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  1. British B-Type Armoured Lorry (39006) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Born in Manchester, Charles Samson was a Naval aviator (stay with me) who saw action commanding an RNAS squadron by the beginning of WWI, but due to a frustrating lack of functional aircraft to fly against the enemy, he and his cohorts took it upon themselves to take the fight to the Germans using their personal vehicles that they had shipped across from Blighty, initially arming them with machine guns, then shipping more vehicles across the Channel that had been up-armoured with steel plate in the Royal Navy workshops. The shipment included a few trucks that had been similarly hardened and fitted with loupes that permitted the crew to fire on the enemy from the relative safety of the vehicle. This was the beginning of the RNAS Armoured Car Squadron, and they were nicknamed Samson’s Motor Bandits, a typically WWII-style name, reminiscent of a character from Biggles. They were shipped Type-B buses as part of their consignment, which had been stripped of their civilian bodywork and fitted with an armoured cab and a similarly armoured open-topped load-bed that had sloped sides with a recurved lip to deflect any rounds striking the vehicle’s sides, leaving the gunners without an additional nostril. The solid tyres could handle hits from small-rounds too, and the driver was protected by a frontal panel, part of which could fold back to afford him a better view when the precipitation didn’t include lead. Speaking of precipitation, the top of both compartments were open to the elements, but also grenades, so keeping moving was key to their survival. As the Germans became more used to these raiders visiting them around the Dunkirk and Antwerp areas, they deployed light field guns where they were expected, which led to the fitting of at least one Type-B with a cannon to counter them, also adding heavier fire support to their raids. The Kit Sharing a few sprues with the original Type-B Omnibus on which it was based, this is a predominantly new tooling from MiniArt, depicting these brave and reckless lunatics from WWI. The kit arrives in a top-opening box with a painting of the subject on the front, and inside are nine sprues in various sizes in grey styrene, a small clear sprue, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE), decal sheet, and the usual A4 instruction booklet, printed in colour on glossy paper, with a full colour painting guide on the rear page. Detail is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt, with a smattering of slide-moulding going on to improve detail without increasing the part-count unduly. The kit is also a full rendering of the vehicle, including chassis, engine and both crew and passenger compartments. Construction begins with the engine, which is typically Heath-Robinson in accordance with style of the era, depicting the cylinder block, sump, paired cylinders that have tappit springs running down the outsides, plus a surprisingly spindly exhaust manifold, and the usual accessories that make things work. There are also diagrams for the advanced modeller to add wiring from the cylinder heads to the ‘sandwich box’ that is more likely some kind of predecessor to a distributor. A large fly-wheel and clutch assembly is made up and added to the first-motion shaft at one end of the motor, building a transfer box and short drive-shaft for later use. The chassis is made from two outer rails with a surprising ten cross-members and two side-mounted L-beams to the topside of the rails where the engine is to be installed next. It fixes to two of the cross-members on lugs, then has the fan and its belt inserted on one of the beams with an A-frame holding it above the chassis. The chassis is kept inverted for the time-being, adding leaf-springs beside the motor, and two more at the rear with a pair of suspension cones outside the rails. An armoured surround is mounted around the fly-wheel, and after righting the chassis, the three-part steering box is mated with the right rail next to the fly-wheel. The armoured bulkhead and front cab wall are fixed to the chassis with a choice of open or closed driver vision-ports, then the radiator is built up, starting with the two-part core, plus top, bottom and side covers, closing it up with a curved header and filler-cap assembly. The mounting brackets are added to the sides, and a set of protective railings are glued to the front, installing it at the front of the engine bay, linking the feeder hose from the top of the cylinder head. Beneath the chassis, the rear axle is built with a differential bulge at the centre, fitting three linkages to brackets on the chassis once it is in place on the rear leaf-springs. The front axle with steering arm is installed on the front springs, with a pair of linkages threaded through the rails after it is in place. The transfer box made earlier is mounted in the centre of the chassis on two cross-members, linking the rear axle to the back of it with another drive-shaft and protecting it with an armoured cover. A double linkage is made up and inserted between two members, with two diagrams showing how it should look from both ends. The steering wheel is mounted on a long column and slipped into the steering box, adding the horn and gear-shifter to the bulkhead, another lever in the floor and two pedals in the floor after it has been glued to the chassis behind the bulkhead. The centre support is added between the radiator and bulkhead, supporting the two-part cowlings on the side, which have optional plaques or vehicle numbers on the PE sheet. These can be glued closed or open by following one of the two diagram choices, and you can mix and match open and/or closed as you like it. Inverting the chassis again, the exhaust downpipe, muffler and exit pipe are joined together with PE rings between the parts, fitting it in place on the cross-rails, and mounting the hand-brake for the front and rear axles to the right rail on the outside, with a linkage included for the rear brake. On the left side a foot-step is installed on a bracket, and a fire extinguisher that does a creditable impression of a milk churn is mounted on the bulkhead on a platform and held in place by a PE belt. The rest of the cab is built with asymmetrical sides to include an access door, and a bench seat with stowage box underneath, adding the rear armour before fixing it to the chassis, with a dropped front armour plate below the radiator that allows a pass-through hand-cranking handle. More armoured sheet in the shape of a plough is installed to protect the radiator, with the option of folding up the lower front portion to increase ventilation to the radiator that is held in place by a pair of PE clips. The passenger compartment is built on a flat wooden planked floor, adding trapezoid front and rear bulkheads, and sloped side armour, then fixing U-shaped supports for the three bench seats to the insides of each side, which can then drop into position, securing them with glue if you want. Five cross-braces are installed under the floor, and when it is glued onto the chassis, the twin bolts are topped off with straps in a similar manner as U-bolts. A curved fender is fitted to the sides of the engine compartment by a pair of brackets, to which a highly-detailed lamp on a Y-shaped bracket with a PE top and clear lens in the front, attached to the front of the cab by a PE bracket. The wheels are spoked, although the rear wheels are twin-wheeled to take the extra weight, and made from stronger designs that give them a more modern ‘Lamborghini’ appearance (if you squint). The front rims have two wheel halves assembled around them, while the rear wheels have fatter double tyres and a large two-part boss inserted into the centre, all of which slides onto the axles. The vehicle is finished off by adding grab handles on the sides and rear of the fighting compartment, plus three short ladders hanging down below the floor for easy access. Markings This was a very niche vehicle type, and as a result only one scheme is provided, which is a neutral, possibly Admiralty Grey, the codes for which are given in Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and generic colour names to assist you in picking the correct shade. From the box you can depict the following vehicle: 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 An interesting conversion of a Type-B bus into an early armoured car used to carry out some seat-of-the-pants derring-do by this larger-than-life character and his cohorts during WWI. The kit is well-detailed, and all those grey panels are begging to be weathered and splattered with mud. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. StuG III Ausf.G 1945 Alkett Prod. (35388) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The StuG is a German WWII AFV that is popular with modern modellers, and the more you learn about it, the more obvious it becomes why. The SturmGeschutz III was based upon the chassis of the Panzer III, but removed the turret and front deck, replacing it with an armoured casemate with a lower profile that mounted a fixed gun with limited traverse. It was originally intended to be used as infantry support, using its (then) superior armour to advance on the enemy as a mobile blockhouse, but it soon found other uses as an ambush predator, and was employed as a tank destroyer, hiding in wait for Allied forces to stumble haplessly into its path, where it could be deadly. With the advances in sloped armour employed by the Soviets, the original low velocity 75mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon was replaced by higher velocity unit that was also used in the Panzer IV for tank-on-tank combat, extending the type’s viable career to the end of WWII. The earliest prototypes were made of mild steel and based on a Panzer III Ausf.B chassis, and while equipped with guns, they were unsuitable for combat due to the relative softness of the steel that would have led to a swift demise on the battlefield, being withdrawn in '41-42. By this time the StuG III had progressed to the Ausf.G, which was based on the later Panzer III Ausf.M, with a widened upper hull and improvements in armour to increase survivability prospects for the crew. Many of the complicated aspects of the earlier models that made them time-consuming and expensive to produce were removed and simplified by that time, which led to several specific differences in some of the external fitments around the gun, such as the Saukopf mantlet protector. The Ausf.G was the last and most numerous version that was used until the end of the war with additional armour plates often welded or bolted to the surface to give it enhanced protection from the Allied tanks and artillery. The Kit MiniArt now have production well-and-truly running again after the shock of the invasion on the 24th of February 2022 forced them to up-sticks to escape from the bombardments, and they are now back in full flow. We’re all still firmly behind you! MiniArt have now released several toolings of the late StuG III and this 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 is another Alkett factory example from 1945 near the bitter end, 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 thirty-seven sprues in mid-grey styrene, one in clear, two good-sized Photo-Etch (PE) frets of brass parts, decal sheet and glossy-covered instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear covers. Detail is excellent throughout, which is just what we’ve come to expect from modern toolings by MiniArt, with so much detail crammed into every part of the model, including individual track links that are different from the earlier pre-series kit we reviewed some while back. Construction begins with the floor panel, which receives the torsion suspension bars with their fittings, a pair of runners to support the engine that isn’t included in this boxing, and the support structure for the gun, which is made up from 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 applied to the exterior, and the hull sides are mated to the floor, with the bases for the final drive housing glued to the front next to the front bulkhead. The glacis plate with transmission inspection hatches are given a similar treatment, plus another appliqué panel, and the usual exhaust covers, towing lugs and idler protection are added to the rear, and a radiator exhaust panel 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, smoke grenade dispensers and lifting eyes. The shape of the casemate is completed with the addition of the front wall, which has a large cut-out to receive the gun in due course. The front of the casemate is built out forward with a sloped front and some appliqué armour, dropped over the front of the lower hull and joined by the breech assembly, which is covered by an armoured panel after armoured protectors to the mounting bolts have been glued over them. 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 latches and a set of V-shaped binocular sighting glasses in the separate front section of the cupola that can be open or closed independently to the main hatch. 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. Then it’s time to prepare the inner face of the Saukopf mantlet armour with four blocks and hooks to assist with attachment to the mantlet later, on similar blocks at the ends of the serpentine hooks, after which a bridge over the top encloses the breech and the Saukopf. The roof with some details added along with the commander’s cupola covers up the interior. The engine deck is built up with short sides and armoured intake louvres on the sides, which are covered with PE meshes as the deck is glued down onto the engine bay. 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 with long pins through their holes that attach them to the rearmost pair of hatches. A field modification of a flat stowage box is mounted on the centre of the rear deck on PE brackets. The gunner’s hatch is a simpler affair consisting of a clamshell pair of doors, with the sharply-angled machine gun shield just in front of it and a well-detailed MG34 machine gun with drum mag slotted through the centre. As yet the StuG has no wheels, so the addition of the swing-arms with stub axles is needed, adding the highly detailed final drive housings under the front, plus additional suspension parts that improves damping. The idler adjuster is covered with armoured parts, and a group of pioneer tools are dotted around the sides of the engine deck, after which the paired wheels are fixed to the axles, with drive-sprockets at the front and idler wheels with PE outer rings at the rear, plus a trio of return rollers on short axles near the top of the sides. The tracks are individual links that are held together by pins, using 94 links per side, and each link has three sprue gates to clean up, plus a wisp of flash on the highly detailed sides, which will need scraping away with a sharp blade. I created a short 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, the fenders are attached to the hull sides on small brackets, with integrated mudguards and tiny PE fittings added once the glue has dried. More pioneer tools and stowage are added to these, as space was a premium on these vehicles, and every flat surface ended up with equipment on it. This includes a Notek convoy light and either a highly detailed PE fire extinguisher or a simplified styrene alternative if you prefer. 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 110mm cable material yourself, with a set of PE tie-downs holding them and the tools in place on each side. The barrel of the gun slides through the bulky Saukopf mantlet cover, tipped with a detailed three-part muzzle brake to give it the correct hollow look. A pair of aerials and a PE ‘fence’ around the edge of the engine deck that’s intended to hold in any stray stowage finishes off the vehicle itself, adding the brackets for the Schürzen along the sides of the hull and fenders with a few small added outriggers. The four PE schürzen panels per side are detailed with additional PE brackets on the rear sides, and once the glue between the two layers of PE (or you could solder them for strength), you simply hang them on the hooks, with a quartet of scrap diagrams along the bottom of the page showing the two methods you can use to hang the plates vertically, or sloped inward toward the bottom. Markings There are six markings options included on the decal sheet, all of them with varying camouflage based upon dunkelgelb with splotches of other colours. From the box you can build one of the following: 9th Panzer Div. ‘Hohenstaufen’, Hungary, Balaton Area, Spring 1945 9th Panzer Div. ‘Hohenstaufen’, Hungary, Balaton Area, Spring 1945 Unidentified Unit, Germany, Zweibrücken, Spring 1945 Unidentified Unit, Germany, Bitburg, Spring 1945 Unidentified Unit, Germany, Spring 1945 Unidentified Unit, Germany, Spring 1945 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 that will all-but disappear once applied. Conclusion A good-looking, well-detailed model of an important WWII German tank destroyer that saw action until the dire end of the Eastern and Western fronts in relatively large numbers. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. Cobblestone Road with Tramline (36065) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Before tarmac, blacktop, asphalt, metalled roads, or whatever name by which you know modern road surfaces became predominant, cobbled roads were more common, as they were hard-wearing, produced little or no dust, wouldn’t rut in winter, and lasted a long time. They were cheap and easy to maintain by removing any damaged sections piecemeal and replacing it with new cobbles, or the old cobbles reseated on replacement substrate, which was often compressed ash. My father was a bit of an expert cobbler (and talks it to this very day) before he retired, and tells me that it’s very hard on your knees, but not all that difficult to do if you have the right tools and someone wheeling the next load of cobbles into reach. The Kit This set is a quick and easy way of creating a diorama, typically around WWII or earlier, and it arrives in a top-opening box with a painting of the finished model, and inside are two large sheets of injection-moulded cobblestone paving, plus two sprues of furniture to decorate the road with catenary supports for an electric tram to draw power from. Historically, MiniArt diorama bases have been vacuum-formed from thick grey plastic, but this base is full injection-moulded in grey plastic with a crisp form and no clean-up needed before you can begin building. It also presents a firm and heavy base on which to place your model or models. Construction begins with deciding on how you would like to arrange the two base plates, or you could use them separately with two dioramas if you wish. The most obvious arrangement would be to run them end-to-end to depict a single tram line, but you can rotate one 180° and put them side-by-side to depict a short run of twin rails close to each other or at opposite sides of the base. You could strengthen the joint by drilling some brass pins through the mated bases if you wish, or flood the join with liquid glue and give it plenty of time to cure. The two posts are made up identically, starting with the fluted base and vertical post that are both made from two halves each, then adding a single narrower upper post with a ferruled top. The outrigger fixes close to the top of the narrower vertical, adding a tensioner at each end on brackets, strung with wire from your own stocks, with another bracing wire leading from the end of the outrigger to the top of the pole, with a choice or plain or fancy designs on the sprues. The thicker overhead conductor wire is strung between the two tensioner wires, and although it isn’t mentioned on the instruction sheet, it is prominent on the box artwork. Markings There aren’t any, and there are no painting guides either, just the box art to act as a suggestion. In reality, the world is your oyster, as streets could have cobbles of a different shade to the one down the road, and tram companies may paint their catenary poles in any colour they choose. If you wish to paint your street accurately, a little research will be required to establish the correct colours for the posts at least. The cobbles are quick to paint with various shades of grey, adding an earthy or ash-coloured pigment to the interstices, wiping the excess from the top surface when dry, fixing the pigment in place with your preferred method. The addition of some rust on the rails and a few spills or puddles should make the whole thing come alive. Conclusion As a diorama-phobic myself, these kits are a boon and allow the modeller a quick and easy route to an attractive and realistic looking backdrop for your models. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. German 7.5cm Anti-Tank Gun Pak40 Early Prod. (35394) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd As WWII loomed, the Nazi high command got wind of new tank developments in Soviet Russia, and realised that their 3.7cm Pak36 was inadequate for the task ahead, starting work initially on the 5cm Pak38, which was abandoned in favour of a 7.5cm barrel once the rumours were confirmed. It was essentially a re-engineered Pak38, with everything enlarged to suit the bigger rounds, in development between 1939 and 41, with the name Pak40 given to it during its gestation. As Operation Barbarossa began, the project was given a higher priority, and early examples reached the Eastern Front in late 1941, becoming the Wehrmacht’s standard artillery piece from then on, with a total of over 23,000 built before the end of WWII. The success of the weapon was such that it was also re-developed into a main gun for use by tanks and other armoured vehicles, such as the StuG III and Panzer IV, as well as a relatively makeshift mount on the Marder series of self-propelled guns. It was an effective artillery piece, capable of penetrating the armour of everything the Allies fielded, from the Sherman to the Pershing in US service, and the IS heavy tanks that the Soviets operated. It was a heavy piece however, and that affected its mobility, particularly in bad weather where it was prone to bogging down in muddy terrain. It shared projectile with all German 7.5cm rounds, but was mounted in a larger brass cartridge casing that gave it more power and range than the smaller rounds fired by the KwK variant use in the armour installations. Other variations included the driver bands around the projectile and the method of initiating firing, using traditional percussion caps for the Pak40, and an electrical mechanism for the KwK. Three types of round were able to be used, an armour-piercing explosive round, an armour-piercing kinetic penetrator with a tungsten core, and the standard HEAT or High Explosive Anti-Tank round, each of which differed in shape and colour of the projectile, and were marked with stencils accordingly. The Kit This a new tool from MiniArt, who seem to have recovered well from their production hiatus that began in February 2022. The kit arrives in a modest top-opening box, and inside are ten sprues of various sizes in medium grey styrene, a cardboard envelope that contains a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) and the decals, plus a glossy-covered instruction booklet with colour profiles printed on front and rear covers. Detail is exactly what we’ve come to expect from MiniArt, and is excellent throughout, and with options to pose the model in transport mode or ready for action. You also get a few shells and wooden cases to dot around the gun if you intend to place it in a diorama. Construction begins with the chassis of the gun, on which the wheels and trails are installed, fixing many parts on it, adding brakes to the axles and a front fender, then cutting some lengths of wire from your own stock to link the brake cylinder to the pistons, with PE tie-downs holding them to the underside, and additional scrap diagrams showing the completed loom to help you with location. The trails are detailed with tools, grab-handles and spades at the rear, plus additional parts that differ depending on whether you are opening them up for combat, or ready for transport. They are mated to the chassis and locked in place by the top pivots, again changing some parts and their positions depending on the option you have chosen. A choice of two methods of attaching a shovel to the bottom plate are offered, one using a simple pair of PE clasps, the other creating a fully