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  1. StuG III Ausf.G Feb 1943 Alkett Prod. (72101) 1:72 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The StuG is a popular German WWII AFV, and the more you learn about it, the more obvious it becomes why. The SturmGeschütz 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, lurking 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 a 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 Panzer III Ausf.B chassis, and whilst they were 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for combat due to the relative softness of the steel that would have led to a swift demise on the battlefield, being withdrawn in '41-42.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, and 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 Allied tanks and artillery. The Kit This is a new tooling from MiniArt in their nascent 1:72 armour line, which is bringing high levels of detail to this smaller scale, with MiniArt’s engineers and tool designers applying their skills to a scale that has been neglected to an extent for many years. The kit arrives in a small top-opening box, and inside are nine sprues of various sizes in grey styrene, a small clear sprue with decals in a Ziploc bag, a Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret in a card envelope, and the instruction booklet in full colour in portrait A5 format. Detail is excellent, including weld-lines and tread-plate moulded into the exterior of the hull, with plenty of options for personalisation, and link-and-length tracks to provide good detail without making the building of the tracks too time consuming. Construction begins with the lower hull, which is put together with five parts creating the ‘tub’, then adding the three-part glacis plate at the front, and the exhaust assembly at the rear, accompanied by duct-work and overhanging vents with a PE mesh panel underneath. One decal option has a few holes drilled into the rear overhang before installation for use later, then various suspension parts are applied to the sides that have the swing arms and axles already moulded-in. Six paired return rollers are made up, along with twelve pairs of road wheels, plus two-part idler wheels and drive sprockets, which have an alternative front sprocket face for you to choose from. Once all the wheels are installed on their axles, the tracks can be built, utilising the long lengths on the top and bottom, adding shorter lengths to the diagonal risers, and individual links around the sharper curved sections toward the ends of the runs. There are eight individual links at the rear, and six at the front, plus another between the lower and its diagonal, each link having three sprue gates in sensibly placed locations. The gun shroud is built from four parts and mounted on a carrier between a pair of trunnions, which is then fitted to a pivot plate and set aside while the casemate front is made from two sections. First however, the fenders are glued to the sides of the hull, locating on three lugs moulded into the sides. The gun shroud is slotted into the casemate, with a mantlet slid over the front, after which the lower heavily armoured and bolted lower casemate front has a vision slot and armour cover applied before it is glued to the bottom of the casemate, along with the sides and rear bulkhead, attaching it to the lower hull while the glue cures to ensure everything lines up. A convoy light is glued into the centre of the glacis, then the engine deck is made, fitting two-part sides, and a single rear panel that is aligned when the deck is installed on the rear of the hull. Two PE grilles are glued over the outer cooling intakes, and a length of spare track is fitted over the rear bulkhead of the casemate, adding armoured covers over the five vents on the engine deck, with a choice of cast or bolted vents on those at the rear of the deck. A choice of three styles of cupola can be made, each one made from a differing set of parts, based around the commander’s vision blocks and central hatch, adding wire grab handles from your own stock where indicated, then inserting the completed assembly in the cut-out on the roof, adding a periscope forward of the cupola from within the roof. The barrel is moulded as a single tubular section with a hollow muzzle glued to the business end, and sleeve moulded into the front of the saukopf, which is an inverted trapezoid with an optional stowage box on top for one option, and an alternative site on the engine deck for the other decal options. PE brackets are added around the vehicle, with pioneer tools built up and fitted where there is space as the build progresses. The gunner’s hatch can be posed closed, or replaced by two separate parts in the open position, adding another scratch-built grab handle from wire, then fitting a drum magazine to the supplied MG34, sliding it through the frontal bullet shield with PE support and another DIY grab handle before putting it in place in front of the gunner’s hatch. Towing eyes are supplied for the tow cable, but you must provide the braided thread or wire to make the cable itself, attaching one to each fender, fixing fire extinguisher, jack block, jack, barrel cleaning rods etc. to various places, and for one decal variant, two stacks of wheels are mounted on long pins on the rear bulkhead, making the pins from more of your own wire. Option four also has a PE railing around the engine deck, which has a basket to hold two jerry cans, each one made from three parts, and slotted into position at the rear of the deck. Two scrap diagrams show how the forward ends of the railings attach to the back of the casemate, and the other four decal options can have stacks of road wheels stowed on the back of the engine deck on the aft vents, again on pins made from your own wire stocks. Two aerials of 30mm each are also needed to complete the model. Markings There are five decal options on the small sheet, with various schemes ranging from pure panzer grey to dunkelgeb, with camouflage or distemper over the top. From the box you can build one of the following: Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 189, Eastern Front, Spring 1943 21 Luftwaffen-Feld-Division ‘Adler Division’, Staraya Russa Region, Eastern Front, Spring 1943 21 Luftwaffen-Feld-Division ‘Adler Division’, Staraya Russa Region, Eastern Front, Spring 1943 Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung ‘Grossdeutschland’ Okhtryka, Ukraine, Eastern Front, Spring 1943 Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 210, Eastern Front, 1943 Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion MiniArt bring their talents to bear on 1:72 scale, releasing a subject they have already researched for their 1:35 scale range, resulting in a highly detailed model with plenty of options for personalisation. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. Street Musicians 1930-40s (38078) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Musicians playing their instruments on the street would be a familiar sight to anyone from any era, as that’s how many of them have made their living over the years, especially before recording contracts and gigs were a thing. They’d pitch-up, p ut out a bowl or some other receptacle for donations, grab a chair if necessary, and strum, pluck or blow their instrument of choice until they were too tired, were moved on, or earned enough to keep them fed for a little while longer. Of course, modern streets are more closely monitored for street performers, however before WWII there was little in the way of regulation, so performers could earn a living without the law getting in their way, although a hat or bag full of change would be a tempting target for vagabonds and thieves. This set arrives in a figure-sized box with the three musicians depicted in a high-quality painting on the front, and split apart in instruction form on the rear, complete with instructions for some of the more complex assemblies, and a paint chart that gives codes for Vallejo, Mr Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus colour swatches and generic names for completeness. Inside the box are five sprues in grey styrene, three containing figure parts, the remainder the accessories. Two of the figures are standing, one playing a fiddle/violin with the open case collecting his winnings, while the other standing man is a crooner with an acoustic guitar, supporting it on his raised knee, resting his foot on a small stool. The remaining figure is seated on a dining-style chair, playing an accordion, with the case in front collecting change, and a walking stick laid across it, implying that he may be blind, or at least somehow disabled. The parts for each figure are found on separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The accessories include the two seats, violin, guitar, and accordion, but there are several percussion, string and wind instruments included on the sprue for use elsewhere, or for depositing in the spares box. Conclusion Perfect for filling some space on a street, or giving a focal-point to a milling crowd of bystanders for your next diorama. Review sample courtesy of
  3. US Army K-51 Radio Truck with K-52 Trailer (35418) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Chevrolet G506 truck formed the basis of a range of 4x4 load-carrying vehicles that could carry 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-synchromesh) 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, with the Soviets on the Eastern Front, and the forces fighting Japan in the Far East. There were many variants, some in US Army service, others in USAAF service, with almost 50,000 of two specific types, the G7107 and G7117 sent over to the Soviets in large numbers under the Lend/Lease program. The G7105 variant was a fully-enclosed van-bodied truck that had a full metal bodyshell to protect the contents, and thanks to its twin wheeled rear axle, it was capable of carrying the same load as its open-topped siblings. They were used extensively by the Signal Corps, but are relatively rare in the overall panoply of chassis types for this series. Their low production quantities and participation in WWII trimmed their numbers further, so they are quite rare compared to others of the type, but some still survive of course, and can be seen occasionally at historic vehicle rallies and get-togethers of like-minded enthusiasts. When it is full of radio equipment and personal gear, a trailer expands its carriage capacity to include a generator or similarly heavy piece of kit. The Kit This is a new boxing of a recent G506 tooling from MiniArt, and is one of a large and still expanding range that is to be found in your favourite model shop. It’s a full interior kit, with engine, cab and both load areas included, along with some appealing moulding and detail, particularly in the cab, the equipment and those chunky tyres. It arrives in one of MiniArt’s medium-sized top-opening boxes, and inside are twenty-six modular sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet in a card envelope along with a short length of metal chain in a heat-sealed bag, decal sheet and glossy instruction booklet with colour profiles on the front and rear pages. Detail is excellent, and well up to MiniArt’s usual standards, using PE parts to enhance the model, and finely moulded details of the chassis, running gear, trailer, cab and interior areas. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, which has leaf-springs fore and aft, cross-braces and rear towing eye fitted to create the structure, then has the fuel tank with PE retention bands, PE rear bumper irons folded around a styrene jig, and axles installed on leaf springs, before the brake drums/hubs, battery and external brackets are added to the chassis rails. The transfer box and drive-shaft join the two axles together, and a steering linkage and box are inserted into the front of the chassis, then the engine is built up based on the straight six-cylinder block, with carburettor, dynamo and transmission added, plus the serpentine pulleys and fan at the front. The engine and substantial front bumper iron are fitted to the chassis, assembling the exhaust and its muffler, which slip into the underside of the chassis from below, held in position on PE brackets at the exit. The wheels are built with singles at the front, made from two parts each, and with twin wheels at the rear, again with separate outer sidewalls. Each wheel slips over its respective axle, with the hub projecting through the central hole. The three-part radiator housing is layered up, with the rear part having a hole that allows the air from the fan to cool the radiator when stationary, mounting on the front of the chassis and mating to the input and outlet pipes already in position. The crew cab is next, beginning with the firewall and forward sidewalls. The firewall is detailed with dash pots fixed to the forward side, and is set aside until it is needed toward the end of building the bodyshell, which is next. The sides of the van have a separate ribbing insert layered on the insides, to be joined to the floor after the raised platform for the crew seats is installed, fixing two four-part seats on top, and a small forest of levers in the centre of the floor. The floor is inverted to install the sidewalls, putting a short fuel filler tube on the outside that matches up with the extension within that leads to the tank. This boxing has a wall of radio gear assembled on the left side from a host of parts, and a long bench seat along the other with four cushions as a single part, with some impressive fabric sag moulded-in. Above the seats is a double cabinet with fake sliding doors, and PE chain straps at the sides, which is fitted near the rear along with a fire extinguisher on the right side. The rear light clusters are mounted on PE brackets on the rear of the side panels, one per side, and as is often the case with instruction steps, they may be better left of until after main painting. The rear valance plugs into the floor on two pins, joining the two side panels together on the lower edge. The dashboard inserts into the A-pillars that are moulded into the roof, with seven decals for the instruments and stencils on the glove box, plus two more on the headliner by the rear-view mirror, which installs into the front of the roof panel. The steering column is joined to the underside of the dash, adding a courtesy light, vent and six curved ribs to the inside of the roof in grooves. The rear doors and their interior cards are assembled with their handles, locking mechanism in a fairing with a flat PE surround, plus handles on both sides of the right door, and clear window glass with rounded corners. The crew doors and their interior cards are assembled with handles and window winders, plus the clear window glass that can be posed open or closed at your whim. The windscreen frame has the two clear panes fitted, and 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, and below it on the scuttle is a ventilator panel that can be posed open or closed as you prefer. The steering wheel is fixed to the top of the column, the diagonal kick panel is joined with the firewall and fitted out with three foot pedals, and a button that I think is the parking brake. The roof and firewall assembly are fitted to the growing bodyshell assembly with a choice of aerial bases on the roof in front of the vent cowling that sits on a PE base, while the rear doors are installed within the frame in the open or closed position if you prefer, adding a short stay from wire of your own stock, and two PE eyes on the corners of the roof nearby. Two rear arches are fitted under the floor into recesses, projecting past the line of the bodywork to encompass the twin rear wheels, then with the body righted, a pair of wing mirrors are glued onto the cab in front of the doors at handle-height on long struts with PE brackets at the bottom, posing the doors open or closed again as you wish. The body and chassis are mated, and a choice of cowling panels that fit to the sides of the engine compartment after adding a V-brace under the bonnet, then fitting the front wings that incorporate the section of running boards under the doors that joins up with the rear boards. The front of the vehicle has its headlights with clear lenses plus sidelights fitted to the wings, and PE windscreen wiper blades are hung from the top of the frame on styrene arms, then the front grille is built. You may have noticed that this appears on the sprues too for a simpler build process, but a more detailed and realistic grille can be fabricated from the PE parts on the fret. It is constructed completely from PE, and two styrene jigs are included on the sprues to assist with accurately creating the correct shape. The lower rail, light cages 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 PE brackets stretched across the front of the radiator, but if you elected to use the styrene grille, this process is condensed down to nipping the part from the sprue, cleaning the sprue gates, and gluing it to the front of your truck, removing a small curved section from the left of the styrene grille as it is glued in place. The bonnet can be fitted open or closed with a PE stay that is provided in the centre of the panel for the open option. Two additional stowage boxes are built out on the sides of the truck, with separate doors, PE padlocks, and a plate on the top to protect it from damage, one of them having a pioneer tool rack applied to the rear side, which has PE clasps and styrene tools provided to complete the details. It is attached to the right stowage box, and has a wire reel made up and fixed on a pin in a hole behind it, adding a choice of aerials and their tie-downs on the roof, varying depending on which aerial base you installed earlier. A small PE strap stops the roll unreeling during transit, just like the real (reel?) one. K-52 Trailer During WWII, the US used two small two-wheeled trailers for transporting additional equipment and other essential stores around the battlefield, towed by trucks and other vehicles that had at least a ¾ ton payload carried internally. There were two major variants, one for carrying many types of equipment and designated as G-518, the other a specialist water carrier that was given the catalogue designation G-527. The main contractor was Ben-Hur Manufacturing Co., which garnered it the nickname ‘Ben-Hur Trailer’, and its 1-ton load capacity in 3.2m3 volume meant that it saw a lot of action, mostly ignored by war historians and modellers alike, as it was a transport and not as interesting as the things that went bang. Nevertheless, there were over a quarter of a million built, and many of them spent their days dutifully following a Chevrolet truck around the roads and tracks of Europe and the Far East. This is a derivative of a new tooling from MiniArt, launched just after the G-527 Water Buffalo we reviewed recently, this kit has excellent detail as usual with MiniArt, including a full chassis, well-rendered chunky treaded tyres, and even a set of slat extensions to the sides of the structure with moulded-in wooden texture. Construction begins with the bodywork, starting with the two sides that have leaf springs moulded-in, which have the axle retention bolts added to both sides, PE tie-down loops down the sides, and the light cluster that is fitted on a PE bracket next to the rear suspension mount. A choice of external framework to the sides with or without the extension slats is glued to the sides, including small PE brackets at both ends of the slatted sections. The wheels are built from two parts, the larger having the outer hub, tyre carcass and the tread moulded as one, the smaller having the opposite sidewall details moulded-in. They are then put to one side while you build up the rest of the load area. The two sides are mated with the floor part, adding brake actuators underneath and on the side, and bringing in the ends to create the load box, with more PE brackets and foot stirrups to aid entry. While the chassis is upside down, the two-part inner hubs are fitted to the ends of the axles, adding a short length of 0.5mm wire to each one, and another length to a bracket under the floor. The towing frame is made from two converging lengths, which are fixed under the front of the floor on a pair of U-bolts, while a pair of mudguards are mounted on the chassis sides on pegs, inserting the wheels into their wells. The load bed is populated by a large generator that fills most of the area with a storage box at the front, which is first to be mad, including a PE padlock for security. Four jerry cans with PE straps are made with spare fuel to power the generator, starting work on the rear face where the control panel is located, which can be posed open or closed. The open option involves two PE door sections, the largest of which is the door that pivots up and slides into the housing with a styrene handle that is also found on the styrene closed door. Seven PE wingnuts are inserted between dividers for power connectors, which will still be visible when the main door is closed, exposing the wingnuts. This is fitted as one end of the generator’s cowling, adding another to the other end, and gluing PE handles between the columns of louvres on the sides, plus a pair of styrene tie-down loops. The opposite end has a radiator core mounted in the centre, and the top cowling has curved edges, and four more PE grab handles, a lifting eye, and a filler cap on the rolled edge. The tailgate is completed by adding the PE retaining pins on chains at floor level, then the two-part towing eye is mounted atop the front of the A-frame, and a jockey-wheel is built from two halves plus a yoke and pivot, with an alternate all-steel wheel if you prefer. This can be fitted under the hitch in either horizontal position for travel, or vertically for a parked trailer, locking it in place between two halves of the pivot. Another longer length of wire is fitted under the left chassis rail and hitch frame, dangling the end down over the hitch, adding a plug for the electronics, which has a hole moulded-in for the wire. The safety chains are cut to length, and are each trapped between two halves of their bracket, adding the hook on the loose end after drilling a hole in the part first. For protection of the equipment in bad weather, a tarpaulin cover can be made from five sides, adding PE clasps to the opening end, straps to the front, and short lengths of wire to represent the bungees that hold the tarp down around the lower edges. If you elect not to cover the generator with a tilt, the stowage box, generator and four jerry cans are installed on the floor, strapping a spare tyre under the chassis on a PE frame, which is held in place by a small hook at the rear. A third choice involves a slatted extension to the trailer’s sides, adding PE brackets to the sides earlier in the build, and fitting front and rear slatted sections to the front and rear, topping off the vertical sections with curved supports for the tilt when fitted. Markings There are five decal options on the sheet wearing green, including 1one in British service that has black camouflage over the top. From the box you can build one of the following: British Forces Radio Station, 8th Army Sector, Italy, October 1944 1st Armoured Division, 829th Signal Battalion, North Africa, Spring 1943 102nd Infantry Division, ETO, Autumn 1944 US Marine Corps, 4th Marine Division, Pacific 1944-5 Corps Signals Unit, 2nd Polish Corps, Italy 1944-5 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 an interesting variant of the G506 chassis doing the job that many of this type were built for, and with the addition of the trailer it looks substantially different from its siblings, which with the detail that MiniArt pack into all their kits, it’s a very tempting offering. