by: Darren Baker [ ]
MiniArt Has become quite a power house when it comes to releases with a broad appeal and then offering lots of different versions of that vehicle in order to meet the needs of every modeller with an interest. That approach goes one step further in that MiniArt also takes the time to offer versions with and without interiors. MiniArt has announced in their catalogue a whole family of Grant and Lee M3 tanks and in this review I will be looking at the Grant Mk 1 with interior.
This offering from MiniArt arrives in the usual packaging of a cardboard tray with a separate card lid; the artwork on the lid is visually appealing to me showing a Grant during the desert war. Inside there is a substantial instruction booklet and a single plastic bag containing all of the plastic for the model plus the clear sprue and decals in a bag of their own and packed along with the other parts. The only damage this appears to have caused is a moulding nipple of plastic loose in the bag; while no damage has been done to the model itself from what I can see it does leave small and fragile parts exposed to be knocked loose or damaged. There is a sheet of photo etch included with this release and that is protected by a card envelope in the packaging.
This offering from MiniArt is supplied on a huge number of sprues, an aspect I have come to expect when it is one part of a model line from MiniArt. An examination of the model parts has not revealed any major issues that will need to be remedied. There is the usual clean up aspect of the model parts and I believe some of the parts have ejection pin marks that will need to be tackled, the ejection pin marks have been kept minimal in this is in no small part due to the limited number of parts on many of the sprues. Many of the sprues that contain larger mouldings in particular the hull plates there are flow marks present, I have checked these as best I can visually and by touch and I have been unable to detect any issues with these marks.
The crew compartment of this MiniArt offering of the Grant is very well detailed in all respects that can be covered in plastic. The drivers’ position and controls look perfect to me, and with this being an early M3 Grant the radio operators’ position on the left of the driver is correctly laid out in all respects that I can see. The gear box exterior and drive shaft tunnel add a nice detail that from what I can see looks correct with the reference I have. The floor of this area is very nice as regards detail and the rivet detail is very nice, but I did find a glaring error here in the form of an escape hatch on the floor; the floor escape hatch was introduced when the side doors were done away with in later versions of the M3. It is possible that the plate here is a blanking plate rather than a hatch in which case some trimming and filling will correct the issue. The catch detail is not present or added to the panel and so correction only requires some filler to hide the panel. I like that MiniArt took the time to supply the personal weapons on the side wall mounts for it. The details covered here are very good and MiniArt deserve a big slap on the back for a job well done. The details should more than meet the expectations of most modellers, but for those who are into super detailing there are a number of cables that could be added to bring the interior closer to perfect.
The interior aspects of the 75mm gun look good in all respects when checked against my reference. The ammunition storage appears correct and very nicely detailed; I appreciate that the ammunition storage has been provided with the option of open or closed access doors. The gunners’ seat is nicely done and correctly mounted. The handles for adjusting the guns arc and elevation are also correctly tackled by MiniArt. The recuperators sit above and below the gun and these have exceptional detail on them for what are in effect shock absorbers. The recoil guard is a simple piece that has again been well tackled by MiniArt. The rear portion of the gun has been supplied in two halves and so will have a seam line that will need careful filling to hide; these two halves cover the recuperators and the gun breech, but on the positive side the breech block is separate and so could be displayed open or closed. On the exterior side of this weapon MiniArt has provided two options for the barrel; you get a standard naked barrel for the gun or you get a shortened barrel that is brought to length via a canvas sleeve made of injection moulded plastic; this has been provided in two halves and I think that if I wanted to take this route I would rather make the canvas covering for myself, but kudos to MiniArt for providing the options.
The M3 tank series was powered by a radial engine which in this case is the Wright R975 EC2 air cooled radial engine; this engine was also built under licence by Continental. I can honestly say the engine here is a beauty; the piston air cooled cylinders have a good level of vane detail along with all of the needed plumbing present. The cooling fan has a nice level of detail that with all of the other details and some careful painting should result in a very pleasing result for the modeller who wishes to display this aspect of the model. The exhausts have been well tackled as has the mounting bracket. The engine bay has been provided with a good level of detail both moulded and added during construction. MiniArt from what I can see has provided most of the plumbing for this element of the model and should only require some additional wiring to provide a perfect scale replica.
The turret of the Grant was the only major difference between it and the Lee. The Grants turret is squat and much larger inside and this allowed for the radios to be mounted in it. The 37mm gun in the turret looks quite nice in all respects and the ammunition is stored correctly throughout the tank. The radios have photo etched guards over them which is a nice touch and they are correctly located, the only thing I can see that needs to be added is some cables for the radios, but views of these areas in the turret are very limited. The lower interior portion of turret is very nice in all respects from the floor detail to the vented areas. The ammunition stored here and the seating for the crew is nicely replicated. I have found a minor error here though as around the outside of the lower portion there are receptacles for water bottles and there, there should be four bottles in their own segments in a group of four, MiniArt has only applied two X three in a single segment. Otherwise I am very happy with this element of the model with my found error being very minor.
