by: Rick Cooper [ ]
It wasnít too terribly long ago that the number of World War II tank crew figures available in plastic was an extremely limited number, and for many nationalities simply nonexistent. Collectively, we as modelers owe MiniArt Models from Ukraine a debt of gratitude for working hard to rectify that problem. They have in rapid succession released tank crew sets for Soviet, British, American, Italian, French, and Japanese with a set of Hungarian crew soon to come. Indeed, now they are working at getting plastic into our hands that is even more specific; British in winter uniforms, Soviet jeep crew, armored car crews; and of course a fair smattering of German crews to satisfy that faction as well.
Another more specific crew has just been released, Close Combat; U.S. tank crew consisting of five figures all in some form of a dynamic pose depicting some level of combat action. The kit includes 62 parts in light gray on two smallish sprues along with a small parts map. Noticeable in its absence are the decals for unit insignia which are often included, as this is a pre release kit for review purposes it may not have the decals that the regular release will have, letís hope that MiniArt includes the decal sheet in the regular production run. The box is a somewhat standard end opening affair with a nominal assembly and painting guide on the reverse. The box art is excellent, on par with the best in the business.
Each of the figures consists of a torso and a pair of legs and arms. The five head sculpts are well done, each appears to be a different individual rather than five brothers who all look the same. Very little flash is evident, just a few spots on the M3 SMGs and one of the pistols. Four of the crew are wearing the one piece HBT coveralls while the other crewman wears a pair of wool trousers. The fellow wearing the wool trousers also is wearing the tankers jacket as well as two other crewmen who wear the jacket over their coveralls. Four of the crew wear the standard tankers helmet and one wears a steel pot. Three of the crew are armed and ready with the M-3 grease gun, one holds a Colt M1911 .45 pistol molded into his hand for a nice tight fit, the remaining crewman is working a .50 M2 machine gun (not included) and looks very familiar. If you have a copy of Steve Zalogaís excellent Armored Attack 1944, you will find on page 198 the photo that may have been the inspiration for the pose. Besides the one brandishing his pistol the other four crewmen all have Colt sidearms, the only other personal equipment included in the set is one small first aid pouch.
MiniArt has had a bit of an issue with the fit of the tankers helmet; they have molded it as a four piece assembly, the top, the two ear pieces, and the rear piece that protects the back of the skull. I assembled what I felt was the most dynamic head sculpt to check the helmet fit issue; needless to say I was happily surprised to find the fit much better than some of the earlier sets. The ear coverings are still a bit thick in my opinion and could use a bit of thinning, without a bit of sanding the helmet seems a bit too bulky. But, it does fit and that, I believe, is the most important aspect.
I have included the shots of the completed figures from MiniArt here to the right so you can see what each of the figures look like after construction. The only fault I can find, and it is really just a minor nitpick, is that the box art has the poses a bit more vibrant than they really are, the figures are molded a bit more vertically, no leaning or peaking around corners, not quite the energy that the box art depicts. If you are handy at adding and removing a bit here and there or some minor surgery on plastic you can better replicate the animation from the art work.
I couldnít be happier with this set; the five figures provide a bit of extra life and could all be used as is in a diorama setting. A twist here and there, a bit of filler of your choice and they can really start to come to life. I for one commend MiniArt for continuing to produce such a wide range of kits, particularly of armored crews, from such a wide range of nationalities and localities.