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. Fruit Delivery Van Typ 170V Lieferwagen (38044) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Mercedes 170 was based upon their W15 chassis, which was their first with all-round independent suspension, and was available as a bare chassis for coachbuilders, as a saloon, cabriolet or as a light van, debuting in the early 30s with sales affected by the worldwide depression that started in Wall Street in 1930. Sales picked up after the recession eased, and later versions had internal boot/trunk-space and sleeker lines, moving with the times. As well as sharing a chassis with the saloon, the van was essentially identical in the forward section and inside the crew cab. The bodywork from the doors backward were designed with the same ethos but differed due to the practical but boxy load area behind the drivers. These vehicles were often used for years after their original purchase passing through the ownership of several owners, especially after the war years where funds were sometimes short following the devastation in Europe. The Kit This is a reboxing of a partial re-tool of the original 2012 saloon and subsequent Beer Delivery vehicle (reviewed earlier), with the same new sprues and parts added to create the necessary changes for the wagon. The original kit is highly detailed, and this one is no different, showing just how far MiniArt have come in their design and moulding technology. There is superb detail throughout, with slender racks, realistic-looking fabric door pockets as well as a full engine and interior to the cab. Inside the shrink-wrapped box are eighteen sprues of grey styrene, one in clear, a decal sheet and a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass for finer details, protected in a card envelope. Construction begins with the 1700cc engine and transmission, which is made up from a substantial number of parts that just need a little wiring to do it full justice, and in fact the brake hoses are shown in diagrams to ensure that you obtain the correct bends, but you’ll need to find your own 0.2mm wire to begin with. The X-shaped chassis is prepped with a few mounts and a PE brackets, then the rear axle, differential and driveshafts are fitted on a pair of very realistic styrene springs that have hollow centres and individual coils thanks to some clever sliding moulds. Drum brakes, straps and brackets finish off the rear axle assembly, then the completed engine and drive-shaft are installed in the front to be joined by a pair of full-width leaf-springs from above and below with a stub-axle and drum brake at each end. The exhaust is made up with an impressively neatly designed four-part muffler, a pair of PE mounts, straight exit pipe and a curved length leading forward to the engine. With the addition of the bumper-irons at the front, the lower body can be fixed to the chassis after drilling a single hole in one of the front wings. The front firewall is next to be made up, and the pedal box is installed one side, with a set of tools and another neatly designed cylinder, this time the fuel tank, which is curiously situated in the rear of the engine bay. This fits over the transmission tunnel that is moulded into the floor, with more driver controls such as the gear lever, hand brake and steering column with PE horn-ring added at this time. The dashboard is integrated into the windscreen frame after being fitted with decals within the instrument housings, then covered over with clear faces for realism. There is also a nicely clear curved windscreen inserted before this is dropped over the firewall, joined by a rear cab panel that has a small rear window and the back of the bench seat applied before fitting. The base of the bench seat is also fitted on a riser moulded into the floor. Vehicles need wheels, and this one runs on four with a spare one lurking under a false floor in the back. Each wheel is made up from a layer-cake of three central sections to create the tread around the circumference, and two outer faces that depict the sidewalls of the tyres, with maker’s mark and data panel moulded into the sides. The hubs are inserted into the centres of the tyres, with a cap finishing off the assemblies. They are built up in handed pairs, and the spare has a different hub and no cap to differentiate it. The flat floor for the load area is a single piece with the pocket for the spare tyre to fit inside, and this sits over the rear arches and is supported at the front by a lip on the rear of the cab. The load area is then finished by adding the slab-sides and roof to the body, with a few ejector-pin marks that will need filling if you plan on leaving the door open. Speaking of doors, there are two options for open and closed, with moulded-in hinges and separate door handle, plus the number-plate holder above the door in the centre. The front doors are handed of course, and have separate door cards with handle and window winders added, and a piece of clear styrene playing the part of the window, which is first fitted to the door card before it is added to the door skin. Both doors can be posed open or closed as you wish, and are of the rearward opening "suicide door" type. At this stage the front of the van needs finishing, a job that begins with the radiator with a PE grille and three-pointed star added to a surround, then the radiator core and rear slam-panel with filler cap at the rear. This is put in place at the front of the body at an angle, with two cross-braces reducing body flex along with a central rod that forms the hinge-point for the side folding hood. Small PE fittings are fixed first on the louvered side panels, then added to the top parts in either the open or closed position. A pair of PE and styrene windscreen wipers are added to the windscreen sweeping from the top, a pair of clear-lensed headlamps, wing mirrors and indicator stalks on the A-pillars finish off the build of the van. To differentiate this from the previous kit, MiniArt have included an optional PE roof rack that is folded up and fitted to the exterior drip-rails around the roof, and seven small sprues full of fruit of various kinds and 12 double-height wooden boxes that can be used to depict cargo inside or on the rack if you use it. Markings Get your shades out for two of the three decal options. These were commercial vehicles during peacetime, so they were designed to attract attention. There are three options depicted in the instructions, with plenty of decals devoted to the branding on the sides. From the box you can build one of the following: Provinz Schlesien, Early 1940s Berlin, Early 1940s Colour based upon 50s Poster, registration from American occupation zone Decals are by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. You can now see an excellent build of this very kit here, thanks to @Viking. Conclusion This is another well-detailed kit of an old Merc van, and even if you’re not a vehicle modeller it would make for great background fodder for a diorama, possibly of post-war Allied or Soviet armour making its way through town. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. D8511 Tractor Mod.1936 German Industrial Tractor (24005) 1:24 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Tractors were a boon to farmers when they were introduced after the reliability of the motor car was proven, as they were especially useful for lugging heavy equipment around the farm, as well as the typical ploughing, sowing, reaping and transporting of crops. They also had power take-off points that could be used to drive other stationary machinery, further expanding their usefulness to that of a portable power-plant. Lanz were the leading maker of farm machinery in Germany, and their Bulldog range were the “hoover” of the tractor world in their country for many years. They were good quality and reliable, which led to them being copied by several countries, and as the initial 1921 model was improved the model number was increased until well into the 9,000s. One of the primary selling points of the vehicle was the simple “hot-bulb” single-cylinder engine that could be run on a variety of fuels and had very few moving parts, which made it easy to repair and maintain. They started off as 6L and grew to 10L engines, and their slow turnover high-torque output suited the tractor’s work very well. In 1956 they were sold to John Deere, and the name slowly fell out of use. There are still many working examples to be seen at county fairs and historic events, kept in splendid working condition by their loving (some may say obsessed) owners. The Kit This is new edition of MiniArt’s D8500 range of kits but in the larger de facto vehicle scale of 1:24, and you can still expect more to come if their 1:35 release schedule of this series is repeated, which seems to be happening. The kit arrives in a standard top-opening box, and inside are eight sprues of various sizes in grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small decal sheet and the instruction booklet that has colour profiles of the decal options on the rear pages. Construction begins with the large cast metal chassis that is made up from two halves each end around a cylindrical centre-plate, with lots of parts used to create its distinctive shape. The superstructure above the chassis where the engine and ancillaries are found is roughly rectangular, having various filler caps on the top, radiator panels and louvres on the sides, plus a Lanz Bulldog name-plate on the front. The driver’s foot pedals are long curved linkages to the underside of the chassis, and with these in place the driver’s tread-plated floor is installed and a big handbrake is fitted to the deck, plus a stowage box under the rear left lip. The large cylindrical assembly in the centre of the chassis is filled with the clutch and drive-shaft on one side, and on the floor plate the driver’s seat is mounted on a sturdy spring, a couple of hand controls are inserted into depressions in the deck in front, then the large drive housing is mounted on the left side of the chassis, with a bell-housing and fly-wheel on the opposite side over the clutch, and two large fenders/sidewalls over where the rear wheels will be that have additional nuts applied, plus a sturdy bumper-bar at the rear on diagonal cross-braces. The rear hubs have two additional layers inside for the drum brakes, ready to receive the large back wheels. The front axle has the hubs fitted on pivots, adding the steering arms, anti-roll bars and the linkage to the column, which is installed on the front underframe on a single pivot in preparation for the tyres. The wheels on this tractor have heavy tread to plough through mud, which are built up by layering four parts together to make a twin tyre-sandwich at the rear, and a two-part layer for the smaller front wheels, all with crisp and chunky tread on the rolling surfaces. The tyres have their hub fronts moulded-in, while the rears have an additional rear hub spacer ring added between the wheels and rear axles before both are installed on the axles. Two large exhausts are made up from various odd-shaped parts attaching to the left side of the chassis either side of the bell-housing, with a pair of clear-lensed headlamps on an oversized cross-member on the topside. You have a choice of installing the steering wheel on the column in the cab with a cover over the power take-off point, or cut the column tip away in the cab, gluing the steering wheel on a rod that inserts into the centre of the take-off, with the cover flipped down for access. I understand this was for manually starting the engine, but don’t quote me on that. Markings There are three decal options on the sheet, and the suggested paint schemes vary from garish yellow via green to a dull grey, with plenty of options for weathering. From the box you can build one of the following: Deutsche Reichbahn, Germany, 1939-45 Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG, Germany 1939-45 Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD), Germany, 1939-45 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 Another variation on a tractor that was once ubiquitous in and around German farms, and this early variant takes it back to basics without sacrificing detail. These kits are also great to show off your weathering skills, or test them out, and if you're a car modeller, they'll be in scale with the rest of your cabinet. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. US T34 Heavy Tank (84513) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd Toward the end of WWII, when Allied tanks were encountering German heavy tanks such as the King Tiger and Jagdtiger, the American military put projects in motion that would be capable of matching them and dealing with German heavy armour (or Soviet for that matter), whilst remaining safe thanks to their own thick frontal and side armour. The designs were designated T29 and T30, both of which were almost identical save for the guns mounted in their turrets, sporting 105mm and 155mm main guns respectively. A further development, possibly inspired by the Nazis using their 88mm anti-aircraft gun in heavy tanks, was to see the high velocity 120mm M1 Anti-Aircraft gun reconfigured into an adapted turret. The gun could fire on aircraft up to 60,000ft, and consequently its armour penetrating power was devastating, far outstripping the other two guns that suffered from lighter-weight shells and with slower muzzle velocity respectively. It took until 1947 for the prototypes to be delivered to the proving ground in the US, and to balance the enormous barrel a sizeable chunk of armour was fitted on the bustle of the turret, possibly 99% redundant, but useful if the crew were caught napping. At a startling sixty-five tons, it was a weighty beast, and the US Army felt that it would be difficult to find a use for it thinking its weight could cause problems with bogging down on softer ground, and crossing bridges, in much the same manner that the Germans experienced with their heavy tanks during WWII. There was also an issue with fumes from the gun entering the turret, which was fixed by using an aspirator, but this came too late, and no production orders were made, the prototypes going into storage, and eventually finding their way into museums. The work wasn’t a total waste however, as a year later a lightened version of the T34 was designated as the T43, and was to enter service later as the M103 Heavy Tank, by which time its weight had ballooned up to the same 65 tons that had doomed the T34, using the same M1 gun, which was re-designated as M58 due to changes that had been made to it in the interim, including higher barrel pressure and quick-change capability. The M103 served with US forces until retired in the mid-70s, by which time Main Battle Tank doctrine had rendered the Heavy Tank a historic dead-end of tank design. The Kit Unsurprisingly, this kit is based upon the 2016 tooling of the US T29 tank that the T34 was based on, in a case of modelling production mirroring history. It has since had new parts added to turn it into a later T29 variant, a T30 and now a T34. The kit arrives in a typical Hobby Boss top-opening box with a slight corrugated surface to the lid, which has a dramatic painting of a T34 in the process of firing its main gun, with the muzzle-flash rebounding from the mantlet and turret. Inside the box is a cardboard divider glued to the tray to keep the large hull and turret parts from moving around the box and causing damage, plus most of the sprues are individually bagged, with additional foam strapping taped around various areas of the sprues and the front of the upper hull to further protect them during shipping and storage. There are ten sprues, two hull parts and the upper turret in grey styrene, eight sprues of track-links in brown styrene, two small frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, and a tiny decal sheet. The package is completed by the black & white instruction booklet that has a glossy, full-colour painting and markings sheet loosely inserted between the pages. Detail is good, and includes weld-beads, sand-casting and rolled-steel armour textures, plus individual track links and PE grab-handles/tie-downs for the sides of the many stowage boxes on the hull deck. Construction begins with preparing the lower hull for its road wheels by adding bump-stops, swing-arms and other suspension parts to the sides of the hull, including the idler and drive axles, with some wheel stations having additional dampers moulded-in to improve the ride for the crew. Massive final-drive housings are inserted into gaps in the rear bulkhead, along with a pair of hinged armoured panels, first fitting the seven paired idler wheels all along the upper run of each track, then building paired road wheels with a loose washer trapped between them, doing the same with the four-part drive sprockets, all of which can be carefully glued to the axles with the hope that they will remain mobile once the glue has cured, which might work, or might not, depending on how dainty you are with the glue. Each track run consists of 113 links, which are joined together by fitting the figure-eight pivots to the track pins, the outer edge having additional plates to widen the track that spreads ground pressure. A jig is included to assist you with production, and you’ll be pleased to hear that there are no ejector-pin marks on the inner faces of the tracks. Each of the track links has three sprue gates, while the pivots have just one each, all of which are sensibly placed to minimise clean-up, so whilst it will take some time to create the tracks, it shouldn’t drive you crazy in the process. With the lower hull looking good, attention turns to the upper hull where all the detail is. The upper deck is started by building two banks of stowage boxes around the base of the turret, which have separate lids, rails with eyes, and eight PE handles running along the outer sides. These assemblies are installed either side of the turret aperture, adding various small parts, including headlights, side-facing vision slots for the front crew, and a pair of two-part exhausts that mount at the rear of both fenders. A short run of track is bracketed to the glacis opposite the bow machine gun housing, and a few pioneer tool are fitted onto the fenders. On the engine deck, six louvred panels are inserted into holes, fixing a C-shaped exhaust pipe to the backs of the mufflers on the fenders, with an armoured cover protecting the straight central section. More pioneer tools are glued to the fenders, and these are joined by more PE handles along the edges, with cages mounted over the headlamps and the bow gun made from three parts including the barrel, sliding into the armoured shroud moulded into the glacis. The front crew hatches have rotating 360° vision blocks inserted into holes in the surfaces, then they are fitted into the hull, adding a grab-handle next to each one for egress purposes. At the rear, a small section of bulkhead is inserted into the remaining space, adding rear lights and other small parts once installed. The turret of the T34 is as large as some early WWII tanks, and is built from upper and lower halves, with a seam running along the side of the deep bustle, along the swage-line where the vertical side sweeps underneath. A machine gun is flex-fitted in a pintle-mount, adding twin grips, an ammo box made from three parts, and a two-part post into which the mount slides. The mantlet is also prepared from two layers of styrene, adding caps over the pivot pins so the gun can elevate, plus a pair of lifting eyes on the upper surface, making the commander’s cupola with a separate hatch, then fitting this and the mantlet to the turret, which has some very nice texture moulded-in, including weld-beads and casting roughness. The bustle receives an armoured panel to balance the barrel weight, inserting four parts into holes in the lower edge, plus brackets around the bustle sides, a shell-ejection port on the right side, stowage basket on the same side, a pair of aerial bases at the rear of the bustle, and the other two hatches either side of the keel that is moulded into the roof of the turret. The machine gun fits in front of the left hatch, and behind the commander’s cupola, a fairing sweeps around the side of the deck. The last parts for the turret include a choice of two styles of barrel, both of which are made from two halves that are split vertically, inserting your choice into the mantlet with a circular PE washer trapped between them. The turret locks in place on the hull by its bayonet lugs, and you have a choice of finishing the build with the travel lock in the stowed position flat against the engine deck, or vertically, supporting the barrel of the turret, which must be turned to the rear. Markings There is just one option on the decal sheet, and four white decals on the front fenders and the rear bulkhead, denoting T34 and 1949 on opposite sides. You might have already guessed that it’s a green tank, so pat yourself on the back if you did. Hobby Boss decals can be a little scant, but that’s what’s needed for this prototype, and as there is no registration to worry about, they’re perfect for the job in hand. Conclusion The T34, not to be confused with the Soviet T-34, was a monster of a tank, and it’s the first thing that hits you on opening the box. Detail is good, especially the textures moulded into the surface, resulting in a good-looking model that can be a canvas for your weathering techniques. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. German Tank Riders – Ardennes 1944 (35411) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Getting a lift on a tank was a treat for the foot-soldier that occasionally turned sour if their lift came under fire from an enemy tank, especially if the turret starts to rotate and the crew begins using the main gun. Sometimes they’d ride into battle on the back of a tank, using the turret as temporary cover until it came time to dismount, usually off the rear avoiding the exhausts, other times it was a case of sitting somewhere flat on the hull of the tank for a well-earned rest, and saving some boot-tread whilst still getting from A to Battle. During winter periods, especially in the freezing cold of the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge, a seat on the warm engine deck would be prime real-estate, helping to defend against the biting cold that required heavy uniforms and great-coats, of which the Nazi invaders were woefully short. The Set This set arrives in a figure-sized box with a painting of the four figures that are depicted on the front, and annotated portions of the painting with part numbers and colour call-outs added to facilitate construction and painting of the figures. Inside the box are seven sprues in grey styrene, the sprues having wisps of flash here and there, although very little encroaches on the parts themselves. The parts for each figure are found in separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. There are three sprues that are devoted completely to a substantial quantity of accessories that include Small Arms, Stahlhem helmets, pistols in and out of holsters, ammo pouches, bags, satchels and map cases, water bottles, ribbed cylindrical gas mask canisters, entrenching tools, and bayonets in and out of scabbards. The weapons range from MP40s, Karabiner Kar 98k rifles, Walther P38, and an MG42 with various magazine options, open or closed bipods, and a length of link that can be carefully heat-formed to shape. The colour call-outs on the rear of the box are given in Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus swatches and colour names to assist with choosing your colours. These refer to the blue colour numbers on the paintings above the chart. Conclusion Another realistic set of figures for your late war German AFV projects, with so many accessories you’ll be spoilt for choice. Detail and sculpting is first rate, and what we’ve come to expect from MiniArt. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. Street Workers (38081) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd This set depicts a trio of street workers, not to be confused with a similar group of people, often referred to as the oldest profession. These are people whose work is done on the street, and it includes a street-sweeper, a newspaper seller, and a lamp-lighter, from the days when street lamps were gas-powered, a power source that lingered longer into the 20th century around Europe than you’d possibly think. Inside the figure-sized box are five sprues in grey styrene, the longest of which is nipped into two parts at the factory to allow it to fit inside the box, plus a pair of clear sprues, with a glossy sheet of instructions for the accessories that are included with the set. The parts for each figure are found on separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The street-sweeper is holding a long-handled Besom broom with a traditional bundled stick head, akin to a witches’ broom, made from two parts. For a good join, a small hole could be drilled in the head of the broom to accept the shaft, cutting it to the desired length. The lamp-lighter has one leg either side of the ladder (not health & safety approved), and has his arms above his head opening or closing the lamp head, while the paper seller is wearing a bibbed skirt and jacket, with her hair flowing over her shoulders in a 30-40s style, and a three-part stack of papers in her arms. The accessory sprues provide parts to create a step ladder for the lamp-lighter to reach the street lamp, which is also included. The ladder is made from the two sides plus a top step, while the lamp is built from a two-part bottom section and a fluted upper with perpendicular cross-rail ‘lollipops’ across the top that were commonly used by lamp-lighters if they were using a straight ladder. The lamp itself is made from two faceted clear parts for the glazing, and a styrene top-cap with ferrule on top, fitting a clear bulb to a hexagonal base that is linked to the post by a four-legged bracket underneath. There are more parts on the sprue, including an ornate suspension bracket for a lamp or a large clock, the parts for the latter also found on the long sprue. There are no clock-face decals as it’s not an official part of the set, but you could try printing your own if you have the skills. Conclusion Another realistic, life-like figure set with plenty of accessories from MiniArt that will be perfect for a diorama setting. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. ’Battle of the Bulge’ Ardennes 1944 (35373) 1:35 Miniart via Creative Models Ltd The Battle of the Bulge was the nickname given to the last-ditch attempt by Hitler, sometimes referred to as the Allies’ best General, to stop the Allied advance toward Germany by driving a wedge through the front and separating the four armies, removing Antwerp from Allied hands, and forcing them to sue for peace. This was clearly what is now known as a ‘hail Mary’ play, and relied heavily on capturing Allied fuel supplies, because the Germans were woefully short of their own stores, and would soon run out if they didn’t capture substantial new supplies. It also relied on bad weather keeping the Allied air elements grounded for the crucial period of the operation, as the Luftwaffe was a spent force by this time of the war, and any daylight activity quickly attracted US and British fighters equipped with cannons and bombs, largely unopposed by the Luftwaffe. The operation began on the 16th December 1944 when the weather was bitterly cold, heavy snow and overcast conditions, and Nazi progress was initially good, capturing many Allied units off-guard, resulting in substantial casualties and a large quantity prisoners. Apart from one hideous incident at Malmedy where Kampfgruppe Peiper massacred dozens of US prisoners, the majority captured were thankfully treated humanely by their captors. After the initial advances, the German’s progress stagnated, and they began to run out of fuel, which in concert with the improvement in the weather, permitted the Allied aircraft to take on the vulnerable German armoured columns and support lines, with the Allies back to their original positions by February of 1945, and the Germans in disarray. The Figures This set contains five figures, two German soldiers walking alongside three US prisoners, who are unsurprisingly not looking happy about their plight. The kit arrives in a figure-sized box, and inside are five sprues of grey styrene, plus a small glossy piece of paper with a sprue diagram for the figure sprues. All the figures are in a walking pose, one German nursing a set of binoculars against his chest, while the other holds his rifle across his smocked chest, relaxed but alert. The three Americans are wearing various battle-dress combinations, two wearing blouson jackets with their hands up, while the man in the greatcoat has his hands mid-chest, probably too cold to wave his hands in the air. The American with his hands clasped behind his head isn’t wearing a helmet, and his hair is clearly non-regulation, so he had probably been on the front for a while. The parts for each figure are found in separate areas of the sprues that are separated by country for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The three accessory sprues include helmets, some of the US M1s either covered with netting or cloth cover, and two of the German helmets also have cloth covers. The rest of the equipment includes the usual personal pouches, bags and small arms, although the Americans won’t be using any of those and their webbing will have been confiscated at time of capture, however the Germans will have a full complement appropriate to their unit and task. The rear of the box has the artwork separated with blue colour arrows, while the kit parts are in black text, with the officer having a choice of cap or helmet. A small photo insert shows the equipment on the back of the smock wearing soldier, as those items can’t be seen in the painting. A small swatch of the smock’s camouflage is given on the back of the box, with the colour chart in the bottom right corner, giving paint codes for Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK Real Color, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, as well as small colour swatches and names to assist you with choosing your paints. Conclusion A great figure set that would look good in a diorama, their chaperones pushing the prisoners back through the front lines while the panzers and other forces are heading forward to press the attack. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. USAF XM706E2 (84536) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Commando series of light amphibious armoured cars was developed by Cadillac Gage in the US and was designated the M706. It was developed specifically for the Military Police and convoy escort in Vietnam, Its high ground clearance and waterproofing being suitable for the terrain being encountered. It was one of the first vehicles the US had which combined the roles of the APC and a conventional armoured car, carrying upto 10 troops in the back. The design would spawn a whole range of vehicles some with turrets carrying up to 90mm guns. The XM706E2, was supplied to the U.S. Air Force primarily for base protection purposes, but was also used for post strike reconnaissance and EOD roles. The open top lending itself to a variety of weapons including 50 cal, & 7.62mm machine guns, and in some case 40mm grenade launchers, though they were most seen with the duel machines guns. Not many of these vehicles were kept after the Vietnam war, but the USAF did retain some which served as late as the 1980s in Korea and the Philippines. Though by this time they were becoming very hard to keep operational. The vehicle would be replaced in various roles by the M1117 made by Textron who by this time had merged with Cadillac Gage. The Kit Hobby boss have done a variety of kits based on the same chassis. The kits are well engineered and build up with no problems at all as this reviewer has built one of them before. The kit arrives on 6 sprues of grey plastic, a clear sprue, upper & lower hull castings, a sheet of PE, I small sheet of masks, a small length of chain, and a small sheet of decals. All of the parts are well moulded with no defects. Construction starts with the interior, this is not massively detailed but there is enough in there to make it busy. The centre transmission tunnel goes in followed by some seats and the drivers controls, at the rear the engine compartment is boxed in. For the upper hull a series of holes need to be made and some internal equipment installed. The two main hull parts can then be joined, the lower hull actually slots into the upper one. Flipping the vehicle upside down all the suspension, steering, and drive components plus the axles are installed. Take care here as the front and rear springs look the same but are not (ask me how I know this!). To the rear hull a toll rack is added complete with individual tools. The wheels can then be made up and fitted onto the axles. Moving back to the top side the rear jerrican stowage is added along with various hatches, grab handles and the armoured windows. The exhaust grill is added to the rear also. Headlight guards and mirrors are added to the front. The main hatch for the vehicle is now made up. This can either be open or closed up depending on how you stow the covers. PE mounts now need to be made up the for machine guns. A 50cal and M60 are both included in the kit to mount here. Markings A small decal sheet gives markings for one camo vehicle and one overall green vehicle. No other information is given. Conclusion This is a great kit from Hobby Boss of a little seen vehicle, the kit is first rate and builds up easily into a good looking vehcile. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  11. Chinese J-20 Stealth Fighter (LS-002) 1:48 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The J-20 is China’s first fifth generation fighter, making heavy use of stealth technologies to give it an advantage during operation in a contested air-space, starting the project in the 2000s as a successor to a previous project earlier in the decade. Chengdu aviation developed the J-20 in response to the requirement, and it has been a work in progress, even after the initial ground-handling and flight testing that occurred in 2010, using Russian built engines that were fitted as a temporary measure whilst they worked out the issues with their own indigenous engines. The new high-tech Chinese engines were expected to provide a significant boost in performance, adding stealth characteristics to the exhausts, and the possibility of vectored thrust to improve manoeuvrability. A home-grown engine designated WS-10 was chosen initially to remove their reliance on Russian engines, with the more advanced WS-15 expected to be fitted to new-build airframes when development was complete, then retro-fitted to earlier airframes as the opportunity arose. Several prototypes were seen performing flight tests throughout the next decade, with limited numbers of the type entering service toward the end of the decade, with improvements still coming on stream throughout this period. After the initial low-rate production batch, full production started, and it soon gained momentum, leading to the replacement of many older 4th generation fighters in service, particularly around China’s borders, where they would expect to intercept intruders. Some airframes have been used as adversary trainers, where they take the part of F-22s or F-35s in combat, to allow both “sides” to learn how to cope with adversaries flying different generations of fighters. The design of the jet, known by NATO code Fagin was established and fixed for full production, adding two other variants to the development roster, one of which represents the first two-seat stealth fighter in service in the world, with a prototype built and observed in 2022 under the designation J-20S. The two-seater isn’t simply a trainer, but will also be used as a combat airframe where the workload is shared between the two crew, using sensor fusion, carrying out electronic warfare duties, or controlling UAVs or drones as part of their weapon systems as a force-multiplier. The J-20B is an improved variant of the single-seat type that has improved stealth characteristics, and is thought to use the final WS-15 engine, which increases the power available for super cruise substantially, and this too was also first spotted in 2022, demonstrating the rapidity at which the type is developing. The ongoing improvements to the J-20 are rapidly bringing it up to a similar capability to the American F-22, despite concerns that a canard-equipped fighter would have compromised stealth capabilities, which seems not to have been an issue as far as the Chinese engineers and designers were concerned. The main weapons bay is found in the belly, where the larger weapons are carried, with serrated doors and margins of the bay to scatter radar returns. The smaller weapons bays in the sides of the fuselage behind the intakes are similarly stealthy, but the weapons can be deployed and the bays closed again to maintain stealth, allowing the missiles to be launched fractionally faster without having to open doors and bring out the missiles before launch. It is thought that these bays are in the process of being redesigned to accommodate 6 missiles using a new ejection rack, and research is underway to reduce the diameter of future missiles to assist with packing as many as possible into the bays without having to use the four underwing hard-points that will spoil its stealthy profile. The Kit This is a new tooling from MENG that was released in the last days of 2023, taking some time to reach Europe, and it is the most recent of only a few kits of this type in 1:48, so should more closely represent an in-service airframe. It does appear to have the Diverterless Supersonic Inlet (DSI) bulges that were more recently added to the design, one of the engineering innovations that both improves the aircraft’s stealth, and reduces its weight by offloading additional complexity of the intakes, hiding the rotating engine faces by using a serpentine trunk within the fuselage. The kit arrives in a substantial top-opening box with a painting of a J-20 launching missiles from its open main bay, and inside the box there are seven sprues and three fuselage parts in grey styrene, a clear sprue, a clear red sprue, a strip of four polycaps, a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret, decal sheet, and the instruction booklet, printed in colour on glossy paper, and stapled into a portrait sub-A4 format. For a change, construction begins with detailing the upper fuselage part, adding two polycaps in sockets for the canards on the fuselage sides, fitting two clear sensor windows forward and aft of the cockpit opening, and applying the shallow refuelling probe bay on the starboard edge of the nose chine. Modern cockpits are relatively simple by comparison to earlier fighter jets, with many of the knobs and switches moved to a large Multi-Function Display (MFD) that takes up most of the instrument panel. The cockpit tub is fitted with rudder pedals, plus side console mounted throttle and stick, using the ‘Hands on Throttle and Stick’ (HOTAS) schema that is common to modern fighters. Once painted, the tub is inserted into position, locating on four turrets within the upper fuselage, applying plenty of glue for a strong bond. At the rear of the upper fuselage, the serrated cowlings of the twin engines are fitted on a pair of turrets with a healthy overlap for strength, and two more polycaps are inserted in cups that are glued under the pivot-points of the twin tail fins, one each side of the engines. The intakes are made up from two halves each, adding a circular insert depicting the engine front to the aft end, and joining them together on two pins and sockets that hold them both at the correct angle. After painting the trunk interiors a pale greyish-blue, the completed assembly is mated to the lower nose part, fitting the nose gear bay, a detailed insert for the forward sensor, which is glazed over with a faceted clear part, and has a clear red window fitted on either side. To be able to close the fuselage, the three weapons bays must be prepared, starting with the main bay, the largest of the three. This is made from a large roof with moulded-in end walls, adding the side walls and a central divider, painting it white before building the missiles, which are almost complete save for two fins at the rear and a conduit down one side of the missile body, after which they are mounted on a slender pylon and four of them can be installed within the bay. The completed main bay is then clipped into the lower fuselage, locating on three turrets, then turning to the intake-mounted weapons bays. The main parts of these are moulded in a C-profile, fitting end walls to each of them, and installing those in the sides of the intakes, along with the main gear bays that are made from three parts each, and all bays painted white. A clear red window is inserted in a cut-out in the port intake side, reducing the number of sub-assemblies before fuselage closure to two. Those two are identically built exhausts, which can be made with the petals constricted or opened, by using different sets of petal parts around the central circular former. Each petal section has a detail insert on the interior face, then six sections are arranged into a cylinder around each former, the aft section differing in shape to depict your chosen exhaust shape. The exhaust trunk is made from two half cylinders that are closed around the afterburner ring, and has a representation of the rear of the engine closing the forward end, joining the petal assembly to the opposite end of the trunk, and painting it accordingly with shades of burnt metal. The lower fuselage receives the two exhausts in the rear nacelles, while the nose and intake trunking assembly is installed in the front of the part, extending the lower fuselage to full-length. The upper fuselage is then glued over the lower, and it’s worth noting that the two fuselage halves have stiffening ribs criss-crossing them to add strength to the assembly, and much of the blended wing structure is moulded into the fuselage halves, as is often the case with modern stealthy aircraft models. You have a choice of portraying the weapons bays open or closed, showing off the unique talents of these short-range weapons bays that allows them to close the doors with the weapons extended for use. The simplest option is to nip the overflow pips from the doors and fit them in the closed position, ready to move on to the next step. To extend the missiles first requires the building of one or two missiles, which have two separate fins, a nose part, and long pylon, painting and stencilling them before installing them. The bay has a flat-faced insert glued into the bay, which has three curved supports for the missile so that it is suspended outside the bay and slightly below so that the door can still close. The closed doors are each one part with three small slots in the bottom of the doors to cater for the supports, while leaving the doors open adds another part with internal ribbing structure, plus hinges that suspend it from the upper edge of the bay. This is repeated on the opposite side, with a choice of three options per side, which you can mix and match at your whim. The main bay doors must be open to deploy missiles, so there are two choices, the simplest being the closed doors, which is depicted by a single part with serrated edges and hinge lines engraved to give the bay a realistic look. To pose the doors open, three door sections are fitted together with an actuator ram at either end, mounting on the outer edges of the bay, with a scrap diagram showing how they should look from ahead. The landing gear is safely tucked away inside the jet during flight, so only their doors need to give low-observability a thought, and as such their structure is very familiar. The tyres are moulded as two halves, as are the hubs, joining together to make each main gear wheel, which fits to the lower end of the sturdy struts, adding separate oleo-scissor links and a lightened retraction jack that is formed from three parts, with another small strut near to the top of the leg. The two legs are handed, and are fitted inside each bay, locating firmly in the bay for strength. The nose gear leg has two tyre halves that close around a