AMPS is all about armor modeling and the preservation of armor and mechanized heritage.

MiniArt - GAZ-MM Cargo Truck Mod. 1941

Kit Number:
35130
Scale:
1:35
Published:
Monday, July 30, 2012
Manufacturer:
MiniArt
Retail Price:
$51.75 USD
Reviewed By:
Matt Deck

Introduction

Miniart’s bread and butter has always been cool, vacu-formed buildings and diorama accessories. But for the last couple of years, they have been steadily earning a reputation for imaginative figure sets and vehicle releases. Lately, they have been focused on recreating a unique fleet of softskin offerings, including the wide range of Soviet military trucks used during the “Patriotic War.” You can see everything MiniArt offers online at miniart-models.com.

Background

When WW2 erupted, the Soviet industrial juggernaut began to churn out tanks, guns and trucks at an amazing rate. One of the primary truck manufacturers was the Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, better known by their friends as “GAZ.” GAZ trucks were simple to construct and reliable in the field. The GAZ-MM model was the military version of the GAZ-AA, a licensed copy of the Ford Model AA truck. The GAZ-MM was simplified for easy production and featured sheet metal fenders, a single headlight, an open cab with canvas roof and doors – oh, and no front brakes. Yikes. By the end of the war, more than 138 thousand GAZ-AA and GAZ-MM trucks had been produced and the surivors served into the 1950s.

So what’s in the box?

The MiniArt GAZ-MM comes in a large, sturdy box. I only mention the size of the box because it left plenty of “wiggle room” for the sprues inside. While this is a smaller truck, there is a stunning number of parts – 371, not including the figures. The molding on the parts is quite good, and there are a lot of nice textures and detailing. For example, the wood grain of the truck bed is well represented. Also, many of the engine and transmission parts have a subtle cast texture to them. It’s a shame a lot of this is going to be hidden under the truck.

MiniArt gives the builder the option to pose the engine panels open or closed, and given the masterpiece of an engine, I’m guessing most of us will want to show it off a little. Speaking of the engine panels, the casting here is impressive. The pressed vents on the sides of the engine panels are molded open! They are incredibly thin and surprisingly clean. 

A word of warning – the excellent casting in this kit can lull you to sleep. There is very little flash, and seam lines are microscopic. While this is good, I noticed in the first round of photos that my engine has some...er...issues that need to be addressed before painting. Be sure to check each part and clean it up accordingly, even though you may not notice anything at first.

Finishing options include three options:

1) Stalingrad, The Don Front, January 1943: winter white-washed

2) Kursk, Unknown Unit, June 1943: 

basic 4BO green

3) Vyborg Region, The Leningrad Front, Summer 1944: tri-tone camo (awesome!)

I’m anxious to get started, but before I do, here’s the obligatory sprue shots. Enjoy.

There are four wheel sprues.

There are two of these sprues with tiny details.

Shut Up and Build it.

After looking through the directions I realized that this project is going to have several subassembly and painting stages before final assembly. While I tried to stay with the construction sequence as much as possible, there were times when I  jumped around a little.

Steps 7,8,9,16 and 17

I wanted to tackle the most tedious part of the project first, so I started with the wheels. The GAZ-MM has six wheels and a single spare. MiniArt has divided each wheel into eight pieces. The tire is assembled in “slices,” creating a delicate and highly detailed tread pattern – in theory. It is vital here to really study the diagrams and know what goes where and which way. That being said, the instructions are a little vague as to which direction each slice goes, but after the first two tires I had a system down and the remaining tires went together relatively smoothly. I did have to fill a few gaps here and there on the treads, using my old “white glue as filler” trick. Carefully apply the white glue to the gap with a toothpick or whatever – neatness is a bonus but it’s not crucial. Then take a damp cotton swab and gently wipe the surface. The swab will remove the extra glue and leave the rest of the glue to fill the seam neatly.

Eight-pieces each made assembly very...wait for it...TIRING.

Steps 1-3

Returning to the starting steps, MiniArt kicks the whole thing off by having you assemble the engine. For the most part, assembly was straight forward and the fit was perfect. Unfortunately, on the smaller parts, the instructions were vague about placement, and location pins or holes were microscopic. Typically this would just require patience and a steady hand, but some of these smaller parts are brackets and such that MUST be placed correctly so that future parts will fit correctly. It is nerve-wracking to say the least. In some situations it is wise to plan ahead and add these smaller brackets AFTER the pieces they hold are in place.

The engine is amazing, it could be kit in itself – but be careful. There is no good way to handle the engine without risking damage. Every surface has tiny, fragile details on it. It looks spectacular, but handle with care. As I mentioned before, it is easy to miss the tiny mold seams, etc. on this kit. The camera was brutally honest with me and I was forced to go back and clean up a few issues after these photos were taken.

