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  1. German Tank Riders – Ardennes 1944 (35411) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Getting a lift on a tank was a treat for the foot-soldier that occasionally turned sour if their lift came under fire from an enemy tank, especially if the turret starts to rotate and the crew begins using the main gun. Sometimes they’d ride into battle on the back of a tank, using the turret as temporary cover until it came time to dismount, usually off the rear avoiding the exhausts, other times it was a case of sitting somewhere flat on the hull of the tank for a well-earned rest, and saving some boot-tread whilst still getting from A to Battle. During winter periods, especially in the freezing cold of the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge, a seat on the warm engine deck would be prime real-estate, helping to defend against the biting cold that required heavy uniforms and great-coats, of which the Nazi invaders were woefully short. The Set This set arrives in a figure-sized box with a painting of the four figures that are depicted on the front, and annotated portions of the painting with part numbers and colour call-outs added to facilitate construction and painting of the figures. Inside the box are seven sprues in grey styrene, the sprues having wisps of flash here and there, although very little encroaches on the parts themselves. The parts for each figure are found in separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. There are three sprues that are devoted completely to a substantial quantity of accessories that include Small Arms, Stahlhem helmets, pistols in and out of holsters, ammo pouches, bags, satchels and map cases, water bottles, ribbed cylindrical gas mask canisters, entrenching tools, and bayonets in and out of scabbards. The weapons range from MP40s, Karabiner Kar 98k rifles, Walther P38, and an MG42 with various magazine options, open or closed bipods, and a length of link that can be carefully heat-formed to shape. The colour call-outs on the rear of the box are given in Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus swatches and colour names to assist with choosing your colours. These refer to the blue colour numbers on the paintings above the chart. Conclusion Another realistic set of figures for your late war German AFV projects, with so many accessories you’ll be spoilt for choice. Detail and sculpting is first rate, and what we’ve come to expect from MiniArt. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. Street Workers (38081) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd This set depicts a trio of street workers, not to be confused with a similar group of people, often referred to as the oldest profession. These are people whose work is done on the street, and it includes a street-sweeper, a newspaper seller, and a lamp-lighter, from the days when street lamps were gas-powered, a power source that lingered longer into the 20th century around Europe than you’d possibly think. Inside the figure-sized box are five sprues in grey styrene, the longest of which is nipped into two parts at the factory to allow it to fit inside the box, plus a pair of clear sprues, with a glossy sheet of instructions for the accessories that are included with the set. The parts for each figure are found on separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The street-sweeper is holding a long-handled Besom broom with a traditional bundled stick head, akin to a witches’ broom, made from two parts. For a good join, a small hole could be drilled in the head of the broom to accept the shaft, cutting it to the desired length. The lamp-lighter has one leg either side of the ladder (not health & safety approved), and has his arms above his head opening or closing the lamp head, while the paper seller is wearing a bibbed skirt and jacket, with her hair flowing over her shoulders in a 30-40s style, and a three-part stack of papers in her arms. The accessory sprues provide parts to create a step ladder for the lamp-lighter to reach the street lamp, which is also included. The ladder is made from the two sides plus a top step, while the lamp is built from a two-part bottom section and a fluted upper with perpendicular cross-rail ‘lollipops’ across the top that were commonly used by lamp-lighters if they were using a straight ladder. The lamp itself is made from two faceted clear parts for the glazing, and a styrene top-cap with ferrule on top, fitting a clear bulb to a hexagonal base that is linked to the post by a four-legged bracket underneath. There are more parts on the sprue, including an ornate suspension bracket for a lamp or a large clock, the parts for the latter also found on the long sprue. There are no clock-face decals as it’s not an official part of the set, but you could try printing your own if you have the skills. Conclusion Another realistic, life-like figure set with plenty of accessories from MiniArt that will be perfect for a diorama setting. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. ’Battle of the Bulge’ Ardennes 1944 (35373) 1:35 Miniart via Creative Models Ltd The Battle of the Bulge was the nickname given to the last-ditch attempt by Hitler, sometimes referred to as the Allies’ best General, to stop the Allied advance toward Germany by driving a wedge through the front and separating the four armies, removing Antwerp from Allied hands, and forcing them to sue for peace. This was clearly what is now known as a ‘hail Mary’ play, and relied heavily on capturing Allied fuel supplies, because the Germans were woefully short of their own stores, and would soon run out if they didn’t capture substantial new supplies. It also relied on bad weather keeping the Allied air elements grounded for the crucial period of the operation, as the Luftwaffe was a spent force by this time of the war, and any daylight activity quickly attracted US and British fighters equipped with cannons and bombs, largely unopposed by the Luftwaffe. The operation began on the 16th December 1944 when the weather was bitterly cold, heavy snow and overcast conditions, and Nazi progress was initially good, capturing many Allied units off-guard, resulting in substantial casualties and a large quantity prisoners. Apart from one hideous incident at Malmedy where Kampfgruppe Peiper massacred dozens of US prisoners, the majority captured were thankfully treated humanely by their captors. After the initial advances, the German’s progress stagnated, and they began to run out of fuel, which in concert with the improvement in the weather, permitted the Allied aircraft to take on the vulnerable German armoured columns and support lines, with the Allies back to their original positions by February of 1945, and the Germans in disarray. The Figures This set contains five figures, two German soldiers walking alongside three US prisoners, who are unsurprisingly not looking happy about their plight. The kit arrives in a figure-sized box, and inside are five sprues of grey styrene, plus a small glossy piece of paper with a sprue diagram for the figure sprues. All the figures are in a walking pose, one German nursing a set of binoculars against his chest, while the other holds his rifle across his smocked chest, relaxed but alert. The three Americans are wearing various battle-dress combinations, two wearing blouson jackets with their hands up, while the man in the greatcoat has his hands mid-chest, probably too cold to wave his hands in the air. The American with his hands clasped behind his head isn’t wearing a helmet, and his hair is clearly non-regulation, so he had probably been on the front for a while. The parts for each figure are found in separate areas of the sprues that are separated by country for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The three accessory sprues include helmets, some of the US M1s either covered with netting or cloth cover, and two of the German helmets also have cloth covers. The rest of the equipment includes the usual personal pouches, bags and small arms, although the Americans won’t be using any of those and their webbing will have been confiscated at time of capture, however the Germans will have a full complement appropriate to their unit and task. The rear of the box has the artwork separated with blue colour arrows, while the kit parts are in black text, with the officer having a choice of cap or helmet. A small photo insert shows the equipment on the back of the smock wearing soldier, as those items can’t be seen in the painting. A small swatch of the smock’s camouflage is given on the back of the box, with the colour chart in the bottom right corner, giving paint codes for Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, as well as small colour swatches and names to assist you with choosing your paints. Conclusion A great figure set that would look good in a diorama, their chaperones pushing the prisoners back through the front lines while the panzers and other forces are heading forward to press the attack. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Chinese J-20 Stealth Fighter (LS-002) 1:48 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The J-20 is China’s first fifth generation fighter, making heavy use of stealth technologies to give it an advantage during operation in a contested air-space, starting the project in the 2000s as a successor to a previous project earlier in the decade. Chengdu aviation developed the J-20 in response to the requirement, and it has been a work in progress, even after the initial ground-handling and flight testing that occurred in 2010, using Russian built engines that were fitted as a temporary measure whilst they worked out the issues with their own indigenous engines. The new high-tech Chinese engines were expected to provide a significant boost in performance, adding stealth characteristics to the exhausts, and the possibility of vectored thrust to improve manoeuvrability. A home-grown engine designated WS-10 was chosen initially to remove their reliance on Russian engines, with the more advanced WS-15 expected to be fitted to new-build airframes when development was complete, then retro-fitted to earlier airframes as the opportunity arose. Several prototypes were seen performing flight tests throughout the next decade, with limited numbers of the type entering service toward the end of the decade, with improvements still coming on stream throughout this period. After the initial low-rate production batch, full production started, and it soon gained momentum, leading to the replacement of many older 4th generation fighters in service, particularly around China’s borders, where they would expect to intercept intruders. Some airframes have been used as adversary trainers, where they take the part of F-22s or F-35s in combat, to allow both “sides” to learn how to cope with adversaries flying different generations of fighters. The design of the jet, known by NATO code Fagin was established and fixed for full production, adding two other variants to the development roster, one of which represents the first two-seat stealth fighter in service in the world, with a prototype built and observed in 2022 under the designation J-20S. The two-seater isn’t simply a trainer, but will also be used as a combat airframe where the workload is shared between the two crew, using sensor fusion, carrying out electronic warfare duties, or controlling UAVs or drones as part of their weapon systems as a force-multiplier. The J-20B is an improved variant of the single-seat type that has improved stealth characteristics, and is thought to use the final WS-15 engine, which increases the power available for super cruise substantially, and this too was also first spotted in 2022, demonstrating the rapidity at which the type is developing. The ongoing improvements to the J-20 are rapidly bringing it up to a similar capability to the American F-22, despite concerns that a canard-equipped fighter would have compromised stealth capabilities, which seems not to have been an issue as far as the Chinese engineers and designers were concerned. The main weapons bay is found in the belly, where the larger weapons are carried, with serrated doors and margins of the bay to scatter radar returns. The smaller weapons bays in the sides of the fuselage behind the intakes are similarly stealthy, but the weapons can be deployed and the bays closed again to maintain stealth, allowing the missiles to be launched fractionally faster without having to open doors and bring out the missiles before launch. It is thought that these bays are in the process of being redesigned to accommodate 6 missiles using a new ejection rack, and research is underway to reduce the diameter of future missiles to assist with packing as many as possible into the bays without having to use the four underwing hard-points that will spoil its stealthy profile. The Kit This is a new tooling from MENG that was released in the last days of 2023, taking some time to reach Europe, and it is the most recent of only a few kits of this type in 1:48, so should more closely represent an in-service airframe. It does appear to have the Diverterless Supersonic Inlet (DSI) bulges that were more recently added to the design, one of the engineering innovations that both improves the aircraft’s stealth, and reduces its weight by offloading additional complexity of the intakes, hiding the rotating engine faces by using a serpentine trunk within the fuselage. The kit arrives in a substantial top-opening box with a painting of a J-20 launching missiles from its open main bay, and inside the box there are seven sprues and three fuselage parts in grey styrene, a clear sprue, a clear red sprue, a strip of four polycaps, a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret, decal sheet, and the instruction booklet, printed in colour on glossy paper, and stapled into a portrait sub-A4 format. For a change, construction begins with detailing the upper fuselage part, adding two polycaps in sockets for the canards on the fuselage sides, fitting two clear sensor windows forward and aft of the cockpit opening, and applying the shallow refuelling probe bay on the starboard edge of the nose chine. Modern cockpits are relatively simple by comparison to earlier fighter jets, with many of the knobs and switches moved to a large Multi-Function Display (MFD) that takes up most of the instrument panel. The cockpit tub is fitted with rudder pedals, plus side console mounted throttle and stick, using the ‘Hands on Throttle and Stick’ (HOTAS) schema that is common to modern fighters. Once painted, the tub is inserted into position, locating on four turrets within the upper fuselage, applying plenty of glue for a strong bond. At the rear of the upper fuselage, the serrated cowlings of the twin engines are fitted on a pair of turrets with a healthy overlap for strength, and two more polycaps are inserted in cups that are glued under the pivot-points of the twin tail fins, one each side of the engines. The intakes are made up from two halves each, adding a circular insert depicting the engine front to the aft end, and joining them together on two pins and sockets that hold them both at the correct angle. After painting the trunk interiors a pale greyish-blue, the completed assembly is mated to the lower nose part, fitting the nose gear bay, a detailed insert for the forward sensor, which is glazed over with a faceted clear part, and has a clear red window fitted on either side. To be able to close the fuselage, the three weapons bays must be prepared, starting with the main bay, the largest of the three. This is made from a large roof with moulded-in end walls, adding the side walls and a central divider, painting it white before building the missiles, which are almost complete save for two fins at the rear and a conduit down one side of the missile body, after which they are mounted on a slender pylon and four of them can be installed within the bay. The completed main bay is then clipped into the lower fuselage, locating on three turrets, then turning to the intake-mounted weapons bays. The main parts of these are moulded in a C-profile, fitting end walls to each of them, and installing those in the sides of the intakes, along with the main gear bays that are made from three parts each, and all bays painted white. A clear red window is inserted in a cut-out in the port intake side, reducing the number of sub-assemblies before fuselage closure to two. Those two are identically built exhausts, which can be made with the petals constricted or opened, by using different sets of petal parts around the central circular former. Each petal section has a detail insert on the interior face, then six sections are arranged into a cylinder around each former, the aft section differing in shape to depict your chosen exhaust shape. The exhaust trunk is made from two half cylinders that are closed around the afterburner ring, and has a representation of the rear of the engine closing the forward end, joining the petal assembly to the opposite end of the trunk, and painting it accordingly with shades of burnt metal. The lower fuselage receives the two exhausts in the rear nacelles, while the nose and intake trunking assembly is installed in the front of the part, extending the lower fuselage to full-length. The upper fuselage is then glued over the lower, and it’s worth noting that the two fuselage halves have stiffening ribs criss-crossing them to add strength to the assembly, and much of the blended wing structure is moulded into the fuselage halves, as is often the case with modern stealthy aircraft models. You have a choice of portraying the weapons bays open or closed, showing off the unique talents of these short-range weapons bays that allows them to close the doors with the weapons extended for use. The simplest option is to nip the overflow pips from the doors and fit them in the closed position, ready to move on to the next step. To extend the missiles first requires the building of one or two missiles, which have two separate fins, a nose part, and long pylon, painting and stencilling them before installing them. The bay has a flat-faced insert glued into the bay, which has three curved supports for the missile so that it is suspended outside the bay and slightly below so that the door can still close. The closed doors are each one part with three small slots in the bottom of the doors to cater for the supports, while leaving the doors open adds another part with internal ribbing structure, plus hinges that suspend it from the upper edge of the bay. This is repeated on the opposite side, with a choice of three options per side, which you can mix and match at your whim. The main bay doors must be open to deploy missiles, so there are two choices, the simplest being the closed doors, which is depicted by a single part with serrated edges and hinge lines engraved to give the bay a realistic look. To pose the doors open, three door sections are fitted together with an actuator ram at either end, mounting on the outer edges of the bay, with a scrap diagram showing how they should look from ahead. The landing gear is safely tucked away inside the jet during flight, so only their doors need to give low-observability a thought, and as such their structure is very familiar. The tyres are moulded as two halves, as are the hubs, joining together to make each main gear wheel, which fits to the lower end of the sturdy struts, adding separate oleo-scissor links and a lightened retraction jack that is formed from three parts, with another small strut near to the top of the leg. The two legs are handed, and are fitted inside each bay, locating firmly in the bay for strength. The nose gear leg has two tyre halves that close around a single hub part, flexed into position between the two yoke legs. The strut is adorned with separate scissor-links, twin landing lights with clear lenses, and the retraction jack plus a captive bay door, for which there is a separate scrap diagram to assist with detail painting the part. This too is mounted securely in the bay, with a side-opening bay door with three hinges attaching it to the starboard side. While the model is upside-down, the two canards are push-fitted on the intake sides, two strakes are glued to the sponsons on either side of the exhausts, adding leading-edge slats that can be deployed or retracted by using different parts. A four-lensed sensor is fitted on the belly with a clear lens inserted from behind, and a tubular assembly is located next to it, which appears to be a Luneberg Lens, which is the mechanism by which any stealthed aircraft can be tracked during peacetime. It is understood that the latest airframes have a retractable version of this lens, so they can transition to a war footing without landing. At the trailing edge of the wings, two flap sections with stealthy actuator fairings moulded separately are fitted, selecting different parts for the flaps down option. The final flying surfaces are the all-moving fins, which have a fixed portion glued to the fuselage, through which the pin on the fin projects, securing it in the polycap fitted at the beginning of the build. This should allow them to be removed for easy painting and decaling, and later offset if you feel the urge. Whilst most of the cockpit was built very early in the build, it is missing some key components, one of which is the ejection seat. This is made from two halves of the chassis, adding three seat cushions and a flip-up pair of arm rests, with a detail insert under the base cushion to depict the pull handle. A flat cover is applied to the back of the seat, with scrap diagrams and colour call-outs helping with accurate painting of the assembly. You then have a choice of using the included pilot to