Friday, December 20

Miniart's 1/35 AEC Armoured Car Mk.I build by Clayton Ockerby…

MiniArt’s new kits of the AEC Armoured cars really do raise the bar with what we have come to expect in a softskin model. Not only in the standards of manufacturer and fine detail but it has raised the expectations people have from MiniArt themselves. The kit is quite a challenge due to it’s complexity …with this in mind Clayton Ockerby has taken up the challenge to build and paint his own version of this famous little armoured car

Kit no: 35152
436 plastic parts
60 Photo-Etched metal parts
Decals options for three vehicles

When I was asked to put together a build review of this new Miniart kit I was excited by the challenge, but also a little reserved because the subject matter was something I would never have usually looked at and my knowledge of Miniart was very limited. 

Now you have to understand I have been away from the hobby for the best part of 15 years. When I was buying kits it was kind of based around the assumption that you knew you would get something reasonable if it had a Tamiya label on it and anything else would be a little hit and miss. But hasn’t this hobby come such a long way in such a short period of time…

This is a build log of my experience with the Miniart AEC Armoured Car Mk1. I don’t want to get too caught up in every detail of the process, just note some of the steps during the build and highlight any areas to watch out for. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Opening the box can be a little daunting, the part count is off the chart, especially giving the fact the vehicle has wheels and not tracks. So I guess my first thought is that this build is going to take some patience. Coming from the old school of being able to build a kit in an afternoon I held my nerve, cracked open a "coldie" and set it for the journey.

The sprues..
And the photo etched sheet for the delicate parts

Steps 1 to 12 are the assembly steps for the lower interior of the vehicle and the tanks in the engine bay. Now you have to make a decision here… how far you want to go with this model.  The majority of the elements you construct here will never see the light of day. The back wall in particular that has a number of small photo-etched straps which I have to say, just throw them away and save your glue.

The seat assembly in steps 8&9 proved to be very problematic for me because a number of the parts were broken in the kit I had. Also take great care with using the correct parts in the correct positions. A lot of them look similar and will only work in one way. I put the seat together as best I could and added some wire on the side supports to cover for some lost/broken parts. Again, you really don’t get to see much of this in the end, and if the hatch is closed, just don’t bother.
There are a number of gear sticks and levers in the driver’s compartment. In later steps these will all be joined together from the shafts coming in from the underside of the vehicle, so just check you positioning carefully.

CAUTION - In steps 10 and 12, placement for parts Da4 and Da3 (storage tubs) are shown. Now I learned this the hard way, but be very careful of where you stick these. It is crucial. Before the glue sets find part C3 and drop it in. It should sit nicely in the circular space left in the compartment. I glued mine in the slightly wrong position and later found the whole top assembly didn't fit. Obviously I have corrected it but it was a pain that could have been avoided.

Before the second side of the model is attached I took a moment to paint the interior details. Majority white with a few details picked out. Light oil wash and some drybrushing brings out some detail.
The engine bay was a sand colour, so that was also pre-painted and a few details were picked out. The engine bay was going to be weathered up, so I wasn't too concerned with the finish there at this point in time.
I skipped a few steps here and there to try and be on the front foot with my painting.  Around about here I assembled the gearbox and the engine and gave them a spray in Burnt Iron Alclad and worked them a little with a pigment.
I also sprayed the ammunition that would later sit in the turret with Alclad Brass to save the frustration of trying to pick out colours later.

Steps 13 – 19 are the chassis coming together – tended to be a number of fine details but all went together well.  A word of warning again through… there are a number of very similar looking parts that can catch you out of you are not careful. Identify you part numbers by their number, NOT by their appearance at a glance… you will come unstuck if you are not careful.

ALSO – be careful with the positioning of all the cross supports (C30 – C9, Da etc etc) and the radiator mounts C25 / C24. Positioning is really important down the track and the instructions can be a little vague as to their exact positioning given their importance.

