by: Mitko Nikitov [ ]
Su-122-54 is not the well-known Su-122 that you are usually thinking about. This is a derivative of T-54 tank and it was always surrounded by secrecy, even for the Soviet standards. Hence the dash 54 after the name and a somewhat cover-up nomenclature of Su-122.
It is not a tank though, but a self-propelled assault gun and a one that was hidden from the Western world for a long time. Actually, its first official appearance was during Exercise Dnepr, in September 1967. That was some 17 years after the first prototype was built. Next public appearance was during the unfortunate events in Operation Danube in Prague 1968. But there the focus was on the people of Czechoslovakia, not on the armored vehicles who were there to crush their will. And that was it for the Su-122-54. After those events, it was never seen again publicly, nor was described or commented in any form.
Being masters of presenting us with such obscure and interesting subjects, MiniArt released the late version of the Su-122-54 in 2019, quickly after they gave us the Early variant. Many of you might be familiar with the vehicle because they love to play it in War Thunder reality, but that is another subject. Here, we will take a look at what the Ukrainian company managed to pull off from plastic, and the overall quality of the set in general.
Box, Packing & Boxart:
This kit is not a part of MiniArt’s Interior Kit series. To me, that is some form of relief. Many of you will smirk at that statement, but I’ve had a lot of hard time with some of the sections of MiniArt’s T-55 series with Interior, and trust me, if you are not experienced, you better stay away from those.
Saying that, the box is smaller /thinner actually/ compared to the ones I just mentioned. Parts, mostly ammo of course, are smaller in number, but are generally presented in the same manner. The box comes with redish sides, and a beautiful boxart, featuring an excerpt from the events in Prague during ’68. On the sides we have renders of the completed kit and some standard for scale models kits description.
Usually, MiniArt boxes for kits that are lacking interior are similar, but depict the vehicle only, on a white background. Because this kit was not part of that, but rather a slight deviation from the T-54/55 line, MiniArt placed their bet on full picture over the box, which is – as usual – very good. The colors are very vivid and the picture itself is definitely worth a thousand words. In my opinion, far better than the one with the Early version.
If you wonder why am I paying so much attention to the boxart, please try to remember the times when you picked your models in the local model shop solely by how much you enjoyed the boxart. We don’t do that as we age, but I still have it in the back of my head every time a look at a kit.
Once you open the lid, you can find an envelope, holding other envelopes, all transparent, throughout which the parts are dispersed. That is done logically of course, and provides good enough protection, considering that not all of the sprues are packed separately. But the number of sprues limits that option anyhow. So this is the best we can get. With reasonably sized box…
On the bottom of the box there is an instruction booklet, with which we will start our review.
The booklet included in this set is a tiny bit different compared to the last MiniArt kit that I got. Mostly in terms of quality. I don’t know the exact reason why, but it seems to me that the whole booklet this time is made out of paper with the same quality. That means glossy, smooth bright white sheets, with colorful depiction of the paint schemes, with the building steps being only black and white. Usually, what we get from MiniArt is slightly lower quality of the paper of the B&W steps pages, which are placed inside of the nicer color cover /sort of/ sheets, made of the better material. The nicer ones include paint schemes and partially the sprue depiction, as of course – the front page of the booklet.
That is logical of course, since it is useless to spend more money on something that doesn’t need it and is environmental friendly as well. Spending less money is too justified by the fact, that usually MiniArt present us with kits with high level of detailing, separate track links and decently sized photo-etch sheets, thus, the price is very important for both ends – the maker and the consumer. Cutting out any of this and the equation won’t give the same results.
So it came to a surprise to me, but the overall quality of this instruction booklet is improved.
The steps are easy to understand and follow, with everything clearly depicted and presented. They are perfectly workable for novice modelers, without too much description and without useless complications, however, the kit as a whole might be a problem for newbies. This Su-122-54 is probably one of the best suitable for novice modelers kits from MiniArt, but it will be too – and trust me on this – challenge for young guys.
While I consider interior filled T-54/55s a Mission Impossible for newcomer to the hobby, this Su-122-54 is something that one might eventually cope with. But only eventually and with a lot of talent and some help from YouTube and large modeling sources such as Armorama for example.
Instrucitons-wise, MiniArt presented everything neatly and arranged it properly, however the kit is on the challenging-side of modeling as a whole, that is why I am mentioning all that. Other than this fact, the instruction sheet is perfectly well executed.
I will let pictures do the talking in this case. The element that I photographed speak for themselves and they are not all that you get from that kit. MiniArt were always devoted to the smallest details and that deserves a material that could sustain the production process of it all. Then, it should be good enough for us to work with as well.
Well, for couple of years now, MiniArt are using Western European product for their plastic material and the results are great. Of course, on the tiniest lines there are some damages, or at least I have seen some. But I have several of their kits and I must add that I found such defects or damages on every other kit that I have, no matter the company. Haven’t found that level of detailing though.
There is some flash and some of it can be seen on the pictures here. But that is only minor and very acceptable if you ask me, since there is no chance for such engineering and no flash at all. Besides, the kit is demanding to the modeler’s skill set and this flash is the least of the worries one might hold if a decision to build MiniArt kit arises.
There is certain flexibility that goes for all the parts, including the long flat fenders. They might be a thing that will eventually worry you, but in reality they are flexible part of the tank/SPGs too, so this is only a bonus in this case. That is also a bi-product of the detail thickness, which is one of the most realistic on the market nowadays. Especially when it comes down to fenders and similar surfaces. The only thing better would be photo-etch.
