I was really excited when MiniArt offered me a review sample of this tank. It’s been hyped quite a lot -a never previously available tank with interior details, working suspension… What’s not to love?
When arrived, the box did contain a LOT of plastic; however, compared to the D7 dozer, the assembly is simpler. One thing I did not notice at first is that it does not have a full interior – the driver’s compartment is missing, and only the engine is included. The rest of the engine compartment and the transmission are not included. I’m not sure what the reason behind this decision by MiniArt, but it certainly left some gaps in the model. Including them would have elevated the model into mind-blowingly amazing from simply “really damned good”. (Here’s an in-box review; the photos of the instruction manual will come handy later on if you want to check the issues in Appendix. I think I have the first ever blog with an Appendix, by the way.)
I switched to 1/72 due to space issues – they simply take up less space, and I’ve been on the move for the last two decades. The other reason is a personal one: a tank model in 1/35 feels “empty” for me. You essentially are building a large model with a lot of air inside. Having interior added actually makes these models come to life – you build a small replica of the vehicle; something that looks like the real thing inside AND out. You get to peek under the hood in a quite literal sense. You get to see the crew stations, get to have a feel how it must have been for them to work in there, you get to see how the vehicle operated. Hm, the transmission is in the front, but the engine is in the back? I wonder why; let’s read about it! Wow, I did not know the Hetzer was so cramped; and how could the commander of a T-34 stand on all those ammo crates, anyhow? I find these sorts of things incredibly interesting, and for me they increase the value of the model tremendously. Hobby Boss came out with their jaw-dropping 1/48 T-34s with complete interiors (and these were cheaper than the Tamiya offerings) AFV Club has issued an interior set for their Sturmtiger (after I’ve finished mine, of course), and had come out with a T-34 with full interior; Trumpeter has their 1/16 monsters; you can buy resin sets for a lot of models to equip them; so I’m not alone with this interest. (Fortunately.) I have a full set of German armor lined up from the Pnz I to the Tiger II with interiors; and building a Churchill is also on the menu. Not to mention I cannot wait for the SU-122 from MiniArt, either.
Anyhow, back to be model at hand. MiniArt has issued both the T-44 and T-44M in plastic; they are quite similar to each other. Despite of the similarities, they are intriguing steps in the evolution of WWII armor into the well known T-54/55, and later post-war Soviet tanks. The turret of the tank is unmistakably from the war; it looks very much like the turret of the T-34/85. The hull, however, already resembles the T-54 -in fact, the T-44 was used as a basis to develop the most successful tank design we know as the T-54/55. The T-44 still is equipped with the war-era external fuel tanks; these are switched to the more familiar flat external tanks on the T-44M; the familiar T-34 tracks were changed to the more modern-looking T-54 style pattern. (A full breakdown of differences are highlighted in MiniArt’s excellent poster.) Even though the T-44 was not exactly a successful design, it was an incredibly important step in the development of Soviet armor.
I’ve started to build all the interior details first; it makes sense to paint everything at the same time, and proceed with the exterior after. (The instructions would have you first finish the hull, then the turret.)
As I said the torsion bars are actually functional; the instructions are not clear if they needed to be glued to the support or not (or if you need to glue them, do you need to glue the end or the whole section), so I did not glue them. The torsion bar units were dry-fitted, and the glue was applied from the outside to the seams; this way I avoided accidentally applying glue to the torsion bars as well.
The engine is quite an intricate assembly, but nothing challenging; it looks nice, but not much of it will be visible, even if you leave the hatches open. Since there is no transmission, and no details in the engine bay, you would have to add those, if you wanted to open all the hatches as if it was undergoing maintenance.
The roadwheels are OK… there’s not much to discuss. They are round, and they look like the original. 🙂
The back of the hull is made up by several panels; one of them carries an abundance of grousers. They can be attached to the tracks for additional grip when the tank is negotiating an icy, snowy environment. They were present on the T-34 as well, and they are replaced by the characteristic log in the T-44M. The thin rods are supposed to go through the grousers to keep them in place. They are extremely thin, and the attachment point are going to be hell to clean up. I think I’ll simply substitute them for evergreen rods.
The hull is assembled in an old-school manner: the “tub” is made out of the sides and the bottom separately. In this case it’s actually quite a good thing, as this allows for proper painting and weathering of the interior before assembly.
The interior is taking shape. The empty space in place of the driver’s compartment will be filled out with a CMK T-55 driver’s compartment set modified accordingly.
The turret -similarly to the hull- is a multi-part assembly as well. There are some injection mould marks, where the parts were pushed out of the mould, but they should not be hard to fill -and most of them are in places where they would not be visible, anyway. The outside of the turret has some nicely-done rough casting texture. (A little criticism: the armor used for the hull of the tank was homogeneous rolled armor; it too had some rough texture. These could have been moulded into the model; if you want to replicate them, you’ll have to use a rotary tool.)
I will take a look at the accuracy of the fighting compartment later; the only scale drawings I found were of the T-44M, hence they might not be accurate for this model. Nevertheless, some detail seem to be missing -electric wires, wall-mounted electronics, protruding rivet heads, etc. These can be scratchbuilt to enhance the interior.
The interior of the turret, however, seems fairly comprehensive; it looks like there are more details included -sans the wires, of course. (I’m not sure how I feel about moulded-on wires, anyway; they are difficult to paint well. If you want them, they can be added easily enough.)
The top of the turret is significantly thinner than the sides; it’s scaled to the real thickness. The hatches can be made workable if you use the glue sparingly. However, the attachment holes need to be enlarged with a thin blade for the teeth of the hatch to fit into them.
Bottom part of the turret with the seats of the loader and the commander.
The sides of the turret, waiting for all the details added. You can pose the pistol ports open, but then you’d need some real thin PE chain to hold the plug.
I also started to assemble the gun… there is no metal barrel included, but if you really want one, there are several available online. Since it’s a review of a model I’ll limit the aftermarket parts only for the missing details, like the driver’s station.
Tidbits… there are a LOT of them.
This is some part with a crank affixed to the side of the turret; not sure what it is (perhaps the turret turning motor?), to be honest. Once I figure it out, I’ll let you know.
The fan of the fume extractor.
The gunner’s sight.
The PE work has begun: PE screens, ammo racks for the MG. Although the PE is thin, it’s really difficult to cut with the scalpel.
I started the work on the mudguards as well, adding tool boxes and the attachment points for the fuel tanks.
Well, this is where I’m at now. The interior is being painted slowly. This is the only problem with my fetish with interior details: white is difficult to paint. I’ve used a grey spray paint to set a good base, and I’m going over with several light coats of white.
The other tedious part to do will be the ammunition… removing seam-lines and attachment points, painting the casing to metallic brass, and the projectile to the appropriate colors -many, many times over. I’ll be lazy, and do only the ones that will be in full view; the projectiles covered in the ammo racks will simply be painted without all the tedious preparation. I’ve purchased AK Interactive’s True Metal gold to pain the casings; I’ll be curious of how they turn out.
Well, that’s it. Keep tuned, more will come next week.
Appendix: issues with instructions #1
The instructions are great, however, they are not perfect. So far I’ve run into the following issues:
Step 17, assembly of hull: a part holding the engine is labelled as c8. The color number is superimposed onto the part number; the actual number should be Hc8
Step 41: part G15 is shown to have a small locating peg in the middle to which part De7 is attached. This is not present in my kit.
Step 43: Part C17 is in fact C3
Step 58: Part C32 is in fact C38