Step 29 – Engine goes in the mounting bracket. It sits slightly skewed which I wasn’t entirely sure was correct, but there was no other way for it to fit.

Step 30 – The rear suspension. All pretty straight forward. Just check your parts and be sure you are using the correct parts in their correct spots…  not just parts that look right.

Steps 31 – 37 are the differentials (I assume that is what they are called…  not the most mechanical guy) and the wheel assemblies. Can all be very fiddly but if you have aligned all your other parts in their correct spots all the drive shafts should join up.  The bending of the photoetch in Step 37 actually turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.  The instructions show all these fine measurements down to 0.1 on a mm. Just grab a tooth pick and wrap the ends. Seemed to do the trick for me. I figured these guard plates would have copped a hammering in the field, so for them to be perfectly formed would have been a tad unrealistic anyway. 

Step 38 – More engine bits. If you don’t intend to display your model with the back open just don’t bother with them. Having said that would still need to drop the radiator in. All the pipes and pieces start to bring this engine together. There is a little piece of PE there too on the outside of the vehicle. A beautiful little touch – a step I am guessing.  Might be worth holding this back until the end as it is very easily knocked during the construction process. It really does add a nice scale touch to the kit.

Steps – 39 – 40 – Wheels come together. Again… watch your parts and make sure you follow the instructions carefully. If not you will end up with the tread on the tyres going the wrong way.

Steps 44 – 54 – The Turret internals. All reasonably straight forward. The radio is very nice and one of the things you will potentially see if the hatches are open and there is no figure in place. The PE grill is a very nice touch.  I researched the radios a bit and you can find a few pictures online. I wouldn’t go too over the top with this as visibility will be limited and the grill will really be the hero rather than the radio face.
The positioning of C20 is very ambiguous and I had to adjust that on reviewing forward. You should adhere the arm and let the handle/dial piece sit below the opening. Look at Step 66 and it should be a little clearer.

I didn’t understand the PE for the additional bolts around the turret. Not sure why they were not just molded in the plastic? Maybe it was a version / model thing and they used the design from something else? No matter, just seemed odd. The PE is very small, so care must be taken not to end up swimming in superglue and tiny brass coloured pinheads.

The PE seen in Step 25 actually went together better than I had expected. It is an odd bend and you will need a PE tool to help you. It is a crucial part of the top of the turret, so take care and have a go. I think a molded version would have been a nice option here for those not up to or unwilling to bend this piece.

Pick out and paint the details inside the turret and seal it all up.
Step 55 – 58 – The Drivers Hatch – The periscopes come together nicely and the PE handles add some very nice detail. A little PE handle there is a nice tough too. I put this all together on the top part of the model but stopped short of adding the windscreen until after the painting was done.
The angle and amount that the hatch sat open was dictated by the parts used – so just go with it if you wanted to display it open. It will all fall in place.

STEP 63 – 66 – The Turret internals. Everything fits well here. I would just recommend you assemble it all without the ammunition, spray it, wash and weather it and then add your pre-painted ammo. Just all comes together cleaner that way. Be mindful when fitting C26 and C27 that these pieces will connect the tub to the turret, so they need to be strong.

When gluing them together set yourself up something for it to rest on whilst it dries and let it dry for a day. Make sure it all sits square and the connecting positions are a good fit and glued well.  If down the track this fails you will end up with the tub floating around in the sealed model.

It was at Step 68 I realized that my storage tubs form Step 10 and 12 were in the wrong position as the whole top assembly simply wouldn’t fit in.  A bit of plastic surgery saw me back on the right track and the top fit beautiful on the body of the vehicle.

Steps 69 – The Sand rails and fenders – The PE here is fiddly. Just be patient and slowly get through it. The fine detail will be worth it in the end.   I found in 73 and 74 both the rear view mirror arms broke on me. I substituted some stiff wire here. It actually looked better and more in scale.

I didn’t actually attached the fenders here as I figured it would be best to get a good coat of paint all over prior to attaching them.  I just sealed up the drivers hatch with tissue and blutack’d the engine covers on to spray.

