by: Mitko Nikitov [ ]
Long time ago, when China wasn’t that famous for being World’s largest producer of cheap goods, they used to make copies of military machines, pretty much the same way as they do now copy almost every consumer product. Of course, military platforms like MiG-21 and T-54/55 series were part of that and it is understandable, considering their longevity and performance.
Type 59 is more recognizable to the elder modelers, who probably vividly remember the Tiananmen square and the Chinese student who was blocking the tank column way. But the tank isn’t famous only for that. It was exported in decent numbers and still serves with a lot of armed forces around the globe. And last, but not least, this is one of the nicest looking tanks ever, with its clean appearance, classic shape and especially with Type 59 – great looking camouflage schemes. T-54 and T-55 are legends in more than one way and often Type 59 – their Chinese sibling – is omitted. Not by MiniArt though.
Box and Boxart:
The boxes that MiniArt gives us usually follow this pattern: If there is a nice background – the kit features Interior. If the same vehicle from that boxart is placed over white background, then lacks such and it is the standard armor model – only the shell.
With this release, MiniArt made a slight change. The boxart is beautiful and features the full picture and the only sign that this isn’t an Interior kit are the white stripes on the box’ sides. That was done probably because this tank won’t gain popularity such as its siblings: T-54 and T-55.
The tank depicted on the boxart is a standard looking, nicely camouflaged Type 59, sitting on a green grass with patches of snow, with its gun barrel pointing almost toward the spectator.
On the side there are few profiles of the tanks giving a clue what’s included as paint options. Those same sides give away the lack of interior as well: the box is thinner compared to any interior version that MiniArt released. However, this cannot be a final conclusion that this is the end of the story. This is the Early Version of the Type 59 and it is too early to tell will we see a late one and will that feature interior.
The instruction sheet is a booklet close to A4 or “Letter” format, but not sure exactly about the size. The thing that matter is the quality here. On the outer pages we have glossy colored paper where the color profiles are. There are only two sides of each tank and that is because of the large number of options. For the top of the vehicle, certain artistic liberty is left to the modeler.
Once the building process starts everything becomes black and white and at slightly lower quality as well. This is in terms of paper only. The rest is perfectly fine looking and neatly arranged. Explanation of the steps is based on the pictures mostly, with very little written about it. That relieves the modeler from reading through some of the information that one probably already have from experience. Again, this might be challenging for a newbie, but this kit is not meant to be used by one.
MiniArt structured everything very tightly and yet clearly, but be aware that without experience you might be in trouble. The reason for that is that there are a lot of intricate parts and some basic plan must be already brewing in your head before you start building this beast. This is especially valid for the kit that features interior, but even for this one, this counts.
As usual, light gray plastic with a lot of details over it. Plenty of sub-assemblies, many elements, many tricky and challenging areas that will be very pleasing for the experienced modeler. In general, the whole kit, as with most of the MiniArt’s line is oriented towards those guys. This is far from the capabilities of any newbie and I wouldn’t recommend you try it if you are just stepping into the hobby.
The plastic is soft and flexible enough, and can sustain the level that MiniArt embedded into it. It is a lot to ask, trust me on that. In the recent years, MiniArt are using plastic material that comes from Western Europe and that eliminated the troubles that the company was famous for before. Now, we can see a cracked part or minor damage, but that would be a fluke. In general, no troubles whatsoever with the material and this is very encouraging, knowing the thickness of MiniArt’s details and the engineering that they present to the modeler.
Like with the rest of the T-54/55 series, this Type 59 comes nearly perfect out of the box and you can hardly improve anything. For the devoted aftermarket lovers, I can suggest a metal gun barrel, metal machine gun, maybe some clamps here and there, but the rest is already inside of that box. Especially the tracks, which are one of the best track options ever embedded into a kit OOTB.
Photo-etch & Clear Parts:
There is a small cardboard envelope holding the photo-etch. That is a MiniArt invention, or at least I don’t know about any other company that does it that way. Very neat, good protection and nice marketing trick too. White, with the MiniArt logo on its back. A gift-ish appearance.
The PE sheet is medium in size and knowing what MiniArt showed before I could say that is small, compared to what they are capable of. However, it should be enough and would satisfy many. After all, the thickness of MiniArt’s plastic is very intriguing, so some of the photo-etch elements are useless anyhow. On the other hand, not all enjoy working with photo-etch and some even hate it.
The clear parts are spread onto three small sprues and show superb quality, however, I trust that nobody will pay much attention to those. Nobody thinks about clear parts when it comes down to mid 20th century tank. Or any tank for that matter. With that said, the quality deserves respect and from experience I can tell that those clear parts are very forgiving and that goes for all of the MiniArt’s line.
Decals and Paint options:
The paint options included are predominantly Chinese. Those include variations from 1972 to present days. The rest is one tank from Iran, one from Viet Cong and one from Kosovo. But back to the Chinese versions. They are very attractive with their camouflage schemes. The Tiananmen tank paint option is always a choice here, with the addition of many different variations based on that appearance as well. The yellow-ish tone that can be seen on Chinese tanks creates a very interesting vibe and it is definitely a one to be remembered.
Actually same goes for the Iranian Type 59, but it lacks the vividness of the Chinese option due to the fact that only two colors are embedded here. The one that looks pretty dull is the Kosovo option, but every modeler know, that the single tone camo scheme presents the painter with immense opportunity to play with the weathering tricks all over. And one thing that we can easily find on the web are pictures of weathered T-series of tanks. Being one tone option is also given to a Chinese and a Viet Cong version as well.
For all that, a relatively small decal sheet is given. It is something like 3cm by 15cm and it features mostly numbers for the Chinese tanks. There are also stars for Chinese army, the smaller stars for Viet Cong version and some Chinese letters, which if not a decal, are probably impossible to be replicated by hand by a non-Chinese speaker. Or writer. Well, you get my point.
The decal sheet is on a blue decal paper and the logo of Decocgraph can be seen if one has very strong sight or uses a magnifying glass. I know about no complaints about those decals so far, so I would bet that the quality will be good enough. The options are endless, even if you choose to cut the numbers and re-arrange them. Or paint them by hand. After all, there are thousands of those vehicles produced with many of them still in services, so that should give you a clue.
Type 59 tank release from MiniArt comes as no surprise for those who follow the company’s production. Their T-series are the best in the business and in any scale. The 35th version of Type 59 will be warmly welcomed and most definitely a best seller, due to the enormous opportunities that this specific kit provides.
The quality is superb and the kit is bearing all the marks of a 21st century release, surpassing the older releases with a lot. This is due to MiniArt’s devotion and attention to all the small details that many others fail to address. This might be a kit only for mid- to high-level of experience, but in terms of quality and a final result it is undisputed leader. It is a price that you have to pay if you want perfection. That of course goes for all of their T-54s and T-55s.
Type 59 is one very popular tank and many might not know that the T-54 they are looking at is actually a Chinese version. That is the beauty of it. With all included in this box and with this price, which is beyond competitive if you ask me, MiniArt are still standing as the T-54/55s leaders in the modeling world. Now what about Type 69?