articulated retention clamp for the handle. The finished plate is fitted vertically for transport, but tipped up horizontally for action. There are actually three configurations for the gun, the traditional ready-for-action pose with the trails spread, plus two transport options, one for towing by a vehicle, the other for moving the gun off-road with a third wheel perched behind the trails, raising them off the ground for manual fine-tuning of position by the crew. The trails have a pair of cross-braces to hold them together during towing, with a split towing bar made from two halves connecting it to your choice of prime-mover. The wheels are laminated from three layers plus a central boss, making up two of these and a third without the boss that sits across the trails for the vehicle transport option, held in place on a sturdy bracket. For the manual transport option, the bracket is reused and fixed to the towing arm from underneath with the third wheel attached on an axle to raise the trails above the ground. The gun barrel is a single part with a keyed peg on each end, the thicker end inserting into the eight-part breech, which includes a sliding block if you leave it unglued. The barrel slide is made up from three sides and an end-cap, adding more details on the sides, and a cover on the front portion made from three sections. The barrel drops over the slide with the addition of a small PE crutch and is surrounded by a pair of pivots to the sides, the elevation arc-gear under the slide, and a few other detail parts, popping the pivots into the trunnions that glue to a detailed bottom plate, holding the gun in position from there. Dampers with corrugated gaiters are attached to the trunnions, with different parts for transport and combat positions, then the adjustment wheels and their actuators are fixed onto the left side, with a stubby axe on the right, again with PE socket and clasp on the handle. The sighting gear is also installed on the left, then it’s time to protect the crew from incoming fire. A U-shaped armour panel is built from two layers of styrene with a PE layer in between them, slotting it over the barrel from above and mounting on four supports, adding an additional link on each side using scrap diagrams to locate them properly. The cheek armour panels are also two layers per side, with cylindrical stowage items including a torch to the inner face before they are mated with the centre armour and braced by additional links to the sides of the trunnions, with an angled PE lip on the inside just below the top edge. There are three choices of muzzle-brake, each one made from similar but slightly different shaped parts, plus an optional part that is covered with a bag and PE ring to prevent debris ingress. The gun is then lowered onto the chassis, locating the pin in a corresponding hole in the top. To add detail around your model, a set of ten ready rounds are included on a sprue, with another four empty brass casings on another, plus a pair of shell boxes that have slots for three shells each, and are made from individual sides, bottom and lid plus handles, and can be posed open or closed if you wish. Stencils for the shells and boxes are included, as well as a full painting guide next to the colour chart that gives codes for Vallejo, Mr Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, as well as swatches and generic colour names. Markings There are a generous six options included on the glossy pages of the instruction booklet, with a number of different colour schemes relating to their service location. From the box you can build one of the following: Infanterie-Division, Heeresgruppe ‘Süd’ Eastern Front, 1942 Armée, Heeresgruppe ‘Don’, Stalingrad, late 1942 Deutches Afrikakorps, North Africa 1942-43 camouflaged with mud Deutches Afrikakorps, North Africa 1942-43 Unknown unit, Eastern Front, Winter 1942-3 Unknown unit, Eastern Front, Winter 1943 Note that the paint options have been rearranged on the profiles and list for tidiness’s sake. Options D and E are the opposite way around on the kit instruction sheet. 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 This is a incredibly well-detailed kit of an important German artillery piece that ruined many an Allied tanker’s day, with full options for transport and combat. All it needs now is a crew. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. German Soldiers at Work RAD (35408) 1:35 MiniArt viua Creative Models Ltd The Third Reich and their glorious leader had a huge programme of civic and engineering works that were used to bring the German nation to full employment, but also to prepare the nation for war. Especially important were the autobahns and railway systems that would permit rapid transport of troops and matériel, which were crucial for their expansionism and essential to feed the needs of the blitzkrieg tactics they were to employ. The Reich Labour Service (German: Reichsarbeitsdienst or RAD) was established to accomplish this, and furthermore to indoctrinate the workforce while they toiled on behalf of their Führer. They wore militaristic uniforms and rank insignia, with a flag based upon the red background of the Nazi swastika flag, but with a stylised shovel bracketed by diagonal ears of barley, representing both the engineering and agricultural intent of their organisation. The set arrives in an end-opening figure box, and inside are six sprues in grey styrene, and a small sprue diagram with instructions beneath for some of the accessories. Two sprues carry the parts for the five figures that are working hard at some task. Two men are using shovels, one is swinging a large pick axe, while the remaining two are carrying a log and pushing a wheelbarrow that can be filled with bricks from the accessory sprues. The figures are broken down sensibly into torso, separate arms, legs and heads, with additional breaks where detail and moulding requirements dictate. Two of the workers have caps, so their heads are flat-topped, but because they aren’t true military, their hair is perhaps longer than the usual buzz-cut that was usually foisted upon the enlisted man. The larger accessories such as a wooden wheelbarrow, shovels and log are included on the figure sprues, but there is an additional metal wheelbarrow on one of the accessory sprues, which is the one shown on the instructions. The other accessories include more shovels, a pick axe, sledge hammer, hammer, pry bar, and a stack of bricks, the latter having been cleverly engineered to give the impression of a palette full of bricks by moulding each side and the top in such a manner that it looks like the bricks have been individually and inexpertly placed in the stack, complete with the raised wooden palette at the bottom. One sprue is full of individual bricks, most of which are complete, but a few have been moulded as broken, with some moulded with a shallow “frog” on each side, some with a three-hole pattern, and some simple flat-sided bricks. As always with MiniArt figure sets, the sculpting, poses and fabric drape of the individuals is first-rate, with construction eased by the break lines of the parts being along the natural seams or bends of the various limbs, which extends to the accessories in equal measure. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. Farm Cart & Village Accessories (35657) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Any diorama benefits from background details, and MiniArt have a range of kits for the modeller to use in order to improve the visual interest and realism of their models. This set arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box, and inside are four grey sprues of varying sizes in a heat-sealed bag that protects them from excessive rattling, and therefore damage during transit. The parts on the sprues allow the modeller to build a farm cart of the type that was typically pulled by a horse between the two traces, the long straight wooden rails that project from the front of the cart. The instructions can be found of the rear of the box, and are quite simple with only a few steps. The cart is begun by fixing the axle under the frame that has the traces moulded-in, and adding a support leg on one trace that indicates that this was more likely propelled by shanks’ pony, or people power. The cart wheels slot onto the ends of the axles, and a three-part foot step is fixed to the right side of the frame, with two eyelets hanging one underneath each trace. The body is a simple open box with sloped sides that is built around the rectangular floor, adding sides with raised rails at the top, and a rear bulkhead with hook, after which a short stop is added to the front, and over it, suspended between the two sides, is a simple bench seat, all of which is engraved with a fine wood texture. The two sub-assemblies are joined together to complete them, then it is a case of putting together some of the more shapely accessories, and cutting the rest from the sprues. A watering can is made up from two halves plus a nozzle, while three sacks are each two parts, with different textures implying the contents. A long-handled mattock and rake are two parts each, adding a scythe, sickle, three forks or hoes to complete the toolkit. A painting guide under the instructions gives some examples of possible colours for the various elements, but the world really is your oyster, unless you’re planning on painting it with HAVE Glass anti-radiation coating, which is just silly. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. German Civilians 1930-40s (38075) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd We often forget the civilian side of WWII, unless it’s to discuss the effects of bombing, but throughout the whole conflict, many people carried on as best they could with their ordinary lives, whether they were exempt from serving, too old, too young, or the wrong gender at the time. This new box of figures contains five characters that you may possibly have seen on any given day on the streets of Berlin, or another German town or city. Inside the figure-sized end-opening box are two sprues plus a small casting block containing five resin heads, that will allow you to build a variety of German people, including an old lady in a long smock-coat, a gentleman in business suit with Homberg or Trilby hat, a military police officer with alternate helmet to give him either a traffic directing pose, or asking for someone’s papers, a lady in a knee-length dress with her handbag under her arm, and a Hitler Youth member in shorts and brown shirt, looking shiftily over his shoulder, probably looking to grass someone up. Each figure is broken down into individual torso, arms, legs, heads and helmet/hat where appropriate, with the ladies diverging from that path slightly, the old lady’s body consisting mostly of the two halves of her coat, while the lady with bag has a two-part hollow skirt, and both have flat platforms within the skirts onto which their legs locate. There are styrene heads for each of the figures on the sprues, but this edition has the afore mentioned resin heads on a single casting block, adding superior detail to the figures and improved sculpting that allows the artist to impart more character into the faces for you to bring out with careful painting. There are a few accessories with the set as you might expect, extending to a pistol holster for the soldier along with his extra head and arms, plus a vertical badge on the top of his optional helmet; a walking cane for the old lady that is moulded into her hand with a scarf insert between her head and body, and the handbag clutched in the lady’s arm. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail, realistic poses, drape of fabrics, and sensible parts breakdown, improved further by the resin heads, although you don’t have to use them if you’re not a fan. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.H Vomag Mid Prod. July 1943 Interior Kit (35305) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Unlike the later Tigers and Panther tanks, the Panzer IV had been designed in the years leading up to the outbreak of WWII, and was intended for a different role than it eventually played, which was as a form of infantry support with the mobile artillery function rolled into one. It was a heavier tank than the previous numbered types, and was well-designed, although it did suffer to an extent from the typical WWII German over-engineering that made them complex, costly and time-consuming to build. The type went through several enhanced variants including a more powerful engine to give better performance, improved armour thickness for survivability, and latterly the provision of a larger gun with a longer, high velocity barrel that was based upon the Pak-40, but with shortened recoil mechanism and an enlarged muzzle-brake that helped contain the ferocious recoil from the 75mm gun. The new gun was in direct reaction to their first encounter with the T-34 in Soviet hands, an incident that put the wind up the German tankers and their superiors, as they knew very little of its existence until they met it in battle. The Ausf.H was the penultimate mainstream variant of the Panzer IV, and was made from mid ’43 until early 1944 with over 2,300 made, some of which were manufactured at the Nibelungenwerk, one of the largest factories in the German area of influence, based in St Valentin, Austria. The Vomag factory was producing more along with Krupp, but by the war’s end Nibelungenwerk was the home of the Panzer IV in its final Ausf.J form, and all factories were bombed heavily, choking off production as the war drew to a close. The Kit This is a new boxing of the newly tooled model of the Panzer IV from MiniArt, with a mixture of parts from other boxings plus some new sprues. It is an Interior kit, which extends to the full hull, with a great deal of detail included that should keep any modeller happy and beavering away at their hobby. The kit arrives in a heavily loaded top-opening box, and inside are sixty-seven sprues in grey styrene of various sizes, a clear sprue, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, a decal sheet and thick instruction booklet with colour profiles for the decal options on the inside covers. It has individual link tracks included that are made up on a jig (more about those later), and the level of detail is exceptional, which is something we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s output. Construction begins with the interior, which is made up on a main floor with bulkheads, copious ammo stores with shells, then a complete, superbly detailed Maybach HL 120 TRM engine. The engine is begun by putting together the transmission and final drive units, which is at the front of the hull next to the driver, with a set of instruments fitted to the top. This is inserted into the interior with the drive-shaft, and the driver’s seat is assembled along with the foot and hand controls, plus a worrying amount (from his point of view) of shells behind his area, plus another three ready-round boxes layered on top of various positions around the turret base. A ring of tread-plate defines the location where the turret basket will sit, and various other components are arranged around a simple seat for the radio operator/bow gunner, then the engine is assembled from its various shaped segments, topped off with the rocker covers and oil filler caps. A lot of ancillaries are added, including tons of drive-belts, engine bearers, exhaust manifolds, dynamo and pipework. It all fits snugly into the engine compartment section of the interior to await boxing in by the hull sides. The highly detailed brake-assembly for each drive sprocket is a drum-shaped affair that comprises a substantial number of parts, some of which are PE, and really does look the part, fitted to the inside of each hull wall flanking the two crew seats, with more small equipment boxes and a fire extinguisher fitted nearby, then the exterior face of each side is detailed with the final drive housing, suspension bump-stops, return roller bases and fuel filler caps before they are glued into place on the hull sides, with the lower glacis plate helping keep them perpendicular to the floor. Back in the engine compartment, the empty spaces around the Maybach engine are filled with airbox, fuel tank and large radiator panels that are set in the compartment at an angle, as demonstrated by the scrap diagram. The rear bulkhead closes-in the final side of the compartment, and this is festooned with detail with a choice of armoured covers for the track tensioner arms, stiffener plates and access hatches, including a manual starter slot with PE chain keeping the cover captive to the vehicle. The big towing eye and its stiffeners are applied to the bottom of the bulkhead, and after fitting another full-width plate, the twin exhausts are attached to their exits, made from a combination of styrene and PE parts then braced to the bulkhead by PE straps. The sides of the hull have a series of armoured panels fixed to the underside to protect the suspension mechanism, then the fenders can be slotted into position at the top of the hull sides, with a delicate tread-plate pattern moulded-in where appropriate. The rest of the lower glacis plate with hatches for final drive and transmission access is made up with detail inside and out, plus an optional hatch for the central transmission unit. The final drive hatches can be posed open if you wish to expose those attractive assemblies within, of use in a maintenance diorama scenario. As if the tank wasn’t already carrying enough ammunition, more stores are made up and fitted into the inside of the hull around the sides of the turret well for easy access. The rounds are painted in one of three shell types, with decals to improve the detail further. The addition of a cross-brace between the two hull sides with oil can and fire extinguisher strapped on completes the lower hull for now. The upper hull is constructed in a similar manner to the lower, with the roof accepting side panels after making some small holes, the engine bay is fitted out with the side vents for the radiators and a flat rear panel that closes the area in. At the front there is a choice of thick armour panels for different decal options, the breech of the bow machine gun is created as a sub-assembly, and set aside while the hatches and the barrel of the MG are fitted in the kugelblende, mostly from the outside, together with the armoured covers for the radiator louvres, hatch levers and lifting hooks, along with the jack-block in its bracket, or the empty bracket if you choose. The driver’s armoured vision port cover and the ball-mount for the gun complete the exterior work for now, and the assembly is flipped over to detail the inside, which includes a highly detailed set of radio gear that has a painting guide next to it. The bow gun’s breech and aiming mechanism are inserted into the back of the ball-mount, and the clear interior section of the driver’s port is also inserted along with the operating cams for the armoured cover. Another fire extinguisher is attached to the wall by the driver’s position too. Flipping the assembly again and it is time to add the interior louvres to the radiator exits, which are PE parts and can be inserted in the open or closed positions, with a change in how they are fitted. The hull halves can be joined now, involving making up the pair of twin fans that cool the radiators within the engine compartment using movable slatted louvres to adjust cooling as necessary, and these two sub-assemblies are mated before the panels are glued in place with a choice of open or closed louvres. The twin-tube air intake box is stuck to the right side of the hull, and a set of four towing cables, made from styrene eyes, and your own braided cable, which should be 152mm long and 0.75mm thick, times two. These are wrapped around two hooks on the rear in a figure-of-eight pattern. Two runs of spare tracks are made up to be attached to the upper and lower glacis areas, using the jig that is supplied to create them, and fitting them to the armour on brackets for the upper section, and a long bar mount for the lower section. We’ll cover the tracks in detail further down. Now it’s pioneer tool time, with barrel cleaning rods, shovel, the jack, plus a set of four spare road wheels in an open-topped box, and few more track-links. The rear mudguards and front splash-guards are applied now, and the prominent external fire extinguisher with PE frame (and alternative styrene one if you don’t feel up to wrangling the PE) is fitted to the fender with a pair of wire-cutters and a pry-bar, all of which have optional PE mounts. Just when you think you’ve finished the tools, there’s a crank for the engine, a pair of track-spreaders, a choice of three axes, plus some styrene springs to allow you to show the front guards in the up position. We’re getting closer to the tracks now, but there’s still a lot of wheels that need to be made. They are mounted in pairs on twin bogeys with a leaf-spring slowing the rebound of the twin swing-arms. There are two types of outer casting with two axles (for working or fixed suspension) that the swing-arms slot onto, and are then closed in by a cover, which you also have a choice of two designs for. Finally, the twin wheels with their hubcap slide onto the axles, and a small oil reservoir is glued to the side of the assembly. You make four for the left side and a mirrored set of four for the right, plus multi-part idler, two-part drive sprockets and a choice of five different styles of return-rollers that fit onto the posts on the sides of the hull. The suspension units have slotted mounting points that strengthen their join, and then… once you’re done, you can begin the tracks. The tracks are individual links with separate track pins, but don’t freak out yet! Each link has three sprue gates that are small and easy to nip off and clean up. The included jig will hold eleven links, which are fitted with the guides uppermost. Then you cut off one complete set of 11 track pins off the sprue and slide them into the pin-holes in the sides of the connected links all at once. They are then nipped off their length of sprue and can be tidied up. I added a little glue to the tops of the pins to keep them in place, and have a length of track that is still flexible. Just minimise the amount of glue you use. There are 101 links per track run, so you’ll be busy for a while, but the result is fabulously detailed as you can see from the pic. I didn’t bother cleaning up the mould seams for expediency, but if you plan on modelling your Panzer with clean tracks, you can sand them away if you feel the need. You can relax to an extent now, but there’s a bit of PE wrangling ahead if you are using the PE schurzen (side skirts) on your model. First you must add the styrene brackets and supports on each side, then the long supports for the hook-on schurzen panels, which has a set of square holes in the sides to latch onto the tabs on the sides of the supports. There are five panels per side, with diagonal front and rear lower edges to reduce the likelihood of them digging into the ground. Bear in mind that these panels were subject to the rigours of battle so were often bent, damaged or even missing entirely, so use your references or imagination to decide whether you wish to depict a fresh set, or a set that have been in the field for a while, and one of more could have been lost after being hooked up on the scenery. Finally, we get to the turret, which begins with the ring and minimalist “floor”, to which some equipment, a drop-seat and the hand-traverse system are fixed. The inside of the mantlet is fixed to the floor after having the pivot installed, with the newly assembled breech glued into the rear once it has its breech block and closure mechanism fixed in place. The breech is then surrounded by the protective tubular frame, and the stubs of the coax machine gun and sighting gear are slid in through holes in the inner mantlet. A basket for spent casings is attached under the breech, the sighting tube and adjustment mechanism are put in place along with the coax machine gun breech, then the basket is made up from the circular tread-plated floor with tubular suspension struts and other equipment, seats, immediate ready-rounds and spare dump-bags for the coax. It is glued into the turret base, which then has the other facets added to the roof panel, with exhaust fans and a choice of two outer armoured covers included. The side hatches are the clamshell type, and can be posed open, closed or anywhere in-between, with latches and handles added, and grab-handles over the top to ease exit. The commander’s cupola is a complex raised part with five clear vision ports around it, and a choice of open or closed outer parts holding the clear lenses in place, sliding into the ring like the real thing. A ring of pads cover the interstices, and stirrup-shaped parts are fixed under each lens, with a single circular hatch with latch and handle glued into the top ring in open or closed versions, lifting and rotating round the pivot to open, rather than the earlier two-part clamshell hatch. A blade-sight from PE is sited at the front of the cupola with a machine-gun ring around the base that can accept an optional MG34 on a mount with cloth ammo bag, and the turret can now be closed with the lifting hooks each made up of two parts. The gun has a flattened faceted sleeve made up with a choice of lower section, and the muzzle brake gives you a choice of four styles that differ slightly from each other if you look closely. Pick the one suitable for your decal choice, and you can begin to put the gun tube together. The outer mantlet fixes to the front of the turret, with the sleeve slotting into the front, and a single-part styrene barrel fitting into the front with a key ensuring correct orientation, and the muzzle-brake having the same feature, plus a choice of two muzzles for the coax machine gun. The bustle stowage box is formed from a hollow body with a choice of open or closed lid, with the open variant having stiffening ribs moulded-in for detail. The turret has curved metal schurzen panels applied to the styrene brackets that glue to the roof and sides, that has a gap for the side hatches that are filled by a pair of hinged doors for more complete protection, and if you were wondering, you get open or closed variants with PE latches, and a group of additional PE parts dotted around the panels. Because of the complexity and realism of the turret and its ring, it drop-fits into position as the final act, as bayonet lugs aren’t present in the real thing. Markings Five decal options are included on the sheet, and they have a variety of schemes that are appropriate for later war tanks, based on a coat of dunkelgelb (dark yellow), and any camouflage or distemper laid over the top. From the box you can build one of the following: III./Pz.Rgt.24, 24 Pz.Div. Italy, Summer 1943 III./Pz.Rgt.24, 24 Pz.Div. Italy, Summer 1943 III./Pz.Rgt.24, 24 Pz.Div. Eastern Front, Winter 1943-44 130. Panzer-Lehr-Division, Normandy, May 1944 & 21. Panzer Division, Normandy, 1944 Pz.Rgt. 100, 21.Pz.Div. Caen, July 1944 (Ex-tank 130. Panzer-Lehr-Division) 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 This is one on many newly tooled and well-detailed panzer IV kits from MiniArt that should keep you occupied for a good quantity of modelling time, resuming productions after a short delay due to external events conspiring to delay things. Careful painting will bring it to life, and there is plenty of detail that will be visible even after weathering. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. US Tow Truck G506 (38061) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Chevrolet G506 truck formed the basis of a range of 4x4 load-carrying vehicles that were capable of carrying up to 1.5 tonnes of cargo, men or equipment. They were initially made under the 4100 code, then were renamed as the 7100 series, and usually had a standard enclosed cab, with a 3.9L straight-6 engine under the bonnet, and a four-speed “crash” (non-syncromesh) gearbox putting out a little over 80hp through all four wheels. It rapidly became the Allies’ standard light truck, and served in substantial quantities on the Western Front, the Soviets on the Eastern Front, and the forces fighting Japan in the Far East. There were plenty of variants, some in US Army service, others in USAAF service, with almost 50,000 of two specific types, the G7107 and G7117 sent over to the Soviets in large numbers under the Lend/Lease program. Following the end of WWII, many were mothballed, and sold off into civilian service, where the went on to give good service over a long period. The type with a crane mounted on the load bed was frequently seen towing broken-down vehicles throughout the USA, having found their way into the ownership of garages and recovery services for a knock-down price. They were usually brightly coloured with large signs on the doors telling potential customers who they were, and how to get in touch should they ever need to engage their services. As time went by, they gradually wore out, repair became more expensive, and newer more effective vehicles came to market that permitted the towing of larger vehicles and their recovery from difficult places, such as in the ditches at the side of the road, or down a hill where the victim had eventually come to rest. Some still survive of course, and can be seen at rallies and get-togethers of like-minded enthusiasts. The Kit This is a reboxing of a recent tooling from MiniArt, and is a full interior kit, with engine, cab, load area and crane all included along with some very nice moulding and detail, particularly in the cab and those chunky tyres. It arrives in one of MiniArt’s medium-sized top-opening boxes, and inside are twenty modular sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope with some metal chain within, a decal sheet and glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear pages. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which has leaf-springs fore and aft, cross-braces and rear towing eye fitted to create the structure, then has the fuel tank, PE rear bumper irons folded around a styrene jig, and axles installed, before the brake drums/hubs, battery and external brackets are added to the chassis rails. Later on, and pair of rear light clusters are mounted on the rear of the chassis rails on PE brackets. The transfer box and drive-shaft join the two axles together, and a steering linkage and box are inserted into the front of the chassis, then the engine is built up based on the straight six-cylinder block, with carburettor, dynamo and transmission added, plus the pulleys and fan at the front. The engine is fitted to the chassis, and at the rear a short additional chassis rail and spare tyre on an angled bracket are attached to the frame at the rear behind the fuel tank. More control linkages and a first-motion shaft are joined to the rear of the engine, and a substantial number of brackets are fitted to the chassis rails under the load area. The exhaust and its manifold slip into the underside of the chassis from below at a later point. The crew cab is next, beginning with the firewall and forward sidewalls. The roof and windscreen frame are moulded as one, with a headliner insert and rear-view mirror that are inserted within, and the three-part radiator housing is made to be used later. The firewall and roof are joined with some of the dash pots fixed to the engine side of the firewall, while the doors and their interior cards are assembled with their handles and window winders, plus the clear window glass that can be posed open or closed as you wish. The dashboard inserts into the front bulkhead with seven decals for the instruments and stencils on the glove box. The diagonal foot panel is joined with the firewall and decked out with three foot pedals and the steering wheel on a long column that slides through a hole in front of the pedals. The driver and co-driver share a bench seat that is made up on the floor from back, cushion and a C-shaped surround that fits round the rear of the cab back wall, with small ovalised window and PE mesh grille fitted later, while the remaining vehicle and crane controls are added into the centre of the floore. The roof and firewall assembly are fitted, with the doors installed within the frame in the open or closed position. The windscreen is two panes of clear in a styrene frame that is posed open or closed later on. The cab and radiator are both placed on the chassis and the engine cowling side panels fit between them with front wing/fender included on the sides. The headlights and sidelights are added onto the fenders, the main lamps having clear lenses. It’s time for the wheels to be made up, with a choice of singles or doubles at the front, each wheel made from two parts each, and twin wheels at the rear, made up much earlier in the instructions for some reason. Each wheel slips over its respective axle, with the hub projecting through the central hole. The afore mentioned windscreen has a pair of PE brackets and styrene wingnuts that are installed either vertically for closed, or at an angle for open, with a scrap diagram showing the correct orientation of the various parts. PE windscreen wipers hung from the top of the frame, then the front grille is built. You may have noticed that this doesn’t appear on the sprues, and there’s a good reason for that. It is constructed completely from PE, and two more jigs are included on the sprues to assist with obtaining the correct shape. The lower rail and curved side panels are made up on one jig from a single piece of PE, while the centre panel is folded up on another, then they’re joined together ready to be attached to the front of the engine bay. There are two brackets stretched across the front of the radiator that are glued in place before the bumper/grille is added. The hood/bonnet can be fitted open or closed by inverting the clasps and in the open option, a PE stay is provided. A PE number plate holder is placed under the front lip of the right fender. The winch is started by creating the mounting arm with motor, then the bobbin can be created either with a two-part styrene representation of a full reel, or an empty bobbin that you can load with some of your own material or leave empty. It is offered up to the arm and secured in place by adding the short arm that mounts the other end of the axle, before being fixed to the underside of the vehicle at the front, with a protective C-shaped bar over the front. A short take-off shaft and linkage is also added under the chassis to provide motive power to the winch. Once the winch is in place, the monolithic front bumper iron is fixed to the front of the chassis rails, and has a pair of hooks and a PE bracket fitted to the top surface. The load bed floor is a single moulding with a ribbed texture on the underside, and a thick rear section with hooks, separate rear lights and moulded-in reflectors. The shallow sides and front have separate frames, plus four lateral supports under the bed. A double-width stowage box is made up with lift-up lid and grab handle over the top, for later positioning at the front of the load bed. The load bed is joined to the chassis along with the exhaust system, which is held in place by PE brackets that are details in scrap diagrams, and a fuel filler pipe is inserted into the narrow gap between the cab and load bed. A further support for the spare tyre and two vertical mudflaps are installed along with a number plate holder under the right rear of the floor. The included chain is used to make up a final section of the towing rope on the winch, and has styrene hooks at each end, but you must supply a short length of rope or cable to join it to the winch from your own stocks. Construction of the crane begins with the cropped A-frame that holds the gearing and forms the base of the crane, with PE cogs and supports fixed to the styrene parts as work progresses. The jib is equally simple, consisting of curved angle-iron with a pulley at the end, and more PE cross-braces along its length. The jib attaches to the top of the base and is held at an angle by two sliding braces, which on the real thing are adjusted by sliding past each other with pegs holding it at the required angle. If you want to adjust the angle of your model however, you will need to cut and adjust these yourself. The remainder of the chain is wrapped around the cylinder at the apex of the crane's base, then threaded along the jib and over the pulley at the end and finally down to the hook, back again and up to the last hook at the very end of the jib. A large winding handle is fitted either to the top bobbin or by using an additional long rod to the small cog at the bottom of the gear set. a PE maker's plaque on the side of the A-frame reads "Weaver Auto-Crane, Weaver Mfg.Co., Springfield Ill USA". Markings There are four markings options on the decal sheet, all of which are different colours. From the box you can build one of the following: Texas, 1940s Nevada, 1940s Ohio, 1940s Kansas, 1940s 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 We seem to have been blessed with new kits of Chevrolet G506 truck variants in 1:35 recently, which must have been pretty common in Post-War America. Great detail and some cool decal options. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. Tempo A400 Athlet 3-Wheel Delivery Truck (38032) 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 often had a different BMWesque twin panelled front grille. It continued in production until 1948 when it must have dawned on someone that one wheel at the front was a genuinely bad idea, even if it was cheaper to produce. A concept that lingered on in the UK much longer so old folks 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 its legendary front wheel instability. The driver was situated behind the front wheel and short cowling that hid the motor 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 drop-down sides and rear tailgate for easy access to the contents. The Kit This is a reboxing of a brand-new tool kit from MiniArt, and gives the modeller some more civilian choices. This unusual little vehicle arrives in a small top-opening box, and inside are nine sprues of varying sizes in grey styrene, a sprue of clear parts, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, a small decal sheet and the instruction booklet on glossy paper with colour profiles on the front and rear pages. It’s a full-body model even though that body is small, so you’ll get to build all the internal parts and during the process possibly learn a little about how it works. Detail is as good as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt, with a lot of it and what there is well-finessed. Well considered use of slide-moulding also improves the detail without increasing the part count, and makes parts like the forward cowling a feast for the eyes. 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 droopy lever, with the windscreen wiper motor cover added to the top of the screen frame, leaving the two bunny-ear indicators intact because they are suitable for this version. 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 below. The padded bench seat for the crew is slotted into the floor, and the back cushion is attached to the rear bulkhead that has two side parts 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 with the roof perched on top, 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. The rear chassis is built around a cylindrical centreline part with the back axle and its triangular bearers slipping over it and having hubs with brake discs added 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 joint 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-line made from some more of your own 0.3mm wire and suspended from the frame on PE brackets that are folded over the wire and are closed up then glued to the frame with an etched-in rivet giving the impression that it is attached firmly to the chassis. The load bed is a single part with more planking engraved into both surfaces, adding thick side rails, PE brackets, lights and a PE numberplate frame that is also fixed on brackets before the upstands are made, and adding a pair of mudguards, one on each side. The flatbed sides can be posed upright, or folded down in the open position, typically for oversized loads or during unloading, hinging on the PE brackets under the floor. Small clasps are included for the corners, and the peg should be cut off for the closed option. 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 three more lengths of 0.3mm wire from your own stocks, which the instructions advise you makes you an “experienced modeller”. An easy way to earn that badge! 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 a choice of two fine PE radiator meshes, an internal deflector panel, PE numberplate for some decal options, 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. The cowling can be fixed in the closed position or depicted open, when the little hook latches onto a clip on the roof’s drip-rail, holding it up past vertical against the windscreen. A couple of headlamps with clear lenses are fitted on the sides of the cowling and a pair of wing mirrors on an angled arm are glued to holes in the front of the bulkhead on each side, with a PE bracket giving the appearance of that the etched rivets are what holds it in place. MiniArt have considerately included a whole sprue of parts for you to add to the load bed of your newly-minted A400 wagon, including different sizes of boxes or crates, which you may have seen in other sets from MiniArt at some point. You can use those at your whim, or load it up with a loose cargo, such as a big pile of sand as seen in one of the profiles below. Markings There are five decal options from the sheet, all painted in bright non-military colours and decorated with the markings of the job it is tasked with, two having the red and white logo of a well-known carbonated drink brand, and although it looks wrong to us English-speakers, ‘Trink’ is German for drink. From the box you can build one of the following: Hanseatic City of Hamburg, 1940s Schleswig-Holstein Province, 1930-40s Unknown, Europe, 1940-50s Unknown, Europe, 1940-50s Deutsche Post, 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 a well-detailed and finely moulded model of this curious little WWII era civilian delivery wagon, and has a number of interesting schemes included. Adding something to deliver into the box adds both interest and value to the package. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  11. British Mastiff 2 6x6 Wheeled Protected Patrol Vehicle (SS-012) 1:35 Meng Model via Creative Models Ltd The Cougar on which the Mastiff and Mastiff 2 are based is built by Force Protection Inc. and is based loosely upon the previous South African MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), but integrates many innovations and lessons learned from previous experiences with asymmetric warfare and urban combat. It has a V-shaped hull with the wheels mounted externally, and the engine is in a separate compartment at the front of the vehicle, away from the crew area. The V-shape of the hull directs the blast away from the crew compartment, improving survivability, which has been proven many times since it entered service. This variant is the six-wheeled chassis option, but there is also a 4x4 version in service elsewhere. The British Army bought an initial quantity of the 6x6 version as the Mastiff Protected Patrol Vehicle (PPV). The Mastiff 2 was developed after experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is fitted with the CREWS II remote weapons station, while earlier versions have been retro-fitted with a manned turret, the whole vehicle surrounded by protective armoured screens to pre-detonate shaped-charge warheads such as the Soviet-era RPG-7, taking the power out of the jet of molten metal and helping to protect the crew further. The CREWS II turret can mount either a 7.62mm GPMG, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher for self-defence, and the hull armour can protect the crew from armour-piercing rounds up to 12.5mm and detonating explosives up to 15kg, with increased ground-clearance improving mobility along with more effective run-flat tyres and a fuel-tank that can withstand a substantial blast without rupturing. The seats are enhanced to protect the crew from deformation injuries in the event of an IED blast, and an advanced anti-spall liner further guards against fragment injury to the increased passenger load of up to ten soldiers. Since the withdrawal of coalition forces from the Middle East, many British Mastiffs have been withdrawn from service to conserve scant resources, with some finding their way into a delivery to the Ukraine to assist with their fight against the invader. The Kit This new variant of the original 2015 tooling of the 6x6 Cougar from Meng will be a welcome addition to any MRAP collection, and as it's from Meng, you know it will be a great kit to build with tons of detail. It arrives in a standard Meng top-opening box in a satin finish, and inside are a wealth of sprues for you to pore over. There are fifteen sprues in light grey styrene plus a hull part in the same colour, two sprues in a flexible black styrene, four sprues in clear styrene, one of which is in turquoise tinted clear styrene, six flexible styrene wheels, a short run of poly-caps, a slide-moulded .50cal Browning machine gun breech in light grey styrene. The decal sheet is separately bagged with a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, and the instruction booklet is Meng's usual affair, in four languages, and colour profiles at the rear for the painting and decaling instructions. There are also three pages of sand-coloured thick card that gives additional information about the Mastiff 2 in four different languages. First impressions are excellent as usual with Meng's offerings, and the part count is high, with some nicely tooled detail evident. Inclusions such as PE, flexible styrene and tinted windows to simulate the bullet-resistant glass are the icing on the cake of what is a great looking model. From the box you can build either a desert or green camouflaged vehicle that have a different aerial fit due to the green option being a Ukrainian vehicle. This is pointed out at the top of the instructions, and will dictate your aerial choices and colours during the build. Construction begins with the V-shaped lower hull, which needs a few holes drilling in it, after which the leaf-suspension can be installed, plus a rear towing bracket and two-step crew access with PE mesh treads. The three main axles are built up in broadly the same manner, with the steerable front wheels having additional parts, including track-link rod and bearings. Each one is fitted to the lower hull, with an armoured transfer box between the front and rear axles out of which the transmission shafts project. A pair of fuel tanks with PE thread-plate tops are built up next to install under the hull of your mastiff, which is nice. You are also tasked with building a front bumper/fender bracket assembly that carries the slat armour later, and has a pair of towing shackles on the underside. The Mastiff rolls along on six tyres, although in the event of an IED blast, it has been known to limp home on less. The tyres are flexible styrene, with separate hubs, space for a poly-cap in the middle, and a thick rear to the hub that hides the poly-cap, trapping it in place. At this point the model is flipped over and work begins on the crew cab starting with the floor, which is stepped down at the front sides to form a base of the seats and up in the passenger compartment to further protect the crew from blasts. The drivers' seats are first to be built up, with insulating concertina bases that contain the usual complement of adjustments under a tough protective gaiter. The seats are made up from two parts, consisting of the main seat, plus a rear with the headrest built in, which once joined are placed on the base, and a pair of flexible styrene belts are added to each one from the black sprues. The driver's pedal box is installed into the short front bulkhead stub on the left, and an armour panel is placed behind each seat up to head-height on three pegs, with a scissor lift perch insert in the middle of the passenger area. The dash is a full-width part, and the instrument panel has several decals supplied to detail its surface after painting, plus a couple of stencils on the co-driver's side, adding a steering column with wheel into the left, as they originate from left-hand drive vehicles. An equipment bay is fixed to the deck behind the co-driver’s armour after adding detail parts to it, with two large lightened brackets on the raised left-hand edge of the compartment. Near the rear are another couple of equipment boxes on the right, then the floor is inserted into the lower, resting on a couple of cross-members. The seven passenger seats are each made from two main parts plus another two for the supporting framework, and they each