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  1. Afghan Civilians (38034) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Since well before the 80s, a lot of conflict has gone on in the Middle East, with the recent focus having been Afghanistan and Iraq, where there have been huge Western presences during the last few decades. The Afghan civilians have been there throughout all of this, and many have lost their lives, which is immensely saddening. This boxing depicts a group of Afghanis in their typical day-to-day wear, with a broad spread of age ranges often seen in their multi-generational families, where the elders are afforded more respect and their input is valued. It arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure-sized box, with the instructions/painting guide on the rear in full colour. Inside are five sprues, three on one runner that I cut up to make photography easier. There are 4.5 figures on the sprues, the 0.5 being a small child in the arms of the mother, who is wearing a full chadaree as is their custom when out in public in Afghanistan, even though it is no longer an official requirement by the democratic regime in power. She is stood with the little girl on her hip, while a young teenage boy is stood with his hands by his side, book in hand, and (presumably) his father stands with his arms folded. An elder gentleman is sitting with his feet together in front of him on top of a tied sack, a feat that I can’t manage even now! He wears a Perahan Tunban, while the father wears a flat-topped Pakul hat, and the son wears a brimless kufi cap. Finally, the little girl has a scarf loosely draped over her head. The sculpting is first rate as you would expect from MiniArt, and parts breakdown has been carefully considered due to the presence of draped clothing on all of the figures, with additional overflow sprue tabs on some parts to prevent short-shot parts, with intelligent placement of sprue gates and seamlines to minimise clean-up. The painting suggestions are just that, with regional variations in colours used, such as the chadaree with the light blue example seen in the Kabul area, brown and green in Kandahar in the south, and white in the north in Mazar-i-Sharif. Conclusion The background to any diorama or vignette is key, so having a group of bystanders to add to your model will bring additional authenticity to the finished product. Very useful. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  2. Tiran 4 Sharir Early Type w/Dozer Blade (37044) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd During the fighting with Syria and Egypt that plagued the Middle East in the 50s and 60s, including the 6-Day War and Yom Kippur, the Israelis had captured many T-54s and T-55s that had been supplied to their opposition by Soviet Russia. Many were taken intact or very nearly so, and with little work they could be pressed into service in Israeli tank battalions, where they were given the name Tiran 1 for the T-54, and Tiran 2 for the more mature T-55. Initially they were used almost unaltered from the original Soviet specification, but as time went on changes were made to the T-54s, which became the Tiran 4. The next upgrade replaced the original smooth-bore 100mm gun with a rifled 105mm gun with fume extractor fitted roughly in the middle of the gun tube, which makes identifying them a little easier. It was given the name suffix “Sharir” after the name given to the gun, which had an amended breech that allowed the loader easier access to complete the task. A number of other upgrades were made including improved sights from their own stock of Sherman tanks, and western auxiliary weapons systems in the coax and crew-served weapons. The new shells also demanded amended stowage, as did the ammo for the machine guns, and the communications equipment was upgraded too. Infra-red was all the rage at the time, so an infrared searchlight with sight at the commander’s position, plus many other improvements to better integrate with the rest of the IDF’s forces. The Kit This is a partial new tool of the base T-54 kit that MiniArt recently tooled, and part of a long line of brand new and highly detailed T-54 and T-55 kits that they are producing on a regular basis over the last year or so. The kit is an exterior kit, so inside the box we find sixty nine sprues in grey styrene, three in clear, an enlarged fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, and a decal sheet, with the instruction booklet having a colour cover that also includes the painting guide for the five decal options. Many of the sprues are from the base T-54 kit, but some have been culled from the recent SLA APC T-54 with dozer blade, which shares the same rear part of the dozer in that kit. Construction begins with the lower hull, which will be familiar to anyone with another T-54 kit, beginning with the lower portion of the hull, which has the axle mounts inserted into the curved sides, then has the torsion bars inserted and the swing-arms attached around them. Armoured covers are fixed around the axles, then the side portions of the hull are made up and added to the sides one at a time, with final drive housings inserted into the holes at the ends. The engine firewall is used to brace the sides, then the glacis plate is prepared, with different parts used depending on whether you are fitting the dozer or not. A choice of bow deflectors is given, and a full set of light cages are made from PE, with the clear lensed lights hiding within, then the assembly is attached to the lower hull along with a small section of the rear bulkhead, then the upper section is detailed with parts and covered by a stowage “bucket” that overhangs the rear of the vehicle. The top surface of the tank is then assembled with turret ring, engine deck with access panels and PE grilles, and a group of straps that stretch across the aforementioned stowage bin. About this time the twin road wheels are made up with caps and attachment pins, plus the drive sprockets and idler wheels, the latter right at the forward edge of the sides of the hull. The fenders that run along the sides of the tank are both detailed with fuel tanks, stowage boxes and fuel lines, plus a number of PE parts that detail the forward mudguards and create cages for fuel cans that are also mounted on the fenders. There are a lot of parts added, including the exhaust, after which they are slotted into the sides of the hull on their tabs. The track links need to be assembled and fitted, with 90 links per side and each link having four sprue gates to clean up, but no ejector pins or sink marks – just excellent detail. They are glue-fit, so are best assembled with liquid glue and wrapped around the wheels while the glue is still “damp” and malleable, then taped, clamped and braced in place to preserve the correct amount of sag where necessary. At the rear of the hull an infantry telephone is installed on a PE bracket, which was one of the extras added to the Tiran 4 to facilitate easier communications between troops and their supporting armour. The turret is next, and there are some spare parts that won’t be used, so take care to clip the correct ones off the sprues. The ring is built first, then slotted inside the lower turret and joined by some small parts of the operating mechanism. The basics of the breech are then made into a sub-assembly and glued in place on the turret lower by two upstands with a pivot point moulded into it that allows the gun to elevate. The upper turret is prepped with track links, hatches on an insert with vision blocks, vents and emergency self-defence Uzi sub-machine guns clipped into place inside the roof. A pair of machine guns are made up on pintle-mounts with ammo boxes and lengths of link connected to the breech, with the larger M2 variant in front of the commander's hatch. The gun tube is a single part that slides into the mantlet inner during the assembly of the two turret halves, and other small parts including aerial bases, the blast bag around the gun (with PE clips), more spare fuel cans and stowage are all added before attention shifts to the dozer blade if you are using it. The dozer blade is a Heath-Robinson affair, with the first job to build up the attachment assembly, which has a large number of parts for its size. It has rams to adjust the angle and deployment of the blade, which is next to be made. The straight rear is firstly glued together with stiffeners and attachment points for the rams created, then mated with the base using three pins at the lower edge, and a small control rod at the top that prevents movement during transport. In addition to the blade, there is also a projection at the centre of the main blade surface, which attaches via two brackets and has a single “foot” at the end, then the whole assembly is glued onto the glacis and the turret is twisted into place on its bayonet fitting. Markings There are five markings options in the box, with scope for creating other vehicle number plates by using the additional digits on the decal sheet. From the box you can build one of the following: Military parade for Israel’s Independence Day, Tel Aviv, 1973 274th Tank Brigade of the IDF, “Yom Kippur War”, the Sinai Peninsula, October 1973 IDF military manoeuvres in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, August 1973 IDF, 1973-74 IDF 1970s Options C & D don’t have their serial numbers recorded, which explains the extra digits for you to use as you see fit. Decals are by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) have a long history of re-engineering less than optimum equipment, and the Tiran series is a good example of this. A dozer on a tank is also an attractive option, so this early version will doubtless be popular amongst IDF modellers. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  3. Scaffolding (35605) MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd If you’ve been watching the procession of the new 1:35 Triebflügel kits from MiniArt, you’ll have noticed two things. One that the kits are excellent, and two that one of the kits includes a scaffold for the pilot and ground crew to access the cockpit of this weird and whacky late WWII project. This scaffold is now available separately for purchase in case you bought an early boxing, or just want some scaffold for a project you have in mind. It arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure box with nine sprues in grey styrene within. Due to the modular nature of the scaffolding, there are only two different sprues, five of one, four of the other. There are three assemblies to be made up that are basically the same but have the N-shaped tubular frames reversed to add strength to the assembly. The parts are fixed to a bottom frame and have a ladder section attached to the bottom, and can be stacked as far up as the contents of the box allows, and these are then topped off with a flat section of tread-plate, with inverted U-shaped brackets that give the user a modicum of safety. To facilitate movement there are four castors at the bottom, which have pedals to apply the brake once they are in position. These are made up of the wheel, yoke and pedal, with eight in the box that can be used to complete two mobile bases with up to five layers of scaffold able to be made up, with a stack of three and two shown on the box, each with a standing area at the top. Conclusion A scaffold is a handy thing to have for any 1:35 diorama, especially if you’ve got a Triebflügel that your pilot can’t get into or out of. They can be painted any colour you like, but a few examples are given in the instructions printed on the rear of the box. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  4. SLA APC T-54 w/Dozer Blade (37028) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd During the period that the South Lebanese Army existed from 1985-2000, they had a small force of tanks that included T-54s that had been bought from Russia, with little opportunity of topping up losses. When one T-54 was hit and had its turret destroyed, it was recovered to the workshops and had the remains of its turret removed and replaced by welded sheet metal to give it an open-topped “doghouse” to fill a new role as an Armoured Personnel Carrier, hence the designation APC-54. It was sometimes seen using a large red makeshift dozer blade that was attached to the glacis plate with a substantial base plate supporting the V-shaped blade. The APC was painted a pale blue colour and was used in the 80s, surviving to end up in an Israeli museum without its blade, where it has been photographed many times by visitors in a fresh coat of light blue paint. The Kit Hot on the heels of dozer-less variant we reviewed here only a few days ago, this boxing has the dozer blade sprues and a small revision of the armoured upstands that protected the crew from incoming rounds. The box is slightly more full than the previous boxing due to the swapping out of unnecessary parts for their replacements, with seventy six sprues in grey styrene, one in clear, a revised sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass and the new instruction booklet. Construction begins with a blow-by-blow recreation of the hull as per the earlier kit, with the exception of the more makeshift bench seat mounted perpendicular to the direction of travel, and a box-like seat with stowage space underneath at the rear. The glacis plate is amended due to the fitment of the dozer, and at the rear the arrangement of louvers is also slightly different, using more individual PE louver panels. The replacement doghouse parts have been moved forward in the build process, with the addition of two prominent aerials mounted within the corners. The fenders are then made up with exhausts with additional fuel tanks and a slightly different connection route for the hoses that feed the fuel into the engine compartment. Pioneer tools, stowage boxes and other items on the fenders are subtly different from the earlier boxing, showing MiniArt’s attention to detail with this duo. The tracks and road wheels are all identical to the earlier boxing too, with 90 links each side that have four sprue gates and should be easy to clean up and put together. Moving on, the weapons are made up with rolled PE cooling jackets running full-length on the M3, and the shorter one fitted to the M2. Each gun is well detailed and has a box mag and length of link leading to the breech, plus pintle-mounts that fit inside the doghouse. The most visually different aspect of the build is of course the dozer blade, with the first job to build up the attachment assembly, which has a large number of parts for its size. It has rams to adjust the angle and deployment of the blade, which is next to be made. The straight rear is firstly glued together with stiffeners and attachment points for the rams created, onto which the angled blades are added, making a two-layer affair that could presumably allow it to be used in a straight or v-shaped configuration. Various small fittings are added to the back, then the two sub-assemblies are mated and secured in place by three stout pins, with a slender link at the top. It is fixed to the glacis plate along with the machine guns, with an overhead drawing giving sufficient detail to ensure it is positioned correctly. Markings There are none! Again. The APC is blue, while the blade assembly is a rusty red, and once it has seen any action at all, that paint will become distressed and damaged, with plenty of opportunity to practice your weathering and chipping techniques. Conclusion I don’t know what it is that appeals about this kit, but it does. The addition of the dozer blade in the contrasting red is the cherry on top, or in front at least. The detail is excellent throughout, with so much scope for weathering that you could go crazy if you really wanted, as some of the photos of it in service show it quite well worn. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  5. German StuG III Crew, WWII Era (MB35208) ”Their Position is Behind that Forest” 1:35 Master Box Ltd via Creative Models This new figure set from Master Box is designed with the German StuG III in mind, although it will probably adapt very well to any similar WWII German AFV. It arrives in a figure-sized box with end-opening flaps, which is standard fare for figures, even though they’re a little easy to crush when stacked flat. Inside is a single sprue of grey styrene that contains parts for five figures plus some pistol holsters, helmets, magazine pouches and an MP40. Each figure is broken down into torso, separate legs and arms, plus head with flat top where a helmet or commander’s cap is fitted to allow extra detail around their brims. There is one German Wehrmacht soldier standing on the blocky front of the tank, pointing over to the forest that is described in the subtitle. The commander and one of his crew are fully out of the tank, while the other two are half out, or just poking their head out of the hatch, but all of these are full figures. Sculpting is first class as usual, with both seamlines and parts breakdown sensibly placed to improve or preserve detail during construction and seam-removal. Instructions are given on the rear of the box with part numbers on the right and a colour chart shoehorned into the centre giving colour codes in Vallejo, Lifecolor, Mr. Color and Tamiya shades, plus a colour swatch to help out further. Conclusion Figures give a model scale, and well-sculpted figures that are sympathetically painted are such a boon, especially when they’re so well sculpted. If you have a StuG III in 1:35, what are you waiting for? Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  6. SLA Heavy APC-54 Interior Kit (37055) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd During the period that the South Lebanese Army existed from 1985-2000, they had a small force of tanks that included T-54s that had been bought from Russia, with little opportunity of topping up losses. When one T-54 was hit and had its turret destroyed, it was recovered to the workshops and had the remains of its turret removed and replaced by welded sheet metal to give it an open-topped “doghouse” to fill a new role as an Armoured Personnel Carrier, hence the designation APC-54. It was painted a pale blue colour and was used in the 80s, surviving to end up in an Israeli museum where it has been photographed many times by visitors in a fresh coat of light blue paint. The Kit This is a re-tool of the recent series of their highly detailed T-54 and T-54, with the base sprues being those of the T-54 Interior Kit, which is crucial with the visibility of the hull inside through the re-engineered turret ring. It arrives in the usual shrink-wrapped package with handsome box art and all the contents secured inside with tight-fitting heat-sealed foil bags. Did I mention? It’s a full box thanks in part to the extra internals but also the redundant parts that will be found on many of the sprues, which will be excellent spares box fodder once the kit is complete. There are an eye-watering 75 sprues in grey styrene in the box thanks to the modular design of MiniArt kits, plus a single clear sprue, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in a card envelope and instruction booklet found in the bottom of the box that has colour covers and the painting guide on the rear cover. This is a full interior kit, and not just the crew area. The engine is constructed first, with all of the ancillaries, mounting frame, exhaust manifolds and hosing added along the way. The lower hull is initially missing its sides, and first needs its axles mounts adding, then the suspension arm with their torsion-bar linkages (long or short) threaded through, plus the crew escape hatch in the middle of the floor, and later on some armoured covers for the axles. The centre section is covered with liftable tread-plate sections, then the beginnings of the driver’s station is begun with control linkages threading across the floor. The side plates are made up next, with masses of ammo boxes in racks, radio gear and various other equipment adorning the inner sides. The engine firewall is also assembled with a small fan at one side for later installation. The starboard side is mated with the floor, and the driver’s side bulkhead with controls and instruments are dropped into holes in the floor, as is the big power-pack in the rear, with the lower section of the aft bulkhead slotted into the large housing for the drive sprockets. The port side undergoes the same treatment and is inserted into the hull along with the firewall, plus the remainder of the aft bulkhead. It’s all fairly standard T-54 equipment so far, until you assemble and add a double-sided bench seat in the centre of the floor where the turret should be. The interior is ostensibly complete, and the roof is added next that is again fairly standard fare apart from some small depressions. The hull top is made up from sections that are detailed with lights, vision blocks and sundry equipment before it is glued in place, starting with the glacis plate, moving back to the vestigial turret ring and then the engine compartment, then adding the final drive bell-housings at the rear and suspension bumpers along the tops of the suspension mounts. All the hatches are fitted after detailing, grilles and their mesh covers are fixed in the rear, fenders are glued into the slots in the side of the hull, then decked out with stiffening brackets plus mudguards at the rear. Now for the fun part, which although it’s not a turret (that’s my usual fun part of an AFV), the three castellated armoured upstands are attached to small depressions in the deck, then the fenders are fitted out with fuel tanks, pioneer tools, the fluted exhausts, stowage boxes and even fuel cans in PE cages. The fuel tanks are linked to the fuel system by snaking tubing that is included in the box, with PE clips to act as the tie-downs and lock parts for the stowage boxes that are lockable. We’ve had no track or road wheel discussion so far, but it’s unavoidable so here we go. The tank has five pairs of road wheels on each side, made up from two wheel parts and a hub in the inner face, held to the axle on the outer surface with a central pin and hub cover that hides them away. Careful gluing will be needed if you wish to keep them mobile, then you repeat the process with the toothed drive sprocket and smooth idler wheel on each side. There’s a little break while you build up the big M2 .50cal and smaller .30cal that can be attached at any of the three mounting points in the lower sections of the doghouse, with highly detailed barrels, ammo cans and mounts. After that brief interlude, it’s time to build up the tracks, which are individual links that fit together in runs of 90 links on each side. Each link has four sprue gates that are on the connection points, so should be quick to tidy up after nipping from the sprue, and there are no ejector marks or sink marks to be seen anywhere, which is nice. They’re of the type you’ll need to glue and drape around the wheels, taking care to obtain the correct sag before the glue sets by packing the runs out to suit. Pretty standard stuff, but covered with beautiful raised and engraved detail on each link that makes it almost a shame to cover them in mud. Markings It’s an interesting one-off vehicle, which we believe was painted pale blue at the time it saw action, as replicated in the museum where it now resides. There are no decals, just lots of opportunity for grime, chipping and so forth. Conclusion Such an unusual derivative of the type deserves to be kitted, and it wasn’t too onerous a task, so MiniArt went ahead and did it, adding a few parts on new sprues to achieve their aim. There will be quite a few parts left on the sprues when you’re finished, so prepare your parts bin for action. We've since reviewed the dozer blade equipped version of this kit, so if a red dozer appeals, you can see our other review here. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  7. Bantam 40 BRC w/ British Crew (35324) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd. WWII saw the increased mechanisation of war that had begun in WWI, including lighter vehicles that could transport a small number of soldiers, staff, weapons or equipment quickly across the battle-space with rugged design and good rough-field performance as well as being fast and manoeuvrable. A specification was issued by the US War Department, with three companies vying for the contract, one of which was Bantam, who despite being in poor financial shape, designed a simple vehicle that used many pre-fabricated assemblies to speed construction and ease maintenance, while Ford and Willy’s made their own designs. There was no clear winner initially, so a number of each design was ordered to be sent mainly to Allied forces under the Lend-Lease programme, as America wasn’t yet a combatant. As the jockeying for position continued between the three contenders, designs converged and the Bantam’s design features were pillaged to improve what ended up as the Willy’s GP. Whether the name Jeep came from the shortening of GP, or from the Popeye character is unclear, but Ford and Willy’s ended up making hundreds of thousands of Jeeps during WWII that made it ubiquitous on the battlefield, with many of the survivors reaching civilian ownership after the war, and a ready market for them still exists to this day. The poor Bantam however was consigned to being a footnote in the creation of the Jeep. The Kit This is reboxing of MiniArt's earlier kit containing the same British crew, with the original dating back to 2008. There have also been releases with US and Russian crews, plus a Russian driver figure transporting a heavy machine gun in the cargo area at the rear. This boxing contains three crew that were previously seen in the British Staff Car boxing from 2010. The detail is good throughout, although there is a little flash here and there on my review samples that could have been due to the age of the moulds, or over-pressure during injection. It’s not difficult to remove flash from such well-moulded parts though, so don’t let it put you off in the slightest, as it’s streets ahead or short-shot parts! There are three sprues in grey styrene, one of clear parts, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass in a card envelope, two small decal sheets and the instruction booklet. The delicate grille in the corner of one sprue is protected by a small piece of foam sheet and held in place by a staple through it. Construction begins with the ladder chassis, to which is added the four-cylinder engine, drive-shafts, transfer box and leaf-spring suspension. The exhaust is protected by a pair of large cross-braces with slats underneath, and a control linkage is fixed to the outside of the rail connected later to the steering column. With the chassis completed, the body is built up from an almost complete shell to which the front grille, foot well (left-hand drive) and grilles within the front wheel wells are added. The front foot well has driver controls added, as is the dashboard, then seats and rear bench seats are fitted, with the chassis attached underneath the floor on the lugs moulded into it. The windscreen has some nice PE fittings and two panels of clear styrene are secured into the frame by another PE frame, then clipped into the body with a tubular frame wrapping around the rear and the two-part wheels slotted onto the axle stubs in each corner. The spare is slung onto the rear on its bracket, the bonnet/hood drops into the top of the engine compartment with a stay glued to the underside unless you want to prop it open. The lights at the front have clear lenses with PE protective metalwork in front of them, and PE straps on each side of the front seat door cut-outs to reduce the likelihood of crew being thrown from the sides on rough ground. The three crew include a driver in a cap and goggles, sergeant major-type with a map, and an officer with googles leaning toward the back seats as if in discussion with the chap with the map. All are dressed in tropical uniform with shorts, a lovely pair of cool thick knee-high socks and low-rise boots. Sculpting is up to MiniArt’s usual standards with each figure broken down into head, torso, separate legs and arms, plus headwear, pistol holsters and ammo pouches in addition to the goggles and the aforementioned map. Markings There are two colour options in the box , one in plain sand, the other with blue, pink, and green swatches of camouflage all over it. From the box you can build one of the following: 1st Armour Division, HQ Unit, North Africa, 1942 No.3 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force, Libya, 1942 Decals are printed on two small sheets by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion It’s a reboxing, but as it has been absent from MiniArt’s line-up for a good while, there ought to be a ready market for it. It’s still a good kit, and the inclusion of the figures is a nice bonus, as you know they’ll fit well. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  8. Cargo Tramway X-Series (38030) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd. Trams have long been used for mass transport within built-up areas of larger cities, using rails set into the street and making a familiar dinging noise just before they run you over. They’re making a comeback in some cities recently, but were far more numerous pre-WWII, and some operators took advantage of the lines to carry cargo deep into cities where the standard railways couldn’t reach. Soviet Russia operated these trams in their cities, carrying the daily necessities around, and probably pressed into service as munitions carriers when war came to town. The Kit This is new boxing is based upon the passenger X-Series tram, with new parts to fill the gutted centre-section where the passengers would otherwise be. These parts replicate the beaten-up look that would result from the rough handling of heavy items in and out of the cargo area. The kit arrives in a shrink-wrapped heavy box with typical MiniArt painting, and inside are twenty three sprues in grey styrene, nine in clear, an A4+ sized vacuum-formed cobblestone base with suitably gauged tracks travelling along the longest side. The package is rounded out by a decal sheet and instruction booklet that has the painting options laid out on the covers. Detail is excellent as we've come to expect from any new tooling from MiniArt, and the instructions are printed on good quality glossy paper in their usual manner. Construction begins with the sub-frame bogie, with two sets of motors and axles sandwiched between the brake actuators and wheels, then slipped inside the long frame along with their leaf-spring suspension mounts and cross-braces. The two axles are then integrated in the frame by adding end-plates and more cross-braces to stiffen up the assembly. The brake actuators are joined to the rest of the armature by a small cage and long rod that is connected to the driver’s cab later on. The body is made up on a two-part base with a laminated bulkhead with windows at each end and a framework wall with badly beaten and dented low side panels that can be posed up or down as you please. Two control uprights and a seat are made up and added to each end of the floor that makes them instantly reversible, then the two cab surrounds are fabricated with glass panels and interior panelling added along the way. The sides are added first, then the front is fixed in place, repeated at both ends and accompanies by a pair of two-panel folding doors on each side of both cabs, totalling eight panels made up into four doors that are handed, so take care when assembling them, their bars and handles. Crew steps are added to each door at each end (there’s a lot of repetition), then the big soviet star with integrated headlight that includes a replica of a bulb in the centre is plonked front and centre in the nose at each end – unless you’ve opted for the simpler and less ostentatious headlamp of course. Underneath the floor the linkages are extended with plastic chains to holes on the underside of the cabs, a receiver for the compressed air and small leaf-suspension mounts are fixed to each corner ready to receive the sub-frame that was made up first. A folded cow-catcher grille is attached under the front/back along with a single buffer, then it’s time to turn it from a cabriolet to a hard-top. The roof is made of two mirror image sections with panelling moulded into each cab end and on the curved sections where adverts would be placed on the passenger version, with a pair of lighting bars running along the rest of the length next to roof-mounted handrails. Upstands are glued to each side of the flat section of the roof and have a nicely detailed heat-exchanger unit fitted front and rear (front and front?). Lights, placards for route numbers and the big pantograph loop is assembled then fitted in the centre of the roof, angled toward the rea… whichever direction it has come from. If you’re not a diorama fan you can end it there, but it would be a shame to waste the base and accompanying catenary posts that suspend the wire above the track. The base is vacformed, so will need some method of support underneath to prevent it from sagging under the weight of the model, such as balsawood, which can be glued to the underside of the base with epoxy. The two posts have a four-part base and single riser part, with a choice of a simple or decorative arm for each one. They are held taut by wires that you will need to supply yourself, and you will need to do a little research to correctly wire in the rest of the cables to your tram’s pantograph. Markings There are six decal and markings options out of the box, with a wide choice of colours but only a few decals for route numbers and vehicle identification. From the box you can build one of the following: Cargo USSR 40-60s Repair USSR 40-60s Repair USSR 40-50s Emergency USSR 40-50s Cargo USSR 40-50s Service USSR 30-50s Decals are by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion A well detailed model of a cargo tram that was used in Soviet Russia for more than just hawking goods around. There’s plenty of scope for dioramas with the included base a healthy start, and lots of opportunity to practice your weathering techniques to depict a well-worn example. