Category Archives: miniart

MINIART WERKSTATT KRAFTWAGEN TYP-03-30 Build Review Part 1

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.

interiors everywhere…

I would never have guessed five years ago that my main complaint would be that there are too many kits coming out with interiors I cannot keep up. Now a 1/48 Panther is being issued with full interior, of course. MiniArt picked up the pace with their T-34 and T-60 series, they have a PnzIV coming out, which looks amazing, and RFM has its Panzer III…

Regardless, here are some of the stash with interior (some are in the attic as I have not been able to work on them since I came back from the US… ten years ago).

The size of the boxes are not always indicative of the number of parts; they, however, are in case of the RFM and Takom kits. I was relieved to see that RFM did not repeat the insanity of the Panther kit, and took it a bit easier with their Sherman. The Takom Jadgpanther is also a bit smaller with regards to the part number, as it lacks turret. (Thank god for small mercies.)

The Ferdinand kit, although it is far the largest when it comes to box size, does not have an extreme part number as the size would suggest (the RFM Panther still takes first place for that), and it also has a crane packed with the tank.

The MiniArt boxes are packed full – they easily beat any model in complexity bar the RFM Panther.

Now I finished both Panthers, and finishing up Tiger Model’s AML-90; the question is what to build next? (Probably the Ferdinand.)

Upcoming models…

This blog is not in the news business, but three upcoming models really caught my eyes…

 

It seems like MiniArt widens its interior kit series to the German tanks as well- the Panzer IV ausf J, more specifically. (There is an upcoming T-34/85, and, of course, there are the Grant and Lee tanks, which I still need to get.) And this when I was just about to finish my own with resin interior. (One thing I can say even without seeing the MiniArt kit: it is going to be better than the one I am doing right now -although I have not touched the poor model since I moved from the UK… I will need to finish it soon.)

 

Just when I thought I had enough of T-54/55s with interior, here comes this thing. I do not know what it is, but it looks great. And I still have their T-55 mod 1981 waiting to be built…

 

And finally this, for Takom. I am intruiged by the Cold War British armor (do not know much about it, but learning), and having readily available 1/72 kits is a great thing. I do have the Centurion (in the form of ACE’s Shot Meteor, and I am planning to get the Challenger 2 from Dragon. The 1/35 Super Conqueror from Amusing Hobby is also on the list, unless someone issues a 1/72 version. (Too many tanks to build… and 1/72 is more economical both financially and time-wise.)

 

And I have not even mentioned IBG’s upcoming British releases of Crusider tanks…

(One of the many coming out this year.)

 

So, next step:

W-models Object 775. It’s just a weird looking oddity that makes it a must-have. (Not to mention their radars and the Kondensator I also would like to have.)

 

And apparently Armory is working on a T95.

 

So there you go. New things on the “must-have” pile.

In this hobby you need unlimited funds and time to build everything you wish.

 

 

MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 2. -finishing up

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Part 1

I painted and weathered the interior, closed in the hull, and moved onto the turret. As I mentioned I made a bit of an embarrassing mistake with the guns… Otherwise the interior went together fine. What I found, however, is that the assembly of the main gun is somewhat unwieldy. It’s made up of two parts (barrel and the interior part) which are glued to the holding part under the gunshield. Since they are not directly connected it’s very important to make sure they form a straight line. The gun barrel is bored out, which is quite impressive, really. The turret has a pistol port; the metal plug, however has no PE chain that would hold it. It’s somewhat disappointing, but easily remedied if needed.

 

The track assembly is relatively simple; fortunately the links are not very small. The assembly goes as usual with individual tracks: glue them together with liquid glue, wait 20-30 minutes and gently shape them onto the running gear. (Best work in sections as the links do not hold onto each other very well.) It would be really nice if MiniArt provided a jig to form a realistic sag between the return rollers.

 

Painting was easy. I glued the turret in place; I did not want to risk damaging the seat.

The first layer was the Vallejo primer base; I cannot recommend enough this primer. While it’s possible to get away not using any primer, it still provides a better surface for the paint to hold on; and in case of Vallejo, you don’t have to dilute the paint before spraying, so it’s easy to use.