have a set of flexible styrene belts added before they are glued in place. There are additional bare frames attached to the side walls for additional seats if they are needed, with more equipment at the right rear that also mount a pair of fire extinguishers that have stencil decals applied, as does the MFD screen at the top of the equipment stack. The upper hull is a complex moulding with some great detail on the outer skin, and the interior headlining is dropped in, covered in realistic quilting texture of the anti-spall lining. Several clear rectangular light-fittings are inserted into recesses in the linings, painting the bezels black beforehand. A radiator grille and the multi-part turret ring for the top-mounted CREWS II weapons station, which is trapped in place by another ring on the inside of the crew compartment. The interiors with the seats and equipment already installed are then slid into the hull, clipping into a slot at the edge of the roof liner, after which a pair of pull-down MFD screens are fixed to a C-shaped bracket that can be posed down in front of the windscreen or raised flush against the roof, as per the accompanying scrap diagrams, which also show the location of the screen decals if you need to fit them. The windscreen is made up off the model, starting with a two-part frame with raised wire-cutters added at each end, followed by the tinted screen panels. The assembly is then glued over the windscreen that has clear windows slipped into the frames beforehand, making the thickness appropriate for the scale. The side windows are similarly glazed with clear parts in the frames, then boxed in with extended frames that have tinted panels in them. A palette on angled legs is added above the windscreen with a pair of short antennae on two of the mount lugs, plus a front camera assembly that is made up from two styrene parts, a lens for the light and a clear dome that fixes over it, taking care not to trap any dust or other debris in there, with the same precaution taken for the windows. The upper hull is completed by adding the rear bulkhead with large door aperture moulded-in, then it is installed onto the lower hull, enclosing all the detail inside that should still be visible through the windows and/or back door. The rear bulkhead has an aerial bar that is placed above the door, and in the centre is a rear-facing camera that fits in a framework box, and behind it is a cruciform sensor that’s covered over by a clear box. The short front fenders and long rear fenders are built up following this, with the various light clusters added front and rear, plus muffler for the exhaust on the right fender, and a large stowage box on the left side. The exhaust then goes up over the door frame through a flexible wrapped hose that exits the back of the muffler on an angled adapter. The rear fenders are simple side sections that cover the two rear axles and have the light cluster added to the bulkhead, which also has a flexible black styrene mudflap glued to the underside. These are all attached to the sides of the vehicle in preparation for the appliqué armour panels that are made next. Each inner surface is built from two layers with an additional top section, to which the outer layer is fitted along with a small front element on the thicker portion. Along the thin bottom edge of the assembly, a row of pegs are inserted into holes in the panels whilst still attached to the sprue, so that once the glue has cured, you can remove the sprue gates and make good without having to manhandle the pegs individually, with the attendant risk of loss due to tweezer malfunctions that feed the carpet monster. A few small stencils are shown applied at this stage because they are really small. The completed side armour can then be glued in place on the sides of the hull, locating on five small pegs that match up with holes in the side of the hull. The next phase involves fitting all the additional parts that adorn the exterior of a modern AFV, starting with horizontal two layer tapering louvres that mount over the bonnet access hatches, and fixing a V-shaped towing bar on a narrow tray down the left side of the vehicle. There are also a few small boxy parts glued to the fender in front of the exhaust muffler. On the roof over the rear door are a pair of exit hatches, which have handles inside and out, plus a pair of hydraulic lifters on the sides, allowing them to be closed or posed open away from the centre line. The back of the vehicle has four stand-off brackets fitted into slots in the bulkhead, which are surrounded by more appliqué armour boxes with additional brackets for later installation of slat armour. On the roof, the clamshell turret hatch closes over the hatchway, and is joined by a pair of side armour panels with small boxes and details installed inside, and another panel at the rear that has a stowage box applied to the outside, then work starts on the .50cal that is built around the slide-moulded breech with the short cooling jacket perforated for realism. The barrel, breech top, charging handle and twin grip finish the weapon, while the mount is constructed from two main halves plus a few smaller detail parts, adding the Browning into the groove on the top, building up an ammo can with a portion of link making its way to the breech, and the front splinter-shield with the bottom mount that the M2 and its mount drop onto. The finished gun is then inserted on the base on a peg that slots into a corresponding hole in the front. At the very front of the vehicle a two-part frame is latched onto two grooves in the bumper bar, and two sensor boxes with whip aerials are fixed to brackets either side at the front of the fenders, braced by a Y-shaped bracket to the armour on the door, and with a panel of crisply-moulded slat armour laid over the frame that has a pair of cut-outs for tiny inserts and diagonal corners that wrap around to join the side panel of slats over the front wheels. A sloped box-section of slat armour is detailed with wing mirrors, indicator and reflectors before it is fitted over the side window, with two more sections and more reflectors over the rear wheels. The rearmost side slat armour panel has a cut-out to accommodate a side camera in a quadrant fairing and another camera that points perpendicular to the direction of travel from within the armour. The exhaust pipe is extended along the edge of the roof by two more lengths plus a two-part rear muffler that exhausts through the hollow tip over the back door, protecting the side-view camera from the heat with a rectangular part that fits over the top. The rear is closed over by a pair of narrow doors that have small windows near the top, which have clear glass in the frame, and a boxed tinted section placed over the outside. Handles and a protective cage are added inside and out, and they can be posed open using a pair of slat armour supports on the oversized piano hinges that run most of the outer edge. Each door has a fixed outer section of slat armour that joins up with the diagonal section on the side, plus a folding inner section that moves with the door, using different parts for open or closed. The last parts are a trio of aerials, taking note that the green painting option doesn’t have them on the profiles. Markings Modern AFVs aren't particularly overly marked on the outside, so the decal sheet isn't massive. There are two camouflage choices in this boxing, with decals to match, as there have only been two colours used on the type so far. From the box you can build one of the following: British Army Desert Camouflage Ukrainian Marines Green Camouflage The decals were printed in China and although they aren’t up to the standards of the best decal printers, they are suitable for the task, having good register, sharpness and colour density. The MFD screens could have been a little more detailed, but it’s unlikely many unclassified photos exist of them, so it’s not hard to see why, and they won’t be seen too clearly from outside anyway. Conclusion A very well-detailed model of this modern MRAP, and the inclusion of Ukrainian colours is particularly relevant, allowing the modeller to do something a bit different from a desert Mastiff 2 in British service. The tinted windows are a good boost to realism, giving the impression of thick bullet-resistant glass. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. McDonnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II Wild Weasel (LS-015) 1:48 Meng via Creative Models Ltd The Phantom bears a familial resemblance to the F3H Demon due to the origin of the type, which was intended to be a Super Demon with a modular nose for different mission profiles, but in typical military procurement style the world over, the specification was changed completely at the last minute, and resulted in a two-seat, two-engined beast that could carry a substantial war load, a large, effective radar in the bulbous nose, and the workload spread between two crew members to prevent confusion of an overwhelmed pilot in the heat of battle. The type was adopted by the US Navy as the F-4A, and as the F-4C by the Air Force, with a confusing (to me) allocation of letters throughout its career, with more confusion (again for me) when it came to the British airframes, and don’t even mention the engines and other equipment. The F-4C was converted to carry out the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) role, or as it was more colloquially known, Wild Weasel, using the powerful radar and semi-recessed radar-guided Sparrow missiles. They would approach enemy missile installations, then loiter until the enemy were tempted to switch on their targeting radar before launching a missile straight down the beam of the enemy radar, even if the target tried to evade destruction by switching off their broadcast. It is a dangerous job akin to waving your red-painted backside at an angry bull*, with a high probability of having any number of missiles hurled in your direction during the course of your mission. The later G variant was created from the F-4E and served in the Gulf War, eventually retiring from service in 1996. * It’s a common misconception that the colour red riles a bull, it’s not true. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Meng, and was greeted with some happy faces when it was announced. It arrives in a deep satin-finished top-opening box with a painting of the type carrying pods and weapons, and showing off its cranked wing and anhedral stabilisers at the rear. Inside are eight sprues in grey styrene plus six separate parts to build the airframe, plus another fourteen in the same colour for the weapons. The clear sprue is deeply recessed to accommodate the sliding moulds that depict the blown canopy profile, plus another three smaller clear sprues for clear lenses for missile sensors on this and other versions of the kit. A small bag includes two Photo-Etch (PE) parts that have two swash-plates that have been etched without attachment lugs, so don’t need any clean-up, plus a turned aluminium pitot for the nose. The package is completed by a set of pre-cut and weeded masks on a piece of clear acetate, plus a large decal sheet and colourful instruction booklet printed on glossy paper with colour profiles in the rear. Detail is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Meng, and the six separate parts are impressive straight from the box, as they test clipped together without glue and the seams just faded away, most of them running along carefully chosen panel lines, which are finely engraved with lots of variations of recessed and raised detail. Construction begins with the cockpit, which starts life as a blank tub that has detail inserts with decals added to depict the side consoles front and rear. A pair of rudder pedals are inserted into the front cockpit, and the two positions are separated by a bulkhead, with another at the rear, plus a floor insert with pedals in the rear ‘pit. Both crew members get an instrument panel and control column, the panels having numerous decals applied after painting, to add realism to the raised and engraved details already present. At the rear of each cockpit a ladder-like launch rail is fitted and an insert is fixed to the right side of the RIO’s seat, although the other sidewalls don’t have any details added. The completed cockpit is inserted into the nose from beneath, then a boxed-in bay with contents is applied to the aperture in the left side of the nose. Moving aft, the insert under the tail is prepared by adding the slotted stabilisers, slotting their tabs through the PE swash-plates as they are applied, with an additional scrap diagram showing them from overhead. They are allowed to pivot by a semi-cylindrical block that fits into the space between the stabs without glue, so that when the insert is offered up to the fuselage and glued in place, they should remain mobile unless you went too heavy with the glue. The auxiliary intakes and landing gear bays are made up from four and three parts respectively and inserted into the lower fuselage/wing part along with the nose gear bay from the inside, which is made from five parts and fixes inside the raised brackets within. The engine intake path is depicted as a pair of linked halves that by necessity have a couple of ejector-pin marks on the interior surface, which are best dealt with before you have joined them together. Once together and the seams have been dealt with if you think they’ll be seen, the front engine faces with separate bullet are inserted into the rear end and the completed assembly is slotted into the lower fuselage on curved supports and circular turrets to hold them in position. The engines themselves are absent as they won’t be seen, but the exhaust trunking is visible, and it is made up from two halves plus the rear face of the engine and an afterburner ring. There is some nice ribbing moulded into the interior of the halves, and once complete they too are dropped into supports and rectangular turrets in preparation for closing up the fuselage after the wing uppers have been joined to the moulded-in lowers. The dihedral of the outer wing panels is obtained thanks to the angled tab that fits into the lower, and it is also a single thickness part. With the outer panels in place, the inner panels are laid over them and these mount on circular turrets in the lower to ensure they locate accurately on the wing. The upper fuselage is then dropped over the lower, with a variety of pins and turrets plus a pair of rectangular tabs and slots moulded into the root of the upper wing panels, which is a neat design trick. The intakes either side of the cockpit are made up from two inner layers plus the outer skin, and they fix to the fuselage by two pins and turrets moulded into the splitter plates, and by two tabs that should hold the intake skins flush with the rest of the fuselage. A quick test-fit shows that the do, which is always nice. The wings have most of their flying surfaces as separate assemblies, starting with the flaps on the inner trailing edge, and the ailerons on the outer, both of which can be posed flush or dropped by cutting off a different set of tabs as per the additional drawings between the steps showing the two options. The arrestor hook is filled out by adding the other half of the housing, and it installs between the exhaust nozzles, which are each made up on a shallow ring to which four sections of the exhaust petals are added, forming a slightly tapered cylindrical can with good detail. Above the tail, the fin and separate rudder has the base fillet and a small insert glued to it before it is fixed to the top of the fuselage on three pegs, plus an insert under the rudder and a fairing over the very tip of the tail. The inner wing panels have retractable leading-edge slats, and these can be posed deployed or tucked away by inserting spacers under the slats or not, taking care to deal with any visible ejector-pin marks under the slats if they are deployed. Unusually, the inner main bay doors and auxiliary air intake doors are applied to the underside at this stage, the latter having retraction jacks, and remembering that the interior is painted red with the exception of the oleo on the retraction jacks. Similarly, the airbrake panel just behind the main gear bays is painted red inside, while the jack is white and the oleo metallic. The main gear struts have the two-part wheels and captive bay door fitted before they are installed with the retraction jacks and additional outboard bay door, while all of the bay doors are white to match the bays. The nose gear leg has a two-part scissor-link and a cylinder fitted plus two wheels, then it is inserted into the bay and supported by a retraction jack, adding a combined cross-member with door actuator included, which links to the bay door on that side. The bay door on the starboard side is made from two layers to match the fairing under the nose, and has a blade antenna at the rear. The front door hinges forward, and is made from five parts with clear lenses for the landing light and its pass-through window, and a V-shaped actuator that links to the strut. The equipment bay on the port side is covered over by its door if like me you have no idea what is in there, then the fairing under the nose is installed, fitting just about perfectly into the recess on two pegs. The nose cone over the radar is clipped into the front of the nose, with an oval insert on the hinge-point, adding a small square raised panel under the starboard side, locating it using a peg that fits into a socket in the fuselage. You may have noticed that the cockpit wasn’t quite finished earlier, and the pilots don’t yet have anywhere to sit. The seats are made from two halves to create the shell, into which the L-shaped cushion and horse-shoe top cushion are installed, adding a top to the headbox that also incorporates the twin loops that instigate the ejection sequence in an emergency. Once painted they are slipped into the cockpit on the front of their launch rails, and the pilot’s coaming is fitted with a HUD frame and clear lens with reflector so that it can be inserted in front of the pilot and covered by the windscreen. The windscreen and the rest of the canopy parts are created with a realistic ‘blown’ profile by using a sliding mould, so the outer surface has a fine seamline along the line of flight, which you can either ignore or sand away and polish back to clarity for additional realism. The centre-section of the canopy has a styrene part added to the front that the canopy is hung on, then the two canopy openers are joined to their styrene frames, and the rear canopy has a 0.8mm hole drilled in the front frame so that the rear-view periscope can be inserted. If you don’t fancy drilling clear parts due to their brittle nature, you can always cut off the pin and fit the periscope as a butt-fit. The canopies can be fixed closed or open by adding actuator jacks at the rear, which is given a little extra realism by making the crew access ladder from three parts and hooking it to the port side of the front cockpit. The last task is probably best left until the very end, and it involves a choice of styrene or metal pitot applied to the tip of the nose cone. The styrene pitot is a single part that fixes directly into the radome, but if using the metal probe, there is a conical styrene adapter that fits into the hole in the radome, into which the metal pitot slides, using CA to fix it in place. The quantity of weapons included in the box is generous, and for some reason they are shown being made up before the rest of the model is finished, possibly in the hope you won’t get bored and leave them in the box. There are three fuel tanks included, two for under the wings and one under the centreline, the two types having different styles of pylon. There are two large pylons under the inner wing, and these are augmented with strakes and defensive countermeasures dispensers to the rear on both sides, plus anti-sway braces to accept a choice of either a single AGM-78 with separate rear fins and adapter rail, or a pair of AGM-65s that have separate fins, mounting pads and clear seeker head, fixed to the twin rail and single adapter rail. Additionally, there are a pair of AGM-88s with separate fins, adapter rails and handed pylon with anti-sway braces, a pair of AIM-7Ms with a separate avionics trunk and perpendicular fins, and a choice of AN/ALQ-119 or AN/ALQ-131 pods that fix on the small pylon under the nose, or are ousted by an AIM-7M. There isn’t a traditional diagram giving the locations for the stores, instead there are two diagrams showing the underside of the aircraft with various arrows and alternatives that are a little confusing to this easily confused modeller. All the weapons, tanks and pods have painting and decaling instructions after the main painting pages that should make the process relatively tedium free. Markings There are three decal options on the sheet, and there is enough variation in era to appeal to many modellers out of the gate. From the box you can build one of the following: 561st Fighter Sqn., 57th Wing, USAF, Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, January 1996 piloted by LTC Mark Turberville & EWO LTC Jim Uken 23rd Tacttical Fighter Sqn., USAF, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 1991 piloted bvy Col R Peksens, EWO uknown 81st Tactical Fighter Sqn., 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing, USAF, Spangdahelm Air Base, Germany, July 1987 piloted by LTC Cotner & EWO Capt. Legget Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. There are a lot of stencils included for the airframe as well as the weapons, but knowing how covered with stencils the Phantom was, it’s possible that there may be some absent. The back page of the instructions shows the location for all of the masks that are included in the box, which have been pre-cut on a backing sheet of clear acetate and weeded so that they stand out. The canopy sections with compound curves are handled by using frame hugging masks, while the highly curved areas should be in-filled with either liquid mask or additional tape from your own stock. In addition, you get a set of hub/tyre masks for the wheels, allowing you to cut the demarcation perfectly with little effort, plus masks for the landing light and the see-through panel in the bay door it is mounted on. The inside cover contains a printed table of colour references that include the colour names in four languages including English and Japanese, plus a Cyrillic and another Far Eastern language that I’m not familiar with. Conclusion While I’m no expert on the Phantom, which you may have noticed by my lack of substitution of F for ph everywhere, I do have a few in the stash, and this is by far the most impressive to date. The detail is phenomenal, and the styrene engineering techniques on show are just as impressive. It is so tempting to break open the liquid glue here and now, but I have other builds to finish first. Extremely highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Panther Ausf.G Late (84552) 1:35 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 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 volume output, and this led to it being rushed into service with a long tick-list of issues still to resolve. Later production solved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after 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 This is a reboxing with different parts of a range of Panther kits from Hobby Boss that began unexpectedly with a Flakpanther Ausf.D and grew from there, increasing the range of parts available as the series expanded. This boxing arrives in a standard Hobby Boss top-opening box, and inside are twenty sprues plus four separate hull and turret parts in sand-coloured styrene, five sprues of brown track links, a clear sprue, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE), a length of braided copper cable, the decal sheet, instruction booklet and A3 colour painting and decaling sheet folded inside it. Detail is good, as we’ve come to expect from HB Panther kits, and the individual links give you the opportunity for some well-detailed tracks with realistic sag if you put them together sensibly. The addition of a partial interior is also good to see at this price-point. Construction begins with the lower hull, which is detailed with suspension parts and a pair of final drive bell-housings at the front, plus the small roller that prevents track throwing. A long zig-zagging plate is inserted flat against the floor inside, then the internal ladder structure is built-up