MiniArt 1/35 Valentine Mk.I Tank w/Crew Kit First Look
Images by Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||May 2011||Manufacturer||MiniArt|
|Subject||Valentine Mk. I Tank w/Crew||Scale||1/35|
|Kit Number||35116||Primary Media||695 parts (643 in grey styrene, 54 etched brass)|
|Pros||Beautifully done model of this widely used Commonwealth vehicle; interior parts for turret and driver’s compartment; now also provides new, more useful figure set and interior section for the radiator and transmission compartment||Cons||Single link tracks will be tedious to assemble; getting very expensive|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$72.00|
As previously noted, the Valentine was one of those tanks that managed to provide both reasonably good performance with relative reliability, and as such was used by the Commonwealth as well as provided to the Soviets under Lend Lease. I leave it to true historians of British armour such as Peter Brown to provide a more detailed history of the vehicle, as most of my knowledge of it is based on Russian sources. ( I have freely added Peter's comments based on serious research in the National Archives at Kew and the Tank Museum where appropriate.)
However, checking my resources shows that the Valentine was evolved from the earlier A.9 and A.10 (Cruiser Tanks Mark I and II) when the need for a better infantry tank arose and those designs morphed into the Christie-suspension fast tanks. Manned by a three-man crew (driver, gunner, and commander) it was armed with a 2-pdr main gun and a 7.92mm Besa machine gun. Powered by a 135 HP AEC bus engine, it provided reasonably good service and became the progenitor of an entire line of tanks, ending up with a 75mm gun tank powered by diesel engines. Roughly 300 Mk I versions of the tank were built in 1941.
While people like Peter can explain more of the detail differences, the early model Valentine tanks Marks I and II were both similar and in some cases nearly impossible to tell apart. Very early tanks had a “mag wheel” (my term, as it looks like it was styled by the folks who did the famous Cragar S/S wheels in the 1960s) which later became a smooth wheel design. The external brake bulge in the drivers was enlarged early in the production run and also the original narrow A.9/A.10 type tracks were exchanged for a choice of two wider cast track links. Also at some point a pistol port was added to the left side of the turret. It also comes with the later model drivers with enlarged brake drums.
This new kit adds a number of parts associated with the Mark I tank but most of the Mark II kit ones are still present. This includes a set of the previously noted “Mag” wheels as well as the smooth left turret side to replace the pistol-port one. It still comes with the more aggressive pattern cast tracks found in the Mark II kit.
The kit retains its desert oriented fender skirts and mudguards, but from what I can see this tank was generally not used with them. It comes with two different mantlets (one – part D5 – is for another version of the tank as the directions do not indicate it is optional). The kit provides a very complete and complex 2-pdr gun with slide-molded barrrel and a very detailed Besa and breech assembly for the interior of the turret. Note that while the gun and a complete No. 19 Wireless Set (with etched brass “cage” parts) are provided no seats or crew “comforts” are provided. (Peter indicates for an early Mk I this should have been the earlier No. 11 set with a single antenna on a folding mount at the back of the turret.)
The driver’s position is relatively complete with controls, panels, and seat, and both hatches may be posed open to show it. However, none of the crew members are posed to fit it.
The suspension is not as fiddly as the VM one was and does a nice representation of the variant of the “Slo-Mo-Shun” suspension used on Vickers designs. The small road wheels come with separate fronts and backs, and the large ones are in two parts with a separate tire. This is neater than some other options. Each driver consists of six parts to get the proper look. Even the springs – molded parts - are nearly flash and seam free. (Note that there are comments on the Internet that the wheels are underscale and not properly spaced, but for the most part they look fine when installed except to the extreme purist.)
However, each side takes 98 track links and these are small and come from sprues; cleanup and assembly will be tedious so prepare in advance for an evening or two on those. The good news is that the tracks fit well once the “nubs” are cleaned up, so at least none of them require the even worse filing and fiddling to assemble. Based on my experiences with them it would be a good idea to make a jig from a section of scrap plastic and a thick section of strip; this permits accurate horizontal and vertical alignment and making sections of 10 at a time for easier final assembly. The main thing here is to use a slow-setting plastic cement that provides flexibility for final adjustment during fitting to the model. (Note that the Canadian built ones used a high level of manganese in the tracks; they do not rust but acquire a brown patina through oxidation, so bright red rust finishing is not correct).