crew your model, or fit the supplied PE seatbelts to the empty seat, using the scrap diagrams to assist you with shaping them before installation. The pilot figure has separate arms, a two-part helmeted head, and an oxygen hose, with another detailed painting guide with two views to the side, colour call-outs given in MENG colour and Gunze Acrysion codes. The pilot’s instrument panel is next, applying decals to the panel’s large screens and detail-painting the various buttons moulded into the part. The coaming is glued to the top of the panel, adding the HUD from two clear parts, one inserted into a styrene frame, painting the front pane a transparent green before installing the completed assembly in the front of the cockpit, remembering to detail paint the instrument cluster in the coaming edge. A pair of angle-of-attack probes are fitted to the sides of the nose at the same time, then you have another choice to make. Create the canopy from a simplified set of parts, or go for more detail that includes PE parts. The simple canopy has the det-cord to shatter the canopy before ejection moulded-in along with a couple of interior frames, which are recessed within the part, and can be painted with white or grey acrylic or other water-based paint, wiping the excess away before it has chance to dry, leaving the paint in the recesses to represent the cords. Both options use the same lower frame, which is prepared by fitting two side frames, a small triangular support at the rear, and demisting tubing at the windscreen end. If you are using the PE parts, there is a separate blank canopy, and it is suggested that you bend the PE det-cord and heater hoses before gluing them to the lower frame, fitting the canopy in place over it once they are painted. The simplified canopy with the cord moulded-in is similarly glued in place over the lower frame without the PE parts if you don’t fancy your chances wrangling them. Either completed canopy can be fitted to the cockpit in the open or closed position by selecting the appropriate opener strut, adding a two-pronged hinge part to the rear of the open option that slots into the front of the spine. The choices aren’t quite finished yet, as you can close the refuelling probe bay by fitting the door over the area, but if you wish to deploy the probe, it has a tapering ladder support and a different door part, inserting the rear of the probe into the bay and setting the correct angle courtesy of the support. It has a bright red section near the business end of the probe, which is best painted before installation. Speaking of ladders, which we kind-of were, there is a crew ladder included on the sprues, made from just two parts, one of which is well protected by a deep extension to the runner next to it, protecting the rungs moulded into that half of the assembly. This is latched over the lip of the cockpit on the port side, and you can leave it loose or glue it in place as you see fit. Markings There is just one scheme given on the rear pages of the instruction booklet, but a full set of tail-codes are included, so you can build any airframe in the low-viz grey cloud camouflage shown below: Decals are printed in China with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. It includes many stripes around the weapon and gear bays, which are supplied as sensibly designed sections that should remove as much frustration as possible whilst applying them. Slime lights and various sensor dielectric panels are also included on the sheet, and on an addendum sheet (not pictured) that is barely the size of a postage stamp, a single “bunny-ears” decal numbered 25 is included, so be careful not to lose it. Conclusion This is a large aircraft, around the same size as the immense Mig-31, and MENG have done a good job of representing the detail. Most modellers could build it straight from the box thanks to what’s included, although some aftermarket is bound to come out soon. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. U-2R ‘Dragon Lady’ Senior Span (81740) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd Back in the 1950s, extreme high-altitude anti-aircraft missiles weren’t yet available, and aircraft could over-fly foreign nations with a degree of impunity, as long as they could stay high enough to keep out of range of enemy fighters and less capable missile batteries. Lockheed’s Skunk Works were tasked with creating a new aircraft on reasonably short notice that could fly higher than any previous aircraft or missile, virtually on the edge of space, to accomplish the task of gathering intelligence on America’s Cold War enemies, predominantly over-flying the Soviet Union. They took the fuselage of the new F-104 Starfighter that was then in development, adding massively extended wings more suitable to a glider, and shortening the fuselage, leaving sufficient space to carry high-definition optics and/or electronic intelligence gathering equipment. Developed in secret using black project money from the CIA, the airframes were developed in close proximity to the engineering staff, embedding them in the factory to quickly resolve any issues that came up, which resulted in the initial order coming in on time and under budget. New high-altitude fuel had to be developed, and the custom optics were designed specifically for use in the aircraft, which garnered the designation U-2, the U standing for Utility, to confuse anyone hearing about it, thus delaying its discovery a little longer. Once flights over the USSR had begun, it was discovered that the Soviets were regularly tracking the aircraft, which led to a project to reduce the type’s radar return, which was initially unsuccessful, but later was revisited by covering the skin in a Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) that was a matt black colour on application. There have been many upgrades and alterations to the type since it was initially fielded, leading to an aircraft that looks somewhat like the original, but is hugely different in terms of capabilities, especially when it comes to intelligence gathering. They still jettison their wing-mounted stabiliser legs on take-off however, and are stalked on landing by a muscle car to improve the pilot’s situational awareness from his cramped cockpit, which is worsened by the pilots having to wear a space suit due to the altitudes involved that would have a fatal effect on anyone flying whilst wearing a standard flight suit. The largest change other than building two-seat airframes for complex tasks and training of the elite pilots was the U-2R in 1967, which increased the size of the airframe by around 30% and introduced the wing ‘Superpod canoes’ that could be filled with intelligence gathering equipment and gave the aircraft a greater range by the enlargement of the fuel tanks. Despite the age of the basic premise and the march of technology, the U-2 has persisted attempts to retire it, even surviving the introduction of the un-manned Global Hawk, which is capable of many of the same tasks with extended loiter times due to the pilots being ground-based. NASA use a few U-2s, redesignated as ER-2s, which are used for high-altitude civilian research, painted white with the blue NASA cheatline as no-one is likely to want to shoot them down. The Kit This is a new tooling from Hobby Boss that was released late in 2023 and has only recently arrived this far from China, with another boxing depicting the U-2S expected soon(ish). The kit arrives in a top-opening box with a painting of the aircraft flying high, which is what it does best, with the stars visible in an inky black sky. Inside the box are seven sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet, decal sheet, instruction booklet, plus a colour profile sheet in A4, printed on both sides. Detail is excellent throughout, and incorporates some intelligent use of slide-moulding, particularly to create double-wall, single part intake trunks with detail on the interior and exterior. There are also a ton of aerials, antennae, a dorsal pod, and optional flat-spotted forward areas to the Superpod canoes under the wings. There is also plenty of detail in the cockpit, gear bays, and even a pair of detachable wing support wheels on their banana-shaped struts, plus air-brakes that can be fitted in the deployed position with a suitably well-detailed bay behind each of them. Construction begins with the two long fuselage halves, drilling out several holes in the top and bottom, and inserting the air-brake bay parts toward the aft end of the parts. Attention then turns to the cockpit, starting with the ejection seat, which is made from seven styrene parts plus four-point PE belts, which is installed in the detailed cockpit tub along with a two-part control yoke, fitting a bulkhead to the rear, and the instrument panel in front of the pilot, with a decal to depict the dials. Two side wall inserts are then fixed to the top of the consoles to finish the tub, moving on to the rear gear bay, building it from individual wall and roof parts, locating the gear strut between the side walls, and adding small diameter wide tyres to each end of the cross-axles. The exhaust is a simple tube made from two halves, and it is capped by a representation of the rear face of the engine after painting everything a suitable shade of burned metal. The front gear bay is moulded in excellent detail, showing the shape of the merging intake trunks within, to which the front strut and its retraction jacks are fitted, adding another pair of larger wheels to the stub-axle ends, painting both bays a grubby white. The merging intake trunks are made in two stages that are joined together to create a Y-shape, which is blocked at the rear by a part that represents the front of the engine, gluing it to the roof of the front gear bay, then fitting the cockpit, both wheel bays and the exhaust between the two fuselage halves and gluing them together. A forest of antennas is dotted around the underside, adding sideways opening front gear bay doors, a tail-bumper, and the actuators for the air-brakes into the bays near the rear. Yet more antennae are fitted along the belly, a sensor dome is mounted in front of the front gear bay, and the rear bay doors along with the air-brake panels are installed, flipping the model over onto its wheels to fit the instrument coaming to the cockpit, plus another antenna and light to the spine. The canopy is moulded in two parts, fitting a small exterior rear-view mirror on the port side of the windscreen, and PE interior rear-view mirrors to the canopy, gluing both into position, the canopy hinging to the port side if you plan to pose it open. The two intakes are an impressive piece of slide-moulding, having inner and outer surfaces provided as one part, with a hollow interior that reduces the likelihood of sink marks, whilst providing plenty of detail, each one gluing into the openings behind the cockpit. There is a slight seam around the intake lips that is easily removed, but the detail is well worth those few seconds of effort. The dorsal pod is made from two halves with a small raised blister on the pylon added to both sides, fixing it to the spine over the wing roots on pins, while the tail fin is built from two halves plus a single part for the rudder, which has a corrugated surface that is a little too deeply defined. Check your references and either fill the depressions, or sand back the raised portions as you see fit, although several coats of primer and some light sanding of the high spots might be better to retain the original thickness of the part. This also applies to the ailerons and other flying surfaces, so you might as well do them all at once, unless you’re upset by this minor issue. Each wing is made from top and bottom half, adding the majority of the Superpod body to the underside, with the top half of the tail cone a separate part, and the forward section that uses either two halves to create a cylindrical section with tapering nose cone, or by using different parts to create the nose cones with a flat-spot on the outer face, both styles having an optional L-shaped antenna installed on the top. The flying surfaces along the trailing edge are all separate, and are glued to the rear of the wing, with the possibility of deflecting them if you wish. Note that the black RAM isn’t painted under the extended flaps, so take care to check your references to help you paint this area correctly. A spoiler is also fixed to the upper wing around mid-span, near the jettisonable stabilising gear legs that are made from curved struts with a wheel glued to each side of the bottom end. These locate in a socket under the trailing edge of the wings, and of course the same process is carried out in mirror-image for the other wing. The wings are glued to the fuselage sides on three separate slots, and here it will become obvious that they have been moulded with a slight sag, which is correct for wings of this aircraft, so don’t be tempted to correct this. The two-part elevator fins have separate flying surfaces, and these fit to the fairing under the fin using a relatively small tab and slot, taking care to achieve the correct dihedral by checking your references. There are several nose modules used in U-2 missions, and this boxing includes a simple more aerodynamic nose that is made from two halves, plus a single cone tip, with two PE probes fitted to small depressions in the rear edge of the nose. It is glued in place to complete the build phase of the model. Markings Any U-2 after the early days is painted in black RAM, with very few markings, unless it’s one of the civilian airframes. There are three options included on the sheet, predominantly stencilled in red, and most of the decals are applied to the tail fin. From the box you can build one of the following: Hobby Boss decals and the decaling instructions can be a weak point of their products at times, and they are generally printed anonymously in China. This sheet is printed in this manner, but is suitable for purpose, particularly as the majority of decals are printed in red. Registration where it occurs is good, as is colour density and sharpness, with a clear backed decal depicting the dials and switch-gear for the instrument panel. Conclusion The moulding and detail included in the kit is excellent, and other than the excessive corrugated texture on some of the control surfaces, there is little immediately visible to grouch about, although some are still trying. Other than making sure you have enough space in your cabinet to accommodate the enormous wingspan of the Dragon Lady, there’s no reason not to have one. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. Bergepanzer BPz3A1 Buffalo ARV (84565) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Büffel as it is known as in its native Germany, is an Armoured Recovery Vehicle based upon the chassis and lower hull of the well-liked Leopard 2E Main Battle Tank, which itself is a variant of the 2A6. Most of the lower hull is identical or similar to its progenitor, but the turret is missing, replaced by a casemate and crane, a winch and a bulldozer blade that allows it to retrieve damaged or immobilised tanks from the battlefield even if the fighting is still ongoing thanks to its armour. It is also equipped with an MG3 machine gun for self-defence purposes, a set of smoke grenade launchers to hide itself and its charge from those that wish it harm. It is powered by a large 12-cylinder diesel engine from MTU Friedrichshafen, a division of Rolls-Royce, that outputs almost 1,500bhp that allows it to travel at good speed across all sorts of terrain, but also to pull its immobilised compatriots, whether they were retrieving Leopards or PzH2000 SPGs, or anything up to a similar tonnage. The BPz3 was a joint project between Rheinmetall Landsysteme of Germany who produced an initial 75 for the Bundeswehr and a further 25 for the Netherlands, where its name lost its umlaut over the U in translation. It was also sold to other countries including Canada where it is known as the L2-ARV, and Spain where it is known as the Leopard 2ER Búfalo, with Switzerland a surprisingly large 25 export, and Sweden taking a number on charge after adapting them to their specific needs to improve armour and customise their electronic systems. For service in Afghanistan, the German vehicles and some Canadian machines were upgraded with new high quality vision systems by Karl Zeiss for the drivers that would give them 24/7 visibility, no matter what the conditions. The crane is electrically driven, and can operate independent of the power-pack, so even the unusual sight of a Buffalo replacing its own broken engine isn’t outside the bounds of possibility, presuming they have enough electrical charge in the vehicle. At time of writing, the type is in the middle of another extensive upgrade programme to give it more capability on the interconnected battlefield. The Bpz3A1 is up-armoured to work under enemy fire, and included the addition of mine protection equipment, and slat armour that is intended to reduce the effectiveness of shaped charge weapons in key areas. The MG has been changed to a remote mount, and the driver’s vision is enhanced by a thermal imager and low-light TV system that are combined as a single picture in front of the driver, improving their situational awareness. The Kit This is a partial retool of a retool of the 2015 release from Hobby Boss, adding yet more new parts to depict the differences between the early Buffalo and the improved variant that is depicted here. The kit arrives in a typically sturdy top-opening box with a painting of a Buffalo at work on another tank, and inside are fourteen sprues and two hull halves in sand-coloured styrene, a small sprue in black, a clear sprue, two trees of poly-caps, a length of braided wire, two Photo-Etch (PE) brass sheets of parts, two flexible black lengths of track, decal sheet and black and white instruction booklet that has the colour painting guide sheet inserted between the centre pages. Detail is good throughout, as we’ve come to expect from Hobby Boss’s armour models for the most part, although there is some thought that the hull is around 4mm narrower than it should be, but that’s a question for your micrometre, not mine. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has the suspension and return roller details added after cutting small sections from some suspension units, while the road wheels are prepared, consisting of fourteen pairs of main wheels, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels, all of which have a poly-cap sandwiched between the two wheels. Once the swingarms with stub-axles plus return rollers are glued in place, the road wheels can be pushed into place for removal during painting if required, thanks to the friction-fit of the flexible polythene sleeves. Quickly, the bulldozer blade is built from large, bulky parts, adding supports and pivots, plus an oversized towing eye at the front of the blade. It is joined to the hull by a pair of large pins that you should leave unglued if you wish to move or remove it later. The track runs are of the “rubber-band” style, but have good detail throughout, and you are advised that they will accept standard plastic glue and paints during construction, however a test with Tamiya Extra Thin glue reveals that this isn’t the case, so test your preferred glue on the short length of sprue at one end of the tracks before proceeding. There is an overlap of two links per run, and once the glue is dry they are slipped over the running gear so that attention can turn to the highly detailed crew interior that is included. The interior is begun by taking a floor panel with a lip around most of the edge, and detailing it with three crew stations, their equipment and comfortable-looking seats. The completed lower half (there is more to come) is glued into the bottom of the hull along with an insert against the lower glacis plate, and at the same time the rear bulkhead with towing eyes and shackles are put in place along with the convoy-light shield that has a PE lighting bracket over it. The next stage of the interior begins with the upper hull half, which first receives an insert over the front that has two holes in it, creating the roof of the casemate in which the crew sit, opening a few small slots in the front of the hull, and drilling out six holes in the short section of roof that is moulded into the upper hull part. A very detailed insert is made up into a four-sided assembly with a lot of equipment placed inside over the next five steps, including tools, some PE parts and stencil decals. That is glued into the casemate and backed up with a box and some brackets, then more equipment and wall panels are dotted around the left side of the casemate after being detailed in rather busy steps around the main diagrams. Similarly, the right side is built around a long insert with five steps that increase the level of detail substantially, and includes PE and styrene parts as well as some more decals for stencils and dials. The driver’s console with D-shaped steering wheel is inserted into the glacis plate, then the assembly is turned over to detail the exterior, first cutting right-angled notches in three of the six triangular supports at the rear of the casemate, using the accompanying diagrams to measure them before cutting. The upper hull’s rear is boxed in with a wide bulkhead that includes rear mudguards, adding another small box on the rear deck, removing a few tiny raised areas and filling depressions nearby. Front mud guards, a front hatch and two side crew hatches are installed with handles, adding an armoured cover over the new rear view vision block. The two hull halves are joined, and a gaggle of small parts are scattered around the engine deck and the casemate, then the side doors