from two full-length ribs and a set of six cross-braces, plus a few detail parts. The torsion bar suspension units are slipped through the holes in the ribs from both sides, and capped off with twin sockets before the whole assembly is clipped into the lower hull on several slots in the floor. A couple of detail parts and panels are laid into the floor, and the whole area is painted in red-brown primer, as this kit has a well-detailed partial interior. With the hull inverted, the many swing-arms and axles are fitted into the holes in the side of the hull, and once dry they are dressed with interleaved road wheels, some in pairs, others in singles, taking care to put them on the axles in order so that they sit properly. The idler wheels and drive sprockets finish off the running gear, then it’s time for the tracks. Each track link is held on the sprue by five sprue gates, and has a pair of guide horns glued to the inner face on a pair of shallow slots, then are joined together with liquid glue in runs of 88 links. The track runs can be created in one-sitting each and wrapped around the wheels while the glue is still soft, taping and wedging them into position to give the correct sag when the glue finishes curing. Detail on each link is excellent, and although there are a total of seven sprue gates to deal with per link, there are no ejector-pins or sink marks to be seen, so if you use a good pair of single-edge nippers and sand them carefully while settled in front of your favourite TV show, the time should fly by. The rear bulkhead of the Panther is detailed with armoured exhaust protectors, plus a pair of tubular exhaust stacks with rearward pointing exits at the top, made from two halves each. These are inserted into the armour, then the two different stowage boxes plus a well-detailed jack are added, along with the small Notek convoy light on a bracket under one of the exhausts. A couple of towing eyes are inserted into the raised circular access hatch in the centre of the bulkhead with a pin slotted between them, then the bulkhead is glued into the rear of the hull, adding a pair of towing shackles to the torch-cut sidewall ends. This kit doesn’t include the full interior, and it is blank aft of where the engine firewall would be, but you do get a handsomely appointed transmission, clutch and drive-shafts, which are assembled and dropped into the front of the hull, connected by a pair of hoses that disappear into the underpinnings. A control linkage is assembled with levers and end-caps, and attached to the top of the transmission, then a power take-off shaft and turret rotation mechanism are inserted behind the transmission, locating on a rectangular plate in the centre of the hull. The upper hull is next, laminating an inner panel to the sloped glacis plate, adding a clear periscope for the driver, and making a few holes in the deck for later use. The bow-mounted machine gun is a complex assembly that is built-up over several steps, with scrap diagrams showing how it should look before and after it is inserted into the ball-mount and the top cap is added above the sight that allows the gunner’s head to assist with moving the weapon. The ball is inserted into the kugelblende from behind, and is locked in place with an insert. On the exterior the forward crew hatch insert is prepared with the hatches on the outside and hinges on the inside, then it is dropped into the hole in the front deck, adding armoured protectors over the periscopes, the domed exterior armour to the kugelblende, headlight on its mount on the port fender, and a combination of PE and styrene brackets on the sloped hull sides. At the rear is the raised heater with PE “pizza slices” to adjust the amount of heat that escapes and this has a PE grille over the top, fitting on the port side of the engine deck, with a cast circular vent on the opposite side, and the engine access hatch between them. The various grilles and louvres are covered over by a set of PE grilles to keep grenades and dirt out, with a choice of open or closed louvres placed over them. Pioneer tools, spare track links and schürzen rails are fixed on the hull sides, the latter held in place by folded PE brackets. A travel-lock is made up and applied to the deck between the two front hatches, a few lifting eyes are added to the engine deck, plus handles on the hatches, brackets and other small parts on the sides to hold some of the pioneer tools in situ. The upper and lower hulls are then mated so that the pair of towing cable with styrene eyes and 115mm of braided cable between them can be laid over the deck, mounting on brackets at the rear and looped through the towing shackles at the front. The PE schürzen panels each have rectangular washers applied to stiffen the mounting holes before they are hung from the paired brackets on the sides of the hull, bending the ends of the brackets toward the rear to hold the sheets in position. These plates did get beaten up and knocked off despite this however, so there’s plenty of opportunity to customise the installation, starting with them hung at an 8° angle from vertical. The turret is similarly well appointed, with a full depiction of the basket, starting with the two-part floor and the boxed support at the rear, which has a seat hanging off the right and the rotation mechanism at the front, another seat with foot controls, the front supports and a lip around the pedals to prevent jamming caused by objects becoming lodged under them. A can is glued to the floor on the right, then the turret floor is mated with the basket and the rotation controls are fixed around the edge of the ring. A shallow lip is added around the sides, then the mantlet is made up, including the sighting gear, coaxial machine gun and the internal mantlet structure, with the hole for the barrel shroud. The assembly is locked between the inner panel and curved outer mantlet, then has the breech and protective framework fitted behind. The turret rear has a circular hatch in it, with a choice of posing it open or closed, scrap diagrams showing how it should fit in each position. The commander’s cupola has seven clear periscopes inserted from below, with styrene surrounds keeping them in place, then closing the assembly with the lower half and adding adjustment wheel and armoured covers on the top, which have the machine gun ring welded to the top. At the front is a PE blade sight that is folded up from a diamond-shaped part. The turret roof and sides are moulded as one part, to which the rear is glued, and a clear periscope and vent are applied to the inside. The mantlet with breech assembly are fixed to the front, and the floor with basket close the area, finishing off by adding the commander’s cupola and the external mantlet, taking care that the coax machine gun muzzle goes through the hole in the mantlet. The main gun is moulded as a single part, and thanks to sliding moulds, the detail on the muzzle brake is good, locking into the mantlet on a keyed base. A pair of pegs insert in holes on the sides of the mantlet, a mushroom vent is applied to the roof, and the shell ejection port is installed near the back of the roof. A PE cover is folded up and inserted between the mantlet and turret roof, with scrap diagrams showing the correct profile of the part once properly folded from above and the side. The roof periscope gets an armoured cover, and a grab-handle is glued over the rear hatch, with three lifting eyes added front and rear. As this is a late edition, it is fitted with infrared vision gear, mounted on a complex platform in front of the cupola, then installing an infrared searchlight and sight side-by-side on it, then adding an MG34 to the platform, gluing a yoke to support the end of the barrel at the front. Finally, the commander’s lift-up-and-rotate hatch is made up and inserted into the hole in the side of the cupola, and the model is completed by dropping the turret into the ring on the hull. Markings There are an unusually generous six decal options on the sheet, but only the first option has views of the camouflage from all sides. The rest have front and left profiles, so you may need to do some research to complete them accurately. As usual though, there is no detail on when, with whom or where the subjects served, but from the box you can build one of the following: The decal sheet is filled with vehicle numbers and the occasional cross, plus a few dials for the interior, and is printed with good register, sharpness, and colour density. Conclusion This is a well-detailed late Panther, and includes plenty of extras, including a partial interior. Although it lacks niceties such as seats for the drivers and machine gunners or an engine compartment, it does have a full turret, so some hatches can be left open without fear of blank styrene being visible. The inclusion of late-war night sights is a welcome addition, and will appeal to many, as will the price. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. T-72B3M w/KMT-8 Mine Clearing System (TS-053) 1:35 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The T-72 was the ultimate replacement of the poorly engineered T-64, which was over-ambitious for its era, so struggled with the requirements placed on it by the Russian hierarchy. After much improvement on the flawed original it became such a different beast that they renamed it, after even the hull was re-engineered to take the punishment of the improved power plant. The new T-72 (Objekt 172M) suffered from teething problems however, and initial deliveries were slow, plagued with issues until the factories were properly tooled up and the production started to run smoothly. Along with the earlier T-55 it became one of the most commonly used tanks of the Soviet Union, and has been in service for years with many upgrades and variants. The T-72B was introduced in the mid-80s with improved armour, a new engine with more power, and a complete overhaul of the main gun system from sights to stabilizer. The B3 variant was a substantial upgrade to the previous versions, beginning in 2010 and took reserve tanks, overhauled the systems that would be retained, and replaced many of the electronics, especially the sensor suite that would improve survivability on the modern battlefield. The hull and running gear were also upgraded with new tracks that have two pins instead of the earlier one, and the crew/hardware are protected by an improved fire suppression system. The gun didn't escaped improvement, and the auto-loader that reduced the crew to three was been improved to feed the new 2A46M5 gun, which fires kinetic penetrator rounds in a discarding sabot outer, similar to the western tanks. In 2014 a new sub-variant bearing the M suffix was designed to address some of the issues experienced after the B3 entered service. New 4S23 Relikt explosive reactive armour panels were installed on the hull and turret, and slat armour was added to the rear to defeat shaped-charge anti-tank missiles that are common on the modern battlefield, with the extra weight countered by a new V-92S2F diesel engine that outputs 1,130hp. The type has entered Russian service in large numbers since 2018, and some have left service violently and involuntarily since February 2022. The Kit If you have any other MENG T-72 based kits, such as the Terminator and the earlier T-72B3, on which this boxing is based, only with different coloured plastic used to mould it. The box is typical Meng, with a satin finish, and a thick lower tray to protect the contents, which is good to see, as many modellers stack their models in the stash and a weak box is a pain if your piles are large (ooer!). Inside the box are nineteen sprues in grey styrene; a sprue of flexible styrene, the two hull parts and turret top in the same colour; a clear sprue; four sprues of black styrene track links and seven sprues of the interlinking end-caps in flexible black styrene; a length of braided metal wire; a run of black poly-caps; a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass; a clear T-shaped suspension positioning tool; decals, and the usual glossy instruction booklet with painting and marking guide to the rear. There are also three thick card sheets printed on both sides in four languages that give you information about the model, and if you’re a collector of these things, there are three punched holes in the top edge, although only one side of text will be in your language, plus a few drawings with bilingual English/Japanese titles. This boxing includes new parts for the KMT-8 Mine Clearing System, which is attached to the front of the vehicle, clearing a pair of pathways for the tracks through any minefields that the tank may encounter, and slat armour around the rear of the vehicle. It's a Meng kit, so of course the first impression is one of a professionally presented and highly detailed model. There's a lot of detail included in the box, and the construction proceeds logically, which as you'd expect begins with the road wheels, idlers and drive sprockets, all of which have poly-caps trapped between the inner and outer portions. Return rollers and suspension parts are added to the lower hull at the same time as the self-entrenching tool is installed in the lower glacis. The suspension is torsion-bar driven on the real thing, and this is replicated in styrene here, with long bars going through the lower hull and short swing-arms holding the stub axles at their ends. A clear styrene tool is provided to get everything in alignment here, so that if you elect to have your suspension level for a display model, everything will touch the ground. With the rear bulkhead detail panel added along with some spare track links, the road wheels are pushed into place on the by-now cured suspension, and that leads us to the tracks. The tracks have a three-part jig to facilitate construction. Firstly, the guide horns are glued on and later cut from their sprue. With six links on the jig, a top jig part J2 is clipped over the lower, holding the links in place. You then insert a section of sprue containing five flexible styrene end-caps into the third part of the jig J1, and cut them loose with a sharp blade. These are then offered in the jig en-masse to the pins on one side of the tracks, pushing in only one way due to the shape of the keys on the sides of the jigs. Here you have to be careful to insert the end-caps in the correct orientation according to the scrap diagrams in this section. Finally, you install a set of track-pads to each link to finish off the run, although I believe you can leave them rough and ready for cross-country travel. The pads fit into recesses in the outer surface of the links, and glue in quite easily, but be sparing with it, as you'll ruin all your work if the glue gets into the pins. In conclusion on the tracks, they are a bit fiddly, delicate and really require your full attention, so don't expect to have them finished in an hour. I was already speeding up production by the time I'd tested them on a previous boxing, and the results are worth the effort, being detailed and workable, but be prepared to put in the effort – you need 2 runs of 81 links. With the tracks out of the way, attention turns to the upper hull, which is based on the large part as seen in the sprue pictures. The raised portions for the driver's compartment, the turret ring armoured sections, PE engine grilles, armoured covers, and the exhaust are added to the upper, with a detail insert forming the glacis, plus fuel and equipment stowage boxes covering most of the length of the fenders, leaving them smooth and uncluttered. The shaped front mudguard is delicately moulded with thinner edges to give a more scale look, and are glued to the front of the fenders. At the rear a smaller pair of simple fenders are installed, and the engine deck is completed with more parts, including another pair of PE grilles in a sloped rear section, with two flaps mounted diagonally to assist with cooling. The light clusters are built up and added, as are the four brackets for the slat armour, with a larger light cluster at the front in a protective cage, and the rear unditching beam added later, moulded from a single part with plenty of bark detail. The side skirts are multi-parts, with lots of detail moulded in, and they have further ERA blocks to the front, once they are hung on a trio of brackets on the hull sides. On the rear deck an armoured cover is applied over the existing part, and a long delicate actuator is threaded across the deck. Back to the rear, and a pair of towing cables are fabricated from 100mm lengths of the braided wire, adding two-part styrene towing eyes and draping them as suggested in the diagrams. Speaking of drums, there are parts included in the box, but not used in this edition due to the slat armour, which comprises two parts each for the sides, and three for the rear of the hull, all shown again on scrap diagrams for your ease. The soft-bagged ERA packages are a particularly noticeable aspect of this variant of the T-72, and these are supplied as eleven single bags per side that have mounting straps moulded-in. The KMT-8 mine plough is attached to the glacis of the vehicle in two halves, and is made up in two halves as a result, one being a mirror image of the other. They are each a bundle of rams, struts and levers, plus the teeth that tear up the ground as the tank moves forward, exposing and then detonating the mines. Each one is built in successive steps, then glued onto the lower glacis in line with the tracks. The turret is always a fun part of the build for me, and this one starts with the big barrel, which is built up in sections, some of which are moulded complete, while the longer sections are split vertically and will require careful alignment and seam sanding to get a nice tubular barrel. There is no interior to the turret other than the commander's instrument panel at the front of his hatch, so the turret lower is used to close up the assembly early, after which a host of ERA blocks are glued all over the place, which is why the bare turret looks like it has already been peppered with small-arms fire, as well as bearing little resemblance to the shape of the finished article. Equipment, grab-handles, smoke grenade dispenser and sensors are dotted around between the armour, and the mantlet is installed with a flexible styrene cover giving it a realistic crumpled look for good measure. Around the rear are stowage boxes, one of which has a portable missile launcher lashed to it on the centre station. There is a three-part set of slat-armour supplied for the rear to protect the rear of the turret from shaped-charge missiles again, covering over and squaring off the stowage and stowed missile launcher. The commander's cupola has vision blocks around it, a protective shield at his rear and the big anti-aircraft machine gun on a mount to the front, which can be posed horizontally or raised for anti-aircraft work by swapping out the support strut under the breech. When advancing, the shield is pointed forward to provide protection, and has a reinforced viewing slot to keep the commander safe and give him better situational awareness for longer during a skirmish. The gunner's hatch is a much more straight-forward flap with handles and latch on the underside, and this, like the rotation and activity of the commander's hatch can be left mobile by leaving off the glue. Finally, the barrel is mated to the mantlet via a keyed lug, and the turret is attached to the hull via the usual bayonet twist-to-fit mechanism. Markings If you're expecting Russian green for the three decal options, you'd be right. One is in Great Patriotic War Parade decals and isn’t wearing the bagged ERA blocks, while the other was an attendee of a technical show. I won’t mention the third decal option or show its picture, as it is from a contentious time, and seems a little tone-deaf on Meng’s part. From the box you can build one of the following: Victory Day Parade marking the 76th Anniversary of the Soviet Victory in the Great patriotic War, Moscow, May 9th, 2021 Russia International Military-Technical Forum “Army-2017”, Alabino Military Training Grounds, August 2017 An option that's likely to be a little raw to most people, 2022 Decals are printed in China in good registration, sharpness, and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion A solid and detailed model of this modern Russian tank that will go together easily, although the tracks will keep you pretty busy for a while. The addition of the KMT-8 mine plough adds extra interest, but the last decal choice could have been more thoughtful under the circumstances. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. Bergepanzer BPz3 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 hull is identical or similar to its progenitor, but the turret is missing, replaced by a 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 Kit This is a partial retool of the 2015 release from Hobby Boss, adding a substantial number of new parts to depict the differences between the Buffalo and the original Canadian variant that was tooled. The kit arrives in a typically sturdy top-opening box with a painting of a Buffalo at work on another tank, and inside are twelve 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) sheets of parts, two flexible black lengths of track, the decal sheet and the black and white instruction booklet that has the colour painting guide 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 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 halves. Once the swingarms with stub-axles are glued in place, the road wheels can be pushed into place for removal during painting if required, thanks to the temporary nature of the flexible polythene sleeves. Quickly, the bulldoze blade is built from large, bulky parts, adding the supports and pivots, plus a large towing eye at the front of the blade. It is joined to the hull by a pair of large pins that you can leave unglued if you wish to move 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 creation. There is an overlap of two links on each run, and once the glue is dry they are slipped over the running gear so that attention can turn to the partial interior that is included. The interior is begun by taking a floor panel with upstands around much of the sides, and detailing it with three crew stations and their copious equipment and comfortable 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 bracket over it. The “more to come” begins with the upper hull half, which first receives an insert over the front that has two holes in it, and creates the roof of the casemate in which the crew sit. A very detailed insert is made up into a four-sided assembly into which a lot of equipment is placed over the space of five steps, including tools and even some 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 exponentially, and includes PE and styrene parts as well as some decals for stencils and dials. The driver’s console with lazy D-shaped steering wheel is inserted into the glacis plate, then the assembly is turned over to detail the exterior, including some spare track links from the black sprue, and additional towing eyes that are mounted on the back of the casemate. Ice cleats are placed on the flatter areas of the deck in groups, light clusters, grenade launcher packs, hooks and a pair of coils in braces, as well as all manner of small parts are all dotted around the upper hull, in diagrams that are again somewhat chaotic, so it might be an idea to cross them out once you’ve completed each little section. The numerous hatches around the casemate are prepared with handles on both sides, and can be left open if you wish to show the insides, and one has a large retraction mechanism embedded in the open door. The driver’s hatch is given clear vision blocks before it is inserted into the hole, and at the rear the bulkhead with hanging mudflaps, and short mudflaps at the front bracket the hull. The two hull halves are joined together, and more detail is used to clutter up the engine deck with its moulded-in cooling fan grilles that includes pioneer tools and other equipment that would be useful. The side skirts on the left side are moulded as a main run with a separate rear part around the drive sprocket area that are repeated in mirror-image on the right, and back on the engine deck a substantial frame is built up from a substantial number of parts, including some fine PE brackets, attaching to two blocks on the middle of the deck and raised slots on the rear of the casemate. Additional towing bars and equipment boxes are festooned on the diminishing free space on the engine deck, with another raised platform that contains spare wheels and other tools/parts, additional rear-facing grenade launchers, and two large honeycomb platforms that sit over the twin cooling vents, with enough room to allow them to do their job. The remaining hatch is for the commander/gunner, and has a ring of six vision blocks, central laminated hatch, periscope and a remote variant of the MG3 machine gun on a crane-like mount, with the finished assembly dropped into the hole in the top if the casemate. Much bracketry is fitted around the rear bulkhead, and a short arm is locked in place on the right side of the deck, then the main crane is started. Built around a single three-sided jib, the hydraulic lift cylinder is mounted at one end within the three sides, then closed over by the forth side, with a V-shaped cut-out to allow the movement of it and its ram, which is attached to a two-part topper with the turntable beneath it, mating 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 tools, with several items on both sides, plus more details and of course the block and tackle that performs the heavy lifting. The pulleys are assembled with brass 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 with eyes glued to the ends and located on the rear bulkhead by a pair of clamps, rear view mirror, and towing cable that is cut from the brass wire to a length of 115mm and tipped with styrene towing eyes and draped across the engine deck. Markings There are two options available from the sheet, both wearing the same three-tone green/black/brown NATO camouflage. There are instructions to decal the two jibs, the decals for the main jib being on the instruction booklet, while the smaller one on the engine deck is in colour on the main sheet. From the sheet you can build one of the following: As usual with Hobby Boss, there’s no description or era of the subject matter, 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. Again, Google is your friend. Conclusion It’s a well-detailed model of a niche, but extremely important vehicle in the Bundeswehr and other operators, with a lot of attention that has been paid to the interior, as well as the exterior. You don’t get the engine, but that’s not a big deal. Highly recommended. They’re out of stock presently at Creative, but check back soon as it has been a popular subject. Review sample courtesy of
