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  1. Royal Engineers (35292) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Royal Engineers, or Sappers as they’re more colloquially known have been a key component of the British Army for as long as there has been an Army, and they have been clearing mines, blowing stuff up and the less intense building of things for the Army and for other clients. During WWII the Sappers were key in clearing mines, obstacles and anything that was deemed to be in the way by the D-Day landings especially. Although the Allies had flail-equipped tanks to blow whole sections of minefields at one sitting and in relative safety, they weren’t always either available or suitable for the task in hand. Sometimes the sledgehammer isn’t the correct tool for a particular nut. These brave guys went forward into unknown fields of mines of various types that had been laid to slow down or even stop the Allied advances, and they detected them with rudimentary electronic devices and rustic prodders, sometimes levering them up with an old-fashioned bayonet. Many of them didn’t see the other side of the field, which must have made it particularly difficult for the others to return to work where their friend had met his end so recently. The set arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure-sized box, and inside are seven sprues in grey styrene, a small decal sheet and a sheet of instructions of around postcard size. On the back is a painting and assembly diagram for the four figures and their accessories held on the sprues, along with a paint chart with Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, swatches and colour names. Each figure is hard at work detecting mines, one sweeping with an electronic detector, another with a prodder, yet another with a shovel, and the final figure is kneeling down to pick up a mine carefully from the ground. Each figure has a camouflaged battle bowler, a Lee Enfield rifle slung over their shoulder, and a full set of pouches and stowage on their backs that is attached to their webbing, which is moulded into the torso. In addition to the equipment provided on the two figure sprues, there are two general British accessory sprues with more helmets, weapons and pouches, a sprue of rifles with triple-pouches, a sprue of mines, and a sprue with mine detecting equipment and warning signage moulded into it. The decals have signs and the shoulder badges that are visible on a Sapper’s uniform, as well as some stencils for the mines included in the set. Conclusion This is a well-detailed set, with tons of accessories related to the men detecting as well as in general, with MiniArt’s usual high-quality sculpting and sensible breakdown of parts. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. Austin Armoured Car 1918 Pattern – Interior Kit (39016) Ireland 1919-21s British Service 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Armour became an important part of WWI, seeing the first fielding of the Tank by the British, and numerous types of armoured car that saw various uses. At the beginning of WWI Austin’s armoured car was built on their civilian chassis, with light armour and two Maxim machine guns in separate turrets, one firing to each side, front and rear. Many were destined for Russia, but after the Russian Revolution in 1917 some of the later variants were used in British service. One such version was the 1918 Pattern, which had double rear wheels, thicker armour and used the Hotchkiss machine gun instead. A batch of 1918 Pattern vehicles were manufactured for Russia, but were never delivered, with a batch handed to the newly formed Tank Corps, to be utilised in battle using a novel method of deployment. Tanks would tow them across the battlefield through no-man’s land, after which they would peel off and roam freely along and even behind enemy lines. They caused chaos and were almost too effective, ranging miles behind enemy lines at times, and set the scene for the Armoured Car and Infantry Fighting Vehicle of wars yet to come. At the end of the Great War some were returned to the UK and repurposed, but many that were formerly in Russian possession found their way into the inventory of other Eastern European countries, and a small batch were even used by the Japanese, who were British Allies in WWI. Some of the British vehicles were used in Ireland in an attempt to quell the troubles there that went on from before the end of the war until the turn of the new decade, and some bad things happened there. The Kit This is a reboxing of last year’s newly tooled kit, with new parts to accurately portray the later mark included, including the new rear axle and wheels. It arrives in standard-sized top-opening box with a painting of the vehicle on the front, and inside are seventeen sprues and six wheels in grey styrene, a sprue of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, a decal sheet and the instruction booklet that has colour profiles inside the front and rear covers. It’s an Interior kit, so some of the sprues are small, but you get a lot of detail moulded-in, thanks to MiniArt’s diligent designers that make full use of techniques such as slide-moulding, which helps improve detail without creating too many additional parts in achieving this goal. This boxing has two small new sprues that give you a pair of tyres and some of the superstructure that make this more accurate for the period. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which is built up from two longitudinal rails held apart by various cross-members, some of which have mounting points and pass-throughs for other parts such as drive-shafts for the rear wheels. The engine has its own bearer rails, and it is built up on the sump with a good number of parts, plus a note of where the high-tension leads should go, which you’ll need to make yourself. You are officially an “experienced modeller” if you go to those lengths. The transmission fits to the rear of the rails behind the engine, then they are dropped into the chassis as a unit, and joined by a number of ancillary parts, controls and a chunky radiator. Exhaust and leaf-spring suspension along with bumper irons are glued to the inverted chassis, and the rest of the driver controls are attached to the topside, even before the cab is started. The rods that turn control movements into actions are threaded through the chassis rails, or can be replaced by 0.3mm wires of your own stock, with PE tensioning mechanisms supplied if you choose this option. The big rear axle with drum brakes and the front axle with steering arms are fabricated and attached to their relevant suspension mounts, with more control linkages for the handbrake and steering joining things together. Finally, a little bodywork is attached, initially at the sides of the engine compartments in preparation for the gluing of the swooping front arches, then each axle gets a wheel at both ends, made up from single-part hubs at the front, and mated double hubs at the rear onto which the six cross-treaded tyres are fitted, each one having a slide-moulded seam where the sidewall and tread meet, removing the need to sand and scrape at the lovely tread pattern, simplifying preparation and preserving detail. That’s a good thing, and something I’d like to see more of. Now standing on her own six wheels, the floor of the fighting compartment and the crew cab plus the firewall and various small fittings are placed on the top of the chassis, with another insert providing the bases for the two turrets that have pivot-points in the centre for the machine gun mounts. Various stowage boxes are made up and sat next to the rear steering wheel assembly, which also has a simple seat for getting the crew out of hot water and dead-ends just that little bit easier. Two more slightly substantial crew seats are attached to the front along with steps at the sides, then the somewhat complex upper hull is built sensibly in a step-by-step fashion that stops the modeller from being over-faced. Several raised features should be removed from parts before fitting, and additional rivets are shown being added in various other locations, which you can slice from the flat section of the two Ck sprues, unless you’ve got a set of Archer raised rivet transfers. The clamshell crew flap with PE edges can be posed open to give a wider view of the battlefield for the drivers by using two styles of rods, and when in battle it can be closed down, restricting the driver to a letterbox view of the world, which although frustrating is infinitely better than being shot in the face. Plenty of scrap diagrams show the correct orientations of all the parts, so there’s little room for error unless you rush at it and don’t plan ahead. The hull has another vision flap at the rear, and a number of doors that can be posed open and closed too, with more vision flaps for additional situational awareness, and again there is a lot of hand-holding to get things in the right place. A number of small lights are dotted here & there, all with clear lenses for realism. Even the radiator has a remotely operated armoured cover, as an overheating engine could become troublesome if the flap stays closed too long. The side-cowlings for the engine compartment can also be posed open or closed, and have small PE straps holding them closed. With the addition of the rear fenders, the hull/body is lowered over the chassis, and more stowage is located around the vehicle, including a rack of fuel cans on the front left to make sure they don’t run out behind enemy lines. Pioneer tools are attached to the sides of the car, and a pair of curved-ended unditching planks are strapped-on low down on the chassis sides by some folded PE brackets. Turrets are fun, aren’t they? You build up a pair of mounts for the Hotchkiss machine guns, including a tractor-style perforated seat for the operator and a large ammo can to feed the gun, which is fitted into a braced ball-mount that is glued up against the inner surface of the two-part circular walls. A few more of those slice-off rivets are glued to the top of the turret walls, mainly for detail purposes, as adding moulded-in rivets to a curved part is very hit & miss due to the way the parts are removed from the moulds. The roof is detailed with latches, searchlights on PE brackets and other small fittings, each one fitted open or closed as you see fit. There are two identical turrets included, and these drop into the circular cut-outs in the roof of the fighting compartment, held in place by gravity unless you fix them into position with a little glue. Another searchlight is bracketed to the front of the bonnet above the radiator cooling door. Markings There are a decent five decal options on the decal sheet from the same battalion, with their five-view profiles printed in full colour on the glossy pages of the booklet, and while they all share the same basic colour, there is enough variety in terms of camo above the mid-line to offer plenty of choice. From the box you can build one of the following: 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, Ireland, 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, Ireland, 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, County Clare, Ireland, 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, Barracks at Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, Nov 1919 17th Armoured Car Battalion, Royal Irish Constabulary, County Clare, Ireland, Nov 1919 Decals are by MiniArt’s usual partner Decograph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This six-wheeler early armoured car isn’t as familiar as the Mark.IV tank or the Whippet Light Tank, but it’s been great seeing MiniArt filling another gap in the available kits of WWI armour, and there’s a LOT of them now. Detail is exceptional as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. G7107 1.5T 4x4 Cargo Truck w/Crew (35383) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Chevrolet G506 truck formed the basis of a range of 4x4 load-carrying vehicles that were capable of carrying up to 1.5 tonnes of cargo or equipment. They were initially made under the 4100 code, then moved to the 7100 range, and usually had a standard enclosed cab, with a 3.9L straight-6 engine under the bonnet, with a four-speed “crash” (non-syncro) gearbox putting down a little over 80hp through all four wheels. It rapidly became the Allies’ standard light truck, and served in substantial quantities with the Allies in the West, the Soviets in the East, and the forces fighting Japan in the Far East. There were a lot of variants, some in US Army service, others in USAAF service, with almost 50,000 of two specific types, the G7107 and G7117 sent over to the Soviets under the Lend/Lease program. The G7017 had a cargo bed with canvas top, while the G7117 was the same except for the addition of a winch to give it some static pulling power. They were well-liked by their drivers and crews, and were adapted to other tasks due to their ubiquity, such as being used by the Soviets to carry Katyusha rockets on a stripped-down flatbed. The Kit This is a reboxing of a brand-new tooling from MiniArt that is coming to your favourite model shop right now. It’s a full interior kit, with engine, cab and load area all included along with some very nice moulding and detail, particularly in the cab and those chunky tyres. It arrives in one of MiniArt’s medium-sized top-opening boxes, and inside are twenty-four modular sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope, a tiny bag with some metal chain within, a wide decal sheet and glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear pages. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which has leaf-springs fore and aft, cross-braces and rear towing eye fitted to create the structure, then has the fuel tank with PE straps, and PE rear bumper irons folded around a styrene jig, and axles installed on U-bolts, before the brake drums/hubs, battery and external brackets are added to the chassis rails. The transfer box and drive-shaft join the two axles together, and a steering linkage and box are inserted into the front of the chassis, then the engine is built up based on the straight six-cylinder block, with carburettor, dynamo and transmission added, plus the pulleys and fan at the front. The engine and substantial front bumper iron are fitted to the chassis, and at the rear a short additional chassis rail and stowage area are attached to the frame at the rear behind the fuel tank. The exhaust and its manifold slip into the underside of the chassis from below, with linkages and axle brackets fitted to the rails. The crew cab is next, beginning with the firewall and forward sidewalls. The roof and windscreen frame are moulded as one, with a headliner insert and rear-view mirror that are inserted within, and the three-part radiator housing is made to be used later. The firewall and roof are joined with some of the dash pots fixed to the engine side of the firewall, while the doors and their interior cards are assembled with their handles and window winders, plus the clear window glass that can be posed open or closed at your whim. The dashboard inserts into the front bulkhead with seven decals for the instruments and stencils on the glove box. The diagonal foot panel is joined with the firewall and decked out with three foot pedals, a stud and the steering wheel on a long column that slides through a hole in front of the pedals. The driver and co-driver share a bench seat that is made up on the floor from back, cushion and a C-shaped surround that fits round the rear of the cab back wall, with small ovalised window and PE mesh grille fitted later. The roof and firewall assembly are fitted, with the doors installed within the frame in the open or closed position. The windscreen is two flat clear parts in a styrene frame that is posed open or closed later on. The cab and radiator are both placed on the chassis and the engine cowling side panels fit between them with front wing/fender included that has Chevrolet embossed on the vertical sides and some holes drilled in the rear of the fenders. The aforementioned windscreen has a pair of PE brackets and styrene wingnuts that are installed either vertically for closed, or at an angle for open, with a scrap diagram showing the correct orientation of the various parts. The spare tyre is placed on a bracket near the exhaust, and the front of the vehicle has its headlights with clear lenses plus sidelights fitted to the wings, some German fittings for decal option 4, and PE windscreen wipers hung from the top of the frame, then the front grille is built. You may have noticed that this doesn’t appear on the sprues, and there’s a good reason for that. It is constructed completely from PE, and two jigs are included on the sprues to assist with obtaining the correct shape. The lower rail and curved side panels are made up on one jig from a single piece of PE, while the centre panel is folded up on another, then they’re joined together ready to be attached to the front of the engine bay. There are two brackets stretched across the front of the radiator, and another small curved section is added to the left of the grille as it is glued in place with the help of some CA. The hood/bonnet is able to be fitted open or closed with two styles of clasp and in the open option, a PE stay is provided. Two tie-down hooks are fixed to the front bumper iron too. The load bed floor is a single moulding with a ribbed texture on the underside, and a thick rear section with hooks, separate rear lights and moulded-in reflectors. The shallow sides and front have separate frames and a series of tie-down hooks fixed along their lengths, with PE closures and chains on the rear gate that can also be fitted open or closed, as can the seats that run down each side. The four rear mudguards are held at the correct angles by PE brackets, and on one side a pioneer toolkit is lashed to a frame with PE fixings holding an axe, pick axe, and spade. The load bed is joined to the chassis along with the toolkit on the right side of the flatbed. It’s time for the wheels to be made up, with singles at the front, each made from two parts each, and twin wheels at the rear, made up much earlier in the instructions for some reason. Each wheel slips over its respective axle, with the hub projecting through the central hub. There are two extra fuel cans on brackets with PE tie-down straps on the running boards, plus optional tilt frames that fit to the top of the vertical rails if used. In addition, a crew of three American Army driver/loader figures is included on a separate sprue, wearing overalls or fatigues with jackets, wearing caps and performing various maintenance tasks/leaning on things. Each one is made up from individual legs, torso, head and arms, plus an M1 Garand in a holster and some stowage bags. Markings There are four markings options on the decal sheet, three in green and the last one in German grey, as it is under new management. From the box you can build one of the following: 12th Armoured Division, 7th Army, 1943/44 298th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Army, France, Summer 1944 Brazilian Expeditionary Force, Italy, 1945 Captured vehicle, Unknown Wehrmacht Unit, Eastern Front, Summer, 1943 Decals are printed by MiniArt’s usual partners Decograph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion We seem to be blessed with new kits of the Chevrolet G7107 truck in 1:35 recently, which was ubiquitous during WWII on the Eastern and Western fronts as well as the Far East, where it played an important but unsung role in the defeat of the Nazis and the Axis, lugging weapons, ammunition, men and supplies to the front and sometimes back again. The included figures are just gravy! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Fokker Dr.1 Triplane 1:32 Meng Model via Creative Models Ltd Entering service in the latter few months of 1917, the Fokker DR.1 hardly needs any introduction, as it probably the most famous German aircraft of the Great War. Manfred Von Richthofens overall red machine is instantly recognisable and is probably the most famous pilot/aircraft combination ever. It achieved a fame out of all proportion to the number built (320) and length of service (c6 months). It wasn't particularly fast, but was highly maneuverable and had an impressive rate of climb.In the hands of a skilled pilot it could be highly effective, and became the favoured mount of many aces until the superior Fokker D.VII replaced it from April 1918. The kit was due to be released earlier this year by Wingnut Wings, and was thus developed to their uncompromising standards. Unfortunately they shut down without any warning in April and laid off all their staff. Mystery surrounds the reasons for this, but speculation abounds so I'll refrain from comment other than to say I was very saddened by the closure. They were producing kits to a standard not equaled by any other manufacturer, and will be sorely missed. The Fokker Dr.1 kit was in the final stages of approval, and I was one of many who eagerly examined the test sprues displayed at Telford 2019. It seems that Meng were contracted to produce the moulds, and with the demise of Wingnut Wings have rebranded and released the kit under their own name. Packaged in a sturdy top opening box, the artwork features Manfred von Richthofens well known all red 425/17, having shot down a Bristol F2.b fighter. Inside are five light grey sprue frames of varying sizes, one small clear frame, a sheet of decals, a small sheet of etched brass, and the instruction booklet. All are individually wrapped in their own clear plastic bags. It is immediately apparent that the mouldings are in Wingnut Wings style, from the layout of parts and their quality. The plastic is the same light grey type favoured by WnW, and the customary superb detailing is all there. It is obvious that this is all the work of the Wingnut Wings master designers. The instruction booklet is simpler than the superb examples that Wingnut Wings used to supply, but adequately and clearly shows the construction stages. Naturally enough this begins with the cockpit, most parts of which are found on sprue A. The mouldings are well defined, with sharp detail. The seat/bulkhead, floor, and ammunition tank are fitted between two side frames, which then accurately position the whole assembly inside each fuselage half by locating a circular cutout over a raised ring. This sprue also contains all the parts that were fitted to the main production DR.1, as opposed to the early pre-production F.1. Sprue B holds all three wings and the fuselage halves. The fabric effect and rib tapes are nicely done, but there are a couple of issues with the wings themselves. They are all solid single piece mouldings, and there is a slight upward curvature along the span of all three, which should not be there. I saw comment on this on various internet forums from people who managed to get hold of this kit early on, so it is not unique to this example. Apparently it is easily solved by immersing the parts in hot water, taking them out and gently bending straight between thumb and forefinger. Also reported by others is a breakage on the cockpit fairing moulded integrally with the middle wing, part B6. Again this is also present on the review kit, and again should be simple to rectify. Attaching it to the fuselage side when fitting the middle wing in stage 10 should ensure a strong joint. Two propellers are also provided, part 3 is an Axial, the classic fit for an Oberursel powered DR.1. Sprue C holds four clear parts, of which C3 and C4 are optional windscreens. Part C1 is an early reflector gun sight, and an interesting option to have been included. It is only for the all red Richthofen machine. Part C2 is not mentioned in the instructions and is thus not required. The axle wing, late type cowling, late type control column, and alternate propeller are on sprue D. The propeller is not named, but looks to me more like an allied one that would probably have been paired with the Clerget engine. Sprue E is the engine, which is provided with alternate front faces for the Le Rhone 9J (Part E1) and Oberursel UR.II (Part E7), The Oberursel being a licence built Le Rhone. Many German pilots considered the Oberursel to be inferior to the original French built engines and fitted captured examples to their aircraft. Identifying which powerplants were fitted to particular DR.1s is a bit of a minefield, as captured Clerget engines were also used. At least we have two choices here! Option B, Werner Voss's aircraft is a prototype F.1 rather than a production DR.1, and was fitted with a captured Le Rhone. Sprue F holds all the alternate parts for the F.1. These are ailerons with larger mass balances, different shape rudder, curve edged tailplane, smaller wheels, and different cowling. The F.1 also did not have the wingtip skids fitted, so the locating holes in the lower wing will need filling. The etched fret offers jackets for the LMG08/15 machine guns, which need to be rolled into a cylindrical shape and attached to the injection moulded bodies. If you do not feel confident doing this, then fully injection moulded alternatives are also offered. A four point harness is provided for the seat, along with round or square inspection panels for the front fuselage. These were field modifications, so check your references if not choosing one of the kit supplied markings. Decals are printed by Meng and look very sharp with minimal carrier film, and an overall matt finish. It consists mostly of various forms of black crosses, with instrument decals and various serial numbers. There are few individual markings needed for the options, but unfortunately the 'face' for the Voss option doesn't look particularly accurate, so it may be better to hand paint it. Four options are provided, one F.1 and three DR.1's. Of course one of them is Manfred von Richthofen's all red version, which is a good choice by Meng as it is so famous and the box art will attract interest from potential buyers. For those of us who like the less obvious, the other three provide good alternatives. It wouldn't be that difficult to make Richthofen's earlier machine with the Fokker 'streaky' finish, and a red top wing, rear fuselage, wheels and cowling. By cutting out some of the serial numbers from the other options, you can make up the '152/17' it needs. Option A. DR.1, 425/17. Manfred Von Richthofen, JG1, March 1918. Option B. F.1, 103/17. Werner Voss, Jasta 10, September 1917. Option C. DR.1 206/17. Herman Goering, Jasts 27, May 1918. Option D. RD.1, Walter Gottsch, Jasta 19, February 1918. Instructions. The instructions are supplied as a neat little 20 page booklet showing all assembly sequences clearly, and unambiguously pointing out which parts are appropriate for which of the finishing options. There is a parts map and colour reference at the end, but I am not familiar with any of the paint manufacturers quoted. Fortunately each colour is named so you can select from your own preferred range. It is not to the same exemplary standard that Wingnut Wings presented their instructions, but is still very good. There are also a set of A4 sized cards, mostly in Chinese, but with some English translation explaining the types history. Conclusion. The sudden closure of Wingnut Wings was a real shock to the modelling community, the Fokker DR.1 was right on the cusp of being released and suddenly it was gone. This eagerly awaited kit was due to be released in 'Early' and 'Late' versions, and it seemed unlikely we would ever be able to get hold of them. Fortunately Meng had been contracted to produce the moulds,and were able to release the kit under their own name with all the parts for the 'Early and 'Late' versions in one box. It is a lovely kit, despite the minor issues with the breakage on the wing/cockpit part and a slight wing warp. Both are easily solved and it seems that it may have been sorted out by now as other modellers are reporting that their kits are free of this issue. It is in any case the best kit of the DR.1 in any scale. Not surprisingly Wingnut Wings kits sold out everywhere and are now like gold dust, fetching silly prices. At least we now have the opportunity to purchase this kit with Wingnut Wings DNA running through it, and at a sensible price. The aftermarket decal producers are already offering alternate finishing options for it, including the Fokker 'streaky' camouflage if you don't want to paint it. Highly Recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. M4A3E2 Jumbo US Assault Tank (TS-045) 1:35 Meng Model The Sherman tank is familiar to most armour modellers, and as such needs little introduction. It bears a familial resemblance to the M3 Lee/Grant, especially from the waist down, but the new upper hull and turret did a lot to fix the shortcomings of the earlier tank, although it was by no means perfect. Its main armament was good enough when it entered service, but became a little underwhelming toward the end of the war, as was her armour, which although sloped in places couldn’t resist the high velocity rounds from the Panther or Tiger tanks. Her most appealing feature was that they were easy and cheap to build, so there were a lot of them available both to US forces, the British Army, and other combatants of WWII via the lend/lease programme. The M4 progressed through subvariants as improvements were made with changes to the construction, armament, suspension and armour, which can be confusing to the uninitiated. By the time the M4A3 was in service the tank had matured, reverting to a welded hull and replacing the bulky radial engine with a V-8 lump manufactured by Ford. The main armament was upgraded to the more armour-focused M1 long barrelled high-velocity gun, which was more capable of penetrating the thicker armour of the later German tanks, especially if using the High-Velocity Armour Piercing (HVAP) round that could punch through almost 180mm of rolled-steel armour at 1km. Another change made with some of the M4s was the addition of wet ammo storage that reduced the risk of a tank “brewing up” when hit by enemy fire, a reputation that had resulted in the cruel nickname of "Tommy Cooker" by the Germans. The variants with this useful safety addition were suffixed with the letter W. In an effort to reduce losses in frontal assaults, the M4A3E2 variant was upgraded with an additional inch of cast frontal armour protecting the running-gear low down, and a thicker 4” upper glacis plate with an extra 1.5” welded to the sides, plus an over-thick mantlet with a 75mm gun (sometimes replaced with a 76mm) mounted on a vertical-sided cast turret. It gained the nickname “Jumbo”, probably because of the mantlet or its weight, which made it slower than a standard M4A3, but it remained popular with crews and generals alike for its ability to take punishment and remain operational. The Kit This is a revised tool from Meng adding a new sprue, hull and turret, and in their usual style it is a highly detailed kit. It arrives in a satin themed box with a painting of a distempered machine parked up near another Sherman in the background. Inside are twelve sprues in sand coloured styrene plus four larger parts off sprues, two clear sprues, a small box of springs, a coil of wire, a tiny bag of pre-cut track-pins, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a turned aluminium barrel, two trees of poly-caps and decal sheet, with the instruction booklet found at the bottom of the box, and a set of rubberband tracks. This is an exterior kit with only breech, periscopes and some hatch details included inside. There is a hint of a possible interior set in the future by the inclusion of a detailed firewall between the crew compartment and engine compartment, although at time of writing that’s still just speculation on my part. Construction begins the same way as the earlier boxing, with a few steps re-ordered for some reason. The suspension units and twin-wheel bogies are made up, which includes one of my favourite parts of the kit because of the springs – yes, I’m still impressed. To the top of the swing-arms you add these springs, which can be found inside a small box that also has some ration boxes printed on it, all safely cocooned in foam. They’re real springs too, made from spring steel and compressible just like the real Vertical Volute Suspension System (VVSS), so your Sherman will have working suspension as long as you obey the little “don’t glue” icons along the way. Each wheel is made up from a front part with moulded-in tyre and a rear part, which once added is trapped between the two axle-halves. A pair of wheels and their axles are inserted into the bottom of the suspension unit with the springs and their swing-arms inserted into the top section, which is closed up after adding the return roller then joined by a return skid that has some slide-moulded rivets moulded into it. You make three of these units up for each side and then set them aside while the hull is built up from main lower plus front drive housing and rear bulkhead, with final drive housings and poly-caps added to the sides at the front and idler mounts at the rear along with towing eyes. At the rear the radiator vents are stacked up into a matrix and held together with their end-caps before being fitted under the rear valance with the two curved exhaust pipes. The suspension units are all added on their mounts and the drive sprockets are pushed into the final drive housings, held in place by the aforementioned poly-caps, with more added to the idler wheels before they are fitted. The tracks are styrene, and made up from four parts per link, held together with short pre-cut lengths of nickel-plated wire that’s in a small bag in the box. A clear two-part jig is included that holds up to 10 links, and although you’re not advised on how to put them in the jig, I found that putting the track ends into their recesses first and then laying the pads between them was the easiest way. I also taped the jig closed before I tried adding the pins. The pins go straight through, and a dot of super glue (CA) into the ends helps to hold the pin in place, then I did the same on the other side. The result is an incredibly flexible set of tracks that will look great under a coat of paint. They take some time to clean up because of the part count, but it’s really worth the effort. Each link is four parts as mentioned, and there are 10 sprue gates per link in total. The pad links are easy to clean as they are flat, but the three on each horn have to be cleaned up carefully to preserve the detail. It’s still worth the effort though, and I can’t stop playing with the section I made up. There are 78 links per track run, and you are advised to make them up and fit them over the tracks, using the adjustment capability of the idler axle to get the correct tension, then glue little parts in place to wedge the tensioner in place. Those that are phobic of individual links will be pleased to find a set of flexible rubberband-style tracks in the box, although these aren’t documented in the instructions. Tensioning them in the same manner as the individual links will allow you to obtain a more accurate sag to them. The up-armoured upper hull is next, and begins with the drilling out of a few flashed-over holes depending on which decal option you have elected to portray. The main upper hull is fitted out with the additional armour panels to front and sides, which all have a crisp weld-line along the edges, then is prepped with hatch hinges, a movable bow machine gun, and engine deck comprising one main C-shaped part and a choice of two inserts depending on your decal choice. This is dropped onto the hull with the engine bay bulkhead supporting the centre section, then the front is detailed with lifting eyes, small fenders, hatches with detailed periscope. The rear cages are either made up from PE or plastic parts, so if the PE sounds daunting, rather than using the plastic parts, Meng have provided a multi-section jig that you can use to obtain the correct curve and shape, but it would be advisable to anneal them in a