Doesn’t this model look familiar? If you watch old movies from interwar-era America, the bodywork should ring a bell. That’s because this symbol of the hard-working Soviet socialist state is actually a product of the biggest capitalist company of the twentieth century – Ford!
In 1929 Ford Motor Company agreed to build a factory in Nizhny-Novgorod, turning out the then-current Model A line of cars and light trucks under the designation NAZ-A (later changed to GAZ when the town was renamed after Maxim Gorky). Part of the line was the Model AA two-axle light cargo truck. When the Soviets decided they needed something bigger, in the 2-3 ton range, they added an extra axle to the AA and created their own unique Model AAA. This truck was the Soviet equivalent of the US CCKW 2-1/2 ton series (the famous “Jimmy” or “Deuce and a half”), and was produced in the tens of thousands.
From the front the AAA used the cab, hood, and fenders of the Ford A and AA models, but since the spare wheels were stored under the truck bed the fenders didn’t need the recesses that are so characteristic of 1920s car design. However, there was a slight redesign of the AAA in 1940 that upgraded the engine and also moved the spare wheels to the fenders. No doubt this was to standardise bodywork parts-supply with the Model A and AA that had fender-mounted spare wheels. Once the war got under way it seems that details like fenders were simplified as flat steel sheets, as seen in some of MiniArt’s AA kits.
Several years ago Zvezda released kits for the GAZ-AA and GAZ-AAA, but these had simplified construction and lacked some of the smaller details. They also had soft vinyl tyres that were criticised. Then MiniArt came to the rescue with new state-of-the-art kits of the GAZ trucks. This kit builds the early version of the GAZ AAA as produced in the late 1930s. MiniArt offers the Model AA and sibling Model MM in several forms (see Bill Cross’ review of the 1941 GAZ-MM here
), and the AAA in both this early form and a later “1940” version.
Inside the box there are 16 light grey sprues holding 441 parts, along with 7 parts on a clear sprue and a small sheet of photo-etch. These include the necessary parts for the truck, plus a set of German Military Police figures. The sprues are a mix of new and old – the wheels have been sold separately in the recent past, as have the figures (set 35046, German Feldgendarmerie, reviewed here
). And the cab sprues appeared in their first GAZ-AA kit (#35124). Moulding looks good, with only a little flash confined mainly to the actual sprues that obviously don’t need cleaned up. Slide-moulding is used to good effect to hollow out parts like the headlights and horn, as well as providing open shackles at the ends of the leaf springs. There are some recessed ejector-pin marks to fill, but these seem to be limited to undersides (and the insides of the cab) so they aren’t too bad. Some of the separate parts are frightfully tiny!
A quick look at the parts will show that this is no kit for the novice. However, the detail is superb and it really looks the part. And with a parts-count higher than most 1:35 kits I wouldn’t expect anything less! For review purposes I’ll break it down into five main assemblies.
Ford’s famous flat-head lump is nicely captured in a 19-part assembly. (More, if you count the radiator and other gubbins added later…) There is still scope for extra detailing, as there are no spark-plug wires in the kit. It is almost a shame to hide this engine under the hood – good thing MiniArt provided one that can be modelled open for viewing! The instructions say to paint the engine silver, but preserved examples range from silver-grey to army green and even black – it all depends on the “history” of your particular prototype. This would have been heat-resistant paint on a component hidden away, so it may not have needed to match the standard external vehicle colours. If your truck is to be a seasoned veteran there should be plenty of grime to hide the base colour anyway.
Chassis and suspension
MiniArt have made the chassis as a set of individual parts – just like a real one – so care is needed to ensure it is assembled square. A nice touch is the set of separate U-bolts and washer plates to hold the wooden bed-support beams onto the chassis rails! The diagrams are very detailed, but be careful and study them well because they switch between rightway-up and upside-down viewing angles. I’d want to paint the engine separately before installation, but this poses a problem if you intend to spray-paint the chassis. My solution would be to brush-paint instead, doing those areas around the engine first and then touching-up the mounting points once the engine is dropped in place. (Normally I try to coat my kits with spray primers and paints…) I’ll probably crack open the old Humbrol black enamel for this job, as it is less sensitive to lack of primer than acrylic.
