Friday, December 18

"Tw-In-Boxed": 1/35th scale Austin Armoured Car 3rd Series & 1918 Pattern from MiniArt

MiniArt surprised us all recently with the dual release of their two Austin Armoured cars, the 3rd Series & 1918 Pattern kits in 35th scale. The intrepid Andy Moore has them both, and in the interests of fairness to each kit, he is building both of them in a forthcoming article. But today -  he looks at the contents of both kits & examines them in detail in his dual review...
Tewin-In-Boxed: Austin Armoured Car 3rd Series & 1918 Pattern
Manufacturer – MiniArt
Kit Numbers – #39005 & #39009
Scale - 1/35th
Price - £36 – US$48 - €41 from Hobbylink Japan
Product Link on the MiniArt Website
MiniArt introduced their WWI series last year, starting off with the B-Type Omnibus that we reviewed a while back on TMN. Since then, they've been slowly expanding their range of Great War kits, and the latest to join the ranks is the Austin Armoured Car which, so far, has been announced in three different variants. In today's review, we'll be looking at the first two of those releases in the form of the 3rd Series in Eastern European service and the 1918 Pattern in British service.
The Austin armoured car had it's origins right at the start of WWI when the Russian Army was looking to expand their armoured car capacity. Their domestic car production facilities weren't really up to the task, so a delegation was sent to the UK to find suitable vehicles. Nothing they saw fitted their specific requirements though, so the Austin Motor Company set out to design a new vehicle. The resulting design, built on an existing passenger car chassis, became the Austin Series 1, and 48 were duly ordered for the Russian Army in September 1914. The cars featured 4mm armoured plate bodies, and carried twin roof-mounted turrets, each armed with a Maxim machine gun, and were manned by a crew of four, consisting of a Commander, driver, and two gunners.
Although the Series 1 was considered a success, it still had several shortcomings and these were addressed with the Austin Series 2, 60 of which were ordered in early 1915. These featured a truck chassis in place of the earlier car chassis of the Series 1 to better handle the increased weight of the thicker armour plate used on the body. A more powerful engine was also fitted, again to better cope with the added weight. While the twin turret arrangement was carried over from the Series 1, the body was altered by angling the front of the cab roof to give a better field of fire for the gunners, and the rear entry hatch was removed.
Another 60 vehicles were ordered in 1916, and these were known as the Series 3. These were broadly similar to the Series 2, but featured a modified rear body to accommodate a rear-facing driving position, a feature that had been added to the Series 2 vehicles after their arrival in Russia. A further version, based on the Series 3 and known as the 1918 Pattern, was ordered, but the subsequent revolution in Russian put paid to those deliveries. Those vehicles that had already been built were redirected to the British Army and dispatched to the Western Front and the Middle East.
The main visual difference between the 1918 Pattern and the previous Series 3 were the twin rear wheels which were added to better support the weight of the vehicle. 16 of these armoured cars, equipped with Hotchkiss machine guns, were supplied to the 17 Battalion of the Tank Corps and arrived in France in the Spring of 1918. On 8th of August, the Austins took part in the Battle of Amiens, the cars being towed across no-man's-land by Mk. V tanks before running amok through the enemy lines and capturing the German headquarters at Farmerville.
The Kit
Both kits arrive in standard MiniArt top-opening boxes, each containing a selection of sprues in grey styrene (18 for the Series 3, and 15 for the 1918 Pattern), plus a clear sprue for the light lenses etc. Both kits also come with a comprehensive photo-etch fret and, of course, the decals and instruction manuals. In both cases, you're getting a fully detailed interior including the driver's compartment, the turret interiors, and the rear driver's position.
All the hatches and doors can be posed open to view the interior.
Commonality between these two kits & this review:
As both kits use mostly the same components, we'll run through the sprues that come with the Series 3, then show the alternate sprues that are included with the 1918 Pattern.
(Sprues marked 'common' appear in both kits)

