M3 line of tanks were not as popular as US made M4 Shermans, nor any of the other WWII tanks used by the opposite sides of the conflict. The reasons for that are many, but the two of the most important ones are - first the fact that the tank was obsolete design when it first saw the light of day and second – that it was showing some drawbacks from its operational get go. With those two in mind, it is self-explanatory why M3 was somewhat forgotten, especially in the period when technical advance in military areas was made with light speed and giant leaps.
MiniArt are famous for making models that are either limited edition or pre-production vehicles, with some exceptions in the recent years with their T-54/55 line of tanks. However, making a model of a mass produced tank can be explained to some extent. M3 was somewhat obscured vehicle in general, plus the fact that it was used by the Soviets as part of the Lend-Lease, latter one giving some opportunities for exploring surviving vehicles. That is considering that MiniArt are Ukrainian company, thus close to Russia and probably with reasonably high options of getting up close and personal with some examples of the M3.
Either for that, or driven by another motivation, MiniArt decided to give the world probably the best 21st century tooling of M3 Lee/Grant tanks, with or without interior and with all the bells and whistles that one might expect to get from a modern kit. Especially at the price that they are being offered. And even though in this review we will take a look at M3 Lee with Interior specifically, the review will be oriented towards the whole line of tanks, since they all incorporate and share most of the features of this specific kit.
Color-wise, boxing of the tanks made by MiniArt featuring Interior differ slightly from those that are without one. The differences are nothing major and are mostly with the background for some models. In general the quality is the same.
The boxart is always beautiful, close to a picture - not a painting, and with vivid colors that make it look just like taken from a modern Hollywood movie. As if the tank will jump off of the box and will poke you in the face. The material that it is made off is rather thin, but considering the number of parts inside, the box is not lightweight, just the contrary.
Usually on one of the sides with MiniArt you get the painting options and the standard for the scale models description. On the top of it, with clear sign it says “Interior Kit” if it is one such inside, with specific logo which cannot be mistaken. If this sign is missing, well, you are in for at least couple of weeks less work.
Inside, everything is packed into a one big plastic transparent envelope. It holds all the sprues tightly together, with some smaller envelopes that in some cases separate the tracks or or clear parts or similar items from the rest. It might seem inferior compared to most modern kits that have separate envelope for a sprue, but this is simply impossible with MiniArt. We have too many here.
Instruction sheet are one of the strong sides of the kit. They are very neatly arranged in a A4-like leaflet that features color and black and white description. Color pages are the outer ones. They are left for the color profiles and the covers and sometimes that catches the sprue description too. Usually with those kits we get plenty of color option but we will tell more about that later on.
Inside of the instructions, once the building process starts, everything turns to minimalistic way, leaving only black and white description and almost no text. Comparing that to Zoukei-Mura instructions, we get the exact opposite here. However, the kits that MiniArt make are very complex in terms of building, and here that comes as a relief in a way. Steps are organized in a clear and easy to follow fashion, without too many sub-assemblies gathered together.
The interior kit sets feature a lot more to be assembled from the inside of course. That will take some time and makes the instruction sheet significantly bigger. However, even being a complex and crowded from the inside, the interior sets are doable from relatively experienced modelers. Instruction-wise they are suitable for novices, but building will challenged them and this option is not a suggested one.
With all the reviews of MiniArt the most important information to be mentioned is the quality of the plastic. Back in the day, MiniArt were famous for some issues with their old plastic materials. Cracks and breakage happened more often than not and with all the intricate parts incorporated with their kits that presented a problem. For few years already, MiniArt turned into different plastic provider with high quality material and enough flexibility to satisfy the complexity of the mouldings. MiniArt kits are not only demanding to the modelers, they are demanding production-wise. That is the case if you want to be the producer of one of the most sophisticated and realistic miniatures on the market.
The plastic is light grey and the sprues are usually big. There are of course all kinds of them, but the number of parts demands big sprues crowded with elements. It is a good idea to mark each sprue with color tag while building, because roaming through a pile of them might be annoying. The one thing that might be an issue is that they are not arranged logically, but there are only handful of companies that arrange their parts in that manner and they are usually smaller scale producers.