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  9. Grant Mk.II (35282) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd. In the years before WWII America realised that they were lagging behind in respect of armour, a fact that became especially clear when Germany came out from under the Versailles treaty to show off and then use their new tanks and Blitzkrieg tactics to over-run a large portion of Europe. The M3 Lee was conceived in 1940 as a medium tank carrying a powerful 75mm gun, partly for manning by their own crews, but also because Britain had requested a large number of tanks to make good their losses from Dunkirk. The Lee was a decent tank but suffered from a high silhouette and limited traverse of the sponson-mounted 75mm gun, but it was still widely used. In British service it was known as the Lee if it was fitted with the original American turret, or the Grant when using the lower-profiled British specification turrets. The Grant eschewed the mini-turret on the commander's cupola that resulted in a reduction in height and a minor simplification of construction and maintenance for very little loss in flexibility, due to the coaxially mounted Browning machine gun in the turret. It was used primarily in Africa and the Pacific theatres where 2nd line equipment was often fielded (for the most part) by the enemy, and against the Japanese who were far behind with their tank designs and tactics. The Grant II replaced the more inflammable petrol engine for twin diesel units, retaining the controversial riveted hull, and often fitted with the Lee machinegun turret, although this was sometimes removed in the field. The Kit MiniArt began 2019 with a new tooling of the M3 Lee and have expanded their range by adding new parts as they go along. The primary changes in this boxing are the inclusion of a new cast turret with no machine-gun turret on top, and the inclusion of British equipment inside and around the exterior. We've come to expect great things from MiniArt's new kits and of course this one is no different with a ton of detail included. The original release we reviewed here was the full interior kit, now for those of us who don't build full interior kits we have this great option without all of the interior gear. The box is standard MiniArt fare with an attractive picture from their usual artist, and inside are a huge number of sprues of varying sizes with 54 sprues in grey styrene, a single sprue in clear, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, decal sheet, and the instruction booklet with painting guide at the front and rear completing the package. Construction begins with the vehicle floor onto which the transmission and final drive assemblies are fixed together to form a shallow box. The curved lower glacis part is also added, and the final-drive bell housings that are incorporated into the sidewalls mate with these to complete the shape of that area. The side plates are added and then the top sponsons. To the rear the engine compartment is built up, the doors are fitted along with the exhausts. At the front additional plates over the drive shafts are added as are the radiator baths. The big 75mm gun and substantial casemate are made up next for fitting into the hull front and the curved splinter shield that allows 14o of traverse to either side to counter any errors in position from the driver, or enemy movement. The breech is surrounded by a shield that overlaps the elevation/traverse slot. The various hatches can be posed open or closed, however as there is no interior, it’s best close them up or place a figure in the aperture. The bow machine gun is actually a twin mount with two .30 cal M1919s firing through a hatch near the port sponson. The rest of the hull is then built up in much the same manner as the real thing, but with glue instead of rivets, which are there purely for show. A large stowage bin is added to the rear with towing cables and pioneer tools spread around it, plus PE tie-downs and filler caps on the diagonal edge panels. The rear of the deck overhangs the hull and a small armoured "skirt" protects the tops of the exhausts from stray rounds where PE brackets are used to hang the aft lights. A scrap diagram shows their location and how to fix the PE straps to the tie-downs and eyes, with a length of 145mm of cable from your own supplies suggested. At this stage the majority of the hull is built, but it is likely to fill with rain until the roof is fitted. The stiffening plates to the lower glacis are also glued to the hull and then the roof is made up from a large main part that is stiffened with a number of ribs, and an extra section is attached to the side with a small periscope in the middle. The square access doors for the crew can all be posed open or closed with latches and small viewing hatches within that can also be posed open. After fitting the armoured cover to the main gun's periscope and a few grab handles, you get to build up the running gear. Aren't you lucky? The Grant's suspension is very similar to the Sherman's with two wide wheels on a bogie with a return wheel at the top, and there are three per side. The wheels with their moulded-in rubber tyres are attached to the bogies via swing-arms that pivot inside the cast bogie with an additional arm linked to the compressible rubber towers. Before the front of the bogie is fitted the return-roller is installed so it is trapped between its two bearings. Repeat that six times and then make up the idler wheels, which have PE edges and separate hub caps. The bogies are attached to the sides of the hull on their mounting plates, and two stiffeners are added to the top of each one, while the idler wheels are attached to their axles on the adjustable tensioners. At the front the drive sprockets are made up from two parts with an internal collar allowing them to remain mobile if you're sparing with the glue. A short break has you fitting the driver's hatch and optional clear window with a PE wiper blade, plus a couple of towing eyes with shackles under the glacis and some truly tiny parts in plastic and PE between them. Tracks. Love 'em or loathe 'em, they're a necessary part of most tanks and you have to do them eventually. There are 79 track links per side, and each link is made up from four parts. The pads are split to accommodate the links between them, and this is a little fiddly. I built a test section up with the earlier interior kit, and each link is good looking with fine detail at the ends, flexing well as per the real thing. It'll take some time to complete them, but they will be excellent as long as you're careful with preparation and the glue. With the tracks in place, the side skirts can be installed and the additional stowage boxes can be fabricated from their parts and attached to the hull with PE brackets, their shape conforming to the surfaces that they are placed on. The side skirts are finished off with mudguards at the rear by boxing in the tops of the track runs. The rest of the pioneer tools are bracketed to the hull along with the front headlights and their PE protective cages, the former having PE tie-downs and brackets holding them down. You will need to find some thin wire to link the headlamps to the gland that takes the cable inside the hull, then the single-part main gun barrel is nipped from the sprues, has its seamlines removed and is joined to the optional two-part blast-bag that has excellent realistic-looking canvas wrinkle and sag moulded in. For some decal options a muzzle-mounted counterweight is fitted, made up from two halves that clamp around the barrel. We're still not quite ready for the turret though, as there are a number of PE parts at the front for some of the decal options, and others use the metal side-skirt hangers that stretch the full length of the sponsons, and are detailed with PE hinge and bracket parts. More PE parts are added around the light clusters, and as tie-downs for additional pioneer tools on the angled parts and sponson tops. A small PE basket is folded up for two of the decal options, with two mudflap stiffener plates fixed to the front. Now you can start the turret, most of which is held within the upper part, and that has some convincing casting texture moulded into it that should look great under a few coats of paint. The frames for the small hatches are first to be added, then the hatches themselves are fitted in the open or closed position with small stays holding them at the correct angle for the former. The breech is started by joining the two main parts together, adding the surround, the coax machine gun, then setting it aside while the mantlet and elevation mechanisms are made up. The 37mm barrel fits to the mantlet and the turret halves are joined, then the aerial bases are added, with aerials from either stretched sprue, carbon rod or anything suitable you have lying around. Next up is the low-rise British spec cupola with grab handles and a choice of open or closed clamshell hatch with periscope in the port side. The commander's .30cal weapon is mounted on a curved fitting on the front of the turret and is fitted with a drum magazine that has moulded-in bullets plus a separate short length that feeds into the breech, sandwiched between the two end-caps with built in mounting frame. The barrel has a PE cooling jacket fitted after rolling it, which requires the tip cutting off to slide it on, then re-gluing the tip in place. A studded bezel is installed in the top rim along with the hatches, then the turret can be fitted to finish the model. Markings The decal sheet is quite large for an AFV model and you can make one of six options from the box, as shown below: 500th Grant produced by Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, USA, June 1942 Tac HQ’s Defence Company 8th Army, El Alamein, General Montgomery’s Command Vehicle, Nov 1942 4th County of London Yeomanry, 8th British Army, Tripoli, Jan 1943 2/4th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division, New South Wales, Australia, early 1943 Advanced Base No.5, Workshop in Al Mussaiyib, Iraq, June 1943 2/9th Armoured Squadron, North Queensland, Australia, Spring 1944 The decals are printed by DecoGraph as usual for MiniArt, and have good register, colour density and sharpness, with thin matt carrier film cut closely to the printed areas. Conclusion There are additional parts for British Army specific stowage included in the box, which is good to see as a personalised model often looks better than a stock kit. Their locations and colour are shown on separate colour diagrams that can be found at the front of the painting diagrams. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  10. LGOC B-Type London Omnibus (38021) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd After the invention of the motor car, it was only a matter of time before someone thought to apply it to carrying us proles around in groups, partly because the general populous couldn’t dream of affording a car at the time, but also because it cut down on traffic in the sprawling metropolis that was early 1900s London. The London General Omnibus Company – LGOC for short, developed the Omnibus X, the omnibus part relating to everyone or all. It was replaced by the improved B-type Omnibus which has seats for 16 inside and another 18 less salubrious seats upstairs open to the elements. It was capable of breaking the speed limit of the day and could do a staggering 16mph on the flat, with headlights being introduced just before WWI began. Up to 900 buses were shipped to the continent to bus the troops around the battlefield from trench to trench, with up to 24 fully-equipped men being carried on the two decks. Of course, the word Omnibus didn’t last long and gave us the Bus that we know and don’t really love today. With the side glazing easily broken by the men’s equipment and gun butts, it wasn’t long before many were covered up with planks, making for a dark but less draughty lower deck. Some were even converted to mobile homes for pigeons, with a loft built on the top deck and able to be driven from place to place where telegraph or telephone wasn’t a suitable means of communications. At the end of WWI, the remaining operational buses were also used to ferry the soldiers back to the UK, but it can’t have been very comfortable or quick on balance. The Kit This kit began with the militarised version in olive drab (39001), and now we’re looking at the civilian version on which it was developed. A few additional sprues are included to improve the comfort of the passengers by adding cushions to the seats, and to add a safety barrier to the area of the side between the wheels to prevent people from being swept under. The decal sheet is also brand new, and the Photo-Etch (PE) sheet has been re-organised to accommodate the curved advertising hoardings on the staircase at the expense of number plate choice. Detail is excellent with a full chassis, engine and interior included in the box, giving you just about everything you need to build a detailed replica of the early omnibus. Construction begins with the engine, which is well detailed and even has diagrams showing you how to wire up the spark plugs with some of your own wire if you wish. The exhaust manifold, big clutch flywheel are added to the block along with a load of ancillary parts and hoses, then the gearbox is made up with its short drive-shaft to link it to the engine later on. The chassis is made up from the two side rails and cross members, then the engine is inserted from below while the fan belt and blades; starting handle; leaf springs for the suspension; and a large rear axle are all added, then flipped over to begin work on the engine compartment. A wood-textured bulkhead is installed aft, and at the front the large radiator is assembled and fitted to the front of the chassis, then linked to the feed hoses that were fixed earlier. A small linkage is made from 0.3mm wire and joined with and end-piece that completes the link, which has a couple of scrap diagrams to assist you, one at 1:1 scale to ensure you have it right. The chassis is flipped again and the front axle is built then inserted into the leaf-springs, while brake rods are threaded along the length of the vehicle to provide the meagre braking force to all wheels. The gearbox gets a guard fitted to its bottom as it is inserted into the chassis, at which point it is also linked to the back axle with another drive-shaft that is bracketed by a piece of PE. The chassis is flipped again, and the gearbox is linked to the cab, with steering wheel, PARP! style horn plus the cab floor with foot board and cut-outs for the steering wheel, foot brake and other pedals (right-hand drive of course). Now the front and back of the engine bay are linked by the fixed centre panel, and you can build the cowling in either open or closed positions with PE plates attached to the vertical panels. The chassis continues again with the exhaust pipe and muffler, which has a PE lip added to each end of the welded cylinder. This and the remaining driver controls are fixed into the chassis, which is then set aside while the passenger compartment is built. The passenger compartment starts as a U-shaped floor with duck-board flooring, which receives end panels that are first fitted out with glazing. Seats are added along each side with back cushions fitted later, and the sides of the lower floor are made up with glazing and long slim openers at the top of each pane, capable of being posed open or closed by choosing different glazing parts. The front of the passenger box is also the seating area for the crew cab, with seat board, a thin cushion, and a cylinder in a pair of PE restraints installed ready for the later joining of the two assemblies. Long advertising hoarding brackets are fitted on the window frames outside and the lower floor is set to one side while the upper floor is made up. This has a slightly curved floor, solid sides, front and back, and four rows of double seats facing forward with a central walkway. Various rails are added to the top, beginning the handrails for the winding stairs, as well as ceiling-mounted grab-rails for the floor below. The two floors are joined together, and the staircase is begun at the bottom with the step-on platform at the rear, which allows access to the lower floor and leads to the stairs winding up the back of the vehicle. These steps are curved and have two parts added together, then strengthened by a side panel, and two curved sections on the outside that are combined safety rails and adverting hoardings that have three PE panels fitted to the outside ready for the included adverts. A number-plate and more handrails finish off that area. Underneath, the double length mudguards are glued to the cabin by brackets, and then the whole assembly is installed on the chassis along with front mudguards, crew steps, choice of lights and a front number plate. The wheels were built up earlier from a central hub surrounded by two tyre halves, and with drum-brake for the rear wheels, and simpler wheels for the front. Now that she’s stood on her own four wheels for the first time, the side-mounted people catchers are installed under the chassis between the wheels, preventing anyone unlucky enough to fall between the wheels from getting smooshed by the heavy back end. Markings The bus is painted in a dull red overall, with various accent colours from wood, metallics and brass colours, while many of the standard markings such as the destination and general stencilling are applied as decals. The adverts are all printed on the rear page of the instruction booklet and must be carefully cut out and pasted onto the hoarding boards in the top floor sides and rear of the bus, taking care to use a non-marking glue. The opposite side of the adverts are gloss white, so glue absorption shouldn’t be a major issue. The standard decals are shown applied to the bus inside the front cover of the booklet, while various advertising options are shown there and on separate pages at the back of the booklet next to the adverts themselves. This gives a pretty wide range of options to the modeller who takes a mix-and-match approach, but there are several options provided to get you going. Decals are by DecoGraph, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. There is a small addendum sheet included with the initial release, due to a misspelling of the word “Bridge” on the main decal sheet, so remember to discard those before you apply the wrong ones. Conclusion If you’ve been planning to adapt the military version to civilian use, now you don’t need to, as this highly detailed kit provides you with everything you need to create a great replica of this early bus. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of https://www.britmodeller.com/reviews/graphics/bin.jpg
