed hands once again, then the final battle in 1943 when the Soviets finally kicked the Germans out for good. The damage to the area was severe both in terms of civilian and military casualties, with the infrastructure heavily damaged in the process. By the time of the last battle in 1943, the Germans were struggling with lack of resources, poor equipment and even lack of man power, so the happier times of their initial steamroller advances of 1941’s Operation Barbarossa were well behind them. This set depicts a tank crew of four from the penultimate battle that was in February 1943, with winter gear on to keep them warm despite the biting cold that would have been the norm at that time of the year. It arrives in an end-opening figure box with a painting of the four figures on the front, and building/painting instructions on the rear along with a paint chart in Vallejo, Mr.Color, Life Color, Tamiya, AK, Mission Models, plus a swatch of colour and names in English and Ukrainian. There are four sprues of grey styrene inside, and a casting block with four resin heads attached in a separate bag-within-a-bag for their safety. Casting of the heads is excellent, but if you are resin-phobic there are also styrene heads on the sprues, so you don’t have to use them, even though they do provide extra detail. The largest sprue contains the four figures, only one of which is sitting down nursing his headset in thick sheepskin mittens. The two other crew members are standing, one with his hands in pockets, the other carrying an MP40 in a cautious manner, with the barrel pointing downwards, but his finger inside the trigger guard. The commander appears to be leaning against the side of the tank or a tree, or could be inside the turret with his elbows resting on the hatch edges, holding a pair of binoculars at chest height. The seated figure has his torso made up from a front and rear section, as the moulding would otherwise have been prone to sink-marks due to the thickness of the part. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus loads of extras across three sprues to add some detail to their vicinity if you use them in a diorama. The MP40 has either a folded or open stock as shown on the rear of the box, while ammo pouches, map cases, pistol pouches and plenty of spare weapons can be found on the sprues. Conclusion A good set of battle-weary figures that will bring a human element to any tank model, and the inclusion of the resin heads helps with realism, as does the generous supply of weapons and packs that are also included. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. M3 Lee Mid Prod. Interior Kit (35209) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd In the years before WWII America realised that they were lagging behind in respect of armour, a fact that became especially clear when Germany came out from under the Versailles treaty to show off and then use their new tanks and Blitzkrieg tactics. The M3 Lee was conceived in 1940 as a medium tank carrying a powerful 75mm gun, partly for manning by their own crews, but also because Britain had requested a large number of tanks to make good their losses from Dunkirk. The Lee was a decent tank but suffered from a high silhouette and limited traverse of the sponson-mounted 75mm gun, but was still widely used. In British service it was known as the Lee if it was fitted with the original American turret, or the Grant when using the lower-profiled British specification turrets. The Lee was used primarily in Africa and the Pacific theatres where the 2nd line equipment seemed to be fielded (for the most part) by the enemy, and against the Japanese who were far behind with their tank designs and tactics. It underwent some substantial changes including cast, welded and back to riveted hulls plus changes in the power pack and loss of the side doors to stiffen the hull. The riveted hulls suffered from rivets popping off and becoming projectiles when hit, which could be just as lethal as a penetrating round and was never fully eliminated. The Kit MiniArt began 2019 with a new tooling of the M3 Lee and are expanded their range by adding new parts as they go along. We've come to expect great things from MiniArt's new kits and of course this one is no different with a ton of detail included both externally and internally, as it is a full-interior kit with the increased part count that comes with that. The box is standard MiniArt fare with an attractive picture from their usual artist, and inside are a huge number of sprues of varying sizes with 68 in grey styrene, a single sprue in clear, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet and the instruction booklet with painting guide at the front and rear completing the package. Construction begins with the vehicle floor onto which the transmission and final drive assemblies are fixed along with a long drive shaft. The front crew stations are installed around the final drive, and in the centre is the ammo storage with a tread-plated top with the engine firewall behind it. The ammo bin can be posed open or closed using the same door parts, exposing the striking plates moulded into the assembly, and more shells are added to the firewall in racks. Just in case the tank isn't quite flammable enough, a spare fuel can is strapped to the firewall, as are a couple of radiators which I'm hoping can be switched off or redirected in the desert! Moving to the lower sidewalls, these are separate parts and are fitted out with equipment such as fire extinguishers, ammo and a Thompson machine gun with plate mags with the bow gunner's bench seat added to the starboard side as they are joined and the sponson floor fitted at right-angles using slots and tabs. Take care here to clamp them firmly against the bottom of the firewall to prevent them from drooping while setting, which would open up a world of pain if they set-up out of position. The rolled lower glacis part is also added, and the final drive bell housings that are incorporated into the sidewalls mate with these to complete the shape of that area. The Lee/Grant and to an extent the Sherman were powered by radial engines that sat vertically in the hull and can be blamed for their slightly tall hull shapes. This is provided in detail with the kit with all the cylinders, push-rods and exhaust tubing, plus the tin-work that helps cool the engine all mounted to a sturdy lateral mount that goes around the ancillaries at the rear. Two cheek parts are added into the engine compartment first, and the engine rests on the brackets protruding from the walls. Various tanks and reservoirs are squeezed into the remaining space along with piping for the twin airboxes and the general "spaghetti" that's seen on this kind of engine. The supports for the engine cover are fitted to the sides and the aft bulkhead with access hatch and twin exhaust stacks close in much of the hard work, with twin doors (open or closed) at the back and a PE mesh grille completing the top of the area, allowing the rising heat to escape. The lower hull is finished off with a pair of short arches over the drive wheels and a host of additional equipment filling up the interior with more shell storage, tanks and auxiliary generator. The big 75mm gun and substantial casemate are built up next for fitting into the hull front and the curved splinter shield that allows 14o of traverse to either side to counter any errors in position from the driver or enemy movement. The breech is surrounded by a shield and has the manual traverse wheel and other driver controls plus his seat and sighting gear included, as well as another box containing the 75mm shells peculiar to his gun. Before it can be installed the super-structure must be built up to accommodate it, including the sidewalls, the curved surround and the angled front panels of the glacis. The various hatches can be posed open