Corrugated tubing, miniscule clamp detail, crisp bolt detail – this engine has it all.

The other side of the engine – more plumbing will be added

when the engine is in place under the hood.

Steps 4-6

Now that the engine is together, work can start on the chassis. Assembly went pretty smoothly here. Part D3 is a bracket that will eventually end up as one of the attachment points for the cab floor. The problem is that the location points are very vague, and placement is crucial. I ended up setting these parts aside and gluing them into place after the cab floor was attached to the chassis. Also, the instructions show the leafspring brackets (part FA11) on each side going to the wrong spot on the frame. Use the leafspring to line them up correctly – this was not a big issue, just something to be ready for. Take your time and make sure the frame is lined up – alignment is crucial. When the dust settles, here is what you have.

The chassis, Phase 1 – GREAT textures and detail.


Steps 10-14

Phase 2 of the chassis assembly has you adding the engine and the additional plumbing. You will also assemble the transmission and front steering mechanism. Also, Step 14 has you adding a very fragile brake light. If (no, when) I build this kit again, I will leave this off until just before painting. I crushed mine several times during construction. While assembly was a little fussy, if you take your time, you’ll be stunned by the level of detail. There is a lot going on under this truck. Again, I would be tempted to build one and display it upside down. Another interesting point about the MiniArt kit – sometimes attachment points for the pieces are microscopic. It is a challenge to get the pieces to “bite.” In the photo below, check out the spare tire at the rear of the chassis. During photography, one of the two bolts holding up the tire came loose. The attachment points on those two bolts is all that holds the tire up. This works well on the real thing but makes the model down right dainty – handle with care.

The chassis, Phase 2 – the best model no one will ever see.


Steps 18, 19

Add the wheels, radiator and a few details. No issues here, just be careful gluing the step supports in place. Location is everything for those. Now it starts to look like a truck.

Step 20

Assemble the cab floor, seat and controls – easy. I was unsure where exactly the cab floor attached to the chassis, so I left it as a subassembly. I will dry fit the bed, and cab to ensure that everything is where it needs to be. 

Step 21

Assemble the firewall and steering. Again, this was quick and painless. I attached the firewall to the cab front subassembly instead of gluing it in place on the chassis.

Step 22

Adds the cab back and braces for the hood. I glued the cab back into place on the cab floor, but saved the hood braces for later – I want everything to line up. Be aware, there are some big knockout marks inside the rear cab wall. A little Squadron White Filler and sanding took car of that. 

Steps 23-25, 27

Now it's time to build the window frame. I used the glass panes to help with placement of the center post. MiniArt gives you the option to position the window frame open or closed. Simply glue the tiny side brackets in the position you need. If you take your time here, assembly goes smoothly. Looking back, I would follow this build sequence next time:

1) Assemble the window frame.

2) Add the brackets and prepaint the frame.

3)  Add the glass and wiper assembly.

4) Set it aside until final stages of construction.

Steps 26

Assemble the dash board. Easy, easy, easy.

Step 28

Combine the window frame with the dashboard assembly, and attach the whole thing to the cab floor assembly. The cab interior is ready for paint. Here’s the front of the cab primed and ready for paint.

The cab front and firewall. Check out the tiny window brackets.

 

The dashboard side. I eventually stole a gauge or two from

Archer’s U.S. Halftrack set for the console.

Step 29

With the interior of the cab prepainted, I was able to attach the canvas top (I prepainted the underside of this as well). At this point, MiniArt asks you to bend to photoetch brackets for the sides of the canvas top (parts PE5, PE6). I promise, I tried to bend these into the cool half-pipe shape shown in the instructions. I tried the Hold-n-Fold. I tried bending them around a piece of brass rod. After 30 minutes, I realized that no one I know can form a 1/16" strip of brass into a gently curved channel. I “wimped out” and replaced the photoetch parts with round 8mm plastic rod. After all of that, adding the supports for the bed to the top of the chassis was a welcome break.

Steps 30, 31

Now that the bulk of the cab is assembled, these steps have you add the side walls along with a number of photoetch details. Again, the PE proved to be a challenge. Part PE18 is a microscopic bracket that goes along the edge of the cab floor. The piece is simply a 1/16"-long piece of brass strip that must be bent at a 90-degree angle. Good luck. It’s too small for the Hold-n-Fold, pliers, bench edge, etc. I ended up cutting a longer section of left over brass fret from another PE set that is the same width as PE19. The longer strip was easily bent to 90 degrees. Then I simply trimmed the two ends to the correct length with my trusty X-acto knife. You also have to install a number of tiedowns for the canvas door. These are provided on the PE fret as PE10. All of these tiny tiedowns are stamped together, with two attachment points in between each piece. In other words, cleanup is next to impossible. I took the easy way out and replaced my tiedowns with thin wire. 

