MiniArt Panzer IV series are already on the market in various forms. With or without interior, they are aiming very high, especially considering the competition. Dragon are playing this tune for decades and recently, RFM as well as Border Model are on that same arena. Each of those mentioned is with different approach, different package and with relatively decent accuracy. Latter one is especially important, since Panzer IV is one of the mass produced vehicles of the Second World War and numerous options were used, some similar to one another, others not so much.
Zimmerit is one of Panzer IVs distinctive features and that is the area where most of the producers struggle to deliver. Of course this has its own solution, by applying it with a tool and by hand, but considering the current technology, it is only reasonable for modelers to demand it from the get go. MiniArt #35330 is an Ausf.H series vehicle. It was produced somewhere between August and Semptember of 1943. As advertised on the box it was made by Krupp-Grusonwerk and from the vivid boxart picture it is pretty clear that Zimmerit is not there. As with most of the WWII vehicles, an argument can be brought up here, since application of Zimmerit started sometime in the fall of 1943, but actual dates vary in between producers. So let’s leave it at that. Anything deeper into the subject will cause unusual frustration. With that said, we can only hope that MiniArt will add the famous zimmerit coating on some of their future releases.
The Box and the instructions
The vehicle on top looks abandoned, which is a new trend in modeling boxarts – depicting not-so-victorious objects – but the first impression is overall pretty nice. Another thing that is put as information banner on the box is the “Interior Kit” logo that states several things, but one more important than the others – a lot of work is ahead of the buyer. On its side, there is profiles of the painting options included, but to get the real idea, you need to go deeper than that and take a peek in the instructions booklet. Before you get to that though, you need to remove a big pile of plastic sprues packed all together in a huge transparent envelope and stashed in the box. Inside of it you can find the PE, the decals and the clear parts as well.
The booklet itself is what we are used to get from MiniArt. It includes the painting options /which we will discuss later/, the contents of the box, paint description and… an enormous amount of steps, most of them dedicated to the interior features of the Panzer IV. Despite everything being made in very understandable and straight-forward manner, it doesn’t seem like a big relief from the work needed. There is a myriad of parts and once assembled, most of them should feature its own colors and weathering. So it is even more complicated than it looks at first glance. That is of course, because despite being arranged in a specific building manner in the instruction sheet, all this inside needs to be thought trough very seriously before assembly. Some things might be left aside for space or for specific appearance. Others not so much. All this means three things – planning, more planning and then some more planning is needed.
If you are not scared by now reading this – well – you should be. At this point, many should consider the non-interior version if they haven’t already. Thankfully, MiniArt have it in their range. Now, for the strong-minded and confident, let’s continue:
The material that this kit is made of is light- to medium-gray and it is the upgraded product that MiniArt switched to couple of years ago. With such complexity and many sub-assemblies, the Ukrainian company simply had no other choice but to focus on the plastic qualities and to make it compatible with their advanced engineering. Luckily, they did it and even though not 100% guaranteed, it is highly unlikely that you will get many damaged parts, nor you will experience troubles throughout your build.
The many sub-assemblies mentioned are the usual standard that MiniArt provide. It is definitely way too much for an inexperienced modeler, but for the ones that are well deep into the hobby, the challenge is the key here. The kit is complex and this is its gravity. It just tempts you with its seriousness. Almost everything that could’ve been broken down into smaller pieces was made specifically that way, but not to the extent where you will wonder was that on purpose or not. It is not recklessly spread throughout smaller pieces, but rather mathematically and methodically. It is done with finesse and besides scary, it is also fascinating. More so of the latter.
The specific interest in this kit is the interior section and the lack of space. Those two all together are a combination that will lead to confusion, but also will definitely elevate your experience and your skill alongside the building process. Of course, not everything included should be installed. From your personal perspective, some things might be – and probably will be – left aside. However that doesn’t make the kit any less interesting. Anyhow, it will be rather difficult to show off everything, since MiniArt took their time and exposed /or rather gave you the ability to expose/ almost everything that could’ve been shown.
Of course, here /on the photos/ not all the sprues are seen and that is too on purpose. The kit is astonishing piece of work engineering-wise and the shock and awe are better left for you to experience when you encounter it personally. The pictures of some of the elements here speak a lot though. That is why you can only see a fraction of what really is hidden in the box. But you should be aware, that as with most of MiniArt’s kits, once you get to build it, you are about to get even more surprises than you predicted. Everything is simply gorgeous with this Panzer and for those who deal with that company, this should come as no fresh news.
Each track length contains 101 track links. They are assembled with the help of a tool, that aligns them before the pins get inserted and glued. The completed track length is workable and with fantastic appearance. It might lack the weight of the metal tracks, but detail-wise MiniArt tracks are second to none in the armor modeling. The best thing here is, that they come OOTB. In the same time, for aftermarket metal tracks you have to pay as much as the kit itself and for resin ones, almost 80% of its price. That depends on where you get them of course, but the prices are bitter no matter what in the end. So having such high-quality track included in the kit /and on top of that workable/ is a precious gift from MiniArt and should be appreciated. Also, it would’ve been an odd decision to make such a complex kit and not provide the best plastic tracks possible in it, right?