I’ve used a really lightened version of OD green by Tamiya as the base color; this went on in several thin layers. The mud on the sides was applied in a very unorthodox manner. Way before painting I was applying mud to my T-55; I simply applied the leftover mixture of pigments, Mig Ammo neutral wash, plaster and static grass on the sides/bottom of the hull. It was an impulsive decision; I did not want to throw out the leftovers. It was not an unprecedented one, however; I’ve seen mud being pre-applied before painting before (or rather, mud texture, which was then painted in earth colors later on).

I avoided these areas with the primer, and only fogged the green slightly onto it; this actually resulted in a pretty neat muddy effect.

 

 

 

Reviewing the photos I just relized I forgot to add the handle for the commander’s hatch on the turret.

Anyhow, once the green color was on, it did look a bit light and bright; nothing a couple of dark filters did not remedy. I was hoping I would get the right color by the end; I’m actually pleased with the results.

The circular access hatches on the engine deck and other protruding details were painted with light green oil paint straight from the tube; it creates a nice contrast, and once the paint dries (a week…) it can be toned down a bit with filters.

The exhaust port was first painted in the primer color (German grey), then additional layers of different rust colored pigments were added using white spirit. The contrast between lighter and darker colors was toned down with a dark brown wash at the end. The exhaust fumes were simulated using “soot” from Tamiya’s makeup-set.

When I was happy with the final color, I added the decals onto a gloss varnish base, then sealed them with flat varnish.

The next steps were adding tonal variation. I’ve used the dot-method first (brown, yellow, white and green oil paints), then different streaking products from the AK Interactive range.

Finally some dust and rust colors were used from the Tamiya makeup range to blend everything together.

I’ve mixed some light, dust colored pigments with white spirit, and applied little patches onto the horizontal surfaces. Using a clean, wet brush I spread these out and removed the excess to create a little, uneven layer of dust.

I’ve used AK’s oil stains diluted with white spirit on the fuel cap. First I made a more diluted mixture, and applied a couple of larger spills, then using a less diluted mixture I added smaller ones; this gives the impression of several instances of spilled fuel around the cap. (The larger ones obviously being older, and more spread out.)

Finally the tracks and the edges of the tank were treated with a silver pencil to give a little metallic shine to the model.

 

 

I’ve mounted the T-60 next to her bigger cousin the SU-76. I think the next (and final step) in the painting phase will be the application of subtle paint chips to both tanks later on. To be honest the one reason I bought the Su-76 was the cover art: I liked how the original Russian color showed through the German camo around the driver’s hatch…

 

 

 

MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 1. – The Interior

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The T-60 was born as the replacement of the outdated T-38 series of light tanks. It was designed to be easy and cheap to produce in large numbers, and to be simple to use. The idea was to build up a large number of light tanks armed with a 20mm autocannon which would support the infantry on the battlefield as a sort of cavalry. They were definitely not designed to fight other tanks or serious fortifications; they were supposed to scout, and fight infantry (and perhaps lightly armored vehicles) with their main armament. The production started in 1941 and went into 1942 with about 7000 tanks built; they served until the end of the war. (It was the third most produced armored vehicle in the Soviet Union after the T-34 and Su-76

The tank featured sloped armor, and a two-man crew. The driver was sitting in the hull, and a commander/loader/gunner was in the one-man turret behind the driver. There was no radio provided for the crew. The tank was powered by a GAZ-202 6-cylinder engine which had 76 hp, and allowed the tank to achieve a whopping 27mph top speed. The range was about 270 miles. The main armament was a 20mm TNSh cannon, which was later in the war was upgraded to a 37mm ZIS-19 gun. This upgrade was not pursued since the ammunition for the gun was in a short supply. A later upgrade to the 45mm ZIS-19 tank gun necessitated the complete redesign of the turret; this project was abandoned when the T-70 project was approved as the replacement of the T-60. As an additional claim of fame, this tank was used in the famous flying tank project- attaching glider wings to the vehicle to make it airborne.

The Germans captured and quite a lot of these tanks, but I could not find any information on what they thought of the vehicle. (They mostly used it as a towing tractor/ammo carrier, so this might indicate something.) Tanks captured by the Romanian armed forces were rebuilt into the TACAM T-60 tank destroyer. 

The operational history of the T-60 was not very illustrious but it was crucial in the early days of Barbarossa when the Soviets needed tanks to hold back the German advancement while their industry was relocated further East. It was certainly reliable and could handle difficult terrain well; it was also available in large numbers -something that really counted when other, more superior weapon systems were not yet ready in large numbers. As a stop-gap solution it worked, but it was certainly not a good tank.