Here, I am very tempted to put only: “Who cares?” and end the section with that. However, out of respect for their effort, I will grant MiniArt my comments to the clear parts.
They are very nice and from my experience with their Tram series, I must add that they can sustain large amount of different abuse practices, which is always welcome. They are tough parts and can survive various adhesive types, some of which will be often destructive or at least severely damaging just another clear part from another /random/ manufacturer.
With that said, I have to stop here, because I think that nobody gives much about clear parts on a tank. Maybe the lights, but they are too not so important, especially with so many other ways to approach them with different materials.
Interesting thing to add here is that I saw an idea in action, a cracked clear part on a scale model kit. That was done with clear /very transparent/ adhesive tape, which was used to hold everything in the part together, applied just before the guy smashed it to achieve the broken appearance.
I trust that those MiniArt parts will be very adequate for such intervention and they will appear very realistic after you break them, both because of their clarity and their survivability. At least to the extent I am familiar with.
The sheet is made by Decograph, an Ukrainian decal maker that I have only experienced through MiniArt kits. However I rarely use decals and I rather mask everything out and paint it, especially with tanks. Thus my opinion does not have the significance of an avid-decal lover, but with that said, I must add this:
Decals are thin and as far as I tested Decograph they work just fine. For some though, they might be too fragile, but I think that is the key to their thickness and good application looks. The kit as a whole does come with a relatively small sheet, featuring numbers, some of which look like hand-painted job.
So if you decide to take that road, it is always a good option as well. Unfortunately, lack of reference materials in the case of Su-122-54 is a definite reality, so your other choice is to replicate something from War Thunder online game that you might eventually play. Maybe even with Su-122-54.
Enclosed in a nice white cardboard envelope is the photo-etch sheet. This is sort of a MiniArt’s invention, which is altogether a marketing trick and a protector for the valuable metal parts. Speaking of protection, MiniArt’s photo-etch elements are the thinnest ones I’ve seen ever. Not even the best aftermarket companies produce such a delicate product and that is very pleasant, but demanding add on to MiniArt’s kits.
With this PE sheet we don’t have overly many parts, mostly belts and brackets, predominantly small items, plus of course, the engine grill meshes. Latter one are the largest items on the sheet too.
One must be very careful if sanding-before-gluing is among the rituals in the building process. This is mostly due to the thickness and the flexibility of the PE sheet of the Ukrainian company. From experience I can vouch for the appearance, but I can also add, that I ruined more than one elements, while sanding them before super glue application process.
Actually, PE can be glued without that, especially if you clean the surfaces from the oils that your hands leave on them, but some sanding won’t hurt too. Well, not if you are prepared to be extra-careful and do it on a flat surface and with very fine sanding stick or paper.
Three variants are included with this kit. First one is a winter camouflage from the 60s. That is one that you can exploit a lot, with various chipping and weathering techniques. Besides, Soviet Union is predominantly cold country, so this is one very possible option, even though references are hard to be found.
Contrary to the latter one, there is a three-tone camouflage option, that resembles the camo scheme applied on the MiG-21SMs used in Soviet-Afghan War, with mostly desert-ish appearance. That one is with unclear history reference, but it is definitely a good looking variant. Of course, period is not mentioned, but I wouldn’t dare to do that if I was MiniArt either.
The last one and most definitely my favorite, is the one from 1968. That is the theme of the kit, judging from the boxart and it bears a lot of hidden messages by itself. This is a war christened vehicle, although war against civilian population can be barely considered a war by itself.
Anyhow, the white crossing lines over the hull of the vehicle were standard for the armor that participated in the uprising in Prague. That by itself brings a lot, especially to elder modelers who eventually witnessed the events from one or the other side. And I can bet, for either one of them it was an unpleasant experience.
But with that said, every model kit, once built, should bring some emotions with it. It is not only a replica nor a toy, but rather a picture, that every modeler, an artist by himself, can filter through his eyes, feelings and talent, in order to present a moment in time, seen from a unique perspective. Thus, in my opinion every scale model kit is a canvas, and that one here, can be turned into a very powerful depiction of some events that is best to be never repeated ever again.
My favorite MiniArt kits are the Tirans and the T-s from the uprisings. Partially, because I lived my early years under Communist regime, partially, because even if I wasn’t born on that side of that 20th century story, I still feel deeply about such events, involving civilians and in urban areas. MiniArt, beside being producer of great obscure subjects in scale, managed to give us kits from Hungarian and Czechoslovak uprising, as well as the famous Tiananmen tank, which are all together very powerful tools for understanding the true meaning of uselessness of armed conflicts.
Aside from the message that this kits brings for myself, I must add that it is definitely one of the most detailed and most interesting products from the Ukrainian company. T-44s were too, very tricky subjects, as well as pre-production T-54s: -1, -2 and -3. However, this for me is their best attempt so far, in terms of unpopular, yet very interesting representation in 35th scale.
The price is very low considering the contents of the kit and I would urge MiniArt to raise their prices if I, as well as all the other modelers, weren’t gaining from that decision.
The kit is not very suitable for beginners, but from MiniArt’s line, that is one of the best options if you decide to go their way. But with that said, this is 21st century modeling. And one last note on that:
I initially turned to armor scale modeling because there is no need for interior and not overly many small parts. MiniArt is definitely are beating me for my decision and even though I still am not a fan of doing all that, MiniArt are somehow justifying the efforts put into their kits, based on an astonishing final result and superb realism that was an impossible dream two decades ago.
Very highly recommended!