single hub part, flexed into position between the two yoke legs. The strut is adorned with separate scissor-links, twin landing lights with clear lenses, and the retraction jack plus a captive bay door, for which there is a separate scrap diagram to assist with detail painting the part. This too is mounted securely in the bay, with a side-opening bay door with three hinges attaching it to the starboard side. While the model is upside-down, the two canards are push-fitted on the intake sides, two strakes are glued to the sponsons on either side of the exhausts, adding leading-edge slats that can be deployed or retracted by using different parts. A four-lensed sensor is fitted on the belly with a clear lens inserted from behind, and a tubular assembly is located next to it, which appears to be a Luneberg Lens, which is the mechanism by which any stealthed aircraft can be tracked during peacetime. It is understood that the latest airframes have a retractable version of this lens, so they can transition to a war footing without landing. At the trailing edge of the wings, two flap sections with stealthy actuator fairings moulded separately are fitted, selecting different parts for the flaps down option. The final flying surfaces are the all-moving fins, which have a fixed portion glued to the fuselage, through which the pin on the fin projects, securing it in the polycap fitted at the beginning of the build. This should allow them to be removed for easy painting and decaling, and later offset if you feel the urge. Whilst most of the cockpit was built very early in the build, it is missing some key components, one of which is the ejection seat. This is made from two halves of the chassis, adding three seat cushions and a flip-up pair of arm rests, with a detail insert under the base cushion to depict the pull handle. A flat cover is applied to the back of the seat, with scrap diagrams and colour call-outs helping with accurate painting of the assembly. You then have a choice of using the included pilot to crew your model, or fit the supplied PE seatbelts to the empty seat, using the scrap diagrams to assist you with shaping them before installation. The pilot figure has separate arms, a two-part helmeted head, and an oxygen hose, with another detailed painting guide with two views to the side, colour call-outs given in MENG colour and Gunze Acrysion codes. The pilot’s instrument panel is next, applying decals to the panel’s large screens and detail-painting the various buttons moulded into the part. The coaming is glued to the top of the panel, adding the HUD from two clear parts, one inserted into a styrene frame, painting the front pane a transparent green before installing the completed assembly in the front of the cockpit, remembering to detail paint the instrument cluster in the coaming edge. A pair of angle-of-attack probes are fitted to the sides of the nose at the same time, then you have another choice to make. Create the canopy from a simplified set of parts, or go for more detail that includes PE parts. The simple canopy has the det-cord to shatter the canopy before ejection moulded-in along with a couple of interior frames, which are recessed within the part, and can be painted with white or grey acrylic or other water-based paint, wiping the excess away before it has chance to dry, leaving the paint in the recesses to represent the cords. Both options use the same lower frame, which is prepared by fitting two side frames, a small triangular support at the rear, and demisting tubing at the windscreen end. If you are using the PE parts, there is a separate blank canopy, and it is suggested that you bend the PE det-cord and heater hoses before gluing them to the lower frame, fitting the canopy in place over it once they are painted. The simplified canopy with the cord moulded-in is similarly glued in place over the lower frame without the PE parts if you don’t fancy your chances wrangling them. Either completed canopy can be fitted to the cockpit in the open or closed position by selecting the appropriate opener strut, adding a two-pronged hinge part to the rear of the open option that slots into the front of the spine. The choices aren’t quite finished yet, as you can close the refuelling probe bay by fitting the door over the area, but if you wish to deploy the probe, it has a tapering ladder support and a different door part, inserting the rear of the probe into the bay and setting the correct angle courtesy of the support. It has a bright red section near the business end of the probe, which is best painted before installation. Speaking of ladders, which we kind-of were, there is a crew ladder included on the sprues, made from just two parts, one of which is well protected by a deep extension to the runner next to it, protecting the rungs moulded into that half of the assembly. This is latched over the lip of the cockpit on the port side, and you can leave it loose or glue it in place as you see fit. Markings There is just one scheme given on the rear pages of the instruction booklet, but a full set of tail-codes are included, so you can build any airframe in the low-viz grey cloud camouflage shown below: Decals are printed in China with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. It includes many stripes around the weapon and gear bays, which are supplied as sensibly designed sections that should remove as much frustration as possible whilst applying them. Slime lights and various sensor dielectric panels are also included on the sheet, and on an addendum sheet (not pictured) that is barely the size of a postage stamp, a single “bunny-ears” decal numbered 25 is included, so be careful not to lose it. Conclusion This is a large aircraft, around the same size as the immense Mig-31, and MENG have done a good job of representing the detail. Most modellers could build it straight from the box thanks to what’s included, although some aftermarket is bound to come out soon. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. U-2R ‘Dragon Lady’ Senior Span (81740) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd Back in the 1950s, extreme high-altitude anti-aircraft missiles weren’t yet available, and aircraft could over-fly foreign nations with a degree of impunity, as long as they could stay high enough to keep out of range of enemy fighters and less capable missile batteries. Lockheed’s Skunk Works were tasked with creating a new aircraft on reasonably short notice that could fly higher than any previous aircraft or missile, virtually on the edge of space, to accomplish the task of gathering intelligence on America’s Cold War enemies, predominantly over-flying the Soviet Union. They took the fuselage of the new F-104 Starfighter that was then in development, adding massively extended wings more suitable to a glider, and shortening the fuselage, leaving sufficient space to carry high-definition optics and/or electronic intelligence gathering equipment. Developed in secret using black project money from the CIA, the airframes were developed in close proximity to the engineering staff, embedding them in the factory to quickly resolve any issues that came up, which resulted in the initial order coming in on time and under budget. New high-altitude fuel had to be developed, and the custom optics were designed specifically for use in the aircraft, which garnered the designation U-2, the U standing for Utility, to confuse anyone hearing about it, thus delaying its discovery a little longer. Once flights over the USSR had begun, it was discovered that the Soviets were regularly tracking the aircraft, which led to a project to reduce the type’s radar return, which was initially unsuccessful, but later was revisited by covering the skin in a Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) that was a matt black colour on application. There have been many upgrades and alterations to the type since it was initially fielded, leading to an aircraft that looks somewhat like the original, but is hugely different in terms of capabilities, especially when it comes to intelligence gathering. They still jettison their wing-mounted stabiliser legs on take-off however, and are stalked on landing by a muscle car to improve the pilot’s situational awareness from his cramped cockpit, which is worsened by the pilots having to wear a space suit due to the altitudes involved that would have a fatal effect on anyone flying whilst wearing a standard flight suit. The largest change other than building two-seat airframes for complex tasks and training of the elite pilots was the U-2R in 1967, which increased the size of the airframe by around 30% and introduced the wing ‘Superpod canoes’ that could be filled with intelligence gathering equipment and gave the aircraft a greater range by the enlargement of the fuel tanks. Despite the age of the basic premise and the march of technology, the U-2 has persisted attempts to retire it, even surviving the introduction of the un-manned Global Hawk, which is capable of many of the same tasks with extended loiter times due to the pilots being ground-based. NASA use a few U-2s, redesignated as ER-2s, which are used for high-altitude civilian research, painted white with the blue NASA cheatline as no-one is likely to want to shoot them down. The Kit This is a new tooling from Hobby Boss that was released late in 2023 and has only recently arrived this far from China, with another boxing depicting the U-2S expected soon(ish). The kit arrives in a top-opening box with a painting of the aircraft flying high, which is what it does best, with the stars visible in an inky black sky. Inside the box are seven sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, Photo-Etch (PE) sheet, decal sheet, instruction booklet, plus a colour profile sheet in A4, printed on both sides. Detail is excellent throughout, and incorporates some intelligent use of slide-moulding, particularly to create double-wall, single part intake trunks with detail on the interior and exterior. There are also a ton of aerials, antennae, a dorsal pod, and optional flat-spotted forward areas to the Superpod canoes under the wings. There is also plenty of detail in the cockpit, gear bays, and even a pair of detachable wing support wheels on their banana-shaped struts, plus air-brakes that can be fitted in the deployed position with a suitably well-detailed bay behind each of them. Construction begins with the two long fuselage halves, drilling out several holes in the top and bottom, and inserting the air-brake bay parts toward the aft end of the parts. Attention then turns to the cockpit, starting with the ejection seat, which is made from seven styrene parts plus four-point PE belts, which is installed in the detailed cockpit tub along with a two-part control yoke, fitting a bulkhead to the rear, and the instrument panel in front of the pilot, with a decal to depict the dials. Two side wall inserts are then fixed to the top of the consoles to finish the tub, moving on to the rear gear bay, building it from individual wall and roof parts, locating the gear strut between the side walls, and adding small diameter wide tyres to each end of the cross-axles. The exhaust is a simple tube made from two halves, and it is capped by a representation of the rear face of the engine after painting everything a suitable shade of burned metal. The front gear bay is moulded in excellent detail, showing the shape of the merging intake trunks within, to which the front strut and its retraction jacks are fitted, adding another pair of larger wheels to the stub-axle ends, painting both bays a grubby white. The merging intake trunks are made in two stages that are joined together to create a Y-shape, which is blocked at the rear by a part that represents the front of the engine, gluing it to the roof of the front gear bay, then fitting the cockpit, both wheel bays and the exhaust between the two fuselage halves and gluing them together. A forest of antennas is dotted around the underside, adding sideways opening front gear bay doors, a tail-bumper, and the actuators for the air-brakes into the bays near the rear. Yet more antennae are fitted along the belly, a sensor dome is mounted in front of the front gear bay, and the rear bay doors along with the air-brake panels are installed, flipping the model over onto its wheels to fit the instrument coaming to the cockpit, plus another antenna and light to the spine. The canopy is moulded in two parts, fitting a small exterior rear-view mirror on the port side of the windscreen, and PE interior rear-view mirrors to the canopy, gluing both into position, the canopy hinging to the port side if you plan to pose it open. The two intakes are an impressive piece of slide-moulding, having inner and outer surfaces provided as one part, with a hollow interior that reduces the likelihood of sink marks, whilst providing plenty of detail, each one gluing into the openings behind the cockpit. There is a slight seam around the intake lips that is easily removed, but the detail is well worth those few seconds of effort. The dorsal pod is made from two halves with a small raised blister on the pylon added to both sides, fixing it to the spine over the wing roots on pins, while the tail fin is built from two halves plus a single part for the rudder, which has a corrugated surface that is a little too deeply defined. Check your references and either fill the depressions, or sand back the raised portions as you see fit, although several coats of primer and some light sanding of the high spots might be better to retain the original thickness of the part. This also applies to the ailerons and other flying surfaces, so you might as well do them all at once, unless you’re upset by this minor issue. Each wing is made from top and bottom half, adding the majority of the Superpod body to the underside, with the top half of the tail cone a separate part, and the forward section that uses either two halves to create a cylindrical section with tapering nose cone, or by using different parts to create the nose cones with a flat-spot on the outer face, both styles having an optional L-shaped antenna installed on the top. The flying surfaces along the trailing edge are all separate, and are glued to the rear of the wing, with the possibility of deflecting them if you wish. Note that the black RAM isn’t painted under the extended flaps, so take care to check your references to help you paint this area correctly. A spoiler is also fixed to the upper wing around mid-span, near the jettisonable stabilising gear legs that are made from curved struts with a wheel glued to each side of the bottom end. These locate in a socket under the trailing edge of the wings, and of course the same process is carried out in mirror-image for the other wing. The wings are glued to the fuselage sides on three separate slots, and here it will become obvious that they have been moulded with a slight sag, which is correct for wings of this aircraft, so don’t be tempted to correct this. The two-part elevator fins have separate flying surfaces, and these fit to the fairing under the fin using a relatively small tab and slot, taking care to achieve the correct dihedral by checking your references. There are several nose modules used in U-2 missions, and this boxing includes a simple more aerodynamic nose that is made from two halves, plus a single cone tip, with two PE probes fitted to small depressions in the rear edge of the nose. It is glued in place to complete the build phase of the model. Markings Any U-2 after the early days is painted in black RAM, with very few markings, unless it’s one of the civilian airframes. There are three options included on the sheet, predominantly stencilled in red, and most of the decals are applied to the tail fin. From the box you can build one of the following: Hobby Boss decals and the decaling instructions can be a weak point of their products at times, and they are generally printed anonymously in China. This sheet is printed in this manner, but is suitable for purpose, particularly as the majority of decals are printed in red. Registration where it occurs is good, as is colour density and sharpness, with a clear backed decal depicting the dials and switch-gear for the instrument panel. Conclusion The moulding and detail included in the kit is excellent, and other than the excessive corrugated texture on some of the control surfaces, there is little immediately visible to grouch about, although some are still trying. Other than making sure you have enough space in your cabinet to accommodate the enormous wingspan of the Dragon Lady, there’s no reason not to have one. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Bergepanzer BPz3A1 Buffalo ARV (84565) 1:35 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Büffel as it is known as in its native Germany, is an Armoured Recovery Vehicle based upon the chassis and lower hull of the well-liked Leopard 2E Main Battle Tank, which itself is a variant of the 2A6. Most of the lower hull is identical or similar to its progenitor, but the turret is missing, replaced by a casemate and crane, a winch and a bulldozer blade that allows it to retrieve damaged or immobilised tanks from the battlefield even if the fighting is still ongoing thanks to its armour. It is also equipped with an MG3 machine gun for self-defence purposes, a set of smoke grenade launchers to hide itself and its charge from those that wish it harm. It is powered by a large 12-cylinder diesel engine from MTU Friedrichshafen, a division of Rolls-Royce, that outputs almost 1,500bhp that allows it to travel at good speed across all sorts of terrain, but also to pull its immobilised compatriots, whether they were retrieving Leopards or PzH2000 SPGs, or anything up to a similar tonnage. The BPz3 was a joint project between Rheinmetall Landsysteme of Germany who produced an initial 75 for the Bundeswehr and a further 25 for the Netherlands, where its name lost its umlaut over the U in translation. It was also sold to other countries including Canada where it is known as the L2-ARV, and Spain where it is known as the Leopard 2ER Búfalo, with Switzerland a surprisingly large 25 export, and Sweden taking a number on charge after adapting them to their specific needs to improve armour and customise their electronic systems. For service in Afghanistan, the German vehicles and some Canadian machines were upgraded with new high quality vision systems by Karl Zeiss for the drivers that would give them 24/7 visibility, no matter what the conditions. The crane is electrically driven, and can operate independent of the power-pack, so even the unusual sight of a Buffalo replacing its own broken engine isn’t outside the bounds of possibility, presuming they have enough electrical charge in the vehicle. At time of writing, the type is in the middle of another extensive upgrade programme to give it more capability on the interconnected battlefield. The Bpz3A1 is up-armoured to work under enemy fire, and included the addition of mine protection equipment, and slat armour that is intended to reduce the effectiveness of shaped charge weapons in key areas. The MG has been changed to a remote mount, and the driver’s vision is enhanced by a thermal imager and low-light TV system that are combined as a single picture in front of the driver, improving their situational awareness. The Kit This is a partial retool of a retool of the 2015 release from Hobby Boss, adding yet more new parts to depict the differences between the early Buffalo and the improved variant that is depicted here. The kit arrives in a typically sturdy top-opening box with a painting of a Buffalo at work on another tank, and inside are fourteen sprues and two hull halves in sand-coloured styrene, a small sprue in black, a clear sprue, two trees of poly-caps, a length of braided wire, two Photo-Etch (PE) brass sheets of parts, two flexible black lengths of track, decal sheet and black and white instruction booklet that has the colour painting guide sheet inserted between the centre pages. Detail is good throughout, as we’ve come to expect from Hobby Boss’s armour models for the most part, although there is some thought that the hull is around 4mm narrower than it should be, but that’s a question for your micrometre, not mine. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has the suspension and return roller details added after cutting small sections from some suspension units, while the road wheels are prepared, consisting of fourteen pairs of main wheels, two drive sprockets and two idler wheels, all of which have a poly-cap sandwiched between the two wheels. Once the swingarms with stub-axles plus return rollers are glued in place, the road wheels can be pushed into place for removal during painting if required, thanks to the friction-fit of the flexible polythene sleeves. Quickly, the bulldozer blade is built from large, bulky parts, adding supports and pivots, plus an oversized towing eye at the front of the blade. It is joined to the hull by a pair of large pins that you should leave unglued if you wish to move or remove it later. The track runs are of the “rubber-band” style, but have good detail throughout, and you are advised that they will accept standard plastic glue and paints during construction, however a test with Tamiya Extra Thin glue reveals that this isn’t the case, so test your preferred glue on the short length of sprue at one end of the tracks before proceeding. There is an overlap of two links per run, and once the glue is dry they are slipped over the running gear so that attention can turn to the highly detailed crew interior that is included. The interior is begun by taking a floor panel with a lip around most of the edge, and detailing it with three crew stations, their equipment and comfortable-looking seats. The completed lower half (there is more to come) is glued into the bottom of the hull along with an insert against the lower glacis plate, and at the same time the rear bulkhead with towing eyes and shackles are put in place along with the convoy-light shield that has a PE lighting bracket over it. The next stage of the interior begins with the upper hull half, which first receives an insert over the front that has two holes in it, creating the roof of the casemate in which the crew sit, opening a few small slots in the front of the hull, and drilling out six holes in the short section of roof that is moulded into the upper hull part. A very detailed insert is made up into a four-sided assembly with a lot of equipment placed inside over the next five steps, including tools, some PE parts and stencil decals. That is glued into the casemate and backed up with a box and some brackets, then more equipment and wall panels are dotted around the left side of the casemate after being detailed in rather busy steps around the main diagrams. Similarly, the right side is built around a long insert with five steps that increase the level of detail substantially, and includes PE and styrene parts as well as some more decals for stencils and dials. The driver’s console with D-shaped steering wheel is inserted into the glacis plate, then the assembly is turned over to detail the exterior, first cutting right-angled notches in three of the six triangular supports at the rear of the casemate, using the accompanying diagrams to measure them before cutting. The upper hull’s rear is boxed in with a wide bulkhead that includes rear mudguards, adding another small box on the rear deck, removing a few tiny raised areas and filling depressions nearby. Front mud guards, a front hatch and two side crew hatches are installed with handles, adding an armoured cover over the new rear view vision block. The two hull halves are joined, and a gaggle of small parts are scattered around the engine deck and the casemate, then the side doors are shown being installed again – oops! This time the rear door is fitted with styrene and PE parts inside, while in the front of the engine deck, two PE strips are bent around a pair of raised cylinders on the deck surface. The driver’s almond-shaped hatch is given clear vision blocks before it is inserted into the hole, and at the rear bulkhead several detail parts are fitted. A frame is fitted over the two circular vents, adding three PE mesh sections to the rear, and fitting a foldable panel to the left side, plus more detail parts on the visible part of the deck. The next few steps are incredibly busy due to the upgrading of the type requiring many more parts, creating an L-shaped box that is covered in PE mesh before it is located on the rear right corner of the deck. The top hatch with remote MG3 machine gun station is first fitted with six vision blocks in the toroidal lip, making the hatch from three layers for installation along with another vision block, then adding two bracket-like armoured covers over the top, and fixing the five-part gun and its mount onto the rear edge of the cupola. This is mounted in the socket in the roof, then a huge stowage box is built from styrene parts and PE mesh, installing it on the rear deck over the mesh cover, and fixing smoke discharger packs around the left rear corner and on the back edge of the deck. A lifting brace is detailed with eyes and a large shackle at the top of its sloped upper edge, connecting it to the right side of the engine deck via a pair of pins that mate with supports at each end. Two spare wheels are made and mounted on bobbin-like fittings, attaching it to a shallow tray with brackets around the edge, inverting it and fitting a four-part sled over it and fixing it to the dwindling open area in the centre of the engine deck. A stack of stowage boxes that bear a resemblance to coolers are made with separate lids, mounting two of them on the left side of the engine deck, adding two appliqué armour panels over the glacis above the dozer blade. The main crane is built around a single three-sided jib, the hydraulic lift cylinder is mounted at one end within the three sided part, then closed over by fitting the fourth panel, with a V-shaped cut-out to allow the movement of it and its ram, which is attached to a two-part base and ram with the turntable beneath it, mating them by inserting the ram into the cylinder and positioning the pivot-points at the bottom of the jib with those on the base so that pins can be inserted without glue. Even the crane doesn’t escape the application of pioneer tools, with several items on one side and slat armour at the aft end on the other, plus more details and of course the block and tackle that performs the heavy lifting. The pulleys are assembled with the supplied wire linking them, so some care will be needed, gluing the outer parts and the lifting hook in position, then locating the top pulley into the end of the jib, securing it with a pin from each side, again without glue. Another two towing rods are built in a V-shape with eyes glued to the ends and located on the rear bulkhead by a pair of clamps. The side skirts of the original vehicle have been replaced by new boxy assemblies that are fitted over the forward wheel stations, and have narrow slat armour panels at the bottom, spaced away from the skirts by triangular brackets, using two or three depending on the length of the section. The left skirts have a sloped top-section, while the right are box-shaped, but have the same slat sections on the lower sides. The next two pages are again incredibly busy, adding dozens of additional slat armour panels above the skirts, around the deck and casemate roof, and behind the built-out skirts toward the rear. Additional smoke grenade launchers are mounted on stations in the front corners of the glacis, adding more equipment and towing eyes to the rear of the vehicle, and a pair of antennae on the casemate, one with a flasher unit at the top that should be painted clear orange and used only when the vehicle isn’t on active duty. The quantity of small parts requires concentration and careful study of the instruction steps, as they aren’t always totally obvious, and could easily be missed by anyone skimming the steps. Markings There are two options available from the sheet, one wearing a two-tone green/sand camouflage, the other in all over sand. There are further decals on the main jib that can be found on the instruction booklet, which you will want to refer to during painting. From the sheet you can build one of the following: As usual with Hobby Boss, there’s no information on the vehicle’s location, date or user, so a bit of Googling will be in order if you’d like to know a little more about your model. The decals are well-printed, in good register and sharpness, and are suitable to the task in hand. The instrument decals for the interior equipment with dials has a grey background, although much of the interior is painted white or NATO green. Here, Google is your friend. Conclusion It’s a well-detailed model of a low-profile, but extremely important vehicle in the Bundeswehr and other operators, with a lot of attention paid to the interior, as well as a huge level of detail to the exterior. You don’t get the engine, but that’s not a big deal, and could be a relief, given the already high part count. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum D (81786) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Mikoyan MiG-29, known in the West by its NATO reporting name 'Fulcrum' is an air superiority fighter designed and built in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. As with other comparable aircraft of that period, such as the Su-27, F-16, F-15 and Panavia Tornado, it was produced in significant numbers and is still in fairly widespread service with air arms around the world. The MiG-29 was developed as a lighter, cheaper aircraft compared to the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, an aircraft with which it is broadly comparable in terms of layout and design, if not size and weight. As with the Su-27, the engines are spaced widely apart, with the area between them being used to generate lift and improve manoeuvrability. The MiG-29 is powered by two Klimov RD-33 Turbofans, each of which generates over 18,000lb of thrust in reheat. As with many Soviet types, the aircraft is well suited for use on rough airstrips, particularly as the engine air intakes can be closed completely when on the ground, allowing air to be drawn through louvres on the upper surfaces of the wing roots avoiding FOD. Armament consists of a combination of Vympel R-27 medium-range air-to-air missiles and R-73 or R-60 short-range air-to-air missiles, as well as an integral GSh-30-1 30mm cannon in the port Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX). The aircraft can be used in a range of roles and can carry bombs and rockets in addition to more technologically advanced missiles. The MiG-29 has been widely exported and is still in widespread use with Russian, former Soviet and aligned nations, including several NATO member states such as Poland. Based upon the MiG-29M, the K was developed in the 1980s as an all-weather carrier-borne multi-role fighter that incorporates modern technologies that make it comparable in terms of generational capabilities as the Eurofighter, Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale. After two prototypes were built and demonstrated, the Russian Navy didn’t make an order as they were already wedded to the Su-33, and it was an order by the Indian Air Force that saved the project as late as 2009, which the Indian Navy intended to fly from the former Soviet carrier they had bought. The initial order of a dozen airframes was followed by another of 29, plus training and simulation equipment, although a pre-delivery crash put the brakes on temporarily until it was revealed that the crash had predictably been caused by pilot error. Reliability issues of the engines dogged the fleet for a while, solved by India’s efforts that led to their satisfaction with their aircraft, although talk of replacing the fleet at one point was taken seriously by Western aircraft manufacturers. Russia’s Navy eventually decided that rather than build new Su-33s to replace those that were reaching retirement, they would take advantage of the open production lines of the MiG-29K in 2009, adding two dozen to the production schedule, which led to the Russian Navy holding a mixed inventory of MiG-29K and refurbished Su-33s as of 2016 when the last MiGs were delivered. A small number of MiG-29KUBR airframes were built with two cockpits under the same shaped canopy for training, with tandem controls for the student and instructor. The operational airframes were received in time to take part in Russian operations in Syria, losing one that failed to return to base after an operational sortie. The Kit This is a new tooling from Hobby Boss, and it arrives in a sturdy top-opening box with a painting of the subject on the front, and profiles of the decal options on one side. Inside the box is a cardboard divider to reduce movement of parts during shipping and storage, and most sprues are individually bagged, with delicate parts pre-wrapped in thin foam sheets, secured by tape. There are nine sprues, two fuselage halves and four exhaust nozzles in grey styrene, a long clear sprue in a bubble-wrap envelope, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass backed by a piece of card, decal sheet, instruction booklet in black and white, plus a folded sheet of glossy A3 printed in colour with one decal option per side, and another A4 sheet for the painting and decaling of the weapons that are included in the box. Detail is good, with intelligent use of slide-moulding to create additional detail without increasing the part count, and a choice of exhaust nozzles in closed or open positions, with excellent detail moulded into both layers. Construction begins with the K-36D-3.5 ejection seat, which is made from thirteen styrene parts, plus four seatbelts and ejection actuator handle in PE. This is slotted into the front compartment of the cockpit tub, adding the instrument panel and control column, and applying six decals to the panel and side consoles. Additional parts are fitted along with the cockpit sidewalls in both compartments, fixing a rudder bar with two PE foot straps in the front of the cockpit, remembering that most of the rear tub will be covered by an insert later in the build, so don’t waste any time painting and weathering that area. The nose gear bay must be built next, as it will be trapped between the fuselage halves, and this is built up from four parts, with the nose gear leg made from a single strut with integral supports near the top, fitting the oleo and swing-arm to the bottom, plus a clear landing light and other small parts before you attach wheels on either end of the cross-axle, building them from two halves each. The cover for the rear cockpit is raised, and has a grille on the front, plus two small boxes added to the top surface, then the fuselage can be prepared, drilling out several flashed-over holes under the wings, and one on the roof of the space between the engines. The nose gear bay is inserted into its cut-out, adding a pair of extension cups to the main gear bays behind the moulded-in sections, then gluing the cockpit tub into the upper fuselage along with an insert in the nose for a refuelling probe, whilst cutting off and sanding back a bulge on the deck in front of the windscreen as per a nearby scrap diagram. The two fuselage halves are brought together, fixing the rear cockpit cover and a small spine insert, then building the HUD from a sloped styrene core with clear lens, PE supports for the two clear panels, and applying a decal to the lens before it is fitted in a recess in the cockpit coaming. Soviet/Russian fighters tend to have built-in FOD guards, which in this case are supplied as large mesh panels that fit into the front of the inner engine intake trunks, that have a cylindrical profile and are blocked at the inner end by an insert that has the front of the engine moulded-into it, inserting the completed assembly into the engine nacelles, painting the inner surface grey, then adding the roof of the trunks to the sloped forward edge. This is done twice of course, and the two finished assemblies are inserted into the underside of the fuselage after adding extra wall detail to the main gear bays that nestle into the outer sides of each nacelle. In preparation, two short cowling sections are fitted to the upper fuselage where the exhausts will later sit. The twin fins are each made from two halves plus rudder, but they are equipped with different sensor fits in the trailing edge of the tip, which is further accentuated by the probe and sensors added to the rear, whilst both share the same T-shaped aerial near the change of angle of the leading edges of the fins. There is a large tapered cylindrical fuel tank between the engine nacelles, and this is built from two halves that are capped at either end, the nose cone made from two halves to include the forward pylon mount. This and the fins are put to one side while other assemblies are built for the underside of the model. This begins with the landing gear, the main gear made from a thick strut with trailing retraction jack, captive bay door, and a two-part scissor link, which receives a two-part wheel with circumferential tread moulded-in, although you’ll have to take a sanding stick to them if you wish to depict the weight of the airframe on the tyres. The exhausts have a short two-part trunk as their starting point, with a double layer depicting the rear of the engine and the afterburner ring, then you have a choice of posing the exhaust petals opened or closed, using two different sets of parts to portray the inner and outer layers of the nozzles. The closed nozzles have their inner part inserted from within, while the opened nozzles have their inner layer slid in from the rear due to the angles of the respective parts, with the resulting detail worth the effort. Both sets of nozzles are glued to the rear of the trunking, and are slipped inside the rear of the fuselage, adding the main gear legs and a bay door actuator to each side, then fitting the chaff & flare boxes on the fairings each side of the exhaust trunking, a pylon under each of the inner wing panels moulded into the fuselage, gluing on leading edges slats, and finally the twin fins that are attached to the fairings to the sides of the engines on pegs for strength. Doors are added to the gear bays, flaperons and their actuator fairings to the rear of the wings, a gaggle of antennae under the nose, and a two-part arrestor hook is fixed between the rear of the engine nacelles, mounting the large central tank between them. The next step is to fit the hinges to the ends of the inner wing panels, which are only applicable if you intend to fold the wings for storage on or below deck. This removes the option for a model ready for, or in-flight, and there is no discussion of the straight-wing or in-flight option in the instruction booklet. It is however possible using the parts provided, and simply involves omitting the hinge parts, laying the hinge cover panel flat to the wing, and fitting the outer wing panel at the same angle as the inner. The outer wing panels are built from two halves, adding slats at the front and ailerons to the rear, plus the hinge cover, which for folded wings should be placed at an angle. It’s best to test fit this in situ to obtain the correct attitude for the various parts. Regardless of whether you choose to fold the wings or not, each tip has a small strake inserted in a slot on the upper surface. More probes and antenna are clustered around the nose along with the refuelling probe with its cover, adding a clear lens to the sensor under the windscreen, which is also fitted at this stage. An actuator for the main canopy is installed behind it, and further aft two jacks for the air-brake are glued in position, which might be best done whilst fitting the panel to ensure they all line up. The canopy has a separate styrene lower frame with a cross-brace, four PE latches on each side, and a pair of rear-view mirrors in the front frame, fitting to the rear of the cockpit opening on the afore-mentioned jack. The elevators/elevons are single parts that fit into plugs on the side of the fuselage, and a gun fairing is fixed in the leading edge of the port LERX with another pair of PE antennae, one on each side of the nose cone, which has a separate pitot probe mounted at the tip. Like many Hobby Boss kits, this boxing has a plethora of weapons to suspend from the various pylons under the fuselage and wings. The following are included: 2 x R-77 (AA-12 Adder) BVR A2A Missile 2 x R-73M (AA-11 Archer) Short Range A2A Missile 2 x MSP-418K active jammer pod 2 x PTB-1150 1,150L Fuel Tanks 2 x KH -29T (AS-14 Kedge-B) TV guided A2S Missile 2 x KH-31P (AS-17 Krypton) Anti-Radiation Cruise Missile 2 x KAB-500Kr TV-guided bomb 2 x KH-35 (AS-20 Kayak) Anti-Ship Cruise Missile The various missiles are moulded as two halves, have separate fins fore and aft, and clear seeker heads where appropriate, adding adapter rails as necessary. The KH-35s however have their aft section removed before they are built, fixing folded fins to the sides of the missile, with a scrap diagram showing how they should appear once completed. A diagram at the end of the instruction booklet shows where the various munitions and pods can be mounted, but check your references for real-world load-outs if you prefer. Markings There are two decal options on the sheet, one in Russian service, the other in Indian colours. From the box you can build one of the following: Blue 39, Russian Navy 672 Indian Navy The various weapons, tanks and pods have a great many stencils that can be applied, using a separate colour page to guide you, all of which adds realism to your model. Decals aren’t always Hobby Boss’s strong point, but these are of good quality with registration, sharpness and colour density that are suitable for the task at hand. They usually go down well, and there are plenty of stencils for the airframe and weapons to add detail to your model, including more detailed instrument panel decals than many other companies provide. Conclusion The MiG-29 is an attractive aircraft, and the Navalised K from Hobby Boss seems a competent representation of what is a niche variant that was only produced in small numbers, including lots of detail and a large quantity of weapons. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. Refugees Musician Family (38084) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd During WWII there were millions of displaced populations created by the advances of the Nazis across Europe, escaping from combat or persecution, resulting in huge streams of humanity making their way to a perceived safer part of their own or a neighbouring country. People took only what they could carry, unless they were lucky enough to possess a motor car or some kind of cart, whether hand-pulled or horse-drawn. People would take their most important belongings, loading up with their most valuable goods, whether monetarily or otherwise, often comprising items that might be of use in their profession or as currency to trade when they arrived at their destination. The Kit This figure set supplies two figures, plus their possessions that they are carrying and pushing in a pram, although they don’t appear to have a baby with them, so perhaps they picked it up earlier in their journey or they had one in storage at home. The set arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box, and inside are six sprues in grey styrene, plus a sheet of paper that has several pieces of art printed on it to use with the picture frames that are included on the sprues. The parts for each figure are found in separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The accessories are contained on four sprues, two of which are quite large, and contain several instruments that can be carried by the figures in line with the theme of this boxing. Instructions for the perambulator are found on the back of the box along with the painting guide for the figures, with additional diagrams showing the building of the three cases that are also found on the sprues. The instruments sprue includes the following: Accordion – open (Piano Accordion) Accordion – in case (Piano Accordion) Harmonic – closed (Button Accordion) Harmonic – open (Button Accordion) Marching bass drum with sticks Trumpet Guitar Violin in open case Violin & bow with closed case Mandolin Banjo There are no instructions included for the instruments, which would have been useful, but it wasn’t a stretch to guess that this sprue had been seen before, even with my memory, and it turns out we have reviewed the set when it was first released separately in 2020, which you can find here along with the instructions, just in case you pick this set up and can’t quite figure out how to put some parts together. The smallest sprue has three picture frames moulded into it, with six paintings supplied on the accompanying piece of glossy colour-printed paper, including some very famous paintings that are most likely reproductions, given their provenance. You simply cut them from the backing paper and fix them in place on the narrow rim around the inside of the frame in much the same manner as a real picture frame. If you want to add glass to the frame, some acetate sheet would be much easier to cut to shape than trying to adjust the size and shape of a glass slide cover that is often used to depict broken glass in dioramas. Conclusion The figures are expertly sculpted, and they have a care-worn look to them that would be typical of anyone that has been displaced by war, indicating their profession by their luggage, and adding the possibility of a bereavement in the near past by the presence of the pram. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. Bakery Products (35624) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Inside the figure-sized box are nine sprues in grey styrene, six filled with different varieties of bread and pastries, plus three containing shallow wooden boxes with open tops and hand-holds in the short ends. The rear of the box holds the instructions for making up the trays from their three component parts, with painting examples given in the space below, which is various shades of beige and tan, with a bit of flour dusting here and there. The colour call-outs on the rear of the box are given in Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus swatches and colour names to assist with choosing your colours. These refer to the blue colour numbers on the paintings above the chart. As usual with MiniArt figure and diorama sets, sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown on the trays to leave minimal seamlines, and the sprue attachment points of the various bread products are similarly carefully placed. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. PLA ZTQ15 Light Tank (72-001) 1:72 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The Type 15 light tank was designed as a replacement to the previous generation of tanks that Chinese Army, Navy and Air Force used in high altitude areas where oxygen is limited, on soft ground where heavier vehicles would bog down, and in tight areas such as forests where the lack of mobility of larger, heavier vehicles would be an impediment. It was under development some time early in the new millennium, with prototypes seen during the 2010s, and final acknowledgement by the PLA of it entering service in 2018, by which time it had been in service in growing numbers for two years. It carries a 105mm rifled gun that can fire the usual range of munitions (including NATO rounds), plus Anti-Tank Guided Missiles that can be used to take out enemy tanks at ranges of three to five miles away under the right circumstances. It is armoured with a combined steel and composite hull, with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) blocks fitted to the front, sides and turret, and the option of adding slat armour where shaped-charge rockets such as RPGs are expected. It can also carry heavier ERA blocks for greater protection, but as with all things, more protection brings more weight, lower speed and a greater likelihood of bogging down. Unusually for an AFV, the Type 15 has an onboard oxygen generator that feeds additional air to both the crew and the engine to compensate for the reduced power output by the 1,000hp diesel engine at higher altitudes, the oxygen permitting the crew to keep their wits about them in circumstances that could otherwise leave them confused and listless due to lack of oxygen in their bloodstreams. The coaxial machine gun in the mantlet is a relatively lightweight 5.8mm, but there is a 12.7mm remote controlled gun station on the turret roof that is mounted side-by-side with a 35mm automatic grenade launcher. On the similar but different overseas variant, the VT-5, there are significant differences to the shape of the forward hull, and the driver’s hatch is mounted centrally, whereas the Type 15 has the driver on the left side of the glacis plate. The systems of the tank are modern, offering full stabilisation of the main gun, which is fed from the bustle-mounted ammo store by an auto-loader that permitted the crew to be reduced to three, and in the event of a direct hit, the ammunition storage is designed to blow outward to protect the crew, and increase the survivability of the vehicle, something the Russian tank designers could take note of. Its drivetrain is similarly modern, using hydro-mechanical transmission, and hydropneumatic suspension to smooth the ride, while the sensor package allows the gunner and commander to share the aiming and firing of the main gun, as well as detecting incoming infrared signals, triggering the launch of smoke grenades to disperse the signal and warn the crew to move their vehicle. Because of its comparatively light-weight, it can be air-transported in pairs, and can be delivered to its intended destination by palletised air-drop, although the crew would probably need a change of underwear once they landed. It is likely to be in service with the Chinese military for some considerable time, increasing its capabilities with in-service updates as time goes by. The Kit This is the first tooling from MENG’s new 1:72 armour line, and it arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box in MENG’s usual satin finish, with an attractive painting of the subject matter on the front, and painting instructions on the rear. Inside the box are four sprues plus the upper hull and turret in light grey styrene, and a concertina-fold instruction booklet in black and white. There are no decals, so you will need to mask or hand-paint the digital camouflage patches that are dotted around the hull and turret, but if you paint the green first and mask it, that shouldn't be an onerous task. Detail is good throughout, with fine raised and recessed detail across all exterior surfaces, extending to the underside, with deeply recessed link-and-length track links, and a well-represented blast-bag on the main gun. Construction begins with the running gear, building twelve pairs of road wheels, two pairs each of drive sprockets and idler wheels, the former made from four parts each. The lower hull is assembled around the floor, adding the sides and the lower glacis plate to the front, then installing the drive sprockets at the rear, and a line of three return rollers to each side of the hull. Six pairs of road wheels and the idler wheels are slid over the stub axles, adding towing shackles to the glacis, which then leads to installing the tracks. A straight length is fitted to the return run, gluing the lower run with diagonal ends, then completing the band with curved sets of three links per end, one for each side of the vehicle. The rear bulkhead with a pair of exhausts and towing shackles is fixed to the back of the hull, after which the upper hull can be mated to the lower, adding the driver’s hatch at the front on the shallow slope of the glacis plate. At the rear, two fuel drums are made up from halves, and are fitted to the bulkhead along with an unditching beam that has wooden bark texture moulded into it along with the two straps that hold it to the vehicle. Side skirts are fitted to both sides as single parts, covering the top track run, which could probably be left off to save yourself some work. The turret assembly is built from top and bottom halves, inserting a sensor into the front, and adding the commander’s cupola over his hatch cut-out, plus a pair of sensors to the forward corners. The rear panel to the bustle is separate, and is fitted along with the two sighting boxes, rear sensors on the corners, the mantlet with sensor box on top, and the two crew hatches. Grenade launchers are fitted as three pairs on the sides of the bustle, and the single-part main gun is inserted into the hole in the mantlet, fixing a pair of sensor masts, aerial bases, additional detail parts to the roof, then building up the co-mounted 12.7mm machine gun and grenade launcher into the remote station from three parts, inserting its mounting peg into a hole in the centre of the roof, and adding a tubular part across the rear of the bustle. The completed turret can then be mated with the hull, twisting the bayonet fitting to lock it into place. Markings There is just one option detailed on the rear of the box, which is all-over sand with green or brown digital camouflage scattered over the surface. There are no decals, so none of the usual concerns over registration, sharpness etc. Conclusion 1:72 AFV modellers should welcome this new range with open arms, as they are well-detailed and yet still relatively simple to build, and what’s more, they don’t stress the purse-strings unduly. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. P-47D-25RE Thunderbolt Advanced Kit (48001) 1:48 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The Thunderbolt developed from a series of less-than-successful earlier designs that saw Seversky aviation change to Republic, and the project designation from P-35, to P-43 and P-44, each with its own aggressive sounding name. After a realisation that their work so far wasn't going to cut it in the skies over war-torn Europe, they went back to the drawing board and produced the P-47A that was larger, heavier and sported the new Pratt & Whitney R-2800 18-cylinder radial that would also power the B-26 Marauder, P-61 Black Widow and F4U Corsair. With it they added eight .50cal Browning machine guns aligned along the axis of flight in the wing leading edge. The P-47A was still a small aircraft, and was initially ordered without military equipment to allow faster completion, but it was considered inferior to the competition then available, so an extensive re-design was ordered that resulted in the much larger P-47B, firing up to 100 rounds per second from the eight .50cal wing guns, and with a maximum speed of over 400mph, leaving just the fuel load slightly short of requirements. It first flew mid-1941, and despite being a heavy-weight, its performance was still excellent, and the crash of the prototype didn’t affect the order for over 700 airframes, which were fitted with a more powerful version of the R-2800 and a sliding canopy that made ingress and egress more streamlined, particularly when bailing out of a doomed aircraft. Minor re-designs to early production airframes resulted in a change to the P-47C, which meant that fewer than 200 Bs were made, the C benefitting from improved radio, oxygen systems, and a metal rudder to prevent flutter that had been affecting control at certain points in the performance envelope. A quick way to spot a B is the forward raked aerial mast behind the cockpit, as this was changed to vertical on the C and beyond. The production from a new factory that had been opened to keep up with demand led to the use of the D suffix, although they were initially identical to the C, but the cowling flaps were amended later, making it easier to differentiate. Of course, the later bubble-canopy P-47s were far easier to tell apart from earlier marks, and constant improvement in reliability, performance and fuel load was added along the way. The P-47D-25 carried more fuel for extended range, including piping for jettisonable tanks on the bomb racks for even more fuel. Taking a cue from the British designers, the bubble-top was developed and that improved all-round visibility markedly, although like the bubble-top Spitfires, later models incorporated a fin extension to counter the yaw issues that resulted. Its weight, firepower and seemingly unstoppable character led to the nickname ‘Juggernaut’, which was inevitably shortened to ‘Jug’ and led to many, many off-colour jokes during and after the war. Jokes that are still soldiering on to this day, despite being eligible for a pensioner’s bus pass. The Jug was used extensively in the European theatre as an escort fighter, where it performed well in its ideal high-altitude environment. Later in the war when the Luftwaffe was a spent force, it also went on to become a highly successful ground attack fighter, strafing and bombing targets of opportunity, and eschewing camouflaged paintwork to add some extra speed with a smooth (and shiny) bare metal finish. As well as flying with the US forces, many P-47s were flown by the other Allies, including the British, Russians, and after the war many other countries as the remainder were sold off as war surplus. The Kit This is a reboxing of a brand-new tooling from MiniArt, and is branded an Advanced Kit because it includes an additional sprue of plastic parts, and a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass to increase the level of detail of the kit, including the gun bays, and the ability to open the engine cowlings to display the excellent detail that is hidden away on the Basic Kit. The kit arrives in one of MiniArt’s sturdy top-opening boxes with a dramatic painting of the subject on the front, and profiles of the decal options on one side, reserving the other side for practical details and text. Inside the box are twenty-two sprues in grey styrene, although in our sample many of the sprues were handily still connected by their runners, which simplified photography. There is also a clear sprue, a sheet of PE in a cardboard envelope, two sheets of decals, and the instruction booklet, which is printed on glossy paper in colour, with profiles for the decal options on the front pages, plus detailed painting and decaling information for the weapons and tanks on the back page. Detail is beyond excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt in the last several years, with fine engraved panel lines, recessed rivets, plus raised and recessed features where appropriate, as well as fine detail in the cockpit, wheel bays, plus gun bays in the wings and engine. If you’ve seen their AFV kits you’ll know what to expect, but this is special in this reviewer’s humble opinion. New Sprue & Photo-Etch Construction begins with the highly detailed cockpit, starting with a choice of seat style. One option has the seat put together from base, back and two side parts, which have elements of the seatbelts moulded-in, and are finished off by putting the remainder of the lap belts on the seat pan. The other option uses new parts to build the seat without belts, adding the belts from the PE sheet separately. A pair of support are inserted into recesses in the back of the seat, then it is installed on the ribbed floor, which has control column, plus seat-adjuster, and two other levers inserted, after which the rear bulkhead, one of the cockpit sidewalls and the front bulkhead are fitted, trapping the rudder bar with moulded-in pedals between them. The starboard sidewall has an oxygen hose added, and a scrap diagram shows the detail painting as well as the location of the decals that need to be applied. The head cushion is applied to the head armour, then the other sidewall is detailed with four controls and a PE wiring loom, numerous decals and more detail painting, so that it can be inserted along with the instrument panel and auxiliary panel, both of which have decals for the dials, with a choice of two for the main panel. The tail wheel is made up in preparation for closing the fuselage, building a four-part strut that holds the wheel on a one-sided yoke, then adding a small curved bulkhead with sprung bumper at the front. The fuselage halves are further prepared by adding two extra detail parts to the short sill panels that have ribbing moulded-in, and should be painted to match the cockpit. At the rear on the underside, the supercharger fairing is slotted into the starboard fuselage along with the tail gear bay, and at the front, a cooling vent and an insert are added to the underside, fitting another vent to the port fuselage half in the same place. The fuselage can then be closed around the cockpit, adding the aerial mast into a slot in the starboard spine, although whether that will remain there until the end of the building and painting is a moot point, and I’d be tempted to nip it off at the base, gluing the base in to act as a socket for the aerial after the heavy work is over. The engine is created by joining the two highly-detailed banks of pistons together by a keyed peg, adding the push-rod assembly to the front, the ends of which mate with a circular support that is the frame onto which the cowling panels are added later. The reduction-housing bell is detailed with magnetos and other parts, plus a collet at the centre where the prop-shaft would be. This is joined to the front of the engine as it is mounted to a bulkhead at the rear, again on a keyed ring. The convex firewall at the front of the fuselage is detailed with a ring of fasteners, the cylindrical intakes with PE mesh grilles, or you can utilise the similar less detailed part from the Basic Kit if you plan on leaving the engine covered. There is a fuselage insert in front of the cockpit, and that has the two-part gunsight with clear lens and PE backup sight and link-plate added to the middle, and it is inserted under the coaming and joined by your choice of firewall that closes the front of the fuselage. The intake trunking at the bottom of the nose cowling is made from five parts and installed in the lower panel, and you have a choice of open or closed top cowling panels by using additional parts. To leave the cowling open, the engine is fitted to the detailed firewall along with the lower cowling and the three sections of cooling gills. the closed option is surrounded by all four cowling segments, and at the rear you have a choice of installing open or closed cooling gills, using different parts to achieve the look you want, sliding the assembly over the completed engine, to which you can add the wiring loom if you are feeling adventurous, using the helpful diagrams near the back of the booklet, which also includes diagrams for wiring the gear bays. The rudder is completed by adding an insert at its widest point (the bottom) to avoid sink marks, and it is mated to the fin on three hinges, allowing deflection if you wish. Under the tail, your choice of bare or canvas-covered wheel assembly is inserted in the bay, with doors on each side, or if you are building your model in flight, a closed pair of doors is supplied as a single part, adding a small outlet further forward under the fuselage. The upper wing halves have well-defined ribbing detail for the gear bays moulded-in, which is augmented by fitting two rib sections, front and rear walls, and an additional structure that has a retraction jack pushed through a hole in one of the wall segments. The gun bays and their extensive ammunition stores are supplied in this boxing, using different upper wing panels with the bays opened. The gun bays themselves are built from a mixture of styrene and PE surfaces, making up a four-compartment box into which the gun breeches are inserted, linking them to the outer wall with ammo feed chutes, and placing the ammunition boxes with open tops into the upper wing from within. The closed bay option is shown with just the barrel stubs projecting from the leading edge, while both options install the wingtip lights and a pitot probe in the starboard wing. A scrap diagram of the lower wing shows the location of the flashed-over holes that you can drill out for rocket tubes or pylons, then the flaps are made from two sides, plus a pair of hinges, and these are glued into the trailing edge of the wing with the ailerons, then the lower wing can be glued to the upper, along with two inserts at the tip and to the rear of the gear bay, which includes a flush landing light. Three PE bay edge strips are inserted over the open gun bays, adding a PE indicator and PE bay prop to hold the styrene panels at the correct angle, the gun bay hinging forward, the ammo bay hinging aft. The same process is then carried out in mirror-image for the other wing, omitting the pitot probe and landing light, after which the wheels and their struts are made up, each wheel made from two halves plus a choice of three hub types, and two styles of tyres are also provided, one without a flat-spot, the other under load on the ground, leaving it to your taste. The struts are detailed with separate compressed or relaxed oleo scissor-links plus stencil decals, and they are mated with their wheels, plus the captive gear bay doors, the lower door made from two layers, again to avoid sink-marks. The wings are glued to the fuselage with a stepped joint making for a stronger bond, and the elevator panels are each slotted into the tail, and have separate flying surfaces that can be posed deflected, each one a single part. If you are building your model with the gear down, the inner gear bay doors are fitted to the fuselage, which contains the inner edge of the main gear bays, so remember to paint that while you are doing the bays. If you plan on making an in-flight model, there are two single parts that depict the closed main bays, or you can insert the two struts with their wheels for the grounded aircraft. The four centreline supports are fitted between the main bays for some decal options, then the model can be flipped over to stand on its own wheels so that the canopy can be installed, gluing the windscreen at the front, and deciding whether to pose the blown canopy open or closed. The prop is also fitted, and this is made up from two parts glued perpendicular to each other, each holding two blades in opposition, and the spinner moulded into the front section. The Jug could carry quite a load, whether it was extra fuel, rockets or bombs, and all these are included in the box, starting with the two-part pylons, which can be depicted as empty by inserting a cover over the business end. You have a choice of four styles of tank, a 108gal compressed paper tank with a ribbed nose and tail, a 200gal wide and flat tank, the third 150gal streamlined tank with flat mating surface, and the last one slightly smaller at 75gal. All but the third option has a pair of sway-braces between them and the pylon, which fit into slots in the pylons. They are built in pairs to fit under the wings, but the first two options can also be used solo on the centreline support. The bombs use the same pylons, and can be built in 1,000lb, 500lb or 250lb variants, each one made from two halves for the body and two parts for the square tails or thinner PE fins if you prefer, and mated to the pylon by a pair of sway-braces that varies depending on size. There is also a smoke generator that looks like a drop-tank with a spout on the rear, which would be used to lay smoke for the Allied troops below to cover their actions, at least temporarily. The final option is a pair of three-tubed rocket pods, which are made from two halves, plus inserts front and rear, which have their mounts moulded-in, and attach directly to holes drilled earlier under the wings. A large diagram shows the correct location for all the pylons and their loads, and you are advised that drop-tanks weren’t carried under the wings with the rocket packs, which seems sensible. No-one likes to fly home with their wings blown off, after all. Markings There are three decal options on the sheet, and a page near the rear of the booklet shows the location of all the many stencils on a set of grey-scale profiles to avoid cluttering the main profiles. From the box you can build one of the following: 62nd Fighter Sqn., 56th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, July 