by: Russ Amott [ ]
The 1/4 ton truck was arguably the most produced and distributed vehicle from the U.S. in WWII. Seen on every front and serving with every Allied army, it served a large number of roles. For modelers, there are kits offered on the Willys version from Tamiya, Italeri and Revell, and on the Ford variant from Miniart. Each kit offers different features, but each is fairly basic in detail and they offer few additional features.
Minor is an aftermarket company from Spain offering photo etch items to add detail and options to the basic 1/4 ton and 3/4 ton trucks. The 1/4 ton etch sets are based on Tamiya's release, but are adaptable to the Italeri and Revell kits. Miniart is not mentioned, but I imagine they would still be fine.
I received set GM002 for review. This consists of three smaller etch sets combined into one value-type pack. They are AVM35002, stowage rack, AVM35003, SCR510 US radio set and VMD35000, workable leaf spring set. Included are four pages of instructions printed front and back, in color.
The etch frets are very finely detailed, and in different thicknesses depending on the set you are constructing. Most of the attachment points were very small, making them easy to cut with a #11 blade. There are two etch frets for the radio set and one each for the stowage bin and workable leaf springs. Included on the radio sections are wiring guides that appear to be taken from an ordinance manual. The guides show both the wiring connections between the radio, power unit and battery in close detail, and a view of the vehicle with the wiring running between the battery and radio station and a terminal box.
One section of the radio fret has a canvas cover for the radio set. The surface has been given an uneven treatment which makes for a nice cloth like appearance.
The instructions are well laid out and indicate clearly which parts of the assembly are for optional parts. In general, I was able to understand them and the only real challenges I ran into were created by myself.
I purchased a Tamiya 1/4 ton truck kit for the assembly. I began by modifying the kit parts, removing the areas that would be replaced by the etch. I also filled in the locating notches for the plastic tabs on the kit frame. I got ahead of myself and added the brackets for the leaf springs to the bottom of the frame, making the assumption that the etch leaf springs would line up in the same spot. I discovered that they don't. I would recommend building the leaf springs first, and then mating everything else to them. That being said, I proceeded with the build of the workable leaf spring suspension.
I used some 24 gage steel wire as it fit the hole in the individual spring bars perfectly and built each leaf spring set with that. I did my best to follow the instructions exactly. I noted that the assembled springs did not look quite like the image printed on the instructions as the individual spring bars were a bit longer than depicted on the finished part. On the rear spring sets, one of the spring bars, part 30, had a locator hole that was off center. I don't know if this was intentional or not. I made a new hole in the center as it matched the picture in the instructions. This was the only modification that I made to the springs, but you may want to shorten some of the spring bars to allow them to move more freely and represent more closely the illustrated image.
I thought attaching the leaf springs to the axle would be more difficult, but it was fairly easy. I straightened a piece of wire, bent it around a file handle and inserted it into the bracket holes. Again, I used the 24 gage wire, which fit perfectly. When the axle/leaf spring assemblies were ready, I fit them to the front and rear most frame attachment brackets, and once in place, used the assembly to position where the rear attachment brackets would go on the frame. The difference in location was about 2mm. With careful use of glue, the suspension still moves and allows the axle to sit at an angle, matching the terrain. It is a detail that may not be all that visible, but is nice to have.
The final part of the spring bar assembly is to remove the shock absorber from the kit springs and fit them to the new etch spring assembly. I drilled out the ends of the shocks and used the 24 gauge wire to attach the shock to the frame mounted bracket. The rear shock had to be shortened on my build, but the front shocks were not long enough. I will need to compress the springs a bit more.
Next up was the radio set. I have a couple of other builds underway right now and the Dragon and AFV Club etch I was using bend out on the indicated bend lines...Minor etch bends in. I didn't notice this until later in the build when I saw the face of my radio was opposite from that in the instructions. This could also be due to my occasional dyslexia. Other than that, assembly was easy. The radio face has multi-level detailing that provides great depth. The only thing not clearly indicated in the instructions is the length of the rod sections that go between the radio and power unit and the power unit and base. There are two small etch parts shown on the instructions but not indicated by number, that go to the front of the radio. They are part 38, and are straps to hold the power cord in place.
Several of the bends on this assembly are small, and on the mounting base, some of the bends are on inside areas where a hold and fold type tool won't work. The etch on the radio is a bit thinner and softer, and easily bent or crushed, so be careful during assembly.
Before you set the radio in place you may want to install the rear seat. Otherwise there may not be enough room to have the seat down. Once in place I ran the wires to the radio and transformer box. I ran them on the vehicle floor but it appears they were run under the vehicle and came up through the rear floor. There are two long tabs on one leg bracket that are straps to hold the power supply. The instructions show how to scratch build an antenna mast, I chose instead to use a turned brass part from Voyager. I did not use the foul weather cover for the radio, but as I said above, it is a very nice looking detail to add.
The final part was the rear stowage basket and this went together easily. The kit jerry can cannot be used in the jerry can bracket in the etch set so I used one from Tasca. I cut the support brace, part 16, in half to make the supports on the rear of the vehicle.
Overall, this etch set was easier than I expected to work with. As seems to be par for the course with me, I would do better with the set a second time around. The suspension does really work, providing position-able wheels and the ability to show the vehicle weighted down. The radio is highly detailed, with depth to the face, and includes the dials, and the stowage rack assembles easily. The instructions are good, better in fact than other aftermarket providers. They are also available online if you want to study them before you buy, or in case you lose them.
Aside from my own shortcomings in the assembly process, the only issue I had was with the lack of details on the Tamiya kit. The radio draws a lot of attention to the vehicle interior. I would suggest Minor add a basic detailing upgrade to their line of accessories. Minor does offer a few other items I'm eyeing right now, like the tire chains and the upgrade for the 3/4 ton truck.
Based on my experience with this set, and in comparison with other etch products I have used, I believe this set is an excellent option for modelers. I recommend it.
Look for Minor at www.minor-web.com. Warning: searching under 'Minor model' will bring up a number of unwanted web sites.
Following the publication of this review, Jordi Orengo of Minor posted a reply in the comments, indicating that there was an error in the instructions regarding the front and rear leaf springs and that the off center hole in part 38 was a manufacturing error that will be fixed in production. He has requested that modelers affected by these issues contact him for replacement. The corrected instructions are up at the Minor website.
This is the first time I have done (or read in) a review where the manufacturer addressed a problem directly, and so quickly. This is impressive service and indicative of the intent Minor has to produce a top quality product. My thanks to Jordi Orengo for taking care of this issue so quickly.
The rating score has been changed to reflect these corrections.