or closed, and an instrument panel is fitted to the inside of the glacis. The bow machine gun is actually a twin mount with two .30 cal M1919s firing through a hatch near the port sponson. The rest of the hull is then built up in much the same manner as the real thing, but with glue and the rivets only there for show. Fuel caps and another Thompson are added along the way, and when we reach the engine deck there are two large panels, the smaller of them having PE grilles and more filler caps, with both of them covered in small PE tie-down lugs. The rear of the deck overhangs the hull and a small armoured "skirt" protects the tops of the exhausts from stray rounds where PE brackets are used to hang the aft lights. The completed deck is then covered with pioneer tools and their PE tie-downs, plus the towing cables that you need to source yourself to go with the plastic eyes at each end. A scrap diagram shows their location and how to fix the PE straps to the tie-downs and eyes, with a length of 145mm suggested. At this stage the majority of the hull is built, but it is likely to fill with rain until the roof is fitted. Before that the surround to the turret basket is completed with stowage space for six canteens moulded into the parts. The stiffening plates to the lower glacis are also glued to the hull and then the roof is made up from a large main part that is stiffened with more ribs, and a small periscope in the roof of the main gun mount. The three square access doors for the crew can all be posed open or closed with latches and small viewing hatches within that can also be posed open. A short break has you fitting the driver's hatch and optional clear window with a PE wiper blade, plus a couple of towing eyes with shackles under the glacis and some truly tiny parts in plastic and PE between them. After fitting the armoured cover to the main gun's periscope, the main gun in short or long version, two large stowage boxes for four of the decal options, and a few grab handles, you get to build up the running gear. Aren't you lucky? The Lee's suspension is very similar to the Sherman's with two fat wheels on a bogie with a return roller at the top, and there are three of these assemblies per side. The wheels with their moulded-in tyres are attached to the bogies via swing-arms that pivot inside the cast bogie with an additional arm linked to the compressible rubber towers. Before the front of the bogie is fitted the return-roller is installed so it is trapped between its two bearings. Repeat that six times and then make up the idler wheels, which have PE edges and separate hub caps. The bogies are attached to the sides of the hull on their mounting plates, and two stiffeners are added to the top of each one, while the idler wheels are attached to their axles on the adjustable tensioners. At the front the drive sprockets are made up from two parts with an internal collar allowing them to remain mobile if you're sparing with the glue. Tracks. Love 'em or loathe 'em, they're a necessary part of most tanks and you have to do them eventually. There are 79 track links per side, and each link is made up from four parts. The pads are split to accommodate the links between them, and this is a little fiddly. I built a test section up with the earlier interior kit, and each link is good looking with fine detail at the ends, flexing well as per the real thing. It'll take some time to complete them, but they will be excellent as long as you're careful with preparation and the glue. Now you can start the turret, most of which is held within the upper part, and that has some very nice casting texture moulded into it that should look great under a few coats of paint. The frames for the small hatches are first to be added, then the hatches themselves are fitted in the open or closed position with small stays holding them at the correct angle for the former. The sighting equipment, racks, and fume extraction equipment are then fitted before the breech is built up and fitted, making adding parts after that more fiddly. The breech is started by joining the two main parts together, adding the surround, the coax machine gun, then setting it aside while the mantlet and elevation mechanisms are made up. This all fits in the back of the riveted mantlet cover and includes a periscope next door to protect the viewer from being injured by direct small arms fire. The breech is slid into the mantlet and an ammo box is attached to the starboard side then the completed assembly is inserted into the turret from the outside. More equipment is fitted into the lower areas of the upper turret and into the lower turret part, including the increasingly important radio gear and their aerials once the two halves are joined. The turret basket is bucket-shaped with a cut-out to one side to allow entry and exit, plus stowage space for more ammo for the guns and the machine guns, fire extinguisher and small button-seats for the crew. Additionally, there is an opening door to the basket that widens the aperture and contains a pair of tanks for the electro-hydraulic rotation equipment. A studded bezel is installed in the top rim and the rest of the traverse equipment is put in place along with a bit more wire that you'll need to provide, then one more seat on a pedestal is put in the centre of the basket which is then set aside while the little machine-gun turret is made. It has its internal structure added along with some PE vents then the upper gun with its tiny mount, vision port and a short length of ammo on a top hopper is made up and inserted from the inside into its slot, then closed in by the turret ring underneath, and on top the bi-fold hatch, which can be posed open or closed. A pair of armoured covers for the PE vents can be posed open or closed on the outside, completing the assembly. The three sections are joined together, then dropped into the turret ring to complete the model. Markings The decal sheet is quite large for an AFV model and you can make one of five options from the box, as shown below: 2nd Battalion 13th Armoured Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, Souk Ek Khemis, Nov.1942 2nd Battalion 13th Armoured Regimennt, 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, Sened, Feb. 1943 2nd Battalion 13th Armoured Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, Souk El Arba, Nov. 1942 Combat Command A, 1st Armoured Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, Bizerte Tunisia, May 1943 2rd Battalion 13th Armoured Regiment, 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, Spring 1943 The decals are printed by DecoGraph as usual for MiniArt, and have good register, colour density and sharpness, with thin matt carrier film cut closely to the printed areas. Conclusion The parts count is large thanks to the inclusion of the interior and engine, which will keep you modelling for a good while, and the temptation to leave the doors open to show off the innards that you slaved over off to your viewing public. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. Werkstattkraftwagen Typ-03-30 (35359) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Ford’s AA light truck was license built in the Soviet Union from 1932 to 1950 by GAZ as their GAZ-AA, or GAZ-MM as it was sometimes known, with over 150,000 being built in various configurations including Anti-Aircraft, and buses based on the same chassis. Some of these were of course captured by the Nazis during the successful early stages of Operation Barbarossa in WWII, and as usual with their regime they were pressed into service, sometimes in their original form, but others were butchered around to suit different purposes. The Werkstattkraftwagen was based upon the Typ-03-30 bus, with the passenger seats stripped out to be replaced by benches and storage to become a mobile workshop for the repair of equipment and vehicles in the field. The Kit This is a substantial reboxing of MiniArt’s GAZ-03-30 bus (35149), containing the majority of the sprues therein, with the exception of the additional seat sprues that won’t be needed. Instead there are a raft of new sprues, some of which have been brought together from other sets and kits to provide a huge amount of detail that will result in a highly detailed kit once complete. The kit arrives in a standard top-opening box with fifty-eight sprues in grey styrene, two clear sprues, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in a card envelope, a small decal sheet and the glossy instruction booklet with colour painting instructions to the rear. MiniArt’s standard is excellent, and this kit meets it, with the bus parts originally produced as recently as 2015, so up to date as far as detail is concerned. The quantity of accessories and tools included in the box almost doubles the volume of plastic in the box, and the nature of the kit will keep you busy for a long time if you treat all the sub-assemblies as separate little kits to do them the ultimate justice. It is a full interior kit, and this extends to the engine, cab and former passenger area, so it leaves the modeller with a wide palette to make this model their own. MiniArt have included four of each of the wheel frets, when only two are needed and documented in the instructions. Spare wheels will be the result. Construction begins with the engine, which is a four-cylinder license-built Ford unit that is built up around the four-part block with transmission and accessories bringing the part count to 20. The ladder chassis is made up from the two side rails with the inverted rear suspension springs fitted to the outside, and numerous cross-braces added to prepare it for the engine, drive-shaft and rear axle with differential housing, which is installed at the rear end of the springs. The wheels are built up at this time too, the tyres laminated from seven tread parts to form eight tyres for the eight hubs. It will be important to be careful with the amount of glue used here, as excess could ooze out and melt the tread pattern, spoiling MiniArt’s hard work. After that little jaunt, attention returns to the chassis, which is further detailed with brackets, front suspension and steering, plus rear anti-roll bars and linkages. The spare tyre is stowed under the rear of the chassis, and the brake hubs with their tyres (twin tyres at the rear) are slotted into place along with the radiator with a PE badge for the top, brackets for the front fenders, and front bumper. The exhaust is installed on the left, then the earlier stamped fenders with foot-plates are added to the front, and the driver’s foot plate is inserted between them aft of the engine with 3-speed gear shifter and hand brake in the centre. The foot pedals are inserted too, projecting through the plate and attaching to the transmission for complete realism. The large floor panel with anti-slip strips and rear fenders covers the rest of the chassis, with short 2nd steps over those on the front fenders, and after that, the crew cab is begun, starting with the instrument panel, which slots into the scuttle with filler cap in the centre and firewall at the front, joined by two small side panels. This, the steering wheel with stalks, and the driver’s seat on curved rails are inserted into the cab, and the front windscreen is glazed with a clear panel, with a solitary windscreen wiper on the driver’s side. The front of the cab receives the window in either closed or tilted positions for ventilation, using a pair of curved PE sliders from days of yore. A strip with clear lights and destination display slot are fitted above the screen, offering a clue to the vehicle’s original purpose. A pair of braces link the radiator housing to the firewall, while the windscreen surround is slid down over the dash, and a set of steps with retraction links are added to the rear. The cab is left for a while to concentrate on the main body of the “bus”, with the two sides glazed and the large multi-drawer bench made up along with a short bench and pillar drill that has a PE belt and base plate, the latter set to one side for later installation. The left body shell and the aforementioned benches are fitted to the floor panel, and roller-blinds are attached to the headers of the windows, then a large number of tools and benches are made up as follows: Double-end bench grinder Bench vice Bench vice with clamp Hacksaw Closed expanding toolbox Open expanding toolbox with PE tools Chair Stool Shallow bench with drawers Mobile compressor with receiver Wooden toolbox Anvil Blow torch large Blow torch small G-clamp Angle-poise light Coping saw Bucket with large wrench & axe Small cupboard The starboard body panel is similarly glazed and fitted out with roller-blinds, and the double rear doors have glass, roller-blinds and handles added before they are glued in open or closed positions, with the single cab door made up similarly and having a stay provided for the open option, and an alternative folded-step for the rear in the closed position. The roof is prepped with a central line of clear lenses, not to be confused with the raised ejector pin marks nearby, which you may want to deal with if you think they’ll be seen. The engine cowlings are the usual 30-40s style with louvered sides that fold up with the split top panels on hinges that are outfitted with brackets and PE handles on each side. The large headlights fit either side of the radiator on a curved bracket and a rod that fits between the fenders, with the horn attached on another bracket below the left headlight. The front number plate glues to the front bumper to complete the actual vehicle, but there’s more to come. There is a large roof rack that covers the majority of the top of the vehicle, which is folded up from PE and glued in place, with a pair of PE brackets for the port side ladder also fitted at the same time. Then a cornucopia of stowage etc. is made up to fill it, and fill it completely. The sub-assemblies are as follows: Wooden ladder Wooden boxes in three sizes 40gal drum with alternative tops Triangular-shaped can with PE handle Hand pump Axle-stand 2-man saw Heat-exchanger/radiator (not sure which) Oxy-Acetylene bottles with bases (2 of) Oxy-Acetylene trolley Box-plane Handsaw Hessian bags in three styles with various contents 6 x jerry cans with PE latches and centre ribs Large bin with tools inside Spare tyre with hub 11 x posters printed on the back cover of the instructions The figure that accompanies the set is only mentioned on the back page of the instructions, in much the same style as their figure sets. There is a painting of the completed figure with arrows pointing out the various parts and colour options. It is a Wehrmacht soldier in a side cap leaning against the vehicle with one hand in his pocket, the other nursing a cigarette. It is up to MiniArt’s usual standard of sculpting, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it in another of their boxes, but can’t quite place where. Markings There is only one option in the box, and that one is painted in German Panzer Grey, but its Russian heritage shows under the fenders, which remain Russian green. The decal sheet is small, and includes a few stencils, a pair of numberplates and some dials for the instrument panel. 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 It’s a great reboxing of this kit with a new purpose, and the sheer volume of sub-assemblies will keep you at your workbench for a long time. Treat each part as a separate model and you will end up with an excellent, highly detailed finished article that will have visual interest out the wazoo as our American chums say. Very highly recommended. Currently out of stock at Creative, but they're sure to order more in, so check back. Review sample courtesy of