The decals and clear parts
As usual, both of those are not overly important when it comes down to armor modeling. Decals, being the more interesting of the two, are featuring plenty of technical stencils alongside with the well-known numbers and insignia. This is probably done to remind you that you are dealing with a super-kit here. MiniArt left no stone unturned. The numbers and insignia are there too of course, but as we all know even the best decals out there are no match for mask painting and subsequent weathering options. A decal cannot give you that option no matter what.
Clear parts are very good as usual too, but as mentioned, they are not so important when it comes down to tanks, except in a case, when you plan to present your vehicle brand new out from the factory. Which rarely is the case. Quite honestly – if those were missing from the kit completely, it is unlikely that somebody would’ve noticed the difference. Everything about armor modeling is weathering. The more worn the vehicle is, the better. That, in other words means: “What clear parts?”.
This is always a strong side on behalf of MiniArt. Their photo-etch elements are one of the thinnest in the business, very flexible and sometimes even fragile. Latter one usually goes for meshes, which by itself are very important when you come to think of /meshed/ shurtzen for Panzer IV. We’re speaking the other type though, not the one featured in this Ausf. H version reviewed here. Speaking of the kit here, one thing is noticeable: the shurtzen are somewhat thinner than they seem to need. This is probably a note, not a critique, because when you add primer, paint and varnish, you can easily outdo yourself and slip to the thicker side of things. With that said, you must have in mind that the plates are very delicate and care and attention are needed.
Specific suggestion about the metal handles used to attach the shurtzen to the tank rails: those are probably best welded, not glued. The material is just too thin and that, combined with the glue qualities might eventually lead to some trouble. If you can weld the photo-etch, better do that, because this will guarantee strength, while not compromising with any of the looks nor thickness.
For the rest of the small parts there nothing much to say, at least not specifically. Actually, if you compare the PE here, with the PE in most of MiniArt’s T-54/55 line, the smaller sheet here looks sparse. However, even minimalistic, the PE sheet is enough, especially considering the work that is needed on the rest of the tank and the fact that MiniArt’s plastic parts are thin enough by themselves. The quality of their moldings often eliminate the need for metal parts in the end anyhow.
With MiniArt #35330 we get four paint options in total. To be more precise – we get decals for four options included. However that means that a lot more than that is doable with what we get OOTB. Let’s focus on the provided from MiniArt though. There are two single-tone camouflages and two other options. Latter ones are free-hand two- and three-tone options, based on the Dunkelgelb base color, which is also one of the single-tone camo options. The fourth is winter wash, all white in appearance, or at least described that way from the artist in the instruction sheet. That can be altered a lot.
Two- and three-tone free hand schemes are very interesting and fun to be recreated, however the real deal in modeling is usually in making a dull looking object into a masterpiece. That, in all its glory can be done more vividly using a single color and make this shine. This is the real mastery. That however, doesn’t mean that one cannot have fun making the three-tone camouflage, wear it seriously and then seal it with varnish and repeat the whole process of painting white, chipping and make a winter-wash over the already completed standard camo beneath. Usually this is how you can get the best results anyhow. That is also how you can prolong your joyful work on a single kit and get to paint it more than once without compromising the final result.
Let’s start with what is missing from this kit, which isn’t much. Metal gun barrel. That’s it. And this is highly subjective. So don’t take it too seriously. But we would’ve preferred to have it in the set. We have everything else included. And that is close to ‘literally everything’. A note worth discussing is the texture of the surfaces. That can be considered as missing element, but only to some extent. Surfaces of MiniArt plastic are relatively flat, especially when compared with some other producers. This is an issue that can be solved either with liquid putty, primer or even some paints. But after all, there is no perfect kits and neither is this one here. Texture however, remains an open discussion.
With that said, this is a set that is pushing the boundaries of your patience, skill and devotion. Detail-wise /meaning sub-assembly/, this is the T-Rex in Panzer IV World. What follows is Rye Field Panzer IV, which is rather simplistic compared to this beast here, then you have Dragon, then Border and finally Tamiya. All of the above mentioned – brilliant kits. All of them representing accurate Panzer IVs. But each one of them – oriented towards different style of modeling.
MiniArt are seriously testing the edge here. This is not a kit for the faint-hearted. It is completely inadequate for an unexperienced modeler. It is a tough cookie. But it is indeed – a sweet one. Only a person who knows his/hers way around modeling will be able to cope with this pile of plastic. And if you still aren’t ready to up your game to that level, nobody will blame you. After all, that is why MiniArt offer the version without interior.