lighter flame for a few second first to soften them up. The remainder of the engine deck is made up from left and right pyramidal sections that drop into the space left on the deck with little grab-handles for mechanics to remove them for maintenance. At the rear the bulkhead is fitted out with two rows of three spare track links, rear lights with PE cages that are formed on the jig as already mentioned, barrel cleaning tools, pioneer tools, spare fuel cans and larger rear mudflaps. A rack is made and attached to the rear and is filled with additional fuel containers, probably to make up for the extra thirst of the engine that was coping with the weight of the additional armour. Along the edges of the tracks you have to apply (usually) winter-weather track grousers that give it extra traction in muddy conditions and to counter the extra weight, helping to decrease ground-pressure. There is one for each track link, and as they project further than the side skirts would, which weren’t fitted due to the side armour panels. The towing cable is also made up from the braided cable supplied with the length printed on the page, and two styrene eyes, one for each end. On the glacis plate a four-piece bow-wave board is attached between the fenders, with a large British-style ammo box resting on it for one option. Now for the turret, which begins with a pretty good rendition of the breech, with recoil mechanism, co-ax machine gun, breech guard and mounting gear attached to the back of the mantlet. A clear periscope is fitted to the roof, and the lower turret and turret ring are attached to the slab-sided top, along with pivot pins for the mantlet, which don’t need gluing. The blocky mantlet is fixed to the rear part, which has its lifting-eye “ears” removed from the top corners and moved to the sides using new parts, then being fitted to the pivoting part inside the turret. The commander’s cupola with clear vision blocks inserted from below, plus the gunner’s hatch with clam-shell doors are both made up with clear periscopes and inserted into the turret roof along with various lifting eyes, search lights, aerial bases (straight and tied back), vents and other detail parts. The turret’s casting texture is well depicted, and in addition Meng have supplied casting numbers in PE to apply to the turret depending on which decal option you have chosen. At the rear of the bustle, an M2 Anti-Aircraft .50cal with hollow muzzle is provided that can be pintle-mounted on the gunner’s hatch, or stowed across the back of the turret along with a spare barrel. The final task is to attach the barrel of the main gun, with the option of a longer, plastic barrel or a shorter turned aluminium one in the box, depending on which decal options you are making. The turret is then twisted into place on the hull, thereby completing the build. It doesn’t use a standard bayonet lug system, but has three sloped lugs that snap into place on the turret ring. How often you can remove and install it again without it fatiguing is a question I still can’t answer at this stage, so take care. Markings There are four decal options in the box, and all of them predictably are based on an olive green finish and they all have some camouflage added on top to give them some individuality, which should make for some fun-looking models. From the box you can build one of the following: 37th Tank Battalion 4th Armoured Division, US Army, Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne, Belgium, Dec 1944. 69th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Mar 1945. 2nd Squadron, 2nd African Hunter Regiment, 5th Armoured Division, Free France, Summer-Autumn 1944, France. 15th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Germany, Spring 1945 (OSF Turret, 76mm gun). Decals are printed in China and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion I’m still impressed with the springs, but when you add in all the detail and the subtle casting/rolling texture to the exterior of the hull, the extra-armour, the PE light cages, the turned barrel and those funky tracks, it makes for an impressive package. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. T-34/85 Composite Turret #112 Plant, Summer 1944 (35306) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front. The designers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with an enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. The T-34/85 with the composite turret was manufactured during the summer of 1944 at Krasnoye Sormova plant #112 on the Volga River, with a simplified gun in the turret in the shape of the ZiS-S-53, as well as some other changes. The Composite turret was fitted with a flat roof that had a pair of hatches and linked mushroom vents to the rear. There were some messy welds between the various castings, which gives them a rough look that belies their capability. The Kit This is another boxing of MiniArt’s new T-34 line, and is an exterior only kit, but the box is still loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes. In total there are sixty-four sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a small decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, notably the Czech production and others that we reviewed here, which is the reason for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from much more promising for us, which with the rate we’re receiving them for review seems to be the case. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of PE brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside face. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, with a fixed stock for the gunner’s comfort. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured outer protection, and has a tubular external armoured cover to protect the majority of the barrel length from incoming rounds. The upper hull deck and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a number of holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way, then the glacis plate it fitted to the front, some armoured plates are fitted near the turret ring, and it is then glued to the lower hull. At the rear the engine bay is still exposed, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching this large rear panel that has a circular inspection panel fixed in the centre, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers to the sides and short exhaust stubs filling the centres. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then it is fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with louvered grilles are fitted over the large flush louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, and the mudguards with PE detail parts are glued into place at the front, with more simplified flaps to the rear. Small parts, various pioneer tools, rails and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, with racks of winter track grousers attached to the flat portions of the side and external fuel tank cradles behind them. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. On the glacis, a strip of five spare track links are applied to marks on the plate between towing lugs and loops. Under the rear of the tank another set of loops, hooks and eyes are fitted into marked positions between the two final drive housings. A quartet of smooth-surfaced cylindrical fuel tanks are installed on the sides and rear by using the curved brackets fitted earlier, and mixed PE and styrene straps holding them in place. Ten pairs of wheels with either smooth or ribbed tyres and separate hub caps are built with one of two styles of drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply three lengths of 94mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. The ribbed tyres are only fitted for certain decal options, and these are not used on all stations, so check the instructions next to that step. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share. There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue. Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm, it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. The turret starts as an almost complete shell with three sides moulded into it, which has inserts for the interior skin. The roof is separate and has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and binoculars built into the bi-fold hatch, plus a simpler hatch for the gunner, both of which are shown fitted closed. The roof also has two more periscopes under armoured shrouds, and two vents on the rear, which are covered by a linked armoured mushroom cover. Despite this not being an interior kit, the basic gun breech is present, with another 7.62mm DT machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set to one side while the turret floor is completed. The floor part first has a lip inserted within the ring, then the inner mantlet support is prepared with the main gun’s mount, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind and is joined by the coax DT with its mount. The gun tube, which is a single part is inserted into the socket on the inner mantlet and has the outer mantlet slide over it, and it has a hollow muzzle for extra detail. An aerial, a long grab handle and six tie-down lugs are added around the rear of the turret, and three PE straps are included to either hang loose, or to lash a canvas of your own making to the rear of the bustle, then the turret is dropped into place in the hull to complete the build. Markings There are seven decal options in the box and they’re all green, as you’d expect from a wartime example made in the summer of '44, but a few have white stripes and red markings to break up the green. From the box you can build one of the following: 5th Guards Tank Corps., Red Army, 3rd Ukrainian Front, Czechoslovakia, Winter 1945 2nd Guards Tank Brigade, Red Army, East Prussia, March 1945 'Vladimir Mayakovsky', unidentified unit, Red Army, Berlin, April/May 1945 Unidentified unit, Red Army, Berlin, April/May 1945 1st Polish Tank Corps., Germany, April 1945 ‘Rogacz’ (Deer), 1st Polish Tank Corps., Germany, April/May 1945 ‘With the victory over Berlin’ 10th Guards Tank Corps., Red Army, Germany 1945 The decal sheet a reasonable size, because despite this being a tank, there are a generous seven options. The sheet is printed by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion The T-34 played a huge part in the Soviet response to Operation Barbarossa, albeit after a substantial delay caused by Stalin’s apparent indecision. It was a stalwart of their defence then offense, sweeping the Germans aside thanks to its sloped armour and sheer weight of numbers. This kit omits most of the interior, and yet keeps all the external goodies, so if interiors aren’t your thing it's a tempting option. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. T-34/85 Mod 1945 Plant 112 (37091) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front. The engineers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with the enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. The T-34/85 served until after WWII in Soviet service, but once it became obsolete, they were exported aggressively to Soviet friendly nations, who could always find uses for them, sometimes for a long period of service, interestingly they were supplied to Austrian units in the divided country after WWII and following reunification in 1955 the Austrian Army would use an interesting mix of western and Soviet equipment types/ The Kit This is another boxing of MiniArt’s new T-34 line, and is not an interior kit, but the box is still loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes, including four crew figures to fill the hatches. In total there are 62 sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a small decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, notably the Czech production that we reviewed here, which is the reason for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from much more promising for us, which with the rate we’re still receiving them for review seems to be the case. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear that performs the task of upper hull support in this boxing. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside surface. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, without a stock for the gunner’s (dis)comfort. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured protection, and has an armoured external cover to protect the majority of the barrel from incoming rounds. The driver’s hatch is hinged at the top, and the armoured cover is applied to the top edge of the aperture, and a length of tracks are installed underneath. The upper hull top and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a substantial number of holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way, then the glacis plate it fitted to the front and glued to the lower hull. A pair of PE parts are glued to the hull sides next to the turret ring, with two stiffener plates in PE where the front fenders will be late. At the rear the engine bay is still exposed, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching this large rear panel with exhausts and filling the circular inspection hatch in the centre, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers for the exhausts. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with PE grilles are fitted over the basic louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, with final drive housing and idler wheel axles at front and rear. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. Mudguards are assembled with PE strips for the front fenders, with wading deflector passing over the track links on the glacis, and at the rear two auxiliiary fuel tanks and their mounting straps are built up and added. Small parts and various pioneer tools and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, along with racks for extra track parts. Additional fuel tank support frames are fitted on the rear sides, and interlinked towing cables just forward of them. A trio of smooth-surfaced cylindrical fuel tanks are installed on the sides later by using curved brackets and five-piece tanks with PE and styrene shackles holding them in place, the cables taking up the space where the fourth tank would be. The headlight is a detailed assembly made up from PE and styrene parts, with an angled cage folded around a jig to obtain the correct shape. Ten pairs of wheels are built with two drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply two lengths of 100mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share, but their ruggedness also applied to desert conditions. There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue. Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps, wedges etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. Despite this not being an interior kit, the gun breech is made up from a substantial number of parts with another machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set to one side while the turret floor is completed. The floor part first has a lip inserted within the ring, then the inner mantlet support is prepared with the main gun’s mount, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind and is joined by the coax DT with its mount. The turret upper starts as an almost complete shell with three sides moulded into it, which has inserts for the interior skin and the roof, which has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and binoculars built into the bi-fold hatch, plus a simpler hatch for the gunner, both of which are shown fitted closed. The roof also has two more periscopes under armoured shrouds, and two vents, which are covered by armoured mushroom covers. Lifting-eyes, antennae (depending on decal option) and grab-handles are dotted around the turret sides, then the gun tube, which is a single part is inserted into the inner mantlet and covered by the outer, has a hollow muzzle for extra detail. A top mantlet cover is made up and attached on the sides of the bustle, plus a self-made canvas tarp can be fitted to the rear with PE straps, or you can depict the straps hanging loose if you choose. The turret is finally dropped into place in the hull to complete the build, with no bayonet lugs to hold it in place, so take care if you decide to inspect the underside one day. Markings The decal sheet isn’t huge because this is a tank, but the sheet is printed by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. From the box you can build one of the following: 4th Guards Tank Corps, Red Army, Moscow Autumn 1945 Chinese People's Liberation Army, Early 1050 Ceremonial Colours, Soviet Army, Ukraine November 1949 Czechoslovak People's Army Late 1940s Romanian People's Army 1950s Austrian Armed Forces, Early 1960; Conclusion The T-34 had a long and useful service life with many operators, with the boxing depicting a wide variety of vehicles. This kit omits most of the interior in the interior boxings, and yet keeps all the external detail plus gun breech, so if interiors aren’t your thing it's an appealing alternative. You can still have some of the hatches open. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. T-34/85 Mod.1960 (37089) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front, occasionally with wet paint or no paint at all. The engineers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after their initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 units per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with a further enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought before an engagement. The T-34/85 stayed in service until long after WWII with the Soviets, but once it became obsolete, they were exported aggressively to Soviet friendly nations, who could always find uses for them, sometimes for a long period of service. These exports were upgraded to Mod.1960 standards with new more powerful engines and other more up-to-date equipment to give them at least some chance of surviving more modern foes. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the last update, with another following on in 1969. The most recently used Yemeni vehicles were in use as late as 2015 where they suffered losses from modern anti-tank missiles, which are the bane of modern armour, let alone warmed-over WWII equipment. The Kit This is another boxing of MiniArt’s recent T-34 line, and is not an interior kit, but the box is still loaded with sprues of all sizes. In total there are sixty sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a long thin decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various previous boxings of the T-34, and their use of smaller sprues makes their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from much more likely for us, which with the rate we’re still receiving them for review seems to be the case. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and has a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear that performs the added task of upper hull support in this kit. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside face. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, without a stock to give the gunner more space. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured protection, and has an external armoured cover to protect the majority of the barrel from incoming rounds. The driver’s hatch is hinged at the top, and the armoured cover is applied to the top edge of the aperture, and a pair of towing hitches and small tie-downs are installed on the lower edge, followed by adding a strip to the front of the lower hull in preparation for joining. The upper hull top and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a number of holes drilled out before they are used, then the glacis plate it fitted to the front and glued to the lower hull. A pair of slim styrene parts are glued to the roof sides next to the turret ring, and some small raised pairs of marks need to be removed on the sides with a sharp blade. At the rear the hull is still open, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching this large rear panel with exhausts and filling the circular inspection hatch in the centre, with a pair of armoured covers for the exhausts and two cylindrical fuel tanks on brackets at the top corners, with the rear mudguards and a pair of hoses for the fuel tanks added too. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. Mudguards are assembled with PE strips for the front fenders, with bow-wave deflector passing over a run of track links on the glacis. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with grilles are fitted over the basic louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, with final drive housing and idler wheel axles at front and rear. Racks for additional fuel tanks are installed to the rear of the sides, with many short tie-down loops and a few longer ones in the mid-section, plus some stowage boxes made up with PE clasps that mount on the narrow horizontal fenders running down the side of the vehicle. Small parts including various pioneer tools and stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the remaining sloped spaces of the hull, including three trays of track grousers with PE straps, and two towing cables that are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply two lengths of 100mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. A trio of smooth-surfaced cylindrical fuel tanks are installed on the curved brackets and five-piece tanks with PE and styrene shackles holding them in place, plus two short ribbed tanks taking up the space where the fourth tank would be. Ten pairs of wheels with separate hub caps are built with two drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share, but their ruggedness also applied to desert conditions. There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you apply the adhesive. Each side is built from 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps, wedges etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. This is not an interior kit, so the basic gun breech is made up from a few parts with another 7.62mm DT machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set into the turret floor, which first has a lip inserted within the ring, then the inner mantlet support is prepared with the main gun’s mount, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind. The turret upper starts as an almost complete shell with three sides moulded into it plus a pair of inner sidewall layers, which has some holes drilled into the outer skin and the roof fitted that has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and another block built into the front of the hatch, plus a simpler hatch for the gunner, both of which are shown installed closed. The roof also has two more periscopes under armoured shrouds, and two vents on the rear, which are covered by a pair of armoured mushroom covers. The single-part slide-moulded gun tube is inserted into the inner mantlet and covered by the outer that slides over it and the gun has a hollow muzzle for extra detail. A PE top mantlet cover, plus a self-made canvas tarp (using your own stock) can be fitted to the rear with PE straps, or you can depict the straps hanging loose if you choose. The turret is finally dropped into place in the hull to complete the build, with no bayonet lugs to hold it in place, so take care if you decide to inspect the underside one day in the future. Markings The decal sheet is wide and thin, and the sheet is printed by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. From the box you can build one of the following: Soviet Army, late 1960s North Vietnamese Army (People’s Army of Vietnam), early 1970s Army of Rhodesia, early 1970s Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan Unidentified Unit, Yemen, late 2010s Conclusion We’ve been treated to many, many variants of this doughty and long-lived medium tank that saw service in almost as many places as the AK47 until the 1970s at least. By the time this mod came out they were already outdated, under-armoured and under-armed, so must have been very cheap to buy. It’s a great kit though, and the varied operators will be tempting for many. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. T-34/85 Composite Turret 112 Plant Summer 1944 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in incredible volume by sometimes crude methods, and thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front. The designers combined a number of important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without grinding to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with an enlarged turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. Czechoslovakia was subsumed by the Nazi war machine in a two-stage operation just prior to the outbreak of WWII that began with the Sudetenland, and it stayed under the Nazi jackboot until the beginning of 1945 as the Soviet juggernaut rolled back the Germans to their old borders and beyond. The incoming Soviet influence provided the Czechs with T-34/85s to jump-start the Czech army, and once they themselves had completed their integration of the area within the Soviet Bloc, Czech factories began making their own under license, with over 1,800 made, some of which were exported abroad to Soviet friendly allies in either new or used condition. The tank itself was a kind of Frankenstein made using moulds and specifications from different factories, and occasionally adding in a soupçon of other people’s technology, such as some knock-off German Notek convoy lights in the very early issue. They stayed in Czech service a lot longer that they perhaps otherwise would, had the Czech soldiers in exile not been already familiar with them, but by 1954 production was ceased and geared up for license building of the T-54 to replace it. The tanks sold abroad often had very short, violent lives, passing through the hands of various Middle Eastern and South African nations, with losses heavy when they were faced with a more modern enemy. The Kit This is a boxing of MiniArt’s new T-34 line, and as well as being of an early type with the larger gun and turret, it is also a full interior kit, so the box is loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes. In total there are seventy eight sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and back covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, which is the reason for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and cheaper for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving many different options to choose from very much more promising for us. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull and suspension. The floor is fitted with four tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear, and many of the interior parts are fitted into the front of the floor, joined by ammo stowage below the turret location, plus ammo cans for the bow machine gun, driver controls that include foot pedals and linkages, with the driver’s and machine gunner’s seat completing his area, each of which have generous side bolsters to prevent them from being tipped out of their seats on rough ground. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside wall, and numerous equipment attached in between, including fire extinguishers, ready-rounds and some small PE parts. These are joined to the floor and the engine is begun, complete with the whole block, twin banks of pistons and rocker covers, exhaust manifolds, ancillaries and a sturdy trestle mount on which the engine rests. Radiator panels, first-motion shaft and clutch are fitted next as the block is inserted into the rear hull along with the radiators, fuel tank on the sponson, then another bulkhead behind the engine, with a cut-out that surrounds the clutch that in turn mates to the transfer box and brake drums that fit up against the final drive housing at the very rear of the vehicle. Various brake and transfer linkages are added on top with the generator for the electrics and two air intake boxes and hoses, one on each side of the bay. The exhausts pass over the top and are later covered with external armoured tail pipes, but in the meantime the upper hull is begun. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, complete with light-weight sliding stock for the gunner’s comfort. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured protection, hinge for the driver’s door, convoy light with cable, and a set of five spare track links attached to the lower area. Inside a small instrument panel with decals for the dials is installed below the lip of the hatch. A light interlude of making the additional fuel tanks for the sides of the hull, complete with carry-handles on each end then takes us to the upper hull. The top and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have a myriad of holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way, and this is then joined by the glacis plate with PE stiffener plates at the sides. At the rear the engine is still exposed, which is next to be addressed, by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead before attaching this large panel that can be fitted closed or hinged down for maintenance, and has a number of holes drilled out, depending on which decal option you are building. The bulkhead has a circular inspection panel in the centre that can also be open or closed, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers to the sides. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvers that are added with a central inspection hatch, then dropped over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers are fitted over the basic louvers, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, and the mudguards with PE detail parts are glued into place at the front, with more simplified flaps to the rear, again with the PE details. Small parts and various pioneer tools or stowage boxes are made up and fitted onto the sloped sides of the hull, with racks of winter track grousers attached to the flat portions of the side and fuel tank supports behind them. At this stage the driver’s hatch is also built with twin clear periscopes, hatch closures and external armoured cowls for the ‘scopes and hinges. By installing a gas-strut part inside the hatch rim earlier, you can set the hatch open to expose some of the interior, and fitting the bow-wave deflector half way up the glacis you can ensure his knees don’t get wet. Ten pairs of wheels with separate hub caps are built with two drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the rolling part of the tracks. At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply three lengths of 94mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. The side tanks are fitted to their frames with PE shackles on both sides with the short, ribbed containers having a styrene fitting that hooks to the frame with a PE hook. The headlight fits to the join between the sloped glacis and sides on a mixed styrene/PE bracket with styrene rear housing and clear lens at the front. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as great at spreading the tank’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share. There are two track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick, to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue. Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each piece, and once you get into a rhythm, it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. Next up its the turret. The gun breech is made up from a substantial number of parts with another 7.62mm DT machine gun mounted coaxially in the mantlet, before it is set to one side while the busy turret floor is completed. The floor part first has a lip inserted within the ring, then is detailed with seats, traversing equipment, plus a stack of sixteen accessible rounds in a frame that is mounted in the rear of the bustle for easy access. The inner mantlet is prepared with the main gun’s mount, plus elevation hardware and sight, which is glued to the turret floor and has the breech slid in from behind and joined by the coax DT with its mount. Another seat with PE leather strap suspension is strung between the turret side and the breech. The main turret is C-shaped part with three sides moulded into it, holes must be opened up for external fittings at this point. The separate roof then goes on with two mushroom vents to the rear. Back inside the turret this has inserts within for the interior skin, with ready-rounds, radio gear, spare periscope glass and other equipment needed for fighting. Reverting back to the top, the roof also has two forward periscopes under armoured shrouds. The roof then has a large cupola with clear vision blocks and periscope built into the bi-fold hatch, plus a more simple hatch for the gunner, both of which can be fitted open or closed. The turret top is fitted over the base and joined by the gun tube, which is a single part, and has an outer mantlet slid over it once inserted. An aerial, some grab handles, stowage loops and lugs are dotted around the turret and a folded canvas sheet (of your own making) can be lashed to the bustle with some PE straps that are included on the fret. Dropping the turret into place in the hull completes the build. Markings There are five decal options in the box, and due to the length of service of the Czech produced T-34s, there are a number of more attractive camouflage schemes, rather than just green or winter distemper white. From the box you can build one of the following: 31st Tank Corps, 1st Ukrainian Front, Poland, Jan 1945 9th Tank Corps, Germany, Spring 1945 1st Czechoslovak Tank Brigade, Spring 1945 5th Guards Tank Corps, 3rd Ukrainian Front, Austria, Spring 1945 7th Guards Tank Corps, Poland, Spring 1945 The decal sheet isn’t huge because this is a tank, but the sheet is printed by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion The T-34 played a huge part in the Soviet response to Operation Barbarossa, albeit after a substantial delay caused by Stalin’s apparent indecision. It was a stalwart of their defence then offense, sweeping the Germans aside thanks to its sloped armour and weight of numbers. This kit shows the internal workings of the vehicle in extreme detail, and gives a good idea of just how cramped and claustrophobia-inducing it was. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. T-55A Mod.1970 (37094) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-54's gestation and transformation into the T-55 was long-winded and complicated by constant changes to an as yet poorly performing vehicle, which began as early as the end of WWII. Production of the T-54-1 was halted due to production and quality issues, and recommenced as the re-designed T-54-2, with the turret design changed to closer resemble the eventual domed shape of the T-55. The -2 didn't last all that long before the -3 replaced it, and the requirement for survival of tactical nuclear blasts led to the eventual introduction of the similar looking, but significantly different T-55 that we know so well. As the heavy tank fell out of favour, the T-55 became part of the burgeoning Main Battle Tank movement, with thousands of them being produced over the years in various guises. In the early 60s the T-55A was developed, providing more adequate NBC protection that required a lengthening of the hull and happily for them, added anti-spall protection for the crew. It also sounded the death-knell of the bow-mounted machine gun, which was removed to improve ammo storage, and hasn't been seen on MBTs for decades now. Since the 70s, the commander’s cupola has been fitted with a 12.7mm DShK anti-aircraft heavy machine gun, but the type is now hideously out-classed by newer types, to which they are easy prey, as the Iraqis found to their cost in the Gulf War. The Kit Part of the ever-expanding range of early Cold War armour from MiniArt, who seem to be kitting every conceivable variant from the earliest T-54 to the latest T-55A, which will hopefully include some of the more esoteric marks in due course as well. The toolings are all essentially brand new, and have been designed in a modular format to ease the way toward new variants, which makes for a high sprue count. Some of the kits have been released in augmented Interior Kit boxings, with all the extra details to open up your model as much as you please. This is one of those boxings, and it arrives in their current orange scheme, with a painting of the tank in question on the front, and the stylised "Interior Kit" branding on each face of the box. Lifting the kit gives the feeling of how much is inside. There is almost no room for anything else in the box, and I'm dreading putting it all back in. There are a jaw-dropping 111 sprues in mid grey styrene, many of them quite small, and some of the larger ones linked together in pairs, a clear sprue, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet, and the thick glossy instruction booklet. Crisp detail is everywhere, with judicious use of slide-moulding to improve details further, and make hollows where needed. The inclusion of PE helps, allowing parts to be given a more scale-thickness effect. Construction begins with the hull floor, which has cut-outs for the suspension mounts, hatches and access panels, all of which are supplied as separate parts. The suspension is torsion-link, so the bars are inserted with the axles at their ends, then the lowest parts of the interior are added on top, including the base for the turret basket and the driver's position. Ammo is scattered wherever the designers could fit a round or more, with a large store next to the driver's station in the position formerly occupied by the bow machine gunner. The hull sides are separate, and are well detailed on both sides, which have further detail and even more rounds layered on both sides before they are added to the lower hull along with engine bay firewall, the engine mount, plus sundry other details that make the T-55 quite cramped for its occupants. The external hull sides are detailed up with their armoured parts, final drive housings and the idler-wheels with armoured adjuster axles. The rear bulkhead and upper glacis plate are installed on the hull for later detailing, then attention turns to the engine compartment. The cooling system is made up with a large detailed fan in a set of ducting to be inserted in the rear, with a series of louvered vents laid over the top deck. The water-cooled diesel engine, transmission, clutch and brake-units are built up from a substantial number of highly detailed parts for insertion into the hull along with additional hosing and ancillaries over a number of pages, breaking it down into simple steps to ease the way. Once in place, the hull roof is fitted with hatches, just after a large cylinder and fixtures are built-up and laid into the floor next to the turret flooring. The engine bay hatches and panels are all made up and here you have a choice of open or closed for many of them, then the radiator box is constructed and positioned over the engine in either the closed or upright open position, allowing access to the engine bay. Its louvered hatch is complex and made from a large number of parts with PE grilles over the top, which can again be inserted in the open or closed position. At the very rear of the engine bay, yet more louvered panels are made up and covered with additional PE mesh, which can again be posed open or closed, following which the rear bulkhead is detailed while the fenders are inserted using the usual tab and slot method. Triangular stiffening plates are added, as are a number of PE strips within the front mudguards. The fenders have stowage and additional fuel tankage fitted with hosing between them, and lots of PE fixtures, handles and such, tools, toolboxes and the exhaust on the port side. The kit includes plastic towing eyes, but you are going to have to provide your own cables as none are include in the kit, but given the sheer volume of parts it's excusable. At the rear an unditching log is lashed to the bulkhead with PE straps, and the extra fuel drums so often seen are also lashed to curved brackets that overhang the rear of the hull. The road wheels are paired and have a central hub ring, with eight pairs made up of one type, and two of a second. The drive sprockets are both made of two parts, and the idlers are each made of five parts, including the L-shaped tensioning axle. The wheels are all fixed to the axles with central pins that are covered by hub caps, which is the same technique used on the drive sprocket and the idler wheels. The tracks are of the individual link persuasion, and will click together with enough strength to complete the task, but once installed they will probably benefit from being glued in place eventually. Each link has four sprue gates on the curved front and rear edges, and the outer sections clip over the next link to add strength to the join. There are 90 links per side, and while it won’t be a 20-minute job, the detail and workable nature of the tracks is well worth the effort, and there are no sink marks to mar the exceptional detail on both sides. The turret itself is a very busy assembly, beginning with the turret ring and its fittings, onto which the rotation mechanism, radio, crew seats, a spare AK-47 with folding stock, and a rack with ready-rounds inserted are made up first. The semi-automatic breech loading mechanism is built up next, the breech is installed on two mounts at the front, which have the breech guard and a rack of box mags for the coaxial machine gun attached on the right and underneath respectively, and the sighting gear on the left side. The upper turret has its anti-spall lining added in sections, and is then decked out with a number of small assemblies, after which a choice of two styles of turret roof are fitted with hatch, vents and vision blocks. More anti-spall lining is attached to the inside of the roof, and yet more ammunition is stowed as ready rounds for immediate use on the wall. Externally the grab rails, forward mounted searchlight, commander's cupola and a blast-bag around the mantlet are all added, and the single piece barrel with hollow muzzle slips through the centre and keys into the breech. The blast-bag is finished off around the edges with PE strips, and a large folded tarpaulin is attached to the back of the turret by more PE straps. An armature links the gun barrel and the searchlight together so they move in unison, and an ancillary searchlight, with a choice of the driver's poor weather hood built up in either the collapsed or deployed state, with the former stowed on the turret bustle, while the latter fits over the open driver's hatch. The DShK anti-aircraft heavy machine gun is also highly detailed, with a big ammo box and a length of link leading to the breech. Additional ammo boxes are included, and a half dozen of them can be lashed to the side of the turret, with three optional types, and PE brackets to hang them on. Markings There are five markings options for various Soviet Bloc and friendly countries, with a wide choice of schemes. From the box you can build one of the following: Soviet Army, late 1970s Iraqi Army, Kuwait, 1991 OKB Bušići, 1st Guards Brigade of HVO Ante Bruno Bušić, Republic of Croatia Armed Forces, Kupres, 1990s Ugandan People’s Defence Force, African Union Mission in Somalia, 2010s 9th Mechanised Brigade ‘Mărăşeşti’, Romanian Armed Forces, Exercise ‘Sabre Guardian’ 2017 The decals are printed by MiniArt’s usual partners DecoGraph blue paper, and have good register, sharpness and colour density, with a closely cropped thin, matt carrier film. Conclusion These Interior Kits are amongst the most comprehensive kits I have seen in a long while, with even the tiniest details catered for, down to the tiny nuts holding the snorkel to the rear of the tank. They're possibly not for everyone, as some folks don't want interiors for whatever reason, but as a T-55A with interior, it is a fabulous kit and will keep you modelling for hours and hours. Very highly recommended. At time of writing, this kit is on sale with a discount of 20% with Creative Models Ltd. Review sample courtesy of
  11. German & French Traffic Signs 1930-40s (35633 & 35645) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd MiniArt have been creating a range of military and martial signs for your dioramas, and have now moved on to make sets for the general populous during the 1930s and 1940s that aren’t related to the war. Speed limits, warning signs and distance markers that were there before the soldiers came, although some of the direction and distance signs would have been removed as the enemy advanced, but people still needed a clue how fast they can drive and whether they needed to give way at the next junction. These sets arrive in shrink-wrapped figure boxes with a painting of the contents on the front and brief instructions on the rear. There are six sprues in grey styrene in the German box and seven in the French box, plus a decal sheet on blue paper in each that contains all the painted descriptive fronts of the signs. Each sign is metal, and some of the larger signs are also made from a few sections, with the joins and fasteners are visible at the rear. There are plenty of decals on the sheets, so many options that could be spread over multiple dioramas. A few alterations are called out on the back of the boxes, with the German set removing the decorative ball from the top of some of the poles and giving instructions how to install multiple bracketed signs on one post. The French and German signs have a few smaller placards merged with the main sign that have the route or sign numbers on them, which are removed from all the French signs, but left in situ for some of the German signs. Their bases differ too, with the French having a fluted rectangular shape, while the Germans have tapering cylindrical footings. German Traffic Signs 1930-40s (35633) French Traffic Signs 1930-40s (35645) Conclusion Dioramas rely on the minutiae of the background to give a "lived in" look to the terrain, and signage is essential for all but the straightest of roads. The painting guide calls out suggested colours and the minor adjustments to some of the signs as well as how to build up the bases. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. 7.5cm Sprgr., Nbgr & Pzgr. Patr.Kw.K 40 (Stu.K.40) Shells w/Ammo Boxes (35375) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Arriving in a shrink-wrapped figure box, this set contains five sprues in grey styrene, allowing the modeller to make up fourteen of two types of shell, with six spent cartridges that have slide-moulded hollow openings, and three large slatted ammo crates that are capable of holding three shells of one type. Also included are six single shell canisters with slide-moulded lids, and there are decals for each type of shell, plus stencils for the ammo boxes and canisters, just to finish them off. The shells are all a single part each, but the boxes are made up from five or six sides (depending if opened) with supports for the rounds moulded into the bottom, and additional straight handles on each end. The end walls also have depressions moulded-in to prevent the shells from rattling round, and the optional lids also have more supports moulded-in, and your work on the shells will be visible through the slats whether the lid is open or closed. Detail is excellent as you’d expect, and the shells will just need a little preparation to remove the two sprue gates and the unavoidable moulding seam before painting. The instructions are on the rear of the box, and show the correct location of the shell stencils for both types, plus a colour chart showing Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission, AMMO, Tamiya plus swatches and colour names that should provide more than enough information to make informed paint choices. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. German Soldiers at Rest (35378) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models They say that war is 95% boredom interspersed with 5% abject terror. While I’ve no experience of it myself (thankfully), it seems a reasonable description from the little I know. During WWII the forces of all sides took their respite where and when they could, whether it was a ditch at the side of the road, a ruined factory or an abandoned farmhouse. A little self-care was good for the morale of the soldiers of any side, as well as stopping them from looking too much like hobos. This figure set contains five German soldiers dressed in Wehrmacht uniforms. Inside the shrink-wrapped figure box are four sprues, two containing the figures and the other two full of accessories. The officer is sat down, the others standing or crouching, performing various “down-time” tasks, such as cooking, washing and shaving. The soldiers are dressed in uniform pants with braces over a work shirt with the exception of the officer, who is still wearing his jacket and cap while reading a book of some sort. The shaving man is using a cut-throat razor and looking in a mirror propped up on a large wooden barrel, while the washing men are bending over a large basin, one pouring a jug into the hands of the other, who is wearing a vest and has his braces off his shoulders, hanging around his waist. The final figure is crouching in front of a makeshift fire between two bricks, in the process of stirring a pot with a spoon. A small instruction sheet details the building of the two different sizes of barrels, with the larger one having a trestle to hold it horizontally. A hand-cranked water pump is made from five parts plus a two-part drain, and the officer’s chair is five parts in a traditional kitchen style. A couple of bricks, a pot, shaving brush in a jar, jug and a towel to go over the water bearer’s shoulder can be found on the figure sprues along with the book and razor that are moulded into the figures’ hands. Conclusion As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus extras to finish off the scenario for use in a diorama. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Israeli Tank Crew – Yom Kippur War (37086) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models The Yom Kippur War took place from the 6th to the 25th of October 1973, and saw Israel attacked on the contested Occupied Territories by a coalition of Arab nations, getting its name from the Jewish holy day that the surprise attack began. After much back and forth, the Israeli forces succeeded in pushing back the Arab attackers, is seen by them as a victory. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are four sprues, each one containing all the parts for a single figure, their helmets, weapons and accessories. The box is marked as having “Real Characters”, having taken their faces and poses from actual participants in the conflict. I’ve watched a few documentaries in the past on the subject, and the commander is Ariel Sharon, although I’ve a terrible memory that prevented me from remembering his name without resorting to Google. The figures are all celebrating their victory, in or on their tank. The commander is stood with hands on hips, and has two heads on his sprue, one with a bandage that appears in some photos, and the other before the injury was sustained, showing off his handsome coiffure. Two more crew with headsets and helmets on are standing or leaning on the edges of their hatches and making variants of the V-victory salute with one or both their hands, while the remaining figure is standing with his arms by his side and helmet in his left, looking to be simply relieved that it’s all over. The crew are wearing belted overalls with high lace-up combat boots, while the commander is wearing a slightly different two-piece uniform with similar boots. They’re all wearing pistols in holsters, but Mr Sharon has binoculars round his neck and his cap pushed under his left epaulette that is visible on many of the famous pictures of the time. Note that these heads are magnified to many times their actual size, and the white marks on the central head are just flash that I later removed with the scrape of a blade to ensure that it wasn't an issue. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus extras to add some detail, such as goggles and two-part helmet with comms box on one ear. The painting guide doubles as the instructions, with painting codes cross-referenced to a chart of colour swatches from Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and the generic colour names. Conclusion A great set to populate your Israeli celebration diorama or vignette, with MiniArt’s excellent sculpting and understanding of the human anatomy making for highly realistic figures. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. Austin Armoured Car Indian Pattern (39021) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Armour became an important part of WWI, seeing the first fielding of the Tank by the British, and numerous types of armoured car that saw various uses. At the beginning of WWI Austin’s armoured car was built on their civilian chassis, with light armour and two Maxim machine guns in separate turrets, one firing to each side, front and rear. Many were destined for Russia, but after the Russian Revolution in 1917 some of the later variants were used in British service. One such version was the 1918 Pattern, which had double rear wheels, thicker armour and used the Hotchkiss machine gun instead. A batch of 1918 Pattern vehicles were manufactured for Russia, but were never delivered, with a batch handed to the newly formed Tank Corps, to be utilised in battle using a novel method of deployment. Tanks would tow them across the battlefield through no-man’s land, after which they would peel off and roam freely along and even behind enemy lines. They caused chaos and were almost too effective, ranging miles behind enemy lines at times, and set the scene for the Armoured Car and Infantry Fighting Vehicle of wars yet to come. At the end of the Great War some were returned to the UK and repurposed, but many that were formerly in Russian possession found their way into the inventory of other Eastern European countries, and a small batch were even used by the Japanese, who were British Allies in WWI. Some of those were still in service up until just before WWII. A squadron were sent to India after the war was over, serving with the 8th Armoured Car Company of the Tank Corps during the early 20s, fitted with more agricultural but resilient wheels, and British Vickers heavy machine guns in the turrets. The Kit This is another reboxing of last year’s newly tooled kit, with new parts to accurately portray the later mark included, including the new rear axle and wheels. It arrives in standard-sized top-opening box with a painting of the vehicle on the front, and inside are fourteen sprues in grey styrene, 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 inverted 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 for extra fidelity, with PE tensioning mechanisms supplied if you choose this option. The big rear axle with drum brakes and the front axle with steering arms are fabricated and attached to their relevant suspension mounts, with more control linkages for the handbrake and steering joining things together. Finally, a little bodywork is attached, initially at the sides of the engine compartments in preparation for gluing the swooping front arches, then each axle gets a wheel at both ends, made up from two parts each, and with deeper hubs at the rear onto which the simpler, tough tyres are each moulded. Now standing on her own six wheels, the floor of the fighting compartment and the crew cab plus the firewall and various small fittings that include the dash panel 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. Stowage boxes in the shape of additional seats 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 crew steps at the sides, then the somewhat complex upper hull is built sensibly in a step-by-step fashion that stops the modeller from being over-faced. Several raised features should be removed from parts before fitting, and additional rivets are shown being added in various other locations, which you can slice from the flat section of the two Ck sprues, unless you’ve got a set of Archer raised rivet transfers. The clamshell crew flap with PE side-flap bullet-catchers can be posed open to give a wider view of the battlefield for the drivers by using different lengths of 0.3mm wire from your own stock, so that when in battle it can be closed down, restricting the driver to a letterbox view of the world, which although frustrating is probably infinitely better than being shot in the face. Plenty of scrap diagrams show the correct orientation of all the parts, so there’s little chance of 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, with an ancillary flap just in front of the windscreen. The side-cowlings for the engine compartment have small PE straps holding them closed. With the addition of the rear fenders plus PE brackets, the hull/body is lowered over the chassis, and more stowage is located around the vehicle, including a rack of fuel cans on the front left to make sure they don’t run out on long missions, and a pair of curved-ended unditching planks are strapped-on low down on the chassis sides by some folded PE brackets. Turrets are fun, aren’t they? You build up a pair of mounts for the Vickers machine guns, including a tractor-style perforated seat for the operator and a large ammo can to feed the gun, which is fitted into a tripod mount that is glued up against the inner surface of the two-part circular walls. A few more of those slice-off rivets are glued to the top of the turret walls, mainly for detail purposes, as adding moulded-in rivets to a curved part is very hit & miss due to the way the parts are removed from the moulds. The roof is detailed with latches, searchlights on PE brackets and other small fittings, each one fitted open or closed as you see fit. There are two identical turrets made, 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 four markings options on the decal sheet, with their five-view profiles printed in full colour on the glossy pages of the booklet at the front and rear. From the box you can build one of the following: 8th Armoured Car Company, No.4 Section, Royal Tank Corps., British Raj, Lahore, Jan 1923 8th Armoured Car Company, No.4 Section, Royal Tank Corps., British Raj, Lahore, Jan 1923 Royal Tank Corps., British Raj, Lahore, 1920s Royal Tank Corps., Waziristan, 1920s 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 the rhomboid tanks or the Whippet Light Tank, but it’s been great seeing MiniArt filling more gaps in the available kits of WWI and post Great War armour. Detail is exceptional as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt. At time of writing, Creative Models are offering a generous 25% off the usual price of this kit Review sample courtesy of
  16. US Army G7107 4x4 1.5t Cargo Truck (35380) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Chevrolet G506 truck formed the basis of a range of 4x4 load-carrying vehicles that were capable of carrying up to 1.5 tonnes of cargo, men or equipment. They were initially made under the 4100 code, then were renamed as the 7100 series, and usually had a standard enclosed cab, with a 3.9L straight-6 engine under the bonnet, and a four-speed “crash” (non-syncromesh) gearbox putting out a little over 80hp through all four wheels. It rapidly became the Allies’ standard light truck, and served in substantial quantities on the Western Front, the Soviets on the Eastern Front, and the forces fighting Japan in the Far East. There were plenty of variants, some in US Army service, others in USAAF service, with almost 50,000 of two specific types, the G7107 and G7117 sent over to the Soviets in large numbers under the Lend/Lease program. The G7017 had a cargo bed with canvas top, while the G7117 was the same except for the addition of a winch to give it some static pulling power. They were well-liked by their drivers and crews from all the Allies forces, and were adapted to other tasks due to their ubiquity. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from MiniArt, and is the first kit of a range that is coming to your favourite model shop very soon. It’s a full interior kit, with engine, cab and load area all included along with some very nice moulding and detail, particularly in the cab and those chunky tyres. It arrives in one of MiniArt’s medium-sized top-opening boxes, and inside are twenty-nine modular sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope, a tiny bag with some metal chain within, a wide decal sheet and glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear pages. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which has leaf-springs fore and aft, cross-braces and rear towing eye fitted to create the structure, then has the fuel tank, PE rear bumper irons folded around a styrene jig, and axles installed, before the brake drums/hubs, battery and external brackets are added to the chassis rails. The transfer box and drive-shaft join the two axles together, and a steering linkage and box are inserted into the front of the chassis, then the engine is built up based on the straight six-cylinder block, with carburettor, dynamo and transmission added, plus the pulleys and fan at the front. The engine and substantial front bumper iron are fitted to the chassis, and at the rear a short additional chassis rail and stowage area are attached to the frame at the rear behind the fuel tank. The exhaust and its manifold slip into the underside of the chassis from below, with linkages and axle brackets fitted to the rails. The crew cab is next, beginning with the firewall and forward sidewalls. The roof and windscreen frame are moulded as one, with a headliner insert and rear-view mirror that are inserted within, and the three-part radiator housing is made to be used later. The firewall and roof are joined with some of the dash pots fixed to the engine side of the firewall, while the doors and their interior cards are assembled with their handles and window winders, plus the clear window glass that can be posed open or closed at your whim. The dashboard inserts into the front bulkhead with seven decals for the instruments and stencils on the glove box. The diagonal foot panel is joined with the firewall and decked out with three foot pedals and the steering wheel on a long column that slides through a hole in front of the pedals. The driver and co-driver share a bench seat that is made up on the floor from back, cushion and a C-shaped surround that fits round the rear of the cab back wall, with small ovalised window and PE mesh grille fitted later. The roof and firewall assembly are fitted, with the doors installed within the frame in the open or closed position. The windscreen is two panes of clear in a styrene frame that is posed open or closed later on. The cab and radiator are both placed on the chassis and the engine cowling side panels fit between them with a choice of two styles of front wing/fender included on the right side and just one on the left, which needs a hole drilling in the rear. The aforementioned windscreen has a pair of PE brackets and styrene wingnuts that are installed either vertically for closed, or at an angle for open, with a scrap diagram showing the correct orientation of the various parts. The spare tyre is placed on a bracket near the exhaust, and the front of the vehicle has its headlights with clear lenses plus sidelights fitted to the wings, and PE windscreen wipers hung from the top of the frame, then the front grille is built. You may have noticed that this doesn’t appear on the sprues, and there’s a good reason for that. It is constructed completely from PE, and two jigs are included on the sprues to assist with obtaining the correct shape. The lower rail and curved side panels are made up on one jig from a single piece of PE, while the centre panel is folded up on another, then they’re joined together ready to be attached to the front of the engine bay. There are two brackets stretched across the front of the radiator, and another small curved section is added to the left of the grille as it is glued in place with the help of some CA. The hood/bonnet is able to be fitted open or closed with two styles of clasp and in the open option, a PE stay is provided. Two tie-down hooks are fixed to the front bumper iron too. The load bed floor is a single moulding with a ribbed texture on the underside, and a thick rear section with hooks, separate rear lights and moulded-in reflectors. The shallow sides and front have separate frames and a series of tie-down hooks fixed along their lengths, with PE closures and chains on the rear gate that can also be fitted open or closed. The four rear mudguards are kept at the correct angles by PE brackets, and on one side a pioneer toolkit is lashed to a frame with PE fixings holding an axe, pick axe, and spade. The load bed is joined to the chassis along with the toolkit on the right side of the flatbed. It’s time for the wheels to be made up, with singles at the front, each made from two parts each, and twin wheels at the rear, made up much earlier in the instructions for some reason. Each wheel slips over its respective axle, with the hub projecting through the central hub. The kit comes with a stack of eight barrels to be made up of two types, both of which are made from two halves with end caps that are glued in with the embossed writing on the inside, and adding a separate filler cap for some of them. In addition, an American Army driver/loader figure is included on his own sprue, wearing overalls and a shoulder holster, wearing a woollen cap on his head and leather spats over his boots. He is made up from individual legs, torso, head and arms, plus the holster with the handle of his pistol showing round the retention strap. Markings There are four markings options on the decal sheet, all of which are green, but one is covered in sand coloured bean-shaped camouflage over the top. From the box you can build one of the following: 12th Air Force, 86th FBG, Kobra North, Cape Bon Peninsula, Tunisia, 1943 1st Sig Battalion, 1st Armoured Corps (7th Army), Sicily, Italy, 1943 US Military Police, 7th Army, France, 1944 US Army Service Forces, 9th Service Command, January 1945 Decals are printed by MiniArt’s usual partners Decograph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion We seem to be blessed with new kits of the Chevrolet G7107 truck in 1:35 recently, which was ubiquitous during WWII on the Eastern and Western fronts as well as the Far East, where it played an important but unsung role in the defeat of the Nazis and the Axis, lugging weapons, ammunition, men and supplies to the front and sometimes back again. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J Nibelungenwerk Mid Prod. Sep-Nov 1944 (35339) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Unlike the later Tiger and Panther tanks, the Panzer IV had been designed in the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended for a different role than it eventually played, which was as a form of infantry support with the mobile artillery function rolled into one. It was a heavier tank than the previous numbered types, and was well-designed, although it did suffer from the typical WWII German over-engineering that made them complex, expensive and slow to manufacture, as well as difficult to maintain. The type went through a number of enhanced variants including a more powerful engine to give better performance, improved armour thickness for survivability, and latterly the provision of a larger gun with a longer high velocity barrel that was based upon the Pak.40, but with shortened recoil mechanism and an enlarged muzzle-brake that helped contain the powerful recoil from the 75mm gun. The new gun was in direct reaction to the first encounter with the T-34 in Soviet hands, an incident that unnerved the German tankers and their superiors, as they knew very little of its existence until they met it on the battlefield, and didn’t like the manner in which many of their shots just bounced off the sloped glacis of the T-34. The Ausf.G and H were the later mainstream variants of the Pz.IV, and were made from early 1942 until 1944 with over 4,000 made, some of which were manufactured at Vomag, Krupp-Gruson, and Nibelungenwerke, one of the largest factories in the German area of influence, based in St Valentin, Austria. By the war’s end Nibelungenwerk was the practical home of the Panzer IV, and as such was bombed heavily, strangling production of the last variant, the Ausf.J as the bombers took their toll. The Kit This is a new boxing of the recently tooled model of the Panzer IV from MiniArt of a vehicle that was made at the famous Nibelungenwerk factory, with a mixture of parts from other boxings plus some new sprues. It is an Interior kit, which extends to the full hull, with a great deal of detail included that should keep any modeller happy and beavering away at their hobby for a long time. The kit arrives in a heavily loaded top-opening box, and inside are sixty-nine 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 with individual rounds that have stencil decals for each one, then a complete Maybach HL 120 TRM engine in a cradle. The engine is begun by putting together the transmission and final drive units, which are positioned at the front of the hull next to the driver, with a set of instruments fitted to the top that have their own decals. This is inserted into the interior with the drive-shaft, and 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 elements, topped off with the rocker covers, decals and oil filler caps. A lot of ancillaries are added, including tons of drive-belts, engine bearers, exhaust manifolds, turbocharger between the cylinder banks, 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 it 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. 