Despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a good number of model companies have been able to start production again - MiniArt is one such company, and I am sure they would appreciate your support. This release is the third Stug III in 1/35th scale and my initial look over the contents gives me some very positive opinions of it. The Stug family beyond the switch from III to IV when the Panzer III hull was changed to the Panzer IV one are small changes that the modeller loves to know are correct; well I really like the Stug family and I am very pleased to see the Stug III getting attention, but I have no idea about all of the small changes that occurred over the line. A general rule is that you improve survivability, Accuracy and cheapness of production; an example well known on the Stug family taken as a whole was the addition of concrete to get rid of a shot trap. So let’s take a dive into the contents.
The model arrives in a single plastic bag, where the decals are floating around loose in a bag facing the clear sprue and so could easily be damaged and is one area where I will pick MiniArt up. The photo etch included is also inside the bag, but is protected by a card envelope and so should not be a concern. Packing all of the parts in a single bag with MiniArt’s releases becoming slowly but surely becoming more refined means that in my opinion they need to start considering refining their packaging, but due to the war I will obviously overlook this problem. Access to the parts is good, but the finesse of some parts means that care will need to be taken during removal. You will need to be on your toes when it comes to finding the parts needed due to the large number of sprues.
The Stug III family of models from MiniArt offer a mix of with and without an interior and so a large number of parts in this offering are made to accommodate interior detail which this model includes. The lower hull is a great example of this with it being made up from 11 parts; this would normally cause me concern due to the risk of a part not being spot on but is saved by the addition of the bulkhead between the crew and engine bays. This provides a positive located part to work from and with the internal suspension elements should make the task a calming aspect. There is a reasonable amount of photo etch in the kit which is thankfully restricted to parts that are an improvement rather than just because they could.
The transmission and driver’s controls look accurate and I am impressed at the level of the bolt detail. The control rods and driver’s seat has been well tackled as regards placement, but the rods themselves need to be scratched by the modeller. The lengths of these rods is provided but not the width. Looking at the obstructions it’s amazing crew members never broke their necks just getting in and out of the vehicle. MiniArt has done a good job of depicting the sprung back detail on the seat which is one of those gem details.
Ammunition stowage racks have been well replicated as have the shells they house and which fills the space opposite the driver. Detail for the interior is moulded as part of the side walls with the modeller adding the needed extra detail. MiniArt has again provided details on cables that need to be added and the routes these take will really bring the interior to life. Radio sets and personal weapon storage is catered too, but I would like to see photos and keepsakes inside to really bring the human nature element of these vehicles to the forefront added by the modeller.
The engine bay of this model appears to offer all of the details present in the real vehicle including the engine bay detail itself. The fuel tank is well detailed and an element I had expected to be simplified but that is not the case here. The battery pack for the vehicle is cited in the crew compartment and is detailed again. The cooling system for the vehicle is catered to fully with radiators, cooling fans, belt drives and pipe work all being present and detailed. Most of the engine bay is easily identified and it is clear that it is wiring that needs to be added by the modeller and finding online data for this is harder than I expected. A plus is that MiniArt has provided some nice drawings of the engine bay and its layout that should help the modeller get it right.
Moving to the upper surfaces of the model where we are again provided with many well detailed panels that need to be brought together. The fighting compartment is a case in point which makes the model a lot more involved but improves the crispness of detail and extent of the moulded on detail. This detail is again both inside and out of most panels and so open hatches are still catered to too some degree. This vehicle was produced after the deletion of the shot traps either side of the main gun and which gives this vehicle its pleasing lines. Also present is the added armour plate on the most easily hit areas at the front of the vehicle, with these being added extra parts rather than moulded on parts the look will be improved in my opinion.
The main gun mount inside the vehicle looks accurate and is well detailed. The gun itself is fully provided with the rear portion of the barrel, the shielded recuperators above the barrel and the aiming device. The rest of the parts behind this area are also well catered too including the basket for catching the spent shell casings. The roof of the fighting compartment is thankfully a single moulding and so easily added. The hatches can be added open or closed and offer exceptionally pleasing detail in all regards without being a pain to work on. The commander’s hatch offers the same high level of detail and includes clear periscopes. The machine gun has the correct barrel detail for a vehicle MG but could be improved upon I believe. The armoured extractor hatch is a nicely done part and the interior cover also covered. The engine deck is a simple aspect but the detail looks spot on and I like the armoured engine deck covers. The exterior aspects of the main gun have been very well tackled giving the modeller great detail and doing away with most of the issues barrels usually provide.
The suspension on the model is very easy but is not articulated and so sits in a neutral plain. With that said the detail looks right and offers up what needs to be provided. The road wheels have good detail and even have manufacturers detail on the tyres. The return rollers, drive wheels and idlers look correct. The track provided is very nicely detailed individual links, but this is not the workable tracks seen on the Panzer IV models. A link count has been included but I have concerns about how easy or hard it will be to show the return track droop. The track guards are another very well tackled area with diamond tread pattern replicated on both upper and lower surfaces. The tools mounted on the model look nice especially the fire extinguisher. The eyes for the tow cables are provided but you are left to source your own preferred cable, I would have liked to see cable of some type included for the modellers who do not have a house full of junk that they call their spare parts.
MiniArt has provided eight finishing options for this release which are as follows:
Stug III Ausf G, Brig. 303. Finland, Summer 1944
Stug III Ausf G, Abt.2 “Das Reich”. Eastern Front, Kursk Area, Summer 1943
Stug III Ausf G, Abt.2 “Das Reich”. Eastern Front, Kursk Area, Summer 1943 with Schürzen
Stug III Ausf G/Pz. Rgt. 36, 14th Panzer Division, Eastern Front, Autumn 1943
Stug III Ausf G. Abt. 185. Eastern Front, Presumably Autumn 1943
Stug III Ausf G. Abt. 185. Eastern Front, Presumably Autumn 1943 (with Schürzen)
Stug III Ausf G. Abt. 201. Operation Margarethe, Hungary, March 1944
Stug III Ausf G. Abt. 201. Operation Margarethe, Hungary, March 1944 (with Schürzen)
I really like what MiniArt has provided here as while the interior makes the build a challenge the upper panels of the vehicle could be left loose I believe allowing an unrestricted view of the detail within. If the modeller has added their own extra improvements such as wiring looms this approach will enable that effort to shine. The contents could easily be damaged due to the packing style and the finesse of some elements also means that breakage could easily occur. All of the complaints I can lay at the feet of this offering is restricted to packing as in addition to the risk to the main sprues the decals are packed with the clear elements and this really needs to be altered.