  11. Yak-28PP Brewer-E (81768) 1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd. First flying in the late 50s, the Yak-28 was an early Soviet swept wing design that began life as a bomber but was adapted to fulfil other roles such as interceptor, reconnaissance and electronic warfare. The PP was the electronic warfare variant and carried no weapons, instead the bomb bay was filled to the brim with electronic countermeasures, making it the first Soviet EW aircraft. The radome was replaced by a greenhouse nose cone, and an operator’s position was added in the nose with a canopy that opened up in front of the main cockpit. To dump the heat created by the electronics, there were lumps and bumps on the underside of the aircraft to help dissipate the excess and prevent overheating. There were numerous attempts to improve on the basic airframe, but none proceeded past prototype, although the PM did achieve a speed record while the Yak-28-64 had wing root mounted engines giving it a more modern look, but again was cancelled before it reached production. It was eventually replaced by the Su-24 in many of its roles, including the Electronic Warfare role of the Brewer-E. The Kit This is a fairly major retool of the original Yak-28P Firebar that we reviewed here late last year. It arrives in a similar box with painting of the type on the lid, and inside are ten sprues in grey styrene, two of clear parts and a small decal sheet. The instruction booklet and separate colour painting guide complete the package, with only wings, engines and landing gear sprues carried over from the P. Complete new fuselage, tail and cockpit sprues have been tooled for this variant, along with a beautifully detailed greenhouse for the nose cone, which has been slide-moulded to obtain maximum detail on the framing. Two of the smaller sprues contain rocket pods that are mounted under the outer wing in the instruction, but as this variant usually flew without armament, it is unlikely they were actually carried, so check your references before making holes in the wings. Construction begins with the pilot’s solo cockpit, which revolves around the long tub with instrument panels (with decals), bulkheads, control column and seat added before the sidewalls are installed. The seat has good detail and consists of seven parts but no lap-belts visible on the cushions, although can easily add those from tape or foil. Like the Harrier, the Firebar had bicycle undercarriage with a nose wheel and one main gear leg toward the aft of the fuselage with each bay boxed in with good detail, and struts with retraction jacks added along the way. While they can be left off until later the supporting jack on the nose wheel could be difficult to fit retrospectively, so check this in advance of applying too much glue. The front cockpit is formed by adding a detail insert and window into each side of the front fuselage, then while closing up the fuselage, a bulkhead and an additional ejection seat is inserted along with an ancillary instrument panel visible from the lip of the compartment. All the assemblies have good supports and tabs within the fuselage to assist with positioning. Once you have dealt with the seams, there are numerous cooling lumps and antennae to be added along the bottom of the fuselage, some of which covers the seam and reduces the amount of making good needed there. A louvered panel is inserted in front of the rear gear well, and the instructions would have you adding the bay doors at this stage, which is fine if you won’t be masking and painting, but otherwise they’re best left off until later. Flipping the fuselage over the airbrake in either open or closed configuration is added, the nose glazing, top cover for the EW officer with clear window, coaming and rear deck are installed along with a few more ill-advised antennae, with the pilot’s canopy left off until later. The engine pods bear a passing resemblance to extended Me.262 pods and each one has two main cowlings with a rear blanking plate, stator blades and nose cone enhancing that feeling. The intake is close enough to the cone that more detail isn't really visible to anyone with normal levels of inquisitiveness especially when the intake lip is added to the assembly, so there aren't any blades depicted on the plate. At the rear a four-part exhaust is provided with blades visible at the end of the trunking, and a nice tapered exhaust tip. Tons of small slide-moulded intakes are added to each side along with clear vision ports toward the front, and of course this assembly is repeated in mirror image for the other nacelle. Additional fuel tanks are joined at this stage, with each one being handed for its own wing due to its close-fitting nature. The wings are simple assemblies of two parts with holes needing drilling depending on whether you plan to fit the supplied pods, and they incorporate the tops of the engine pods that the main sections are added to during their construction. The short wingtip mounted stabiliser wheels that fit into their bays with two doors, retraction jacks, wheels and yoke are fitted, as are the fuel tanks and those rocket pods if you really must. There are also wing-fences and more intakes on the engine cowling, plus a small flap between the fuselage and engine pods and a pointed fairing near each wingtip that attaches to a small cut-out in the wing surface. The new tail is separate from the fuselage and consists of two parts for the fin with another for the rudder, then two single part elevators half-way up the fin are fitted on two pins each, and a couple of blade antennae swept in the direction of flight. Adding the wings to their slots in the fuselage, gluing in the two canopy parts and fitting the pointy probe on the nose completes the build. Markings Hobby Boss aren’t renowned for their verbose informative decal instructions, and this kit is no different, although it does have two quite different options depicted on the little decal sheet that accompanies the kit. From the box you can build either a three-colour camouflaged aircraft with grey/blue lower, or a silver machine, about which we know very little from studying the large and colourful painting guide, which shows four views that will be particularly useful for the camouflaged option. The decals are printed to HB’s usual standard and are workmanlike in their sharpness and colour density. The majority are plain red or red and white, so registration isn’t an issue, but the instrument decals are worth pointing out because they are very well done with crisp details and colour where necessary. Conclusion If you’re in the market for a Brewer-E, this will be a nice addition to the stash, and with Hobby Boss’s penetration into the market, it’s also fairly easy to get hold of. Detail is very good throughout, and it should build up into a nice model. Do the camo one – you know you want to! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  12. Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II (LS-011) 1:48 Meng Model via Creative Models Probably one of the most (if not the) most contentious and publically berated projects since the beginning of aviation over a hundred years ago, the F-35 in its three guises has been a marathon journey from proposal to production and testing, with the first few going into service in the 2010s. Initially named the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), there were three variants proposed, all of which shared the same overall configuration and look, as well as combining technology from the F-22. Utilising a stealthy surface with internal weapons bays, supersonic performance and an in-depth sensor-fusion that provides the pilot with excellent situational awareness and a broader "sense" of the whole battlesphere, the software alone has been a mammoth task. Coupled with the new technologies integrated into the airframe, and the number of contractors/countries involved, it has been late and over-budget on a number of occasions, with frequent threats and calls to cancel the project in favour of other options. Various customers have also opted in and out of the end-of-project purchase, and numbers of airframes have been chopped and changed by various customers as political wrangling and budget-balancing became involved. The Netherlands have stuck with the programme however, and has a few airframes in service with another thirty-odd yet to be delivered, all of which are scheduled to have the Norwegian-designed drag-chute pod to shorten their roll-out on landing. Irrespective of the political back and forth, the engineering side of things has progressed through the hurdles, and at the end of 2006 the maiden flight of an A variant was made, followed two years later by the STOVL B variant with its controversial lift fan. Fast-forward to 2015 and the US Marines were happy enough to call it suitable for initial operations. The navalised F-35C later joined the fray in 2018 after many issues are resolved around carrier operations. The A variant is the smallest of the three airframes and is aiming to replace the F-16 eventually, although it will have a monster of a job replacing the Falcon in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts, as well as the vast differences in cost. The Kit We've had a new tooling from Meng for a couple of years now, who have an excellent reputation for quality products and this is a reboxing of that original kit with new decals for the Netherlands version. The kit arrives in one of Meng's usual quality boxes with their trademark satin finish, and a handsome painting on the top. On the sides are profiles of the decal choice, as well as an announcement of their collaboration with AK Interactive on new paints specifically to depict the tricky colours of the Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) coatings applied to these and other modern jets. Inside the box are thirteen sprues and two fuselage halves in a dark blue/grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, decal sheet, a diminutive instruction booklet, and a colour painting and decaling guide in the same narrow portrait format. First things first, as this is simply a rebox with new decals it did occur to me to send you back to the original review to look at that, then come back for the decals. In order to save your clicky fingers however, I’ve just laid it all out afresh with a few adjustments so if you read the original, just skip to the paragraph above the markings header. First impressions are that unlike the companies that issued F-22 kits in this scale a few years back, Meng have got the balance of raised detail about right, with not too much or too little, all of which should look good under paint. Parts breakdown seems logical, detail is good, and a set of PE belts are included for the cockpit, which is always nice. Construction begins with this area, with a six-part ejection seat plus the aforementioned belts fitting into the cockpit tub, with only rudder, the two sticks making up the HOTAS control system, plus the instrument panel and coaming added inside. There is an instrument panel decal for the digital panel that takes up most of the front, which should look good once set within the coaming. The gear bays must be built up next, as they will be closed up within the fuselage once complete. The nose gear bay is a single part into which the completed single-wheeled nose gear leg fits, with the scissor-link and retraction jack being separate parts, as well as two more that complete the detail. This can be left off until after painting, happily. The main bays are two-part assemblies, and the main gear legs have separate retraction jacks and scissor-links, totalling 6 parts each. Whilst these bays should suffice for a great many, a little additional detail would have been appreciated, as they seem a bit simplified on close inspection. The weapons bays are both 6-part assemblies that depict the large tubing that runs their entire length, and while they too could be considered a little simplified, once you install the supplied GBU-53 small diameter bombs and their pylons in the bays, you'll probably see very little. The intake trunking is full depth, with the two intakes joining in front of the single fan of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, which is a separate part with the fan face moulded in. The exhaust is relatively short, with a one-piece cylindrical trunk and the rear of the engine at the bottom, into which there are two PE mesh parts added, hiding most of what would otherwise be visible. The exhaust petals have excellent detail and finesse, and should be fine for all but the most detail-conscious, slipping over the end of the trunk and locking within the fuselage bottom on two lips. The port and starboard weapons bays, main bays, nose bay and intake trunking all attach to the lower fuselage half, with only the cockpit tub fitting into the upper half. Two pairs of small holes are drilled through the top in the aft section and then the two halves are brought together, with a few small panels added to recesses in front of the cockpit and on the spine, with the option of open or closed refuelling receptacle. Although the airframe has blended wings, they are separate parts, with a healthy overlap on the topside providing excellent strength of the finished article. Leading edge slats and flaps are added to the two-part wings, with holes drilled out for the pylons if you intend to fit them. Breaking the stealthy configuration allows the carriage of more munitions on the two underwing pylons, with a smaller outer pylon able to take addition air-to-air defensive armament of either AIM-9 or AIM-120 missiles. The elevators can be posed at a 10o droop, or in line with the airframe by using one of two inserts on the booms at either side of the exhaust, into which the completed two-part assemblies fix. The twin fins are also two parts each, with the stealthy lumps hiding all the machinery within. Under the fuselage the built-in laser-designator and various other lumps are added, after which you can choose to close up or leave open any combination of bays by adding or leaving off the hinges on some, or choosing the appropriate closed parts for the nose gear. There are a LOT of doors due to the internal weapons carried, but take your time and it'll all come together. In addition, a pair of AIM-120s can be fitted to the main weapons bays on a small pylon adapter, which deploys the weapon as the doors open. The F-35's canopy is quite heavily tinted with a golden hue, and that is sadly missing from the kit part. It isn't difficult to replicate however, simply by adding some clear acrylic yellow to the Klear/Future that you dip the canopy into. There are numerous tutorials online, so hunt one down if you’re unsure. Don't be tempted to sand off those fine canopy frame lines, as they're supposed to be there, and you'd have a devil of a job doing it, as they're on the inside of the part too! Clarity of the canopy is excellent, and Meng's inclusion of a piece of clear self-cling foil to the sprue certainly helps keep it that way until you are ready for it. There is an internal frame part that glues inside the clear part, and this should be painted in anticipation of installation, as should the fine framework mentioned earlier. Masking is the way to go here, and while you are working in the area, you might as well paint the inside of the canopy for further realism. Fitting the canopy in the closed position is simply a case of applying glue to the part and pressing it home, while an open canopy requires the installation of four parts in the coaming, as the whole canopy tilts forward for pilot egress. With that the model is ostensibly completed, apart from adding any exterior stores that you might wish to depict. If you don't use the two AIM-120s in the belly, these can be used on the outer wing pylons, as can the pair of AIM-9Xs that are also included. The main wing pylons are wired for bombs such as the GBU-13, -39, -53 or -54, all of which are detailed in the final diagram that shows their probable location even though these items aren't included in the kit. You may have noticed mention of the drag-chute pod in the preamble, which is being engineered by Norway to shorten landings in slippery winter conditions, with substantial funding coming from the RNAF to spread costs. At time of writing this pod is still in development, although has been failing to deploy too many times for their liking. That certainly explains why there are no new parts to depict it, as the size and shape hasn’t yet been finalised and Meng aren’t clairvoyant. When and if it comes into service you should be able to go back to your model, add a hump of styrene or balsa between the tail fins and bob’s your uncle. Someone will also doubtless create one in the aftermarket zone if needs be. Markings I can almost hear a chorus of "boring grey jet" from some readers, and you wouldn't be wrong, but as grey is thought to be the best colour for disguising your aircraft in the sky it's not likely to go away any time soon. The single decal option is painted “Stealth Camouflage Dark Grey”, with some of the raised panels a lighter grey, both of which weather out a little lighter with use, as can be seen on the F-22 that has now seen some active service. Masking those areas would be a chore, and could drive a modeller insane, so look out for the Galaxy Models mask set if you’re buying one. From the box you can build an airframe of 323 Squadron, Royal Netherlands Air Force, 2019. The colours are called out in Meng/AK Interactive colours, as well as Acrysion Water Based Color, which is a recent new line from the Mr Hobby range that dries faster than their existing colours. Decals are printed in China with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion If you've got this far, you're clearly in the market for a model of an F-35A in RNAF service, and the tail art does give it an edge over a boring grey jet. Casting my eyes over the parts in the box, this is a typical Meng product, so will please many. Of course they have competition in the 1:48 F-35 sphere, but Meng have built up a following by providing excellent kits of sometimes unusual subjects, and I for one am a fan. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  13. Road Signs WWII North Africa (35604) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd During WWII the North African theatre was a constant round of taking and retaking territory, with locations changing hands more than three or four times on a daily or weekly basis, with German, Allied of Italian masters seemingly interchangeable, while the locals carried as best they could while trying to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. This set is full of signs of this nature, and includes military signs to guide their troops to rally points, service areas and so forth as they didn't have the luxury of GPS and satnav back then, which is probably why we have it now. The Kit These signs relate to the North African Theatre of Operations, and arrives in a shrink-wrapped, top-opening, figure-sized box with a painted example of what’s in the box on the front, and a set of instructions inside. There are eleven sprues of styrene parts, plus a large decal sheet with the sign fronts to complete the set. One sprue seems to be made up of wooden box sides, but these are actually repurposed into signs and are used throughout the set along with the custom arrows and the posts that they are applied to. In addition, a sprue of parts for a telegraph pole is included, but this is repurposed into more sign posts to suspend those signs you’ve got, a set of three oil drums spread over six small sprues, and a small quantity of sandbags of various sizes to act as bases for posts that aren’t driven into the ground. There are 51 signs on the decal sheet for you to use, using the guide on the box or going off as you see fit. There’s a bit of flash on some of the telegraph insulators, but those are parts that get left on the sprue, so it’s not an issue, and you’ll find some bags of vegetables and hand pumps knocking about on the sprues for your use or otherwise. The decals are printed by DecoGraph, and have good registration, clarity and sharpness, with a thin carrier film fitted closely around the printed areas. Conclusion Great diorama fodder, as the devil’s in the details. The printed decal signs are so much better than most of us could do with a paint brush, and will add a little extra realism and a some humour to any diorama or vignette. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  14. Russian KrAZ-260B Tractor with MAZ/ChMZAP-5247G semitrailer Hobbyboss 1:35 (HB85523) Production of the KrAZ-260 began some time during the early 1980s when it replaced the earlier KrAZ-255B on the production lines at the Kremenchug Motor Vehicle Plant. However, the vehicle was not disclosed to the general public until 1985 when examples were displayed towing 152-mm 2A36 nuclear-capable field guns during a Red Square parade - the KrAZ-260 can tow loads of up to 10 tons when fully loaded (30 tons when empty). The Red Square example had an open body equipped with forward-facing bench seats although this had been a parade configuration. The normal body uses a conventional cargo body with tailgate all covered by the usual tilt over bows. A winch is a standard fitting under the cargo body and can be employed for either forward or rearwards recovery, including self-recovery. The overall appearance of the KrAZ-260 is similar to that of the earlier KrAZ-255B but the bonnet is more angular to accommodate the turbocharged diesel engine, and the overall dimensions are slightly larger. As far as can be determined the KrAZ-260 was produced for military service only and as apparently not been delivered to armed forces outside the Soviet Union. The Kit The kit arrives in a fairly substantial box. There are 17 sprues of plastic, the main trailer chassis as one part, three sheets of PE, and a set of window masks. Construction starts with a very detailed engine unit for the KrAZ. This unit has so many parts that the first 3 pages of the instructions deal only with its construction. Once the engine is done the gear box/transmission is made up the two can then be fitted into the chassis as it is made up. Again there are plenty of part for the chassis, the front bumper is also added along with the 5th wheel plate. The exhaust system is added along with the axles and transmission shafts. Suspension units and springs are also added. Air tanks and the battery box are also added. Last up for the chassis the mud guards are added and the wheels. Next up the cab is built up, followed by the front wings/mud guards and finally the bonnet. This can then be attached to the chassis. Last up for the chassis is attaching the spare wheel carrier which sits behind the cab. Now its time to assemble the trailer. This starts off with construction of the gooseneck, this is made up and the landing legs added. The main trailer bed is then assembled, the axles are constructed and then added along with the eight wheels. The rear ramps are put together then the bed, gooseneck and ramps come together. The spare trailer tyre can then be added. Decals Markings are provided for one Russian Army vehicle, any colour you want as long as it is Russian Green! No information is provided as to units etc. The Conclusion This is an will build up into an impressive looking kit. Hightly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  15. IDF Puma AEV (84546) 1:35 HobbyBoss via Creative Models Ltd. The Puma is based on the Sho't, the Israeli version of the British Centurion tank, but vastly altered so as to be almost unrecognisable. Instead of a turret it has a flat armoured "blockhouse", additional armour packages and four crew stations with FN machine-guns, one of which can be operated remotely, and a larger crew hatch behind them. They can be used as personnel carriers with a crew of up to eight, but are most commonly seen as Armoured Engineering vehicles, sometimes fitted with mine clearance rollers, explosive mine clearance rocket systems as seen here, or dozer blades. When they are used for mine clearance, the Carpet Mine Clearance system launches a number of rockets with a fuel-air mix onto the area needing clearing, with the explosive overpressure very efficient in detonating most kinds of anti-tank mines. Any remaining mines are then detonated by the rollers, clearing the way of the advancing forces. Their heavy weight and relatively high speed make them ideal for clearing roadblocks, and their armour makes for a highly survivable platform that has seen extensive in IDF use since introduction in the early 90s. More recently, developments have been made to use the vehicles as an IED clearance asset, which requires the fitting of additional electronic equipment to jam signals of remote detonation commands. They are also using booby trap clearance equipment, requiring additional training for their crews for this potentially dangerous work. The Kit The original tooling of this kit was reviewed here in 2016, and this new edition adds the carpet mine clearing system mentioned above. There are twenty nine sprues and two separate hull parts in green styrene, four in brown containing the track links, a small clear sprue, fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a bag of twenty four tyres in rigid black styrene, a copper cable, length of chunky chain and a decal sheet. The instruction booklet and separate colour painting/decaling guide are found at the bottom of the box in my sample. A larger box than the original was necessary for the extra parts, and inside is a small divider to reduce movement during shipping and reduce chaffing of the plastic. Construction begins with the two types of road wheels, twelve of each in pairs, with separate flexible tyres slipped over the hubs after painting if you wish to ease that task, but do ensure you position them with the flange to the outside before gluing them in place. All the road wheels have a central cap added, as do the two idler wheels, while the drive sprockets do not. They are set aside while the suspension arms, dampers and bump-stops are added to the narrow lower hull, and are fitted in pairs-of-pairs to their axles along with a number of return rollers of various sizes. The front and rear bulkheads have inserts with additional detail, including towing loops and spare track-links, plus a large towing hitch under the rear end. The tracks of the individual link type, and are supplied on the brown sprues with 105 links required for each track run, which is one down from the original edition. The usual method of gluing them with liquid glue and then wrapping them around the sprockets should do the trick, holding them in place with anything handy to achieve the correct degree of sag. The fenders are festooned with additional equipment and stowage, and have separate end-caps to the front with cross-braces to strengthen them laterally. These fit into slots in the side of the lower hull, after which the upper hull gains focus. The Rafael Overhead Weapon Station (OWS) remote turret is built up first with a clear TV camera port, with the other three crew-served machine-guns next, followed by sundry equipment and antenna bases for the flat blockhouse area. The crew hatches have separate detailed hinge mechanisms, and these fit in place in either open or closed positions along with the weapons on their mounts. A triangular stowage area is made up from delicate frames that are protected by foam wrapped around the sprues, adding small parts along the way. This and the blockhouse are then fitted in position on the upper hull panel, which also has the driver's hatch with vision blocks situated just forward of the blockhouse in a recessed area. The upper hull and lower are now joined, and more detail is added to the fenders, consisting of small PE hooks and tiny parts are added along the length to hold the two tow cables, which are themselves made up from braided copper and styrene eyes. The side-skirts can then be added on their T-shaped brackets that mount on lugs moulded into the sides of the upper hull. The mine roller is then built with its multiple toothed wheels on two swing-arms that are formed from complex angular parts that make up a hollow assembly. These are both mounted to the base part with pivot-pins as well as some restraining cables that reduce bounce on detonation. This assembly is then set to one side while the large rear-mounted compartmentalised box is made up that contains the fuel-air bomblets. This is constructed from flat plates and risers in three layers, with the hydraulic ram that allow it to pivot for aiming added in a central slot on the base. The bomblets are made of two halves to which the vanes and stabiliser ring are attached, allowing a number to be dropped into their compartments. A base plate and PE blast deflectors are joined by a further layer, then the large C-shaped beam that supports and allows the movement of the weapon is assembled from a large number of parts. Finally, all three sub-assemblies are brought together in a surprisingly large finished model. Markings All Pumas are painted a base coat of Sinai Grey, and differ only by their unit markings and personalisations. There is only one decal option shown on the instructions, but if you know your IDF and/or Hebrew, there are clearly more possibilities as evidenced by the relatively large decal sheet and three number-plates, but as I don't profess to understand Hebrew, it would be difficult for me to comment further. The decals are printed in-house and are have good register, colour density and sharpness, so should be suitable for use unless you have something else in mind. Conclusion A nicely detailed and surprisingly long kit that just cries out for a crew and lots of stowage in that big basket. They are often seen with anti-slip coatings applied to the horizontal areas where the crew are likely to step, so it may be worthwhile applying some Cast-A-Coat or finely ground pumice to these areas, being careful to check your references first for the correct locations. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  16. Pigeons (38036) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd. No, that’s not a typo. Pigeons. An absolute necessity for any diorama, or indeed any model. There simply must be a pigeon in, on or near every model you ever build - it's a well-known fact. Now MiniArt have solved your problem with sourcing sufficient pigeons to make your dream of permanent pigeon patronage (PPP) come true. Some call them rats of the sky, or vermin, but love them or loathe them, they get around and are seen everywhere in any town or city, especially where people feed them. This set arrives in a shrink-wrapped figure box, and inside are six sprues, linked in pairs. There are two different sprues, so three of each in grey coloured styrene. There are no decals (no surprise there), with instructions and painting guide found on the rear of the box, showing that there is a huge variety of colours and patterns seen on your average pigeon. Their poop isn’t documented though, so you’ll have to look up the FS shades for the white splatter with black blobs they seem to leave wherever they go. Each bird has a separate set of legs for detail, and they are striking a few different poses to add further variety to your models, aside from the paint jobs. There’s a little flash here and there, but that’s easy to remove, even on small parts like these, and don’t forget a small paint brush to detail all those feathers and stripes that are a theme on their flight feathers. Conclusion Awesome! Well, for pigeons they are. Nice little models that are much simpler than making your own. A scrape of the seams, a little glue and you can be “doing the pigeon” with Bert and Ernie with 36 tiny-weeny models of these feathery, beady-eyed, food scavenging nuisances! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  17. LvKv 90 Anti-Air Vehicle (84507) 1:35 HobbyBoss via Creative Models Ltd. Based upon the original Combat Vehicle 90 (CV90), this anti-aircraft light tank uses the same chassis with a 40mm Bofors autocannon in a new turret, which is guided by a Thales radar unit perched on top of the turret in a cylindrical housing. LvKv stands for Luftvärnskanonvagn, which translates to self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon, with the 90 representing the decade of its birth. It can fire programmable proximity-fused fragmentation or armour piercing rounds, which coupled with the complex computer algorithms used in targeting, calculating velocity and direction of the target, speed of rounds, ballistic drop make for a highly accurate weapon that will put the fear of immediate perforation in any passing enemy that lingers in range (up to 14km) for more than a couple of seconds. It can also track up to six targets at once, far beyond that of any mere human and a useful force multiplier. Although it isn’t strictly speaking a frontline vehicle, it is well-enough armoured to withstand armour piercing rounds from most APCs to its frontal armour, and small arms fire from the back and sides. It is also a connected fighting vehicle, benefitting from and contributing to a better overall situational awareness of their forces that is an incredibly useful tool in battle that all modern forces aspire to have. It gets around the battlefield thanks to a Scania 550hp diesel engine that drives the tracks and also act as propulsion in water with the fitment of a flotation kit that gives it greater all-terrain capability. The Kit Based upon their initial 2012 release of the CV90-40C, but without all the appliqué armour of the IFV, and with a new turret gun and radar “pot”. In its splinter camouflage it is an attractive design, and from the box it is well-detailed throughout with individual link tracks and separate track-pads. From the standard Hobby Boss box come fourteen sprues and three hull and turret parts in sand-coloured styrene, four sprues of track-pads in black, thirty trees of track-links in a metallic grey, a small clear sprue, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) parts, a sheet of decals, and the instruction booklet with separate painting guide. In an unusual turn of events, construction begins with the vehicle’s rear hatches, which are festooned with styrene and PE parts before completion. Then the more predictable make-up of the four-part drive sprockets (x2), four-part road wheel pairs (x14), and two-part idler wheels, which are set aside until after the lower hull and its swing-arm suspension is finished off. The rear hatch made earlier is added to the stepped underside, clear lights are slotted inside the sloped front of the upper hull, and a number of PE parts are added around them next to the front fenders. Now you can add all those wheels, then make up the tracks. Each side uses 82 links comprising two parts, with two sprue gates on the pads, and three on the metallic-coloured links, all of which is sensibly placed and easy to clean up. It took a few minutes to make up the example section of 6 links for the review, and you can even leave off the pads until after painting the tracks if you are modelling it clean, scuffing the pads with a sanding stick before you glue them in for a bit of realism. With the hull joined, a number of pioneer tools are attached to the rear along with pre-moulded towing cables that are supplied with PE tie-downs, with styrene grab-handles on the glacis and a nicely detailed driver’s hatch added. At the rear is an access hatch for the engine, and on the sides a pair of skirts are fixed to blocks on the hull sides. More PE and clear parts are fitted on the rear bulkhead, with a number of PE grilles added to the deck and a trio of aerials at the very rear. The Bofors cannon is a simple affair, made up from a four-part mount and a barrel with concertina recoil bag at its base, split horizontally with a single piece flared muzzle fitted last. The barrel is slipped through the turret from the inside and is trapped in place by the cut-outs as the lower turret is glued in place. It should remain mobile if you don’t drown the joint in glue. With that the turret is detailed with a stowage bustle, more stowage on the sides, smoke grenade launchers, hatches, grab-handles and lots of little PE camo-tie-down parts that are shown in detail in a larger scrap diagram on the same page. The turret is finished off with a sighting box in front of the gunner’s position, the big radar pot, spare track-links and a shrouded barrel of the coax machine gun. The turret twists into position and is held in place by the bayonet lugs on the side of the turret ring. Markings As is often the case with HB kits, there’s only one decal option supplied with precious little background information, and that’s for a splinter camouflaged vehicle with yellow number 143030. The decals included in the kit are minimal, as befits an armour kit, and they have good enough registration, colour density and sharpness for the task in hand. Conclusion I like anything with the Swedish splinter, and this futuristic-looking vehicle looks great in the box, and once complete it will have provided plenty of modelling enjoyment, as well as breaking up the standard green of our shelves. