I mean, c’mon. It is really difficult to resist this kit, right? Just look at the photos on MiniArt’s page… So I started it. Sue me.
Anyhow, first impressions…
Well, I have heard of the “MiniArt brittle plastic” and I think now I found it. The plastic is not very good; the extremely thin parts snap like nobody’s business. (While building the streering mechanism I had to swap a part to an evergreen rod; and sometimes I feel it is easier to fashion a replacement part than trying to shave off the remaining sprue gates from the parts.) There is also quite a lot of flash on the delicate little pieces, which is kind of a throw-back to the older MiniArt kits. Quite a big change from the state-of-the-art models I build lately from them. Add to this the tendency of MiniArt to solve every issue with hair-thin and microscopic parts, and you definitely do not have a perfectly smooth ride. The lower chassis is full of delicate, tiny, thin parts which will not be visible anyhow. (It is tempting to leave them out…) In fact sometimes facing the 1-2mm parts that could have been just molded onto the surface I felt the company was just trying to troll the builder.
The other big issue is, well, the design of the truck itself. Normally you would expect a high degree of precision and some help from the designers to make it as easy as possible to align everything perfectly.
Well, no. First of all, the wheels only attach through a 1 mm thick stub to the wheel hubs. OK, that is not a big issue per se, although it is definitely not a robust way to do things. The main issue is, however, aligning the different parts of the running gear: the axles, the bumper, making sure the actual wheels are paralell and do not tilt… it is just flimsy. You have to work very carefully not to have gross misalignments, and it is really hard to judge how everything will align while you build (see below).
The front wheel attachment points are especially bad: you do not even have a stub to attach anything to the axles. The wheel hub attaches using the mentioned square little pegs to the wheels themselves (you can see it on part A23 below), but the whole setup has hardly any attachment points to the front axle. First, while building the axle you literally have to position the whole steering mechanism in the air when you assemble the axle -the orientation of the parts is only guestimated. After that is finished these tiny, fiddly parts should hold the front wheels. A nice, solid piece of rod going through the wheel assembly would be a bit more reassuring when it comes to robustness and alignment. (See step 14 in the instructions you can download from MiniArt’s page.)
I mean, seriously, MiniArt?
Those curved, horn-like things on the front are going to hold the bumper (which in itself is too thin and delicate, so snaps like a charm when trying to remove it from the sprue), which is fine. However, as I said, orienting these parts is difficult, as there are only shallow indentations where they should be going (just as with everything else), so I ended up with a bit of a misalignement when I finally attached everything. One of the front wheels almost touches the bumper, not to mention only three wheels touched the ground… So I had to take it apart and re-gluing, re-orienting everything, because I did not want to make a lowrider.
Same issue with the engine: the cooling fan, for example, just hangs in the air attached to the engine block through a pipe. Where exactly it should be only becomes clear when the whole thing is installed -not to mention the pipe leading to the radiator does not reach it… These parts should be installed AFTER the bigger subassemblies are in place, so you can actually put them in place in situ, instead of worrying if they fit until you try several steps later.
My advice is to first glue the subassemblies together (front axle with wheels, bumper with holder, etc.), and once they are finished, THEN glue them to the chassis- this way you can do the alignment by eye easily while the glue is setting.
Ideally the model should be designed so that such visual alignment is not necessary (Takom’s Panther comes to mind, or even MiniArt’s T-54/55 series), but this model apparently was not designed with this in mind. It feels like they bit a bit more than they could chew, honestly. I do understand that the designers have to balance detail and buildability, but in this case I feel the balance is a bit off. It is not a deal-breaker, but it is certainly not a pleasant challenge like their D7 dozer was.
One great thing is that the wheels are not given with rubber tires… they are assembled instead from thin disks, resulting in a pretty good representation of the real thing.
The model is quite a smart mix-and-match of MiniArt’s smaller kits: a Russian bus plus a ton of accessory sets make up for a tiny little workshop teeming with detail…
…Which has to be assembled and painted. Individually. Every single little wrench, bag of potato and all.
This will be tedious and time consuming. The results will be worth it for sure, but the work itself… well, I guess I signed up for it.