are shown being installed again – oops! This time the rear door is fitted with styrene and PE parts inside, while in the front of the engine deck, two PE strips are bent around a pair of raised cylinders on the deck surface. The driver’s almond-shaped hatch is given clear vision blocks before it is inserted into the hole, and at the rear bulkhead several detail parts are fitted. A frame is fitted over the two circular vents, adding three PE mesh sections to the rear, and fitting a foldable panel to the left side, plus more detail parts on the visible part of the deck. The next few steps are incredibly busy due to the upgrading of the type requiring many more parts, creating an L-shaped box that is covered in PE mesh before it is located on the rear right corner of the deck. The top hatch with remote MG3 machine gun station is first fitted with six vision blocks in the toroidal lip, making the hatch from three layers for installation along with another vision block, then adding two bracket-like armoured covers over the top, and fixing the five-part gun and its mount onto the rear edge of the cupola. This is mounted in the socket in the roof, then a huge stowage box is built from styrene parts and PE mesh, installing it on the rear deck over the mesh cover, and fixing smoke discharger packs around the left rear corner and on the back edge of the deck. A lifting brace is detailed with eyes and a large shackle at the top of its sloped upper edge, connecting it to the right side of the engine deck via a pair of pins that mate with supports at each end. Two spare wheels are made and mounted on bobbin-like fittings, attaching it to a shallow tray with brackets around the edge, inverting it and fitting a four-part sled over it and fixing it to the dwindling open area in the centre of the engine deck. A stack of stowage boxes that bear a resemblance to coolers are made with separate lids, mounting two of them on the left side of the engine deck, adding two appliqué armour panels over the glacis above the dozer blade. The main crane is built around a single three-sided jib, the hydraulic lift cylinder is mounted at one end within the three sided part, then closed over by fitting the fourth panel, with a V-shaped cut-out to allow the movement of it and its ram, which is attached to a two-part base and ram with the turntable beneath it, mating them by inserting the ram into the cylinder and positioning the pivot-points at the bottom of the jib with those on the base so that pins can be inserted without glue. Even the crane doesn’t escape the application of pioneer tools, with several items on one side and slat armour at the aft end on the other, plus more details and of course the block and tackle that performs the heavy lifting. The pulleys are assembled with the supplied wire linking them, so some care will be needed, gluing the outer parts and the lifting hook in position, then locating the top pulley into the end of the jib, securing it with a pin from each side, again without glue. Another two towing rods are built in a V-shape with eyes glued to the ends and located on the rear bulkhead by a pair of clamps. The side skirts of the original vehicle have been replaced by new boxy assemblies that are fitted over the forward wheel stations, and have narrow slat armour panels at the bottom, spaced away from the skirts by triangular brackets, using two or three depending on the length of the section. The left skirts have a sloped top-section, while the right are box-shaped, but have the same slat sections on the lower sides. The next two pages are again incredibly busy, adding dozens of additional slat armour panels above the skirts, around the deck and casemate roof, and behind the built-out skirts toward the rear. Additional smoke grenade launchers are mounted on stations in the front corners of the glacis, adding more equipment and towing eyes to the rear of the vehicle, and a pair of antennae on the casemate, one with a flasher unit at the top that should be painted clear orange and used only when the vehicle isn’t on active duty. The quantity of small parts requires concentration and careful study of the instruction steps, as they aren’t always totally obvious, and could easily be missed by anyone skimming the steps. Markings There are two options available from the sheet, one wearing a two-tone green/sand camouflage, the other in all over sand. There are further decals on the main jib that can be found on the instruction booklet, which you will want to refer to during painting. From the sheet you can build one of the following: As usual with Hobby Boss, there’s no information on the vehicle’s location, date or user, so a bit of Googling will be in order if you’d like to know a little more about your model. The decals are well-printed, in good register and sharpness, and are suitable to the task in hand. The instrument decals for the interior equipment with dials has a grey background, although much of the interior is painted white or NATO green. Here, Google is your friend. Conclusion It’s a well-detailed model of a low-profile, but extremely important vehicle in the Bundeswehr and other operators, with a lot of attention paid to the interior, as well as a huge level of detail to the exterior. You don’t get the engine, but that’s not a big deal, and could be a relief, given the already high part count. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. Refugees Musician Family (38084) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd During WWII there were millions of displaced populations created by the advances of the Nazis across Europe, escaping from combat or persecution, resulting in huge streams of humanity making their way to a perceived safer part of their own or a neighbouring country. People took only what they could carry, unless they were lucky enough to possess a motor car or some kind of cart, whether hand-pulled or horse-drawn. People would take their most important belongings, loading up with their most valuable goods, whether monetarily or otherwise, often comprising items that might be of use in their profession or as currency to trade when they arrived at their destination. The Kit This figure set supplies two figures, plus their possessions that they are carrying and pushing in a pram, although they don’t appear to have a baby with them, so perhaps they picked it up earlier in their journey or they had one in storage at home. The set arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box, and inside are six sprues in grey styrene, plus a sheet of paper that has several pieces of art printed on it to use with the picture frames that are included on the sprues. The parts for each figure are found in separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The accessories are contained on four sprues, two of which are quite large, and contain several instruments that can be carried by the figures in line with the theme of this boxing. Instructions for the perambulator are found on the back of the box along with the painting guide for the figures, with additional diagrams showing the building of the three cases that are also found on the sprues. The instruments sprue includes the following: Accordion – open (Piano Accordion) Accordion – in case (Piano Accordion) Harmonic – closed (Button Accordion) Harmonic – open (Button Accordion) Marching bass drum with sticks Trumpet Guitar Violin in open case Violin & bow with closed case Mandolin Banjo There are no instructions included for the instruments, which would have been useful, but it wasn’t a stretch to guess that this sprue had been seen before, even with my memory, and it turns out we have reviewed the set when it was first released separately in 2020, which you can find here along with the instructions, just in case you pick this set up and can’t quite figure out how to put some parts together. The smallest sprue has three picture frames moulded into it, with six paintings supplied on the accompanying piece of glossy colour-printed paper, including some very famous paintings that are most likely reproductions, given their provenance. You simply cut them from the backing paper and fix them in place on the narrow rim around the inside of the frame in much the same manner as a real picture frame. If you want to add glass to the frame, some acetate sheet would be much easier to cut to shape than trying to adjust the size and shape of a glass slide cover that is often used to depict broken glass in dioramas. Conclusion The figures are expertly sculpted, and they have a care-worn look to them that would be typical of anyone that has been displaced by war, indicating their profession by their luggage, and adding the possibility of a bereavement in the near past by the presence of the pram. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum D (81786) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Mikoyan MiG-29, known in the West by its NATO reporting name 'Fulcrum' is an air superiority fighter designed and built in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. As with other comparable aircraft of that period, such as the Su-27, F-16, F-15 and Panavia Tornado, it was produced in significant numbers and is still in fairly widespread service with air arms around the world. The MiG-29 was developed as a lighter, cheaper aircraft compared to the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, an aircraft with which it is broadly comparable in terms of layout and design, if not size and weight. As with the Su-27, the engines are spaced widely apart, with the area between them being used to generate lift and improve manoeuvrability. The MiG-29 is powered by two Klimov RD-33 Turbofans, each of which generates over 18,000lb of thrust in reheat. As with many Soviet types, the aircraft is well suited for use on rough airstrips, particularly as the engine air intakes can be closed completely when on the ground, allowing air to be drawn through louvres on the upper surfaces of the wing roots avoiding FOD. Armament consists of a combination of Vympel R-27 medium-range air-to-air missiles and R-73 or R-60 short-range air-to-air missiles, as well as an integral GSh-30-1 30mm cannon in the port Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX). The aircraft can be used in a range of roles and can carry bombs and rockets in addition to more technologically advanced missiles. The MiG-29 has been widely exported and is still in widespread use with Russian, former Soviet and aligned nations, including several NATO member states such as Poland. Based upon the MiG-29M, the K was developed in the 1980s as an all-weather carrier-borne multi-role fighter that incorporates modern technologies that make it comparable in terms of generational capabilities as the Eurofighter, Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale. After two prototypes were built and demonstrated, the Russian Navy didn’t make an order as they were already wedded to the Su-33, and it was an order by the Indian Air Force that saved the project as late as 2009, which the Indian Navy intended to fly from the former Soviet carrier they had bought. The initial order of a dozen airframes was followed by another of 29, plus training and simulation equipment, although a pre-delivery crash put the brakes on temporarily until it was revealed that the crash had predictably been caused by pilot error. Reliability issues of the engines dogged the fleet for a while, solved by India’s efforts that led to their satisfaction with their aircraft, although talk of replacing the fleet at one point was taken seriously by Western aircraft manufacturers. Russia’s Navy eventually decided that rather than build new Su-33s to replace those that were reaching retirement, they would take advantage of the open production lines of the MiG-29K in 2009, adding two dozen to the production schedule, which led to the Russian Navy holding a mixed inventory of MiG-29K and refurbished Su-33s as of 2016 when the last MiGs were delivered. A small number of MiG-29KUBR airframes were built with two cockpits under the same shaped canopy for training, with tandem controls for the student and instructor. The operational airframes were received in time to take part in Russian operations in Syria, losing one that failed to return to base after an operational sortie. The Kit This is a new tooling from Hobby Boss, and it arrives in a sturdy top-opening box with a painting of the subject on the front, and profiles of the decal options on one side. Inside the box is a cardboard divider to reduce movement of parts during shipping and storage, and most sprues are individually bagged, with delicate parts pre-wrapped in thin foam sheets, secured by tape. There are nine sprues, two fuselage halves and four exhaust nozzles in grey styrene, a long clear sprue in a bubble-wrap envelope, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass backed by a piece of card, decal sheet, instruction booklet in black and white, plus a folded sheet of glossy A3 printed in colour with one decal option per side, and another A4 sheet for the painting and decaling of the weapons that are included in the box. Detail is good, with intelligent use of slide-moulding to create additional detail without increasing the part count, and a choice of exhaust nozzles in closed or open positions, with excellent detail moulded into both layers. Construction begins with the K-36D-3.5 ejection seat, which is made from thirteen styrene parts, plus four seatbelts and ejection actuator handle in PE. This is slotted into the front compartment of the cockpit tub, adding the instrument panel and control column, and applying six decals to the panel and side consoles. Additional parts are fitted along with the cockpit sidewalls in both compartments, fixing a rudder bar with two PE foot straps in the front of the cockpit, remembering that most of the rear tub will be covered by an insert later in the build, so don’t waste any time painting and weathering that area. The nose gear bay must be built next, as it will be trapped between the fuselage halves, and this is built up from four parts, with the nose gear leg made from a single strut with integral supports near the top, fitting the oleo and swing-arm to the bottom, plus a clear landing light and other small parts before you attach wheels on either end of the cross-axle, building them from two halves each. The cover for the rear cockpit is raised, and has a grille on the front, plus two small boxes added to the top surface, then the fuselage can be prepared, drilling out several flashed-over holes under the wings, and one on the roof of the space between the engines. The nose gear bay is inserted into its cut-out, adding a pair of extension cups to the main gear bays behind the moulded-in sections, then gluing the cockpit tub into the upper fuselage along with an insert in the nose for a refuelling probe, whilst cutting off and sanding back a bulge on the deck in front of the windscreen as per a nearby scrap diagram. The two fuselage halves are brought together, fixing the rear cockpit cover and a small spine insert, then building the HUD from a sloped styrene core with clear lens, PE supports for the two clear panels, and applying a decal to the lens before it is fitted in a recess in the cockpit coaming. Soviet/Russian fighters tend to have built-in FOD guards, which in this case are supplied as large mesh panels that fit into the front of the inner engine intake trunks, that have a cylindrical profile and are blocked at the inner end by an insert that has the front of the engine moulded-into it, inserting the completed assembly into the engine nacelles, painting the inner surface grey, then adding the roof of the trunks to the sloped forward edge. This is done twice of course, and the two finished assemblies are inserted into the underside of the fuselage after adding extra wall detail to the main gear bays that nestle into the outer sides of each nacelle. In preparation, two short cowling sections are fitted to the upper fuselage where the exhausts will later sit. The twin fins are each made from two halves plus rudder, but they are equipped with different sensor fits in the trailing edge of the tip, which is further accentuated by the probe and sensors added to the rear, whilst both share the same T-shaped aerial near the change of angle of the leading edges of the fins. There is a large tapered cylindrical fuel tank between the engine nacelles, and this is built from two halves that are capped at either end, the nose cone made from two halves to include the forward pylon mount. This and the fins are put to one side while other assemblies are built for the underside of the model. This begins with the landing gear, the main gear made from a thick strut with trailing retraction jack, captive bay door, and a two-part scissor link, which receives a two-part wheel with circumferential tread moulded-in, although you’ll have to take a sanding stick to them if you wish to depict the weight of the airframe on the tyres. The exhausts have a short two-part trunk as their starting point, with a double layer depicting the rear of the engine and the afterburner ring, then you have a choice of posing the exhaust petals opened or closed, using two different sets of parts to portray the inner and outer layers of the nozzles. The closed nozzles have their inner part inserted from within, while the opened nozzles have their inner layer slid in from the rear due to the angles of the respective parts, with the resulting detail worth the effort. Both sets of nozzles are glued to the rear of the trunking, and are slipped inside the rear of the fuselage, adding the main gear legs and a bay door actuator to each side, then fitting the chaff & flare boxes on the fairings each side of the exhaust trunking, a pylon under each of the inner wing panels moulded into the fuselage, gluing on leading edges slats, and finally the twin fins that are attached to the fairings to the sides of the engines on pegs for strength. Doors are added to the gear bays, flaperons and their actuator fairings to the rear of the wings, a gaggle of antennae under the nose, and a two-part arrestor hook is fixed between the rear of the engine nacelles, mounting the large central tank between them. The next step is to fit the hinges to the ends of the inner wing panels, which are only applicable if you intend to fold the wings for storage on or below deck. This removes the option for a model ready for, or in-flight, and there is no discussion of the straight-wing or in-flight option in the instruction booklet. It is however possible using the parts provided, and simply involves omitting the hinge parts, laying the hinge cover panel flat to the wing, and fitting the outer wing panel at the same angle as the inner. The outer wing panels are built from two halves, adding slats at the front and ailerons to the rear, plus the hinge cover, which for folded wings should be placed at an angle. It’s best to test fit this in situ to obtain the correct attitude for the various parts. Regardless of whether you choose to fold the wings or not, each tip has a small strake inserted in a slot on the upper surface. More probes and antenna are clustered around the nose along with the refuelling probe with its cover, adding a clear lens to the sensor under the windscreen, which is also fitted at this stage. An actuator for the main canopy is installed behind it, and further aft two jacks for the air-brake are glued in position, which might be best done whilst fitting the panel to ensure they all line up. The canopy has a separate styrene lower frame with a cross-brace, four PE latches on each side, and a pair of rear-view mirrors in the front frame, fitting to the rear of the cockpit opening on the afore-mentioned jack. The elevators/elevons are single parts that fit into plugs on the side of the fuselage, and a gun fairing is fixed in the leading edge of the port LERX with another pair of PE antennae, one on each side of the nose cone, which has a separate pitot probe mounted at the tip. Like many Hobby Boss kits, this boxing has a plethora of weapons to suspend from the various pylons under the fuselage and wings. The following are included: 2 x R-77 (AA-12 Adder) BVR A2A Missile 2 x R-73M (AA-11 Archer) Short Range A2A Missile 2 x MSP-418K active jammer pod 2 x PTB-1150 1,150L Fuel Tanks 2 x KH -29T (AS-14 Kedge-B) TV guided A2S Missile 2 x KH-31P (AS-17 Krypton) Anti-Radiation Cruise Missile 2 x KAB-500Kr TV-guided bomb 2 x KH-35 (AS-20 Kayak) Anti-Ship Cruise Missile The various missiles are moulded as two halves, have separate fins fore and aft, and clear seeker heads where appropriate, adding adapter rails as necessary. The KH-35s however have their aft section removed before they are built, fixing folded fins to the sides of the missile, with a scrap diagram showing how they should appear once completed. A diagram at the end of the instruction booklet shows where the various munitions and pods can be mounted, but check your references for real-world load-outs if you prefer. Markings There are two decal options on the sheet, one in Russian service, the other in Indian colours. From the box you can build one of the following: Blue 39, Russian Navy 672 Indian Navy The various weapons, tanks and pods have a great many stencils that can be applied, using a separate colour page to guide you, all of which adds realism to your model. Decals aren’t always Hobby Boss’s strong point, but these are of good quality with registration, sharpness and colour density that are suitable for the task at hand. They usually go down well, and there are plenty of stencils for the airframe and weapons to add detail to your model, including more detailed instrument panel decals than many other companies provide. Conclusion The MiG-29 is an attractive aircraft, and the Navalised K from Hobby Boss seems a competent representation of what is a niche variant that was only produced in small numbers, including lots of detail and a large quantity of weapons. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. Bakery Products (35624) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Inside the figure-sized box are nine sprues in grey styrene, six filled with different varieties of bread and pastries, plus three containing shallow wooden boxes with open tops and hand-holds in the short ends. The rear of the box holds the instructions for making up the trays from their three component parts, with painting examples given in the space below, which is various shades of beige and tan, with a bit of flour dusting here and there. The colour call-outs on the rear of the box are given in Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus swatches and colour names to assist with choosing your colours. These refer to the blue colour numbers on the paintings above the chart. As usual with MiniArt figure and diorama sets, sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown on the trays to leave minimal seamlines, and the sprue attachment points of the various bread products are similarly carefully placed. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. RMS Titanic (83420) 1:700 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd There can’t be many people that haven’t heard of the appalling and unnecessary loss of life that happened when the Titanic’s maiden voyage route intersected with an iceberg, causing huge gaps down the ship’s side due to blown rivets, overwhelming the safety measures that led many to believe that she was unsinkable. At the end of the day on 14th April 1912 she hit that fateful iceberg and began taking on substantial quantities of water. The ship’s waterproof bulkheads only extended to a level below the main deck, and one-by-one they overflowed, causing the Titanic to settle lower and lower in the water. Less than three hours later she broke into two and slipped beneath the surface with many of the passengers still aboard, and many more forced to jump into the almost freezing water, where most died from hypothermia or drowning. Over 1,500 souls were lost that day thanks to the hubris of the designers and impatience of the supervising crew, but many lessons were learned from this tragedy that are still applicable today, and many lives have subsequently been saved as a result. The 1997 blockbuster release of the film The Titanic brought the story to the public consciousness again after the wreck had been found over 13 miles from her expected location some years earlier. She was found lying upright and in two major parts, both of which had hit the sea bed at a considerable speed, badly buckling the underside. She has since been thoroughly inspected, and some of the knowledge gleaned from those expeditions was incorporated into the fictionalised plot of the James Cameron helmed film, which itself has become part of modern vernacular, with phrases such as “paint me like one of your French girls” raising the occasional titter. The Kit This is a new tooling from Hobby Boss, and represents the Titanic on her fateful voyage, although we understand another boxing will be forthcoming soon that depicts her sister ship Olympic in Dazzle camouflage livery, as she appeared during WWI as HMT Olympic, performing troop ship duties. The kit arrives in a rectangular top-opening box with a painting of the Titanic on the front, and two cardboard dividers inside that keeps the various aspects of the kit separately. There are ten sprues in grey styrene, plus the hull and six deck parts of varying sizes, a black styrene stand, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet and black & white instruction booklet with separate colour painting guide slipped inside the pages. It’s immediately evident that this kit is intended to be a more “serious” kit than the recent offering from another company that came with a basic lighting kit, as the higher number of parts and monotone grey styrene suggest. When you remove the sprues from their individual bags, the detail is very finely engraved, showing delicate planking to the decks, window frames, doors and other fixtures, found all around on the visible surfaces thanks to a substantial use of slide-moulds that improve the model without increasing the part count unduly. The inclusion of PE parts is welcome, however this is a small sheet, and doesn’t include railings or other fine fittings that would be outwith the scope of most kits, and would cause frustration and extra expense to many modellers, who would see it as unnecessary complexity. They’d be entitled to think so, but the aftermarket producers are able to assist if the urge takes you to super-detail your kit. Hopefully, the research that Hobby Boss have put in is as good as the detail present. Construction begins predictably with the hull, which has hundreds of portholes, fittings and the distinctive banding around the hull moulded into it, plus the tapered stern where the rudder and screws will be placed later. The initial deck part covers the majority of the top surface, leaving the stern and bow to be added later, turning the hull over to fit the port and starboard prop-shaft fairings into grooves in the underside, with three props, one in the centre, which was the only screw with strong rudder authority, making her slow to turn, and could well have contributed to the collision with the iceberg once it was eventually spotted by the lookouts, who weren’t issued with binoculars, amazingly. With the hull righted again, the bow and stern deck parts are installed, and various deck fittings are applied over the next several steps. The superstructure is built from two deck parts, adding sidewalls to the lower layer, and building up the ends to prepare for the next deck, and includes the bridge. Two more deck parts are placed on the raised guides, adding a few detail parts to the smaller section to cover a blank space that couldn’t be dealt with by sliding moulds. The gap between the two superstructure parts is filled by a pair of walls, adding more inserts around the forward area near the flying bridges so that the deck above can be laid on top, detailing the open areas with more deck furnishings. The smaller upper deck areas are each detailed with dozens of parts, including life boats, davits, and a PE compass platform, resulting in seven sub-assemblies that are also placed in situ with guidance from the raised shapes all around the promenade, which is then covered with dozens of benches. The ostensibly complete superstructure is mated with the hull, taking care to align the bridge with the bow end, which shouldn’t be hard thanks to the raised guides that are used to assist throughout. A small forest of deck cranes are mounted on turret-like bases at the bow and stern, adding a couple of PE doors to the sides of the hull near the stern, which are likely either particular to the titanic, or were left off the mould by mistake and added later. Who knows? The Titanic had four large oval funnels, one of which was fake and was used to vent the heat and fumes from the kitchen so that the First-Class passengers didn’t have to smell the cooking odours. The three active funnels are made from halves with nicely engraved and raised details, adding an inner ring near the top, and covering it over with a PE grille. Painting the interior of the funnel tops a deep black should prevent anyone seeing the shallow base, and while the exterior of the aft funnel is identical to the others, the insert has a tube projecting up the centre, plus a pair of holes should be drilled in the floor. The PE grille is also different, with a solid forward section setting it apart from the others. The completed funnels are installed on the decks with their raised oval base plates assisting with placement, and taking care to glue the correct aft funnel at the stern end. Dozens of davits for the life boats are arranged around the sides of the main upper deck, with a few having a different design, and these are pointed out in the instruction steps. The lifeboats are suspended from each pair on the deck, which is best done after the glue on the davits is totally cured, fitting the two masts as the final act. The foremast has a small crow’s nest for the lookouts and an angled jib, while the stern mast has a single level jib facing forward. Both masts will have copious rigging, but there are no diagrams showing where it should be fitted, however the box art should assist with this, as the Titanic is almost directly side-on to the viewer. Markings The Titanic didn’t last long after it embarked on its first and final voyage, floundering without completing a single crossing with huge loss of life. You can build her as she left Southampton below: Decals are printed by Hobby Boss’s usual printers, and are fit for purpose, although under magnification the blue seems very slightly out of register on our sample, but unless someone is very sharp-eyed, it probably won’t be noticed, especially if you don’t use the US flag that’s supplied. Conclusion This is a very nicely detailed kit of the Titanic, particularly at this relatively small scale, with deck, windows and portholes finely engraved. It’s not a gimmicky kit that lends itself to a quick build with lighting, it’s for the modeller that wishes to build a well-detailed model as a little part of maritime history, as an homage to those that lost their lives. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  11. PLA ZTQ15 Light Tank (72-001) 1:72 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The Type 15 light tank was designed as a replacement to the previous generation of tanks that Chinese Army, Navy and Air Force used in high altitude areas where oxygen is limited, on soft ground where heavier vehicles would bog down, and in tight areas such as forests where the lack of mobility of larger, heavier vehicles would be an impediment. It was under development some time early in the new millennium, with prototypes seen during the 2010s, and final acknowledgement by the PLA of it entering service in 2018, by which time it had been in service in growing numbers for two years. It carries a 105mm rifled gun that can fire the usual range of munitions (including NATO rounds), plus Anti-Tank Guided Missiles that can be used to take out enemy tanks at ranges of three to five miles away under the right circumstances. It is armoured with a combined steel and composite hull, with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks fitted to the front, sides and turret, and the option of adding slat armour where shaped-charge rockets such as RPGs are expected. It can also carry heavier ERA blocks for greater protection, but as with all things, more protection brings more weight, lower speed and a greater likelihood of bogging down. Unusually for an AFV, the Type 15 has an onboard oxygen generator that feeds additional air to both the crew and the engine to compensate for the reduced power output by the 1,000hp diesel engine at higher altitudes, the oxygen permitting the crew to keep their wits about them in circumstances that could otherwise leave them confused and listless due to lack of oxygen in their bloodstreams. The coaxial machine gun in the mantlet is a relatively lightweight 5.8mm, but there is a 12.7mm remote controlled gun station on the turret roof that is mounted side-by-side with a 35mm automatic grenade launcher. On the similar but different overseas variant, the VT-5, there are significant differences to the shape of the forward hull, and the driver’s hatch is mounted centrally, whereas the Type 15 has the driver on the left side of the glacis plate. The systems of the tank are modern, offering full stabilisation of the main gun, which is fed from the bustle-mounted ammo store by an auto-loader that permitted the crew to be reduced to three, and in the event of a direct hit, the ammunition storage is designed to blow outward to protect the crew, and increase the survivability of the vehicle, something the Russian tank designers could take note of. Its drivetrain is similarly modern, using hydro-mechanical transmission, and hydropneumatic suspension to smooth the ride, while the sensor package allows the gunner and commander to share the aiming and firing of the main gun, as well as detecting incoming infrared signals, triggering the launch of smoke grenades to disperse the signal and warn the crew to move their vehicle. Because of its comparatively light-weight, it can be air-transported in pairs, and can be delivered to its intended destination by palletised air-drop, although the crew would probably need a change of underwear once they landed. It is likely to be in service with the Chinese military for some considerable time, increasing its capabilities with in-service updates as time goes by. The Kit This is the first tooling from MENG’s new 1:72 armour line, and it arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box in MENG’s usual satin finish, with an attractive painting of the subject matter on the front, and painting instructions on the rear. Inside the box are four sprues plus the upper hull and turret in light grey styrene, and a concertina-fold instruction booklet in black and white. There are no decals, so you will need to mask or hand-paint the digital camouflage patches that are dotted around the hull and turret, but if you paint the green first and mask it, that shouldn't be an onerous task. Detail is good throughout, with fine raised and recessed detail across all exterior surfaces, extending to the underside, with deeply recessed link-and-length track links, and a well-represented blast-bag on the main gun. Construction begins with the running gear, building twelve pairs of road wheels, two pairs each of drive sprockets and idler wheels, the former made from four parts each. The lower hull is assembled around the floor, adding the sides and the lower glacis plate to the front, then installing the drive sprockets at the rear, and a line of three return rollers to each side of the hull. Six pairs of road wheels and the idler wheels are slid over the stub axles, adding towing shackles to the glacis, which then leads to installing the tracks. A straight length is fitted to the return run, gluing the lower run with diagonal ends, then completing the band with curved sets of three links per end, one for each side of the vehicle. The rear bulkhead with a pair of exhausts and towing shackles is fixed to the back of the hull, after which the upper hull can be mated to the lower, adding the driver’s hatch at the front on the shallow slope of the glacis plate. At the rear, two fuel drums are made up from halves, and are fitted to the bulkhead along with an unditching beam that has wooden bark texture moulded into it along with the two straps that hold it to the vehicle. Side skirts are fitted to both sides as single parts, covering the top track run, which could probably be left off to save yourself some work. The turret assembly is built from top and bottom halves, inserting a sensor into the front, and adding the commander’s cupola over his hatch cut-out, plus a pair of sensors to the forward corners. The rear panel to the bustle is separate, and is fitted along with the two sighting boxes, rear sensors on the corners, the mantlet with sensor box on top, and the two crew hatches. Grenade launchers are fitted as three pairs on the sides of the bustle, and the single-part main gun is inserted into the hole in the mantlet, fixing a pair of sensor masts, aerial bases, additional detail parts to the roof, then building up the co-mounted 12.7mm machine gun and grenade launcher into the remote station from three parts, inserting its mounting peg into a hole in the centre of the roof, and adding a tubular part across the rear of the bustle. The completed turret can then be mated with the hull, twisting the bayonet fitting to lock it into place. Markings There is just one option detailed on the rear of the box, which is all-over sand with green or brown digital camouflage scattered over the surface. There are no decals, so none of the usual concerns over registration, sharpness etc. Conclusion 1:72 AFV modellers should welcome this new range with open arms, as they are well-detailed and yet still relatively simple to build, and what’s more, they don’t stress the purse-strings unduly. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. P-47D-25RE Thunderbolt Advanced Kit (48001) 1:48 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Thunderbolt developed from a series of less-than-successful earlier designs that saw Seversky aviation change to Republic, and the project designation from P-35, to P-43 and P-44, each with its own aggressive sounding name. After a realisation that their work so far wasn't going to cut it in the skies over war-torn Europe, they went back to the drawing board and produced the P-47A that was larger, heavier and sported the new Pratt & Whitney R-2800 18-cylinder radial that would also power the B-26 Marauder, P-61 Black Widow and F4U Corsair. With it they added eight .50cal Browning machine guns aligned along the axis of flight in the wing leading edge. The P-47A was still a small aircraft, and was initially ordered without military equipment to allow faster completion, but it was considered inferior to the competition then available, so an extensive re-design was ordered that resulted in the much larger P-47B, firing up to 100 rounds per second from the eight .50cal wing guns, and with a maximum speed of over 400mph, leaving just the fuel load slightly short of requirements. It first flew mid-1941, and despite being a heavy-weight, its performance was still excellent, and the crash of the prototype didn’t affect the order for over 700 airframes, which were fitted with a more powerful version of the R-2800 and a sliding canopy that made ingress and egress more streamlined, particularly when bailing out of a doomed aircraft. Minor re-designs to early production airframes resulted in a change to the P-47C, which meant that fewer than 200 Bs were made, the C benefitting from improved radio, oxygen systems, and a metal rudder to prevent flutter that had been affecting control at certain points in the performance envelope. A quick way to spot a B is the forward raked aerial mast behind the cockpit, as this was changed to vertical on the C and beyond. The production from a new factory that had been opened to keep up with demand led to the use of the D suffix, although they were initially identical to the C, but the cowling flaps were amended later, making it easier to differentiate. Of course, the later bubble-canopy P-47s were far easier to tell apart from earlier marks, and constant improvement in reliability, performance and fuel load was added along the way. The P-47D-25 carried more fuel for extended range, including piping for jettisonable tanks on the bomb racks for even more fuel. Taking a cue from the British designers, the bubble-top was developed and that improved all-round visibility markedly, although like the bubble-top Spitfires, later models incorporated a fin extension to counter the yaw issues that resulted. Its weight, firepower and seemingly unstoppable character led to the nickname ‘Juggernaut’, which was inevitably shortened to ‘Jug’ and led to many, many off-colour jokes during and after the war. Jokes that are still soldiering on to this day, despite being eligible for a pensioner’s bus pass. The Jug was used extensively in the European theatre as an escort fighter, where it performed well in its ideal high-altitude environment. Later in the war when the Luftwaffe was a spent force, it also went on to become a highly successful ground attack fighter, strafing and bombing targets of opportunity, and eschewing camouflaged paintwork to add some extra speed with a smooth (and shiny) bare metal finish. As well as flying with the US forces, many P-47s were flown by the other Allies, including the British, Russians, and after the war many other countries as the remainder were sold off as war surplus. The Kit This is a reboxing of a brand-new tooling from MiniArt, and is branded an Advanced Kit because it includes an additional sprue of plastic parts, and a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass to increase the level of detail of the kit, including the gun bays, and the ability to open the engine cowlings to display the excellent detail that is hidden away on the Basic Kit. The kit arrives in one of MiniArt’s sturdy top-opening boxes with a dramatic painting of the subject on the front, and profiles of the decal options on one side, reserving the other side for practical details and text. Inside the box are twenty-two sprues in grey styrene, although in our sample many of the sprues were handily still connected by their runners, which simplified photography. There is also a clear sprue, a sheet of PE in a cardboard envelope, two sheets of decals, and the instruction booklet, which is printed on glossy paper in colour, with profiles for the decal options on the front pages, plus detailed painting and decaling information for the weapons and tanks on the back page. Detail is beyond excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt in the last several years, with fine engraved panel lines, recessed rivets, plus raised and recessed features where appropriate, as well as fine detail in the cockpit, wheel bays, plus gun bays in the wings and engine. If you’ve seen their AFV kits you’ll know what to expect, but this is special in this reviewer’s humble opinion. New Sprue & Photo-Etch Construction begins with the highly detailed cockpit, starting with a choice of seat style. One option has the seat put together from base, back and two side parts, which have elements