Austin Armoured Car 3rd Series
Ukrainian, Polish, Georgian, Romanian Service
Sprue A (common)
This holds most of the armoured body panels, along with the wood plank flooring for the cab and turret. The usual high-quality MiniArt detailing is present and correct here, including the use of slide moulding where appropriate.
The bolt detail on the panels is very nicely reproduced. There is a little flash here and there, such as on the hinge sections here, but this will be quick to remove with a sharp blade.
The wooden floor sections don't feature any moulded grain texture, which is the way I prefer it. This way you can either leave the planks smooth, create a grain texture yourself with a sanding stick or razor saw, or use one of the woodgrain decals that are available from various sources.
Sprue B (common)
Here we've got most of the chassis and engine components, along with other parts such as the dashboard and pioneer tools. Again, slide moulding is used here to good effect.
The engine components feature some really fine detailing, including the 'Austin' script seen here on the engine block and gearbox casing. Since you can choose to leave the engine covers off, all this detail will be easily seen on the finished model.
As mentioned above, MiniArt has used quite a lot of slide moulding in this kit, such as this very neat horn which sits on the firewall in the engine compartment, with its rubber bulb mounted to the dashboard.
Speaking of the dashboard, MiniArt has included a nicely detailed one, but sadly they haven't included any decals for the instrument dials. That's a shame as I think you'll be able to see the dash quite clearly with the cab door open.
Sprue Ck (x2, common)
This one holds turret parts, including sections of the main turret drums, the gunner's seats and the supports for the machine guns.
This sprue holds some very small components such as the threaded bolt (part 13) and the tiny wingnuts (15 &16). You'll need to take care removing and attaching these parts, but they will add a lot of finesse to the finished build. You'll also see the row of bolts along the bottom of the sprue. These need to be sliced off and attached to the outer shells of the turret drums. Doing it this way eliminates the problem you get when bolt heads are moulded onto a curved surface which usually leaves them skewed and distorted.
Sprues Cb (x2), Cd (x2), Cf (x2)
These sprues hold the wheels and tyres. Sprue Cd holds alternate rear wheels, fitted with solid rubber tyres, that are used for the Polish and Romanian marking options. All the tyres feature sidewall detail on both sides of the tyres
Sprue Da (common)
This holds a lot of smaller components for the chassis and transmission. Some of the long connecting rods on here look quite fragile and have multiple sprue gates, so take extra care when removing them. Interestingly, MiniArt seems to have considered this and show the option of using wire replacements (not included) in the instructions. They've even gone as far as to include optional PE brackets if you do choose to replace the moulded parts with wire.
Sprues Dc & De
More turret parts and the driver's hatch and rear fenders.
Sprues Ea & Ed
Turret roof panels and the cab side panels. These all have separate hatches/doors that can be posed open. All the parts feature moulded detail on their inner faces as well, and are thankfully completely free of ejector pin marks.
Sprues Ek (common) & Ff (x2)
Sprue Ek holds the headlight casings that are fitted to some of the marking options. The two Ff sprues hold the Maxim machine guns that were fitted to the Russian operated vehicles, which subsequently ended up in service with the Eastern European nations depicted in this kit. Slide moulding has been used here again to create the open end of the barrel.
Sprue Ec (common)
The clear sprue holds the light lenses and the vision blocks for the driver's armoured screen.

Austin Armoured Car 1918 Pattern
British Service, Western Front

This box contains the common sprues shown above, plus nine new sprues containing parts specific to this version.
Sprue Db
This holds unditching boards that mount to the right side of the car, and a set of fuel cans that mount on the left. There's also a side-mounted stowage locker and an alternate pair of rear fenders.
Sprues E & Eb
Sprue E holds new side panels for the cab, while sprue Eb supplies new turret roof plates and hatches.
Sprues C (x2), Cg (x2) & Fg (x2)
Sprue C provides the new style wheels for the 1918 Pattern. Cg has new turret fronts and ball mounts for the Hotchkiss machine guns, while sprue Fg holds the Hotchkiss guns themselves, again with slide moulded open-ended barrels.
Last of the new parts for the 1918 Pattern are six individually moulded Clincher Cross tyres, which accurately reproduce the distinctive tread pattern that these tyre featured. 
They look to have been moulded with a multi-part mould which has resulted in some flash and mould lines running across the tread in places, but this should sand away with little trouble, and it's worth it to get the lovely sidewall detail.
Both kits include photo-etch frets, supplied in their own protective card envelopes, that provide some of the smaller details. Some of the parts on these frets really are tiny, but they're covered with a clear film on each side to stop the parts pinging off when you cut them free.
The decals for each kit are printed by Decograph, which I've always found to perform very well. The printing here is excellent, with many of the markings having an authentic hand-painted look.
Marking Options - 3rd Series
Five options in total, all finished in Green Moss, with a choice of vehicles from Ukraine, Poland, Romania, and Georgia.
Marking Options – 1918 Pattern
The 1918 Pattern comes with a choice of seven markings, again finished in Green Moss, although livened up with a few with blue/grey upper bodies, and one featuring a distinctive disruptive camo pattern.

(Note; The first option below, the car carrying the number 4, isn't shown in the marking guide, but the decals for it are included with the kit)
This looks to be a really nice release from MiniArt, and they've certainly packed a huge amount of detail into the kit. Whether or not that results in a fiddly and complex build, we'll find out when I start cutting plastic. I'll be building both kits side-by-side, one with everything open to show off the interior, the other buttoned up for hopefully a simpler build. 

The first part of that build of both of these will be coming up soon on TMN, so stay tuned.

Andy Moore

Thanks to MiniArt for sending Andy these two kits to review - and to build for you. YOu can find out more about these and their other excellent kits on the MiniArt Website