by: Mitko Nikitov [ ]
This tank does not need introduction. T-55 is a legend. The model also is already notorious. MiniArt did a great effort and successfully managed to produce the best of the best of the T-series in 35th scale. What you need to know before we dig into this review is that this is a kit without interior despite the full boxart. Latter one is substituted by the tank only in the regular non-interior kits. The other thing is that this is Czechoslovak production variant. Those were made mostly for export and were famous with their improved qualities compared to the original Soviet-made T-55s.
As mentioned above, boxart is just like on the interior kits. That means full boxart of a T-55 in Libyan colors, visible on the stowage boxes. This is something that MiniArt did with their Chinese variant too. Maybe because it depicts a specific subject, the artwork is displayed in full on the box.
Sides are orange and on one of them there are all the variants represented in profiles. But on that Ė a bit later. The box itself is stashed. It is almost to its maximum, however Iíve seen worse with MiniArt. Despite the fact that there is no interior there are plenty of sub-assemblies with this kit and a lot of sprues with track links as well. Have in mind that once you open this, you will have very hard time closing it properly. So you open only if you plan to build!
MiniArt instruction sheets are done in a specific style. The outer pages of the booklet feature higher-quality material than the ones inside. That is why, on the outer pages you can find the color profiles of the tanks included, as well as /usually/ the description of the sprues, the clear parts, decals and photo-etch.
Building steps are explained in a simple, straight forward manner, without much of writing around them. They are black and white, which according to my guess is done because of the production cost. Mentioning that, it is very important to add that the price of this kit is beyond reasonable, because OOTB it is almost perfect combo. There is only one weak point from my perspective. Later on Iíll mention it.
The instructions are suitable for beginner modelers, however the kit itself is not. This is challenging model and it can be a burden even to the experience tank builders. But donít let that scare you. The key to success here is one Ė patience.
Light grey, mostly crisp material with minor flash here and there. That is in one short sentence what it is all about. The longer version of that story is that MiniArt are using plastic material from Western Europe for the last couple years. That is a huge leap forward compared to their older kits. And if you are one of those modelers who havenít done much of MiniArtís line in the last years, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Nowadays the material that they provide does not crack and show only minor defects typical for most of the manufacturers out there. Surprisingly, the prices of the kits that Ukrainian maker produces are still pretty much the same.
The number of the parts included is astonishing, even not counting the track links. There are many multi-piece sub-assemblies, many small and intricate details and plenty of stuff that you cannot find in any other T-55 on the market. This is not only the best one of them, but also the most complex.
The tracks are arguably one of the highest point of this T-55. They are absolutely competitive to any other brand of aftermarket tracks. No matter metal, resin or plastic ones. Here, the detail is superior. Actually it is the very best in the business when it comes down to T-54/55 tracks.
The molding are so delicate and impressive, that even the stamps on the track links with their numbers are visible. Unfortunately this will go under the weathering if you are building a tank-in-use, but despite that, it is a pleasure for every modeler to see such finesse and precision.
Clear parts Ė as always Ė are not very important when it comes down to tanks. However letís say a few words about that. We have two sprues, different in size. They are made from the clear material that MiniArt usually uses. If you have built their Tram series Ė you know what I am talking about.
The material that MiniArt provides is extremely abuse-friendly. That is very helpful when it comes down to models like the tram or their London Omnibus, but honestly, if it is about a tank it doesnít make much of a difference.
If you think otherwise, please remind yourself when was the last time when you payed much attention on any clear part on a tank. Especially a Soviet one.
T-55 series from Miniart come with photo-etch sheet which vary in shape and size. From what Iíve seen from this line of kits, this isnít the biggest nor the smallest PE set included. It is somewhere in the middle. It comes nicely packed in a cardboard envelope, made with nice quality material and shiny MiniArt logo. That serves two purposes Ė being a great marketing trick and being a good protector for the PE details inside.
Latter ones are very thin and probably one of the most delicate on the market. Iíve always say that when I talk about Miniart PE Ė once I sanded half of a mesh prepping the PE. This is how thin they are. So be careful with those and know that perfection always comes at a cost.
The sheet is small, because there are not much need for different markings with the paint options included. It comes in a light and bright blue and with very thin carrier film too. Decograph are the company responsible for MiniArtís decals and they are too from Ukraine. As we know, major decal manufacturers are Cartograf in Italy and the other ones are based in Ukraine. Everything else is smaller companies, even with competitive qualities. With that said, you can rest assured that the quality is good enough.
There are six marking options in total. Their origin is self-explanatory knowing that most of the Czechoslovak produced tanks ended somewhere abroad. In this case, they mostly from Africa and Middle East. Only one from Czechoslovak republic from the 70s. Besides that, we have tanks from Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Chad. Pretty interesting combo.
The paint options are horizontally placed on the instruction sheets which is a step ahead compared to the not so distant past. Somehow the color profiles are more clear this way and allow you to be more precise. However with all this information from the last couple of years especially when it comes down to Libyan and Syrian tanks, I can bet that most modelers will hit the search button rather than count on the instruction sheets here.
MiniArtís T-55 is not fresh news. This is simply a nice add-on to their expanded line of T-54/55 tanks. For experienced modelers this is the only reasonable choice if you seek good detailing in a kit. Polish, Chinese, Soviet and Israeli versions are available, probably with more to come. It doesnít get any better than that. But beware, it is not for the faint hearted!