Moulding is very crisp, however flash can be found here and there. With that said, cables, lines and such can be found everywhere, with almost no-room for scratch super-detailing for the fans. The other thing unbeatable with MiniArt is the texture of the tanks, which is probably the best in 35th scale.
As with many of the other kits produced by MiniArt, M3 Lee feature separate track links. This is indispensable add-on to any tank kit and reduces the general investment with a lot. Friul metal tracks, as well as ModelKasten tracks are coming at unbearable prices, sometimes exceeding the price of the kit itself. Especially if the kit is from older DML series for example. This option is eliminated here and with many other MiniArt releases, which makes the kits hard to resist to.
They need some assembly and some cleaning but it is nothing major. Some time should be spared for building those tracks, but the fact that they come in plastic and not metal, gives different paths in terms of weathering and wearing and some prefer it that way. The flexibility of the tracks depends very much on the modeler’s abilities and cleanness of the assembly process, but with little effort most of the MiniArt tracks can be made into whatever option one might think of. It is all a matter of skill as with every step in scale modeling.
Photo-etch, Clears and Decals
Those three usually come in a separate transparent plastic envelope and that is why they will be reviewed all together. Starting the the clears, which are nothing important when it comes down to a tank, one must give it to MiniArt. Their clear parts are always very sturdy and can sustain plenty of glue abuse. The parts itself are clear and crisp, with great transparency and good fit.
The photo-etch sheets from MiniArt are the thinnest one available from any company out there. The quality is perfect and justifies the idea of having photo etch to a maximum. The downside of that is that they are fragile and are demanding towards the modeler. Some elements can be easily bent beyond repair and sanding is not advisable. However, having PE elements in the kits came with the idea of having thin parts that can be produced only from metal, so MiniArt mastered that in every aspect. Probably you won’t find any competitive PE material. Packing was cleverly made into a cardboard envelope, to protect the sheets and with that it gives a nice touch to the whole kit set.
Decals come from a sub-producer, also from Ukraine. As we all know, there are few decal makers that are famous around the World, most famous one being Cartograf followed by the rest and some of them are from Ukraine. The quality in terms of thickness is superb. The clear film is barely visible and even though a bit fragile, the decals are one of the nicest touches with MiniArt kits. From kit to kit sheets differ in size, but with tanks almost anything can be substituted with masks for scale models so this won’t be an issue. Especially with M3 Lend Lease version of the tank.
The M3 Series
M3 Lee is part of the newest line of tanks that MiniArt offers. Alongside with M3 Grant the company has plans for several releases, both with and without interior. That should cover larger segment of the market, since Interior Kits in general are not suitable for beginners. Talented ones maybe, but the regular Joe will have some issues. That isn’t the case with the kits that does not have interior though. They are not an easy build, but they are doable. Maybe not for a first kit, but after a couple you might jump into M3 line easily.
The series includes everything that one might want to get from a kit. There are releases from Takom on that same subject, but if you really want the whole package, MiniArt is the proper choice. Takom are more suitable for beginners and are easy to assemble. With that comes different thickness of the plastic and many other things, that sometimes annoy experienced modelers. If you compare the two, they are both good options, but MiniArt is crispier and more satisfactory for the professional builders.
There is no substitute for quality. In that regards this kit is at the proper place and at the proper time. It responds to all the demands of the modern modeling world and it comes at a very acceptable price. The price itself is one of the highlights of the kit, especially considering what you get with each set and the fact that you will have some spares in terms of markings.
It is perfectly suitable for experienced modelers, but the faint-hearted should look towards Takom. In case you are in for upgrading your skills, this is the challenge you should take. MiniArt proved that fact with their D7 dozer series, T-54/55s and nowadays they are entering the aircraft realm as well. M3 is just another jewel in the crown of the Ukrainian model maker and one that they should be proud of. It is not a mass produced vehicle, so it still keeps the original idea of the company and in the same time it should be a hit.
Highly recommended in any of the variations available on the market.