One of the reasons I like models with interiors is that you get an idea of what was it like for the crew to work and fight in these vehicles, and in this respect MiniArt’s offering is a very eye-opening one. I have to say based on what I’ve seen of the T-60 during the build of this model, it must have been a singularly unpleasant vehicle to be in. It was tight, cramped, and the engine was in the same compartment as the crew. The driver had a large, hot engine with rotating shafts, fuel and oil pipes all over right next to him, and the position of controls were also pretty un-ergonomical, placed as they were literally behind him. If the turret was facing forward his hatch was obstructed by the gun so leaving quickly was not much of an option, either… All this in a tank that had an armor that could be penetrated with a relatively stern look.

This tank must have been extremely dangerous to operate even in peacetime, but having people shooting at you as well will transform the picture from grim to hellish. All in all, I do not envy the people who had to fight in tanks -any tank, really- during the war, but these little vehicles must have been especially horrid. The Panzer II, it’s most comparable German counterpart, was positively luxurious compared to the T-60 -and it also had a radio.

 

The model is your typical Full Interior MiniArt kit. It has relatively few parts.

Normally MiniArt instructions are very easy to follow; this case I had some issues with them. For one, sometimes you have no idea how the finished article should look like (case to the point: the horn (?) assembly on the frontal glacis. For that particular part you will need to check the painting guide or historical photos.) The other, bigger is that the order of assembly does not always make sense. The most outstanding example would be the mudguards. First you add some of the tools and other details to the mudguards (e.g. holding brackets for the towing cable, but not the cable itself) but then you stop and move on to other parts of the model, leaving assemblies half-finished; later on you return and finish the build.

The other big problem was that sometimes the instructions show an assembly turned over, and then later steps showing it in the right orientation; this, combined with my inattention meant that I made a seriously silly mistake and put the main gun in the wrong position. I guess it’s fitting; as a left handed person now I can claim I have a left handed T-60. The mistake is mine, but the instructions don’t make it easy to avoid. (Interestingly enough my version now gives more clearance for the driver’s hatch to open… I think I might have improved on the design.)

Another mistake I made due to this issue was the installation of the PE bracket for the hand-crank shaft; fortunately this was easy to remedy when I realized the mistake.

 

The build is quite straightforward and -with some issues aside- easy. The suspension is a torsion bar suspension, but unlike in the case of the T-44, T-54, T-55 kits, it’s not functional. It is faster to assemble, but the problem is that the swing arms need to be manually positioned -something this kit shares with the older SU-76 kit. Not a big issue, but it’s not a welcome one.

The interior goes together easily. The engine has really nice detail (I could not find reference on the cables and wires, so I did not add them), and the transmission is really nice, too. I replaced the plastic rod representing the shaft of the hand-crank because it was too delicate, and broke when I removed it from the sprue. I installed the different pipes (fuel, air, etc) after I weathered the interior as they are all over the place, which would make access to certain places more difficult during the painting/weathering process.

 

 

 

I had some difficulties installing the gills into the back of the tank; you are supposed to place them parallel to each other and the back of the tank. The guiding ribs are not very pronounced and don’t hold them very well, so actually inserting the gills into the right ones can be a bit frustrating. (As soon as the glue “melts” the plastic a bit, the gills will freely move out of their ridge.)

The engine service hatch can be posed open, which is very much welcome, since it allows showing off the interior. (Why else build it, right?) The instructions show this as a “movable” option with a hinge; however I find this to be a very optimistic assessment: the hinge is very small, and the fit of the hatch is quite tight.

Well, this was part 1. Part to is coming next. (Duh.)

 

MiniArt Mercedes-Benz Typ 170 V Saloon Car 1/35

MiniArt has issued a civilian version of a car that they already had in their catalogue in military service: the Mercedes-Benz W30 Typ 170 V Saloon. (The V stands for “Vorn” -indicating the engine is in the front of the car. They had a rear-engined variant as well, which carried the letter H.) The model does not actually have the brand name in the title for copyright reasons, but we do get the Mercedes symbol for the front of the car, so it’s not exactly surprising what make this vehicle is.