  18. Cargo Tramway X-Series (38030) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd. Trams have long been used for mass transport within built-up areas of larger cities, using rails set into the street and making a familiar dinging noise just before they run you over. They’re making a comeback in some cities recently, but were far more numerous pre-WWII, and some operators took advantage of the lines to carry cargo deep into cities where the standard railways couldn’t reach. Soviet Russia operated these trams in their cities, carrying the daily necessities around, and probably pressed into service as munitions carriers when war came to town. The Kit This is new boxing is based upon the passenger X-Series tram, with new parts to fill the gutted centre-section where the passengers would otherwise be. These parts replicate the beaten-up look that would result from the rough handling of heavy items in and out of the cargo area. The kit arrives in a shrink-wrapped heavy box with typical MiniArt painting, and inside are twenty three sprues in grey styrene, nine in clear, an A4+ sized vacuum-formed cobblestone base with suitably gauged tracks travelling along the longest side. The package is rounded out by a decal sheet and instruction booklet that has the painting options laid out on the covers. Detail is excellent as we've come to expect from any new tooling from MiniArt, and the instructions are printed on good quality glossy paper in their usual manner. Construction begins with the sub-frame bogie, with two sets of motors and axles sandwiched between the brake actuators and wheels, then slipped inside the long frame along with their leaf-spring suspension mounts and cross-braces. The two axles are then integrated in the frame by adding end-plates and more cross-braces to stiffen up the assembly. The brake actuators are joined to the rest of the armature by a small cage and long rod that is connected to the driver’s cab later on. The body is made up on a two-part base with a laminated bulkhead with windows at each end and a framework wall with badly beaten and dented low side panels that can be posed up or down as you please. Two control uprights and a seat are made up and added to each end of the floor that makes them instantly reversible, then the two cab surrounds are fabricated with glass panels and interior panelling added along the way. The sides are added first, then the front is fixed in place, repeated at both ends and accompanies by a pair of two-panel folding doors on each side of both cabs, totalling eight panels made up into four doors that are handed, so take care when assembling them, their bars and handles. Crew steps are added to each door at each end (there’s a lot of repetition), then the big soviet star with integrated headlight that includes a replica of a bulb in the centre is plonked front and centre in the nose at each end – unless you’ve opted for the simpler and less ostentatious headlamp of course. Underneath the floor the linkages are extended with plastic chains to holes on the underside of the cabs, a receiver for the compressed air and small leaf-suspension mounts are fixed to each corner ready to receive the sub-frame that was made up first. A folded cow-catcher grille is attached under the front/back along with a single buffer, then it’s time to turn it from a cabriolet to a hard-top. The roof is made of two mirror image sections with panelling moulded into each cab end and on the curved sections where adverts would be placed on the passenger version, with a pair of lighting bars running along the rest of the length next to roof-mounted handrails. Upstands are glued to each side of the flat section of the roof and have a nicely detailed heat-exchanger unit fitted front and rear (front and front?). Lights, placards for route numbers and the big pantograph loop is assembled then fitted in the centre of the roof, angled toward the rea… whichever direction it has come from. If you’re not a diorama fan you can end it there, but it would be a shame to waste the base and accompanying catenary posts that suspend the wire above the track. The base is vacformed, so will need some method of support underneath to prevent it from sagging under the weight of the model, such as balsawood, which can be glued to the underside of the base with epoxy. The two posts have a four-part base and single riser part, with a choice of a simple or decorative arm for each one. They are held taut by wires that you will need to supply yourself, and you will need to do a little research to correctly wire in the rest of the cables to your tram’s pantograph. Markings There are six decal and markings options out of the box, with a wide choice of colours but only a few decals for route numbers and vehicle identification. From the box you can build one of the following: Cargo USSR 40-60s Repair USSR 40-60s Repair USSR 40-50s Emergency USSR 40-50s Cargo USSR 40-50s Service USSR 30-50s Decals are by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion A well detailed model of a cargo tram that was used in Soviet Russia for more than just hawking goods around. There’s plenty of scope for dioramas with the included base a healthy start, and lots of opportunity to practice your weathering techniques to depict a well-worn example. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. German Military Men, WWII (MB35211) 1:36 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models Ltd Even the baddies took time out from fighting to rest, plan and strategise, which is the theme of this set, showing a group of soldiers of various arms discussing the way ahead, or interpreting the latest orders from above, while clearly safe from the lead-based interjections of the Allies. It arrives in an end-opening figure box, and inside is a single bagged sprue in grey styrene containing parts for five figures, and the instructions printed on the rear of the box. As usual, sculpting is excellent and the parts are broken down into torsos, separate legs, arms and heads, plus caps, helmets, mag and other pouches, and even a few pencils moulded into hands. An officer, his sergeant and two military police figures form the centre of the group, with a member of the lower ranks trying to sort out a cable, probably in order to get the field telephone working again, although on first looks he appears to be more of a driver figure. The two MPs are wearing metal gorgets around their necks, one of whom is wearing a motorcycle great coat and goggles on his helmet, as if he has brought news from above. The other MP is wearing an MP40 over his chest and is holding a traffic lollipop behind him as he blimps over his colleague’s shoulder at the orders. The officer is sitting back with a pencil in hand, having been disturbed from poring over a map, and all wear standard Wehrmacht boots, field grey uniforms and rank insignia moulded into their torsos. There’s a surprise dog on the sprue if you look closely (parts 31, 14 & 15), which has a one-piece body, and a two-part head so that the floppy ears can be moulded more accurately. Don’t ask me what breed it is, but it’s not an Alsatian or a Chihuahua. Colour call-outs are shown on the instructions along with the part numbers, which match a drawing of the sprue to the right. The colour codes are shown in a table in the middle of the instructions, giving paint codes for Vallejo, and AMMO, which should be enough to allow conversion to your favourite brand if you don’t use those given. Conclusion Excellent sculpting, realistic poses and drape of the materials they are wearing, that will add realism to any diorama that they are placed into. Some insignia decals and careful painting should result in some great figures. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Desert Battle Series Kit No.2 (MB35214) Skull Clan – Long-Distance Raid. A New Leader. Hanna 1:35 Master Box 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 four individual figures being released (you can see them in the instructions), 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 back of the box, which you should be able to read below, 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 a slightly-too-large end-opening figure box, with a single narrow sprue inside, and instructions and back-story on the rear of the box. She’s very tall at around 6’3” if I’ve done my measurements correctly, so while she’s somewhat Amazonian in stature, it’s feasible but unusual that she’d be that height, unless the climate change caused everyone to grow toward the light? 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, thigh pouch, an optional axe with head-pouch, and backpack with moulded-in bedroll package. The weapon she’s carrying jauntily over her shoulder is a crossbow with cocking stirrup, a sight and lightened stock. 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, but you might notice that her boots are different, with thinner soles and integral calf section with straps to snug them up to suit her calf size. The straps for the thigh pouch are moulded into her leg, so location should be simple enough. 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 of the series. Recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. Danger Close (MB35207) Special Operations Team, Present Day 1:36 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models Ltd Special Ops has its official roots in WWII, although its origins are somewhat older, where elite warriors were gathered into specialist units for dangerous and/or difficult operations. Today, these Special Ops teams are well-known although their individuals’ identities are usually a guarded secret during and after service, with a few notable exceptions. We have the SAS, SBS in Britain, Seal Team, Delta Force, Rangers and others in the US, Spetsnaz in Russia, and many more across the armies of the world. This figure set depicts US Special Forces, although sometimes it’s harder to tell the difference between modern “brands”, due to the convergence of equipment, weapons and even camouflage between units and even nations. It arrives in an end-opening figure box, and inside is one large bagged sprue in grey styrene containing parts and accessories for four figures, with the instructions printed on the rear of the box. As usual, sculpting is excellent and the parts are broken down into torsos, separate legs, arms and heads, plus caps, mag and other pouches, backpacks, and even a few hands separated from their arms to improve moulding detail. The ‘danger close’ strapline refers to the manner in which the figures are taking cover behind some barrier or other, while one pair dress a flesh wound to one of their arms, with the other two trying to draw out the shooter with a cap on a stick (does this still work after all those movies?), as they watch for a muzzle flash. The are all kneeling or hunkered down to avoid getting shot, and each one is dressed in a plate-carrier with MOLLE loops for mounting mag pouches, rucksacks, other pouches and a side-arm. They all wear ball-caps and gloves, except the guy with the poorly arm, and the medic, who has latex or nitrile gloves on to attend to his comrade. They’re all rocking beards except the injured man, who sports a moustache. Do beards offer some kind of bullet resistance? Rounds deflected by Tacti-cool facial hair maybe? Each man carries either an M4 derivative with Acog or red-dot sight, while the medic is carrying an AK derivative, the Israeli Galil. Contrary to the box art, only one man has a 40mm Underslung Grenade Launcher (UGL) under his rifle, while others have PEQ boxes (light & laser) and/or separate flashlights mounted to the rails. Colour call-outs are shown on the instructions along with the part numbers, which match a drawing of the sprue to the right. The colour codes are shown in a table in the middle of the instructions, giving paint codes for Vallejo, Lifecolor, Mr Color and Tamiya, which should be sufficient to allow conversion to your favourite brand if you don’t use those given. Conclusion Excellent sculpting, realistic poses and drape of the materials they are wearing, that will add realism to any diorama that they are placed into. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. Su-27 Flanker-B Russian Knights (81776) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Su-27 and sibling Mig-29 were developed as a complementary pair of heavy and lighter fighters to combat the F-15 that was in development as the F-X at the time. It first flew in 1977, but encountered serious problems that resulted in some fairly spectacular crashes, some of which were fatal, but with persistence and successive rounds of improvements it came on strength with the Russian air force in 1985, but was still plagued with problems that prevented it from being seen in operational service for a further five years, and it is known as the Su-27S or Flanker B by the NATO countries. A navalised Flanker was also put into development, but that's a whole 'nother model. It proved to be a capable fighter, and after the fall of the Berlin wall, Russia continued its development, with other variants incorporating improvements, and wholesale conversions leading to other marks entirely, such as the SU-30, Su-33 and Su-34 with side-by-side pilot seating. The Flanker continues to impress the crowds at airshows thanks to the exploits of the Russian Knights and the Cobra manoeuvre that caused quite a stir when first seen. Sukhoi had a number of export successes, and China also manufactured Flankers under license as the Shengyang J-11 after an initial delivery of Russian built airframes. The Kit This is re-box with new decals of the 2016 kit from Hobby Boss and arrives in a large top opening box with a somewhat worn Russian Knights Flanker flying across the front. Inside you are greeted by a card insert with the two fuselage halves and their blended wings secured to it by coated wire, twisted around the nose, tail and wings. The nose and tail are further protected by a wrapping of thin foam, while the delicate parts of the wingtips are surrounded by a detachable sprue for good measure. Under the insert are fourteen more sprues of various sizes in the same grey styrene, two clear sprues, a small fret of what looks to be Photo-Etch (PE) stainless steel, or something similar. There are also three black "rubber" tyres, and a decal sheet plus of course the instruction booklet and a separate glossy page detailing the painting and decaling. The fuselage and wings strapped to the insert in the top of the box as a monolithic chunk of plastic is still impressive and has become the norm for kits of the Flanker family over the years, and having a look over it whilst perusing photos of the real thing, it seems to be ticking the boxes in terms of shape, although it's still tricky to be 100% about that when large parts of the airframe are still on the sprues. Construction starts with the cockpit, which is well detailed and has a multi-part seat, rudder pedals and control column, plus decals for all the main instrument panels. The instructions switch straight to building up the landing gear, as the nose gear is held in place by the addition of the gear bay to the lower fuselage, so they must have decided they might as well get you to build the main gear too. The gear legs are multi-part assemblies, and the nose leg has the characteristic slatted mud-guard and cluster of landing lights attached, the former in two parts that close around the nose wheel. The wheels are all two-part hubs with those black rubberised tyres, which have tread pattern moulded in, although no sidewall detail is present. The cockpit is installed from the underside in the upper fuselage, while the nose gear with the two exhaust trunks are