MiniArt has done a nice job on this offering as regards the exterior as there are a lot of angles that are brought together with ship rivets in effect; riveting was not a good idea on tanks as a hit could break them and result in a sizeable lump of metal flying around the tank interior even if the round did no penetrate the vehicle. The angles of the parts look good on this offering as do the round head rivets (I have seen rivets replaced with large screws and so you could add this feature if you wish). There are a huge number of these rivets present and I am sorry but I am not going to count them for a review, I will say that as far as I can see the rivets are where they should be on the mouldings.
Moving to the engine deck and there are some very nice details here, the fuel filler caps are separate mouldings with a nicer level of detail; interestingly the fuel tanks are the only major component missing from the model. The main engine deck sits on a drilled surround and so can be placed on the model and removed to display the work you have done in the engine with that realistic flange present as well. Moving to the cast features on the front of the vehicle and very nicely done casting marks are present where expected. The gear box housing also has an exceptional subtle cast texture present.
The raised brackets for securing straps for the tools are supplied in photo etch and so raised and realistic in appearance. All of the tools are supplied clean which worried me to begin with but MiniArt has not tried to provide working photo etched clamps and so all is good in my book. The tow wire has been provided with photo etched restrainers and eyes for the end, but the cable is not provided and you are directed to the needed length for the cable and told to scratch it; some may see this as a bad thing but I do not take issue as I prefer metal cables to string and kit wire is not usually the greatest so RMG Factory cable for me.
The Tracks and Suspension
The tracks for the Mk 1 Grant were the WE 210 tracks and that does appear to be what I have here in the model. They are workable providing care is taken with the glue and so look rather good. Clean up is minimal with the small ends likely to prove the most difficult due to size alone. Looking at the bogies it would seem they are workable if so desired, but I do not believe they have been designed with that in mind; it is I believe for the purpose of allowing the bogies and wheels to be accurately portrayed on an uneven surface. The main bodies of the bogie assembly have beautiful casting marks present that the super detailers will really appreciate. The tyres on the wheels are extremely well detailed with the size of the tyres present on both sides as is ‘MFG by Monarch Rubber Co’, stunning detail on a model that is Allied rather than Axis in nature. The star drive cog appears to have all of the needed detail present and can be assembled while remaining workable and so easier to paint and add the tracks to. The idler wheel can also remain workable if desired and the only part to bother some modellers here are the discs of photo etch that need to be added. MiniArt has put a lot of work into this area of the model and I think that the effort will be approved of by modellers of all skill levels.
The squat shape of the Grant turret looks to have been very well replicated here with MiniArt having taken some excellent notes on the finer details. The seam line where the top and bottom halves of the turret join mimics that of the real vehicle including the step on the left front side, so do not sand and fill this detail as you perhaps otherwise would. Hatches and viewing ports are correctly placed with high levels of detail provided. The 30 cal mounted on the turret roof is an interesting feature that offers a vented photo etch shield for the weapon, this does require that the end of the muzzle is cut off and replaced after adding the photo etch guard. A very unusual touch here is a drum magazine for the 30 cal that is open and I cannot say I have ever seen this before; it does however offer an eye catching detail in my view.
MiniArt has taken the decision to provide some stowage with this model and also taken the time to provide artwork showing the potential display options the stowage can be used for. These parts are reasonably well detailed and I believe come from the stowage set released in its own right. I doubt I would use all of the offered parts but it does offer a nice selection.
MiniArt has provided finishing options covering eight vehicles and I was very pleased to see a broad range of countries thrown into the mix.
Great Britain, Training Unit, 1942
Australian 1st Armoured Division, Puckapunyal, Australia, May 1942
Senior Regiment Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, 7th Armoured Division, North Africa 1942
Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Regimental Headquarters, 8th Tank Brigade, 10th Armoured Division, El Alamein, North Africa, October 1942
Eighth Army, Tank of Bernard Montgomery, North Africa 1942 – January 1943
British Eighth Army, North Africa 1943
C Squadron, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade, 7th Armoured Division, Gazala, May 1943
Repair Base of the Allies in Heliopolis, Egypt, March 1943
The Lee/Grant Tanks in British Service Written by Bryan Perrett Released by Osprey Publishing
M3 Lee/Grant in Action written by Jim Mesko Released by Squadron/Signal Publications, Armour Number 33
I did not really know what to expect from this model offering from MiniArt as interior kits tend to be a lot of work with little in the way of payback, but the way MiniArt has tackled this offering make the interior a really nice touch due to the large hatches and the ability to show the engine deck opened up accurately. The details look to be very good with little in the way of issues beyond the errors I have found and even these are easily corrected in one case the water canteen storage would only likely be picked up by a purist. The inclusion of stowage in the set is a nice added extra that did not have to be provided. Take all of this into consideration and you are being offered a very accurate model with some minor corrections needed and a model that can be displayed in a number of ways which also allow the interior effort to pay off. The eight finishing options are a nice touch with the Australians not being left out. For the super detailers there are some wires that need adding to get this spot on and you could of course scratch the fuel tanks if desired.