This cabrio was a widely used passenger car during the ‘30s, even into the ‘60s. It was one of the top selling model of the company before the war, an affordable, more luxurious “people’s car”, than the VW Beetle. It was also one of the most produced model as well (it’s difficult to get accurate numbers but around a hundred thousand cars were produced during the full production run of the vehicle) in dozens of different configurations. It was used by the German armed forces as well – the subject of MiniArt’s previous issue of this vehicle. The production went on from 1936 to 1953, with some pause during the later phase of the war when the factories producing the parts were bombed.

There are several good references online: Mercedes-Benz’s own website, some interesting information/photos on pre-war Mercedes models, some historical notes on the pre-war Mercedes passenger cars.

 

 

 

The model is a far cry from the monstrous 1000+ part kits MiniArt has been issuing lately (this is not a complaint, don’t get me wrong… I love the full interior tanks), so building should not take long. One thing you really should do is to plan ahead, as the usual (for me, as an armor modeller, at least) sequence of building sub-assemblies, assembling, painting sequence is not going to work. In some cases it makes sense to deviate from the building sequence as well. I will mention the pitfalls and problems I ran into and the mistakes I made as well; maybe it’ll help others planning the build.

One example of me not planning ahead was the wheels: the tires and the wheel hub assemblies come separate, so if -unlike me- you paint these before assembling them, you will have an easier time.

The building starts with the engine and the chassis; the details are pretty delicate and well done; the model fits together very well. (It’s a pretty interesting comparison to put the 1/35 V2 engine of the T-54 next to the 1.7l gasoline engine of the Mercedes…)

When putting the exhaust system together I would suggest gluing the PE holders (PE6, PE9) onto the chassis, instead onto the muffler, as the instructions say- it will be much easier to align them together.

The instructions show you how to make the brake cables: you get a large-scale diagram to see how they should look, and you get an in-scale diagram to use it as a template; a pretty good solution.

The suspension is very delicate, and features the characteristic plastic springs I find so amazing. Be very careful cleaning them up, though as they break easily.

 

The interior is pretty straightforward. The instrument panel has some tiny PE assemblies that are not easy to do, and my main issue was that there were no decals provided for the instrument faces. There are raised details, but they whole face is sunk into the instrument panel; it’s not easy to drybrush because of that. (It’s not very visible once installed, so it’s not really an important issue.)

One word of suggestion: when gluing the PE rear-view mirror onto the windscreen, use white glue instead of superglue; it will make sure that the superglue does not fog the transparent part.

 

The painting of the body is also something you should do before installing it onto the chassis, since it makes masking and handling much easier; however it means you need to check what needs to be added before you do the painting. (I have to admit I found it challenging to replicate the highly polished, shiny car body; I’m more used to painting matte armor; not to mention my airbrush started dying on me and sputtered paint at times.) Even the doors need to be painted before assembly as it is easier to deal with them with no clear parts installed.

Airbrush problems aside, the first step was to decide on the paint scheme, and paint the body and the sections of the hood. Masking provided some challenge, as the masking tape (which was a dedicated modelling tape) I used peeled away some flakes of the underlying base color… Not the luckiest build I have to admit.

Once I sprayed several light layers of paint and removed the masks, I used a brush to touch up on the problematic areas, and then covered the model with Vallejo’s varnish for metallic paints (it’s very shiny) in several layers. I used a watchmaker’s polishing paste to polish up the paint.

I elected to use the extra luggage compartment fitted onto the back of the car; one thing I noticed is that the locating grooves for the holding pegs are not very well marked on the base of the holding frame; before gluing make sure you know where they are supposed to be going.

 

 

The front grill is made out of a very fine PE mesh; again, it’s my issue, but even with Vallejo’s chrome it was difficult to paint it without clogging some of it up with the paint. (The metallic paint is extremely fine pigmented.)

The grill/radiator assembly (essentially the front of the car) and the body of the car forms a frame onto which the hood and side panels are glued. The fit of the radiator is quite flimsy; I think this is my only real criticism of the kit. Since the fit is not exactly robust, the panels covering the engine compartments will need to be fitted carefully.

The very last step should be fitting the Mercedes sign on the front of the car; a kind of coronation of the build. Since I’m not very keen on figures, the female figure (which, by the way is quite well detailed) found her way into my spares box.

All in all, it’s a really pleasant, relatively easy (well, the tiny PE was a bit challenging…) build; the car looks great, and there’s a lot of great paint schemes to choose from. If you need an interwar civilian car in your diorama, look no further. Because the chassis, suspension and the engine is quite detailed, it’s also suitable for creating wrecks, too.