placed in the lower half. The trunking is blanked off at the front by a simulated engine rear, and a slightly chunky-looking flame holder for the afterburner. That's it! The fuselage can go together, and if the dry-fit is anything to go by, there should be little if any clean-up to do. The leading-edge slats and flaps are separate, and adding them completes the wings, while the elevators fit to the rear at the side of the exhausts. The twin stabs have separate rudders and asymmetrical detail at the trailing edge, which is as it should be. You then have a choice of either open or constricted exhaust petals, which are both single parts per side. The rear section of the engine pods are moulded into the fuselage, but the forward section is separate, with a detailed roof, and a built-in FOD (Foreign Object Debris) screen blocking your view of the intake fan for the engines, which are supplied anyway. These fit onto ledges at the front of the fuselage-bound aft sections, with a cut-out over each main wheel bay, allowing you to fit the pre-prepared legs at this point if you wish. Each main gear bay has two doors, which have their actuator jacks included, as does the nose gear bay, with the smaller rear door captive to the trailing retraction jack. The nose cone is a single part, and has plenty of space for a nose weight if you think it will be necessary, although the instructions don't mention it. The canopy is also added at this stage, which is broken down into windscreen section with a clear hemisphere for the windscreen mounted sensor added as a separate part, and the canopy which has opening equipment depicted, as well as the PE rear-view mirrors. The canopy is correctly blown in front profile, which requires a three-part mould, so there is a seam on the top of the canopy that you will need to sand away and then polish back to clarity. Add a few probes and sensors, and that's the airframe built. Markings You get two Russian Knights markings options from the box, both of which have the bright red, white and blue stripes and yellow/blue sunburst on the fins. From the box you can build one of the following: The decals provide the more complex red stripes with the white accents that should permit a little leeway for painting of the base blue and white sections to complete the look. Careful measurement and masking, coupled with sparing application of paint to avoid visible lips under the decals should result in an impressive model. There are a trio of black & white photos on the rear of the instructions to assist, but there are a literal ton of photos on the internet if you should need them. If you are a stickler for detail, you might want to invest in some Su-27 Stencils from Begemot (48009(1)), as you can bank on those being comprehensive, and the instructions will be a little easier to follow without the national markings on the same diagram. Conclusion It’s a simple re-release in a new box with new decals, but the scheme will doubtless appeal to many. Detail is good, and the shape also seems to be too, although the true proof of the pudding will be in the building. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. German 3.7cm Pak 35/36 auf Pz.Kpfw. 35R(f) (83895) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd With a chassis originally designed by Renault, the R35 was a light infantry tank used by the French army in their unsuccessful defence of their homeland at the beginning of WWII, after which it remained in service with the German forces as a beutepanzer, where it was either used in second line service, or heavily converted to a makeshift gun carriage and used as a self-propelled howitzer. There were almost a thousand R35s in service at capitulation, and they had been found by the Germans to be unreliable, poorly armed to combat tanks, and with too little armour. Nevertheless, all the remaining vehicles were taken on charge by the Germans and more than a little tinkering with cutting torches ensued. This type had their turrets removed to mount the 37mm Pak 35/36 and served as roving light gun emplacements, after fitting of an extended splinter-shield that still left the crew exposed at the sides and rear. The gun was well-liked by the artillery crews of the day, although by 1942 it was hopelessly ineffective against a well-armoured target, and was being replaced by the 5cm Pak 38 as early as 1940, then the more widely-known Pak 40 in 1941. It was given a brief reprieve in the run-up to obsolescence by the use of a tungsten cored shell that gave it greater penetration, but its days were still numbered. When faced with the new T-34 that began flooding the battlefield when Russia counter-attacked, it would ricochet harmlessly away unless it could fire from close-range to the side or rear, which was dangerous even before it was attached to the inadequate 35R chassis. Couple that with the enemy troops that would be on the field and the lack of any meaningful protection of the crew, and many were killed before they could engage their targets. The Kit This is an minor re-tool of Hobby Boss’s 35R kit that we reviewed here some while back, sharing seven sprues and upper hull with its progenitor, as well as a Photo-Etch (PE) sheet that differs only slightly from the original. The new sprue contains all the parts needed to build and mount the gun, with a simple new decal sheet finishing the package. Inside the top-opening box are eight sprues plus the upper hull in sand-coloured styrene, two sprues of tracks in brown, a fret of PE, decal sheet, instruction booklet and separate colour painting guide. Inside the box is a card divider to keep the parts in place during shipping, and one sprue is partly wrapped in foam sheet to further enhance protection. The engine is first to be constructed, with a two-part block that is heavily detailed with additional parts, a great many of which are absolutely tiny, which goes together in stages that results in a very nicely depicted motor for your R35 chassis. Work then commences on integrating the engine with the lower hull, beginning with the sand-cast rear bulkhead, which has the idler tensioning devices and towing hook added, after which the radiator, cooling fan and tin-work ducting are assembled with the power-take-off wheel projecting from the rear of the box. The hull itself is made up from two side panels and a floor piece, into which the radiator housing, a styrene/PE stiffening plate and driver controls are added. The side panels are fitted out with three return-rollers and a final drive housing per side, and four bogies with two wheels per housing and a big suspension spring are built up. Two more solo bogies, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels are also constructed, and are installed on the suspension mounting points on the hull sides. At the same time the driver's seat, fuel tank and engine-mount bulkhead are placed within the hull, and the cast bulkhead closes up the rear. After adding a few more driver controls and their linkages, the drive-train is dropped into the hull, with a transmission housing added to the front, and prop-shafts joining it to the sprockets, completing the drive-train. Given their small size in 1:35, HB have decided to go down the link and length route with the tracks, and it's hardly surprising. The straight track runs are made up from six parts with a few links in between the curved lower sections, and twelve individual links at each end. Each of the individual links have three sprue gates, while the moulded lengths have additional dead-end tabs that protect against short-shot links, and also double as ejector-pin locations, saving the delicate detail from marring by mis-alignments. Unless you're going to the trouble of using metal replacements, these should do you proud with a bit of sympathetic painting and weathering. Give them a rub with an artist's pencil to impart metallic