by: Andras [ ]
MiniArt has been steadily introducing some pretty amazing kits equipped with full interiors, and everything that comes with them: high part numbers, complex and long builds, and prematurely greying hair in the case of less patient modellers. It is quite conceivable (although I personally find it hard to believe) that not everyone who wants to build an SU-122 wishes to include a full interior; that there are model builders who probably would prefer a simpler, smaller (in complexity, not in size, obviously), and more importantly, cheaper model. MiniArt has considered their needs as well, and issued their new SU-122 model without interior. (Well, this is not technically true; letís say ďsimplified interiorĒ as weíll see in a minute.) Andras Donaszi has provided an in-box review of the SU-122 interior kit, and Iím preparing a full build review as my time allows; this review compares the new, simplified kit to full interior kit.
The model comes in the typical MiniArt box, with a very nice artwork of a winter camouflaged vehicle. (The paintjob is pretty goofy with a gigantic red dot on the top and branches painted on the superstructure.) It does not have the words ďinterior kitĒ on the box, distinguishing it from the original, and the box is slimmer as well. (The box art shows the SPG with the hatches open, and the ammunition propellant cases showing -a minor issue, but these are not in the kit.)
Even though the model is essentially the same as the SU-122 early interior kit, there are two minor differences Iíve found so far: the end of the gun sheath (G17), and the small covers for the viewports on the top (Ed1) are not the same. (See the photos of the instruction manual for reference.)
In most other respects the sprue layout and the parts are almost completely identical. Some sprues and the PE sheet has been redesigned for this model instead of giving us extras that we donít use, which is a thoughtful move from MiniArt. It shows that they did not simply take a couple of sprues out and called it a new model, but actually gave it a thought. This obviously reduces the number of parts going to the spares box; I like to think it as reducing unnecessary waste. (Some other companies are quite generous with their spares parts; I had models where one third of the parts were not required for the build. This obviously is great if you like to scratch build, but for most people itís just plastic they do not use.)
The model does have some interior: the whole of engine compartment is missing, true, but we get enough details in the fighting compartment to make it look busy should you opt to open the hatches, or wish to display it with some extensive damage (a side peeling off due to internal explosion for example). Gone are the fuel tanks, the ammunition storage, the recoil guard for the gun, etc.
Once I took a good look at the sprue layout I found MiniArtís design philosophy pretty smart. Iíve had some gripes previously with MiniArtís tendency of breaking up the sprues into tiny little ones named E, Ea, Eb, Ed, etc., as they make finding parts a bit tedious, but now I see why they do it. This sort of division makes it possible to have different versions of the same model (or indeed, different model, as the SU-122, SU-85 share about 80% of their components) without needing to redesign the sprues, or giving you parts for a completely unrelated model. They simply need to mix and match most of the parts; a simple and elegant solution. This holds true for the interior/non-interior kits as well. For example, most of the gun is included on sprues G and Ga in the full interior version. These sprues are actually welded together into one long sprue, so I was pretty curious why they needed two different letters. Now I know. G holds most of the larger parts, while Ga has the small details. By omitting Ga, MiniArt can provide a simplified gun for the non-interior model, easy as that.
To make it a bit clearer, hereís a comparison for the sprues provided for both SU-122 kits. (Kit #35175 - full interior, and kit #35181 no-interior).