  16. Soviet (9P117M1) Launcher w/R17 Rocket of 9K72 Missile Complex ‘Elbrus’ Scud B (82939) 1:72 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Scud B is perhaps one of the best-known Soviet era short-range ballistic missile thanks in part to its uses with the former Iraqi dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, carrying explosive and possibly poison or nerve-agent a relatively short range, mainly to terrorise their enemies. In Soviet service it was carried by several types of mobile transporter erector systems, one of which is the 9P117 that was a basic chassis used for many weapons platforms, as it is a highly mobile, 8x8 platform that has a forward cab for the driving crew, and another mid-mounted crew compartment. The missile was laid centrally along the length of the chassis, facilitated by recesses in the superstructure, and two separate front cabs to accommodate the tip of the missile and its protective framework. Originally put into service as the Scud A in the 50s – a design that was at least partially inspired by the WWII V2, the later Scud B moved on in terms of capability, and again through the C and to D variants that improved the type’s performance incrementally. Powered by a diesel engine that was buried between the two forward cabs, the eight powered wheels made it a competent off-roader, allowing it to carry out its assignment as a mobile missile system that would be hard to pin-down, able to move to a new location, erect the missile and support it with recoil stanchions, compute the trajectory in the central cab where the electronics are located, launch was either controlled from the centre compartment or after moving the crew to a safe distance from the hot blast of the rocket motor. Then they could pack up and move again, reloading with a fresh missile along the way, getting away before the enemy could draw a bead on them and retaliate with missile, artillery or air bombardment. They have been gradually phased out from service since the collapse of the Soviet Union, to be replaced by more modern, mobile systems such as the 9K720 Iskander, which although it closely resembles its ancestor in many way, it is a more flexible, accurate and lethal system. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling in this scale from Hobby Boss, although their parent Trumpeter have produced one in 1:35. The kit arrives in a medium-sized top-opening box, and within are ten sprues, a chassis part, and a single loose panel in sand-coloured styrene, a clear sprue, eight flexible black tyres in their own bag, decal sheet, instruction booklet in black and white, plus a glossy full colour painting and decaling sheet slipped in between. Detail is excellent throughout, and the single part chassis is extremely well-done, making full use of sliding moulds to provide impressive detail. Construction begins with the afore mentioned chassis, which has the sloped front guard moulded-in, as well as the pivot-points for the eight wheels. Initially, the transfer boxes and drive-shafts are built up and are inserted into the hollow centre of the chassis along with cross-braces, actuator rods, tanks and hydraulic cylinders, followed by the creation of two sets of four hubs with stub axles inserted in the centre for insertion into the chassis over the next few steps. Starting at the front, the two front hubs, tyres and suspension arms are slotted into place, closely followed by the rear pair, both with steering linkages that pass through spaces in the chassis. The same process is carried out for the rear four wheels, minus the steering linkages, as only the front four are steered. The superstructure is then begun, starting with the big lift at the back that erects the missile, locking into lugs in the chassis rails, with an M-shaped support on a W-form cross-brace, then a pair of side panniers are installed over the rear four wheels, a rack of cylinders on two supports, and the rear chassis bulkhead, with a scrap diagram showing the correct location of the bulkhead. More stowage and boxes are dotted around the rear, and the stabilising legs are fixed hanging over the rear of the chassis, with thick pivots extending back from the rear. There are three sections of superstructure, two of which are crewed, the other is the site for equipment, and it’s the last of the three that is made first on a floor that receives detail parts before it is covered over by the undulating roof, with sections of the wall added underneath with pipework threading through it. At the front the twin cabs are each made from a sloped floor with two seats added to them, plus the inner wall of the cab that has a small window inserted, a steering wheel on the driver’s side, with more equipment in the opposite cab. The cab shell is inverted to install the glazing from within, and a twin-fanned radiator is inserted into the rear, then the two cabs in their respective areas. Additional detail is fitted under the cab and over it, including the clear front lights either side of the radiator grille, then the centre compartment is built in a similar manner, starting with windows, adding brackets and equipment, the larger electronics boxes having decals to improve the detail, and finally the floor is glued to the underside to finish it off. The missile is a straight-forward assembly, consisting of the two main halves, to which the perpendicular fins and rocket motor with steering vanes are inserted into the rear of the body. The cradle for the missile is arranged around the single part that outlines the missile, and has grab-handles, supports and the complex stand for the base of the missile that is clipped into place without glue to allow it to pivot. The missile and a pair of bracing travel locks near the nose finish off that assembly, then it‘s just a case of installing the three superstructure assemblies, followed by the missile once the glue on the others have dried, so the movement doesn’t unsettle the join between it and the chassis. A pair of wing mirrors are the last parts to be added to the sides of the two cabs. Markings Two decal options are the usual for Hobby Boss, but this kit includes decals for four, although there are only two drawings for the last two, as they have the same colour/pattern all over. You are also given details of the when and where they saw service, which is another surprise, but a nice one. There is also a series of drawings to assist you with painting the missile itself. From the box you can build one of the following: Czech Army Afghanistan Army, Kabul, 2005 Iraqi Army, Gulf War, 1991 Iraqi Army, Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88 Hobby Boss decals are printed anonymously, and are sometimes a weak-point of their kits, but this sheet should be more than sufficient for the task in hand, having good registration, sharpness, and colour density. The many instrument dial decals are printed on a clear backing that saves you from having to perform colour matching, which is always welcome. Conclusion This is a very nicely presented and well-detailed kit of the Scud B’s carrier from Hobby Boss, and with a diverse range of decal options, it should appeal to a wide audience. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. French R35 Tank with FCM Turret (83894) 1:35 HobbyBoss via Creative Models Ltd Designed by Renault, The R35 was an interwar light infantry tank used by the French army in their unsuccessful defence of their homeland at the beginning of WWII, after which it remained in service with the German forces as a beutepanzer, where it was either used in second line service, modified or heavily converted to a makeshift gun carriage and used as a self-propelled howitzer. It was originally intended as a replacement for the diminutive FT-17, but due to the sloth in re-training their crews, they were still ill-prepared even on the eve of war. When Germany pounced, there were almost a thousand R35s in service, although they had been found unreliable, poorly armed to battle other tanks, and with too little armour. All the remaining vehicles were taken on charge by the Germans and more than a little tinkering with cutting torches began. Some had their turrets removed to use as small gun emplacements, while others were thoroughly butchered to become tank destroyers, although in doing so the original chassis was horribly overloaded, leading to slow, breakdown prone vehicles such as this, that must have been loathed by their crews. The turrets from the similarly unimpressive FCM tank, that was originally equipped with a pair of machine guns in much the same way as the German Panzer I, one was later removed in favour of a 37mm cannon, mounted in a turret that was intended to become the standard design for all French light tanks, despite a number of problems. By the end of the war only a small number were left that were used by the French until they were replaced with more capable tanks. The Kit This is a cross-tooling from Hobby Boss, utilising existing sprues to create a new subject. There are a substantial number of options that make use of the basic chassis, which HB have naturally exploited to the maximum as you'd expect. The kit arrives in a fairly small box with a divider keeping the sprues from rattling about and damaging the hull and other smaller parts. Inside are eight sprues plus the upper hull in sand coloured styrene; two sprues in a brown styrene containing the tracks; a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a tiny decal sheet, separate colour painting guide and black and white instruction manual. It shares many sprues with the previous editions of the R35, so if you’ve seen our reviews or possess some of the other options, there will be much that is familiar on the sprues, and there’s plenty of detail to be seen, including an engine, transmission and much of the interior of this diminutive oddity. The engine is first to be constructed, with a two-part block that is heavily detailed with additional parts, a great many of which are tiny, which results in a very nicely depicted and detailed motor for your R35 chassis. Work then commences on integrating the engine with the lower hull, beginning with the sand-cast rear bulkhead, which has the idler tensioning devices, a pair of hatches, an undocumented spare wheel that pops up and disappears in later diagrams, and towing hook added, after which the radiator, cooling fan and ducting are assembled with the power-take-off wheel projecting from the rear of the box. The hull itself is made up from two side panels and a floor, into which the radiator housing, a PE bracing plate over a styrene former and driver controls are added. The sides are fitted out with three return-rollers and a final drive housing per side, and four bogies with two wheels per unit and a big suspension spring are built up. Two more solo bogies, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels are also constructed, and are installed on the suspension mounting points on the hull sides. At the same time the driver's seat, fuel tank and engine-mount bulkhead are ensconced within the hull, and the rear bulkhead closes up the rear. After adding a few more driver controls and their linkages, plus a turret base plate, the drive-train is dropped into the hull, with a transmission housing added to the front, and thick drive-shafts link the sprockets to complete the drive-train. Given their small size in 1:35, HB have decided to go down the link and length route with the tracks, and I can't say I blame them. The straight track runs are made up from six parts with a few links in between the curved lower sections, and twelve individual links at each end. Each of the individual links have three sprue gates, while the lengths have additional overflow tabs that ensure against short-shot links, and also double as ejector-pin positions, saving the delicate detail from marring. Unless you're going to the trouble of using metal replacements, these should do you proud with a bit of sympathetic painting and weathering. Give them a final rub with an artist's pencil to impart a metallic sheen where they get worn by the wheels, and you'll never know they weren't metal. With the tracks in place, the full-length fenders are added, along with a little stowage and a big bottle-jack on the right rear. The upper hull is detailed inside with the driver's instrument panel, plus a choice of actuator for his vision hatch, which can be posed open or closed. The final drive inspection hatch is added along with some PE parts, as is the lower part of the driver's hatch, with the upper section added in the open or closed position, depending on your choice. The upper hull is then closed up and a host of pioneer tools are threaded through their tie-down blocks to be added to the sides of the hull together with the silencer/muffler and exhaust, the feeder pipe for which comes from the rear of the vehicle. A small armoured cover is placed over the exhaust exit on the rear, and a small hand-crank on a stiffened plate is installed vertically on the right of the engine deck. This edition comes with an anti-topple assembly at the rear reminiscent of the FT-17, with a curved underside and angular supports above, a splayed frame on the underside, and a long starter handle projecting through it. On top is the spare road wheel that was shown in a diagram earlier, probably a victim of copy and paste syndrome, because the C-shaped mounting point on the rear of the tank is shown bare while the assembly is attached to the rear, and would probably baulk the installation of the ironwork at this stage if it had been glued in place as originally suggested. The small angular turret from the FCM tank is moulded as a shell that has the rear hatch added along with the hinge and vision port, with side view ports installed along with a few grab-handles, before the main gun assembly is slotted into its mantlet and inserted in that gap at the front of the turret, after which the embarrassingly short barrel tips are added to give the impression of a hollow muzzle. The turret is then completed by the addition of the floor with integrated turret ring that locks into place on its bayonet lugs, completing the build. Markings There is just one option in the box for this kit, and as usual HB are stoically mute on its origin and time in service. From the box you can build the following from the box: The sheet is absolutely minute but sufficient to do the job, and as there are only three decals on the sheet, the identifying text takes up most of the space on the sheet. Conclusion It's a small tank that's almost cute in 1:35, with plenty of detail included in the box. If the alternative turret interests you, you should be pretty happy with what's in the box. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. European Agricultural Tractor with Cart (38055) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Lanz Bulldog was a peculiar early tractor, powered by a single-cylinder “hot bulb” diesel engine with a single piston, which although it was ahem… agricultural, was very effective and easy to repair, so it became very popular in Germany, manufactured at its base in Mannheim and built under license in other countries. The D8500 used a three-speed transmission plus one reverse gear, and the curious engine was upgraded over time with output eventually reaching over 50hp. The upgrades were evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and by 1938 they were still available with metal wheels that must have been horribly loud on any hard surface, but gave enough traction to carry it over rough or muddy ground so that it could carry out its job. Pneumatic tyres were often added later once they became commonplace, making farming a slightly quieter endeavour, and reducing the driver’s trips to the dentist to replace fillings. The last of them rolled off the production lines in the 60s, ending a very long run, although plenty have survived to the present day, attending retro shows. The Kit This is one of a string of brand-new toolings of this tractor family from MiniArt, and a little out of the left field in terms of subject matter. They have clearly done their homework though, and have released a number of variants of the tractor with rubber or metal “tyres” and with or without trailers. It arrives in a medium-sized top-opening box, and inside are fourteen sprues in grey styrene, a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret, a small sheet of decals and the instruction booklet with colour cover on glossy paper and profiles at the rear. The PE is safely cocooned in a card envelope, and the tiny size of the fret is surprising at first, but it’s great that they have included it to get the detail just right. Construction begins with the big, bolt-riddled chassis, which is made from forward and aft sections that both mate to opposite sides of a central bulkhead and adding axles, accessible ancillaries and towing arm at the rear. The top cowling is made of separate panels that are mated under a curved top panel that has filler caps fixed into holes in the top. It is shaped to fit snugly onto the surface of the chassis, and is joined by a large tread-plated deck on which the driver will later sit. Pedals and other driver controls are attached, then a sprung seat with perforations to drain off water and allow the driver’s butt to breathe are placed off-centre to the right, plus some linkages to the important areas. A large bell-housing glues onto the right, and another teardrop fairing that protects the drive-belt is attached on the left side, then the large rear mudguards and rear bumper are fitted under the driver’s deck. The underside is finished off by making up the front axle with steering arms, then two stacks are constructed, the aft one a slightly tapered pipe with mushroom cap, while the larger hot one at the front has a bulged section midway, and is prevented from swaying by a PE bracket wrapped around it, much like those on your downspout at home. The smaller front wheels are simple two-part assemblies that you make two of. The large toothed rear wheels are laminated from five sections to depict the various traction surfaces that are present on the real wheels. Again, you make two, and all four wheels are added to their respective axles, then the fifth wheel that the driver uses can either be fitted in place atop the steering column, or inserted into the bell-housing on the right flank of the machine, for the purpose of starting the vehicle manually. If you are fitting the wheel in the usual position, there is a cover with PE ring that fits over the socket, and that is shown hinged down when the wheel is inserted into the bell-housing, while the nub at the top of the steering column should be cut off for accuracy. That’s all there is to it, apart from the painting and weathering. Oh, and the trailer of course. The flatbed for the trailer is next, made up on a ladder chassis with two sections of bed that are completed and mated together, all of which has fine engraved wood texture on both sides, as do the other wooden structures in the kit. The fixed rear axle is without suspension, and has two large brackets that hold it onto the cross-frame. The front axle is similarly unsuspended, but on a frame that has a turntable between it and the bed to enable the axle to rotate freely to reduce the turning circle for easier manoeuvring. The wheels are each single-part carriage wheels that wouldn’t look out of place on a surrey-with-a-fringe-on-top, with a centre boss that can be glued carefully to the axle to leave the wheels mobile. The flatbed is made more useful by adding a set of dropside walls around it, each one being a single part, the front end is lower to accommodate the park bench-style seat that has L-shaped brackets holding the back at the correct angle. The A-frame that connects it to the tractor is a flex-fit on the rotating front axle, and a pair of additional hinge detail parts are added at the bottom of the rear. Figures There are two sprues of figures included in this boxing, plus another two sprues of accessories to add some interest around your model. The figures are dressed as typical farm workers of the period, a man that is operating the steering wheel fitted to the bell-housing on the side in the starting position and wearing a cap. The other figure is a lady that is crouching, with what looks like a flask in her hands, although I suspect it has a more mechanical use, possibly to warm up part of the engine to assist with starting a cold engine. As usual with MiniArt figures, they’re extremely well sculpted with a sensible parts breakdown, and have a lot of detail moulded-in. The accessories are typical of those found on a farm in the 40s and 50s, including a scythe worthy of the grim-reaper, three types of fork, a watering can, a sickle, and a separate handle that can be used either with a wide-headed rake, or with an adze head, although you could also make another handle to use both. There are two of everything of course, so plenty to go at. Markings Anyone that has lived or even visited a farm will know that a tractor is a beast of burden, and as such there isn’t much care lavished on the cosmetics of the thing. The mechanical parts will be horribly oily, and over the years the paint will chip and rust, while the greasy parts will become caked in a mix of dust, oil and grease, with frequent spills and impact marks adding to the patina. We are only given one scheme on the back of the instruction booklet, but the world is your oyster if you want to depict other colours that you have either seen, or want to portray. Decals are by MiniArt’s usual partners Decograph, and although it’s only a small sheet using just black and white printing, it’s all in good register with sharp, dense printing as we expect from them. Conclusion This isn’t the first of the Lanz Bulldog tractor from MiniArt, but it’s a different one, having a more aged look when compared to some of the others. The metal wheels and old-fashioned spoked-wheeled trailer lend its use to earlier eras, or in the background of a more modern diorama as a grizzled wreck. Great detail throughout of course, as we expect from MiniArt. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet ‘Bounty Hunters’ (LS-016) 1:48 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The original Hornet design lost the Lightweight Fighter battle with what became the F-16, but after some re-designing and tweaking, it won the contract for the US Navy’s do-it-all fighter to replace the Tomcats, Corsairs et al, becoming the multi-role F/A-18 Hornet. When more capabilities were required, a further re-design that was more of a total do-over but retained the same general shape and designation, only about a third larger for reasons best left unsaid, but probably budget related, and a way to get around possible restrictions or pitfalls barring a new type. This much larger aircraft became the Super Hornet, with the two-seater designated F/A-18F, and the single-seat variant E, both of which began production in the late 90s, entering service just before the new millennium. With the withdrawal of the F-14 Tomcat in 2006 they became the primary carrier-borne fighter of the US Navy and Marines, serving alongside the original Hornet for a while, but all of the “legacy” Hornets have now left US service, although they remain on the books of some foreign operators. You can easily tell them apart without a size reference by checking the intakes. Oval = Hornet, Rectangular = Super Hornet. The enlargement of the wing area, lengthening on the fuselage and installation of more powerful GE engines changed the characteristics of the airframe markedly, giving it more speed, weapons capability and range, with even more tankage hung from the wings, and buddy-pods allowing same-type refuelling operations without having a vulnerable dedicated tanker on station. There have been various upgrades over the years, and the Super Hornet has a wide range of munitions to choose from, making it a capable all-round war-fighter that is still nowhere near the end of its service life, although trials with pilotless carrier-based aircraft are underway. In addition to the E and F variants, the G, or Growler is a heavily modified two-seater with a huge quantity of Electronic Warfare equipment carried both internally and externally on pylons. The Kit This is brand-new kit from Meng that is based on their recent single-seat F/A-18E, but with new parts to give us the two-seater. We have come to expect great things from Meng, as they have impressive technical skills and a penchant for high levels of detail in their kits. It arrives in one of their standard satin-sheened deep boxes with a painting of the aircraft on the front, and a host of goodies inside. Opening the box reveals nineteen sprues of various sizes in grey styrene plus two fuselage halves in the same plastic, five small sprues in clear, plus the canopy (all wrapped in protective self-cling plastic), three sets of small poly-caps, a Ziploc bag containing ten flat-headed pins, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal, two sheets of decals, a clear plastic sheet with pre-cut kabuki tape masks, the instruction booklet with colour profiles in the rear, four sheets of card with information about the F/A-18 in four languages, and a similarly multi-lingual competition flyer to win cash prizes, apparently. Everything is separately bagged with mildly annoying staples closing them up, and once you have found your way past these you see the high quality of the parts within. Detail is right up there with the best, and has finely engraved panel lines, with raised detail where appropriate and slide-moulding used to improve quality further without creating more parts that make some people sweat profusely. Construction begins reassuringly conventionally with the cockpit, with the new twin-seat tub having the sidewalls installed next to the detailed side consoles, a large control column part in the front and a smaller one in the rear, chunky HOTAS-style throttles, and a pair of well-appointed instrument panels, which have a number of individual decals supplied for both it and the side consoles, the numbers for which are called out in scrap diagrams. The rudder pedals are moulded into the floor and could do with some more detail if you intend to shine a light in there, and you can see them in the shadows of the detail photos above. The nose gear bay is made up from a roof, shallow sides, front bulkhead and some thick trunking/hoses snaking through the bay. Those two sub-assemblies are mated then trapped between the forward lower fuselage halves, with the top half moulded-into the rest of the new upper fuselage, to be brought together later. In the meantime, the upper fuselage is prepared by fitting the wing lowers with a choice of folded or straight wing-hinge supports, and choice of ECS ram air exhaust types, the multi-tubular type having some impressive moulding. The F-18 runs two GE F414 turbofans, with long intakes to keep the rapidly rotating fans away from the prying eyes of enemy radar beams. The trunking is made from two halves, and has a few ejector-pin marks inside, but cleaning those up before joining the halves should make the task easier. The rear is covered by a representation of the engine front, then the completed trunks are attached to the appropriate main gear bay boxes, which are made from three parts, and have more highly impressive detail moulded-in, as shown above. The two sub-assemblies are inserted into the lower fuselage from within, and splitter plates are attached to the sides of the fuselage on two slots, with some fine detail moulded-in. The rectangular sides of the intake trunking and lower fuselage sides fit around the assembly, then a pair of pivots are slotted into the rear fuselage with poly-caps allowing them to rotate without suffering from modeller’s droop. The lower nose clips into the lower fuselage, then the upper fuselage is lowered over it, mating snugly even without glue from a quick test fit I made. She’s looking like an aircraft now, but the cockpit is unfinished and she’s got no nose. The coaming is first, and has the HUD sides added and a circular projector lens in the bottom. The two clear panels are inserted between the supports one over the other, with a scrap diagram showing the correct position, then it can be glued in place and the windscreen fixed over the top. The coaming between the pilots is also inserted, and a shortened turtle-deck behind the rear seat is made up from two detailed parts, followed by the nose cone and insert with the muzzle cover for the M61A2 Vulcan cannon at the top, joined to the fuselage with a stepped ridge helping to improve fit. The Hornet’s upper wings are moulded into the fuselage, but the slats and flaps are separate paired parts, the slats capable of being modelled deployed, or by cutting off the nubs in the leading edge, retracted. The flaps can also be depicted cleaned-up with one set of straight actuator fairings, or fully deployed by using a separate cranked set, with the gap between the sections filled by the upper surface inserts. If you chose the unfolded wing joint earlier, it’s simply a matter of applying the top and bottom sections to the link, adding the spacer, then fitting the appropriate flap actuator fairings for the flaps, and the slats in extended or retracted positions, again by removing the nubs on the leading edge. The folded wingtips are made up with retracted flaps and slats plus straight fairings before they are inserted into the L-shaped fold with a different set of spacers. The two vertical fins have a T-shaped pivot point inserted under a small separate section of the rudder, then the completed rudder is trapped between the two halves of the fin without glue so it can pivot later. A nav. light is inserted into the outer side, and the other fin is a near mirror image. The fins fit into slots in the rear fuselage, and the elevators push into the poly-caps hidden within the fuselage sides later on. The twin exhausts start with a cylinder that has the rear of the engine moulded-in, a PE afterburner ring, then a two-part length of trunking with a corrugated interior. A choice of exhaust petal types finishes off the rear, one set having straight petals, the other with cranked rear sections, and after painting they’re inserted into the two apertures in the rear of the fuselage. The rugged nose gear of the Super Hornet has to be sturdy to withstand repeated carrier launches followed by spirited arrestor-hook landings, and you have a choice of setting the catapult bar in the up position for parked, or down for an aircraft ready to launch. A landing light and a number of stencil placards are applied to the leg after painting it white, and the twin wheels fit either side of the transverse axle. Additional parts are fitted in and around the nose gear bay when inserting the gear leg, then gear bay doors are fixed around the bay, causing much perspiration when you have to add the red edges to each one. The main gear legs also have a number of placards added after painting, and the wheels are made up from two parts each. These too have additional parts added during fitting into the bays, closely followed by the red-rimmed bay doors and their actuators. Just in case you wanted to catch an arrestor wire, the hook nestles between the two exhaust fairings on a long lug. The instructions have you making up the munitions for a break before completing the model, but we’ll cover that later. The ejection seat is made up from a series of very well detailed parts, and although it doesn’t have seatbelts for absent pilots, there are stencils for the headbox sides and rear. They are installed in the cockpit, optionally along with the individually posed pilot figures that come on the sprues, which have separate arms, a wrap-around flotation vest and separate helmeted head with O2 hose. The new longer canopy part is crystal clear with an external seam over the top that you can either leave there (it’s pretty fine), or sand flush and polish back to clarity. There is a frame insert to fit within the canopy, and a choice of two canopy openers, depending on whether you wish to pose the canopy open or closed. A blade antenna in the centre of spine finishes off the top of your model. Under the port Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX), the integral crew ladder is stored (on the real thing), and it can be posed open by adding the ladder with its two supports and the open door to the bay, or if you want to pose it closed, put the long narrow part over the shallow recess to represent one edge of the ladder. Back to the weapons. This is where the rest of the pins and tiny poly-caps come into play, allowing you to switch and change your load-out whenever you want on some of the pylons. Most of the pylon types have the pins trapped between them, four of type-A, two of type-B, and one of type-C. Type-B also has an adapter rail fitted instead of pins, which is also made from two parts, and these fit on the outer wing stations, while the four identical pylons fit on the two inner stations per wing, and the solitary Type-C attaches to the centreline. A pair of wingtip rails are made up with spacer plates, then you can choose which of the supplied weapon types to hang from them. This boxing includes a pair of AGM-65 Mavericks (accidental Top Gun reference) with clear seeker-heads, separate tails and detailed adapter rails. Two GBU-16s and two GBU-12s are built from halves, with the fins in the front and rear separate parts, and there is a clear “droopy” seeker-head, with the poly-caps inserted into chambers in the bomb halves. The AIM-9Xs have clear seeker-heads and exhausts, plus adapter rails, while the three AIM-120Cs are each moulded complete, with a slim adapter rail. The two AIM-9Ms have a clear seeker, and eight separate fins, then the AN/ASQ-228 targeting pod is made from two halves, a two-part rotating sensor mounting with mask, and tubular rear fairing, which is mounted on a concave pylon that fits to the port of the underside fuselage. Scrap diagrams show the correct location of the missiles on their rails, as well as the targeting pod, while another larger diagram shows which options can be placed on which pylons. It’s always best to look at some real-world photos for examples for demonstrable and practical load-outs. Markings There are three decal options on the sheet, and you also get a set of canopy masks that are pre-cut from kabuki tape. From the box you can build one of the following: VFA-2 ‘Bounty Hunters’ Strike Fighter Sqn., Carrier Wing 2, USS Abraham Lincoln, 2008 piloted by Capt. JC Aquilino & WSO Scott Van Buskirk VFA-2 ‘Bounty Hunters’ Strike Fighter Sqn., Carrier Wing 2, USS Abraham Lincoln, 2007 piloted by Cdr. Guimond & WSO Cdr. Eden VFA-2 ‘Bounty Hunters’ Strike Fighter Sqn., Carrier Wing 2, USS Abraham Lincoln, 2004 piloted by L.Cdr. Keith Kimberly & WSO L.Cdr. Mike Peterson Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The main sheet includes all the markings for the airframe, while the smaller sheet contains the stencils for the pylons and the weapons, of which there are many on a modern jet. The colours are called out in Meng/AK codes, as well as Gunze’s recent water-based Acrysion paints, which haven’t been prominently available in the UK, although that’s changing as time goes by. The masks on the clear sheet have been pre-weeded so you only get the masks, without all the surrounding tape. There are masks for all the wheels, the landing light, one for the window of the AN/ASQ-228 targeting pod, and frame-hugging masks for the canopy and windscreen. You are advised to fill in the highly curved centres of the canopy and screen with liquid mask or small sections of tape cut to length with some angles cut where necessary. Unfortunately, I managed to ruck-up the edge of one of my canopy masks, as it wasn’t protected from things brushing over it by the usual background tape. Conclusion Meng have brought their own particular set of skills to the party with both the E and now two F variants, and there's also the EA-18G Growler, which is my favourite. They have produced a highly detailed model of both single-seat and now two two-seat variants, with fancy decals, some excellent moulding and markings to create a model that is excellent out of the box, without the necessity of aftermarket. Extremely highly recommended. Currently out of stock with Creative due to popularity, but are bound to be back soon, so keep checking back. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Meat Products (35649) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd As a species of omnivores, if you’d care to check our teeth that contain elements of carnivore and herbivore teeth layouts, we often partake of meat, usually from the local butcher or supermarket, or market place if we’re so minded. This set depicts a pair of displays of meat of various types that would typically be found in a market setting, and arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box that has a painting of the subject matter on the front, and the instructions on the rear, all in full colour. Inside are six sprues of grey styrene that contain parts for a two-wheeled trolley with leaf-sprung suspension and a pair of handles for the operators to lift it in order to change position. The other display area is static, and consists of an angled planked bed with different length legs front and back, plus cross-braces to stop it from falling flat. On top of the static display are six shallow boxes that can be doubled in height by adding a rectangular frame over the top. The meat products are found on the remaining two sprues, which are identical, each one containing the following: 1 x Half a pig 1 x Half a lamb 2 x chicken carcasses (2 parts each) 2 x links of eight sausages 1 x long curved sausage 1 x pig head 1 x leg of pork 1 x short sausage 1 x long sausage 1 x coiled sausage 2 x looped sausage 1 x “lump” of meat. Possibly a haggis? Bear in mind that I’m no meat expert in any sense of the word, so some of my identifications may be suspect, but check the sprues and accompanying artwork for further details if you’re unsure. The paintings and drawings on the rear for the box should give you enough information to paint the finished article, and there is a colour chart at the bottom that gives shades as swatches, and in Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and colour names to assist you with picking your colours. Conclusion A useful piece of diorama fodder to add some human scale to your latest creation. Aren't you proud of me for getting through this review without making any iffy sausage jokes? Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. US Mine Detectors (35251) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Mines have been an unfortunate fact of war for many years, as a way to prevent the enemy encroaching on your territory, and giving you a loud bang and a bright flash as a tip-off if this happens at night. Minefields became a standard military practice during WWI and WWII, and only recently has the laying of mines been frowned upon by many countries due to the damage inflicted on hapless civilians once the combatants have gone home. During WWII there were many methods available to the Allies to counter German minefields, including manually searching for them using some kind of prod or bayonet, but the more efficient method was the use of electronic devices that could detect the presence of metallic objects beneath them. There were several types, but all used a coil, sometimes within a round or oval plate-like surround, held by the operator on a long broom handle-like stale, with a wire leading eventually to a pair of headphones that would alert the operator to an object beneath the ground with an electronic tone. If it wasn’t a rush-job, they would mark the mine with a small flag and move on, otherwise the tools would come out to extract the mine there and then, which although it was much less likely to explode because you were aware of its presence, it was still a very difficult task that could result in the operator becoming a victim. Of course, the best and safest solution was the flail-tank, but these units were often overwhelmed by requests for their presence, particularly on and soon after D-Day as the Allies attempted to break out from the beachhead. This set depicts a group of US mine detectorists at work in the field, and arrives in an end-opening figure box, and inside are eight sprues of various sizes in grey styrene, and a small decal sheet with some signs as well as stencils for equipment. As is common with this type of set, the instructions and painting guide are on the rear of the box, showing what’s included and giving painting instructions linked to a colour chart at the bottom, giving colour swatches, Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya and colour names. You can build four figures with the set, two of whom are standing, one detecting with a long-handled device, the other waiting to either add a marker flag or dig out a mine with a small trowel. The other two figures are kneeling and crouching respectively, one feeling for the sides of a metal plate with a bayonet, the other digging a small hole to excavate a mine that has been discovered, bayonet stuck into the ground while he works. All figures have M1 helmets, half with netting covers, and they all have their rifles either slung over their shoulder or laid down next to them on the ground. They’re wearing standard WWII GI battle dress that includes puttees over their boots, and have webbing that holds their various pouches and equipment, plus their mine detecting specific equipment where appropriate. The instructions show the cables on the detecting equipment and carry-handles on the mines as parts that you will need to scratch build from your own stock of wire, but the pictures are enough to give you the information you need. In addition, there are decals for small square flags that are included, painting the flags yellow and applying the decals over the top. There are also curved stencils for the recovered mines, and eight of the afore mentioned small black Danger signs finish off the small decal sheet, which is printed by MiniArt’s usual partners DecoGraph up to their usual high standards, another Ukrainian company we’re glad to see are still trading. As usual with MiniArt kits their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown of the figures and other parts, plus extras, although short lengths of wire will be needed to make the most of that detail for the wiring, additional flags, and mine carry-handles. Conclusion A finely sculpted set of highly detailed figures with their equipment to add to your next project that includes a minefield in the process of being cleared by some brave GIs. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. BMW Z4 M40i (CS-005) 1:24 MENG model via Creative Models Ltd BMW have a reputation as a luxury and performance car company that has been building over the years with plenty of awesome and stylish vehicles coming from their stables. The Z4 is a two-door convertible coupé, and there have been three generations of the type that first entered production in 2003. Some of the designs have been an acquired taste to some, but they’re generally considered to be a pretty desirable sports car if you’re in the market for one and have the funds. The latest iteration of the design was launched in 2018 and has reverted back to using the soft top of the original design after the second version introduced a retractable hard-top. That may not appeal to all potential customers, but they have managed to halve the time for deployment to a pretty spritely 10 seconds from start to finish. It was designed and manufactured in Austria, and shares its floorpan with the Toyota Supra that is also built at the Magna Steyr factory there, as part of a cooperation with Toyota. There were initially three models starting with the M20i, the M30i and the range-topping M40i, which has a 3.0 litre straight-six petrol engine that outputs 335bhp and carries the terrified driver and solitary passenger from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. The design is angular and modern, giving the impression of speed even when parked up, and as well as looking good it also has a five-star crash rating, just in case you can’t keep it on the road or someone T-bones you. It is full of impressive electronics that manages the engine and the driver’s experience with a large Multi-Function Display (MFD) in the centre console that is updated over the air and a Heads-Up Display (HUD) for the driver to make him or her feel like a fighter pilot as they break the speed of sound (or national speed limit if they’re unwise). In line with a lot of modern premium designs, the car can be unlocked and even started with a mobile phone, although that’s a good way of having your car stolen if you’re out of sight or otherwise distracted. Production suffered from a brief halt due to the situation in Ukraine, but has since resumed, although it is scheduled to reach a natural conclusion in 2024 as the Z-series is brought to an end, presumably due to Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars going the way of the dinosaur in the coming years. The Kit This is a brand-new tool from MENG, and forms part of their non-dinosaur related Car Series, and is predictably number five in that series. The kit arrives in their usual satin-finished top-opening box that has a handsome painting of the subject on the front, plus a holographic BMW authorised product sticker with the twin-grille emblem in the centre. On the sides are two side profiles of the car in blue and red, plus a little extra information and some QR codes to MENG’s social media sites. Inside are three sprues and four separate parts in light grey styrene, a clear sprue, four low-profile flexible black tyres, a short tree of four polycaps, a sheet of shiny stickers for the mirrors, a tiny Photo-Etch (PE) sheet for the seatbelt buckles, a sheet containing two material seatbelts, two small sheets of self-adhesive masks for the clear parts, a small sheet of decals, a smaller sheet of decals for the emblems that have raised chrome areas that don’t scan well, plus of course the instruction booklet that is sub-A4 and printed in colour on glossy paper with colour profiles of the two choices provided on the back pages. Detail is exceptional and includes deep detail using both traditional and slide-moulding techniques to create the illusion of reality. The grilles, lights and exhausts are particularly impressive, and when painted sympathetically, should look highly realistic. The model is a kerbside kit, so doesn’t include detail in the engine compartment, but because of the high level of aerodynamic fairings around the underside it shouldn’t be missed. The