PAINT and Weathering
I have chosen to do the came scheme version of this vehicle. It is form an unidentified unit based in Syria, 1943.
I ordered the Vallejo paints they specified – 912 and 983. But on receiving them they really didn’t look anything like I was expecting to see from the box art and the instruction art.  The Tan/yellow colour was so bright and almost looked like it was glowing and the Earth colour was very weak in contrast. It was right about now I started questioning the accuracy of the colour shown in the instructions….  I couldn’t find any actual pictures or reference shots that matched the brightness and ‘yellowness’ of the drawings in the instructions.

And so started my journey to try and find a decent reference for the colour schemes for this vehicle. The long and the short of it was I really came out of it all more confused than when I started. It was right about now I was thinking the single colour version looked pretty good…but decided not to wimp out and continue on.

The kit was primed and very loosely pre-shaded. I didn’t spend any time doing this as it just about all gets covered up anyway – it just adds some tonal variation down the track.
Not being happy with the Tan Yellow I tried the Desert Yellow, but again didn’t feel that cut it. I ended up mixing the Ochre Tan and calming it down with a flesh colour.  I guess I was splitting hairs, but the colour was really bothering me.

Then we came to the camo pattern…
I tested a few ways to paint the camouflage on this model. I tried pre-cutting masks and spraying it on but contours of the model are very rigid and fragile in parts, so the mask didn’t work very well. I wasn’t happy with airbrushing it free hand either because the extreme contours, especially on the sand rails, kept giving inconsistent results.  I ended up just hand painting the pattern on and airbrushing in the gaps.

Unhappy with the specified Earth colour I used a ‘Tank Brown’ Vallejo colour to get the colour and contrast. To match the instructions as well as a number for reference shots of some Sherman’s I have seen serving in the same area at the same time.  
After the paint was dry an oil wash was applied and a few details were picked out.  The model was then dry brushed with a light flesh colour.

The 3 very basic decals were then applied and sealed.

I then moved onto chipping the model.  I brush painted this with a dark brown colour. I went a little too far with it but knew once it was dusted up everything would tone down, so pressed on.
A coat of clear and then a bit of experimentation with the ‘True Earth’ filters. (Jury still out for me…there is definite potential but there seems to be a real definite technique to using these). I added highlights and shadows where appropriate.

Some pastel chalk mixed with white spirit was washed through the tyres to give the dusted look. Ivory Sand was lightly dusted along the bottom part of the model to simulate dust.Add a couple of aerials and a few touch ups here and there and we have a finished model.

Here she is painted up..
It's not the same without a base and figure - so here it is on a base with the added figure from Alpine Miniatures“35079 British Armoured Crew #2 & Puppy” - Sculpted by Taesung Harmms
Coming from the time when you could build a model in an afternoon this kit was a little daunting to me at first. As I started to understand how it worked and the unbelievable level of detail I really started to fall in love with it. The obscure and somewhat dorky lines of this oddity really started to grow on me.  I was really surprised at the overall size of this vehicle. I had this impression at the start that it was a little armored car, but in reality it is anything but. It was essentially a tank on wheels. From what I understand it was it’s height and bulk that became it’s downfall.

The downside of my experience was I found a number of fine parts were damaged and the plastic was very soft and broke quite easily when removing them from the sprues. Some of the placement of parts was very ambiguous in the instructions, especially some of the parts that needed to be really accurate down the track.
This armoured car is definitely a challenging kit and really not for the beginner. It will consume you for many hours, days in fact. It will frustrate you in parts but at the end, it will give you a beautifully detailed kit of a truly unique fighting machine.

Miniart really sets a very high standard, a benchmark if you will. The detail, the fit, the engineering are truly mind blowing and worth taking the journey. I joked with my wife that if you were to fill the fuel tank and find the keys you could potentially get the thing going.

Clayton Ockerby

Thanks to MiniArt for this kit – you can see this kit and their other works along with this one on their site