by: Shawn [ ]
The Ukrainian based company MiniArt has struck a veritable gold mine over the last few years by producing kits of early Cold War Era Soviet AFV's. Some of the new releases were desperately needed replacements for kits by other manufacturers that were long out dated (Tamiya's SU-85 & Trumpeters antiquated T-54's) while other kits were first of its kind in plastic moulding (T-44 & T-44M).
MiniArt has also expanded the options by selling separate 'Interior Kit's that offer well detailed interiors that were traditionally relegated to resin aftermarket conversions or scratch building. This is the build review for the ‘Exterior’ kit, and the T-54-2 w/ interior is kit #37004.
Background of the T-54-2
The T-54 evolved from the T-44 and the T-54-1 was the first version put into limited production in 1948. The T-54-2 was introduced in 1949, and featured a more dome shaped turret among other improvements over the T-54-1. The Soviets produced roughly 1400 units of the T-54-2 between 1950-51. In 1951 further developments with the turret design led to the T-54-3, which eventually reached full production as the T-54A. The T-54/55 family is the most widely produced tank in the world, and this kit helps round out the range of kits already on the market.
Un-boxing the Kit
The kit features 625 plastic parts on 49 different sprues split between two plastic bags. The kit also comes with a PE fret, and decal sheet with markings for 6 different versions. The sprues are broken down as A, Ba, C, Ca, Cb, G, Hd (QTY 4), Hg (QTY 10), Hj, Hk (QTY 10), Ho (QTY 4), F, J, Jd, Je, Ka (QTY 2), Kb (QTY 2), Kc (QTY 2), Kd (QTY 2), Ke (QTY 2) and PEa.
The front of the instruction lists out the highlights of the kit, such as workable torsion bars, and oddly enough claims 'Total Details 714'. I’m curious what they count as a 'detail' it just seems like an arbitrary metric to throw out there.
Overall the instructions were well laid out and easy to read and understand. I did not encounter any errors with the instructions (MiniArt must proof them before mass production) which is refreshing after building so many Dragon kits as of late. There are 69 separate steps over 18 pages with black and white illustrations.
Despite the detailed moulding, there are numerous parts that have excessive amounts of flash or multiple injection points, which will require careful cleaning. The casting texture on the turret and gun mantlet might be soft to some of the die-hards out there, but appeared to be sufficient to me.
There are numerous parts that are very small and delicate, that also have numerous injection points. One good example is the tow cable, which has 10 different injection points. The kit includes fuel lines, metal cables, or hatch springs moulded in very thin plastic which proved very problematic in the cutting/cleaning process. These parts were prone to breaking in my fingertips while handling, and every single one of them broke in the process. I wanted to build the kit out of the box, but I’m sure many out there will replace these parts with thin copper wires.
The instructions have you make several cuts and drill out numerous holes in various parts, likely as a result of sharing common sprues among the T-54/55 family kits available from MiniArt. The task of making several chamfers on the hull walls might be difficult to execute precisely.
Several sub components of the build have parts from up to 5 different sprues which seems unnecessary. It would make more sense to have parts for sub assemblies grouped together on the same sprues, but I’m sure MiniArt had a valid reason for doing it this way.
Despite being the ‘exterior’ version, the kit does include numerous interior details that would help out anyone looking to model the tank with hatches open. I built the tank with all hatches closed so I skipped several steps that centered on interior assemblies. I would recommend reviewing the instructions prior to building so you can determine what steps to skip based on your desired build.
The workable suspension is a nice feature of the kit, although it can be too delicate and complex for some. The tracks proved to be the most time consuming part of the build. There are 90 track links per side, and each link has 4 separate injection points - so that requires 720 total cuts to remove them all, and then they have to be cleaned prior to assembly. Once the links were cleaned, they all fit together very well (akin to Dragon’s Magic Tracks). There are aftermarket options for the tracks if anyone does not want to hassle with all the cutting and cleaning.
The overall fitting of parts was excellent, and there are only a few minor gaps that will require putty. The only real obvious fitting issue was the seam on the turret halves, however, that should clean up easily enough.
Paint & Markings
The Instructions have colored pictures for the marking guide. The 6 versions offered are all listed in the marking guide as 'Soviet Army, 50th Years'.
Murphys Law stepped in big time during the construction of this kit and anything that could have gone wrong, did. I lost many parts to the carpet, and broke many more during the cleaning attempts. I cut myself a few times, and my PE shears walked off on me. Despite the setbacks, I found this kit to be a nice change up from the usual Dragon or Trumpeter build, and it even challenged me a little. The kit is well detailed out of the box, and the potential is unlimited given the number of aftermarket items available. I would recommend this kit to anyone, although, it might prove difficult for some of the less experienced builders out there.