by: Bill Cross [ ]
GAZ trucks were actually the Ford Model AA built under license by the Gorky Automobile Plant (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod in Russian or "GAZ" for short). Started in 1932 as a joint venture with Ford, the company turned out over 900,000 trucks during the war, and continues to the present. GAZ produced a variety of two- and three-axle vehicles, and it seems MiniArt has vowed to replicate them all.
While popular lore has it the Germans were the ones mechanized in WW2, the Soviet Army employed a huge amount of vehicles, with nearly 40,000 GAZ-AAAs produced from 1934-43. Besides "vanilla" transport, the GAZ-AAA served as a bed for the Maxim (4M), and the DShk 25mm and 37mm anti-aircraft machine guns. Radio trucks, mobile repair shops, tank trucks for both water & fuels, along with ground starter trucks for airplanes employed the AAA chassis. The BA-6 and BA-10 armored cars were built on the GAZ-AAA body.
MiniArt has been releasing a series of GAZ trucks to supplement the wheel replacement sets its developed for the ancient Zvezda kits. The new wheels avoid seam lines and poor tread details by using a "sandwich" technique that builds up the tires in seven sections or "slices." It's not new technology, but the results are a huge improvement over conventional 2-piece styrene molded tires that even companies who pioneered the technique like DML have reverted to.
MiniArt's latest release is the GAZ-AAA model 1943 variant, the last in the production run.
In the usual MiniArt cardboard box are:
44 sprues of light gray styrene (though many have just one piece)
12 sprues of gray styrene wheel "slices"
1 sprue of clear plastic for the windows & light lenses
1 fret of PE
A painting guide
A detailed assembly guide
We all have heard forever about how Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union turned out (literally) to be a quagmire: Russian roads were rarely paved, and those that weren't turned into pools of sucking mud during the Spring thaw and the Fall rains. German vehicles and animals were bogged down, and even occasionally disappeared under the muck.
But the Soviets had to fight on the same unforgiving terrain, and often with mechanized vehicles no better-suited for mud than Germany's. This MiniArt kit "embraces the suck" (literally) by including figures for four soldiers using tree limbs to extricate a GAZ-AAA from the slime. It's another "diorama in a box" that MA has become good at, and is delightful.
Now to the kit: the first really great thing about any MiniArt GAZ truck is - THE TIRES! Using the "slice" technology that Dragon and others developed, but have since abandoned, tires are built-up with a series of cross-sectioned "slices" that, when assembled, provide a far better tread pattern than even some cast-resin ones. It avoids the problem of pour plugs, sprue nibs or other imperfections that come with conventional two-piece tires. Equally subtle is the detailing on the wheel rims and hubs.
Beyond the tires, the truck has a complete engine, transmission (with gorgeously-detailed universal differential), suspension and exhaust system, so nothing is missing other than the wiring for the engine compartment. The load bed is nicely-rendered, though the wood grain is overlarge and not to-scale. A little Mr. Surfacer or some sanding should bring it back more to 1/35th. Some photo etch ads the right touch of detailing for hinges and other hardware. The doors have texture on both sides, and provide, again, the right "look" for a truck assembled under the Soviet Union's lax standards of quality (unlike the Germans, the "quality of quantity" valued more to Stalin).
The kit color guide has call-outs for seven paint manufacturers, and includes two painting schemes:
Summer 1944 (green)
Winter 1944 (green with whitewash over-spray)
Hey, no one ever said most Soviet WW2-era vehicles were colorful or distinctive.
The figures are lively and realistic-looking with heads that remind me of Tank resin heads. The four figures represent three enlisted men and one officer, all pushing or using a "pole" to gain leverage on the recalcitrant truck. While "fighting" figures are popular with many modelers, I personally prefer those who are "doing something else." Most soldier memoirs talk much more about the time NOT fighting, usually because so much more of their days were taken up with tasks far removed from killing: cooking, "fatigue" or work details, washing, sleeping, resting, or in this case, trying to dislodge a vehicle from the pervasive Russian mud.
The molding is crisp, though perhaps not quite as good as Dragon figures yet. MiniArt is evolving, and their releases get better and better.
MiniArt continues to break new ground in figures and softskins, both for its excellent truck kits, but also its vibrant, lively figures. Each new release is a pleasure, and this one is no different.
Thanks to MiniArt for providing this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when purchasing.