detail on the interior, wheels and brakes more than make up for that. Construction begins with the aforementioned underside, into which the front suspension units and coil-over shocks are inserted, allowing the front wheels to be steered in unison. The brake discs are made up from two layers to depict the cooling vents between front and rear surfaces, and this mounts to the hub with a polycap hidden inside, then it is placed into the wheel well, flex-fitting into place to remain mobile. The holes in the underside are filled with two inserts, and a three-part rendition of the rear of the gearbox, which is the only part of the engine visible after the build is finished. At the rear a substantial double-H sub-frame is applied to the sockets, joined by another pair of discs that are made up in the same manner, with the transmission and drive-shafts linking them and holding them in place in the wheel wells until the rest of the suspension swing-arms and coiled shocks are added over the top, which both have curved shields that are engraved with directional and handing arrows for your ease. The exhaust system is made from only two parts, but depicts the transverse muffler at the rear and catalytic converter where the single down pipe bifurcates very well, with a separate part depicting the end of the down pipe from the manifold. More suspension ironwork is applied over the exhaust, then it’s time to put the wheels on. The tyres for this kit are depicted by four flexible black circles with a suitably skinny profile and handed treads, much like the real thing, so ensure you put the right hand on the right side, as per the scrap diagrams. The tyres slide over the rims, which have five double spokes each with detailed centres showing the five studs holding them onto the hubs. These ones however have a single pin that snugs into the polycaps hidden in each brake disc, allowing test fitting and suitable BRMMM! Noises during the build process. The interior is formed from a twin tub that has a rear wall added with moulded-in speaker grilles to finalise the shape, to which the accelerator pedal is glued into the left foot well, and a short-throw gear lever is added to the centre console. The two seats are formed from the separate seat parts that are found in the bodyshell bag initially, and have their backs and belt guides added from the parts on B sprue before they’re dropped into the interior, after which the seatbelts are created from the fabric that is provided in the box, which are threaded onto the PE buckles before they’re glued in place, with a scrap diagram showing where they should fit. If you’re circumspect with the fabric sheet, you could also have some material left for other projects if you keep it on hand. The dashboard is well-detailed and has two decals provided for the central MFD and digital binnacle, under which the steering column with separate stalk ring and detailed wheel is slotted, with the brake pedal descending from the underside of the dash. The finished assembly then attaches to the interior on a C-shaped mounting at the front of the central console. The tub is completed by the two door cards, which have separate handles and a detailed painting guide in a small scrap diagram, then the whole assembly is glued onto the floorpan, locating on a number of raised shapes moulded into the top side. There is a rear shelf behind the seats, which has a pair of headrests made up from front and rear portions, and a clear wind-deflector between them that has masks for both sides, plugging into the shelf part, which fits on two tabs behind the seats, and is completed by a waffle-textured load area part that mounts on two turrets moulded into the rear wheel arches. Preparation of the bodyshell is started by removing the S-shaped sprue from the opening, then inserting the backing behind the front bumper/fender, and making up the two headlight clusters with a styrene reflector that is painted silver and black according to the key, with a clear bulb part slotting into the centre. These are glued in from behind and covered over by the clear lenses later on with the two grille sections at the front, which have exceptionally well-moulded detail within the surround. A number plate holder is supplied with two pegs on the back for the front bumper too, and a pair of inserts make up the vent detail on the sides of the front wings. The windscreen frame is moulded separately from the bodyshell, and has the clear glazing glued in along with a central rear-view mirror that is supplied with a mirrored sticker to give it a realistic look, plus a pair of well-crafted windscreen wipers that plug into the scuttle from the outside, attaching to the bodyshell from the inside, locating on three mounting pegs. The wing mirrors are moulded on triangular sections, and have clear indicator repeaters glued into the front of the shell, and more mirrored stickers to simulate the glass, inserting into the angled space between the door and windscreen frame, while the door handles are fixed into the recesses in the door skins near the rear edge. At the rear the brake cluster insert is painted silver then covered over with the clear lens, which you paint clear red and orange to depict the lights, plus another insert and lens mounted into the two vertical grooves in the bumper corners, and the central brake light is inserted in the integral spoiler in the boot lid. Under the boot lid another number plate is attached on a pair of pegs, then the bodyshell can be mated with the floorpan, inserting a pair of wide T-shaped clear parts in the back of the door cards if you are depicting the roof down to portray the tops of the retracted windows. The stowed roof is a single part that covers the load area behind the seats, which finishes the model unless you are putting the roof up. The soft top is moulded as a single part with a small interior detail section, plus the clear rear window, which has the heated screen element moulded into it, then it is placed over the interior after adding the two corner parts and the door windows if you plan on showing them rolled up. There are also masks included for the windscreen and rear window that allow you to paint the black lines around them where they join the bodywork. Markings There aren’t a lot of decals in this kit, as it’s a car afterall, not a Spitfire. There are two decals for the number plates that say “BMW Z4”, and two that are used to create the screens on the dashboard. On a separate sheet are a number of small BMW logos and name badges that are printed in relief and with a chrome finish where appropriate on most of them. The detail and shine on the decals is stunningly realistic and should look great with a quality paint job. Sadly, the scan of that sheet doesn’t show off the realistic shine of the chrome very well. It's perfect in real life. The painting instructions show the vehicle in either San Francisco Red Metallic or Misano Blue Metallic, but the Meng/AK and Gunze Acrysion codes show the use of non-metallic colours, so if you want to be truer to the real colours, you may need to check out some of the specialist paint manufacturers that cater to car modellers that want accurate paint for their models. Conclusion This is a gorgeous model of a stylish car, and really looks the part. The stamp of approval from BMW adds confidence, and the extras that are included in the box will really help with realism. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. RMS Titanic (PS-008) 1:700 MENG via Creative Models Ltd There can’t be many people that haven’t heard of the appalling and unnecessary loss of life that happened when the Titanic’s maiden voyage route intersected with an iceberg, causing huge rips down the ship’s side and overwhelming the safety measures that led many to believe that she was unsinkable. At the end of the day on 14th April 1912 she hit that fateful iceberg and began taking on substantial quantities of water. Less than three hours later she broke up and slipped beneath the surface with many of the passengers still aboard, and many more forced to jump into the almost freezing water. Over 1,500 souls were lost that day thanks to the hubris of the designers and impatience of the supervising crew, but many lessons were learned from this tragedy that are still applicable today, and many lives have subsequently been saved as a result. The 1997 blockbuster release of the film The Titanic brought the story to the public consciousness again after the wreck had been found over 13 miles from her expected location some years earlier. She was found lying upright and in two major parts, both of which had hit the sea bed at a considerable speed, badly buckling the underside. She has since been thoroughly inspected, and some of the knowledge gleaned from those expeditions was incorporated into the fictionalised plot of the James Cameron helmed film. Which itself has become part of modern vernacular, with phrases such as “paint me like one of your French girls” raising the occasional titter. The Kit This is a new tool from MENG, and it’s quite an interesting and unusual proposition, as it is moulded in pre-coloured styrene, comes with a wood-effect plinth and gold-painted ferrules to stand the model on, and what’s more fun is that it also has a lighting system included with a battery box hidden in the base, plus a touch-sensitive button out of sight to turn the lights on and off. Neato! The kit arrives in a slender box in MENG’s usual style with a painting of the titular ship on the front, overhead and side views on the sides, and a number of QR code links to their social media sites for good measure. Inside the box are four loose white parts plus a sprue in white styrene, a tan sprue, a brown sprue, an orange/brown sprue, a small brick red sprue and lower hull part, a black sprue and upper hull part, and the afore mentioned wood effect base and brass/gold painted supports on a sprue that was originally moulded in brown. In addition, there is a black and silver name plate for the plinth, a length of flexible LED strip with a lead and socket on one end, plus a battery box with circular PCB holding the touch switch and terminated with a socket for the plug. The instructions are quite unusual in their layout, taking the form of three concertina sheets that extend to 90cm once unfolded. The first sheet is single-sided and has the history of the Titanic in four languages including English, plus a short advisory section in the same four languages. The second and third sheets contain the instructions and optional painting guide, including the electronics. Detail is excellent for the scale as we expect from MENG, and although the “proper” modeller will want to throw some paint at the kit, you don’t have to, or if you’ve bought the model for a child, everything should go together without glue or paint and still look good, especially when you tap the invisible switch and the lights come on! Construction begins with the decks fore and aft (pointy and blunt ends if you’re uninitiated), which are moulded in tan and have a black insert and the white tops of the hull that have a representation of the railings moulded-in. The main superstructure has tan decking inserts added at both ends, and has another upstand and walls in white, on top of which more tan decking parts are fitted, then some white superstructure parts and another partial layer of decking. The hull is next, and begins with adding the three props, which are moulded in tan and insert into brick red fairings that slot in under the stern on three pegs each, with the centre prop fitting in front of the sole rudder, which made turning the ship a slow process. The black upper hull has the LED strip stuck between two raised grooves using the self-adhesive tape on the back of it, threading the wires through a hole in the rear before adding the bow and stern decks over it. The main superstructure is pushed into the upper hull, and the upper hull is pushed into the lower hull to make it look more like a ship. On the bow deck a number of black and brown inserts are pushed into holes in the deck, including cranes, a task that is repeated at the stern with more cranes, and a helpful purple arrow advising you where the bow is. Fixtures and fittings are inserted into the decks on the main superstructure next, including the lifeboats, of which there were too few of course. The four funnels are each made out of two orange halves with moulded-in raised riveting, a black top, and an insert that slips into the top of each stack, the rearmost one having a different insert, as it was mostly used to vent exhaust from the galleys, machinery and ventilation, rather than belching smoke and steam from the boilers. The masts are found on the brown sprue, with one each placed fore and aft. The plinth has a very believable wooden texture painted over the brown styrene, with a raised frame ready to receive the self-adhesive nameplate, and two holes for the hull supports, which have been painted gold at the factory. Flipping the stand over, the battery pack sticks inside a marked area on its self-adhesive tape, and the switch is similarly stuck into a raised circular bracket shape near one of the supports, with the wire fed through the hollow centre of the support. The box takes two AAA batteries that aren’t included, the ones shown in the photos being from my battery drawer. The lower hull has two holes to receive the supports, and the wire dangling from one of them mates with the socket sticking out of the plinth, allowing you to turn the lights on and off by tapping on the plastic over where the switch resides. The rest of the instructions are taken up with a colour chart that gives you codes for MENG’s collaboration with AK Interactive, and Gunze’s new(ish) Acrysion paint system, which is starting to be more readily available in the UK. Markings The Titanic only wore one paint scheme during her short life, and as the styrene is pre-coloured already, it’s not strictly necessary to put any paint on the model once complete. In case you want to however, there are two views of the ship from the side and overhead with the colours called out in MENG/AK Interactive and Gunze Acrysion codes. Conclusion This is a very well-detailed model regardless of whether you want to treat it as a true model or snap it together for a nice table model over the course of the afternoon. Detail is excellent, and the addition of the lights gives it extra appeal. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. Ukranian Soldiers, Defence of Kyiv, March 2022 (MB35223) 1:35 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models Ltd On 24th February 2022 Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine on the pretence of a “Special Military Operation”. The less said about that the better. Ukraine mobilised quickly and have been fighting the invader ever since, making excellent progress at removing the attackers from the country at time of writing, although winter is coming and who knows what will happen next? Nothing bad, I hope. Please note: Any political statements on either side will be removed and the posters suspended for 31 days. This figure set depicts a quartet of Ukrainian soldiers, although their uniforms may not always match, fight well together and have each other’s backs when the chips are down. Inside the end-opening figure-sized box is a single sprue of parts to create a group of four soldiers wearing modern MOLLE combat vests and BDUs, some of them wearing MICH-style covered helmets while the others wear warm knitted hats and tube scarfs. The little slice of life that is the norm to fighting-age individuals in Ukraine depicted by this boxing is a rare moment of peace where three soldiers are posing for a photo being taken by a comrade with his smart phone. The photographer is holding his AK in one hand while he takes the snap, while one guy poses with his across his chest with a long pouch on his back, the second poser is crouching down with an RPG held vertically in his hand. The final subject of the photo is leaning with one hand on something with one foot on a shallow object, depicted on the box as looking inside a knocked-out tank. Sculpting is up to Master Box’s usual standards, with crisply moulded equipment, realistic drape and creasing of the clothing, and natural poses. The breakdown of parts is as you’d expect, with separate arms, legs, torsos and heads, each of the heads being fully represented, while the soldiers with helmets have their chin-straps moulded into their faces. Oddly, the box tells us that the smart phone being used to take the photo isn’t included, which seems odd, although it won’t take much effort to create one from a thin slip of styrene sheet and a raised round, or rectangular part to represent the camera of your chosen type. It’s a small omission, but strange given that it is at the core of the set. The part numbers for each figure are shown on the rear of the box, which has photos or renderings of the completed figures, some from a few angles to help with positioning of parts, plus a sprue diagram. An example of the digital camouflage often worn is also printed as a swatch on the box, with a colour conversion table for Vallejo, Lifecolor, Mr Color, Tamiya and AMMO paint codes. There is also a QR code that leads to Vallejo and AMMO’s sites depending on which one you point your phone camera at. Conclusion A good-looking set of figures for a contemporary situation, which may be of interest to anyone wishing to build modern Russian AFVs without putting a controversial star on it. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. German Flakpanzer V Ausf.A (84535) 1:35 Hobby Boss via The Flakpanzer V was a derivative of the Panther main battle tank that was developed by Rheinmetall and utilised a pair of 3.7cm Flak guns with 1,500 rounds between them that were mounted in an enclosed turret with sufficient elevation to allow the gunner to target aircraft successfully. The vehicle in this form was another paper or wooden Panzer because at the end of the war, the project had been cancelled with only a mock-up utilising a Panther D chassis and a wooden turret completed in 1944. The project commenced in 1943, initially considering a pair of 20mm cannons, then it was proposed to increase the size of the weapons to 3.7cm and eventually to 55mm in due course, as the feeling was that just as 20mm flak cannons were falling out of favour for being too light-weight, eventually the 37mm would suffer the same fate. The project was shut down following the D-Day invasion and Allied incursion into previously secure territory, partly because the Panther chassis were needed for the front-line, but also because the 37mm guns were already considered unfit for development. Before cancellation however, it was given the name Coelian. The Kit This is a partial retool of the original Flakpanther kit from Hobby Boss that was released in 2012 with a single flak cannon open on the deck, which has seen numerous reboxings with new parts over the intervening years, and now enters the realms of the paper/wooden panzer with this latest alteration. The kit arrives in a top-opening box with an interesting painting of an in-service machine with a pair of crew figures on top, although these aren’t included in the box. Inside are ten sprues in sand-coloured styrene and three separate hull/turret parts in the same colour, nineteen sprues in brown, two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE), a decal sheet, black and white instruction booklet and an A4 sheet of colour profiles in panzer grey. Detail is good and the part-count is high, moreso due to the individual link tracks that accompany the kit. Construction begins with the lower hull, which receives twin rows of torsion suspension tubes, plus axle sheaths that are first mounted on a rail for each side, then are slipped through the exits on the sides of the hull from the inside, to have the actual bars fed through with the swing-arms moulded into the ends. The idler axles are pushed into holes in the rear, and the armoured final drive covers are first added at the front, then have the housings with guide wheel and other suspension parts completing the fitting. The Panther spread its weight with interleaved wheels, the under sets in singles, the outer in pairs, which are slipped over the axles in order along with the three-part idler wheels and drive sprockets to complete the running gear in preparation for the tracks. Each track link has four sprue gates and has two separate guide-horns glued in place before they are linked together into runs of eighty-eight, which will require glue to hold them together. It’s best to make them into runs and drape them around the road wheels while the glue is still soft, securing them in place with tape, foam and anything else you can find to help. The sprue gates are on concave edges of the links, but with a circular needle file or motor tool on low speed, it’s the work of moments to deal with them. With the tracks in place, the fenders are fixed on tabs that mate with slots in the top of the lower hull, have the front mud guards added, making up the rear bulkhead to finish off, which has the usual twin exhausts with PE stabiliser brackets, angular stowage boxes, jack, and access hatches added to complete it. The upper hull has vision blocks inserted from below at the front, then with the part right-side-up, the forward hatch insert and swinging hatches, then the engine hatch with insert on the engine deck, followed by the circular grilles and rectangular radiator grilles with PE mesh over them, mushroom vents, lifting hooks and grab-handles are all installed. On the sloping sides of the hull the pioneer tools on frames, barrel cleaning rod tube and spare track link racks are placed all over any open area. At the front, the glacis plate has a single headlight, driver’s hatch, and notable by its absence, no kugelblende, as the bow machine gun had been deleted on this variant. The two hull halves are brought together, and have optional width indicator lollipops on the fenders, and tiny wingnuts across the join. The hull is completed by adding the towing shackles at the rear and gluing six hangers under the sponsors to accept the PE schurzen, which are in four sections, allowing you to bend, remove or dent them as you see fit to add a little individualism to your model. The turret is the last assembly to be made, and starts with the enclosure that covers the breeches of the 37mm cannons, with two holes in the forward end, and pegs in the bulbous rear, which mount on a pair of tapering trunnions inside the turret part, which is a complete moulding of the upper structure that is completed by adding the floor with moulded-in bayonet lugs and rear access hatch plus the two barrels, both of which have tapering hollow muzzles thanks to a bit of handy slide moulding. The perforations on the sides could be drilled out if you have the bits and patience, and there are depressions there to guide you if you’re feeling brave. On the top of the turret are two circular hatches, another that has a square cover laid over it, three mushroom vents and a shell ejection port on the centre rear with separate hatch. The commander’s hatch is relatively simple, but has a wide binocular targeting mechanism that is mounted over the hatch, which begs the question “how would you open the hatch with that in position?”. The turret and hull are joined by bringing them together and twisting to lock them in position. Markings There was only one of these wicked-looking beasts made, and that was partly made of wood. The prototype was painted Panzer Grey, so if you’re going for accuracy that’s the colour. If you’ve a mind to create a what-if or what might have been though, you have plenty of examples of late war camouflage out there, so have at it. From the box you can build the following: The scanner has made the red code digits appear slightly pink. They aren't in reality. Decals aren’t usually Hobby Boss’s strongest point, but these will be suitable for the job, as the sheet consists of three rows of digits plus a few spare zeroes, and two pairs of crosses in different sizes. The inclusion of the red digits will come in handy for anyone planning to go off-piste. Conclusion The Coelian is an interesting off-shoot of the successful Panther lineage that was still-born due to circumstances, but this is a nice modern tooling with plenty of detail. Add some figures, stowage to personalise it and place it in a small urban or factory diorama, and it will draw plenty of attention. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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