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  18. M4A3E2 Jumbo US Assault Tank (TS-045) 1:35 Meng Model The Sherman tank is familiar to most armour modellers, and as such needs little introduction. It bears a familial resemblance to the M3 Lee/Grant, especially from the waist down, but the new upper hull and turret did a lot to fix the shortcomings of the earlier tank, although it was by no means perfect. Its main armament was good enough when it entered service, but became a little underwhelming toward the end of the war, as was her armour, which although sloped in places couldn’t resist the high velocity rounds from the Panther or Tiger tanks. Her most appealing feature was that they were easy and cheap to build, so there were a lot of them available both to US forces, the British Army, and other combatants of WWII via the lend/lease programme. The M4 progressed through subvariants as improvements were made with changes to the construction, armament, suspension and armour, which can be confusing to the uninitiated. By the time the M4A3 was in service the tank had matured, reverting to a welded hull and replacing the bulky radial engine with a V-8 lump manufactured by Ford. The main armament was upgraded to the more armour-focused M1 long barrelled high-velocity gun, which was more capable of penetrating the thicker armour of the later German tanks, especially if using the High-Velocity Armour Piercing (HVAP) round that could punch through almost 180mm of rolled-steel armour at 1km. Another change made with some of the M4s was the addition of wet ammo storage that reduced the risk of a tank “brewing up” when hit by enemy fire, a reputation that had resulted in the cruel nickname of "Tommy Cooker" by the Germans. The variants with this useful safety addition were suffixed with the letter W. In an effort to reduce losses in frontal assaults, the M4A3E2 variant was upgraded with an additional inch of cast frontal armour protecting the running-gear low down, and a thicker 4” upper glacis plate with an extra 1.5” welded to the sides, plus an over-thick mantlet with a 75mm gun (sometimes replaced with a 76mm) mounted on a vertical-sided cast turret. It gained the nickname “Jumbo”, probably because of the mantlet or its weight, which made it slower than a standard M4A3, but it remained popular with crews and generals alike for its ability to take punishment and remain operational. The Kit This is a revised tool from Meng adding a new sprue, hull and turret, and in their usual style it is a highly detailed kit. It arrives in a satin themed box with a painting of a distempered machine parked up near another Sherman in the background. Inside are twelve sprues in sand coloured styrene plus four larger parts off sprues, two clear sprues, a small box of springs, a coil of wire, a tiny bag of pre-cut track-pins, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a turned aluminium barrel, two trees of poly-caps and decal sheet, with the instruction booklet found at the bottom of the box, and a set of rubberband tracks. This is an exterior kit with only breech, periscopes and some hatch details included inside. There is a hint of a possible interior set in the future by the inclusion of a detailed firewall between the crew compartment and engine compartment, although at time of writing that’s still just speculation on my part. Construction begins the same way as the earlier boxing, with a few steps re-ordered for some reason. The suspension units and twin-wheel bogies are made up, which includes one of my favourite parts of the kit because of the springs – yes, I’m still impressed. To the top of the swing-arms you add these springs, which can be found inside a small box that also has some ration boxes printed on it, all safely cocooned in foam. They’re real springs too, made from spring steel and compressible just like the real Vertical Volute Suspension System (VVSS), so your Sherman will have working suspension as long as you obey the little “don’t glue” icons along the way. Each wheel is made up from a front part with moulded-in tyre and a rear part, which once added is trapped between the two axle-halves. A pair of wheels and their axles are inserted into the bottom of the suspension unit with the springs and their swing-arms inserted into the top section, which is closed up after adding the return roller then joined by a return skid that has some slide-moulded rivets moulded into it. You make three of these units up for each side and then set them aside while the hull is built up from main lower plus front drive housing and rear bulkhead, with final drive housings and poly-caps added to the sides at the front and idler mounts at the rear along with towing eyes. At the rear the radiator vents are stacked up into a matrix and held together with their end-caps before being fitted under the rear valance with the two curved exhaust pipes. The suspension units are all added on their mounts and the drive sprockets are pushed into the final drive housings, held in place by the aforementioned poly-caps, with more added to the idler wheels before they are fitted. The tracks are styrene, and made up from four parts per link, held together with short pre-cut lengths of nickel-plated wire that’s in a small bag in the box. A clear two-part jig is included that holds up to 10 links, and although you’re not advised on how to put them in the jig, I found that putting the track ends into their recesses first and then laying the pads between them was the easiest way. I also taped the jig closed before I tried adding the pins. The pins go straight through, and a dot of super glue (CA) into the ends helps to hold the pin in place, then I did the same on the other side. The result is an incredibly flexible set of tracks that will look great under a coat of paint. They take some time to clean up because of the part count, but it’s really worth the effort. Each link is four parts as mentioned, and there are 10 sprue gates per link in total. The pad links are easy to clean as they are flat, but the three on each horn have to be cleaned up carefully to preserve the detail. It’s still worth the effort though, and I can’t stop playing with the section I made up. There are 78 links per track run, and you are advised to make them up and fit them over the tracks, using the adjustment capability of the idler axle to get the correct tension, then glue little parts in place to wedge the tensioner in place. Those that are phobic of individual links will be pleased to find a set of flexible rubberband-style tracks in the box, although these aren’t documented in the instructions. Tensioning them in the same manner as the individual links will allow you to obtain a more accurate sag to them. The up-armoured upper hull is next, and begins with the drilling out of a few flashed-over holes depending on which decal option you have elected to portray. The main upper hull is fitted out with the additional armour panels to front and sides, which all have a crisp weld-line along the edges, then is prepped with hatch hinges, a movable bow machine gun, and engine deck comprising one main C-shaped part and a choice of two inserts depending on your decal choice. This is dropped onto the hull with the engine bay bulkhead supporting the centre section, then the front is detailed with lifting eyes, small fenders, hatches with detailed periscope. The rear cages are either made up from PE or plastic parts, so if the PE sounds daunting, rather than using the plastic parts, Meng have provided a multi-section jig that you can use to obtain the correct curve and shape, but it would be advisable to anneal them in a lighter flame for a few second first to soften them up. The remainder of the engine deck is made up from left and right pyramidal sections that drop into the space left on the deck with little grab-handles for mechanics to remove them for maintenance. At the rear the bulkhead is fitted out with two rows of three spare track links, rear lights with PE cages that are formed on the jig as already mentioned, barrel cleaning tools, pioneer tools, spare fuel cans and larger rear mudflaps. A rack is made and attached to the rear and is filled with additional fuel containers, probably to make up for the extra thirst of the engine that was coping with the weight of the additional armour. Along the edges of the tracks you have to apply (usually) winter-weather track grousers that give it extra traction in muddy conditions and to counter the extra weight, helping to decrease ground-pressure. There is one for each track link, and as they project further than the side skirts would, which weren’t fitted due to the side armour panels. The towing cable is also made up from the braided cable supplied with the length printed on the page, and two styrene eyes, one for each end. On the glacis plate a four-piece bow-wave board is attached between the fenders, with a large British-style ammo box resting on it for one option. Now for the turret, which begins with a pretty good rendition of the breech, with recoil mechanism, co-ax machine gun, breech guard and mounting gear attached to the back of the mantlet. A clear periscope is fitted to the roof, and the lower turret and turret ring are attached to the slab-sided top, along with pivot pins for the mantlet, which don’t need gluing. The blocky mantlet is fixed to the rear part, which has its lifting-eye “ears” removed from the top corners and moved to the sides using new parts, then being fitted to the pivoting part inside the turret. The commander’s cupola with clear vision blocks inserted from below, plus the gunner’s hatch with clam-shell doors are both made up with clear periscopes and inserted into the turret roof along with various lifting eyes, search lights, aerial bases (straight and tied back), vents and other detail parts. The turret’s casting texture is well depicted, and in addition Meng have supplied casting numbers in PE to apply to the turret depending on which decal option you have chosen. At the rear of the bustle, an M2 Anti-Aircraft .50cal with hollow muzzle is provided that can be pintle-mounted on the gunner’s hatch, or stowed across the back of the turret along with a spare barrel. The final task is to attach the barrel of the main gun, with the option of a longer, plastic barrel or a shorter turned aluminium one in the box, depending on which decal options you are making. The turret is then twisted into place on the hull, thereby completing the build. It doesn’t use a standard bayonet lug system, but has three sloped lugs that snap into place on the turret ring. How often you can remove and install it again without it fatiguing is a question I still can’t answer at this stage, so take care. Markings There are four decal options in the box, and all of them predictably are based on an olive green finish and they all have some camouflage added on top to give them some individuality, which should make for some fun-looking models. From the box you can build one of the following: 37th Tank Battalion 4th Armoured Division, US Army, Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne, Belgium, Dec 1944. 69th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Mar 1945. 2nd Squadron, 2nd African Hunter Regiment, 5th Armoured Division, Free France, Summer-Autumn 1944, France. 15th Tank Battalion, 6th Armoured Division, US Army, Germany, Spring 1945 (OSF Turret, 76mm gun). Decals are printed in China and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion I’m still impressed with the springs, but when you add in all the detail and the subtle casting/rolling texture to the exterior of the hull, the extra-armour, the PE light cages, the turned barrel and those funky tracks, it makes for an impressive package. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  19. British R-R Armoured Car 1914/1920 pattern (VS-010) 1:35 Meng Model via Creative Models Ltd. As a precursor to tanks, the Admiralty were casting around for armoured protection for vulnerable patrolling soldiers, although as tanks originated as “land ships”, perhaps this was an extension of their thinking. They took a small sample of unfinished Silver Ghost chassis and designed the superstructure to cover the engine and crew, adding a circular turret that held a machine gun and could rotate fully – an idea that predates the early tanks, which makes one wonder why these didn’t make an appearance sooner in British tanks. They were used briefly on the Western Front in the Middle East and after WWI ended, they were handed over to the other services and reinvigorated in 1920 to add an extra Lewis gun on the top of the turret to augment the Vickers .303 and a new Boyes anti-tank rifle to give them a fair chance if they encountered any enemy armour. Later on a cupola was added for the commander, and after the replacement of the ageing RR engine with a Fordson unit, it was renamed as the Fordson Armoured Car. Fewer than 100 vehicles were still in service early in WWII and they took part in some operations before being withdrawn in 1941 as they were hopelessly outdated by then. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Meng, and as a modeller with an interest in the old RR, I’m happy to put my old kit from another manufacturer to the back of the stash. It arrives in a smaller-than-normal both with satin finish and the usual high standard of artwork on the front, with four sprues in sand-coloured styrene plus body and turret shells in the same colour. Six black flexible tyres, four poly-caps on a tree, a small sprue of clear parts and a fair-sized fret of Photo-Etch (PE) parts made from thick brass that will be used to depict spokes if you’re modelling a decal option with wire wheels. The decal sheet is mostly roundels plus a few other stencils and unit markings, and the instructions with separate colour painting guide complete the package. Construction begins with a decision over which decal option you plan on building, as there are some differences between the equipment carried, so knowing where you’re going now will help prevent mistakes later. The chassis is first to be made, and a central sub-frame that depicts the underside of the engine onto which the outer rails are fixed, trapping the fuel tank and front brace between them, then joined by front axle, long exhaust with two mufflers and a flared tip, and three brackets each side on the chassis rails. The clutch is attached to the rear of the engine and that leads to the drive-shaft for the rear axles that is controlled by being slipped into holes in the ends of the rear inverted leaf-springs. That’s most of the Rolls-Royce chassis done, so attention moves to the superstructure, which is already well defined by the single hull part, which has the rear doors and the radiator front at the end of the long bonnet/hood. The floor of the body is joined with the chassis and hull, then a wooden palette is installed in the rear, then built-up with shallow sides and brackets for stowage boxes that are made up and glued in place during the construction. Further armour panels are arranged around the fuel tank for obvious reasons, and small stowage boxes are fitted in the outside corners. A different type of long stowage boxes are also provided with a simplified structure and no grab-handles. At the front, Starter-handle, armoured radiator panels, mudguards and lights with clear lenses are all fixed in place, and the running boards are made up with more storage and small barrel on the port side, plus unditching ramps on both sides. There are two styles of wheels supplied in the box, with the wire wheels being the most notable due to their clever PE spokes that are joined together at the rim and spaced out in the centre with a poly-cap hidden in the middle to achieve the correct dish to the spokes. Each sub-assembly is then sandwiched between two styrene half-tyres at the front and for the spare, but with two rim parts keeping the rear wheel spokes in place within a single outer tyre (again, styrene), using two on each side to give it the weight bearing capability. The more modern flexible tyres are used in conjunction with stamped rims that slip inside them and have the poly-caps held inside the bearing by a small cap. Because of the wider tyres used, there are only four wheels on the ground with just a brake drum differentiating the rears from the front. The road wheels slide onto the axles while the spare fits onto a depression in the port side that mates with the T-shaped hanger. The shallow turret is where the rest of the differences arise, and it begins with the base and the C-shaped turret side that is completed by adding the front with the aperture for the Vickers MG, clipping into a simple mount and gluing into the ring. For the early machines the roof and hatch finish it off, but for the modernised vehicle, a different front section is used with an additional aperture for the Boyes anti-tank rifle carried in decal option C. The rifle is a single well-detailed part that slides into place and is boxed in by a small cheek piece. The top Lewis gun is attached to a two-part mount, which rotates on a three-piece ring that is assembled so that it can traverse by leaving the centre part unglued. A “dinner-plate” magazine fits on top of the gun, and a small mantlet slips over the Vickers gun in the turret. The turret attaches to the hull by the usual bayonet mechanism, which completes the model. Markings There are four markings options on the decal sheet, split between 1914 and 1920 pattern vehicles with a nice variation in schemes that include two monotone vehicles and two with different types of camouflage. From the box you can build one of the following: Pattern 1914, Western Front, WWI, 1916 Pattern 1914, WWI Patern 1920, RAF Egypt, 1942 Pattern 1920, RAF Decals are printed in China and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin satin carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion Lovely! I’d have liked a full engine, but in fairness how many people would have posed those cowlings open? Not many I suspect. Excellent detail, good wide spread of decal options, and Meng quality throughout. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  20. Dinner on the Front (35325) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Soldiers need to eat. It’s an immutable fact, and during an advance such as those pioneered in Blitzkrieg, they need to have their feeding facilities either with them or close at hand behind the lines. During the advance into Germany by Soviet Russia toward the end of WWII, the space between battles were filled with soldiers either sleeping or eating. We’ll ignore the other stuff they may have gotten up to for decency’s sake. This new set from MiniArt depicts one such incident that could have taken place within a building or shack, where the squad takes the time to rest and enjoy a meal together before their next task. Arriving in a figure-sized shrink-wrapped top-opening box, the set includes some elements that you may have seen before, plus a set of five figures to use with these parts. There are eleven sprues in the box, one in white and the rest in grey, plus a small Photo-Etch (PE) fret of brass that supplies parts for the Samovar, handles for the pots and a few pieces of cutlery. Build up is simple as you’d expect and careful painting will be key to adding realism to the ingredients for this snapshot of life in WWII Soviet military. The scene is exactly as you see it on the box art. Five men, three sitting with food or drink, while one tends the fire, and a Commissar or Officer in a greatcoat stands and eats from a billy-can with a spoon. The soldiers all have typical leather boots and quilted uniforms, and that Soviet staple the Ushanka ear-flap hat in fur to keep their heads warm. Also included in the set is a table, pots, crockery and cutlery to fill it, a Samovar self-heating urn and a barrel-shaped wood-burning stove (how fashionable!) with large chimney. Four chairs complete the scene, but there are other Easter eggs hidden away on the sprues such as a makeshift stick rotisserie using a pair of y-shaped sticks and cross-brace, lots of odd-looking helmets, tools and sundry items from the typical soldier’s inventory, which includes plenty of rifles, PPSh machine guns, grenades and pistols. My example had a few parts rattling round inside the heat-sealed bag, but it also had a missing torso, which is a shame but won’t affect my review other than to say that this is a first for me with MiniArt, and advise you to always check your new acquisitions for possible missing parts. As always with MiniArt, the sculpting, figure breakdown and naturalistic poses is excellent, with detail incorporated everywhere and seams placed at convenient locations to minimise clean-up time. There is a page of the instructions devoted to the making and painting of the soldiers, and at the bottom of that is a list of accessories with names and painting suggestions laid out for you to copy. In addition, on the rear page of the instructions above a copy of the salient parts of the box art, you will find a selection of four posters printed for you to add to the walls of whatever dwelling you intend to place the set within. The paints called out during the build are referred to by a table on the back page that converts them to Vallejo, Mr.Color, Lifecolor, Tamiya, AK, Mission Models, Hataka, AMMO and plain English, which is always helpful. Floor not included Conclusion As is pretty standard from MiniArt, this is a great set with details that add realism everywhere you look. Good news if your Soviet soldiers are getting hungry. Highly recommended Review sample courtesy of
  21. Street Fruit Shop (35612) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Lots of street traders appear round the world, and as is the case with all good car chases from the 70s, a lot of them sell fruit. This set from MiniArt depicts exactly that. It’s a fruit shop based on a couple of palettes, an angled stand on which various fruit boxes are set, an umbrella to keep the sun off, and a two-bay cooler branded with the promise of Mojitos stored inside. That should please Sam Axe at least. The set arrives in a figure-sized top-opening box shrink-wrapped for freshness, and inside are fifteen sprues in grey styrene of various sizes that are best characterised as smallish. In addition is a clear sprue, a small decal sheet and an instruction booklet with some printed boxes and the canopy for the umbrella printed on the back page in full colour. Construction begins with the cooler, which is made up from individual panels with a small divider that hides the compressor in the bottom of the machine, plus the two sliding lids that are the source of arguments between siblings when one wants something from the other door and traps the other’s hand in the sliding lid. One of the two decals supplied can be applied to the front for a bit of light relief once you have painted it appliance white (probably?). The angled fruit stand is next with a framework under the slatted top, and the two palettes are each made up of top and bottom halves, with a clever technique used to apply the three underside parts as one by using linking sprues that are removed after the glue has set. The umbrella frame is begun with a pole to which six fine arms are added at angles to match the canopy colour changes, which is the last part joined. The printing is only on one side, so if you want to go for extra realism, you may consider spraying some paint lightly on the white side of the canopy before you glue it to the frame. Just like the real thing the umbrella drops into a two-part base to finish it off and hold it down. There is also a solitary PVC garden chair on its own sprue that is awesome to behold. Just like the real thing, and if they had moulded it in white or green, it wouldn’t even have needed painting. You don’t even have to remove most of the seams, as these things are pumped out of similar moulds to those making our model parts with very little finishing done to make them smooth and stylish. Now for the fun part. Beside the umbrella canopy are a number of boxes of various types and brands, with instructions printed nearby describing how to make them up once you have cut them from the paper. These where the six small sprues full of plastic fruit come in, with oranges, pears, kiwi and those fruit with the red jelly-like seeds inside, the name of which escapes me right now. There are also boxes for bananas, which are all moulded in little hand-like bunches of three or four to arrange as you see fit. Finally, there are water melons in whole or halves as well as honeydew melons similarly displayed. You will have to paint these little marvels appropriately for the ultimate effect, but the moulding is excellent, as is the wooden texture on the various wooden parts. If you want another coloured umbrella, just use the original as a template and make your own for a bit more variation from the set. Conclusion Dioramas live or die by their realistic background artefacts, or clutter. This is an excellent way to populate the streets of many warmer climate or Middle Eastern street scenes with your vehicles or troops trundling through. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  22. Modern Oil Drums 200L (35615) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd We’ve been addicted to fossil fuels since coal was first burned, sparking (Sorry for the pun) the industrial revolution, and now oil and fuel in the 20th and 21st centuries. Drums are an easy way to store and transport relatively small quantities without spilling them, and they certainly beat a wicker basket any day of the week! Arriving in a shrink-wrapped figure-sized box, the set includes eighteen sprues in grey styrene of two sizes, plus a small decal sheet, and instructions with painting guide on the back of the box. There are only two different sprues included, but you get multiples that allow you to build up 12 barrels and 6 manual hand-pumps if you feel the urge to use them. There are two types of barrels with different types of ribbing, one having many ribs the other having only a few. The bottoms of the barrels are mostly reused lids from different sets that have their raised writing flipped to the inside, with two styles of tops with filler caps at the edge. The hand pumps have a long dipping stick, a handle to crank, and an applicator that will need you to supply some hose or substitute to complete. Markings The back of the box gives you brief instructions for construction and suggests paint schemes and decal locations for your delight. The decal sheet is by DecoGraph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion A whole barrel of fun for your vehicle or diorama base! I’m sorry to reuse that one again. They’re detailed, with decals to pretty them up, and a decent quantity that could last you a few models. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  23. T-55 Czechoslovak Production (37074) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd. The T-54's gestation and transformation into the T-55 was long-winded and complicated by constant changes to an as yet unsatisfactory performing vehicle, and began at early as the end of WWII. Production of the T-54-1 was halted due to production and quality issues, and recommenced as the re-designed T-54-2, with the turret design changed to closer resemble the eventual domed shape of the T-55. The -2 didn't last all that long before the -3 replaced it, and the requirement for survival of tactical nuclear blasts led to the eventual introduction of the similar looking, but significantly different T-55 that we know so well. As the heavy tank fell out of favour, the T-55 became part of the burgeoning Main Battle Tank movement, with thousands of them being produced over the years in various guises. In the early 60s the T-55A was developed, providing more adequate NBC protection that required a lengthening of the hull and coincidentally added anti-spall protection for the crew. It also sounded the death-knell of the bow-mounted machine gun, which was removed to improve ammo storage, and hasn't been seen on MBTs for decades now. The Czechs built their own versions of the T-54 and T-55, with quite an export market developing due to their being of better build quality than the Russian built alternative. Of the many sub variants produced by the then Czechslovakia, many were exported to Soviet Bloc aligned purchasers. The Kit Part of the ever-expanding range of early Cold War armour from MiniArt, who seem to be kitting every conceivable variant from the earliest T-54 to the later T-55, which will hopefully include some of the more unusual marks as well. The initial toolings were all brand new, and were designed in a modular format to ease the way toward new variants, which makes for a high sprue count. Some of the kits have been released in augmented Interior Kit boxings, with all the extra details to open up your model as much as you please. The kit arrives in their current orange themed box, with a painting of the tank in question on the front. Lifting the lid gives the feeling of how much is inside, as it is packed full and I'm dreading putting it all back in. There are 73 sprues in mid grey styrene, many of them quite small, and some of the larger ones linked together in pairs, two clear sprues, a sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet, and the instruction booklet. Detail is everywhere, and is crisp, with judicious use of slide-moulding to improve details further, and make hollows where needed. The inclusion of PE helps further, allowing parts to be given a more scale-effect. Construction begins with the lower hull, which has cut-outs for the suspension mounts, hatches and access panels, all of which are supplied as separate parts. The suspension is torsion-link, so the bars are inserted with the axles at their ends, or shorter stubby versions if you want to freeze the suspension in the level position. The hull insides are separate and are well detailed parts, which are added to the lower along with engine bay firewall and rear bulkhead. Externally, the T-55 could be fitted with a mine-roller, and although one isn't included with this boxing, the fitments and bracketry is included for the upper and lower glacis alongside the standard light clusters, lifting hooks and pioneer tools. With the glacis and the turret ring "bat wings" added to the hull sides, the upper hull is assembled from the top with turret ring aperture, a multi-part engine deck with individual slats added before installation, and some PE mesh panels added later with optional raised covers supplied as additional parts. The main lights have clear lenses, and fit inside a multi-part cage to protect them from damage, which will take some care to glue together neatly. The fenders have additional fuel tankage fitted with hosing between them, and lots of PE fixtures, handles and such, with even more PE bracing inside the sprung mudguard parts, tools, toolboxes and the exhaust on the port side. The kit includes plastic towing eyes, but you are going to have to provide your own cables as none are include in the kit, but given the sheer volume of parts it's excusable. At the rear an unditching log is lashed to the bulkhead with PE straps, and the extra fuel drums so often seen are also lashed to curved brackets that overhang the rear of the hull. Between them the deep wading funnel is attached by a couple of pins to the bottom of the brackets, and it has its own group of PE brackets for the bracing wires that are seen when it is in use. the wheels are handled next, with five pairs per side with separate hubs, plus the idler wheel at the front, and drive sprocket at the rear. Tracks are left until a little later and are of the individual link type, requiring 90 links per side, each of which have four sprue gates, but no ejection pin or sink marks to worry about. What is there however is stunning detail, which includes the casting numbers inlaid into the hollows of each track link, and close-fitting lugs that should make the building an easier task. The turret itself is a busy assembly, having the basics of the breech mechanism and coax machine gun made up and mated with the lower turret on two mounts at the front. The upper turret has some holes drilled out from inside and is attached to the lower, after which the two-part turret roof is fitted with hatches, vents and vision blocks. Externally the grab rails, forward mounted searchlight, commander's cupola and a choice of cast mantlet or moulded blast-bag over the mantlet are added, and the single piece barrel with hollow muzzle slips through the centre and keys into the breech. The blast-bag is finished off around the edges with PE strips, and a large folded tarp is attached to the back of the turret by more PE straps near the included stowage boxes. An armature links the gun barrel and the searchlight together so they move in unison, and an ancillary searchlight is fitted to the commander's cupola, with a choice of the driver's poor weather hood built up in either the collapsed or deployed format, with the former stowed on the turret bustle, while the latter fits over the open driver's hatch. The 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine gun is the last assembly, and is made up along with its mount, ammo box with a short length of shells leading into the breech, which is fitted into the mount in front of the loader’s hatch. The turret is dropped into the hull and your choice of location made for the driver’s poor weather hood made earlier. Markings There are six decal options, and plenty of colour (and operator) variation, which is nice to see. From the box you can build one of the following: Czechoslovak People’s Army, 70s A Lebanese Army unit during Nahr El Bared battle in May 2007 Armed Forces of the Republic of Chad Second civil war in Chad. Presumably 2009 Tank division of the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya, Presumably Om El Khanfousa, Sept 2001 Armoured forces of the National Transitional Council of Libya. Assault on the city of Sirte, Libya, beginning of Oct 2011 Armoured unit of the Syrian Arab Army, Syria, presumably 2013-2014 The decals are printed by DecoGraph on bright blue paper, and have good register, sharpness and colour density, with a closely cropped thin, matt carrier film. Conclusion These are amongst the most comprehensive kits I have seen in a long while, with even the tiniest details catered for, down to the tiny nuts holding the snorkel to the rear of the tank. It is a fabulous kit and will keep you modelling for hours and hours. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  24. Focke-Wulf Triebflügel with Boading Ladder (40005) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Toward the end of WWII the Nazis were desperately casting around for wunderwaffe, or Wonder Weapons that would turn the ever-increasing tide against their attempt to take over Europe and probably the world. This resulted in some possibly more left-field designs being considered, when under normal circumstances they would more likely have been dismissed out of hand. One such project that has since gained traction in the minds of the Luft'46 community and beyond is the concept of the Triebflügel from Focke-Wulf, which was little more than a rocket-shaped body with a rotating set of arms with ramjet engines at their tips providing the motive power. This arrangement was to enable it to take off vertically, which was of greater interest as the front lines got closer and air bases became bombed-out rubble, as was the use of the simple ramjet that was propelled up to speed by single-use rockets, all of which used little in the way of strategic materials or complex technology. It went nowhere in terms of production of course, and had some critical issues that would have needed to be addressed if it had gone further, such as the counter-rotation required to offset the torque of the motors was supposed to be supplied by the cruciform tail pressing against the air, it would have to land vertically with the pilot facing forward and the rear view obscured by the still rotating aerofoils and engines to name but two. As usual with WWII German designs, they would have wanted to make it a jack of all trades, so a Nachtjäger variant was bound to have happened if it had gone into production. Post war the Convair Pogo was to attempt a broadly similar flight profile with similar issues raising their heads and helping ensure its eventual demise. If you've been following the Marvel Avengers film franchise (MCU), you'll have seen Red Skull absconding in a very Triebflügel-esque aircraft at one point, which although undoubtedly CGI could actually be attempted now with our computers and other technologies. We just need to find someone with too much money and who is just daft enough now… The Kit Until fairly recently there hasn't been a modern injection moulded kit in larger scales, and now we have two in different scales, and in 1:35 we now have three! This new boxing includes a boarding ladder and a few fun what-if style decal options, including one that has some red roundels with a funny-looking tentacled skull in the centre. Hail Hydra anyone? The kit arrives in a shrink-wrapped standard sized top opening box and inside are eighteen sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) in a small card envelope, a good sized decal sheet and the instruction booklet with a colour cover that includes all the painting and decaling profiles on three of the four sides. I have one of the smaller models as well as the MiniArt Nachtjäger kit (reviewed here and interceptor reviewed here), and this is a simple update to the Interceptor with new parts added to include the boarding ladder and platform. Detail is excellent, with lots of rivets and panel lines visible on the exterior, a nicely appointed cockpit and the cannon armament included in bays either side of the cockpit. There is also extra detail in the wingtip motors and the landing gear is substantial, partially from the increase in size, but also because of the design of the main leg. Construction is almost identical to the Interceptor boxing and begins with the cockpit with a floor part forming the basis and having rudder pedals, control column and bulkhead added, then the seat, pilot armour and a full set of PE seatbelts. The side consoles are attached to the upper section of the cockpit that is added from above and also forms part of the gun bays. To the consoles are added a number of PE levers to busy the area up, after which the instrument panel is fitted across them with decals provided for the instrument dials. The larger cannons are built up from a good number of parts and will look good if you pose them open, and benefit from hollow muzzles thanks to some sliding moulds. The smaller cannons are added after their bays are boxed in, again raising the level of the cockpit walls, which you'll need to take into account when you're painting things. These weapons are slightly less detailed and don't have hollow barrels, so break out the pin-vice when you're ready. The cockpit can then be surrounded by the nose, which is in two halves and has a short tubular section that helps support the spinning wing section. A rear deck is dropped in behind the pilot's station and the nose cone is added to the front, with careful alignment key to obtain the best join. The gun bay doors can be left off to display them or put in place for a streamlined look, in which case you don't need to install the cannons as nose weight isn't an issue. If you're closing up the lower bays, there is an additional barrel stub that fits to the back of its door to simulate the cannon being present. The canopy is a three-part unit with fixed windscreen and rear plus opening central section that hinges sideways if you're going to open it. There is an additional dome-shaped part included in the kit that makes one wonder if there will be a night fighter version with a radar operator's blister in the aft section? The wings spin perpendicular to the direction of flight on a short section of the fuselage, which is built up with three sockets for the wings on a toroidal base, over which the rest of that section is installed and left to one side until later when the assemblies are brought together. The simple ramjet engines are built up on a pair of stator vanes and have multiple fuel injectors moulded into their rear with a rounded cap in the centre. These are installed inside the cowlings that are moulded into each wing half so it would be wise to paint this and the interior of the engine pods a suitably sooty colour before you join each wing. There are three and all are identical. The final main assembly is the aft of the aircraft, and the four retractable castor wheels are first to be built. Each single-part wheel sits in a single piece yoke, which in turn slides inside a two-part aerodynamic fairing. One half of this is moulded to a strut, which slides into the trough within the fins in one of two places to depict the wheels retracted or deployed. If showing them retracted you ignore the wheel and yoke and install the clamshell doors, turning the assembly into a teardrop shape, but if using the wheels, you glue the fairings folded back exposing the wheel. The main wheel is in two halves, as is the yoke, and should be capable of taking the weight of the model when finished unless you intend to load it up with motors or other silliness (go on, you know someone will!). The aft fuselage parts are brought together with two of the castor assemblies trapped between the moulded-in fins, and the other two trapped within the separate fins that fit perpendicular to the seamline. The main wheel then slides into its bay if you are going wheels down and has the clamshell doors fitted open, or you use just the doors for an in-flight pose. It's good to see that some detail has been moulded into the interior of the doors, as they are quite visible on a landed display. The three sections are brought together at the end by placing the wing-bearing part onto the upstand on the aft fuselage then adding the nose, with its upstand sliding inside the lower one. This traps the rotating portion in place, and hopefully allows the aforementioned rotation to continue after the glue has dried. All that remains is to plug the three wings into their sockets, add the PE D/F loop and the aerial on the spine, and build up the ladder. The ladder is made up of three support frames that are made from four parts each plus a length of ladder, with a platform on top that has tread-plate engraved and a four bar safety rail that allows the pilot and support staff to get him in and out of the airframe without too much risk of death. At the bottom are four castor wheels with Y-shaped yoke, and a separate brake pedal to lock the wheels in place. Markings There are six decal options provided on the sheet, and they vary from each other and from previous releases quite substantially with some plausible and just plain silly options given for your delight. Antarctic bases and Hydra being the most notable. From the box you can build one of the following: 101/1 Szazad “Puma”, Hungary, 1946 Squadron Air Defence, Refineries in Ploesti, Romania, 1946 Air Defence Division of the German Army Corps. “Afrika”, Central Africa, 1946 Air Defence Battery, Antarctic Expedition “Clausewitz”, Antarctica, 1946 1st Licensed Triebflügel of the Japanese Air Force, 244th Sentai, Pacific, 1946 Unit “Hydra”, 40th Decals are printed by DecoGraph and have good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. The instrument decals have just the dials to place within the painted panel, outlined on the sheet for your ease, and there are split Swastikas there if you want to use them and your locality doesn't have laws about such things. Conclusion This is a really nice rendition of this weird aircraft design with some interesting decal options and a reasonable method for entry and exit. We already have winners in the Interceptor and Nachtjager with this one joining the team. The additional clear blister hints at more versions to come, which will be fun. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
  25. Soviet Railway Wagon "Teplushka" (35300) 1:35 MiniArt via Creative Models Ltd Railway trucks/wagons have been a major way of getting goods, livestock and even people around the countryside, and as the Soviet Union was geographically huge the railway was a primary mode of transport for goods and materiel come wartime. During Operation Citadel and the Soviet push back, many battles over stations and marshalling yards took place, and such wagons (Teplushka means boxcar) were often part of the backdrop. This four-wheeled unit was capable of carrying 8 tonnes and had a sliding door on both sides, with a small stove against the back wall for when live cargo was carried. The Kit Arriving in a standard-sized shrink-wrapped MiniArt box, the first thing that strikes you is how heavy it is. There are 37 sprues of grey styrene inside which accounts for most of the weight, a card envelope with two sheets of Photo-Etch (PE) parts inside, a decal sheet and the instruction booklet with a glossy cover and first page carrying the painting guide and some interesting posters and placards to put on your model. Construction begins with the underpinnings, starting with the central brake assembly in an H-frame which later forms the middle cross-rails of the chassis. The two axles are next with their wheels each end and leaf-spring suspension prepped for when the chassis is ready for them. The H-frame is joined with four more cross-rails to the main chassis rails, then stiffened by four diagonal cross-braces and a pair of end beams that accept the buffers and shackles later on. Firstly, the sides of the body are widened with a row of stand-off brackets on each side with a finishing rail and doorstep added to the sides after those are set up. Now you can put the suspension assemblies on the chassis-rails and push them slightly apart to accept the axles, which spin freely in depressions within the suspension assembly on their conical ends. The flat bed is fitted next in two sections, while the side and end panels are stiffened up with bracing and windows that can be posed open or closed, leaving the doors in the centre of each side open at this time. Before the roof it made up, the inside is decorated with three simple wooden platforms at each end, the top one of which is half depth and tilted upwards, possibly for luggage. The stove is also made up from a single body part and additional doors, grilles, top and smoke stack, then it is put to one side while the rest of the wagon is built up. More stiffening braces are added to the top of the side panels and the outer corners, plus a rail for the doors to slide on later. The roof is a long assembly made up from two sections that have wooden planking moulded on the inside, and a panelled roof with raised edges externally, braced from the inside by seven curved cross-rails. There's a small pre-engraved circular cut-out in each panel but you only need to cut one out to accommodate the smoke stack, with the stove sitting on a PE plate with a small scoop to top it up with fuel. That and the roof go on together, as the position of the stove is determined by the roof panel. It's up to you whether you decide to fill the other engraved hole, as it's unlikely to be seen unless you have eyes on stalks. The doors on each side have two layers, the inner side having a planked lower section and a diagonal bracing across the top. The pulley-like wheels are fitted onto the door frame while it is being laminated, and PE furniture and styrene handles are made up to complete them. A PE drip-rail is also attached over the door and its slide rail after it has been folded to an L-profile, then the doors are popped into place top first with the bottom edge dropped into the lower guides. Then it's just a matter of making up four three-part buffers, the brake rods with hooks on the ends, and the couplings that attach to them. That's the truck done, but now you need something to sit it on. There are four sprues filled with rail parts including 20 track-ties/sleepers, four sections of rail, linking parts and number of track spikes. The spikes on the inner edges of the rails are moulded-in, so the inner flange on the rails are inserted there first and secured by the separate pin on the outer edge. Do this 40 times (2 per sleeper) and you have a decent length or rail to put your truck on, and the beginnings of a diorama or vignette. Finally, you need to acquire a short length of chain to attach the last two hooks to the ends of the boxcar. There are also a pair of triangular mounts in the box that act as braces for the patriotic posters if you are using them. Markings There are seven sets of markings on the decal sheet with green and shades of brown the background colour onto which you apply the decals and some of the 28 posters and patriotic slogans that are included in the colour pages of the instructions. South-Western Railway. The train car with demobilised soldiers of the Red Army, 1945 Kuibyshev Railroad. Railway carriage as part of a military train 1942 Orenburg Railroad. Railway carriage as part of a military train 1943 Sanitary railway carriage of unknown military train, 1943-44 Deutsche Reichsbahn (imperial Railway Administration) occupied territory of the Soviet Union, 1942-44 South Ural Railway. The train car with demobilised soldiers of the Red Army, 1945 Railway carriage of unknown military train, 1942-45 The decals are printed by DecoGraph and they are all either red or white with no registration to worry about, but good sharpness and colour density. You can also decorate your carriages with some of the posters by cutting them out and pasting them to the sides either as indicated on the examples, or by making up your own arrangement. Conclusion This detailed kit is perfect for either adding to a train/loco, or as a participant in a diorama using the included rails. The painted example from MiniArt's website above shows the truck with a bunch of demobilised soldiers aboard, as per one of the markings options, although you'd have to source those yourself. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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