sheen where they get worn, and you'll never know they weren't metal. With the tracks in place, the full-length fenders are added, along with a little stowage and a big bottle-jack on the right rear. The upper hull is detailed inside with the driver's instrument panel, plus a choice of actuator for his vision hatch, which can be posed open or closed. The final drive inspection hatch is added along with some PE parts, as is the lower part of the driver's hatch, with the upper section added in the open or closed aspect, depending on your whim. The hull is then closed up by fitting the upper hull and a host of pioneer tools that are threaded through their tie-down blocks to be added to the sides of the hull, together with the silencer/muffler and exhaust, the feeder pipe for which comes from the rear of the vehicle. The gun is last to be built, a process that begins with the carrier for the barrel, which is dropped on top and has the breech block inserted into the rear of the gun tube. It has a hollow muzzle thanks to a little slide-moulding, and it is joined by all the aiming and elevation mechanisms, then the mount with pivot-point is closed around the cradle. The splinter-shield is a single part, which has some small parts added before it is slid over the barrel and fixed in place with the addition of a bracing strut. Underneath the cradle a custom mounting adaptor is made up with turn-buckles allowing removal on the real thing, and this receives the gun’s pivot peg. There are two holes in the front of the upper hull, which accept the pegs on the bottom of the mount, leaving the crew having to stand in the turret ring, which is still present and unaltered. At the rear a shallow retaining-rail surrounds the engine deck to help crew and equipment stay on the tank as it moves. It's a bit of a lash-up, overall. Markings There is one decal option in “field grey” depicted on the painting guide, although there are two rows of serials from 0-9 and four additional crosses with a yellow centre on the sheet to give you some additional options if you wanted to depict a certain vehicle. The option presented is identified only as “Erwin”, without any information regarding where and when it was used, which is par for the course with Hobby Boss and their decals. The decals are mostly white, with just the yellow printing on the four unused crosses. They’re perfectly adequate for the task, and have good colour density and sharpness, but a tiny difference in register between the white and yellow of the unused crosses. Conclusion It’s a nice kit of a woeful tank destroyer (read: tank irritator), and it would have taken a brave man to man that gun whilst under fire. Well-detailed and conveniently small to fill up a small gap in your cabinet or corner of a diorama. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. B-Type London Omnibus 1919 (38031) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd After the invention of the motor car, it was only a matter of time before someone thought to apply it to carrying us proles around in groups, partly because the general populous couldn’t dream of affording a car at the time, but also because it cut down on traffic in the sprawling metropolis that was early 1900s London. The London General Omnibus Company – LGOC for short, developed the Omnibus X, the omnibus part relating to everyone or all. It was replaced by the improved B-type Omnibus which has seats for 16 inside and another 18 less salubrious seats upstairs that were open to the elements. It was capable of breaking the speed limit of the day and could do a staggering 16mph on the flat, with headlights being introduced just before WWI began. Up to 900 buses were shipped to the continent to bus the troops around the battlefield from trench to trench, with up to 24 fully-equipped men being carried on the two decks. Of course, the word Omnibus didn’t last long and gave us the Bus that we know and don’t really love today. At the end of WWI, the remaining operational buses were also used to ferry the soldiers back to the UK, but it can’t have been very comfortable or quick on balance. Those that were still in decent condition resumed service with minor changes before they were finally retired in 1924. The Kit This kit is a recent tooling with a number of kits in the range, beginning with the militarised version in olive drab (39001), and now we’re looking at the second (third in terms of kits), later iteration of the civilian version with a new portrait-style box painting. A number of the original sprues from the earlier variants are carried over, and another new sprue is included to portray the updated areas around the radiator and front axle. There are unused parts on the new sprue in the form of lights and wing mirrors, which hints at an even later version being in the works. The decal sheet of course is brand new, and the Photo-Etch (PE) sheet has been further re-organised to accommodate the curved advertising hoardings on the staircase and new number plate choices. Detail is excellent with a full chassis, engine and interior included in the box, giving you just about everything you need to build a detailed replica of the 1919 omnibus. In total there are nineteen sprues in grey, three in clear, a PE fret, large decal sheet and of course instructions with painting and decaling guides in the front and rear covers in full colour. Construction begins with the engine, which is well detailed and even has diagrams showing you how to wire up the spark plugs with some of your own wire if you wish. The exhaust manifold and big clutch flywheel is added to the block along with a load of ancillary parts and hoses, then the gearbox is made up with its short drive-shaft to link it to the engine later on. The chassis is made up from the two side rails and cross members, then the engine is inserted from below while the fan belt and blades; starting handle; leaf springs for the suspension, and a large rear axle are all added, then flipped over to begin work on the engine compartment. A wood-textured bulkhead is installed aft, and at the front the newly tooled radiator is assembled and fitted to the front of the chassis, then linked to the feed hoses that were added earlier. A small linkage is made from 0.3mm wire and joined with an end-piece that completes the link, which has a couple of scrap diagrams to assist you, one at 1:1 scale to ensure you have it right. The chassis is flipped again and the new front axle is built then inserted into the leaf-springs, while brake rods are threaded along the length of the vehicle to provide the meagre braking force to all wheels. The gearbox gets a guard fitted to its bottom as it is inserted into the chassis, at which point it is also linked to the back axle with another drive-shaft that is bracketed by a piece of PE. The chassis is flipped again, and the gearbox is linked to the cab, with steering wheel, Toot Toot! style horn plus the cab floor with foot board and cut-outs for the steering wheel, foot brake and other pedals (right-hand drive of course). Now the front and back of the engine bay are linked by the fixed centre panel, and you can build the cowling in either open or closed positions with PE plates attached to the vertical panels. The chassis continues again with the exhaust pipe and muffler, which has a PE lip added to each end of the welded cylinder. This and the remaining driver controls are fixed into the chassis, which is then set aside while the passenger compartment is built. The passenger compartment starts as a U-shaped floor with duck-board flooring, which receives end panels that are first fitted out with glazing. Seats are added along each side with back cushions fitted later, and the sides of the lower floor are made up with glazing and long narrow openers at the top of each pane, capable of being posed open or closed by choosing different glazing