MiniArt 1/35 Ardennes Street Diorama Scene
MiniArt has released another of its 1/35 Building and Accessories Series, the Ardennes Street. The kit contains beautifully detailed structure components mostly in the form of what appear to be heavy-duty, thick plastic vacuformed or stamped sheets. The main attraction of this particular release may be the excellent brick roadbed waiting for the right AFV to be placed upon it. On one side of the roadbed is a small brick culvert, the other side is framed by two intersecting walls depicting a ruined two-story building. The walls of the building are all double-sided and the back of the structure is left open to allow diorama enthusiasts to 'have at it'.
The beautifully detailed walls and roof are single, stamped pieces – perhaps vacuformed, and look very sturdy. They boast surfaces that are stressed and aged and should show up very nicely under a dark wash. The sprues contain parts for the window frames, gutters and other remaining odds and ends.
Like the other MiniArt structure series kits, there are a number of small surface bumps on the stamped pieces that will have to be sanded down or sliced off. These protrusions are presumably created by the stamping process and are quite noticeable unless removed. The ragged edges of the stamped pieces themselves representing the rough, damaged wall edges also need to be carefully snapped and cleaned from the sheets to preserve their unique shape. Fortunately the plastic is soft and sands easily.
Each wall is made up of two parts, front and back, so that when the finished structure is viewed from behind, a completely detailed walled interior is exposed. I can just see this kit being one of the main structures in a diorama – just about anything can be used to fill the structure interior. Here, however, lies the Achilles heel of these kits. The front and back of each wall have to be glued together along a paper-thin edge of plastic, and there is no interior support structure between the two halves. I have yet to put my hands on material that is both easy to work with and light enough for the job at hand. Foam core seems the obvious choice, but it comes in thicknesses that are not equal to the task. In addition, the paper-thin edges of the two halves need to be reinforced with plastic sheet on the inside of each half to be able to be mated to their counterparts. Together, these challenges could cause these kits to end up on the 'finish later' shelf until suitable materials can be found.
The two-page instruction sheet contains eight steps and is well illustrated and easy to follow. There are no painting guides or color callouts included; finishing will have to rely instead on the box-art drawing and three photographs of the finished building on the side of the box. The company also has an excellent online tutorial on building and finishing these structures. Alas, while there are plenty of how-to's on painting and weathering, practical solutions to the two problems discussed above are nowhere to be found.
I really like these kits; this is the eighth one I've looked at. All of the builds, however, suffer from the same problems. The stamped plastic walls are too thin to assemble without significant support between each half and along the mating edges, and suitable materials for doing that remain hard to find. I think these kits would really take off if Miniart were to provide some kind of filler material in the box with their kits. Ideally it would be one or two sheets of foam core that was the exact thickness required to support the two sides of the walls. The modeler could be left to cutting the pieces needed for the job. Similarly, perhaps molded in tabs or tab recesses could be added to the stamped sheets so that the thin edges could be mated in a more sturdy way. As a consequence, building these kits would go quickly – there are not a lot of parts - and the detail is excellent. MiniArt currently has a corner on the market for plastic display bases like this; I would use one for every one of my builds if I could figure out how to build them.
I recommend this kit to anyone who likes to build and finish 1/35 scale diorama's or display bases. Perhaps the solution to the assembly problems that elude me will be second nature to someone else. Beyond this, the construction is simple, the detail is wonderful. To paraphrase a line from the movie Jerry Maguire: "I love these kits for what they (almost) are".
I would like to thank MiniArt and MRC for providing this kit for review, and to Internet Modeler for giving me the opportunity to build it.