by: Russ Amott [ ]
Originally published on:
Miniart is a Russian manufacturer that has been getting a lot of attention lately for their figure releases that have featured many subjects not expected to be seen in plastic. This review will cover the US Tank Crew set.
In WWII, US armored forces were initially issued a single piece coverall of herringbone twill for warm weather which came in a 1938 version with zipper closure, two breast pockets, one without a button and two patch pockets on the rear. The 1943 suit featured a single left side breast pocket, wide cotton belt and a fly that would allow the wearer to urinate without having to completely disrobe. There was also a two piece herringbone twill uniform that was used by mechanics and widely distributed to armored vehicle crew members, featuring two breast pockets.
For winter use, a variety of clothing types, including the coverall, a combat suit consisting of overall type pants with a cotton shell and wool blanket lining with matching jacket featuring knit cuffs, collar and waistband, plus sweaters and anything else the tanker could wear and still fit in the tank. Quartermaster corps headquarters issued regulations about which uniforms were to be used by which troops, but uniform items were swapped out widely by troops in the field, and it was common for tankers to have "non-armored forces" uniform items, and infantry to have tanker specific items. The jacket, in particular, was very popular.
This set from Miniart includes five full figures in a variety of dress, with two wearing the cold weather jacket, one wearing what appears to be the two piece herringbone twill uniform, and the other two wearing the late pattern single piece herringbone twill one piece suit. One of the figures in the one piece suit has his sleeves rolled up while the other has his suit unbuttoned to increase ventilation. I don't know enough about the uniforms to state specifically if they are correct, but to my eyes, based on comparison with photographs, they appear correct.
The poses are as follows:
Tank commander (sergeant) in winter jacket, standing with one leg raised, talking on a microphone. Crew member (private), standing and leaning forward, arms folded as if resting on part of the tank, wearing a winter jacket. Crew member seated, resting on his hands, one foot up resting on part of the vehicle, sleeves rolled up, single piece suit. Crew member, again wearing the one piece suit, seated, both legs hanging down, right arm raised and resting on vehicle part, other hand on surface he is sitting on. Crew member, wearing two piece uniform, seated, one hand on leg, the other resting on vehicle surface he is sitting on.
The kit comes in a small, end opening box with pictures of the five figures on the front of the box, and the instructions on the rear, again showing a painting of the figure with lines indicating which parts go where. Painting is called out for nearly every major model paint brand, also on the box rear.
Inside the box are two small sprues holding 50 parts. The first sprue has the two figures wearing winter jackets, as well as sidearms for four figures. The second sprue has the other three figures. There are no numbers or sprue identification. There is a small paper inside with a layout of the sprues and this has the parts numbered.
The plastic is gray styrene and is soft enough to be worked easily with a hobby knife. Sprue attachment points are very small. Seam lines are a little heavy and there is some light flash on parts. Detail appears to be very good but the molds appear a little rough, with some tool marks visible on the surface of the figures. I was impressed with the hands, which have very good definition and no heavy overlapping effect. A small decal sheet is included which has a generic armored division patch and also chevrons for the two figures in the winter jackets, one a sergeant and the other a private.
I assembled each of the figures to test for fit. Although the photos don't show, I did also get the arms on just after my camera went down. In general, the parts cleaned up very quickly. There was no tearing of the plastic at the attachment points, and no creasing lines were visible. I was surprised at the clean fit of the leg halves on each figure. The fit of the torsos was generally good, although there was a small gap on one. The figures do seem to be very narrow waisted, at least to me, and even for the figures with the jackets, there is no real bulk. The seated figures are shown in the painting on the box top as being slightly twisted, but the figures are facing squarely to the front. It would be possible to have them still turning slightly, but it will require some reshaping of the upper torso sections. Also for the seated figures, once I placed the arms, I found that the hands didn't quite reach to the surface they were sitting on. Maybe a well placed but of stowage or a handle or periscope cover will help with this.
The heads appear to be well formed, at least for styrene, and I think will look good, though many will choose to replace them with resin heads. The tankers helmets come as separate assemblies, with the top and sides molded as separate parts. Two of the sidearms are molded as shoulder holsters and two are molded as hip holsters. There are also four sets of goggles, so one figure goes without. The other accessory is a microphone for the radio, held by the tank commander. All of the figures have a wire for the helmet headset molded in place on the torso. Pockets and other uniform details appear to be well defined. There is a triangular area for the division insignia, and both the sergeant and private have a chevron detail molded in place on their sleeve as well, though the private's chevron is upside down.
The figures can be used to depict armored crew members in a variety of situations and vehicles, with two in colder weather, two in warm weather and one sort of in-between. The tankers helmets could be replaced by helmets or headgear from the spares box as appropriate for the situation. I experimented with poses on an M5A1 light tank, M10 tank destroyer, an M4 tank and an M8 armored car. They could also go on a halftrack. They are comparable in size to Dragon's figures.
As mentioned, kit issues include the private's molded chevrons being upside down, some flash and die tooling marks, a couple of very minor gaps when fitting the figures together, and a very thin appearance, particularly to the two figures in the winter jackets. I would also have liked to have included in the set a five pairs of goggles rather than four, as well as more options for armament. Finally, I would have liked the poses to reflect the box art more to add some life to them.
Kit pluses are the variety of poses and uniforms (I bought the set for the two guys dressed for warm weather), good detailing on the uniforms and in spite of minor gaps, generally very good fit of the body parts. The decals are a bonus.
I think this is a very good figure set for armor modelers. They don't work as a single set, but do offer one or two figures for a vehicle to add some life to it, and can be mixed or matched with other existing sets to increase the range.
I purchased this kit through Lucky model for $11.98, shipping included. It can be found at most online retailers as well as at the local hobby store for those lucky enough to still have one.