The front suspension is very fragile-looking, but part of its charm comes from the use of separate parts for the steering mechanism. This means it should be easy to pose the steering at any angle, but the tiny size of mating surfaces will preclude any but the most clever attempt to make it workable. The front hubs look to be less than precise in their mounting because of the tiny mating surfaces – I hope they hold up well once glued. The rear end is more robust, but is made up of tons of parts that need to be glued up square if all the wheels are to touch the ground. And assembly of it is complicated by struts and prop shafts that can only be attached after the main assembly is added to the chassis. I plan to grow some extra fingers…
These were first released as a separate set – number 35112. Six identical sprues hold a selection of wheels, hubs, and seven-part “slices” for the rubber tyres. This gives very realistic tread without all the hassle of mould seams and other blemishes, but mind you glue them up in the right sequence! Note that the rear wheels mount onto hubs that are then glued (or press-fit?) onto the axles, but the front wheels are glued direct to the brake drums. With a little work I suspect the wheels could be modified to mount in a way that rotates, but it looks rather delicate for that treatment. One thing to note is they only provide raised lettering on one side of the tyres, so make sure you assemble them as per the diagrams!
MiniArt has captured the sleek lines of the Ford Model A extremely well. Made up from dozens of parts, this will be the most challenging stage of the build because you’ll need to paint the inside as you go. The front wall has a windscreen that can be posed either open (hinged from the top) or closed, and there are PE slides to add on the inside. There are a number of microscopic parts for this assembly, and the instructions also call for “scratch-building” two bits of rod that really ought to have been included. The seat and seat-back are nicely “wrinkled” and certainly look better than most of the recent soft-skin seats I’ve seen lately. Even the doors have cloth texture on the insides. Adding the glass is going to be fun – I recommend a PVA glue like Gator’s Grip to avoid fogging the clear plastic. Oh, and the side windows are provided “whole”, so if you want them partly wound down as per the box art you’ll need to cut them down. The only visible ejector-pin marks I could find on this kit are on the inner faces of the cab roof and back wall. While these will be hard to notice on the finished model I’ll still fill and sand them away.
While on the subject of bodywork, the hood comes in four pieces so it can be opened like the real thing – the sides are hinged to fold in as it is opened. The vents are pierced through completely, allowing suitable daylight to show through, and the hinges look good. The fenders are also very nicely rendered, complete with grip texture on the running boards.
This is very detailed, having reasonably convincing wood grain and very sharp details. Some of the hooks etc are extremely tiny. For some reason the assembly sequence has the central cross-member added to the chassis instead of the bed like the other two, but as long as it is carefully assembled there is no clear reason for this. The tail gate (like the sides themselves) can be posed upright or hanging down, essentially open or closed. And there is a toolbox at the back formed by the space between the last two cross-members, but the access doors on the sides are moulded closed. One thing I don’t understand is the lack of any attachments or restraints for the two spare tyres slung under the bed – surely they needed securing to keep from falling out? MiniArt also did not include the canvas tilt or even a set of hoops, so the load bed must be exposed – an opening for the AM suppliers?
One thing that puzzles me is the choice of crew. Surely they could have included a Russian driver for the “majority users” of these trucks? The German set is fine, but will have limited appeal.
For those wanting to see how the kit builds up, James Cann (LesPaulJames) started up a build log on the kit the day after my review sample arrived! Check it out here
These come as a 16-page A4-size (210x297mm) booklet. There is a parts diagram followed by 61 separate steps of clearly-illustrated diagrams that should be easy to use. However, these follow a construction logic that may be at odds with the need to get inside the cab and engine compartment for painting, so I certainly plan to skip around the stages.
A small decal sheet holds markings in white, red, and black. There are six different paint schemes illustrated, four Soviet and two as captured trucks in German service. (Dare I add a snide comment that adding a cross helps sales?...) At least MiniArt include all these options in one box, rather than selling two separate versions! My favourite is option 3 – it has no decals at all.
This should build into a very detailed replica of the GAZ-AAA, and is very welcome as a replacement for the old Zvezda kit. Care will be needed with the frame, and some areas like the front suspension are a bit frail, so take care. As with all soft-skins it can be a challenge to paint the interior – especially if spraying the outside. And the less experienced may need to think about the smaller parts, and of course invest in good tweezers!
This kit is a must for Soviet fans, fans of Beutepanzers, and those of us with an unhealthy interest in heavy trucks!