 

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.4

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Part one

Part two

Part three

Well, the last part of the review has arrived… painting and weathering left.

I’ve glued the turret together using white glue; at this point I was not sure how I wanted to display the tank, but I did want to show the interior somehow.

The tank was primed using a grey primer, then used a mixture of sand yellow and tan (Tamiya) to cover the whole vehicle. I’ve used silly putty to mask the subsequent colors. Olive green (lightened with tan), and red-brown (again, with tan added) were applied.

At this point the tank looked very toy-like: the colors very flat and artificial. This is the point when panic is not the right emotion; filters, washes and the rest of the weathering steps will blend everything together, and create a (relatively) realistic finish.

So this is what I did.

First, several layers of dark yellow filters by AK. This was followed by True Earth’s Dark Aging product, applied by an airbrush. This is a water based filter-like product, and so far I have not been very successful using it: even on the flattest surface it forms little beads. I probably need to try to use some mild surfactant to break the surface tension up.

The unditching log was painted back, then drybrushed using tan, and finally I used some washes to make it more realistic; the result is pretty convincing I think.

This was followed by oil-dot filters using several different browns, yellows with some blue and white added.

Once done, I’ve pried the turret halves apart, and used some evergreen rods to mount the top. ( I could not decide how to cut the turret for a cutaway, so I settled with this solution.) I’ve attached the rest of the missing parts, and gave a nice coat of dust using my airbrush and some pigments.

With a couple of small issues (like the thick viewing port for the driver’s rain-protector), the model by MiniArt is really excellent.

(Reviewing the photos I just realized I forgot to add the windshield wipers…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.3

The first part of the review

Second part.

Exterior

The engine deck consists of several subassemblies that form a somewhat complex set of hatches. The cooling flaps can be positioned open or closed, and they are protected by a very set of nice PE grilles.

I did not even bother to try to clean up the thin plastic rods (c1, c2) required for the engine deck; I simply used them as a template to fashion replacements from wire.

Smoke canisters are installed similarly to how the real thing was: the PE straps hold the tiny plastic rods that are fixing them to the back of the hull, along with the mechanism that allows to them to be released. The assembly is finicky, but pretty impressive.

The unditching log looks pretty convincing; normally I switch them for an actual wooden stick, but in this case I kept it. Primed it black, and then spent some time drybrushing Tamiya Tan on top. The whole thing was then painted with Agrax Earthsade by Citadel.

Mudguards

As mentioned the external fuel tanks are provided as two halves. They are typical WWII type ones, although they are somewhat narrower than the ones used on wartime tanks. They are held down by PE strips – when building make sure you do the fuel tanks first, and add the storage boxes after, because in several cases they obstruct the tie-down points for the straps. Another important piece of advice: do not install the fuel tank on the left back mudguard. The flap (C9) protecting the exhaust port should be fitted first. (In my case the fuel tank was placed too forward, which interfered with the correct placement of the flap… Annoying.)

The towing lines were provided as plastic parts; MiniArt is being very optimistic about the chances of being able to bend and fit them into their places. Better get some picture hanging wire, and use the plastic eyes of the cables only. Make sure you cut a wire half a centimeter longer than the plastic part; it’s too short otherwise.

The AA machine gun is a complex multimedia assembly of plastic and PE parts; normally I buy aftermarket barrels (or even resin guns) to replace this part, but in this case it’s perfectly suitable.

The turret interior is pretty busy; it’s actually not as tall as the T-44 turret, and have a lot of things crammed into it. The turret originally was cast as a two-part hemispherical shape with welded roof consisting of two rolled armor plates 30 mm thick. The model’s turret is designed the same way: it’s built up from two parts (top and bottom), and the roof plates are added separately. The roof plates are considerably thinner than the sides; I suspect they are all scale thickness.

The 10RT radio and the TPU-4-bis-O-26 telecom systems are placed on the commander’s side, and there is a ready rack on the back of the turret.

The gunner’s MK-4 periscopes, and the low profile commander’s cupola with three observation TPC-1 prisms are replicated very well.

The gun is a very delicate assembly, so once it’s finished care needs to be taken not to break the thin plastic parts off.The gun breech has a seam in the middle, which needs to be filled in; to be honest it will be very difficult to see in the model. The gunner’s sight and the coaxial machine guns are complex little models of their own; once they are glued on, they tend to break off easily… (An important point for further handling.)