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 including twin cylindrical exhausts, armoured covers for the track tensioner arms, stiffener plates and access hatches, including a manual starter slot. Under the tank a plethora of mine protection in the shape of armoured plates that wrap around the suspension exits and the edges of the hull are applied, and up front the upper glacis with access hatches and their details are glued in place open to show off the detail, or closed at your whim, and both fenders are slotted into the sidewalls, attaching via the usual slot and peg method. A run of track links is pinned to the glacis plate with brackets, and another is made up and slung across the front of the lower glacis on a bracket in one of two variations. The addition of an internal cross-brace between the two hull sides with oil can and fire extinguisher strapped on stiffens the hull laterally, and more shells are stashed on trays to the sides of the turret, again with a painting guide and stencil decals, joined by a number of dump bags of ammo for the coax MG34, which 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 glued in, the bow machine gun rear is created 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, plus 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 afore-mentioned bow gun’s breech and aiming mechanism are inserted into the back of the ball-mount, and the forward side sections of the upper hull are detailed with gas mask canisters, vision ports, stowage boxes and levers for operating the ports. Flipping the assembly again and it is time to add the hatch covers and interior louvers to the radiator exits, which are delicate parts and can be inserted in the open or closed positions, with a change in how they are fitted. A pair of 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 set of four towing cable eyes are attached to the exterior along the way, 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 well-detailed jack, a massive spanner, 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, track-spreaders, a choice of two axe installations, plus some styrene springs to allow you to show the front guards in the up position. We’re getting closer to the tracks now, but there are still a lot of wheels that need to be made. They are mounted in pairs on twin bogeys with a leaf-spring slowing the rebound of the twin swing-arms. There are two types of outer casting with two axles (for working or fixed suspension) that the swing-arms slot onto, and are then closed in by a cover, which you also have a choice of two designs for. Finally, the twin wheels with their hubcap slide onto the axles, and a small oil reservoir is glued to the side of the assembly. You make four for the left side and a mirrored set of four for the right, plus two-part idler, a choice of two-part drive sprockets and eight paired return-rollers that fit onto the posts on the sides of the hull. The suspension units have slotted mounting points that strengthen their join, and once you’re done, you can begin the tracks. The tracks are individual links with separate track pins, but don’t freak out yet! Each link has three sprue gates that are small and easy to nip off and clean up. The included jig will hold eleven links, which are fitted with the guides uppermost. Then you cut off one complete set of 11 track pins off the sprue and slide them into the pin-holes in the sides of the connected links all at once. They are then nipped off their length of sprue and can be tidied up. I added a little glue to the tops of the pins to keep them in place which resulted in a length of track that is still flexible. Just minimise the amount of glue you use. There are 101 links per track run, so you’ll be busy for a while, but the result is fabulously detailed as you can see from the pic. I didn’t bother cleaning up the mould seams for expediency, but if you plan on modelling your Panzer with clean tracks, you can sand them away if you feel the need. Two decal options have schurzen fitted, and first you must add the styrene and PE brackets on each side, then the long supports for the hook-on schurzen panels, with small horizontal in-fill panels stopping things falling between them and the hull. There are three vertical mesh panels per side, with diagonal front and rear lower edges to reduce the likelihood of them digging into the ground and being ripped off, and these are prepped with additional PE stiffeners and styrene brackets to latch onto the bar mounts, with a simple tapered section added to the front when the main panels are in place. Bear in mind that these panels were subject to the rigors of battle so were often bent, damaged or even missing entirely. Use your references and/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 an exhaust fan and outer armoured cover included. The side hatches are the clamshell type, and can be posed open, closed or anywhere in-between, with latches and handles added, and grab-handles over the top to ease exit. The commander’s cupola is a complex raised part with five clear vision ports around it, and a choice of open or closed outer parts holding the clear lenses in place, sliding into the ring like the real thing. A ring of cushioned pads covers the interstices, and stirrup-shaped parts are fixed under each lens, with a single circular hatch with latch and handle glued into the top ring in open or closed versions, hinging open rather than the earlier two-part clamshell hatch. A blade-sight from PE is sited at the front of the cupola with an empty machine-gun ring around the base, and the turret can now be closed up with the lifting hooks each made up of two parts, and basket with optional open lid on the rear. The gun has a flattened faceted sleeve made up after removing some small raised lines, 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. The outer mantlet section with the sleeve slotting into the front is applied along with a choice of two coax installations, and a single-part styrene barrel fitting into the front with a key ensuring correct orientation, then the muzzle-brake with the same feature. The turret has a bustle stowage box with optional open lid and internal details, and curved un-perforated metal schurzen are applied to the styrene brackets glued to the roof and sides, with gaps for the side hatches that are filled by a pair of hinged doors for more complete protection, and if you were ever in doubt, you get open or closed variants with PE latches. At the rear a pair of shaped PE mesh panels fit horizontally into the spaces between the bustle stowage and the schurzen, again stopping things from falling through. 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 six decal options are included on the sheet, and they have a wide variety of schemes that are appropriate for late war tanks, with not a monotone vehicle in sight, all having highly camouflaged surfaces over the standard base coat of dunkelgelb (dark yellow), some with the dotted Ambush scheme, one with a winter distemper scheme. From the box you can build one of the following: 6.Pz.Rgt. 3.Pz.Div. Poland, Autumn 1944. Variant 1 6.Pz.Rgt. 3.Pz.Div. Poland, Autumn 1944. With Toma Schützen Variant 2 1.Pz.Rgt. 1.Pz.Div. Hungary, November 1944 1.Pz.Rgt. 1.Pz.Div. Hungary, November 1944 With Toma Schützen II./Pz.Rgt.16, 116.Pz.Div. ‘Windhund’, Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 Unidentified Unit, Winter 1944/45 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 number of modelling hours. The complete interior is depicted with a splendid level of detail, which should allow even 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. Highly recommended. At time of writing, there’s a generous 20% discount on this kit at Creative Models, so click away! Review sample courtesy of
  18. Air Conditioners & Satellite Dishes (35638) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Even the best neighbourhoods have satellite dishes these days, and air-conditioning units are becoming more common too, thanks to global warming, whilst also contributing to the problem too, ironically. This set contains parts for you to create some of these must-have accessories for your next diorama. Inside the shrink-wrapped figure-sized box are three sprues, a Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope, and a small decal sheet. From the box you can build two air-conditioning units with electric junction-boxes, plus two satellite dishes of different sizes. You’ll have to provide the wiring though, but a length of fly-tying lead wire from your local fishing shop will do that job. The instructions are on the rear of the box, and have you creating the satellite dishes from the wall bracket, either size of dish and the LNB on support arm, which can be installed with up to two extra LNBs on the same arm, using PE brackets to join them together. The two aircon units are well-detailed, having interior ribbing and three-bladed fan, plus two styles of PE vents on the front and side to differentiate and for enhanced realism. The two brackets attach to the wall to finish the unit off, and there is one large junction box and three smaller ones, one of which has three corrugated lengths of conduit leading from the ground up. Incidentally, my example was supplied with two satellite dish sprues and one air conditioner sprue, which is back to front according to the sprue map on the back of the box. Check yours before you start cutting parts off the sprue. Markings The small decal sheet has two lots of family friendly graffiti, one saying “Danger” in black, the other in two parts saying “Stay Wild” in red, white and green, giving it a rather Italian pizza feeling. The rest of the decals incorporate two Cooper & Hunter logos (they make Aircon units), a Viacom and Hisense satellite dish logo, plus ten electricity danger triangles, and another five with skull & crossbones. Decals are by MiniArt’s usual partners Decograph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion The devil is in the detail when it comes to dioramas, and MiniArt have a large and growing range of this kind of sets to help you bring extra detail to your dioramas. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. Fruit Cart (35625) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Although the roadside stall used to be commonplace in most towns and villages in the west they have all but gone now, however they can still be seen in many other parts of the world. This set includes a hand-portable cart that is finely balanced so that a single person can walk with it in front or behind them, it has a weather cover and racks for displaying boxes containing produce. The instructions on the rear of the box cover the construction of the cart, the two upstands that allow the boxes to be displayed, and the eight shallow boxes themselves. Additional boxes are included for dispalying items on the ground in front of the cart. The instructions also show what fruit is which. In the bottom right an example drawing of the completed cart with produce is given, showing which fruit goes where in case you really can’t decide yourself. You even get told which colours to use, just in case you’re not familiar with the colour of any of them. Here’s a list of all the produce you’ll find on the sprue: Red Apples Green Apples Lemons Peaches Oranges Kiwi Fruits Pomegranates Pears Melons (two types) Bananas As usual with MiniArt sets their sculpting is exceptional with crisp wood detail and sensible parts breakdown, plus loads of fruits of differing shapes to add realistic randomness. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Austin Armoured Car 1918 Pattern (39009) British Service, Western Front 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Armour became an important part of WWI, seeing the first fielding of the Tank by the British, and numerous types of armoured car that saw various uses. At the beginning of WWI Austin’s armoured car was built on their civilian chassis, with light armour and two Maxim machine guns in separate turrets, one firing to each side, front and rear. Many were destined for Russia, but after the Russian Revolution in 1917 some of the later variants were used in British service. One such version was the 1918 Pattern, which had double rear wheels, thicker armour and used the Hotchkiss machine gun instead. A batch of 1918 Pattern vehicles were manufactured for Russia, but were never delivered, with a batch handed to the newly formed Tank Corps, to be utilised in battle using a novel method of deployment. Tanks would tow them across the battlefield through no-man’s land, after which they would peel off and roam freely along and even behind enemy lines. They caused chaos and were almost too effective, ranging miles behind enemy lines at times, and set the scene for the Armoured Car and Infantry Fighting Vehicle of wars yet to come. At the end of the Great War some were returned to the UK and repurposed, but many that were formerly in Russian possession found their way into the inventory of other Eastern European countries, and a small batch were even used by the Japanese, who were British Allies in WWI. Some of those were still in service up until just before WWII. The Kit This is a reboxing of last year’s newly tooled kit, with new parts to accurately portray the later mark included, including the new rear axle and wheels. It arrives in standard-sized top-opening box with a painting of the vehicle on the front, and inside are fifteen sprues and six wheels in grey styrene, 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 little bodywork is attached, initially at the sides of the engine compartments in preparation for the gluing of the swooping front arches, then each axle gets a wheel at both ends, made up from single-part hubs at the front, and mated double hubs at the rear onto which the six cross-treaded tyres are fitted, each one having a slide-moulded seam where the sidewall and tread meet, removing the need to sand and scrape at the lovely tread pattern, simplifying preparation and preserving detail. That’s a good thing, and something I’d like to see more of. Now standing on her own six wheels, the floor of the fighting compartment and the crew cab plus the firewall and various small fittings are placed on the top of the chassis, with another insert providing the bases for the two turrets that have pivot-points in the centre for the machine gun mounts. Various stowage boxes are made up and sat next to the (shocker!) 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. Several raised features should be removed from parts before fitting, and additional rivets are shown being added in various other locations, which you can slice from the flat section of the two Ck sprues, unless you’ve got a set of Archer raised rivet transfers. The clamshell crew flap can be posed open to give a wider view of the battlefield for the drivers by using two styles of rods, and when in battle it can be closed down, restricting the driver to a letterbox view of the world, which although frustrating is infinitely better than being shot. 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, and more stowage is located around the vehicle, including a rack of fuel cans on the front left to make sure they don’t run out behind enemy lines. Pioneer tools are attached to the sides of the car, and a pair of curved-ended unditching planks are strapped-on low down on the chassis sides by some folded PE brackets. Turrets are fun, aren’t they? You build up a pair of mounts for the Hotchkiss machine guns, including a tractor-style perforated seat for the operator and a large ammo can to feed the gun, which is fitted into a ball-mount that is glued up against the inner surface of the two-part circular walls. A few more of those slice-off rivets are glued to the top of the turret walls, mainly for detail purposes, as adding moulded-in rivets to a curved part is very hit & miss due to the way the parts are removed from the moulds. The roof is detailed with latches, searchlights on PE brackets and other small fittings, each one fitted open or closed as you see fit. There are two identical turrets included, and these drop into the circular cut-outs in the roof of the fighting compartment, held in place by gravity unless you fix them into position with a little glue. Markings There are a generous seven decal options on the decal sheet, 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: 17th Armoured Car Battalion Royal Tank Corps., Second Battle of the Somme, France, Aug. 1918 17th Armoured Car Battalion Royal Tank Corps., France, Summer 1918 17th Armoured Car Battalion Royal Tank Corps., Second Battle of the Somme, France, Harbonnières, Summer 1918 17th Armoured Car Battalion Royal Tank Corps., France, Summer 1918 17th Armoured Car Battalion Royal Tank Corps., France, Aug. 1918 17th Armoured Car Battalion Royal Tank Corps., Germany, Cologne, Dec. 1918 17th Armoured Car Battalion Royal Tank Corps., Germany, Cologne, Dec. 1918 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 the Mark.IV tank or the Whippet Light Tank, but it’s been great seeing MiniArt filling another gap in the available kits of WWI armour. Detail is exceptional as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt. Review sample courtesy of
  21. British Weapons & Equipment for Tank crews & Infantry (35361) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models This new set from MiniArt supplies everything you’ll need to kit out your WWII British soldiers, whether they’re tankers or otherwise, there’s something for everyone. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are five sprues, each one full of weapons and accessories. 1 x Lee Enfield Rifle with sniper scope 1 x Bren Gun with optional open or closed bipod 1 x Sten Gun with wire stock 1 x Sten Gun with tube stock 1 x Thompson Gun with foregrip & drum mag 1 x Thompson Gun with stick mag 4 x pistol 3 x battle bowlers with mesh cover 1 x battle bowler 3 x shallow battle bowler 5 x American helmet 3 x grenade 9 x pistol holsters 16 x various magazine pouches 4 x canteens 1 x map case 1 x entrenching tool 1 x entrenching tool pouch 3 x knife in sheaths 1 x empty knife sheaths 1 x bayonet 1 x empty bayonet sheath 3 x bayonets in sheath 5 x goggle 6 x bag 3 x entrenching tool in pouch 1 x binoculars 1 x camera As usual with MiniArt sets their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and extras to add some detail to their vicinity if you use them in a diorama. The Bren is actually two Bren Guns and both have an optional bipod, while the Sten Guns have separate magazines and cocking handles. The Thompson “Tommy” Guns have separate mags, and there are an undocumented three Grease Guns with separate stocks on the same sprue, which is nice. The painting guide on the rear of the box includes part numbers too, that relate to colour swatches, Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and colour names in a chart below. Review sample courtesy of
