Wednesday, May 24

Build Guide Pt.I: Paul's take on MiniArt's 35th scale T-54-2 Soviet Medium Tank (mod 1949)

Miniart is making some great new models of the largest, toughest tanks to enter service in the last century, with a focus especially on the Post-WWII "T" series of medium and MBT's. Paul got his hands on Miniart's new 35th scale T54-2 kit and though he would give us his build guide of the kit's construction. Let's take a look at it going together in Pt.I of his build guide
Build Guide: T54-2 Soviet Medium Tank (mod 1949)
Manufacturer: MiniArt
Scale: 1/35th
Type: Multimedia Kit
Available from MiniArt distributors worldwide

The T-54/T-55 family of tanks will probably go down as the most mass produced tank in history with over 100,000 tanks built and in service around the world, it is highly unlikely that this number will ever be surpassed with the ever increasing cost of more modern designs. I find that one of the more interesting aspects of Russian tank design is the evolutionary nature of each vehicle and if you were to put them all in line, you will be able to see how each one descended from the previous tank.
For this kit, MiniArt has chosen to release the T-54-2 which came before the mass produced T-54A. The -2 variant differs from the -1 with a turret design more influenced by the IS-3, with slab sides and a smaller overhang at the rear of the turret, although the biggest difference is the 100mm gun in a mantlet similar to the German Saukopf (Pigs Head) used at the end of WW2. 

The -2 would then lead to the -3 before the T-54A which was produced in significant numbers.
The kit is designed to be built from the ground up and starts with the lower hull tray. The kit’s roots as a full interior kit is very apparent with a moderate amount of interior parts still called out by the instructions although these are not necessary and totally up to you if you want to install them. 
The suspension housings and suspension arms all come in horizontal halves which increases the workload but the fit is excellent. Torsion bars slide into the suspension housings and go across the floor and then a floor plate covers them up, as well the wall that separates the driver compartment are not really necessary although the rear firewall to the engine compartment helps align the hull sides. The hull sides need some chamfers to be sanded but the instructions only tell you the length of the chamfer without actual measurements of where they should be. However, you can make the chamfers after fitting the hull tops which have cutouts corresponding to where the chamfers should be.
With the sides fitted to the hull, construction now moves to the front glacis and rear hull plates. The joints at the front of the glacis are the biggest gaps I would come across during construction so the overall fit of the kit is excellent. There is a length of rod that goes across the rear hull which is very finely done, however, it also features ten connection points so it will need some very delicate removal off the sprue and cleanup afterwards. Construction of the wheels is also done here although I have left them off to make painting a bit easier later on.
Make sure you slide the rear hull plate as far down as possible otherwise the upper rear strip will not sit properly on that rear plate resulting in a gap. The rear also features the mounting brackets for the fuel drums which have some very fine PE detail. The instructions later tell you to thread a plastic rod into those tiny PE pieces on the brackets. I experimented with it first but couldn’t thread the rod into the hole so I will have to sand it down or substitute it with something later down the track.
The upper hull plates fit together perfectly if everything is aligned correctly, and this is what told me there was an issue with the rear hull plate. The PE grills on the rear deck add a nice touch to the kit. Because I haven’t installed the wheels yet, I have skipped over putting the track links at this point because the wheels aren’t on and the wheels will be needed to sag the tracks.
Moving on, the construction of the fenders is straight forward and goes together without a hitch and features some nice PE details on the inside of the front section. The fuel tanks also feature the fuel line most notably missing on the Tamiya T-55 kit. Like the wheels, I have chosen not to attach the fenders yet until after I’ve painted the tank and assembled the tracks. Tow cables are supplied in plastic and very nicely detailed, although I think one would have to be VERY optimistic to think they can be bent from the fender around to the lower hooks at the back of the hull without snapping so replacements will be necessary.
The turret is again a fairly straight forward affair with a minor seam to remove when you join the upper turret shell to the lower plate. Again, there are some interior parts which are purely optional and will only be visible if you have a hatch open. However, you only get the rear section of the gun barrel but the actual breech is not included in the kit so an open hatch is not recommended unless you stick some figures in there to obscure the view inside. The co-axial machine gun has a solid muzzle so I drilled it out which was simple enough. There are some very fine PE details at the front of the turret, but I found the PE to be too small for me so I replaced it with some wire.
The same goes for the grab handles at the back of the turret. I have only installed some of the handles because there is a stowage roll that goes across the back of the turret that will cover up the handles, and having them in place may interfere with the fit anyway.
The commander’s machine gun is a small work of art in itself including a small section of the ammunition belt that feeds the gun, although there was some flash resulting in some very delicate clean-up, but I decided not to assemble it to make painting easier again.
With the bulk of the construction now done, the sub-assemblies are now ready for paint. I have been well and truly impressed by what MiniArt have done with this kit which just goes together so well. There is still a reasonable amount of work and a lot of tiny and delicate parts so it is not suitable for a beginner, but a builder with some experience should enjoy this kit. An excellent example of what a modern armour kit should be like. Bring on the paint!

Paul Lee

Thanks to MiniArt for supplying this kit to build and review