I have primed the interior using a primer red color, sealed it with varnish, and used the hairspray chipping method on the top color (blue grey on the bottom of the hull and white everywhere else). To make the vehicle look used, and to decrease the contrast of the pure white with the chips, I mixed up a burnt umber filter, and applied it unevenly to create patches of darker and lighter discolorations, and some dark, almost black brown washes to bring out the finer details. Finally I used different shades of rust brown oil paints to create some discreet streaks. Some rust and dust colored pigments were used to add a little more depth to the weathering, and I used a silver pencil on the edges to make them look metallic.

The gun got a similar treatment, only the cover color was green, rather than white, and for obvious reasons I did not add any streaks to it.

Coming up- final instalment: finishing the tank.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.2

The first part of the review can be found here.

So the hull interior is reasonably finished, but I had to add bits and bobs (fire extinguishers, ammunition for the main gun and for the machine guns, etc.). Once I put the driver’s periscopes in place, I could close down the hull. The top part is really thin; I suspect it’s quite close to scale thickness.

 

Fitting the mudgards was not straightforward: the locator pins did not fit into the corresponding holes on the sides, so there was a tiny gap between the mudguards and the tank’s hull. I simply shaved the pins off. The plastic mudgards are quite thin, and the long parts had a slight bend; the solution was to glue them in place in two steps, straightening them out in the process.
The drive wheels have very small attachment points to the swing arms; since it’s a static model it’s not a real problem, but I still prefer a bit more robust connection.
The tracks are -correctly- narrower than what was used on the final production version of the T-54 (as a comparison I’ve used an individual track link from a Trumpeter kit on the photo). You need 90 per side (the resources I’ve read specified 91 for the actual tank), and you have an option to use a special link for every 20th track link. These links don’t have teeth, and are specially designed to mount the cleats that allow the tank to get better traction on snow or other difficult terrain. Unfortunately it’s not specified in the instruction, but that’s what you can use them for. (The instruction manual shows the cleats in a stored position on the mudguards.) The cleats in their storage position require some really thin plastic pins to hold them in place: first, the holes on the cleats are too narrow, second it’s almost impossible to clean these pins of the sprue gate… so I just used some thin evergreen plastic to replace them.
The headlight has an option to attach a protective wire cage around it; the plastic was very thin, and snapped the second I tried to remove it from the sprue, so I chose the other option.

 

Parallel to the work on the hull, I was working on the turret as well. As I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of painting and weathering before ataching all the necessary parts, so only time will tell if they will stand out or not after all is said and done.

I have some serious decisions to make at this point. I would like to present the interior open somehow. Either I show the turret tilted up, with the gun being installed, or I simply make a “cutaway”. (I saw a photo on the T-54, T-55 group’s facebook page.)

The first version would be the most attractive solution, but the problem is I’ve installed everything already: ammunition, equipment, etc. A tank would be stripped out before the turret is lifted, so it would not be very realistic.
The second option would be to simply leave the top of the turret off- held up by a couple of plastic pegs, showing the interior off. (This way I don’t have to cut and saw into the plastic. With the King Tiger and other large tanks there are parts you can cut away easily; with the T-54 I would be taking a lot of detail away if I cut parts of the turret away. Since the driver’s position and the engine compartment are not very well detailed regrettably I will not cut into the hull, as there’s not much to display… But MiniArt has made the turret halves join up as they did in the original tank.

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.1

Well, the long awaited MiniArt T-54-1 is here finally. I’m in the middle of several builds -somehow I ended up reviewing and building a lot of kits at the same time. Nevertheless this model got priority when it arrived, since it was something I really had an interest in.
I planned to build the Tamiya kit in my stash with the CMK interior set parallel, but until I can finish up the ones already started, I do not want to begin to work on new builds. Too bad, I guess. (I did start on the Tamiya last night, since I finished two out of three OKB kits, and the all Luchs as well -some left to be published at a later date.)

 

Later installments:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

I would not start an essay on the tank itself; I’ll put it into my review to be sent to Armorama. I’ve used the references available on the T-54, T-55 research group on Facebook; I would like to thank everyone there for putting together such a comprehensive resource.

Short version of the review: the model looks really, really good. (I’m not trying to be a fanboy; it’s honestly a great kit.)