The rest of the model is pretty straightforward. One word of warning: this kit is closer to the Tristar efforts in that it requires precise fit and trimming to get the parts in place; “that’s close” will not work and cause a lot of frustration. I failed to get a clean assembly job on the turret hatch covers of my Mark II (same turret roof and hatches) by not paying attention.
All of the covers and shrouds on the engine deck are separate parts (again unlike the VM effort) and will give a great deal of depth to the finished model. This one provides a complete radiator and transmission assembly for the rear of the hull with optional position radiators and hatches.
Note that etched brass parts are integral to the kit and thus require mandatory use; sorry DML fans, no options. These include brackets for the muffler guard, wing nuts for tool holders, and other tiny items. The photo etched parts are not backed by card as many other companies provide to ensure flat shipping, but are coated with adhesive film on both sides which seems to work well in protecting the parts.
The tank provides the “Heath Robinson” spring loaded antiaircraft mount for the Bren antiaircraft light machine gun, which consists of six parts. Oddly enough, the directions then show the Bren gun (which comes with a drum magazine and bipod) attached to the turret roof rather than hanging by a strap from the mount. Go figure. There is also a nice six part turret antenna mount.
The figures provide an officer tank commander and four other ranks as “tank riders” (also offered separately as MiniArt Kit No. 35071). This time the officer has a “tin hat” with headset and microphone (provide your own wires) but all are in the “8th Army” short sleeve shirts and shorts with tall stockings. Three men carry Enfields and one has a Bren gun.
All figures are standard “six part” types - head, torso, arms and legs – with add-on kit and helmets. Poses are good and detailing is nicely done.
The directions come in a lovely booklet and are much more expansive than DML efforts (whose style they seem patterned on) and result in 61 total steps to construct the model. However, like DML the figures are reduced to “stick here” diagrams on the last page and “paint like the box top” like instructions. I wish companies would take more time in their figure directions as while experienced modelers have few problems newer ones most certainly could use some help.
A color booklet with finishing directions is provided for seven different vehicles, alas, per Peter most are apparently Mark II tanks (which look just like late production Mark I tanks, so fear nought): White 8, 4th RTR, 22nd Armoured Brigade, 10th Armoured Division, Egypt 1942 (sand overall - Mk II; should have sand shields fitted); “Manchester”, C Company, 40th RTR, 23rd Armoured Brigade, July 1942 (sand overall - Mk II); “Artist’s Prince”, unknown training unit, UK 1941 (black over dark green - Mk II); Unknown training unit, UK 1941 (black over dark green, T16043 - Mk II); 8th RTR, 23rd Armoured Brigade, Libya, December 1942 (sand, black 1 in triangle - Mk II); “Harry II”, 8th RTR, 1st Armoured Brigade, Libya, June 1941 (“Caunter” scheme, red 9 in square - Mk II); 1st (65th) RTR, 16th Armoured Brigade (Polish), Scotland, August 1941 (dark green overall, T1290248 with full coding - Mk I). Peter Brown warns me that most of these may well be for Mark II tanks and not Mark Is.
Overall, while pricey this kit provides more options than previous ones and according to Peter with a few tweaks can be built as a Mark I, II, IV, VI or VII. But it does provide a number of options and a set of five new and useful figures, so it is not that far outside current price ranges. But if you want a true and accurate early Mark I, plan on some track swaps and new markings.
Thanks to MRC for the review sample.
- A 34 Upper hull, radiator shrouds, turret race, hull sections
- B 70x2 Running gear, road wheels, drivers, idlers
- C 74 Bins, fuel tank, exhaust, hull details
- D 56 Turret, 2 pdr, Bren gun, radio, details
- D1 12 Skirts, mudguards, brackets
- E 72 Radiators, fans, transmission section, details
- E 44x5 Single link tracks
- G 1 Lower hull
- H 32 Two figures, Bren gun, kit
- H 43 Three figures, kit
- Jb 14x2 Early model wheels
- Jd 1 Left half of turret
- M-04 54 Etched brass