  22. T-55/T-55A Transmission Set (37073) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd MiniArt’s new interior kits of the T-55/A are highly detailed masterpieces of injection moulding, but for the inveterate detail hound, anything and everything can be improved upon. This new set includes the full transmission system, which is absent from the base kit because it is hidden away behind the radiators that sit above it. The list of kits that are compatible at time of writing is as follows: 37016 T-55A Early Production Mod.1965 Interior Kit 37018 T-55 Mod.1963 Interior Kit 37020 T-55A Mod.1981 Interior Kit 37022 T-55A Late Production Mod.1965 Interior Kit The set arrives in a small top-opening box, and inside are six sprues of grey styrene plus the instruction booklet, which is a proper booklet because the instructions are quite involved, having some changes to the base kit’s parts, as well as interleaving the new parts with the build. Needless to say, the detail is excellent and once you have got your head round the method used to explain how things fit together between the two kits, just take your time and everything should go well. The elements that are included in this box are the cooling system exhaust fan and its associated ducting, a reservoir to the right of the assembly, and an alteration to the framework that supports the kit’s engine. The casing for the transmission is based upon two halves, which are large castings on the real thing, to which a gaggle of inspection covers, power take-offs and what looks like a small compressor are added, then the two cylindrical brake housings are built and attached to their locations in each end of the transmission housing. Anti-torque suspension rods for the brakes and hosing are also added around the assemblies, then attention turns to the radiator, which is built up as a box with the concave core visible from the top, then lifting lugs, hosing couplers and pivot points are added for installation in the hull later. The base kit’s engine is altered slightly by using some different hoses that join to the airbox that is also from the kit, then the interior walls of this part of the engine bay are detailed with inserts so that the cooling fan can be installed along with the supports for the transmission. More parts are substituted in the rear of the engine deck, then the transmission is inserted along with a lot of other ancillaries and hosing that are in that area. An oil cooler or intercooler airbox is laid over the transmission on the port side, then the kit engine is dropped in with whatever steps are required by the kit instructions. The section of the engine deck over the space between the engine and transmission is replaced by a new assembly, which allows the main radiator housing to be posed down or lifted into maintenance position with bespoke hose parts to fit either, but if you’ve bought this set you’re probably going to leave it up. Finally, there is another short section of engine deck with individual louvers that can be posed up or down. There are no decals in the kit, but the rear page of the booklet is filled with two views of what’s included and it also has a colour chart at the bottom in Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, and Tamiya, as well as the colour names and small swatches to help you out. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. Checkpoint (35562) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Checkpoints. They’re useful to stop people going where they’re not supposed to, and also handy to stop everyone to catch-out naughty people trying to sneak through them with nefarious deeds in mind. It’s also a good place to dump squaddies that have misbehaved and are deserving of a boring, soul-crushing job for a few hours. The Kit This diorama set arrives in a small top-opening box, and inside are twelve sprues in grey styrene, a small clear sprue and a sheet of decals. This will allow the modeller to create a booth, barrier, signposts and an area of hessian bags to hide in case of enemy action, all of which goes to make a checkpoint. Also included is a set of glossy instructions to help you build and paint your model. Construction begins with a chair. Your guard has to be comfortable, right? This is an old-style wooden kitchen chair with a curved and slotted back and non-too-comfortable seat. Your guard also gets a choice of telephones. An old-skool 70s bakelite type with a blank dial pad and wind-up handle to make a call, or a field telephone in an ammo-can style enclosure. A choice of oil lamps are also included, which both have clear parts to complete them, then the guard hut itself is made up from four sides, the front one having a large cut-out door, and the two sides with portholes that have slide open/closed hatches to stop the wind whistling through your ears. The walls and base are all planked, and before you drop the walls into place, the chair and your choice of lamp/phone are put in place. The roof is peaked, and looks to be made from lead flashing or roofing felt with ribs perpendicular to the front. The barrier is a long pole that needs an alternative pivot point removing, after which it is pinned between the two halves of its support so that it can pivot once the two-part counter-weight is installed on the short end. A sign is provided for the centre of the pole for people waiting in cars to read while the guard saunters across, and there is a single part for the support of the long end, but it’s not mentioned in the instruction steps. The eight sprues of sand bags can be used to create a C-shaped barrier by following the instructions, or you can figure out how to make any other shapes you might figure out by trial and error. Finally, there is a small desk with three-drawer pedestal and knee space, which you can place somewhere nearby if you fancy it. Mentioned on the back page are instructions for the signs, which are a subset of one of the many signpost sets that MiniArt have released of late. Each sign has a decal with the same alpha-numeric code as its part, and there are two posts included to attach them to, or you can make your own with a lolly stick, coffee stirrer or toothpick. The instructions advise you to paint the sign white before applying the decal to give it better definition. The text on the decals is German, and the suggested colour scheme for the booth is red/black/white, which further enforces the Germanic nature of the set, even though it isn’t mentioned explicitly. Conclusion A nicely detailed German checkpoint for you to wait to have your papers seen and your bumps felt for weapons or other contraband. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. 7.5cm PZGR. & GR. PATR. KW.K 40 Shells w/Ammo Boxes (35381) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Arriving in a shrink-wrapped figure box, this set contains eight sprues in grey styrene, allowing the modeller to make up twelve of each type of shell, with six used cartridges that have slide-moulded hollow openings, and six ammo crates that are capable of holding three shells of one type. Also included are decals for each type of shell, and stencils for the ammo boxes themselves, just to finish them off. The shells are all a single part each, but the boxes are made up from five or six sides (depending if opened) with supports for the rounds moulded into the bottom, and additional handles on each end. The end walls also have depressions moulded-in to prevent the shells from rattling round, and the optional lids also have more supports moulded-in, but it would be a waste to hide three shells inside a closed box, so don’t. Detail is excellent as you’d expect, and the shells will just need a little preparation to remove the two sprue gates and the unavoidable moulding seam before painting. The instructions are on the rear of the box, and show the correct location of the shell stencils for both types, plus a colour chart showing Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission, AMMO, Tamiya plus swatches and colour names that should provide more than enough information to make informed paint choices. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.G Last/Ausf.H Early 2-in-1 (35333) Nibelungenwerk Prod. May-June 1943 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Unlike the later Tiger and Panther tanks, the Panzer IV had been designed in the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended for a different role than it eventually played, which was as a form of infantry support with the mobile artillery function rolled into one. It was a heavier tank than the previous numbered types, and was well-designed, although it did suffer from the typical WWII German over-engineering that made them complex, expensive and slow to build, as well as difficult to maintain. The type went through a number of enhanced variants including a more powerful engine to give better performance, improved armour thickness for survivability, and latterly the provision of a larger gun with a longer high velocity barrel that was based upon the Pak.40, but with shortened recoil mechanism and an enlarged muzzle-brake that helped contain the powerful recoil from the 75mm gun. The new gun was in direct reaction to the first encounter with the T-34 in Soviet hands, an incident that put the wind up the German tankers and their superiors, as they knew very little of its existence until they had to fight it, and didn’t like the way their shots just bounced off that sloped glacis. The Ausf.G and H were the later mainstream variants of the Pz.IV, and were made from early 1942 until 1944 with over 4,000 made, some of which were manufactured at Vomag, Krupp-Gruson, and Nibelungenwerke, one of the largest factories in the German area of influence, based in St Valentin, Austria. By the war’s end Nibelungenwerk was the home of the Panzer IV, and as such was bombed heavily, strangling production of the last variant, the Ausf.J as the bombers took their toll. The Kit This is a new boxing of the newly tooled model of the Panzer IV from MiniArt, with a mixture of parts from other boxings plus some new sprues. It is an Interior kit, which extends to the full hull, with a great deal of detail included that should keep any modeller happy and beavering away at their hobby. The kit arrives in a heavily loaded top-opening box, and inside are seventy 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 with individual rounds that have stencil decals for each one, then a complete Maybach HL 120 TRM engine in a cradle. 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 that have their own decals. 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 elements, topped off with the rocker covers, decals and oil filler caps. A lot of ancillaries are added, including tons of drive-belts, engine bearers, exhaust manifolds, turbocharger between the cylinder banks, 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. 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 including armoured covers for the track tensioner arms, stiffener plates and access hatches, including a manual starter slot. Under the tank a plethora of mine protection in the shape of armoured plates that wrap around the suspension exits and the edges of the hull are applied, and up front the upper glacis with access hatches and their details are glued in place open to show off the detail, or closed at your whim, and a choice of fenders are slotted into the sidewalls, depending on which decal option you intend to portray. More shells are stashed on trays to the sides of the turret, again with a painting guide and stencil decals, joined by a number of dump bags of ammo for the AA MG34 on the commander’s cupola. The big towing eye and its stiffeners are applied to the bottom of the bulkhead, and after fitting another full-width plate, the big muffler is attached to the rear, made from a combination of styrene and PE straps. 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 glued in, the bow machine gun rear is created 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 afore-mentioned bow gun’s breech and aiming mechanism are inserted into the back of the ball-mount, and the forward side sections of the upper hull are detailed with gas mask canisters, vision ports, stowage boxes and levers for the ports. Flipping the assembly again and it is time to add the hatch covers and interior louvers to the radiator exits, which are delicate parts and can be inserted in the open or closed positions, with a change in how they are fitted. A pair of 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. The twin tube air filtration system on the side of the fender is attached to the exterior along the way, plus 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. Spare track sections are made up for the two facets of the glacis, and are held in place with small brackets on the upper section, and a long pair of C-shaped rods on the lower. You’ll also need an 11mm length of 0.4mm diameter wire for the track pin at one end of the upper run for authenticity. Now it’s pioneer tool time, with barrel cleaning rods, shovel, the well-detailed jack, a massive spanner, 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 choice of two types of track-spreaders, a choice of two axe installations, plus some styrene springs to allow you to show the front guards in the up position. We’re getting closer to the tracks now, but there’s still a lot of wheels that need to be made. They are mounted in pairs on twin bogeys with a leaf-spring slowing the rebound of the twin swing-arms. There are two types of outer casting with two axles (for working or fixed suspension) that the swing-arms slot onto, and are then closed in by a cover, which you also have a choice of two designs for. Finally, the twin wheels with their hubcap slide onto the axles, and a small oil reservoir is glued to the side of the assembly. You make four for the left side and a mirrored set of four for the right, plus two-part idler, a choice of two-part drive sprockets and eight paired return-rollers that fit onto the posts on the sides of the hull. The suspension units have slotted mounting points that strengthen their join, and once you’re done, you can begin the tracks. The tracks are individual links with separate track pins, but don’t freak out yet! Each link has three sprue gates that are small and easy to nip off and clean up. The included jig will hold eleven links, which are fitted with the guides uppermost. Then you cut off one complete set of 11 track pins off the sprue and slide them into the pin-holes in the sides of the connected links all at once. They are then nipped off their length of sprue and can be tidied up. I added a little glue to the tops of the pins to keep them in place which resulted in a length of track that is still flexible. Just minimise the amount of glue you use. There are 101 links per track run, so you’ll be busy for a while, but the result is fabulously detailed as you can see from the pic. I didn’t bother cleaning up the mould seams for expediency, but if you plan on modelling your Panzer with clean tracks, you can sand them away if you feel the need. Three decal options have schurzen fitted, which has by now dictated which fenders you glued to the hull sides, so it’s too late to change your mind now. First you must add the styrene brackets on each side, then the long supports for the hook-on schurzen panels, which consist of five mesh panels per side, with diagonal front and rear lower edges to reduce the likelihood of them digging into the ground and being ripped off. Bear in mind that these panels were subject to the rigors of battle so were often bent, damaged or even missing entirely. Use your references or imagination to decide whether you wish to depict a fresh set, or a set that have been in the field for a while. Finally, we get to the turret, which begins with the ring and minimalist “floor”, to which some equipment, a drop-seat and the hand-traverse system are fixed. The inside of the mantlet is fixed to the floor after having the pivot installed, with the newly assembled breech glued into the rear once it has its breech block and closure mechanism fixed in place. The breech is then surrounded by the protective tubular frame, and the stubs of the coax machine gun and sighting gear are slid in through holes in the inner mantlet. A basket for spent casings is attached under the breech, the sighting tube and adjustment mechanism are put in place along with the coax machine gun breech, 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 an exhaust fan and outer armoured cover included. The side hatches are the clamshell type, and can be posed open, closed or anywhere in-between, with latches and handles added, and grab-handles over the top to ease exit. The commander’s cupola is a complex raised part with five clear vision ports around it, and a choice of open or closed outer parts holding the clear lenses in place, sliding into the ring like the real thing. A ring of cushioned pads 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, hinging open rather than the earlier two-part clamshell hatch. A blade-sight from PE is sited at the front of the cupola with a machine-gun ring around the base, and the turret can now be closed up with the lifting hooks each made up of two parts, and basket with optional open lid on the rear. The gun has a flattened faceted sleeve made up, 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. The outer mantlet section with the sleeve slotting into the front is applied along with a choice of two coax installations, and a single-part styrene barrel fitting into the front with a key ensuring correct orientation, with the muzzle-brake having the same feature. Another length of track is applied to the front of the roof for extra protection, which might explain why there are a lot more than 22 track sprues, this time however using the single sprue that is separately wrapped. 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. The commander’s MG34 is made up last with a separate breech, tubular mount and cloth dump bag full of ammo suspended from the mount, then linked to the ring around the cupola by a bracket. 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 six decal options are included on the sheet, and they have a wide variety of schemes that are appropriate for late war tanks, from monotone vehicles to highly camouflaged vehicles over the standard base coat of dunkelgelb (dark yellow) the common element. From the box you can build one of the following: Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.G Pa.Rgt.3, Pz.Div. Eastern Front, Operation Citadel, Summer 1943 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.G 16.Pz.Div. Italy, Aug-Sept 1943 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.G 16.Pz.Div. Italy, Aug-Sept 1943 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H 1.SS-Pz.Div, LSSAH (Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler ) Italy, Summer 1943 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H 26.Pz.Div. Italy, Autumn 1943 Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H 1.SS-Pz.Div, LSSAH (Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler ) Italy, Autumn 1943 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 number of hours. The complete interior is depicted with a splendid 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. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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