A slightly longer version:

Opening the box we are faced with a bewildering number of small sprues. MiniArt, as usual, followed its philosophy of modular kit design, which does help creating multiple versions of the same vehicle easily, however it does present a problem finding the sprues you need during building. Add to this the tendency of having to use several sprues during sub-assemblies, searching for sprues was a constant activity during the build. If you have the space it’s probably best to have them out and labelled visibly.

Fortunately there are only few of the notoriously thin plastic parts that are impossible to be cut off the sprue without breaking. One of the handholds for the turret was already broken in my sample, but I normally replace them with wire anyhow. It’s much easier than trying to clean up these extremely fragile and thin plastic parts.

The placement of the gates are sometimes a bit unfortunate: instead of having to clean off one edge, they sometime overhang, and this necessitate cleaning (cutting or sanding) two or three surfaces. This is especially notable in the case of the individual track links, where you will need to clean multiple sprue attachments from three faces (bottom, top, side) on all the track links… (I really, really like magic tracks, to be honest; they come pre-cut, ready to assemble. I have to confess: the assembly of tracks and the painting for ammunition are the two least favorite parts of model building for me, so anything that makes my job easier is welcome.)

The plastic is nice quality; soft enough and easy to work with. The detail is astonishing. From the texture of the turret to the casting numbers on the suspension units, everything just looks like a miniaturized version of the real thing. The torsion bar suspension is working, but I’m not sure how useful it is since the tracks will need to be glued together to make sure they are held in place. (The different panzer III variants by MiniArt had a workable track solution; it would have been nice to have this utilized on the T-54-1 as well.)

The interior followed the usual T-44 layout – that is to say it’s still closer to the T-44 than to the T-54 final version. The driver’s compartment sadly lacks a lot of instruments and whatnot… not that it’s going to be visible, but still. At least it’s there, unlike in the T-44 kits, so you have something to work with should you wish to improve the area. I have decided to use the rain cover for the driver’s hatch, which is something I’ve never seen before.

The turret interior, on the other hand, is really well done; most everything is in place.

I’ve left the engine unassembled for now- I’ve built a couple of these from the SU-122, SU-85, T-44, so I’ve decided to leave it out for now. I might finish it later and display it in front of the tank as I’ve done with the other kits. (There are differences between the V-34, V-44, V-54 engines, but they are not apparent immediately.)

The interior was painted and weathered the same way as I did with the T-44. In short: a dark brown basecoat with hairspray applied was oversprayed with Tamiya white for the sides and a grey-blue color for the bottom of the hull. A stiff brush and some water helped to create some moderate chipping I applied a light brown filter to make it more dirty and used. I’ve only added the smaller parts after I did the basic weathering; with the turret it might have been a mistake. (There are a lot of smaller bits that are white, and they might stand out if you paint and weather them separately. Time will tell.)

I tried to keep weathering restrained; after all the amount of chipping and rusting was normally minimal while the vehicles were operational. Maintenance does take care of these things normally.

The ammunition was painted using Vallejo’s new acrylic gold paint; the results are pretty good. I did not bother painting the tips for the ones that were placed into the rack. I’ve used photos for reference found in this website for painting.

The mudguards were finished separately before attaching them to the hull. One thing to keep in mind: do the PE straps first, and then add the toolboxes. I glued the boxes in first… In some cases the boxes were in the way, and it made attaching the straps difficult.

The AA machine gun is a pretty complex assembly, but the detail is really great. Cleaning up the sprue attachment points on the barrel is not easy, but possible. (There are aftermarket barrels available, but it would be a shame to throw the plastic out; it is very well detailed.)

The engine deck features some of those notoriously thin and fragile plastic rods MiniArt loves to include with their kits. I did not even attempt to cut them off the sprue; it was easier to fabricate similar parts from wire, and use those. (Added benefit: you cannot glue them accidentally to the plastic mounts, since the plastic glue does not work on metal.

The smoke canisters, as I said, were moulded as one piece, and the PE/plastic contraption that holds them in place are kind of fiddly to assemble. (The mechanism that allows ejecting them is modelled in great detail… sometimes I feel less is more.)

The model is certainly complex, and it’s easy to burn out; especially if you work on a review. What I did was to pace myself: once the larger assemblies (turret interior, mudguards, hull interior) was done, I just kept coming back to the model to add the smaller details a few at a time. I did the machine gun one night, “dressed up” the engine deck the next- it’s easier to make progress one step at a time.