I went back and shot a photo of the wire tie downs and the plastic rain gutter in the middle

of painting - still miles to go. I also discovered an enormous seam line on the leaf spring.

Cuss - now I have to fix that.

Steps 32, 33

Pre-assemble the fenders. No issues at all. 

Step 34

Build the bottom of the bed. Like butter.

Steps 35, 36

Attach the fenders and rear tires. Now we’re rolling.

Step 35 ... er, again.

Due to a typo in the instructions, this is labeled “35.” This is not an issue until you write up a review. Add the headlight and horn. Nice wiring detail included. Take your time and enjoy some “cuss-free” model building.

Step 36...wait...wuh?

Another step, another typo. Again, just ignore the step number and add the hood and side panel to the driver’s side of the engine compartment. The handle for the hood (PE15) is fiddly but totally doable. Keep in mind that either side of the hood can be assembled in the open position, so pay attention to whether your hood latches are glued in the “open” or “closed” position.

Another “in progress” shot during painting. I realized when fitting the windshield that if you want

the hood open, the windshield should be shut – there’s not enough room for the hood and

the open windshield. Also, check out the detail on that OBO engine, and the fact that the

cooling vents are MOLDED open! 

Step 37 – honest.

This is the same as the last step, only on the passenger’s side of the cab. You will also add the rolled up canvas doors at this point. With all the effort MiniArt put into this kit, I wish they would’ve taken the time to vary the canvas door pieces. I went ahead and added the edge of the folded tarp, and varied the folds and wrinkles with a scoring tool and my trusty X-acto #11. Since this is supposed to be an OBO review, I included a comparison of the stock piece and my slightly improved piece.

My new tarp is on the left, and the OBO tarp on the right. I varied the location

of the edge of the tarp so that they aren’t uniform.

Step 38

Build the bed. Before you start, take a moment to look at the wood grain texture – de-frickin’-licious! You have the option to put the rear gate up or down. Also, be aware that the latches are very well done, but VERY fragile. Don’t snap them off with your clumsy meathooks while handling the model. I did. They glue right back on, but who needs the aggravation?

Like every other part of this kit, the bed is fantastic. 

Step 39

Attach the bed and the remaining canvas doors and you’re done!

Paint it! Paint it!

Once the chassis was assembled, I sprayed it with Tamiya Black XF1. The engine was painted with Valejo acrylics – field grey for the engine block, German Grey for the plumbing, and Flat aluminum for the fan and clamps. The engine was also treated to several liberal applications of MIG’s Engine Grime wash, as well as several thin washes of Burnt Sienna oil paint. The muffler was basecoated in Valejo Saddle Brown. Next, Burnt Siena and Iraqi Sand were lightly sponged on to create a rusty texture. Finally, a light wash of Van Dyke Brown was applied to the muffler to blend the colors.

When it was time to paint the truck, I chose the ultra-cool tri-tone scheme, starting with a basecoat of 4BO green. For this I use my favorite 50/50 mix of Tamiya X73 JGDSF Green and XF4 Yellow Green. I thinned it with Tamiya thinner, 60/40 thinner to paint. After the basecoat was applied, I added more Yellow Green to the mix, thinned my paint to about 70/30 thinner to paint, and faded the center of each panel and board. 

Once the basecoat was dry, I masked off the areas that were to remain green with Silly Putty and added the camo, starting with the brown. For this I used Tamiya 

Flat Brown XF10. I mixed up a lighter brown by adding Tamiya Deck Tan XF55 to the Brown, and faded the center of panels and boards. I finished the camo by spraying the remaining areas Tamiya Dark Yellow XF60. These areas were lightened from the center out using Dark Yellow lightened with Tamiya Buff XF57. 

For the sake of the review, I did some preliminary pin washes with MIG Dark Wash, and added the first round of pigments using a bunch of different MIG pigments. I will pay more attention to the weathering once I get this truck on a base. After all, the point of this exercise is to walk you through the build, right? But I think you'll see that even with minimal attention, the MiniArt GAZ-MM builds up into a spectacular model.

Conclusion

I don't think it's any secret that I LOVED this kit. The MiniArt GAZ-MM builds up into a fantastic little truck and is wide open for payload options. If – no, WHEN – you pick one of these up, simply take your time with the instructions and plan each move. Also, be aware that all that detail makes this thing fragile – handle with care. Bottom line, I would not be upset if a future AMPS International theme was "MiniArt GAZ-MM trucks." It's that good.  

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC)for the review sample.