The sprues included in the full interior model
A -Ab (engine)
C (driverís compartment)- Ca (parts of the engine deck)
D (the overall fighting compartment (sides, front, etc)
Da (parts of the transmission and engine)
E (engine), Ea (suspension, small parts), Eb (drive wheel), Ed (viewport covers used in non-interior kit, small parts), Eg (periscopes, clear parts)
F (Christie suspension), Fb (ammo), Fi (roadwheels), Fj (tracks), Fk (Christie suspension, external fuel tanks), Fm (ammo)
G (parts of the gun and gun mount), Ga (parts for the gun, and other interior details)
Jd (top of the engine compartment, covers for the viewport)
The sprues included in this model (NO interior)
Ca (parts of the engine deck)
D (the overall fighting compartment (sides, front, etc)
Da (exhaust pipes only; the sprue Da in the full interior kit is much larger)
Ea (suspension, small parts), Eb (drive wheel), Ed (viewport covers used in non-interior kit, small parts), Eg (periscopes, clear parts)
F (Christie suspension), Fi (roadwheels), Fj (tracks), Fk (Christie suspension, external fuel tanks)
G (parts of the gun and gun mount)
Jc (top of the fighting compartment, different from Jd in the full interior kit)
Je (box on the back of the engine compartment plus bolt heads)
Overall the kit has a total of 565 parts -about 200 less than the full interior kit. Because of the simplified nature of the model, the instructions are shorter and different, too. The instructions are the typical instructions we are used to now: colored, A4 format instructions which are very clear and easy to follow (most of the time). The vehicle is built in 42 steps.
Steps 1-9 build up the interior and suspension units.
Steps 10-12 show the building of the right side wall and swing arms for the road wheels (they are necessary for attaching the sides).
Step 13 shows the assembly of the front suspension (which is attached to the frontal armor plate.)
Step 14 shows the assembly of the frontal armor and driverís hatch
Step 15 shows the assembly of the left side wall and the swing arms, and the attachment of the frontal armor to the hull.
Step 17 details the attachment of the transmission armored cover to the back of the hull.
Step 18-25 detail the assembly and installation of the main gun (and drive wheel)
Steps 26-29 goes on to the interior details and the assembly of the fighting compartment
Step 30-36 finishes the engine deck, the assembly of the back of the vehicles, and the installation of the tracks (which are not workable, despite of what the instruction manual claims, as the pins holding the links together are too small to hold them without glue)
Step 37 finishes top and the back of the fighting compartment, and the attachment of the back mudguards
Step 38 shows where the front mudguards and the tarp go
Step 39-41 detail the assembly of the external fuel tanks (you have an option to use PE straps for two of the four), plus show where the snow cleats go on the fender
And finally step 42 details the assembly and attachment of the box on the back of the engine deck. (With some extremely tiny bolt heads to be used.)
Overall the building should go fine if the experience Iíve gotten with the SU-122 interior model is any indication (and why wouldnít it be, when most of the parts are the same?). What really puzzles me (and caused some confusion) is that only two of the four fuel tanks are given an option for PE holding straps. I did not understand what was going on in the beginning as it did not make sense to me; it still does not, but now I can just ignore the PE option. (I think the contrast between the molded on and PE straps would be too obvious. The molded on details are perfectly fine, by the way.) The tiny boltheads in step 42 are also a bit problematic; MiniArt normally seem to favour solutions that do not require very advanced skills in their models. A last, but somewhat minor complaint is that even though there is a very interesting winter option provided (ďRudolph the red-topped SPGĒ paint scheme on the box art), the instructions do not actually give you an option to mount the cleats/spuds onto the tracks as they would be during a winter operation on snow. (Although it is difficult to establish how much they really were in use.) To be fair Iíve never seen them mounted on any model, but it would be something that could have made a small but outstanding difference from other model makers. (And no, itís not very difficult to find out how to install them, either, but if you donít know what they are -which I did not for the longest time -you would not know where to look.)
The paint codes are given in Mig Ammo paint codes only; it should not be difficult to find similar colors in your preferred range.
Interestingly, this model depicts the same version (early production version) of the SU-122 as the interior kit, yet the painting options are different. The goofy christmas-camo is there (after all itís on the box art) with a corresponding giant red dot decal (which, curiously, is not included in the interior version). We get a total of four versions, one of them with the less cheery ďdeath to HitlerĒ slogan painted on the side. (MiniArt very kindly provides a translation of the slogans painted on by the crews, which is very much welcome.)