by: Darren Baker [ ]
MiniArt as a company has come a long way by listening to their potential customer base and taking steps to address what they hear when possible. MiniArt has acquired a very good name when it comes to 1/35th scale figures and offers one of the best selections available to the modeller today in 1/35th scale. Today MiniArt has a growing number of armoured vehicles in their range; these are a mix of standard and interior kits. At the current time MiniArt has provided a huge selection of T-54 tanks and is now working on the T-55 range of armoured vehicles, the T-55 Mod 1963 interior kit is the model I will be looking at here.
This offering from MiniArt is provided in a cardboard tray and separate card lid with the model artwork on it, this packaging is able to protect the model during storage but not on its own during postage. The injection moulded plastic parts are packed in three plastic bags with over 70 sprues! A clear sprue, two photo etched frets and a decal sheet make up the rest not forgetting the substantial instruction booklet.
It needs to be said at the very start that this is not a full interior model kit and at no time does MiniArt claim it to be a full interior. I would describe this model as a full crew area interior plus engine. When you open the box you will be confronted by the amount of contents not seen previously since a certain other company wore the crown and packed out their boxes. It is definitely a case of once out of the bags getting it back in the box is an issue.
A visual examination of the contents leaves me with a positive opinion of the moulding attributes, it reveals very little in the way of negatives. I did find some minor flash that will need to be addressed; this is most often located in the tear drop lightening holes of the wheels. A potential issue will be the removal of some very finely moulded parts, if I am honest when these parts are needed I would use them as templates rather than attempting removal and clean up. A few pieces of the photo etch are also extremely small and will likely prove problematic in their placement. I cannot complain about the finesse of these parts as MiniArt has done an excellent job of replicating such fine detail.
The Model V-55 12 cylinder water cooled diesel engine is exceptionally well replicated in this offering from MiniArt, and it can easily be considered a model in its own right. There are numerous images of the T-55 engine available online and after several visual checks I was unable to find anything amiss as regards components. The modeller of course can still improve this aspect of the model by using wire to replicate the plug leads and such. MiniArt has not provided the transmission for the model, but otherwise this looks very good.
I am using photographs of a T-55 A training tank at Bovington Tank Museum as a guide to the accuracy of this offering from MiniArt. This tank has a large number of holes cut in the armour allowing a reasonable interior view. From the accuracy standpoint I am judging the placement of parts visible in the model against those that can be seen on the training tank.
The hull interior is a nightmare of parts covering everything from the steering linkage through to the torsion bars. Looking over the hull interior reveals some really nicely replicated parts, items such as the gear box gate being provided with the changer being able to place in the position of the modellers choice. As you can appreciate ammunition storage takes up a lot of the space inside a tank, I was able to locate some of the ammunition storage bins and locations and these appear to be accurate in location and appearance, but I could not see all of them. Looking at parts that replicate the electrical boxes and gas tanks seems to reveal that MiniArt has really done their homework with this release; they have even got details such as gas tanks correctly orientated. So far I am very impressed with the contents and only have a couple of niggles: I would have liked to see the machine guns slide moulded as MiniArt has done elsewhere and some of the very fine parts will I believe end up broken or lost before getting to the model. OK I can only lay the first issue at the door of MiniArt.
Moving onto the turret interior and a nightmare of parts need placing; however if you take it steady this looks to build up into a very busy and accurate rendition of the area. The view in the turret of the cut down tank at Bovington is very restricted due to just how cluttered it is, but what can be seen in my photographs appears to be present on the model. Further examination of online images shows the presence of many of the provided elements, but not always in the exact locations. I am putting many of these issues down to different versions of the T-55, pictures being incorrectly titled or vehicles produced in different locations. The detail is as with the hull very nice and well replicated, but some parts will again cause issues during removal from the sprue and placement after. One aspect that surprised me is that the main gun is locked in place and cannot be elevated/depressed, this would seem to be due to the external canvas cover rather than a problem with providing this feature. For myself I am not bothered by this fact as I am not for playing with models when completed.
The exterior of the hull is visually good with no obvious accuracy issues that I picked up on. The angles look good and so I feel are accurate. The engine deck has been very nicely tackled and will I believe look good. As mentioned the engine is provided but the rest is missing and so needs to be hidden, the engine of course can be left exposed and will look very good if some minor details are added by the modeller. The track guards have an excellent level of detail, the fuel lines are very good but will be easy to damage during removal from the sprue. There are also a number of very small photo etch elements in this area that could prove difficult for the modeller. The storage boxes have been designed in such a way that the modeller could have them open with any number of items displayed with very little work. The ubiquitous log for getting a stuck tank moving is provided and is the one part of the model that I would change for a suitable piece of branch. The fuel containers on the rear and the wading breathers are nicely provided and will finish off the rear nicely.
The wheels are suspension are nicely detailed but are not workable, these means the model has to be displayed on a flat surface unless display is considered well in advance. If you do plan ahead it will not be overly difficult to set the suspension arms in the desired position. The tracks are supplied as individual tracks links with very nice detail present and being individual track links means they add the modeller who wishes to display the model on an uneven surface. The road wheels have very good detail present, but it is in the tear drops of the wheels that I found all of the flash worth mentioning.
The turret of this offering from MiniArt has a nice subtle cast texture present that can if desired be further enhanced by the modeller if desired, this can be easily done with a product such as MR Surfacer. The main gun pleases me as it has been slide moulded and so avoids many of the issues associated with injection moulded barrels. The canvas sleeve for the barrel is nicely detailed, but the retaining strap could prove an issue being made up of four photo etched pieces. The heart shaped roof of the turret is a separate part and this will make an easy and pleasing way to expose the turret interior without taking a saw to the kit to expose the inside.
The finishing options for this model cover a very wide range of users in the world. There are 11 finishing options listed on the advertising, but the instructions only list 10; however if you check the instruction download on the MiniArt website there are another two finishing options which I do not list here. The 10 options are:
Captured T-55 during the ‘Six Day War’ as part of the IDF in 1968
Army of Egypt 1973/74
Syrian Army ‘Yom Kippur’ Golan Heights Oct 1973
Army of the Republic of Cuba 1970’s
Finnish Defence Forces 1973
Army of Ethiopia ‘Ogaden War’ 1977
Army of the Republic of Iraq ‘War in the Persian Gulf’ Battle Khafja Feb 1st 1991
Parade in honour of the 50th Anniversay of the October revolution Kharkiv November 7th 1967
24th Motorised Rifle Division of the Soviet Army Kyiv 1967
Soviet Army Operation Danube Prague Czechoslovakia Aug/Sep 1968
This offering from MiniArt is an excellent offering as a model; yes I know I had some gripes, but these are for the most part more to do with my inabilities that the product offered by MiniArt. The wide selection of finishing options add greatly to the appeal of the model with the Syrian Army ‘Yom Kippur’ Golan Heights Oct 1973 finish being particularly interesting to me, this is also the version depicted on the box top. The issues I see with this offering from MiniArt is for the most part restricted to the very large parts count, the difficulty of not breaking the very thin parts when removing them from the sprue and the small size of some elements while cleaning up and adding them to the model, finally the very large number of sprues will make finding parts problematic on some occasions. With that said the issues I have highlighted here are more to do with the ability of the modeller rather than issues MiniArt has created; So prepared for a long build with a potentially great looking model at the finish.