by: Andras [ ]
The development of the T-54 was done by the Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau under the designation of Object 137 based on the T-44 design. The prototypes underwent extensive tests in 1946, and the tank was accepted for the Red Army in the same year. The mass production of the tank started in 1947. The first production version of the T-54 was the T-54-1 which was a very different tank from the T-54 that was used as the basis of the legendary T-55. The large scale production of the T-54 ended in 1955; the tank underwent two major upgrades: one in 1949 (T-54-2), and the other is in 1951 (not surprisingly labelled T-54-3).
I have done a build review on the full version of this model, and now MiniArt has sent me the T-54-1 ďlightĒ for review.
It is indeed a welcome and customer friendly move from MiniArt to give a choice for the model builder. Some -like me- are crazy about models with full interior, while others might prefer to build a more conventional model, for a smaller cost.
Providing multiple versions of the same model (and the same vehicle) is actually not very difficult with the modular design philosophy MiniArt has developed with their models lately. It works almost like cooking: you mix certain ingredients, you get one food, you mix some of the stuff together in a different ratio, add some extra, and boom, you get a different type of food. This is what MiniArt is essentially doing with their models. The T-54-1 without interior Ö (and if you switch a few sprues out, you will get the T-54-2 without interior; if you add some more, you get a T-54-2 with interior). This model is essentially the following sprues from the ďfullĒ kit: A, Ba, Ca, C, G, Ga, PEa, Fh, D, E, J, Ja, Je, Hd, Hj, He, Hk, Ho, Ke, Kb, K ,Kc, Kd. The sprues with the engine and the interior details obviously are missing, bringing down the total number of parts from 1053 to 970Ö (Not exactly a dramatic change if you ask me, but if people want their tanks without interior, who am I to argue?)
Since the model itself is essentially the same as the T-54-1 I have already reviewed with some sprues left out, a lot will be repeated from the previous review. Make no mistake: despite of the reduced part number, itís still a complex build.
The model comes in a large box that has the distinctive MiniArt design: a large orange cardboard box with a painting of the tank on the top.
Opening the box we are faced with a bewildering number of small sprues.
The instructions are the typical MiniArt colored A4 booklet. The first and last pages are colored, showing the different painting options and giving all the necessary paints using Ammo Mig color codes, the rest is monochrome. The instructions are relatively easy to follow, but it would be a great help if some of the assemblies were shown finished. Sometimes it was difficult to determine the exact placement of parts based on the instructions alone.
Fortunately there are only few of the notoriously thin plastic parts that are impossible to be cut off the sprue without breaking. One of the handholds for the turret was already broken in my sample, but I normally replace them with wire anyhow; much easier than trying to clean up these extremely fragile and thin plastic parts. (I just use these parts as template for making the wire replacements.)
The placement of the gates are sometimes a bit unfortunate: instead of having to clean only one edge off, the attachment points sometime overhang, and this necessitate cleaning (cutting or sanding) two or three surfaces. This is especially notable in the case of the individual track links, where you will need to clean multiple sprue attachments from three faces (bottom, top, side) on all the track links.
The plastic is nice quality; soft enough and easy to work with.
The detail is astonishing. From the texture of the turret to the casting numbers on the suspension units, everything just looks like a miniaturized version of the real thing. The torsion bar suspension is working, but Iím not sure how useful it is since the tracks will need to be glued together to make sure they are held in place. Several parts -where necessary- have very nicely done cast metal surface; you will find weld lines of varying thickness, the manufacturerís name on the rubber rims of the road wheel, and casting numbers on the track links.
MiniArt really threw itself into making the model as detailed as possible, and this meant they went a bit overboard in my opinion with the number of parts each subassembly requires. In several cases I think it would have been sufficient to mould the details onto the larger parts instead of having to glue minute parts together. Itís not a weekend project, thatís for sure. The bottom is detailed enough to display the tank upturned. (If you would like to present it in that position.) The fender mounted machine guns are detailed, even though they are encased in a metal box. They can be displayed open as well, although I am not sure how the lid was affixed to the sides, so Iím not sure how it opened. The interior is very much simplified; we get the same basic parts as with the full interior model, only the details are missing. (You get the tie downs for the fire extinguishers in the hull, but not the cylinders themselves.) Thatís said you still get a rudimentary interior, so the hatches (some, at least), can still be opened without exposing a gaping empty space inside the model. Major differences are: simplified gun breech, fewer interior detail in the turret, no ammunition, fewer detail in the hull interior, no engine. The exterior of the tank is literally the same as the previous versionís.
The engine deck consists of several subassemblies that form a somewhat complex set of hatches. The cooling flaps in the air intakes can be positioned open or closed, and they are protected by a very set of nice PE grilles.
Some delicate plastic parts (C1, C2, C27, C28) are quite difficult to handle without breaking them; itís much more simpler to just make a replacement using wire.
Smoke canisters are installed similarly to how the real thing was: the PE straps hold the tiny plastic rods that are fixing them to the back of the hull, along with the mechanism that allows to them to be released. Altogether itís a pretty impressive construction.
The unditching log looks very convincing; the wooden texture was recreated very nicely.
As mentioned the external fuel tanks are provided as two halves. They are typical cylindrical WWII type ones, although they are somewhat narrower than the ones used on wartime tanks. They are held down by PE strips - when building make sure you do the fuel tanks first, and add the storage boxes after, because in several cases they obstruct the tie-down points for the straps. Another important piece of advice: do not install the fuel tank on the left back mudguard. The flap (C9) protecting the exhaust port should be fitted first.
The towing lines were provided as plastic parts; MiniArt is being very optimistic about the chances of being able to bend and fit them into their places. Better get some picture hanging wire, and use the plastic eyes of the cables only. Make sure you cut a wire half a centimetre longer than the plastic part; itís too short otherwise.
The AA machine gun is a complex multimedia assembly of plastic and PE parts; normally I buy after-market barrels (or even resin guns) to replace this part, but in this case itís perfectly suitable; the gun might need to be bored out with a fine drill.
Sometimes the design choices are strange. The handle for the AA gun is made up by two pieces, while the handles for the fender and co-axial MGs are provided as one. The cylindrical fuel tanks are provided as halves, even though it would be possible to mould them as one piece -after all, the gun, the log, and even the smoke canisters are moulded as one. This necessitates the dreaded (for me) filling and sanding of seam lines, which I really could do without. Fortunately the fit is really good. A few dents would have been nice to be molded into the thin walled cylinders, too. Since we mentioned the gun barrel: it does not have rifling in it.
There are a lot of very tiny and fragile PE parts which are difficult to manipulate, and of course, we have the usual extremely thin plastic parts with several gates to make cleaning up even more difficult.
Regardless of these issues the model is very well done; these are only minor complaints.