of the seatbelts moulded-in, and are finished off by putting the remainder of the lap belts on the seat pan. The other option uses new parts to build the seat without belts, adding the belts from the PE sheet separately. A pair of support are inserted into recesses in the back of the seat, then it is installed on the ribbed floor, which has control column, plus seat-adjuster, and two other levers inserted, after which the rear bulkhead, one of the cockpit sidewalls and the front bulkhead are fitted, trapping the rudder bar with moulded-in pedals between them. The starboard sidewall has an oxygen hose added, and a scrap diagram shows the detail painting as well as the location of the decals that need to be applied. The head cushion is applied to the head armour, then the other sidewall is detailed with four controls and a PE wiring loom, numerous decals and more detail painting, so that it can be inserted along with the instrument panel and auxiliary panel, both of which have decals for the dials, with a choice of two for the main panel. The tail wheel is made up in preparation for closing the fuselage, building a four-part strut that holds the wheel on a one-sided yoke, then adding a small curved bulkhead with sprung bumper at the front. The fuselage halves are further prepared by adding two extra detail parts to the short sill panels that have ribbing moulded-in, and should be painted to match the cockpit. At the rear on the underside, the supercharger fairing is slotted into the starboard fuselage along with the tail gear bay, and at the front, a cooling vent and an insert are added to the underside, fitting another vent to the port fuselage half in the same place. The fuselage can then be closed around the cockpit, adding the aerial mast into a slot in the starboard spine, although whether that will remain there until the end of the building and painting is a moot point, and I’d be tempted to nip it off at the base, gluing the base in to act as a socket for the aerial after the heavy work is over. The engine is created by joining the two highly-detailed banks of pistons together by a keyed peg, adding the push-rod assembly to the front, the ends of which mate with a circular support that is the frame onto which the cowling panels are added later. The reduction-housing bell is detailed with magnetos and other parts, plus a collet at the centre where the prop-shaft would be. This is joined to the front of the engine as it is mounted to a bulkhead at the rear, again on a keyed ring. The convex firewall at the front of the fuselage is detailed with a ring of fasteners, the cylindrical intakes with PE mesh grilles, or you can utilise the similar less detailed part from the Basic Kit if you plan on leaving the engine covered. There is a fuselage insert in front of the cockpit, and that has the two-part gunsight with clear lens and PE backup sight and link-plate added to the middle, and it is inserted under the coaming and joined by your choice of firewall that closes the front of the fuselage. The intake trunking at the bottom of the nose cowling is made from five parts and installed in the lower panel, and you have a choice of open or closed top cowling panels by using additional parts. To leave the cowling open, the engine is fitted to the detailed firewall along with the lower cowling and the three sections of cooling gills. the closed option is surrounded by all four cowling segments, and at the rear you have a choice of installing open or closed cooling gills, using different parts to achieve the look you want, sliding the assembly over the completed engine, to which you can add the wiring loom if you are feeling adventurous, using the helpful diagrams near the back of the booklet, which also includes diagrams for wiring the gear bays. The rudder is completed by adding an insert at its widest point (the bottom) to avoid sink marks, and it is mated to the fin on three hinges, allowing deflection if you wish. Under the tail, your choice of bare or canvas-covered wheel assembly is inserted in the bay, with doors on each side, or if you are building your model in flight, a closed pair of doors is supplied as a single part, adding a small outlet further forward under the fuselage. The upper wing halves have well-defined ribbing detail for the gear bays moulded-in, which is augmented by fitting two rib sections, front and rear walls, and an additional structure that has a retraction jack pushed through a hole in one of the wall segments. The gun bays and their extensive ammunition stores are supplied in this boxing, using different upper wing panels with the bays opened. The gun bays themselves are built from a mixture of styrene and PE surfaces, making up a four-compartment box into which the gun breeches are inserted, linking them to the outer wall with ammo feed chutes, and placing the ammunition boxes with open tops into the upper wing from within. The closed bay option is shown with just the barrel stubs projecting from the leading edge, while both options install the wingtip lights and a pitot probe in the starboard wing. A scrap diagram of the lower wing shows the location of the flashed-over holes that you can drill out for rocket tubes or pylons, then the flaps are made from two sides, plus a pair of hinges, and these are glued into the trailing edge of the wing with the ailerons, then the lower wing can be glued to the upper, along with two inserts at the tip and to the rear of the gear bay, which includes a flush landing light. Three PE bay edge strips are inserted over the open gun bays, adding a PE indicator and PE bay prop to hold the styrene panels at the correct angle, the gun bay hinging forward, the ammo bay hinging aft. The same process is then carried out in mirror-image for the other wing, omitting the pitot probe and landing light, after which the wheels and their struts are made up, each wheel made from two halves plus a choice of three hub types, and two styles of tyres are also provided, one without a flat-spot, the other under load on the ground, leaving it to your taste. The struts are detailed with separate compressed or relaxed oleo scissor-links plus stencil decals, and they are mated with their wheels, plus the captive gear bay doors, the lower door made from two layers, again to avoid sink-marks. The wings are glued to the fuselage with a stepped joint making for a stronger bond, and the elevator panels are each slotted into the tail, and have separate flying surfaces that can be posed deflected, each one a single part. If you are building your model with the gear down, the inner gear bay doors are fitted to the fuselage, which contains the inner edge of the main gear bays, so remember to paint that while you are doing the bays. If you plan on making an in-flight model, there are two single parts that depict the closed main bays, or you can insert the two struts with their wheels for the grounded aircraft. The four centreline supports are fitted between the main bays for some decal options, then the model can be flipped over to stand on its own wheels so that the canopy can be installed, gluing the windscreen at the front, and deciding whether to pose the blown canopy open or closed. The prop is also fitted, and this is made up from two parts glued perpendicular to each other, each holding two blades in opposition, and the spinner moulded into the front section. The Jug could carry quite a load, whether it was extra fuel, rockets or bombs, and all these are included in the box, starting with the two-part pylons, which can be depicted as empty by inserting a cover over the business end. You have a choice of four styles of tank, a 108gal compressed paper tank with a ribbed nose and tail, a 200gal wide and flat tank, the third 150gal streamlined tank with flat mating surface, and the last one slightly smaller at 75gal. All but the third option has a pair of sway-braces between them and the pylon, which fit into slots in the pylons. They are built in pairs to fit under the wings, but the first two options can also be used solo on the centreline support. The bombs use the same pylons, and can be built in 1,000lb, 500lb or 250lb variants, each one made from two halves for the body and two parts for the square tails or thinner PE fins if you prefer, and mated to the pylon by a pair of sway-braces that varies depending on size. There is also a smoke generator that looks like a drop-tank with a spout on the rear, which would be used to lay smoke for the Allied troops below to cover their actions, at least temporarily. The final option is a pair of three-tubed rocket pods, which are made from two halves, plus inserts front and rear, which have their mounts moulded-in, and attach directly to holes drilled earlier under the wings. A large diagram shows the correct location for all the pylons and their loads, and you are advised that drop-tanks weren’t carried under the wings with the rocket packs, which seems sensible. No-one likes to fly home with their wings blown off, after all. Markings There are three decal options on the sheet, and a page near the rear of the booklet shows the location of all the many stencils on a set of grey-scale profiles to avoid cluttering the main profiles. From the box you can build one of the following: 62nd Fighter Sqn., 56th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, July 1944 – Pilot Capt. Frederick Joseph Christensen Jr. 61st Fighter Sqn., 56th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, June 1944 – Pilot Lt. Col. Francis Stanley ‘Gabby’ Gabreski 82nd Fighter Sqn., 78th Fighter Group ‘The Duxford Eagles’, 8th Air Force, Duxford, September 1944 – Pilot Capt. Ben Mayo Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion There are a few other kits of this fighter on the market in this scale of course, but I have a feeling that this will soon become the de facto standard in due course as the selection widens. The detail is exceptional and better still than the alleged ‘Basic Kit’ that preceded it. VERY highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 (CS-006) 1:24 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The Audi R8 is a two-seat sport car from German auto-manufacturing giant VAG, and was introduced in 2007, based on their R8 Quattro concept car, with the same four-wheel drive platform that was heavily based upon the Lamborghini Gallardo initially, then the Huracán for the second generation, with a predominantly aluminium space frame beneath the sleek body panels, reusing the R8 Le Mans Prototype name on a vastly different looking vehicle. A soft-top Spyder was introduced in 2011 giving purchasers the wind-in-your-hair feeling at high speeds, while it was introduced into motorsport just after launch where it fared extremely well, looking fast even when parked. The motorsport-tuned offering was race-prepped on delivery, and cost roughly 2.5 times the street car, but there’s a lot included for the money, driven by a V10 5.2 litre engine outputting over 500hp through all four wheels. Its power, agility and reliability made it a popular purchase for GT racing teams, and a great deal of success followed over the coming years. In 2011 the LMS Ultra was launched, incorporating all the updates over the preceding years along with a wider bodykit that gave it a better aerodynamic performance, plus enhanced software that made gear transitions faster and smoother, widening the torque available to the driver across the range. The R8 moved to the second generation in 2015, with the race-spec option following swiftly behind, incorporating a substantial price rise to almost 440 EUR and a power output nearing 600hp. The intention of the revised Evo was to improve the driver experience to satisfy the wide range of driver types that were behind the wheel of these cars due to its popularity, although the price is still an impediment to anyone of normal means, so we can’t all pick one up to go racing, more’s the pity. The Evo II arrived in 2021 with another price rise, more improvements to aerodynamics, engine and transmission reliability, torque output and heat dissipation, leading to a further improvement in driving experience for the racers. Production was intended to stop in 2023 but was delayed due to the ongoing demand for the type, so it should be seen for some years yet on the track, as even though Audi Motorsport are withdrawing from GT3 racing along with several other major manufacturers, they have agreed to provide tech. support and spares to customers until at least 2032. The Kit This is a new tooling from MENG that is a tribute to the career of this impressive sports car, which is evident by the effort that has clearly gone into creating this model and its packaging. The kit arrives in one of their usual satin-finished boxes with stylised painting of the subject on the front of the top-opening box. Inside are six sprues and a bodyshell in off-white styrene, four flexible black tyres in two sizes, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal with a dark grey coating, a sheet of sticky mirrored labels for the wing and rear-view mirrors, a sheet of black self-adhesive logos, a sheet of fabric-like material with the seatbelts pre-cut, four black poly-caps, pre-weeded masks for the windows on a clear backing sheet, large decal sheet, instruction booklet printed in colour with profiles on the rear pages, an informative booklet detailing the history of the R8 in four languages, which spans over two sides in English, with comparable space in the other languages, which are probably Japanese, Chinese and Russian or other Cyrillic language at a guess. Detail is superb. It’s a MENG kit after all. The quality of the mouldings is first-class and the accessories that come with the kit should mean that most modellers won’t have to expend more on aftermarket, although some are bound to anyway. Construction begins with the flat floor pan, which has a splitter added to the front, and the initial suspension arms in the space where the wheel arches will be. Some detail painting is required along the way, the shades called out in MENG/AK and Acrysion codes, which extends throughout the process. Inner arches are fitted over the front suspension, slotting struts and combining hubs to brake disks with moulded-in callipers, trapping a poly-cap in each one. The hubs are joined by inserting a steering linkage through the back of the arch and clipping it to the arm at the leading edges of the hubs without glue so that the wheels can remain steerable. The lower rear arches are similarly inserted, adding a latch-part for the bodyshell at the rear. Things move to the interior next, making up the seatbelts using the pre-cut material from the sheet mentioned earlier. The various pieces are threaded through the belt furniture to create five-point racing belts, all of which slip through slots into the rear, gluing the ends out of sight. The interior is bereft of any creature comforts in order to save weight, and is instead detailed with the absolute bare necessities for the driver’s use and safety. It starts with the pedal box and fire extinguisher, adding three boxes into the passenger side on the right, another cylinder behind the driver’s seat, and a custom centre console that has a colourful instrument panel decal applied after painting. The steering wheel of a modern racing car is a complex piece of equipment that is covered in buttons, plus an Audi logo, mated to a two-part steering column that is fitted under the dash with a small instrument panel instead of the usual binnacle, with a tubular vent extension directed at the driver to keep him cool. The entire dash is made from carbon fibre, which is replicated here by six shaped decals with carbon weave incorporated, which will need careful application and plenty of decal setting solution to ensure they conform to the shape of the dash. The completed assembly is fitted on a pair of turrets at the front of the interior, then the now complete interior is placed in the floor pan using the same technique. Whilst this model might look like a kerbside kit, the mid-mounted V10 engine is visible through the rear window, and is supplied as part of the kit, all the way down to the sump. The V-shaped block is made from top and bottom halves, adding cylinder heads to the top of each bank, painting them red, and the plugs black. An end cap is added to the transmission with drive-shafts exiting each side, and detail parts are dotted around the block to add interest. Two exhaust manifolds are made from separate halves, adding the exhaust tips at the rear, and fitting them under the cylinder banks on depressions in the surface. The air intake pathway is built from a side-by-side trunking that has a tube laid crossways and two boxes under it, adding it to the top of the engine once completed, installing the completed engine into position in the aft of the floor pan. Like all racing cars, a substantial roll-cage is found inside the car, made from just three parts initially, the aft section with a box-section profile, while the frame in the cab is tubular. It is painted and then installed on the floor, stretching back past the engine assembly to provide extra protection from behind, in the hope that the driver doesn’t get too close to the power plant in the event of a crash. A small bulkhead is made up from a styrene part with a clear upper portion, adding a two-part reservoir to the left side within the engine compartment, then the roof of the cage is made from another large part that is well-detailed, and mates with the rest of the cage to complete the driver’s protection. The rear suspension is created in a similar manner to the front, making up hubs that have a poly-cap in between them and the brake disk/calliper combination, slotting the pivots into holes in the swing-arms, and adding a suspension strut with gaiter in between the arms and an A-frame incorporated into the roll-over cage. The top of the inner arches are fitted to the top of the lower parts added earlier, then the wheels can be made from two pairs of well-moulded rim with spokes around the perimeter, slipping the correctly sized tyres over the front edge and butting them up to the lip at the rear of the rims. Each rim has a pin moulded into the centre rear that slides through the disk hub and into the poly-cap, allowing them to be fitted and removed during construction and painting, whilst letting them rotate freely. The bodyshell has the MENG logo and copyright details moulded into the interior roof in raised letters, plus a few ejector-pin marks in case you want to hide those with some filler and careful sanding. There are also a couple of sprue sections across the windscreen and rear window cut-outs, which should be nipped free and the sprue gates made good before proceeding. You should also decide on a colour to paint the interior, as only some parts have been picked out for painting black, while the main inner surfaces colours are left to you to decide from your references. The window glazing is supplied with masks to assist you with painting the surrounds black, which is the first task, and extends to the front, rear and side windows. A large recess is cut out of the bonnet for the cooling system, which has a deep ‘bath’ inserted that has a two-layer fan assembly inserted before painting and installation. The headlamp reflectors are painted chrome and are inserted into their cut-outs from within, adding another intake in the bumper, after painting it red and applying an R8 decal to the lip, fitting the rear-view mirror in the centre of the windscreen frame, then applying a chrome sticker to depict the mirror surface. The air-intakes for the brakes have their louvres applied to an insert that stretches across the front of the bumper, with another pair fitted into the fronts of the rear arches, the louvres painted red before installation, then two covers are fitted to each of the front corners, adding the headlamp glazing at the same time, plus two aerodynamic strakes on each corner. The aft light lenses are applied to the rear of the car after painting the reflectors chrome, fixing a conical lens in the space below on the right of the bumper. The doors are moulded separately from the bodyshell, and have separate hinge units applied to the A-pillars, and triple louvres added to the upper portion of the B-pillars, adding two decorative accent panels where the quarter-light would be and behind the door, plus two mesh grilles from the PE sheet in the door shut-lines on each side. The doors are made from inner and outer skins that hold the glazing between them, plus a rectangular pivot in the leading-edge, and a wing-mirror that slots into the skin of the door, which has a mirrored sticker inserted into the rear on each side. All this assumes you masked and painted the glazing in one sitting, but if you didn’t you should probably kick yourself about now. The completed doors clip into the hinges without glue, and can be opened and closed whenever you like, joining the bodyshell to the floor pan on the clips added earlier. The large mesh grille for the intake in the bumper is curved, and a jig is included on the sprues to assist with bending it to shape, but it is probably wise not to anneal it for fear of marring the slick black finish. Happily, the curve is gradual, so shouldn’t be an issue. Later variants of the R8 were fitted with a rear wing to add extra downforce, which in this case is made from two L-shaped supports for the separate wing, which has two end-caps attached after painting and decaling with a large Audi Sport logo, a scrap diagram showing the moulding overflow ‘pips’ that should be removed from the support frames. The rear windscreen is masked and framed with black paint, locating it in the styrene boot lid, which is lowered into position over the engine bay, taking care to align the slots with the wing supports that sprout out of the rear of the engine bay frame. Markings This is a special edition depicting the R8 LMS GT3 that competed in 2019, so the decals are specific to this vehicle. From the box you can build the following: Decals are printed in China, having good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. It includes carbon fibre-effect decals for the dash, instrument decals, and four dynamic dotted lines that decorate the sidewalls of the tyres, as well as the branding, red and black striping, plus those small self-adhesive Audi, V10 and R8 logo badges for the front, wing and rear of the vehicle, not to mention four Brembo logos for the brake callipers. Conclusion MENG create good car models, and this one is no exception, with high levels of detail from the box, plus many extras that would be considered aftermarket by many other manufacturers. It also helps that the R8 is a good-looking car in road-going or racing forms. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. German Sd.Kfz.171 Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.A (84830) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Panther was Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarossa. Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of the sloped front and side armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger. It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV. It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled later by the 17-pounder the British fitted to the American Sherman to make it into the more lethal Firefly. The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak, and this area became the preferred target of engaging allied tanks, especially in urban combat where this was a telling issue. Like most German WWII tanks it was filled with advanced engineering and therefore complex to produce, so suffered in terms of output volume, and this led to it being rushed into service with a long tick-list of issues still to resolve. Later production resolved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after breakdown during combat. Confusingly, the Ausf.D was the first to enter production, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability, although this was never fully cured with a high rate of attrition persisting due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires. The Kit There was a discussion thread within the last week here on Britmodeller about why 1:48 didn’t take off as a common scale for AFV modelling, and no-one could come up a definitive reason for it. A possible reason could be that not enough companies were willing to put their time and effort into creating new toolings, amongst others. Now we have this Panther from Hobby Boss to widen the range a little, and we suspect it won’t be the last from them. It is a new tooling, and arrives in a shallow top-opening box in the usual HB style, and inside it is divided up into two areas by a card insert. There are four sprues and three hull parts in tan styrene, a tree of translucent poly-caps, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet, instruction booklet in black & white, plus an A4 sheet of glossy paper, printed in colour on both sides. Detail is good as we’d expect from Hobby Boss, and the inclusion of PE goes further in the quest for realism. Construction begins with the running gear, building up a pair of three-layered idler wheels, eight pairs of road wheels with poly-caps in the middle, suspension bump-stops, the final drive housing with two-part drive sprocket and a small wheel that helps prevent the tank from throwing a track. The rear bulkhead is detailed with a pair of exhausts linked by a cross-brace, a jack with separate handle, plus two stowage boxes with stiffening Xs moulded-in. The lower hull is fitted with armoured final drive surrounds, bump-stops, the drive sprockets, interleaved road wheels and idler wheels on both sides, finishing the lower hull by installing the rear bulkhead. The tracks are link-and-length, with long sections top and bottom, a short straight section on the diagonals, and individual links around the tightly curved ends to the runs. A scrap diagram shows the correct sag to the return run, and of course the task must be carried out on both sides of the vehicle. The top run will be mostly hidden by the side skirts, which are mounted under the sponsons on L-shaped brackets, finishing the front by adding the curved mud guards. Two towing eyes are mounted on the rear on the torch-cut ends of the hull sides, which are smooth and would benefit from adding the texture with a little liquid glue and a blade indented across the end. The upper hull is well-detailed, and should have two small holes drilled at the front of the deck, adding hatches for the front crew, racks filled with separate pioneer tools, and additional racks at the rear that hold spare track links. The large engine inspection hatch is prepared with lifting handles, the driver’s vision port is made from two parts and installed, adding a headlight to the side, and fitting track links to the racks at the rear, then covering the louvres on the engine deck with PE mesh to keep smaller debris such as grenades out of the engine bay. A two-part travel lock is mounted on the front of the hull using the two holes drilled earlier, and a tube for the barrel cleaning rods is locked into place on brackets on the left side of the hull. The turret is moulded with all but the rear face that has a circular hatch moulded into it, plus the roof. It is glued onto the lower turret part, and has a choice of two cupola types for the commander. One has a tapered cast body and vision blocks moulded-in, the other is layered from four parts and has an MG34 machine gun on a pintle mount at the front. The gunner’s hatch is a single part with a handle attached just in front on the corner, leaving just the main gun to build. This is made from the breech, which is not accurate because it won’t be seen, adding two poly-caps to the pivots, the mantlet to the front, and the single-part barrel with slide-moulded hollow muzzle slipped into the front, pushing the completed assembly back into the turret aperture to locate it. The final step involves joining the upper and lower hull halves, and adding the turret to the ring, then installing a pair of width indicator ‘lollipops’ to the front mud guards. Markings As is usual with Hobby Boss, the markings options don’t give any details of when and where the schemes were seen, but give colour codes in Mr Hobby, Acrysion, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol paint systems. From the box you can build one of the following: The sheet includes three rows of 0-9 digits plus a few spare zeroes and 741 codes for one of the decal options, plus two Balkenkruez crosses in case you wish to use them. All the numbers and crosses have a thin white outline, and they appear to be in good register under magnification. Conclusion If you’re looking for a crisply-moulded 1:48 Panther for your next project, this will make a good candidate, striking a balance between size and detail, without unnecessary oversimplification. It will however be a faster build than a 1:35 scale alternative, and take up a lot less space in the cabinet. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. Javelin – The Ukrainian Anti-Tank Crew (MB35229) Russian-Ukraine War Series #6 1:35 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models Ltd The Javelin Anti-Tank missile is a fire-and-forget missile that a small crew can carry into battle against tanks, firing it from a distance before making their getaway without leaving a tell-tale trail of smoke to their current position. It replaced the M47 Dragon in US service, and its automatic infrared guidance carries a HEAT warhead to the target, rearing up at the last minute to carry out a top-down attack on the enemy, where the armour is at its thinnest, increasing its chances of success. Of course, the new generation of infrared dazzler countermeasures can give the enemy a chance of surviving, assuming the detection of the threat occurs in time. The manufacturers estimate that around 5,000 engagements have been made worldwide using the system, although that number must be rising on a daily basis, given the fact that it is being used by Ukraine to defend their homeland from the invader. Usually crewed by two soldiers, the device is man-portable and can be lugged into position for use, making a soft ‘poop!’ sound as it exits the launch tube in what’s called a soft-launch, igniting the main rocket motor once it is a safe distance away from the launch-point, protecting the crew from burns, and if it is a close engagement it gives them an additional fraction of a second to down-tools and make tracks out of the danger zone. In top-attack mode, the climb at the end of the trajectory can take it up to 150m from the ground, but an alternative low-level profile rears up to only 60m to keep visibility to a minimum. The operator of the weapon can work alone for a one-shot mission, but if additional rounds are needed, the weight of the extra missiles requires a carrier to join the party, and during the set-up and aiming phase they act as target spotter and threat assessor, countering the tunnel-vision required of the operator to dial-in the target. The Kit This is a new figure set from Master Box’s Russian-Ukrainian War series, created by a Ukrainian company to honour their armed forces that are helping keep them safe from attack. There is a little bit about that on the back of the box, and they clearly state that a portion of their profits goes toward helping their fight, so you can choose whether to buy it or not, depending on how you feel about that. Nuff said. The set arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box with a painting of a Javelin crew on the front, and a depiction of the models, a sprue diagram, a swatch of camouflage and a paint chart on the rear. Inside is one sprue in grey styrene, although the box shows it in sand, so your boxing may include either colour, which is fine. One crewman is sitting down with his legs out in front, holding the Javelin launch tube on his right shoulder, looking through the sighting unit on the side, and stabilising the weapon with his opposing hand. His colleague is kneeling on one knee and pointing to a potential target, while his other hand appears to be resting on his friend’s shoulder. Both men are wearing BDUs with a tactical vest covered in MOLLE loops over their shirt. They are festooned with pouches, and the spotter has his AK-74 slung barrel-down over his shoulder by its strap. The Javelin is made from nine parts, and is a model in itself, with a patch of digital camouflage printed below the instructions. If you’re not a brave modeller, you could always paint them in a one-colour BDU, or pick up a set of decals from Breeze Decals (35-001), and apply small sections with plenty of decal solution. The colour chart shows codes from Vallejo, Lifecolor, Mr.Color, Tamiya and AMMO brands, plus swatches that should allow anyone to choose their paints from their preferred range. The parts for each figure are found in separate areas of the sprue for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Master Box’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. As well as the AK-74, there is a Malyuk assault rifle that is a home-grown bullpup AK-74 development, sometimes called Vulcan-M, which is probably just as well, as Malyuk translates to ‘baby’, so isn’t all that aggressive a nickname for a weapon. Conclusion Building this figure set as a tribute to the brave fighters of Ukraine in a small diorama base of long grass or snow would look great in your cabinet, especially if you’re one of those crazy people that can create realistic smoke and flame from a recent launch. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. T-34/85 Mod.1945 Plant 112 (37065) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in huge numbers by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front, sometimes even before the paint was fully dry. The designers combined several important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the ground 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 cramped 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 three-man turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. The T-34/85 with the composite turret was manufactured from 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 electrically operated, fitted with a flat roof that had a pair of hatches, one of which was the enlarged commander’s cupola, and with two mushroom vents on the roof to clear fumes from repeated firing. There were some messy welds between the various castings, which gives them a rough appearance 1that belies their capability. The Kit This is a new Interior Kit boxing from MiniArt’s recent T-34 line, so the box is loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes. In total there are seventy-five 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 rear covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, notably the other Factory 112 boxings that we have reviewed here, which is one of the reasons for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and more cost-effective for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving a wide array of options to choose from more likely, which with the rate we’ve received them for review over the years 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 additional modelling funds for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four H-shaped tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear, and a pair of pressurised bottles and an axe in the lower glacis. The low-level ammunition storage boxes are made from several parts and is laid in the floor under the turret, with a transverse bar running under the forward crew. The driver’s equipment area is built, adding levers, pioneer tools and foot pedals with actuators into position, and a rack of plate-mags in a tray behind him. The seats are each made from separate pads that share identical back and arm components, fixing them into position on opposite sides of the hull, plus a drum on the left side. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside face, drilling a pair of holes near the final drive housing to mount a pair of bump-stop pads later. Additional channels are installed on the inner faces, interspersed with tanks, the inner final drive fairing, and additional suspension detail inside the front. Another layer of detail is placed over the sides, adding ready-rounds, extinguishers and small equipment boxes, plus more ammo on a rack near the bow gunner. The lower hull components are brought together while the engine block is being built, comprehensively depicting the detail of the V12 block, cylinder heads, manifolds, ancillaries and support frame under the sump, building the radiators and fan before the cylinder and two radiator panels are inserted into the rear hull, the engine longitudinally mounted, the radiators facing out along the sides of the engine bay at an angle, linking them with lengths of hose between them and their input/output points on the engine. A bulkhead with a large circular hole in the centre is fitted to the centre of the engine bay, filling the space with the cylindrical fan unit made earlier, then adding supports to the rear end, then building the transmission in the rear compartment with twin cylindrical clutch units, one on each end, followed by linkages and the dynamo. Twin cylindrical airboxes are made from three parts each, fixing them to the inner face of the bulkhead, their shapes contoured to fit around the fan component. Two thick exhaust hoses snake from the rear to the bulkhead, linking the manifolds to the rear of the vehicle. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, with an extending 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, fixing an armoured hinge over the driver’s hatch, towing hooks on the glacis, and some combined PE/styrene lugs above them. The upper hull deck and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have several holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way. The glacis plate it fitted to the front, then the assembly is glued to the lower hull, fitting a triangular profile tip across the front, and a row of five track links as combination spares/appliqué armour. 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 a choice of three rear panel that have a circular inspection panel in the centre, drilling some holes for some variants, removing raised detail for another, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers over the short exhaust stubs, and inserting the circular hatch in the centre in open or closed position. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvres that are added with a central inspection hatch, then the completed assembly is fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with louvred grilles are fitted over the large flush louvres later, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, putting the idler axles in at the front, and the small pads mentioned earlier next to the drive sprocket housing. A stowage box is made from two styrene parts with PE brackets and shackles, adding it to the right fender behind a dozen tie-down shackles, and three longer rails on the sloped side of the hull. The driver’s hatch is a complex affair, layered from two thicknesses, adding two periscopes, a bullet-splash shield, an actuator support bracket, and six locking parts, plus a pair of armoured domes over the periscopes on the outside. It can be fitted open or closed, depending on your choice of short or long ram on the hull interior, which also has PE detail. Another stowage box, four more rails, a 2-man saw, and brackets for the spare fuel drums are attached to the left fender, making up two more fuel drum supports on the right, and mounting three rows of track grousers where the tie-downs were glued earlier, stacking six together and using PE straps to hold them down. Three slim fuel drums are built from two halves with end-caps, a filler cap and two PE grab-handles on the ends, also making up two additional short examples, and a further two drums with wire grab-handles moulded-in. The mudguards with PE detail parts are glued into place at the front, with simplified flaps that have PE inner lips to the rear. Depending on which rear bulkhead you chose, different brackets and choice of drums are used, strapping them onto their carriers using PE straps, which are shown being made in a scrap diagram nearby. The longer side tanks are similarly attached, placing two on the right and one on the left of the engine deck, and adding a pair of shovels on a turn-buckle and two PE straps. Ten pairs of road wheels with smooth tyres and separate hub caps are built with two pairs of drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the running gear. 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 efficiently spreading the vehicle’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 for a previous boxing, 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 with the breech, which is built up from dozens of parts over several steps, with another 7.62mm DT machine gun that will be mounted coaxially in the mantlet, with the trunnions fully depicted inside. The turret ring is inserted into the lower turret from within, and the main storage for the bustle ready-rounds is built from five frames that are attached to two angled brackets at the rear, painted, then have the shells with their decal stripes applied after painting inserted tip first, adding locking levers to nubs on one side of the frames. This is inserted into the bustle floor with a stop-board preventing them from falling out, alongside a radio box and some spare magazines for their personal weapons, which are added next with a canister and the rotation mechanism for the turret. A small round fold-up seat is added to the ring, inserting a bracket for another seat across the interior, following which the mantlet is installed, then the breech is slipped into the rear of the mantlet and joined by the sighting gear, then the coax gun in a two-part bracket. Another seat is suspended across the remaining space on three PE straps, The roof is detailed inside with periscopes, wires, lights, vents and other details, applying armoured mushroom shrouds and a short aerial to the exterior in front of the commander’s cupola space, then it is glued to the turret sides, which are moulded as one, briefly prepared by drilling out several holes beforehand. The sidewalls have an interior skin that is first detailed with more ready shells on brackets, spare ammunition magazines, and other small details, then they are glued into position. The commander's cupola is more the complex of the two hatches, made from two rings that has five periscopes inserted in the centre, then it is glued to the roof, creating the hatch frame with a rotating periscope in the fixed forward section, and a simple hatch that can be posed open or closed, adding two small parts inside once it is in position. The Gunner/Loader’s hatch is a simple circular panel with a hinge on one edge, and this too can be posed open or closed as you wish. There are addition details added to the hinge from within, differing in layout between open and closed. The turret halves are then joined, adding tie-downs, a DIY canvas roll that is attached with three PE straps, or if you don’t feel the urge to make a canvas, just leave the straps dangling, or put something else in the straps instead. There is a rectangular cover added over the portion of the breech still visible at the front of the turret, then the slide-moulded gun tube is slotted in, with the mantlet cover slid over the barrel. Rails and a few small parts are fixed to the turret sides, then the completed turret can be lowered into the turret ring in the hull, remembering that this kit doesn’t have toy-like bayonet lugs to hold the turret in place, so you must remember this whenever handling your model after completion. Markings There are seven decal options in the box and they’re all shades of green, which is what you’d expect from a Soviet era-example made in '45 and used after the war. From the box you can build one of the following: 16th Armoured Brigade, Korean People’s Army, 1950 16th Armoured Brigade, Korean People’s Army, 1950 Polish People’s Army, 1950 Polish People’s Army, 1950s National People’s Army of DDR, Early 1960s Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, Early 1960s Operation ‘Whirlwind’ Soviet Army, Hungry, Budapest, Autumn 1956 Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt/gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion The T-34 played a huge part in Soviet military operations both during WWII and after, finding its way into the arsenals of many Soviet-friendly nations following the war, especially once it had fallen out of frontline use in Soviet forces, at which point it became a bargain basement tank for their neighbours and affiliates. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. Calvados Sellers (38071) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Calvados is a French apple Brandy that dates as far back as the 8th century, although it is also made in other countries such as the UK as Cider Brandy. Up until after WWII the produce was typically sold by men carrying round crates of bottles full of Calvados, often on wheeled carts before the motorcar took over as a primary mode of transport. This set depicts a duo of Calvados sellers in traditional garb, pulling a cart laden with crates full of bottles. The set arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box, and inside are seven sprues in grey styrene, two in translucent green and two more in translucent brown. If you’ve already got some of MiniArt’s sets, you might recognise the crate and the bottle sprues from other sets, but the figures are all new. Both men are standing, one in overalls and a cap, carrying a crate across his front, and the other is pulling his cart from behind, wearing an apron with a jacket over the top and a cap like his colleague. The parts for each figure are found on separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The accessories include parts for four crates, all parts with a wooden texture moulded-in, and with internal divides to store the bottles, which are provided on another four translucent sprues, attached to the parts via the bases for minimal clean-up. Construction of these and the cart are covered on the rear of the box, the cart having a planked wooden bed, sprung axles with cart wheels, and two supports to the front that keep the cart level when it is stationary. A fine wooden grain is also moulded into the appropriate areas of the cart to add realism and aid you with painting the model. The paintings on the rear of the box give combined codes for the parts on the sprues, plus the colour codes in blue boxes that correspond to the table near the bottom of the box rear. Conclusion More super figures from MiniArt with dynamic poses, clothing and appropriate accessories that give them their raison d’être. Perfect for your next diorama. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. Butchers (38073) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models This set includes a pair of butchers at work in their profession, dressed typically in clothing that was seen before the modern age, when safety and hygiene are more to the fore, and rightly so. Inside the open-ended figure-sized box are four sprues, two containing the figures and two their equipment, various cuts of meat and a trolley. A combined painting and parts diagram is shown on the rear of the box, the part numbers in black alpha-numerical codes, and the paint in numbers in small blue boxes that correspond to a table near the bottom of the box, which gives suggested colour codes in Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus colour swatches and generic names to help you with choosing your paint. One butcher is standing with his feet planted wide and arms folded, hiding his bulk under a leather apron that has a cleaver hanging from a loop, with a small peaked cap on his head, and a broad handlebar moustache covering his top lip. The other man is wearing an apron under a body-warmer, and has a side of meat resting across his shoulders and held with both gloved hands, protecting his neck with a short towel. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus a sprue of meat to add some detail to their vicinity if you use them in a diorama. There are two half sides of meat in addition to the one being toted, a couple of chickens or turkeys, a hog’s head, a leg of meat, and various sausages in links, rolls or as singles. The last item is a trolley that is shown made up on the rear of the box, adding two wheels on an axle to the ladder chassis, a pair of rear supports, and a stop-end on the lower. Conclusion Fantastically detailed figures and accessories that are just right for a diorama or vignette, either posed in the doorway of their shop, or behind the counter of a street market. You also get the world's happiest decapitated pig, assuring you that no animals were harmed during the making of this set. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. Tool Set (49013) 1:48 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd It's a constant in war or peace that equipment breaks and the mechanics/fitters must repair them, whether it's wear-and-tear, accidental damage, clumsiness, misuse or due to enemy action, it all ends up in the same place if it's deemed suitable for repair, providing it's not behind enemy lines or under heavy bombardment. From WWII onwards, fighting tended to be fast-moving, so transporting anything back to a bricks and mortar workshop well behind the lines is time-consuming, and sometimes impossible, not to mention highly impractical once the lines of communication stretch far enough, so a field workshop is used instead, bringing their tools with them. This can be anything from a literal field to a large empty building that is commandeered by the "grease monkeys" so they can ply their trade. The Kit This set arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box with a detailed painting of the contents on the front, a painting guide on the rear. Inside are six sprues of grey styrene that included many tools, two small frets of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, and a double-sided sheet of instructions that guide you through building the more complex assemblies. There is a compressor with received and transport trolley; a two-part anvil; two styles of bucket/pales with PE handles; a wood saw made from two laminations of PE parts; a bench grinder with two wheels; a bench vice with separate mounting plate; a clamp-on vice with PE winder; two wooden tool boxes with tubular handles and a complement of tools; two wooden step ladders built from three parts each; a bench press drill with belt-drive; a two-man saw made from three PE parts and styrene handles; a hack saw with PE blade; two oxy-acetylene gas bottles with regulators and six spares with caps; a tubular trolley with space for two bottles and cast-iron wheels; an expanding metal tool box in the closed position with PE handle, plus another with the trays swung out that has tools moulded into the trays, the same PE handle and two PE open lid parts. Other parts that need less information or gluing are various hand tools such as various sized hammers, a pick-axe, two different axes, box plane, shovel & spade, pry bar, a pump, a welder’s torch and mask, blow-torch, G-clamp, belly-brace & bit, oil can and two spanners. You are provided with guidance on the colours of everything in the box on the rear, using swatches, colour names and paint codes from Vallejo, Mr.Color, AMMO, AK RealColor, Mission Models, and Tamiya, but other than the metal tool surfaces, most parts can be any colour you wish, within reason. Conclusion Detail is excellent, and is a perfect backdrop of a 1:48 diorama, providing items that have previously been unavailable separately or hard to find in styrene at this scale before. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. StuH.42 Ausf.G Mid Prod. Jul-Oct 1943 (35385) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Following WWI the German military had identified a weakness in their forces, in that their advancing troops often left behind the support of their artillery as they moved forward, leading to a call for the creation of Sturmartillerie, which was effectively a mobile artillery piece that could travel alongside their forces, providing valuable protection. By the time the Nazis were gearing up their economy and military for war more openly, a requirement for just such a vehicle was made official, mating the chassis of the then current Panzer III with a short-barrelled 75mm gun in a fixed armoured casemate with limited traverse, which gave the type a distinctive howitzer-style look. In the later variants a longer high-velocity gun, the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 replaced the shorter gun to give it an improved penetrating power that was more in alignment with the Tank Killer job that it had become used for. These vehicles were designated Ausf.F or G, and were amongst the most produced version of this almost ubiquitous WWII tank. A project to up-gun the StuG was instigated using an Ausf.F chassis and a 10.5cm leFH 18 howitzer, taking the name Sturmhaubitze 42 or StuH 42 for short. The rounds were electrically fired, and it was to be fitted with a muzzle-brake to bleed off some of the recoil, and a dozen of this type were made from repaired Ausf.F examples, then almost 1,300 built as infantry support that were based on the Ausf.G, some without their muzzle-brakes due to the limited availability of certain metals as the war continued to turn against the Nazis, thanks to the Allied bomber force bombing their industrial base into rubble on a 24/7 schedule. The Kit MiniArt have now released several toolings of the late StuG III and this minor retool to depict the howitzer equipped sub-variant is a continuation of the Ausf.G series, which had changes layered on changes during the final batches as the war ground to its ultimate conclusion. This boxing depicts a mid-production vehicle, and arrives in a standard top-opening box in the MiniArt style, with attractive artwork and decal profiles on one side. Inside the box are forty-three sprues in mid-grey styrene, one in clear, two large Photo-Etch (PE) frets of brass parts, decal sheet, and glossy-covered instruction booklet with colour profiles in the front and rear. Detail is excellent throughout, which is just what we’ve come to expect from modern toolings by MiniArt, with so much detail crammed into every part of the model, including individual track links that are different from the earlier pre-series kit we reviewed some time ago. Construction begins with the floor, which receives the torsion suspension bars with their fittings, a pair of runners to support the engine that isn’t part of this boxing, and the support structure for the gun, which is made up from substantial beams that have a traverse shoe placed on top to give the gun its limited 15° travel for fine-tuning lateral aim. The rear bulkhead is set against the engine mounts with its exhausts and towing eyes applied to the exterior later, and the hull sides are mated to the floor, with the bases for the final drive housing glued either side of a choice of three styles of front bulkhead, installing the engine firewall in the centre of the floor for structural strength. The glacis plate with transmission inspection hatches are given a similar treatment, plus another appliqué panel, and the usual exhaust covers, towing lugs that have pins with PE chain-retainers and idler protection are added to the rear, and a radiator exhaust assembly with PE grille is made up and applied above it, adding some heat deflecting tinwork to the hull. Narrow bolted panels are added to the sides of the hull in preparation for the upper hull parts that are added next. Before the gun can be fitted, the walls of the casemate must be made up, and these are well-detailed externally, including vision slots and lifting eyes. The shape of the casemate is completed with the addition of the front wall, which has a large cut-out to receive the gun in due course. The front of the casemate is built out forward with a sloped front and some bolted appliqué armour, dropped over the front of the lower hull and joined by the breech assembly, which is covered by an armoured panel after armoured protectors to the mounting bolts have been glued over them. The commander’s cupola is built on a circular base into which seven clear periscopes are slipped, completing the task later with several protectors, PE details and a set of V-shaped binocular sighting glasses in the separate front section of the cupola that can be open or closed independently of the main hatch. Much of the gun breech detail is represented, and a large trunnion is fitted onto the two pins on the sides of the assembly. Elevation, traverse, and sighting gear is installed on the breech, although it’s unlikely to be seen as anything other than a dim shadow within, especially once the roof is in place. The roof-mounted MG34 has a separate breech cover and a drum mag, fitting on the roof in the ready-for-action post with the gunner’s hatch open behind it, and the gun slipped through the slot in the splinter shield. It can also be posed pushed down flat with the gun absent and the hatch closed for travel. The engine deck is built up with tapered sides and armoured intake louvres added outside them, drilling two holes for three of the decal options, which are covered with PE meshes as the deck is glued down onto the engine bay. A length of spare track links is fixed across the rear of the casemate with the fume extraction armour in the centre with the barrel cleaning rods underneath, lashed to the deck with PE and styrene parts, then the four hatches are made with armoured vents. two pairs of road wheels are carried on the deck on six pins welded to the rearmost pair of hatches, with a flat stowage box mounted between them on PE brackets. In reverse of many AFV kits, the hull sides are decorated with suspension parts, the idler wheels and final drive housings, adding three turrets on each side that carry the return-rollers later. A group of pioneer tools are dotted around the sides of the engine deck, including a fire extinguisher with PE frame, after which the paired wheels are fixed to the axles, with drive-sprockets at the front and idler wheels with PE rings at the rear, plus a trio of paired return rollers near the top of the hull sides. https://www.britmodeller.com/reviews/creative/miniart/kits35/35385-stuh.42.ausf.g.mid/sprue10.jpg https://www.britmodeller.com/reviews/creative/miniart/kits35/35385-stuh.42.ausf.g.mid/tracks.jpg The tracks are individual links that are friction-fitted, using 94 links per side, and each link has three sprue gates to clean up, plus an occasional wisp of flash on the highly detailed sides, which will need scraping away with a sharp blade. I created a length in short order, and the result is a very well-detailed track with flexibility to adjust them around the running gear of your model, and as they are a tight fit, they shouldn’t need glue, but I’d probably set them in position with liquid glue once I had them how I wanted them on the vehicle. Once they’re in place, one of two types of fenders are attached to the hull sides on small brackets, with mudguards and tiny PE fittings added once the glue has dried. More pioneer tools and stowage are added to these, as space was a premium on these vehicles, and every flat surface ended up with equipment on it. This includes a convoy light mounted in the centre of the glacis, and either the highly detailed PE fire extinguisher or a simplified styrene alternative if you prefer on the rear left fender. Shovels, pry bars, track-tools, jack blocks and the jack are also found on the fenders, as are the two towing cables, which have styrene eyes and you’ll need to supply the 107mm cable material yourself, with a set of PE tie-downs holding them and the tools in place on each side. The short howitzer barrel is a single part with hollow muzzle and two-part brake insert, sliding into the short sleeve via an end-cap, the sleeve moulded into the front of the inverted saukopf mantlet that is made from an additional two parts before it is slid over the recoil tubes and breech. A pair of aerials are installed on the corners of the casemate rear wall, and variations of additional track lengths as appliqué armour at the rear, under the glacis or on the armoured sides of the mantlet. Some decal options add the brackets for the Schürzen along the sides of the hull and fenders with a few small added outriggers, although two decal options don’t have them fitted. The four PE schürzen panels per side are detailed with additional rectangular panels on their upper surface, and once the glue between the two layers of PE has cured, you simply hang them on the hooks, gluing them in place if you wish. Markings There are six markings options included on the decal sheet, all of them with varying camouflage based upon dunkelgelb with splotches or patterns of other colours to a greater or lesser extent. From the box you can build one of the following: 5.Komp. II. Abt. Pz.Reg. Hermann Göring, Italy, 1943 Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, Autumn, 1943 3. Pz.Gren.Div. ‘Totenkopf’, Eastern Front, Autumn, 1943 Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, Autumn, 1943 StuG. Abt. 237., Eastern Front, Elnya, Autumn, 1943 StuG. Abt. 276., Eastern Front, Autumn, 1943 Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness, and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion Whilst it might easily be mistaken for a StuG if you don’t notice the barrel, the StuH is just a little different from the usual, with its stubby barrel, the muzzle brake giving it a more aggressive look. The detail in the kit is excellent, and it will keep you busy for many a happy hour. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. M1A2 SEP Abrams Tusk II US Main Battle Tank (72-003) Meng via Creative Models Ltd The Abrams Main Battle Tank is the direct replacement to the M60, when it was realised that the venerable design was ill-suited to further modification to cope with emerging threats that were entering the battlespace. The new design entered limited service in 1980 and went on to become the main heavy tank in the Army and Marines branches of the American armed forces. It saw extensive action in the two Gulf Wars, where it fared extremely well against older Soviet designs with minimal damage inflicted in a tank-on-tank fight due to its composite armour and accuracy at extended range. It was developed further with the AIM programme, which upgraded the battle management systems and returned the vehicles to factory fresh condition. The A2 was improved again, giving the commander his own sighting system as well as other system changes. The SEP received additional changes to its armour and systems, with a remote weapons station added later. With the involvement of the Abrams in urban combat during the Afghanistan campaign, it became clear that the tank was vulnerable in close-quarters combat, where the top of the tank was open to attack from small arms fire, and RPGs could be used with relative safety of the firing team, who could pop up and disappear in between shots, giving the tank crews little indication of where the shot originated. The problems of IEDs buried under roads or in buildings also disabled several tanks in action, all of which led to the TUSK and improved TUSK II upgrade packages, which stands for Tank Urban Survival Kit. To counter IEDs a shallow V-shaped keel was added to the underside to deflect blast away from the hull, reactive armour blocks were added to the side skirts and turret, and bullet-resistant glass and metal cages were mounted around the crew hatches on the turret to provide protection for the crew during urban operations, or if they were called upon to use their weapons in combat. A combat telephone was also installed on the rear of the tank to allow better communication between accompanying troops and the tanks, as well as slat armour at the rear to protect the exhaust grilles of the gas turbine engine, the blast from which was directed upwards by a deflector panel that could be attached to the grille to avoid cooking the troops behind. The TUSK II kit improved on the original TUSK with shaped charges incorporated into the ERA blocks on the sides of the tank, and additional shields for the crew when exposed. Both kits were field-installable, which reduced the cost and time the vehicles spent out of commission. The A3 variant is intended to incorporate many weight-saving changes, such as internal fibre-optic data transmission, lightness of armour and gun, amongst many other improvements. This is still distant and far from guaranteed, given the changes already seen in planning that have included a totally new platform, so it looks like the A2 will be around for some time yet, possibly until 2050 while the politicians make up their minds. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Meng from their new 1:72 scale AFV range, and it arrives in a sturdy end-opening box that should be as hard to crush as any top-opener. Attractive box art is found on top, while painting details are on the back of the box, and inside are six sprues of light grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small decal sheet, and a black and white instruction booklet in portrait A5, with a sprue diagram on the rear page. Detail is good, with link-and-length tracks, separate ERA blocks, raised weld-lines, and detailed road wheels that are moulded individually, rather than in a long run as with earlier kits from other manufacturers. In terms of detail, this could well become the de facto standard in this scale, based on what we have seen. Construction begins with sixteen paired road wheels and two drive sprockets, all of which are made from two halves, and are set to one side while the lower hull is made up from floor and two side panels that slot into the back of the suspension mounts moulded into the floor for a strong bond. The swing arms are moulded into the floor, save for the two forward wheel stations, which are linked together by a damper, and are formed from a separate part that is slotted into holes in the side walls along with two return rollers per side. The TUSK keel, front idler wheel and rear drive sprocket are then installed so that the tracks can be made up, built from two long runs top and bottom, two diagonal lengths under the ends, and a curved section of three links to fit around the ends of the road wheels. The Abrams doesn’t have much in the way of sag in the top track run, but these won’t be seen, so it’s a little accuracy hidden away, and it’s possible the top run could be omitted to save modelling time if you feel the urge. The upper hull has headlight clusters and the driver’s hatch fitted before the lower hull it given a rear bulkhead, which also has light clusters moulded into the rear in cylindrical projections, adding a field telephone box, towing hook and eye, plus the afore mentioned blast deflector for the hot exhaust. The two hull halves can then be mated, and the side-skirts installed, followed by the curved ERA panels over the top, locating them on four lugs in the surface of the skirts. The majority of the turret is moulded as a single part, with just the rear bulkhead a separate part with the crosswind sensor pole moulded-in, adding the gunner’s hatch, the binocular FLIR box on top with optional open doors to display the clear lenses, a spare ammo box for the pintle-mounted crew weapons, and the drum-shaped gunner’s primary sight to the roof. The gun is moulded as one part with the fume extractor hump and a separate muzzle with velocity sensor, after which it is plugged into the mantlet, with coax machine gun moulded-in, held in position by gluing the top and bottom turret halves together, taking care to keep the glue away from the pivots. Each side of the turret has a set of stowage boxes with IFF placards moulded-in, topped with a lid and separate ammo can, fitted in place with the smoke discharger packages at the front on their mounts. Armour plates and ERA blocks are applied over the front portions on both sides, leaving the IFF boards exposed, and installing the top of the mantlet on a tab, again being careful with the glue. The aircon unit is fixed to the floor of the stowage area at the rear of the turret, mounting the tubular frame, IED disruptor aerials, another tubular rack for more storage that includes a couple of jerry cans, and a separate IFF board hung on the rear. Crew protection is begun by installing a protective shroud around the left of the gunner’s hatch, creating the machine gun emplacement on a ring around which the heavily modified LMG is rotated, protected at the sides by two window panels that have clear panes in the centre, and for once the thickness of the glazing is suitable for the scale. A third glass panel is fitted to the right, with another without a window on the left, which usually faces the commander’s more complex cupola. An eight-block vision-block ring is inserted from under the cupola, which has a two-part hatch inserted into the centre, then the M2 .50cal with ammo box is slipped through the front splinter guard, which has two clear panes installed, adding a three-facet fixed set with individual windows on the right, and another two-part pair of windowed panels on the left, all of which fit into the top of the cupola on slots. As if there weren’t enough guns available, the remote .50cal mount over the mantlet is attached with an ammo box on a separate bracket. To finish the build, the turret is lowered onto the hull and twisted into position, locking on a pair of bayonet lugs moulded into the turret ring that correspond with notches in the hull ring. Markings There is only one decal option supplied in this boxing, the details of which are found on the rear of the box. It’s a desert vehicle from Iraq, painted a desert tan. From the box you can build the following: The decals are printed in China, and beyond that we don’t have any more information. Under magnification they are a little hazy, but once applied they should look fine to the Mk.1 eyeball, especially after a little weathering to the finished model. Don’t let it put you off, as everything looks worse under 3x magnification. Conclusion A well-detailed new tooling of the almost ubiquitous Abrams in smaller scale, which should put some of the older tools out to grass, and allow modellers to build a more detailed, modern US MBT out of the box, and at a pretty reasonable price in our inflation-soaked world. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. Men with Wooden Barrels (38070) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Wooden barrels. You don't see so many of them these days without flowers sprouting from them, but before mass-produced metal and plastic barrels became the de facto standard, they would have been much more prevalent where large quantities of anything needed to be stored. Everyone’s thinking of beer right now, but they have been used for a great many things over the years, so they’re not only found in pubs and breweries. Barrels need someone or something to move them around, most of the hard work being done by wagons called drays that were pulled by cart horses fed on hay and grain, later to be moved around by internal combustion engined trucks. Moving them the last few yards was still usually a manual job, requiring strong folk to roll them around and take them to their final resting place, at least until they’re empty. The Kit It arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box with four sprues, plus a sheet of decals for stencilling of the ends of the barrels. There are four barrels of two types, one larger than the other, plus two figures to do the heavy lifting. It is worthy of note that the barrels have plank grooves inside, so an empty barrel without a lid is just as realistic, and there are supports to allow you to place the barrels horizontally, plus a spigot for a barrel that’s already been tapped. The two gentlemen doing the lifting are well-built types, one of a slighter stature that is wearing a shirt, apron and beret, with a pair of stout gloves tucked into his waist. The burly man is wearing a simple pair of denim dungarees and boots, wearing nothing on his exposed upper body save for the bib and braces over his shoulders. He is a muscular fellow from years of barrel wrangling, and you will need to fill the joints between his arms and torso as a result as the seam runs around his shoulders by necessity. The parts for each figure are found on separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed where possible along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. Markings The small decal sheet includes four stencils for the barrel ends, and the back of the box shows where to place them, and suggests some colours to paint the figures if you’re short on inspiration with paint codes from Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus generic names and swatches. Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion Great figures for any diorama with the need for some barrels and men to shift them. Put them in the background or front-and-centre of your next creation to add some human scale. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. Wooden Barrels (49014) 1:48 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Wooden barrels. You don't see so many of them these days without flowers in them, but before mass-produced metal and plastic barrels became the de facto standard, they were much more prevalent where large quantities of anything needed to be stored. Everyone’s probably thinking of beer right now, but they have been used for a great many things over the years, so they’re not only found in pubs and breweries. The set arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box with five identical sprues, and instructions printed on the rear of the box. It gives you a substantial quantity of styrene barrels in different sizes with various hoop patterns. It is worthy of note that the barrels also have plank grooves inside, so an empty barrel will be just as realistic to an intrepid viewer. Each barrel can be built as an ordinary barrel from two halves plus two end-caps, or with the addition of a spigot on one end, they can be mounted horizontally on a trestle that allows them to rest on their sides without them rolling away. There are four types of barrels on each sprue, so five of each can be made, and each one can be laid on a trestle if you wish, totalling twenty barrels in two sizes and two hoop styles for each size. Conclusion Barrels are an excellent cargo for vehicles, carts, or to fill empty spaces within a building. The detailed wooden texture can be brought out with careful painting or dry-brushing, adding patina to the metal banding for some contrast. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. Cheese Sellers (38076) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Anyone for a wheel of cheese? It sounds a little strange referring to cheese that can be bought as a wheel, but that’s how cheese was originally made, either as a shallow cylindrical ‘wheel’, or a portion or wedge for those with a lesser appetite or budget. Up until relatively recently, that’s how it was sold, and could be purchased from a street vendor before we sullied the air with coal dust and other contaminants. This set arrives in an end-opening figure box, and contains two figures, a cheese cart, six shallow trays, a LOT of cheese of various shapes and sizes, plus a sack trolley for the larger cheese wheels if you wish to use it. Inside the box are twelve sprues in grey styrene of various sizes, a small decal sheet, and an instruction sheet for the cheese cart and trolley. The back of the box sports a highly detailed rendering of the cover art with the background removed, plus several small paintings that depict the various cheeses and the trolley, giving part numbers and colour suggestions for them all, including the figures, accompanied by a table that gives colour codes for Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, and Tamiya. The parts for each figure are found on separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. One character is a lady in a skirt and blouse with an apron and pleated hat indicating she’s the seller, that and the fact that she’s wearing white gloves and is cutting into a wheel of cheese. The other person is a lady in a knee-length sleeveless dress, counting her change before putting it back in the bag hung over one arm. The thickness of the hem of the skirt has been slimmed down to give a more realistic effect, as is that of the cheese purveyor. The cheeses are found on four identical sprues, plus another two with smaller cheeses and some meat, some of the cheeses of the holey variety. There are also two sprues of trays, each containing parts for three, the planked bases having the longer sides moulded-in, adding separate ends with handles cut-out of the centre. The boxes are displayed on the cart, which has a planked base, two rails with stands and suspension moulded-in, and handles at the end, across which the axle fits along with two spoked wheels. The boxes are raised to an angle on a pair of stands that locate in holes in the cart’s deck. The trolley for the big cheeses is made from a ladder with a C-shaped bracket at the bottom, an axle and small wheels, plus short supports near the handle ends. Markings You are at liberty to paint the figures, cart and trolley any colour you like, but the cheeses are usually some variation between yellow and orange, with a few exceptions such as Edam with its waxy red covering. The decal sheet that is included with the model is printed with a plethora of labels for your painted cheeses, four of them larger, the rest in more moderate sizes, which should be enough to finish the cheeses included in the box, especially if you apply decals to only the top cheese of any stacks you make. Decals are screen-printed by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion Whilst people wouldn’t be selling cheese in the middle of a street battle, there are still plenty of opportunities to incorporate this set into your next diorama, vignette, or just build and paint it for the sake of having it on your shelf. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Tempo E400 Railway Maintenance Truck with Personnel (38063) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The A400 Lieferwagen was another of Hitler’s standard vehicles that is perhaps lesser known than the Beetle. It was originally designed as the E400 and produced by company Tempowerk Vidal & Sohn from 1938, and was joined by an identical Standard E-1 that was manufactured in another factory. It was one of the few factories that were permitted to carry on making civilian vehicles, although this permit was eventually withdrawn as the state of the war deteriorated for Germany. After WWII ended, the company began making the type under the original E400 name, and it had a different BMWesque twin panelled front grille. It continued in production until 1948 when it must have finally dawned on someone that one wheel at the front was a really bad idea, even if it was cheaper. A concept that lingered on in the UK much longer so old geezers with motorcycle licenses could scare other road users effectively, and by carrying a football in the boot, they could emulate a giant whistle. It’s an old joke, but it checks out. Unsurprisingly to anyone that watched that episode of Top Gear, the wagon was a little unstable in the corners due to its single front wheel, and the weight of its front-mounted engine probably made matters worse, with a chain drive from the motor to the wheel. The two-stroke 400cc engine in the A and E output 12 hp that gave it sluggish performance at best, which was probably just as well due to the front wheel instability. The driver was situated behind the front wheel and short cowling that hid the engine away, with a pair of side doors for entry and exit, and a single-panel windscreen that overlooked the bonnet/hood. The open load area was to the rear of the vehicle, with faired-in sides and rear tailgate for easy access to the contents. Construction begins with the small cab floor, which has a planked texture engraved on its surface, and is fitted out with foot pedals, a hand-brake lever and narrow cylindrical chassis rail, plus a battery attached to the floor on the left. The front bulkhead has a clear rounded windscreen popped in, a short steering column and a drooping lever, with the windscreen wiper motor cover added to the top of the screen’s frame, drilling two holes in the top corners, and fitting as small PE part on the bottom left of the firewall. The windscreen assembly is attached to the front of the floor with a pot for the washers and the conversion stub of the steering column, with a pair of PE wiper blades added in a boxed diagram, plus the bonnet latch in the centre. The padded bench seat for the crew is slotted into the floor, and the back is attached to the rear bulkhead that has two side hinge panels and a small clear window for later joining to the floor, and you’ll need to find some 0.3mm wire 24.6mm long to represent the linkage to the floor-mounted brake lever and the back of the cockpit. The steering wheel and rear bulkhead are glued in along with the roof, then the two crew doors a made up, having clear side windows plus winders and handles that are quite delicate for realism, then they are installed on the cab, remembering that they hinge rearward in the manner sometimes referred to as suicide doors, as if the three-wheeler wasn’t dangerous enough! The rear chassis is built around a tubular centreline member with the back axle and its triangular bearers slipping over it and adding hubs with brake discs at each end. A sturdy V-shaped brace is added between the ends of the axle and the other end of the cylindrical chassis rail, with a large jointing part between them. The rear wheels are made from a main part that includes the tyres and back of the hub, with a choice of two inserts slipped inside to represent two different hub cap styles, that are then fitted onto the axles on short pegs, with a brake-lines made from some more of your own 0.3mm wire and suspended from the frame on PE brackets that are folded over the wire, then glued to the frame with an etched-in rivet giving the impression that it is attached firmly to the chassis. The load bed floor is a single part, adding side panels, lights on a PE bracket, adding angle brackets to the front for attachment to the cab. The tailgate is fitted with a choice of two styles of PE number plate, adding rear arches to ridges on the side panels, then old-school swinging pegs that are fitted between the sides and tailgate. After the rear axle and chassis tube have been fitted under the load bed and mated with the cab, the slide-moulded cowling for the engine is fitted-out with two fine PE radiator meshes, an internal deflector panel, PE numberplate under the grille, a pair of PE clasps on the lower rear edge of the bonnet, and a tiny hook on the top in between two rows of louvres that hooks onto the latch at the top of the windscreen. The little engine is one of the last assemblies, and is superbly detailed with a lot of parts representing the diminutive 400cc two-stroke motor and its ancillaries, including radiator, fuel tank, exhaust with silencer and chain-drive cover that leads to the front axle. The completed assembly comprises the motor, axle and the fork that attaches to the front of the cab and is wired in using more lengths of 0.3mm wire from your own stocks, which the instructions advise you makes you an “experienced modeller”. Isn’t that nice? After installing the front wheel and finishing the wiring, the cowling can be fixed in the open or closed position, when the little hook latches onto a clip on the roof over the windscreen, holding it up past vertical against the screen. A couple of headlamps with clear lenses are fitted on the sides of the cowling and a pair of wing mirrors on angled arms are glued to holes in the front of the bulkhead on each side, with a PE bracket giving the appearance that the etched rivets are what holds it in place. MiniArt have considerately included a handful of sprues of parts for you to add to the load bed of your newly-minted E400 wagen, including two track ties/sleepers, bucket, fire extinguisher, lantern, blowtorch, and various hand-tools for you to use at your whim, or load it up with a loose cargo, such as a big pile of ballast as seen in the profiles below. Figures Four figures and a collection of tools and accessories pertinent to their trades are included, in various poses to add a human scale to the model. There’s a man bending forward whilst lifting a shovel-load of aggregate, another oiling something (hopefully not the other fellow’s ear), and a chap holding a toolbag, oily rag, and a lantern, then a more smartly dressed gentleman who is either their boss, the lookout, or both. He’s holding a small trumpet to his lips as if to blow a warning note to get the crew off the lines. The two accessory sprues carry a tool bag and box, folio case, a large shovel, oil-can, lamp, lollipop, handheld torch, and a folded flag for the gang boss to wear on his hip for easy access. The parts for each figure are found in separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing, textures and accessories appropriate to the parts of the model. The painting guide on the rear of the instructions doubles as the construction guide, and if you look carefully you’ll see that you need to supply a length of wire for the small lamp that one of the figures is holding. You’ll also need to make up the ballast or whatever it is that the shovelling man is moving, but as you’re likely to be putting him into a backdrop with your own choice of groundworks, that shouldn’t present a problem. Paint colours are given as swatches in the codes of Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO and the colour name in English, so finding a suitable shade from your own stocks will be a doddle. Markings There are four decal options for the truck on the sheet, all painted in a solid colour and decorated with the markings of the operator. From the box you can build one of the following: Deutsche Reichbahn, Early 1940s Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD), Early 1940s Deutsche Reichsbahn, 1940s Deutsche Bundesbahn, 1950s Deutsche Reichsbahn, DDR, 1950s Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion It’s weird with a handful of quirky, so of course like it, and MiniArt have also done a great job with making an easy to build, well-detailed kit of this quirky little German grandfather to the Robin Reliant. I guaranteed there would be more of these coming, and I was right – I’ve lost count of how many we’ve had a look at now. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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