1944 – Pilot Capt. Frederick Joseph Christensen Jr. 61st Fighter Sqn., 56th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, June 1944 – Pilot Lt. Col. Francis Stanley ‘Gabby’ Gabreski 82nd Fighter Sqn., 78th Fighter Group ‘The Duxford Eagles’, 8th Air Force, Duxford, September 1944 – Pilot Capt. Ben Mayo Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion There are a few other kits of this fighter on the market in this scale of course, but I have a feeling that this will soon become the de facto standard in due course as the selection widens. The detail is exceptional and better still than the alleged ‘Basic Kit’ that preceded it. VERY highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 (CS-006) 1:24 MENG via Creative Models Ltd The Audi R8 is a two-seat sport car from German auto-manufacturing giant VAG, and was introduced in 2007, based on their R8 Quattro concept car, with the same four-wheel drive platform that was heavily based upon the Lamborghini Gallardo initially, then the Huracán for the second generation, with a predominantly aluminium space frame beneath the sleek body panels, reusing the R8 Le Mans Prototype name on a vastly different looking vehicle. A soft-top Spyder was introduced in 2011 giving purchasers the wind-in-your-hair feeling at high speeds, while it was introduced into motorsport just after launch where it fared extremely well, looking fast even when parked. The motorsport-tuned offering was race-prepped on delivery, and cost roughly 2.5 times the street car, but there’s a lot included for the money, driven by a V10 5.2 litre engine outputting over 500hp through all four wheels. Its power, agility and reliability made it a popular purchase for GT racing teams, and a great deal of success followed over the coming years. In 2011 the LMS Ultra was launched, incorporating all the updates over the preceding years along with a wider bodykit that gave it a better aerodynamic performance, plus enhanced software that made gear transitions faster and smoother, widening the torque available to the driver across the range. The R8 moved to the second generation in 2015, with the race-spec option following swiftly behind, incorporating a substantial price rise to almost 440 EUR and a power output nearing 600hp. The intention of the revised Evo was to improve the driver experience to satisfy the wide range of driver types that were behind the wheel of these cars due to its popularity, although the price is still an impediment to anyone of normal means, so we can’t all pick one up to go racing, more’s the pity. The Evo II arrived in 2021 with another price rise, more improvements to aerodynamics, engine and transmission reliability, torque output and heat dissipation, leading to a further improvement in driving experience for the racers. Production was intended to stop in 2023 but was delayed due to the ongoing demand for the type, so it should be seen for some years yet on the track, as even though Audi Motorsport are withdrawing from GT3 racing along with several other major manufacturers, they have agreed to provide tech. support and spares to customers until at least 2032. The Kit This is a new tooling from MENG that is a tribute to the career of this impressive sports car, which is evident by the effort that has clearly gone into creating this model and its packaging. The kit arrives in one of their usual satin-finished boxes with stylised painting of the subject on the front of the top-opening box. Inside are six sprues and a bodyshell in off-white styrene, four flexible black tyres in two sizes, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal with a dark grey coating, a sheet of sticky mirrored labels for the wing and rear-view mirrors, a sheet of black self-adhesive logos, a sheet of fabric-like material with the seatbelts pre-cut, four black poly-caps, pre-weeded masks for the windows on a clear backing sheet, large decal sheet, instruction booklet printed in colour with profiles on the rear pages, an informative booklet detailing the history of the R8 in four languages, which spans over two sides in English, with comparable space in the other languages, which are probably Japanese, Chinese and Russian or other Cyrillic language at a guess. Detail is superb. It’s a MENG kit after all. The quality of the mouldings is first-class and the accessories that come with the kit should mean that most modellers won’t have to expend more on aftermarket, although some are bound to anyway. Construction begins with the flat floor pan, which has a splitter added to the front, and the initial suspension arms in the space where the wheel arches will be. Some detail painting is required along the way, the shades called out in MENG/AK and Acrysion codes, which extends throughout the process. Inner arches are fitted over the front suspension, slotting struts and combining hubs to brake disks with moulded-in callipers, trapping a poly-cap in each one. The hubs are joined by inserting a steering linkage through the back of the arch and clipping it to the arm at the leading edges of the hubs without glue so that the wheels can remain steerable. The lower rear arches are similarly inserted, adding a latch-part for the bodyshell at the rear. Things move to the interior next, making up the seatbelts using the pre-cut material from the sheet mentioned earlier. The various pieces are threaded through the belt furniture to create five-point racing belts, all of which slip through slots into the rear, gluing the ends out of sight. The interior is bereft of any creature comforts in order to save weight, and is instead detailed with the absolute bare necessities for the driver’s use and safety. It starts with the pedal box and fire extinguisher, adding three boxes into the passenger side on the right, another cylinder behind the driver’s seat, and a custom centre console that has a colourful instrument panel decal applied after painting. The steering wheel of a modern racing car is a complex piece of equipment that is covered in buttons, plus an Audi logo, mated to a two-part steering column that is fitted under the dash with a small instrument panel instead of the usual binnacle, with a tubular vent extension directed at the driver to keep him cool. The entire dash is made from carbon fibre, which is replicated here by six shaped decals with carbon weave incorporated, which will need careful application and plenty of decal setting solution to ensure they conform to the shape of the dash. The completed assembly is fitted on a pair of turrets at the front of the interior, then the now complete interior is placed in the floor pan using the same technique. Whilst this model might look like a kerbside kit, the mid-mounted V10 engine is visible through the rear window, and is supplied as part of the kit, all the way down to the sump. The V-shaped block is made from top and bottom halves, adding cylinder heads to the top of each bank, painting them red, and the plugs black. An end cap is added to the transmission with drive-shafts exiting each side, and detail parts are dotted around the block to add interest. Two exhaust manifolds are made from separate halves, adding the exhaust tips at the rear, and fitting them under the cylinder banks on depressions in the surface. The air intake pathway is built from a side-by-side trunking that has a tube laid crossways and two boxes under it, adding it to the top of the engine once completed, installing the completed engine into position in the aft of the floor pan. Like all racing cars, a substantial roll-cage is found inside the car, made from just three parts initially, the aft section with a box-section profile, while the frame in the cab is tubular. It is painted and then installed on the floor, stretching back past the engine assembly to provide extra protection from behind, in the hope that the driver doesn’t get too close to the power plant in the event of a crash. A small bulkhead is made up from a styrene part with a clear upper portion, adding a two-part reservoir to the left side within the engine compartment, then the roof of the cage is made from another large part that is well-detailed, and mates with the rest of the cage to complete the driver’s protection. The rear suspension is created in a similar manner to the front, making up hubs that have a poly-cap in between them and the brake disk/calliper combination, slotting the pivots into holes in the swing-arms, and adding a suspension strut with gaiter in between the arms and an A-frame incorporated into the roll-over cage. The top of the inner arches are fitted to the top of the lower parts added earlier, then the wheels can be made from two pairs of well-moulded rim with spokes around the perimeter, slipping the correctly sized tyres over the front edge and butting them up to the lip at the rear of the rims. Each rim has a pin moulded into the centre rear that slides through the disk hub and into the poly-cap, allowing them to be fitted and removed during construction and painting, whilst letting them rotate freely. The bodyshell has the MENG logo and copyright details moulded into the interior roof in raised letters, plus a few ejector-pin marks in case you want to hide those with some filler and careful sanding. There are also a couple of sprue sections across the windscreen and rear window cut-outs, which should be nipped free and the sprue gates made good before proceeding. You should also decide on a colour to paint the interior, as only some parts have been picked out for painting black, while the main inner surfaces colours are left to you to decide from your references. The window glazing is supplied with masks to assist you with painting the surrounds black, which is the first task, and extends to the front, rear and side windows. A large recess is cut out of the bonnet for the cooling system, which has a deep ‘bath’ inserted that has a two-layer fan assembly inserted before painting and installation. The headlamp reflectors are painted chrome and are inserted into their cut-outs from within, adding another intake in the bumper, after painting it red and applying an R8 decal to the lip, fitting the rear-view mirror in the centre of the windscreen frame, then applying a chrome sticker to depict the mirror surface. The air-intakes for the brakes have their louvres applied to an insert that stretches across the front of the bumper, with another pair fitted into the fronts of the rear arches, the louvres painted red before installation, then two covers are fitted to each of the front corners, adding the headlamp glazing at the same time, plus two aerodynamic strakes on each corner. The aft light lenses are applied to the rear of the car after painting the reflectors chrome, fixing a conical lens in the space below on the right of the bumper. The doors are moulded separately from the bodyshell, and have separate hinge units applied to the A-pillars, and triple louvres added to the upper portion of the B-pillars, adding two decorative accent panels where the quarter-light would be and behind the door, plus two mesh grilles from the PE sheet in the door shut-lines on each side. The doors are made from inner and outer skins that hold the glazing between them, plus a rectangular pivot in the leading-edge, and a wing-mirror that slots into the skin of the door, which has a mirrored sticker inserted into the rear on each side. All this assumes you masked and painted the glazing in one sitting, but if you didn’t you should probably kick yourself about now. The completed doors clip into the hinges without glue, and can be opened and closed whenever you like, joining the bodyshell to the floor pan on the clips added earlier. The large mesh grille for the intake in the bumper is curved, and a jig is included on the sprues to assist with bending it to shape, but it is probably wise not to anneal it for fear of marring the slick black finish. Happily, the curve is gradual, so shouldn’t be an issue. Later variants of the R8 were fitted with a rear wing to add extra downforce, which in this case is made from two L-shaped supports for the separate wing, which has two end-caps attached after painting and decaling with a large Audi Sport logo, a scrap diagram showing the moulding overflow ‘pips’ that should be removed from the support frames. The rear windscreen is masked and framed with black paint, locating it in the styrene boot lid, which is lowered into position over the engine bay, taking care to align the slots with the wing supports that sprout out of the rear of the engine bay frame. Markings This is a special edition depicting the R8 LMS GT3 that competed in 2019, so the decals are specific to this vehicle. From the box you can build the following: Decals are printed in China, having good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. It includes carbon fibre-effect decals for the dash, instrument decals, and four dynamic dotted lines that decorate the sidewalls of the tyres, as well as the branding, red and black striping, plus those small self-adhesive Audi, V10 and R8 logo badges for the front, wing and rear of the vehicle, not to mention four Brembo logos for the brake callipers. Conclusion MENG create good car models, and this one is no exception, with high levels of detail from the box, plus many extras that would be considered aftermarket by many other manufacturers. It also helps that the R8 is a good-looking car in road-going or racing forms. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. German Sd.Kfz.171 Pz.Kpfw. Panther Ausf.A (84830) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd The Panther was Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarossa. Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of the sloped front and side armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger. It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV. It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled later by the 17-pounder the British fitted to the American Sherman to make it into the more lethal Firefly. The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak, and this area became the preferred target of engaging allied tanks, especially in urban combat where this was a telling issue. Like most German WWII tanks it was filled with advanced engineering and therefore complex to produce, so suffered in terms of output volume, and this led to it being rushed into service with a long tick-list of issues still to resolve. Later production resolved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after breakdown during combat. Confusingly, the Ausf.D was the first to enter production, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability, although this was never fully cured with a high rate of attrition persisting due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires. The Kit There was a discussion thread within the last week here on Britmodeller about why 1:48 didn’t take off as a common scale for AFV modelling, and no-one could come up a definitive reason for it. A possible reason could be that not enough companies were willing to put their time and effort into creating new toolings, amongst others. Now we have this Panther from Hobby Boss to widen the range a little, and we suspect it won’t be the last from them. It is a new tooling, and arrives in a shallow top-opening box in the usual HB style, and inside it is divided up into two areas by a card insert. There are four sprues and three hull parts in tan styrene, a tree of translucent poly-caps, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet, instruction booklet in black & white, plus an A4 sheet of glossy paper, printed in colour on both sides. Detail is good as we’d expect from Hobby Boss, and the inclusion of PE goes further in the quest for realism. Construction begins with the running gear, building up a pair of three-layered idler wheels, eight pairs of road wheels with poly-caps in the middle, suspension bump-stops, the final drive housing with two-part drive sprocket and a small wheel that helps prevent the tank from throwing a track. The rear bulkhead is detailed with a pair of exhausts linked by a cross-brace, a jack with separate handle, plus two stowage boxes with stiffening Xs moulded-in. The lower hull is fitted with armoured final drive surrounds, bump-stops, the drive sprockets, interleaved road wheels and idler wheels on both sides, finishing the lower hull by installing the rear bulkhead. The tracks are link-and-length, with long sections top and bottom, a short straight section on the diagonals, and individual links around the tightly curved ends to the runs. A scrap diagram shows the correct sag to the return run, and of course the task must be carried out on both sides of the vehicle. The top run will be mostly hidden by the side skirts, which are mounted under the sponsons on L-shaped brackets, finishing the front by adding the curved mud guards. Two towing eyes are mounted on the rear on the torch-cut ends of the hull sides, which are smooth and would benefit from adding the texture with a little liquid glue and a blade indented across the end. The upper hull is well-detailed, and should have two small holes drilled at the front of the deck, adding hatches for the front crew, racks filled with separate pioneer tools, and additional racks at the rear that hold spare track links. The large engine inspection hatch is prepared with lifting handles, the driver’s vision port is made from two parts and installed, adding a headlight to the side, and fitting track links to the racks at the rear, then covering the louvres on the engine deck with PE mesh to keep smaller debris such as grenades out of the engine bay. A two-part travel lock is mounted on the front of the hull using the two holes drilled earlier, and a tube for the barrel cleaning rods is locked into place on brackets on the left side of the hull. The turret is moulded with all but the rear face that has a circular hatch moulded into it, plus the roof. It is glued onto the lower turret part, and has a choice of two cupola types for the commander. One has a tapered cast body and vision blocks moulded-in, the other is layered from four parts and has an MG34 machine gun on a pintle mount at the front. The gunner’s hatch is a single part with a handle attached just in front on the corner, leaving just the main gun to build. This is made from the breech, which is not accurate because it won’t be seen, adding two poly-caps to the pivots, the mantlet to the front, and the single-part barrel with slide-moulded hollow muzzle slipped into the front, pushing the completed assembly back into the turret aperture to locate it. The final step involves joining the upper and lower hull halves, and adding the turret to the ring, then installing a pair of width indicator ‘lollipops’ to the front mud guards. Markings As is usual with Hobby Boss, the markings options don’t give any details of when and where the schemes were seen, but give colour codes in Mr Hobby, Acrysion, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol paint systems. From the box you can build one of the following: The sheet includes three rows of 0-9 digits plus a few spare zeroes and 741 codes for one of the decal options, plus two Balkenkruez crosses in case you wish to use them. All the numbers and crosses have a thin white outline, and they appear to be in good register under magnification. Conclusion If you’re looking for a crisply-moulded 1:48 Panther for your next project, this will make a good candidate, striking a balance between size and detail, without unnecessary oversimplification. It will however be a faster build than a 1:35 scale alternative, and take up a lot less space in the cabinet. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  21. Javelin – The Ukrainian Anti-Tank Crew (MB35229) Russian-Ukraine War Series #6 1:35 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models Ltd The Javelin Anti-Tank missile is a fire-and-forget missile that a small crew can carry into battle against tanks, firing it from a distance before making their getaway without leaving a tell-tale trail of smoke to their current position. It replaced the M47 Dragon in US service, and its automatic infrared guidance carries a HEAT warhead to the target, rearing up at the last minute to carry out a top-down attack on the enemy, where the armour is at its thinnest, increasing its chances of success. Of course, the new generation of infrared dazzler countermeasures can give the enemy a chance of surviving, assuming the detection of the threat occurs in time. The manufacturers estimate that around 5,000 engagements have been made worldwide using the system, although that number must be rising on a daily basis, given the fact that it is being used by Ukraine to defend their homeland from the invader. Usually crewed by two soldiers, the device is man-portable and can be lugged into position for use, making a soft ‘poop!’ sound as it exits the launch tube in what’s called a soft-launch, igniting the main rocket motor once it is a safe distance away from the launch-point, protecting the crew from burns, and if it is a close engagement it gives them an additional fraction of a second to down-tools and make tracks out of the danger zone. In top-attack mode, the climb at the end of the trajectory can take it up to 150m from the ground, but an alternative low-level profile rears up to only 60m to keep visibility to a minimum. The operator of the weapon can work alone for a one-shot mission, but if additional rounds are needed, the weight of the extra missiles requires a carrier to join the party, and during the set-up and aiming phase they act as target spotter and threat assessor, countering the tunnel-vision required of the operator to dial-in the target. The Kit This is a new figure set from Master Box’s Russian-Ukrainian War series, created by a Ukrainian company to honour their armed forces that are helping keep them safe from attack. There is a little bit about that on the back of the box, and they clearly state that a portion of their profits goes toward helping their fight, so you can choose whether to buy it or not, depending on how you feel about that. Nuff said. The set arrives in a figure-sized end-opening box with a painting of a Javelin crew on the front, and a depiction of the models, a sprue diagram, a swatch of camouflage and a paint chart on the rear. Inside is one sprue in grey styrene, although the box shows it in sand, so your boxing may include either colour, which is fine. One crewman is sitting down with his legs out in front, holding the Javelin launch tube on his right shoulder, looking through the sighting unit on the side, and stabilising the weapon with his opposing hand. His colleague is kneeling on one knee and pointing to a potential target, while his other hand appears to be resting on his friend’s shoulder. Both men are wearing BDUs with a tactical vest covered in MOLLE loops over their shirt. They are festooned with pouches, and the spotter has his AK-74 slung barrel-down over his shoulder by its strap. The Javelin is made from nine parts, and is a model in itself, with a patch of digital camouflage printed below the instructions. If you’re not a brave modeller, you could always paint them in a one-colour BDU, or pick up a set of decals from Breeze Decals (35-001), and apply small sections with plenty of decal solution. The colour chart shows codes from Vallejo, Lifecolor, Mr.Color, Tamiya and AMMO brands, plus swatches that should allow anyone to choose their paints from their preferred range. The parts for each figure are found in separate areas of the sprue for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Master Box’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. As well as the AK-74, there is a Malyuk assault rifle that is a home-grown bullpup AK-74 development, sometimes called Vulcan-M, which is probably just as well, as Malyuk translates to ‘baby’, so isn’t all that aggressive a nickname for a weapon. Conclusion Building this figure set as a tribute to the brave fighters of Ukraine in a small diorama base of long grass or snow would look great in your cabinet, especially if you’re one of those crazy people that can create realistic smoke and flame from a recent launch. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. T-34/85 Mod.1945 Plant 112 (37065) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd The T-34 was Stalin's mainstay medium tank that was produced in huge numbers by sometimes crude and expedient methods, to be thrown into the fray against the numerically inferior German tanks on the Eastern Front, sometimes even before the paint was fully dry. The designers combined several important advances in design such as sloped frontal armour, wide tracks to spread the ground load, and the ability to cope with the harsh Russian winters without freezing to a halt, which was a problem that affected the Germans badly after the initial successes in the summer of Operation Barbarossa. The part count and cost of the tank was continuously reduced during production, with plants turning out up to 1,300 per month at the height of WWII. The initial cramped welded turret was replaced by a cast turret with more room, and later the 76mm gun was replaced by a more powerful 85mm main gun in the T-34/85 with an enlarged three-man turret, giving even the Tiger pause for thought. The T-34/85 with the composite turret was manufactured from the summer of 1944 at Krasnoye Sormova plant #112 on the Volga River, with a simplified gun in the turret in the shape of the ZiS-S-53, as well as some other changes. The Composite turret was electrically operated, fitted with a flat roof that had a pair of hatches, one of which was the enlarged commander’s cupola, and with two mushroom vents on the roof to clear fumes from repeated firing. There were some messy welds between the various castings, which gives them a rough appearance 1that belies their capability. The Kit This is a new Interior Kit boxing from MiniArt’s recent T-34 line, so the box is loaded with sprues of all shapes and sizes. In total there are seventy-five sprues in grey styrene, two in clear, a Photo-Etch (PE) brass fret, a small decal sheet and instruction booklet with colour profiles inside each of the front and rear covers. Many of the sprues will be seen in various other boxings of the T-34, notably the other Factory 112 boxings that we have reviewed here, which is one of the reasons for their use of smaller sprues that make their kits so eminently modular. It makes the process easier and more cost-effective for them, and makes the likelihood of receiving a wide array of options to choose from more likely, which with the rate we’ve received them for review over the years seems to be the case. As always with MiniArt, the design, detail and crispness of moulding is excellent, and the inclusion of PE brass in the box is one less thing you need to fork out additional modelling funds for. Unsurprisingly, construction begins with the lower hull. The floor is decked out with four H-shaped tubular fittings for the suspension on each side and a lower escape hatch, then the engine firewall near the rear, and a pair of pressurised bottles and an axe in the lower glacis. The low-level ammunition storage boxes are made from several parts and is laid in the floor under the turret, with a transverse bar running under the forward crew. The driver’s equipment area is built, adding levers, pioneer tools and foot pedals with actuators into position, and a rack of plate-mags in a tray behind him. The seats are each made from separate pads that share identical back and arm components, fixing them into position on opposite sides of the hull, plus a drum on the left side. The lower hull walls are next, with their Christie-style suspension springs contained in channels up the inside face, drilling a pair of holes near the final drive housing to mount a pair of bump-stop pads later. Additional channels are installed on the inner faces, interspersed with tanks, the inner final drive fairing, and additional suspension detail inside the front. Another layer of detail is placed over the sides, adding ready-rounds, extinguishers and small equipment boxes, plus more ammo on a rack near the bow gunner. The lower hull components are brought together while the engine block is being built, comprehensively depicting the detail of the V12 block, cylinder heads, manifolds, ancillaries and support frame under the sump, building the radiators and fan before the cylinder and two radiator panels are inserted into the rear hull, the engine longitudinally mounted, the radiators facing out along the sides of the engine bay at an angle, linking them with lengths of hose between them and their input/output points on the engine. A bulkhead with a large circular hole in the centre is fitted to the centre of the engine bay, filling the space with the cylindrical fan unit made earlier, then adding supports to the rear end, then building the transmission in the rear compartment with twin cylindrical clutch units, one on each end, followed by linkages and the dynamo. Twin cylindrical airboxes are made from three parts each, fixing them to the inner face of the bulkhead, their shapes contoured to fit around the fan component. Two thick exhaust hoses snake from the rear to the bulkhead, linking the manifolds to the rear of the vehicle. The upper hull begins with the ball-mount and DT Machine gun for the bow, with an extending stock for the gunner’s comfort. The gun is left to swivel inside the port, so be sparing with the glue when you complete this assembly. The glacis plate accepts the gun from inside after fitting of the armoured outer protection, fixing an armoured hinge over the driver’s hatch, towing hooks on the glacis, and some combined PE/styrene lugs above them. The upper hull deck and sides are moulded as one, and the sides have several holes drilled out before they are applied to the hull, with a few nubs cut from the exterior on the way. The glacis plate it fitted to the front, then the assembly is glued to the lower hull, fitting a triangular profile tip across the front, and a row of five track links as combination spares/appliqué armour. At the rear the engine bay is still exposed, which is next to be addressed by adding a frame around the rear bulkhead then attaching a choice of three rear panel that have a circular inspection panel in the centre, drilling some holes for some variants, removing raised detail for another, with a pair of armoured exhaust covers over the short exhaust stubs, and inserting the circular hatch in the centre in open or closed position. The engine deck is covered with vents and louvres that are added with a central inspection hatch, then the completed assembly is fixed over the engine bay. Additional armoured covers with louvred grilles are fitted over the large flush louvres later, then the suspension swing-arms and stub axles are installed under the sponsons, putting the idler axles in at the front, and the small pads mentioned earlier next to the drive sprocket housing. A stowage box is made from two styrene parts with PE brackets and shackles, adding it to the right fender behind a dozen tie-down shackles, and three longer rails on the sloped side of the hull. The driver’s hatch is a complex affair, layered from two thicknesses, adding two periscopes, a bullet-splash shield, an actuator support bracket, and six locking parts, plus a pair of armoured domes over the periscopes on the outside. It can be fitted open or closed, depending on your choice of short or long ram on the hull interior, which also has PE detail. Another stowage box, four more rails, a 2-man saw, and brackets for the spare fuel drums are attached to the left fender, making up two more fuel drum supports on the right, and mounting three rows of track grousers where the tie-downs were glued earlier, stacking six together and using PE straps to hold them down. Three slim fuel drums are built from two halves with end-caps, a filler cap and two PE grab-handles on the ends, also making up two additional short examples, and a further two drums with wire grab-handles moulded-in. The mudguards with PE detail parts are glued into place at the front, with simplified flaps that have PE inner lips to the rear. Depending on which rear bulkhead you chose, different brackets and choice of drums are used, strapping them onto their carriers using PE straps, which are shown being made in a scrap diagram nearby. The longer side tanks are similarly attached, placing two on the right and one on the left of the engine deck, and adding a pair of shovels on a turn-buckle and two PE straps. Ten pairs of road wheels with smooth tyres and separate hub caps are built with two pairs of drive sprockets and idler wheels to complete the running gear. At the same time the main towing cables are made from styrene towing eyes, but you will need to supply two lengths of 100mm braided cord or wire, so make sure you have some on hand when you begin. Now for the tracks. The T-34’s wide tracks were simple and easy to produce, as well as efficiently spreading the vehicle’s weight and helping prevent freezing of the drivetrain in cold weather, of which Russia has more than its fair share. There are two different track parts, one flat, the other with a guide horn in the centre, and both have exquisite casting details that includes the ID numbers on both parts and indeed both faces. They have four sprue gates on each link, attached on the curved hinge-points, making them easy to cut back flush and then sand smooth with a sanding stick to ease assembly and gluing. I made up a short length as a test for a previous boxing, and was finished in a few minutes with a little liquid glue thanks to their close tolerances that keep them together while you glue. Each side needs 72 links, which equates to 36 of each part, and once you get into a rhythm, it won’t take too long to complete the task, wrapping the still flexible links around the curved sections and holding them in place with tape and other clamps etc. to obtain the correct sag on the top run once the glue has cured. The detail is so good it’s almost a shame to weather them once painted. The turret starts with the breech, which is built up from dozens of parts over several steps, with another 7.62mm DT machine gun that will be mounted coaxially in the mantlet, with the trunnions fully depicted inside. The turret ring is inserted into the lower turret from within, and the main storage for the bustle ready-rounds is built from five frames that are attached to two angled brackets at the rear, painted, then have the shells with their decal stripes applied after painting inserted tip first, adding locking levers to nubs on one side of the frames. This is inserted into the bustle floor with a stop-board preventing them from falling out, alongside a radio box and some spare magazines for their personal weapons, which are added next with a canister and the rotation mechanism for the turret. A small round fold-up seat is added to the ring, inserting a bracket for another seat across the interior, following which the mantlet is installed, then the breech is slipped into the rear of the mantlet and joined by the sighting gear, then the coax gun in a two-part bracket. Another seat is suspended across the remaining space on three PE straps, The roof is detailed inside with periscopes, wires, lights, vents and other details, applying armoured mushroom shrouds and a short aerial to the exterior in front of the commander’s cupola space, then it is glued to the turret sides, which are moulded as one, briefly prepared by drilling out several holes beforehand. The sidewalls have an interior skin that is first detailed with more ready shells on brackets, spare ammunition magazines, and other small details, then they are glued into position. The commander's cupola is more the complex of the two hatches, made from two rings that has five periscopes inserted in the centre, then it is glued to the roof, creating the hatch frame with a rotating periscope in the fixed forward section, and a simple hatch that can be posed open or closed, adding two small parts inside once it is in position. The Gunner/Loader’s hatch is a simple circular panel with a hinge on one edge, and this too can be posed open or closed as you wish. There are addition details added to the hinge from within, differing in layout between open and closed. The turret halves are then joined, adding tie-downs, a DIY canvas roll that is attached with three PE straps, or if you don’t feel the urge to make a canvas, just leave the straps dangling, or put something else in the straps instead. There is a rectangular cover added over the portion of the breech still visible at the front of the turret, then the slide-moulded gun tube is slotted in, with the mantlet cover slid over the barrel. Rails and a few small parts are fixed to the turret sides, then the completed turret can be lowered into the turret ring in the hull, remembering that this kit doesn’t have toy-like bayonet lugs to hold the turret in place, so you must remember this whenever handling your model after completion. Markings There are seven decal options in the box and they’re all shades of green, which is what you’d expect from a Soviet era-example made in '45 and used after the war. From the box you can build one of the following: 16th Armoured Brigade, Korean People’s Army, 1950 16th Armoured Brigade, Korean People’s Army, 1950 Polish People’s Army, 1950 Polish People’s Army, 1950s National People’s Army of DDR, Early 1960s Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, Early 1960s Operation ‘Whirlwind’ Soviet Army, Hungry, Budapest, Autumn 1956 Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt/gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion The T-34 played a huge part in Soviet military operations both during WWII and after, finding its way into the arsenals of many Soviet-friendly nations following the war, especially once it had fallen out of frontline use in Soviet forces, at which point it became a bargain basement tank for their neighbours and affiliates. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. Calvados Sellers (38071) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Calvados is a French apple Brandy that dates as far back as the 8th century, although it is also made in other countries such as the UK as Cider Brandy. Up until after WWII the produce was typically sold by men carrying round crates of bottles full of Calvados, often on wheeled carts before the motorcar took over as a primary mode of transport. This set depicts a duo of Calvados sellers in traditional garb, pulling a cart laden with crates full of bottles. The set arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box, and inside are seven sprues in grey styrene, two in translucent green and two more in translucent brown. If you’ve already got some of MiniArt’s sets, you might recognise the crate and the bottle sprues from other sets, but the figures are all new. Both men are standing, one in overalls and a cap, carrying a crate across his front, and the other is pulling his cart from behind, wearing an apron with a jacket over the top and a cap like his colleague. The parts for each figure are found on separate sprues for ease of identification, and parts breakdown is sensibly placed along clothing seams or natural breaks to minimise clean-up of the figures once they are built up. The sculpting is typically excellent, as we’ve come to expect from MiniArt’s artists and tool-makers, with natural poses, drape of clothing and textures appropriate to the parts of the model. The accessories include parts for four crates, all parts with a wooden texture moulded-in, and with internal divides to store the bottles, which are provided on another four translucent sprues, attached to the parts via the bases for minimal clean-up. Construction of these and the cart are covered on the rear of the box, the cart having a planked wooden bed, sprung axles with cart wheels, and two supports to the front that keep the cart level when it is stationary. A fine wooden grain is also moulded into the appropriate areas of the cart to add realism and aid you with painting the model. The paintings on the rear of the box give combined codes for the parts on the sprues, plus the colour codes in blue boxes that correspond to the table near the bottom of the box rear. Conclusion More super figures from MiniArt with dynamic poses, clothing and appropriate accessories that give them their raison d’être. Perfect for your next diorama. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. Butchers (38073) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models This set includes a pair of butchers at work in their profession, dressed typically in clothing that was seen before the modern age, when safety and hygiene are more to the fore, and rightly so. Inside the open-ended figure-sized box are four sprues, two containing the figures and two their equipment, various cuts of meat and a trolley. A combined painting and parts diagram is shown on the rear of the box, the part numbers in black alpha-numerical codes, and the paint in numbers in small blue boxes that correspond to a table near the bottom of the box, which gives suggested colour codes in Vallejo, Mr.Color, AK RealColor, Mission Models, AMMO, Tamiya, plus colour swatches and generic names to help you with choosing your paint. One butcher is standing with his feet planted wide and arms folded, hiding his bulk under a leather apron that has a cleaver hanging from a loop, with a small peaked cap on his head, and a broad handlebar moustache covering his top lip. The other man is wearing an apron under a body-warmer, and has a side of meat resting across his shoulders and held with both gloved hands, protecting his neck with a short towel. As usual with MiniArt figures their sculpting is exceptional with crisp detail and sensible parts breakdown plus a sprue of meat to add some detail to their vicinity if you use them in a diorama. There are two half sides of meat in addition to the one being toted, a couple of chickens or turkeys, a hog’s head, a leg of meat, and various sausages in links, rolls or as singles. The last item is a trolley that is shown made up on the rear of the box, adding two wheels on an axle to the ladder chassis, a pair of rear supports, and a stop-end on the lower. Conclusion Fantastically detailed figures and accessories that are just right for a diorama or vignette, either posed in the doorway of their shop, or behind the counter of a street market. You also get the world's happiest decapitated pig, assuring you that no animals were harmed during the making of this set. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Tool Set (49013) 1:48 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd It's a constant in war or peace that equipment breaks and the mechanics/fitters must repair them, whether it's wear-and-tear, accidental damage, clumsiness, misuse or due to enemy action, it all ends up in the same place if it's deemed suitable for repair, providing it's not behind enemy lines or under heavy bombardment. From WWII onwards, fighting tended to be fast-moving, so transporting anything back to a bricks and mortar workshop well behind the lines is time-consuming, and sometimes impossible, not to mention highly impractical once the lines of communication stretch far enough, so a field workshop is used instead, bringing their tools with them. This can be anything from a literal field to a large empty building that is commandeered by the "grease monkeys" so they can ply their trade. The Kit This set arrives in an end-opening figure-sized box with a detailed painting of the contents on the front, a painting guide on the rear. Inside are six sprues of grey styrene that included many tools, two small frets of Photo-Etch (PE) in a card envelope, and a double-sided sheet of instructions that guide you through building the more complex assemblies. There is a compressor with received and transport trolley; a two-part anvil; two styles of bucket/pales with PE handles; a wood saw made from two laminations of PE parts; a bench grinder with two wheels; a bench vice with separate mounting plate; a clamp-on vice with PE winder; two wooden tool boxes with tubular handles and a complement of tools; two wooden step ladders built from three parts each; a bench press drill with belt-drive; a two-man saw made from three PE parts and styrene handles; a hack saw with PE blade; two oxy-acetylene gas bottles with regulators and six spares with caps; a tubular trolley with space for two bottles and cast-iron wheels; an expanding metal tool box in the closed position with PE handle, plus another with the trays swung out that has tools moulded into the trays, the same PE handle and two PE open lid parts. Other parts that need less information or gluing are various hand tools such as various sized hammers, a pick-axe, two different axes, box plane, shovel & spade, pry bar, a pump, a welder’s torch and mask, blow-torch, G-clamp, belly-brace & bit, oil can and two spanners. You are provided with guidance on the colours of everything in the box on the rear, using swatches, colour names and paint codes from Vallejo, Mr.Color, AMMO, AK RealColor, Mission Models, and Tamiya, but other than the metal tool surfaces, most parts can be any colour you wish, within reason. Conclusion Detail is excellent, and is a perfect backdrop of a 1:48 diorama, providing items that have previously been unavailable separately or hard to find in styrene at this scale before. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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