parts. The front of the passenger box is also the seating area for the crew cab, with seat board, a thin cushion, and a cylinder in a pair of PE restraints installed ready for the later joining of the two assemblies. Long advertising hoarding brackets are fitted on the window frames outside and the lower floor is set to one side while the upper floor is made up. This has a slightly curved floor, solid sides, front and back, and four rows of double seats facing forward with a central walkway. Various rails are added to the top, beginning the handrails for the winding stairs, as well as ceiling-mounted grab-rails for the floor below. The two floors are joined together, and the staircase is begun at the bottom with the step-on platform at the rear, which allows access to the lower floor and leads to the stairs winding up the back of the vehicle. These steps are curved and have two parts added together, then strengthened by a side panel, and two curved sections on the outside that are combined safety rails and adverting hoardings that have three PE panels fitted to the outside ready for the included adverts. A number-plate and more handrails finish off that area. Underneath, the double length mudguards are glued to the cabin by brackets, and then the whole assembly is installed on the chassis along with front mudguards, crew steps, set of lights and a front number plate. The wheels were built up earlier from a central hub surrounded by two tyre halves, and with drum-brake for the rear wheels, and simpler wheels for the front. Now that she’s stood on her own four wheels for the first time, the side-mounted people catchers are installed under the chassis between the front and rear wheels, preventing anyone unlucky enough to fall between the wheels from getting squished by the heavy back end. Markings The bus is painted in a dull red overall, with various accent colours from wood, metallics and brass colours, while many of the standard markings such as the destination and general stencilling are applied as decals. The adverts are all printed on the rear page of the instruction booklet and must be carefully cut out and pasted onto the hoarding boards in the top floor sides and rear of the bus, taking care to use a non-marking glue. The reverse of the adverts are gloss white, so glue absorption shouldn’t be a major issue. The standard decals are shown applied to the bus inside the front cover of the booklet, while various new advertising options are shown there and on separate pages at the back of the booklet next to the adverts themselves. This gives a pretty wide range of options to the modeller who takes a mix-and-match approach, but there are four options from London in the 1920s provided to get you going. Decals are by DecoGraph, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This highly detailed kit provides you with everything you need to create a great replica of the 1919 version of this early bus. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Repairing on the Road (35295) Mercedes Typ 170V Cabriolet with Figures 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. Sales picked up after the recession eased, and later versions had internal boot/trunk-space and sleeker lines, moving with the times. The cabriolet option was sporty and offered the well-to-do buyer luxury and wind-in-hair fun on dry days, and a slightly less windy experience with the fabric roof deployed. It shares many of the panels of the saloon version, although with no pillars behind the windscreen for a sleek look. It was often used as a staff car in the German military throughout WWII, and like all cars it broke down from time-to-time. The Kit This is a reboxing of a partial re-tool of the original 2012 saloon (35095), with new sprues and parts added to create the necessary changes, plus a set of four figures, two of whom are doing their best to get their officer’s car up and running again. 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. This boxing has sixteen sprues in grey styrene plus a bodyshell part in a protective box, clear parts, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE), and decal sheet. The instruction booklet completes the package and the cover is printed in colour and covered in profiles to assist with painting. 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 added at this time. The dashboard is put together with decals within the instrument housings, then covered over with clear faces for realism and put to one side while the twin font seats with PE fittings and the simpler rear bench seats are installed onto their supports in the cab area. The exquisite little rear bodyshell is retrieved from its protective box, and it is immediately evident that it would never survive shipping without this, so it’s a godsend. The rear sides of the cab are fitted with interior and windows on each side, indicators on the A-pillar, the dashboard, rear lights and bumpers/fenders, while the wheels are made up. Each wheel is made up from a layer-cake of three middle parts to create the tread around the circumference, and two outer faces that depict the sidewalls of the tyres, with marker’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 to differentiate it, and it fits on a boss at the centre of a recess on the boot/trunk later on. The main wheels are added to the corners, and the radiator with a PE grille and three-pointed star added to a surround is assembled, then the radiator core and rear slam-panel with filler cap are added 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 bracket that forms the hinge-point for the 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. The new bodyshell is lowered into place, the steering wheel and PE horn ring are installed, and the windscreen is assembled from frame, PE wipers, clear glazing and other small parts inside the frame, then slid down between the two arms moulded into the bodyshell. The suicide doors are made up from outer skin, door card and clear window, with an optional window stub if you are posing them wound down. Handles and winders finish them off, and you can install them closed or any angle to allow egress. If you are leaving the hood down, the folded hood is provided as a single part that has the mechanism added to each side. In the up position the complete hood is one piece, with the mechanism applied to the sides and an ovalized window filling up the hole in the rear. The main headlights have clear lenses, a wing mirror is attached to the left wing, and an optional luggage rack is provided for the rear, made up from two layers of boxes, a delicate frame and PE straps to give it extra realism. The final parts to be used are the four figures. The officer is of course watching his men work with impatience, while his driver leans idly on the side of the car. The lower ranks are working on the car, leaning into the bonnet twiddling things, hopefully with some idea of what they’re doing. Sculpting is up to MiniArt's usual high standard, with realistic poses, sensible parts breakdown and location of mould seams along natural folds. Markings The decals extend to number-plates, military emblems and a white circular area for the bonnet of one of the decal options. You can build one of the six options below: III./JG52. Luftwaffe, Eastern Front, Ukraine, Summer 1943 272nd Infanterie Division, Wehrmacht, Normandy, France, Summer 1944 Wehrmacht, Eastern Front, 1944 German Police, 1942 Wehrmacht, Eastern Front, Winter 1942-43 Luftwaffe, Italy, 1943 Decals are by DecoGraph, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion It’s a highly detailed rendition of a rather slick cabriolet from the pre-war/WWII era, with the figures adding a little humanity and an example of mechanical frailty to an already great kit. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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