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T-55A MOD 1981 Soviet Medium Tank MiniArt 1:35 Having reviewed the massed ranks of MiniArt’s T-54, we are now still in the T-55 zone. As with the other T-55’s there are many similarities and the MOD1981 adding to the more aggressive look that . As with MiniArt kits with interiors there are a lot of sprues, If counted individually, there are one hundred and thirty two, of grey styrene, plus one of clear, three sheets of etched brass and a smallish decal sheet. The very colourful box, quite a bit deeper than a standard tank kit box, has a nice painting of the tank on the front. On opening you are greeted by the mass of sprues, many of them quite small because of the tooling's modular nature, with quite a few parts going unused for this boxing. The sprues fill up just about all the space in the box, leaving only room for air between the sprues, anyone familiar with the old Krypton Factor will realise getting all this back in the box is one of life’s little challenges! I failed when I had completed taking the photos. Construction is almost identical to the earlier releases, complete with the full engine, which is a lovely model in its own right, and consisting of forty two parts if you include the engine mounting cradle. The lower hull is then fitted out with a multitude of parts that include the torsion beam suspension, multi part axles, gearbox covers, and interior escape hatch plus PE beam covers. The interior is then built up from the fighting compartment floor and includes all the pipe work, seats fire bottles, steering mechanism and internal bulkheads. The interior and exterior of the sidewalls are also covered with detail, including the large racks of shells for the main gun, with additional shells stored around the fighting compartment. The detailed sidewalls are then glued into place, as is the engine assembly, engine compartment firewall and other ancillary equipment. The upper glacis plate is then fitted as are the three piece road wheels, drive sprocket and idlers. The turret ring assembly is the attached, followed by the rear bulkhead, each fitted with more detail parts. The engine deck is then built up and the separate hatches are able to be posed open or closed as per the modellers’ wishes. The deck is topped off with PE grilles in their frames and the large hinge for the main hatch. There are sixteen lengths of track links tracks are of the new individual link type, with the separate pins. Now while this step is ratehr fiddly, the tracks do really work and go together without too much fuss. The fenders are fitted with stowage boxes, fuel tanks and spare track links plus front and rear mudguards before being glued into position. The two fuel drums mounted to the rear of the tank are assembled and glued into their mounting frames, as is the unditching beam and the pipework for the fender fuel tanks. The turret is another new moulding, which has even more equipment in it than the earlier versions, due to the improved technology. New parts in this kit include the extra armour fitted to the interior of the turret and turret roof. The rest of the turret interior includes the full main gun breech, radios, training motors, seats, hand cranks, and other equipment, but with additional sighting equipment for the main gun, and more spare ammunition boxes for the co-axial machine gun, which is just as detailed as before, consisting of sixteen parts, plus another eight for the new sighting system. Ready use shells are added to the inside of the upper turret along with a multitude of brackets and clamps. The turret roof comes complete with all the periscopes and hatch details for the commander and gunner positions, a highly detailed KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun, consisting of twenty nine parts, and the rolled up tarpaulin. The single piece main barrel is glued into the breech, and fitted with a choice of two mantlet covers. There are many more grab handles fitted to the outside of the turret on this version, not to mention brackets and clamps. Finally the driver's wet weather cover, that fits over his hatch can be posed stowed or in place. If you are stowing it, there are some PE straps to tie things down on the bustle. The turret assembly is then fitted to the hull, completing the build. Decals The decal sheet gives the modeller five options, showing the decline in usage of this vehicle in the 1980’s. The decals are beautifully printed, are clear and in good register with a slightly matt finish. The options are:- T-55A – Of a limited contingent of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan (OKSVA), the 40trh Army of the Turkestan Military District, during the 1980’s. T-55A – Unidentified Marine Corps Unit of the USSR during the 1980’s. T-55A – Recommended colouring of armoured vehicles for desert backgrounds, as published by the Ministry of Defence of the USSR 1977 T-55A – Recommended colouring of armoured vehicles for plant backgrounds, as published by the Ministry of Defence of the USSR 1977 T-55A – Recommended colouring of armoured vehicles for snowy backgrounds, as published by the Ministry of Defence of the USSR 1977 Conclusion These beasts of tanks, and models are really coming thick and fast from the moulding machines of MiniArt and you really just can’t fault them. There is so much detail that it could overwhelm a modeller unless their mojo was really cranked up. But if you break the build into bite sized pieces as sub-assemblies, painting as you go, there shouldn’t be a problem. Not one for beginners or maybe even intermediate modellers, but there are versions being released, without interior, that would perhaps be more suited to their level to gain experience before tackling a full interior build. As bang for your buck goes, these have to be some of the best value kits around these days. Review sample courtesy of Miniart - Distibuted in the UK By Creative Models