The fight has being going on a long time now. After Dragon and Bronco, comes Miniart and sweeps the terrain with lots of offerings in Military Police figures on any battlefield. Tamiya seems to slowly disappear from this competition...
Despite the fact that I am supposed to review the latest release from Miniart Models, it is difficult doing so without going through a bit of modeling history and references to similar products offered by others throughout the years. So please bear with me and follow what I describe here with a bit of philosophical ease.
Tamiya used to be the greatest and finest producer of plastic models, and in some cases it still is. But when it comes to WWII subjects, it has almost become obsolete. In the case of Military Police, its set of U.S. MPs has the only Harley-Davidson WLA. The figures themselves are very stiff-looking: one looks as if he were directing traffic in a military compound like West Point, while the other riding the motorcycle sits so stiffly that it seems he’s sitting on hot coals. Ouch! That must have hurt... Many alternatives in cast resin products appeared since the Tamiya set was released decades ago, including ones by Verlinden and Warriors. They were all relatively expensive, and were not always readily-available.
Then suddenly Dragon started to produce the first Military Police figures. They were very life-like and wonderfully-executed, but alas, the company only released German manifestations (commonly known as Feldgendarmerie
). Now, out of the blue, comes Miniart Models, a Ukraine-based company very well-known for its vacu-formed buildings and diorama pieces. To date they have a total of seven different offerings:
35014 - U.S. Truck Bantam 40 BRC w/Crew (with MPs)
35046 - German Feldgendarmerie
35047 - U.S. Jeep Crew & MP
35048 - Soviet Command Car w/Crew (and a female MP)
35049 - Soviet Jeep Crew (without the Jeep but with an MP)
35080 - U.S. WW II Motorcycle WLA (without MP figures)
And finally, 35085 - U.S. Military Police (with two Motorcycles).
Miniart seem obsessed to fill and saturate the market, and all their kits are finished with up-to-date moldings. For those of you who still lack something, for instance a decent British MP set, look no further: Bronco Models have come to the rescue with 2 Triumph 3HW Motorcycles and 3 British MP figures (see their review by Alan McNeilly here
So, what comes with latest release of Miniart's? Two grey-colored trees for the two Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycles, and one for the two MP figures, plus a transparent one for the screens. It also includes two photo-etched frets for tiny detailing parts and the wheel spokes, as well as a decal sheet by Begemot.
Unlike MasterBox, with its BMW R75 w/Sidecar, the wheel spokes are only offered with the PE fret and do not have plastic counterparts. I only mention this for those of you who are unfamiliar with this material, which could eventually cause certain assembly problems. Thank Heavens, Miniart provides shaping discs for these spokes, which should result in a good alignment with the tire proper.
All the detailing is absolutely wonderful on the two motorcycles, of which one was already offered separately and without figures in the earlier #35080 release. I have compared these with many pictures of real bikes online, and I can safely say that they feel and look far more detailed and precise than the previous Tamiya manifestation. But what truly stands out are the two MP figures. As with the Tamiya kit, one is directing traffic and the other sits, or better, leans against his own bike. Both wear the regular G.I. uniform, but this time it “falls” and “feels” worn and not depicted as stiff and well-ironed like in Tamiya's case.
The MP directing traffic seems truly intent at directing traffic, and is sharply observing what’s ahead of him, while at the same time pointing at a very definite direction they must take (see detailed hands and fingers). The other MP is loosely leaning against his Harley, appearing tired, but not lazy. In fact he's observing his team-mate closely. The entire scene, once modeled, might make for a very interesting diorama subject.
The details of the uniforms are so finely-reproduced that you even get a whistle chain (passing from the inner tunic, crossing the chest and ending on the shoulder board) on the MP directing traffic. The gloves are not the clean, parade white ones, but rather brown leather driving gloves. There, too, you will notice some minute detailing in the knitting of the gloves themselves. The standing MP wears the regular U.S. Army gaiters, while his companion seems to wear the Airborne-style boots (probably more suitable while riding a motorcycle).
The photo-etched frets are very finely reproduced, and you get two: one for each motorcycle. But as I said before, they might prove problematic for those who have never used this material before. The decal sheet is appropriate for the two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but does not offer any alternatives, nor does it contain appropriate uniform decal patches. Instead of painting them, which could be a pain and a half, may I suggest as an alternative Hudson & Allen Studio’s excellent decal sheet (click here for their website
). Look for the sheet HA-9624 - WWII US Airborne ETO Markings. Don't be fooled: this is not just for Airborne units, and includes all you need to appropriately decal MP uniforms and helmets in the field.
Should you need Divisional markings, other than the Airborne ones, you may find them on the Peddinghaus website
. Go to “1/35 Decals”, then write in the search section “EP 1077” (USA Uniformabzeichen Mannschaften und Divisionsabzeichen
- “US uniform insignia and division patches”), or EP 1078 (USA Uniformabzeichen Offiziere & Divisionsabzeichen & Panzertruppe
- “US Officer uniform insignia, division patches and tank unit patches”).
If this should not suffice, perhaps because you would like MP figures set in a winter setting like during the “Battle of the Bulge,” well then you have only a resin option: MK35
(a French-based company). Follow the "1/35 scale" link, then press "figures" and "US WWII". Look for item F006 and F114. These are excellent reproductions of MPs during the Ardennes campaign, as well as many other figures, both U.S. and German, relating to the “Battle of the Bulge.”
Given the importance of MPs during wartime, I suspect that even Dragon and Bronco, if not MasterBox, Zvezda or someone else will soon jump aboard. Who knows how many variations on the subject we might have then? In addition to the usual “directing traffic” scenarios, other options include Normandy after the landings, or the Otto Skorzeny special forces action in the Ardennes (when false U.S. MPs were placed throughout the road network to confuse the Allied advance).
If placed correctly and strategically, MPs might add some very interesting drama to an otherwise boring scenario. All considered, I truly appreciate Miniart's efforts to provide us with so many alternatives. The price may seem steep, but consider this: even if you were to order it directly in the Ukraine at a price of $ 28.50, you will have to still pay for the international standard shipping price, which by now stands at about 13 dollars. If you cannot afford this price, then I would suggest waiting awhile. I am sure that someone will offer the same box at a discounted price as stores tend to lower their prices after the novelty of the product has decreased.
But for those of you who can still afford it, it is money well-spent and an excellent opportunity to challenge yourselves with a unique subject. Keep in mind that it will need firm and gentle hands to handle the parts, as well as a sharp eye to place the single pieces without doing a mess of it. But I am only mentioning this because of my own clumsy experiences, which have led me to handle these items with the highest respect. This is not a project to tackle if you are in a hurry. Take your time and enjoy it.